Read Story: SEASON 1 EPISODE 51
Gwendolyn walked alone through the castle, taking the spiral staircase, twisting and turning her way to the top. Her mind raced with thoughts of Thor. Of their walk. Of their kiss. And then, of that snake.
She burned with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, she had been elated to be with him; on the other, she was terror-stricken by that snake, by the omen of death it brought. But she did not know for whom, and she could not get that out of her mind either. She feared it was for someone in her family. Could it be one of her brothers? Godfrey? Kendrick? Could it be her mother? Or, she shuddered to even think, her father?
The sight of that snake had cast a somber shadow on their joyous day, and once their mood had been shattered, they had been unable to get it back. They had made their way back together to the court, parting ways right before they came out of the woods, so they would not be seen. The last thing she wanted was for her mother to catch them together. But Gwen would not give up Thor so easily, and she would find a way to combat her mother; she needed time to figure out her strategy.It had been painful to part with Thor; thinking back on it, she felt bad. She had meant to ask him if he would see her again, had meant to make a plan for another day. But she had been in a daze, so distraught by the sight of that snake that she had forgotten. Now she worried that he thought she didn’t care for him.
The second she had arrived at King’s Court, her father’s servants had summoned her. She had been ascending the steps ever since, her heart beating, wondering why he wanted to see her. Had she had been spotted with Thor? There could be no other reason her father wanted to see her so urgently. Was he, too, going to forbid her to see him? She could hardly imagine that he would. He had always taken her side.
Gwen, nearly out of breath, finally reached the top. She hurried down the corridor, past the attendants who snapped to attention and opened the door for her to her father’s chamber. Two more servants, waiting inside, bowed at her presence.
“Leave us,” her father said to them.
They bowed and hurried from the room, closing the door behind them with a reverberating echo.
Her father rose from his desk, a big smile on his face, and ventured toward her across the vast chamber. She felt at ease, as she always did, at the sight of him, and felt relieved to see no anger in his expression.
“My Gwendolyn,” he said.
He held out his arms and embraced her in a big hug. She embraced him back, and he directed her to two huge chairs, placed on an angle beside the roaring fire. Several large dogs, wolfhounds, most of whom she had known since childhood, got out of their way as they walked toward the fire. Two of them followed her, and rested their heads in her lap. She was glad for the fire: it had become unusually cold for a summer day.
Her father leaned in toward the fire, staring at the flames as they crackled before them.
“You know why I have summoned you?” he asked.
She searched his face, but still was not sure.
“I do not, Father.”
He looked back in surprise.
“Our discussion the other day. With your siblings. About the kingship. That is what I wanted to discuss with you.”
Gwen’s heart soared with relief. This was not about Thor. It was about politics. Stupid politics, which she could not care less about. She sighed in relief.
“You look relieved,” he said. “What did you think we were going to discuss?”
Her father was too perceptive; he always had been. He was one of the few people who could read her like a book. She had to be careful around him.
“Nothing, Father,” she said quickly.
He smiled again.
“So, then, tell me. What do you think of my choice?” he asked.
“Choice?” she asked.
“For my heir! To the kingdom!”
“You mean me?” she asked.
“Who else?” he laughed.
“Father, I was surprised, to say the least. I am not the firstborn. And I am a woman. I know nothing of politics. And care nothing for them—or for ruling a kingdom. I have no political ambition. I do not know why you chose me.”
“It is precisely for those reasons,” he said, his expression deadly serious. “It is because you don’t aspire to the throne. You don’t want the kingship. And you know nothing of politics.”
He took a deep breath.
“But you know human nature. You are very perceptive. You got it from me. You have your mother’s quick wit, but my skill with people. You know how to judge them; you can see right through them. And that is what a king needs. To know the nature of others. There is nothing more you need. All else is artifice. Know who your people are. Understand them. Trust your instincts. Be good to them. This is all.”
“Surely, there must be more to ruling a kingdom than that,” she said.
“Not really,” he said. “It all stems from that. Decisions stem from that.”
“But Father, you are forgetting that, first, I have no desire to rule, and second, you’re not going to die. This is all just a silly tradition, linked to your eldest’s wedding day. Why dwell on this? I’d rather not even speak of it, or think of it. I hope the day should never come when I see you pass—so this is all irrelevant.”
He cleared his throat, looking grave.
“I have spoken to Argon, and he sees a dark future for me. I have felt it myself. I must prepare,” he said.
Gwen felt her stomach tighten.
“Argon is a fool. A sorcerer. Half of what he says doesn’t come to pass. Ignore him. Don’t give in to his silly omens. You are fine. You will live forever.”
But he slowly shook his head, and she could see the sadness in his face, and she felt her stomach tighten even more.
“Gwendolyn, my daughter, I love you. I need you to be prepared. I want you to be the next ruler of the Ring. I am serious in what I say. It is not a request. It is a command.”
He looked at her with such seriousness, his eyes darkening, it scared her. She had never seen that look on her father’s face before.
She felt her eyes well, and reached up and brushed away a tear.
“I am sorry to have upset you,” he said.
“Then stop talking of this,” she said, crying. “I don’t want you to die.”
“I am sorry, but I cannot. I need you to answer me.”
“Father, I do not want to insult you.”
“Then say yes.”
“But how can I possibly rule?” she pleaded.
“It is not as hard as you think. You will be surrounded by advisors. The first rule is to trust none of them. Trust yourself. You can do this. Your lack of knowledge, your naïveté—that is what will make you great. You will make genuine decisions. Promise me,” he insisted.