3.54 – Compromise

Guinevere had promised to return the children to their respective parents by nightfall.

She hadn’t been able to leave them be. All of them had been hungry. Half of them were under-dressed for the late night chill, with the toddler only wearing rags for a dress. And with their own parents being just as helpless, they had no-one left to help them.

No-one but Guinevere.

By now, the girl knew who she wanted to be. What kind of person she wanted to become. Guinevere had immediately stepped in, giving herself the task of making sure that all four children were fed and properly clothed. She knew that even in early Summer, the nights in Albion could get downright chilly. She’d borrowed some toys from the neighbourhood, too.

Guinevere knew that she could look after them. It were only four kids, after all. It wouldn’t take that much effort.

Or so she’d thought.

After eight full hours of sewing, baking, tending to double the scrapes that she thought she’d have to patch up and finding out that the toddler was not even a little potty-trained, Guinevere was more than ready to hand them all back.

Their parents were part of a group of refugees that had settled in the lower streets of Camelot. They were only a small walk away. But as it turned out, Guinevere didn’t have to walk even that far. She and her gaggle of children had barely turned the corner, about to cross the now quiet streets, when they found the group that they were looking for.

Or, more specifically, it found them. Guinevere could hear the sounds of arguing long before she saw the source of the voices. As they approached, the redhead noticed small gathering of dishevelled, under-dressed people. They were standing in the centre of the market, their faces a mixture of tired, fearful and uncomfortable.

They also came with an escort. Guinevere frowned as her eyes fell on the two armoured knights. They weren’t armed, but their presence was intimidating even without their weapons. Guinevere cocked her head as she could see them flanking three familiar figures. Two of them were noblemen that she had seen around the castle before.

The third figure was Gawain.

“You are not sending them out!”  the would-be knight yelled, his hands balling into fists as his angry voice carried all the way across the market. The two men in front of him – Percival and Lionel, Guinevere remembered – did not seem impressed by his outburst. The girl watched as Lionel scoffed, crossing his arms as he looked down on Gawain with clear, unmistakable disdain.

“Stop interfering with royal business, peasant,” he sneered, emphasizing that last word. Guinevere watched as Gawain snarled at him in response.
“Royal business, my arse! There’s no way that Arthur agreed to this!”
“Prince Arthur is unrelated to this situation. The Royal Adviser has deemed it necessary to upkeep the safety of our lower streets by removing-”
“I told you, we are not bringing them to—”

She’d heard enough. On instinct, Guinevere decided to step in. With the toddler still in her arms and the children following behind her like a row of ducklings, Guinevere approached the three would-be knights.
“Um… milords? Gawain? What a-are you doing?”

Percival turned around, looking almost surprised that the ruckus they’d been making had drawn someone’s attention. In a curt voice, the nobleman tried to shoo her away.
“Please return to your home, citizen. This does not concern—”

But Lionel interrupted him halfway through his sentence. Guinevere could see annoyance turn to suspicion, then remembrance as a glimmer of recognition showed on his face.
“Wait a second. Aren’t you that the girl from the trial? The bewitched maid?” Lionel asked. Behind him, Guinevere could see Gawain raise a single eyebrow in confusion.
“Guin? What are you doing here?”

“I-I live here now, Gawain,” she smiled at him in return. “Remember? You helped me move in.”
“I know that- why are you with those kids?”
“They needed food a-and warm clothing. I promised to return them to their parents by nightfall. What is going on? What are you doing?”

The future Duke did not seem to like her questions one bit. Lionel crossed his arms, huffing angrily.
“It is none of your business, maid,” he snapped at her.
“Please, sir.”
“Oh, fine. I shall indulge you. If you must know, this group of refugees is being moved out of the city by order of the—”

“They’re kicking them out!” Gawain yelled, interrupting Lionel mid-word. “This clotpole is trying to send them to the ridge!”
“How dare you! There is still a jail sentence on disrespecting nobility, you uneducated knave!”

Guinevere knew which place her friend was referring to. The ridge was an area on the outskirts of the city. It lay behind the tournament grounds, flat-surfaced but without any shelter from the elements. Guinevere knew that the ridge was perpetually plagued by a cold wind from the direction of the lake. In the height of Summer, the ridge was a well-known place for couples to spend the night, but at this time of year-
“That’s a-an open area,” the girl gasped. “There’s no shelter. They’ll have nowhere to go.”
“I know!” Gawain yelled, exasperated. “The loggerhead doesn’t care! All he cares about is his stupid assignment!”
That seemed to anger Lionel even more. The young noble bristled, puffing up his chest in the exact same way that an aggressive rooster puffed up its feathers.
“Lord Agravaine gave me this task himself, you ignorant simpleton! I will not have you question my—“

But Gawain refused to let him finish. The young man angrily took a step towards him, snarling:
“There are children in that group, you worthless levereater! And elderly, too! They’ll get sick if you send them down there! And that will be on your head!”
“Get that filthy, unwashed digit out of my face this instant!” Lionel bellowed in response. Guinevere could see his eyes flash with outrage, then flick over to the knights behind him. The girl could tell that the situation was about to explode; Gawain’s outbursts were just making things worse. With every word that came out of his mouth, she could see Lionel’s indignant frustration get worse. She knew that Sir Lionel was about to have him arrested.

She had to do something. Guinevere had to diffuse the situation before Lionel used his status to throw Gawain in jail. For the second time that night, the girl instinctively stepped in.

“Sir, please r-reconsider,” she said, choosing to plead with Lionel instead. “The nights on the ridge are cold. These people will get sick. They’re already weak from fleeing the war. There are elderly and toddlers in that group. If you leave them there, some of them… they might…”

For a fraction of a second, Guinevere could swear that she saw Lionel and Percival hesitate. The next moment, that perception was shattered. Percival let out a sigh, avoiding eye contact with her as he slowly shook his head.
“Forgive us, miss. It’s out of our hands.”

Guinevere could see Gawain’s knuckles turn white with anger. She couldn’t tell if he was about to open his mouth to argue with the two them, or if he’d had enough and was about to punch someone in the jaw. Either option suddenly seemed very likely.
She couldn’t let that happen. For the third time in a row, Guinevere jumped in to protect him.

But Guinevere’s methods of persuasion were very different from Gawain. There was no swearing or righteous anger involved. She didn’t have the anger for it. Guinevere couldn’t manipulate nobles like she knew Morgana was capable of. The girl didn’t know how to trick people into doing what she wanted like Sarah, or had the authority to or give orders like Arthur did.

Guinevere’s way of reaching Lionel was much more simple and straight-forward.
And because of that, her words reached Lionel in a way that Gawain’s anger never could.

“Sir Lionel… this is cruel. Is that really who you want to be?”


“…no. It’s not.”

His voice had barely been more than a whisper- but Guinevere had heard him anyway. And so had the people behind him. Guinevere could see them looking at each other in confusion, not sure what was going to happen next.

Then, The future Duke of Moonwood let out a long, defeated sigh.
“I… apologise,” Lionel said softly. “For my… unchivalrous behaviour. It was unbecoming of a knight—”

“You mean you were acting a pig-nutted flap-dragon, Lionel,” Gawain immediately cut in behind him. The blonde noble groaned.
“I… may have acted not wholly like a member of nobility.”
“You’re darn right you weren’t, you pus-brained-”
Guinevere quickly interrupted him, stopping her friend before he could undo what little leeway they had gained.
“Gawain. Stop. Please.”
“No, no, the hedge-born is right. This was… beneath me.”

Lionel had never agreed with anything that Gawain had said. Especially not when it came hand-in-hand with verbal insults. It was completely unheard of. Even Percival seemed taken aback; but where Lionel seemed to have finally taken in the crowd around him, Percival’s thoughts still remained somewhere else. The nobleman awkwardly scratched the back of his head, not sure what to do with himself.
“Lionel, we have our orders. They can’t be here,” he mumbled. Lionel nodded at him in response.
“I know. But they’re… they’re right. It’s not… an ideal location. You know that, too.”
“It doesn’t matter. They are to be moved from the city. Lord Agravaine gave us very clear instructions-”

While she’d been working for Morgana, Guinevere had picked up on snippets of information here and there. Most of it, the young redhead had discarded almost immediately, not believing it to be important to her. Other things had simply slipped from her memory over time. But there were some things that the girl had been hyper-focused on; some details that her mind remembered regardless of what context they were in. Some names that had caught her attention no matter what.
As Guinevere listened to Percival, one of those details suddenly came back to her.

“Lord A-Agravaine is not in charge of refugees,” Guinevere said. “A-Arthur is.”

“Yeah!” Gawain chimed in immediately. “Do you really think someone like Arthur would want these people to get sick? There’s no way he’d be all right with sending them to the ridge!”

“That is not the issue here-”
“That is absolutely the issue! You useless, mouldy potatoes!”

For a fraction of a second, Guinevere could see Lionel hesitate- and then something suddenly cracked, revealing a layer to the nobleman that she had never seen before. The young man hung his head.
“I can’t,” he muttered. “I can’t just disobey a direct order from Royal Adviser. We need to move this group off the streets no matter what.”

As Lionel hung his head in shame, refusing to make eye contact and looking down at the ground, the meaning of his words slowly sunk in.
And Guinevere suddenly remembered something else that she’d learned over the years.

“Intention does not matter. What matters is what is written.”

“Wait, what did he order? S-specifically? To move them to the ridge? Or just to move them?”
Percival raised his eyebrows, not sure where Guinevere was trying to go with this.
“If you’re being technical, just to move them, I suppose. But I don’t see how that would help.”

“I… I might have an idea…”

As the sun gradually sunk behind the horizon, slowly ushering in the coming darkness, Emrys the Druid found himself waiting in an unusual location. He was alone, a fact that was starting to bother him more and more as time ticked on. He did not like to leave his druids behind. Emrys didn’t want to be separated from them at all. The thought filled him with anxiety, like taking his eyes off Muiri and the others for even a second would lead to disaster. Like all kinds of dangers would come for them the moment he left them by themselves.  

He couldn’t help it. His instincts had been proven right one too many times.  
He hated to leave those he loved.  

But today, Emrys didn’t have a choice. He had to do this. He had to meet with her. No matter how long it took – and as always, his patience was mercilessly tested.
As his conversational partner finally arrived, announcing her presence by the sound of soft footsteps crunching against grass, Emrys let out an annoyed sigh. 
“You’re late.” 

Behind him, Morgause let out an indignant huff. The witch placed her arms behind her back as she leaned against the nearest archway. 
“You called,” she said coldly. “I showed up. I don’t see what you’re complaining about, druid.” 
“I waited for six hours, Morgause.” 
“So? You didn’t set a time. That is your mistake, not mine.” 

Emrys suppressed the urge to groan in frustration. He should have known better. The druid knew that the relationship between the two of them was less than cordial. And Morgause was notorious for purposely misinterpreting his instructions. In the past, she’d even made a point of doing the exact opposite of what he’d requested, just to annoy him.  

It reminded him of someone else he knew. 

They’d spent way too much time with the Fae. Both of them. It made them chaotic, unpredictable. Unreliable. The High Priest didn’t like it. And where Emrys knew that the Huntress was an unmistakable ally… 

“Spit it out, druid. What do you want?” 

Ever since that day in Morgause’s lair, interactions between them had turned uncomfortably frosty. Emrys did not know why. He hadn’t done anything to her. At least, not that he knew of. The only thing he could imagine was that, for some reason, Morgause held a grudge over losing her favour with Nimueh.  

In the end, Emrys didn’t really care. He didn’t need to be on good terms with Morgause. He just needed her to listen. At least today. The High Priest shook his head, banishing the thoughts of Nimueh from his mind and focusing on what was important. What actually mattered. Emrys turned around, a frown spreading across his brow as he made eye contact with the witch.  

He’d put this off for far too long already. Emrys could not ignore it any longer. It was time for him to step in… and force the future ruler of Cornwall to finally see reason.  
It was time to put an end to things.  


“We need to talk.” 

Somehow, Gawain’s adventures always ended up landing him in the same place.  

At the bar. 

Over the years, Gawain had turned from an occasional customer to the Tall Tales Tavern, to a loyal patron, to a core member. He loved the place. Gawain had ended up asleep on top of tables on more than one occasion. He’d even passed out behind the bar once, after a whole night of celebrating. He’d probably need to stop doing that at some point.

But to Gawain, it didn’t really matter. The young redhead loved his tavern. It was like a second home to him. Everyone who came to drink at the Tall Tales Tavern, eventually, turned into his friend.  

But this time, Gawain was not there for drinking. 
“Excuse me?” 

“Rejoice, peasants!” Lionel bellowed, commandeering the conversation with all the grace and elegance of a stampeding boar. “You are about to bask in the glory of providing favours to the great Duke of Moonwood!” 

Katrina’s reaction seemed to go completely over Lionel’s head – but Guinevere and Gawain immediately picked up on her glaring scowl. Quickly, they jumped in.
“You, um… You have a wine cellar, right?” Guinevere asked shyly, looking away at the wall while Gawain flashed Katrina an apologetic smile. The woman raised a single eyebrow at them in response.
“I do. I also have an ale attic. What of it?”

“Spendid! We will be commandeering both at once.”
“I beg your bloody pardon?” Katrina asked, her nostrils flaring as her eyebrows immediately reached dangerous altitudes. But that, too, went completely over Lionel’s head.
“No pardon is needed, lovely tavern wench!” the future Duke beamed, flashing her a wide, toothy smile from across the counter. “We have a group of about twenty refugees in need of temporary shelter. On orders of the great Duke of Moonwood, you and your staff will have the grand honour of hosting them and tending to their needs!” he continued brightly. “Our men will dispose of all your wine and ale, post-haste, and make ample room for them to move in—”

“I don’t bloody think so.”

“Ah, but refusal shall not be permitted!” Lionel replied without hesitation. “Your abode has been chosen to act as the good-hearted foundation that will help elevate the Gaunness name to even greater heights! Denial of this honour is out of the question, naturally.”
Behind him, Percival let out a single, embarrassed groan.
“I know, I know, no need to thank me for such a splendid honour. So? What do you say, wench?”

“I say you’re demented. Have you been eating the wrong kind of mushrooms as a child?”
“What? Of course not! I assure you, I am perfectly-”
But Katrina refused to let him finish.
“Sod off, flycatcher,” the woman snapped, cutting Lionel off mid-sentence. “Are you out of your mind? There’s a rat’s chance in hell that we’d give up our only source of income.”
The future Duke clearly hadn’t expected that. He blinked, stunned, his mouth opening and closing just like that of a trout.
“But… Surely you jest! Your reputation with nobility alone would-”
“You can shove your reputation up your arse. We’d go out of business.”
“We already gave all of our rooms away,” the barmaid explained, nervously looking back and forth between Lionel, Gawain and Percival. “Selling spirits is our only source of income now.”
“Exactly. If we give that up, we’ll end up starved to death by Autumn.”

That was a problem. Neither Guinevere nor Gawain had taken the tavern’s finances into account when they’d worked out their plan of housing everyone. It wasn’t something that they could ignore. It was also not something that they could let Lionel brute-force his way past by using his status as a noble. Not that Katrina would let him – the woman’s nostrils were flaring dangerously, like she could start spitting fire at any second.

They had to think of something else.

“What if… what if we purchased them from you?” Guinevere said softly, voicing the first thought that came to mind. Katrina turned her attention towards her in response.
“Well, of course. That would change things. But I’m not born yesterday, girlie,” she replied, narrowing her eyes at Guinevere. “It’s not just what I have in storage now. You’d need to purchase my entire stock for the season. And if the war isn’t over by then, I’d have you fund me through the entirety of Winter.”

“Ah, but of course!” Lionel smirked, placing a hand on his chest as he took a step forward. “The Gaunness family is nothing if not generous towards those of lesser fortune-”
“Lionel, wait-” Percival began, but he wasn’t fast enough.
“-and would gladly bear that burden! Easily! Like carrying a feather! Name your paltry price, tavern wench, and I will see to it that it is swiftly—“

“Three hundred pounds.”

“Up front.”

The future Duke of Moonwood visibly shrank back. His eyes flicked back and forth between the two tavern workers in front of him as his bravado rapidly, almost instantly, faded away.
“That’s- goodness, that’s a little more than I… my father’s allowance doesn’t…”

Sheepishly, Lionel turned towards the girl to his right.
“Err, miss Guinevere? I… I might have to reconsider this plan of action—“

“Oh? We have knights going back on their word now?” Katrina asked, raising a single, accusing eyebrow at Lionel as she did so. “Wasn’t that an unbreakable vow, or something?”
“Er… yes, but… erm…”

Helplessly, Lionel looked to his right for aid- but Guinevere averted her eyes, doing the exact opposite of what the Future Duke had been hoping for.
“You’d… you’d really be a hero to them, sir Lionel,” the girl said softly, deliberately. “To a-all of us. Everyone would look up to you. Isn’t that… what you want?”

“Well, yes, of course! But three hundred pounds is just too much no matter how you look at it and—“

“One hundred,” Gawain chimed in, interrupting the visibly flustered nobleman.
“One hundred pounds. I still have half of the reward from the tournament, and some savings. I’ll pitch in, too.”
“You have two hundred pounds just lying around?!”
“Mum said to use it for something important,” Gawain shrugged. “This is important. So we’d just need one hundred pounds, right? Can you do that?”

On Lionel’s right, Guinevere carefully hid her smile behind her curls.
“Surely a-a future Duke can lose that much?”
“I- yes! Yes, of course!” Lionel said. He was laughing forcibly at her through gritted teeth. “That’s… a paltry amount! Nothing to get worked up over! Small change, really – f-father won’t even know it’s gone!”

It was all Katrina needed to hear. A smug, almost devious smirk spread across her face, her eyes glimmering with shameless greed as she placed a hand under her chin.
“Splendid,” the woman purred. “I’d like to get that in writing, please, Sir Lionel. In triplicate. Gawain here tells me that you write the most wonderful signatures…”

10 thoughts on “3.54 – Compromise

  1. I have bookmarked and will forever credit this chapter as the ultimate page of medieval insult masterpieces to be used on clotpoles and rotten cucumbers and loggerheads. 🤣 Whatever I’ll give to see roadrage screaming of knaves and peasants.

    Percival seems so passive D: Is this an aftereffect of his injuries? Him now compared to who he was is really different and if I’m correct, painful to read.

    Why are you cutting out at the most important part between Morgause and Emrys! You evil tease. Does this warrant a medieval insult? You slippery banana! On to the next chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, I didn’t count them until after reading your comment just now, but gosh there are a lot of medieval swears in this one aren’t there? 😆

      Ah, I think you’re mixing up Percival and Elyan. Elyan was the guy with a bigger potty mouth than Gawain, who became unable to walk and left for Mercia. Percival has always been rather passive and do-as-told.

      Slippery banana 🤣 there’s definitely something more about to go down between those two, yeah. And I don’t mean the Icy Glares Contest 🤭 Next chapter it is! Err, whenever I finish it. 😅


  2. I love Gawain but his temper is something of a burden that could easily end up with him being thrown in the dungeon…once again.
    I have to give Guinevere credit for her understated feminine cleverness and her kindness. She is strong and she will grow even bigger when she gains more faith in herself ❤

    I’m a little excited about what’s going on in the forest. I haven’t fully figured it out, but I assume it’s deliberate 😅

    The negotiation in the Tavern is hilarious. Especially the look on Lionel’s face when Katrina mentioned her prize. Fantastic! 😂
    There is so much about Gawain’s character traits that remind me of Rasmus. Maybe that’s why I love him. Deep down, he has a core that just wants to do good for others. He shows it by his donation ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, they both have the hot-headed trait, don’t they? Gawain is always ready to stand up for justice but he often fails to see that his anger can do more harm than good. How many times do you have to be thrown in jail before the cot has your name on it, I wonder?

      Guinevere’s character growth is a very slow burn, but one that I’m excited for, too 😊 and yes, it’s deliberate! We’ll find out what is happening in the forest real soon.

      I had way too much fun taking pictures of everyone’s faces in that last scene. 😆

      Liked by 1 person

  3. YES GWEN BE THE SURROGATEE PARENT DO IT DO IT DO IT DO IT I WILL CRY. Also Gawain with a backbone will always be the best thing. As an English person, yeah, this is too accurate about the whole trying to make refugees everyone else’s problem thing. Everyone complains about refugees but if our country were war-torn you’d bet everyone would flee and expect to be welcome elsewhere. I’m sure Mr. Everyone Else is a Peasant Lionel could easily afford to pay for them to stay somewhere and eat.

    I vote Gawain punching Lionel in the jaw. Wowie, good one Gwen! Somehow pacifism worked. “So? You didn’t set a time. That is your mistake, not mine.” How very fae XD It’s good to see Morgause again. Also someone needs to smash a jug over Lionel’s head. I love that the tavern owner/worker/drink-providerer isn’t taking his shit. Though seeing him crack under the pressure of everyone around him is funny. Also GAWAIN!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, you? A weakness for surrogate parent relationships? I never knew 😇 A lot of people could learn a thing or two from the concept of “treat others like you’d want to be treated if the situation were reversed”.

      Lionel can, in fact, afford to pay for them to stay somewhere and eat! What his dad will think about his son raiding his bank through peer pressure is a different story, but hey, that’s a problem for another day 😆 It is good to see Morgause again! We’ll be seeing a bit more of her real soon.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I really enjoyed this one (including your trademark cliffhangers!). I agree with everyone else that the insults are A+, but I worry about Gawain’s hot-headed nature. He needs to calm it down a bit if he can. If Guinevere weren’t there to help him, there would be trouble, but maybe the 200 pounds he has to give up will be enough to remind him not to hastily jump into things. I doubt it, though.

    Guinevere is fantastic here. She’s taking care of four children and standing up effectively for refugees. She’s also trying to benefit from her knowledge of palace politics. I’m glad that she can persuade Lionel. I’m also happy that Lionel cares enough to be convinced. I love that he arrogantly offers to pay for the tavern. The shocked look on their faces when the cost is revealed is perfect.

    I’m curious to know what Morgause and Emrys will do. Morgana’s not in this chapter, but I feel like she’s up to something as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Heh, it’s not a ToC chapter if there isn’t at least one little cliffhanger in there 😆 Gawain is quick to defend any injustice, but he doesn’t have the wisdom to see past his own hot-headed temper. Sometimes anger is just not the right tool. It’s a lesson he still needs to learn.

      Guinevere rolled fantastically here, all across the board, and I’m lowkey so proud of her 😄 Lionel is a self-aggrandising windbag who loves being in the center of attention – but he’s got a heart, too.

      You won’t have to be curious for long! All three of them will show up next chapter.

      Liked by 1 person

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