"A toast! I propose a toast to the King of England and to his new wife!" Father stood up
proudly, holding his drink high in the air.

"To King Arthur!" one soldier shouted. "King Arthur!" The others took it up.

"To our lady Gwenhwyfar!" somebody else in the crowd shouted. A cheer went up. "To our
Gwen!" "To Gwen the Feisty!" "Lady Gwen!"

I blushed, standing there like a miserable lump, Arthur holding my hand. I looked down at my
beautiful wedding dress and wished I dared to spill wine on it. But the seamstresses had worked
so hard on it, all last night, the night before Arthur came.

Arthur raised a hand and the people quieted. "A toast to the lovely Gwenhwyfar," he said, his
eyes locked on mine. "And a wish for a good marriage." He nodded slightly and raised his wine-

The rest of the hall picked up their mugs too, with a great deal of clattering and some drunken
yelling about "Lady Gwen!" and "Marriage! Marriage!"

I stood there staring at the tablecloth. Arthur murmured, "Pick up your glass, Gwen, we're
toasting you." He smiled at me. My fingers curled around the stem of my elegant glass and I
lifted it slowly. I held it for a second, then hurled it against the deserted wall across from me.
The hall fell suddenly and completely silent, except for the sound of the glass tinkling slightly and
the wine dripping down the wall. "There can be no good marriage!" I cried. "You are all fools,
my - my false husband included! I -"

I stopped, sank into my chair, and buried my head in my arms.

There was an abrupt commotion and I felt a hand, strong and reassuring, rest on my shoulder.
Arthur. I wanted none of him! I shook it off angrily, but he put it right back on my shoulder.
"Gwen -" he said urgently. I heard Father's voice shouting furiously. Then there was a different
hand on my other shoulder, pulling me up. "What were you doing, Gwen?" Father said, his face
red. "What exactly did you think -"

"I didn't think!" I screamed back. "I acted as I saw fit! I told the truth!"


"Let's all calm down." A new, lilting voice entered my ears. Eira. "The queen is merely

"I'm not the queen!"

"Hush, calm, Gwen," Eira whispered. "Get up and we'll go to your chamber. We're leaving the
hall," she said, raising her voice. "Our princess is fatigued."

"That's one way to put it, lass!"

"Ach, Gwen, did ye need t'make such a fuss?"

"Ye're a queen now, lass, act it!"

I stood up, Eira by my side. Arthur's hand dropped away from my shoulder; so did Father's.
"Don't scold me, you fools!" I shouted. "You would be upset, too, if you had to marry such a
cold-hearted monster! All of you! Now I'm leaving." I stumbled blindly over the flagstones,
Eira's arm linked in mine. I heard the murmurs as I left the hall. "Aye no, is he such a monster
then?" "Sure an' she isn't upset t'be a queen! Strange girl, our Gwen." "Aye and I hope she
feels better, poor child."

The 'poor child' reminded me too much of Arthur's 'childing', and I broke away from Eira to run
up the stairs. I flung open my door and threw myself, gorgeous wedding dress and all, on the

Soft footsteps ran up the stairs after me, and I heard Eira come in. Then a heavier pair of
footsteps, and then another pair that was somewhere in between. A firm but dancing sort of step.
I pounded my pillow, working up my anger. Anger would protect me. Anger was familiar and
comforting, a warm and pleasant fizz under my skin. I didn't want to recognize Arthur's
footsteps. I didn't want to know anything about Arthur! I flipped over, bounded up, and
slammed the door in his face. Father had already entered, and looked shocked. "Gwen!" he
bellowed at once. "Open the door!"

"No!" I bellowed back. I set my back against the door. "I hate you!"

"Please let me in, Gwen!" Arthur's voice came dimly through the heavy wood.

"_Let him in!_" Father roared.

My anger fizzed right under my fingernails, tickling almost. I shook my head.

"Gwen, I need to talk to you!" Arthur pounded on the door. "I don't want to force my way in!
Please, Gwen!"

I stepped away quickly, and the idiot fell through the doorway. As I thought; he had been
pushing against it too hard. I snickered. He picked himself up and took a step towards me. "I'm
not a monster, childing! Why make all those people think that of me?"

"They don't, sir. They know Gwen," Eira assured him.

Arthur shook his head. "Gwen, Gwen . . . childing, what am I going to do with you?"

"The question is quite the other way around," I said smoothly. "Should I kick you, or should I hit
you?" He caught my wrist as I aimed it for his face. "Don't hit, Gwen, please," he said softly.
My anger boiled up in a sudden hot wave of fury. I wrenched my wrist free and ran over to the
window. I would throw myself into the moat! I jumped onto the window seat and shoved the
window open.

There were arms around my waist; I struggled wildly, then realized that it wasn't even Arthur; it
was Eira. "Ei, let me go," I said, my breath coming in short gasps. "Don't you realize, no life is
better than life with Arthur?"

"Don't be overly dramatic," Eira said sharply. "And don't kill yourself!" She must have been very
distressed; she never spoke sharply,

"I won't, Ei," I said, subdued.

"Killing yourself is no solution, Gwen. You're the idiot!"

My anger flared up in a brief flame, then died again. "I know, Ei. I'm sorry."

Arthur was watching us. "How _do_ you get her to do that? Not only did she accept it when
you called her an idiot, but she apologized!"

"I apologize when the other person is right!" I snapped. "You've never been right!"

Arthur opened his mouth, but before he could speak, Father crossed the room and took me by the
arms. "Don't you ever make a fool out of me like that again," he said grimly. I looked away,
then back at him, my eyes burning into his. He let me go and left the room.

"Well," said Arthur finally, after a long silence. "What an . . . eventful . . . wedding. I hope
you're satisfied, Gwenhwyfar."

I turned away from him. "Go away. Go away!"

"I'm your husband now. You're my wife. Let's try to get along," he reminded me gently.

I whirled around. "Do you think that my - display in the hall was just a show of temper? I meant
every word!" I was shouting again.

"I don't know what to do, Gwen! I can't un-marry you! It's impossible! What do you _want_?
Do you want me to be cold and rude, aloof and hateful, Gwen, my lady? Would that suit you

"No, Arthur," I said, shaking my head. "I want you gone." My shoulders slumped.

"Gwen, you're going to have to learn to live with me to tolerate me, if not like me! We should
start now." He looked at my stony face, then his eyes went to Eira. "Lady. Can you help me?"

"He's right, Gwen," Eira said. I cried out, but she overrode me. "He was wrong to marry you,
Gwen. But un-marrying somebody isn't something that exists, and you ought to try at least to be
fair with him."

"I am fair! He's ruining my life."

"I am _not_ planning to ruin your life," Arthur cut in. "I thought I made that clear."

I regarded the pair of them warily; they watched me with caution. There was sadness buried in
Eira's serene gray eyes, and worry in Arthur's penetrating green eyes.

"All right," I said. I extended a hand to Arthur. He bent to kiss it, and I withdrew it rapidly.
"No. Don't. Just . . . take my hand. That'll do."

He clasped it slowly, and we remained still for a few seconds. Then I said, "Friends."

"Friends, wife."

"Don't call me that!" I remembered too late to add a belated, "Please."

He nodded. "Friends. Gwen."


"Are we getting mushy?" a voice asked. I whipped around with a cry of exasperation; it was
indeed my little brother, standing there looking insolent. "Prince Gotegrim," I said, "Get your
eight-year-old self out of here and stop making rude and inaccurate comments! Look who's
talking," I muttered, turning away.

"Hey!" The boy had a crush on a distant cousin, and he protested from time to time that he really
was going to marry her. Now he went up to Arthur and pushed his face right up to the King's.
My husband the King. I grimaced unhappily.

"What's with this?" Gotegrim demanded. "Sir." His hazel eyes a light brown flecked with
green were gazing straight up into Arthur's green eyes, and his thick, curly dark hair was
disordered, flopping across his forehead. Fat freckles splattered his face. "You're taking Gwen
away! She doesn't like it! Sir."

"Shut up, Rim! I can take care of myself! I don't need an annoying little brother trying to do it
for me!" I snapped at him.

"Why, I was just " the boy started. Eira said, "Rim, just hush for now, because Gwen's under a
lot of pressure." His eyes were indignant, but he quieted.

"This is my little brother, Gotegrim," I said to Arthur. "A noisy troublemaker."

"I am not so!"

"Shush! Go away, Rim."

"I won't," he said obstinately. "The English King's mean. He made you marry him." He planted
himself solidly in Arthur's path and gazed up at him with a challenging look.

I saw Arthur's lips quirk up, then steady. "Are you insulting me, sir?" he said gravely. "Are you
asking to fight, sir?"

Gotegrim's shoulders squared and the little boy stood up straight. I shook my head. "Yes, sir! I
am! I challenge you to a fight!" Rim's hand went to his wrist; then he looked up at Arthur with a
pleading look. "I don't have a glove to slap you with, sir."

Arthur laughed. "It's all right. Go get your sword, youngling!"

"Yes, sir!" Gotegrim ran out of the room, his face alight.

"What are you _doing?_" I snapped as soon as the door closed. "I notice you copied my word,
you the unimaginative _youngling_." Arthur smirked and I smacked him lightly. "And why are
you 'sir'-ing each other every word?"

"It's polite, Gwen. And your brother would love to fight with a real knight, wouldn't he?"

"Well, yes." I seethed and wished desperately that he had been wrong, so I could get mad at him
about it.

Arthur held out his hand again and closed it around my clenched fist. "Here, what's this? I have
enough bruises. Please! We were doing fine before your little brother broke the mood up,
weren't we? Friends."

"Friends," I said reluctantly. "Let my hand go."

He did so, but not before saying softly, "Hold on to that feeling, Gwen. Friends." Ger's voice
sounded in the hallway, and I said, "You'd better hope I do. Because otherwise, you're going to
be seeing an awful lot of cracked ribs." He looked taken aback. I think he had forgotten about my
promise, marriage and bruises. His eyebrows went up in alarm as I elbowed him in the ribs,
gently. He _had_ forgotten! Well, I would take care of that.

I smiled and let go of his hand.

*****Note: Incidentally, I did not make up Gotegrim's name. :) Was searching randomly through
King Arthur pages and dictionaries (I have a bibliography if anyone wants it!) and found out that
Gwen had a brother (I'd invented one for her already, so I just changed his name).