They sat around the table, poised, as if to see who was brave enough, who would take the first sip. Richard audibly swallowed, Gwendolynn coughed, Arthur flinched. There was an art in waiting and it seemed like they were all keen to be the victor of it. A chill wind blew through the ramparts and William shivered. He knew that he should be king by right and that none of these so-called contenders had any right to the throne, unlike him, the nephew of reigning monarch, Edward. Edward, who too, sat at the table, ailing fast, willing the victor to have courage and take a sip from the gold etched chalice in the centre of the table.
The chalice filled with wine so sweet that it made angels weep, or so Gwendolynn claimed, though William was certain it was poisoned. Edward was meant to have procured and poured the sweet wine himself into the vessel but as he was so ill, he entrusted Gwendolynn to perform the task, a task that she was happy to fulfill.
“Now it is time,” Gwendolynn said. “Please take a sip from the chalice, then the ceremony can begin." She passed the chalice over to Richard.
“Ladies first,” he said, pushing it back.
“No, I insist,” she said, returning it to him.
“For God’s sake, this will take all day!” cried Arthur and he picked up the chalice and took a hefty swig from it. Everyone gasped and Gwendolynn’s eyes shone, reflected in the gold of the cup and the fire that burned in the corner. Everyone was poised, silent.
“Therefore, I am King,” shouted Arthur, who stood victorious, only to fall to the floor.
“He’s dead!” cried William. “You killed him, Gwendolynn,” he shouted. Before she could answer, a great noise shook the ramparts. A thundering, shaking vibration rocked the great oak table.
“Tis time, God has come for us! Have mercy!” shouted Edward.
“Don’t be ridiculous! Look outside,” said Gwendolynn.
They moved across and peered out of the window, pushing themselves against the wall to try to stay upright. A great army could be seen advancing on the castle. An army full of flags, carrying an unfamiliar insignia. Leading the army were knights, riding huge, giant mammoths. The battle had begun.