clare_dragonfly: woman with green feathery wings, text: stories last longer: but only by becoming only stories (HP: Neville: proud parents)
[personal profile] clare_dragonfly
Title: Fealty
World: Ursulan
Word count: 3,458
Rating: G
Notes: I knew I wanted to write this, but I didn't know whose perspective it should be in. So I wrote it in four perspectives.


The court never failed to fill by suppertime. Of course, that had been by design, in part; Ursula wanted many people to see her as the queen, to know that they could come to her for anything. She would need that trust when she called on them to fight—and that would be sooner than later. She needed each and every one of the people crowding into her hall right now.

That didn’t make it any easier to face. Especially today. Less than a full day after discovering the news about her daughter—about her own past. The day she had to hasten her life along, make things happen that she was not ready for, all for political reasons.

She had been told that there were petitions. She had been told that there were two women and a man asking for a formal introduction (those, she supposed, would be Morgan’s stepsiblings). But there was one thing that had to happen first, and she could not put it off any longer.

She took a deep breath and stood, holding up her goblet. The entire hall went quiet and looked at her. She did not think she would ever get used to that, but she could certainly make use of it. “Thank you all for coming tonight,” she said. “I have a very special introduction to make. Morgan, if you would stand?” She could see her own nervousness reflected, even enhanced, in his face, but he stood anyway, so they could all see him. She’d placed him at her left hand, across from Kate and displacing Falcon one seat down. Falcon had approved. “As I am sure many of you know, my father had a son out of wedlock. His name is Morgan Tud, and he is here tonight to swear his fealty.”

--

Morgan had not seen this many people in one place since… well, since that fateful May Day, when Morwenna had been conceived. They had all been together for celebration. Today, he supposed, they were celebrating, as well. Celebrating their new queen. Celebrating this time of peace. Celebrating the fact that they could celebrate.

His hands were shaking.

He hardly heard Ursula when she asked him to stand, but he stood automatically anyway. “As I am sure many of you know,” she said, “my father had a son out of wedlock.” She was introducing him. And they were all listening. “His name is Morgan Tud, and he is here tonight to swear his fealty.”

He took a deep breath. Across the table, Kate met his eyes and gave him a sharp nod. He turned stiffly and knelt.

“I promise on my faith that I will be faithful to Queen Ursula. I will never cause her harm. I will observe my homage to her against all persons in good faith and without deceit. And,” his voice rose louder, though the hall still seemed eerily silent, “I swear that I will never seek to throw her down from her throne, and further that I do now forswear and abdicate any claim to that throne that I may have by right of blood or heredity, on my own behalf and on that of my daughter Morwenna.”

Ursula reached out to him. Her hands were not trembling. He took them. “I accept your oath,” she said in a clear, carrying voice. “Rise, Morgan Tud.”

He had to use her strength to help himself up. Murmurs ran the length of the room. But there were cheers, too, and as he found his seat again, Ursula motioned for the food to be served, and the feast began.

--

Kate was very proud of her little sister—even if she wasn’t technically her actual sister. She was making for a good queen, though, and she seemed to be making wise decisions. Certainly, Kate would have had a more difficult time coming to terms with the news about Morgan and Morwenna than Ursula seemed to have. She would have been tempted—was, in fact, tempted to suggest it—to send Morgan and Morwenna away, to make sure that no one could find out about them. Just in himself, Morgan was a danger; if anyone learned about Morwenna’s parentage, that danger was tripled.

But Ursula had found a way to turn that aside without sending them away, and that was why Kate was proud. She was also pleased at the way the court was filling up with warriors. Just today, two women and a man, the children of King Lot, had arrived at court. Apparently they were Morgan’s stepsiblings, but that wasn’t important. What was important was that even the children of kings who openly opposed Ursula’s rule were coming over to her side.

Kate watched carefully as the hall filled up and as Morgan and Ursula took their seats. Ursula had made her seneschal, and while that actually meant that she was in charge of the house, she considered bodyguarding an important part of her duties as well. There would be people everywhere trying to kill Ursula, especially if they realized who Morgan was. This was a critical juncture, and she was not going to let her guard relax for one moment.

She watched the crowd, especially their faces, as Ursula announced who Morgan was and as Morgan knelt to take his oath of fealty. There was a great deal of shock, of course. Some people’s eyes narrowed; they turned to whisper to their neighbors, giving Morgan appraising looks. Those faces she remembered. Those were the people who who would try to use Morgan.

It made Ursula and Morgan—and, hopefully, many of the people in the room—more comfortable to have Morgan swear fealty and promise that he would never try to take Ursula’s throne. But Kate knew the truth. Whatever words he used, there was no way to remove him from King Uthyr’s bloodline. If something were to happen to Ursula before she had an heir of her own, they would have to put him on the throne.

Kate sighed. That meant a husband for the queen—a dangerous prospect when any man of noble blood could be considered by her detractors to be a better candidate for the throne than she was. And it meant a pregnancy, as soon as possible—an even more dangerous prospect if, as Falcon said, the Saxons were coming soon. Ursula could not risk an heir, nor could she risk herself with no heir. But if she could not risk, how could she lead her knights against the enemy? And if she could not lead, how could she gain their confidence as a leader and as a queen?

There was no good answer to it. They would just have to see what would come. First problem for Ursula, finding a husband. But the first problem for Kate was keeping the household running gracefully. She tossed some food into her mouth and stood to find the three warriors who had asked to be introduced to Ursula, to bring them to the head table—and watch them, very carefully.

--

The banquet hall was full of excitement, and Gwanwyn took a full and enthusiastic share in it. It was beautiful here—full and bright and with so many people! She did not think she had ever seen so many people in one place, and it thrilled her. So much better than her father’s court. Especially considering how many women were included.

She, Grainne, and Agravain had spoken to the queen’s seneschal, Sir Kate, in order to ask for a formal introduction. They were still waiting, but it had been promised that they would get it. Sir Kate had explained that there was just a little work to do first. Gwanwyn had tried not to let herself devolve into a squealing, hero-worshiping girl.

The only black spot on her pleasure was, of course, that Morgan Tud had disappeared that morning, taking Morwenna with him. She’d almost panicked on finding the child missing until she discovered that Morgan was gone too, and must have taken his daughter with him. Then Grainne had explained that she knew they had gone but promised not to say why. Gwanwyn was a woman now, and had refrained from holding her little sister in a headlock and refusing to let her go until she spilled her secrets. Anyway, Grainne wasn’t so much smaller than Gwanwyn anymore.

She just hoped that nothing bad had happened to Morgan. Had he decided he didn’t want to see the court after all? It seemed like a strange thing to decide, after making the long and arduous journey, not to mention how enthusiastic he’d been to leave. And she would have thought Grainne would have stopped him. Morgan was young, and perhaps a little foolish—but he’d often acted older than he was, especially after the old physician had died, and he wasn’t that foolish. She would be pretty upset if something bad had happened to her cute little stepbrother.

Then the queen stood, and Gwanwyn’s thoughts were entirely diverted from their earlier track. Queen Ursula herself was about to speak! She would have shushed her siblings, but they had already gone as silent as everyone else in the hall. Gwanwyn thrilled even more. Such a young and new queen, and yet she already had the power to command everyone in her court with a simple motion.

“Thank you all for coming tonight,” the queen said said. “I have a very special introduction to make. Morgan, if you would stand?”

Gwanwyn’s jaw dropped. That wasn’t just any random person standing, rising from the seat at the queen’s left hand—just by her side! No, that was her very own little stepbrother, his dark hair and serious face unmistakable. He looked just a little terrified.

But why was he standing there, at the queen’s side, being introduced specially to the court? She closed her mouth (remembering as she did her father’s admonishments on the subject of looking like a beached fish) and glared at Grainne, the only one who had ever seemed to know anything. But Grainne looked almost as surprised as Gwanwyn felt.

The queen continued. “As I am sure many of you know, my father had a son out of wedlock. His name is Morgan Tud, and he is here tonight to swear his fealty.”

Gwanwyn would have yelled with surprise, except that the queen’s presence still had her spellbound. Her jaw dropped open again. This time she couldn’t close it no matter how much she thought of her father calling her a fish. She looked around at Grainne and Agravain, and they looked just as baffled and surprised as she did. If this was why Morgan had left them during the night, he hadn’t told Grainne about it.

It was so shocking that Gwanwyn could barely listen as Morgan went to his knees beside the queen and made a clear oath of fealty to her—though she could hardly help noticing that he explicitly abdicated the throne for himself and Morwenna, making it clear that he hadn’t come here to fight her. Well, of course not. He was no fighter. And he was certainly no king. The idea was almost laughable. It was a good thing that he was officially abdicating, because Gwanwyn was certain there would be people (including her own father) who would try to put him on the throne just because he was male and of the line of the Pendragon. And he would be bad at it without strong advisors. And that would put his advisors in the place of the rulers…

Gwanwyn swallowed. Morgan was probably going to have some good protection, if his place at the queen’s side was any indication of her favor, but it couldn’t hurt to have a big, strong sister at his side, either. She did not want him forced onto the throne as a puppet figurehead.

Ursula accepted Morgan’s oath and raised him to his feet. Almost immediately, the hall erupted in muttering. Gwanwyn looked around and realized that no one was supporting them. That was only going to make things worse. She cupped her hands around her mouth and shouted as loudly as she could (which was quite loudly indeed), “Hurrah!”

Grainne and Agravain immediately picked up the cheer. Grainne was grinning, but Agravain still looked confused. The entire hall didn’t explode with cheers as Gwanwyn had hoped, but a few of the other woman knights cheered as well, and Morgan looked a little better.

The servers began to appear with food, and Gwanwyn turned to Grainne. “You’re the only one who knew anything,” she accused.

Grainne shook her head, eyes sparkling. “He didn’t tell me this! He said he knew Ursula when they were younger. I thought he just wanted to meet her again, you know, now that they’re adults. Who wouldn’t want to bed a queen? And he let me think that, the little sneak.” She sounded proud.

“Why didn’t he ever tell us?” Agravain asked.

“I can’t blame him for keeping it a secret,” said Gwanwyn. “He obviously doesn’t want to rule.” She took a generous helping of chicken. “He’d be terrible at it, and people would want him on the throne anyway.”

“Ahh, you’ve got too little faith in him,” said Grainne. “I think he’d be a fine king if he wanted it. But I don’t want him to be.”

“Why not?” asked Gwanwyn, raising her eyebrows.

“Because Father needs to get over his prejudices.” Grainne rolled her eyes. “And the best way to do that is to keep Queen Ursula on the throne as long as possible, and prove to him that a woman is just as good a ruler as a man.”

“I’ll drink to that.” Gwanwyn hefted her mug and took a long swallow of ale.

“I don’t know if that was for my benefit or not, but I’m glad to hear you have no intention of deposing Ursula,” came a dry voice from behind them.

Gwanwyn just barely managed to avoid choking on her ale. She recognized the voice of Sir Kate, but for a moment had no idea what she wanted. She turned around on the bench. “Yes, sir. We’re thrilled that there’s a woman in charge.”

Kate gave them a nod. “You three wanted a formal introduction, right? Well, come on and I’ll get you one now that the night’s main business is over.”

Gwanwyn dropped her dinner back onto her plate and stood, suddenly nervous. Behind her, Grainne and Agravain stood as well. Gwanwyn took a deep breath and nodded to Sir Kate. “Thank you. We’re ready.”

The three of them followed Kate as she walked up the hall. They didn’t draw very many eyes—most people still seemed to be looking at Ursula and Morgan—but they drew a few, which Gwanwyn was used to, all of them being tall and broad with bright red hair. She ignored it all.

Finally Sir Kate reached Queen Ursula and gave her a quick bow. “My queen. May I present Gwanwyn, Grainne, and Agravain, the children of King Lot of Lothian.”

Ursula inclined her head to them and smiled. Gwanwyn felt her knees trembling, and abruptly decided that the best thing to do would be to kneel to the queen. She did do, bowing her head and stretching her hands before her. “My queen—“

“I don’t require oaths of fealty from visitors,” said Ursula, a mild tone of reproach—and were those nerves?—in her voice. “Please rise, Sir Gwanwyn. There will be time to decide whether you wish to join your stepbrother.”

“We are no knights,” said Agravain quietly. “Only warriors.”

As Gwanwyn got to her feet, she saw the queen smile even more widely. “Soon, perhaps.”

“You know Morgan is our stepbrother?” Gwanwyn looked at him, but he didn’t look back at her, apparently preferring to stare at his plate.

“He told us that his stepsisters and stepbrother were coming to the court today,” said Queen Ursula. “He rode with you, correct?”

“He certainly did,” said Grainne ruefully. “Hey, Morgan. Why didn’t you tell us the truth?”

He looked up at last. His face was pale, but he didn’t look as terrified as he had when being introduced. A smile flashed its way across his mouth. “I wanted Ursula to be the first one to find out. It was too important.”

“What do you mean, the first one?” Gwanwyn asked. “Doesn’t anyone else know?”

“I hope not,” he said with a little, nervous laugh. “Not before tonight, anyway. Until a few weeks ago, I think my mother and maybe some of the knights were the only ones who knew.”

“You mean, you didn’t even know?” asked Grainne in surprise, staring at him.

He shook his head. “I never had any idea who my father was. I think she wanted to avoid telling me until she had to.”

“I know what that’s like,” said Ursula with a sideways glance at Sir Kate.

“I didn’t know who your father was until you did,” said Kate. “Mother is a different story.”

“I can’t imagine not knowing who your father is,” said Gwanwyn honestly. She hardly remembered her birth mother, Anna—just hazy recollections of a sweet singing voice and strong arms that had alternately held her and kept her back from torturing her siblings—but Lot had always been a strong, even overwhelming, presence in her life, teaching her right from wrong and the ways to get what you want. And not only had both Ursula and Morgan grown up not knowing about their father, he had died before they would have had a chance to get to know him. “I’m sorry.”

Ursula waved it aside. “It’s the surprise that was difficult for us, not growing up with it. But this isn’t what I meant to talk about. I notice that your father, King Lot, is not here.”

Gwanwyn’s heart sank. She had just been starting to get comfortable with Ursula; now they had to turn to the topics that made her unhappy. Was the queen only willing to speak with them for political reasons? She did not know what to say.

Grainne was the one to speak. “I hope you don’t mind me being blunt, your highness, but he refused to come.”

“Oh, I reward bluntness,” said Ursula, smiling more broadly. “Isn’t that right, dear sister?”

“You did grow up with me,” said Kate dryly, turning her attention to her dinner.

“He doesn’t trust a female ruler, I take it?” Ursula said to Grainne.

Grainne nodded. “That’s exactly right, your highness. He says he won’t come to swear his fealty until there’s a man on the throne.”

“But he allowed you to come,” said Ursula.

“He could hardly stop us,” said Gwanwyn. “But that’s right, your highness, he didn’t try very hard. He generally lets us do what we want.”

“He’s not very consistent,” put in Morgan. “He claims to think little of female fighters, but from everything I’ve seen he’s at least as proud of Gwanwyn and Grainne as of Agravain—more, even. And he obviously hasn’t forced any of you into a marriage.”

Gwanwyn shook her head. “He’s made the suggestion a few times, but never tried to pressure us. Even Agravain.”

“And are you his heir?” asked Ursula, turning to Agravain.

“Yes, your highness,” said Agravain. “But Gwanwyn is the eldest, and if it weren’t for his prejudices, I’m certain she would be next for the throne.”

The queen nodded. Her hands tightened on the ends of her chair’s arms and then relaxed. “And have you any other siblings?”

“I’m sure our father’s made no end of bastards,” said Grainne. “Plenty of noses like ours running about the castle. But they’re all servants, but for our little sister, Melva. She’s no fighter.”

“Still, I’d like to meet her,” said Ursula. “Thank you all for coming. There have been so many coming to join my court—I’ll have to set up a tourney soon.”

“I’d like that,” said Gwanwyn. A chance to prove her mettle against other men and women—knights who were not her siblings! If she’d had any intention of returning to Lothian soon, it was gone now.

“Then that is added to our long list of plans,” said Ursula. “A pleasure to meet you, Gwanwyn, Grainne, Agravain.”

Gwanwyn knew a dismissal when she heard one. She gave Ursula a deep bow; Grainne and Agravain followed suit. Then they turned and walked back to their seats.

Gwanwyn felt lightheaded and shaky, but she couldn’t stop grinning. Ursula was just as a queen should be—strong, intimidating, and yet personable. She was everything Gwanwyn had hoped for, and she never wanted to leave this court.


Did you enjoy this story? You can read more stories in this world or see all my fiction posted at Dreamwidth!

You can also donate to see more of this story at $1 per 100 or so words. There is a PayPal button on the landing page linked above.

Date: 2014-09-13 03:35 am (UTC)
thnidu: Red pen. Text: The red penis the editor's friend; editing mark "insert space" in "penis". from lj:stormsdotter (editor's friend)
From: [personal profile] thnidu
I like these women! If only they didn't seem almost too good to be true. But that's story for ya. :-)

Couple little things, if I may:
• even if she wasn’t technically her actual sister
> "technically…actual" sounds redundant

• If she’d had any intention of returning to Lothian soon, it was gone now.”
> Got an extra close-quote there

Date: 2014-09-15 02:43 am (UTC)
raze: A man and a rooster. (Default)
From: [personal profile] raze
Oh, how fun. I love writing multiple perspectives; gives the audience and writer alike a bit more of a scope to work with when presenting a scene.

Date: 2015-01-07 08:43 pm (UTC)
rhapsody: (Nimueh)
From: [personal profile] rhapsody
Just dipping into this world, but I really love all the points of views and how they experience it... and how you brought it all together. :)

Profile

clare_dragonfly: woman with green feathery wings, text: stories last longer: but only by becoming only stories (Default)
Clare-Dragonfly

August 2018

S M T W T F S
   1234
56 7891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 

Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Apr. 21st, 2019 12:07 pm
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios