A/N: So, this idea sort of grabbed me and dragged me down with it, but not to worry, I'm quite comfortable here. I decided to give this FemMerlin thing another try, and I sort of like how this turned out. I have nearly 6 chapters written out, and I think I'll be able to keep that up for a while.
She'd never known another life. She was a Princess of Galdara, though she'd never inherit the throne – and that life was hers. So when her mother told her that the reason people called her names and talked about her behind her back, was because her father wasn't really her father… It was only natural she wanted to be alone. Of course, being alone for Princess Merlynn meant sneaking into the woods and sitting with a pack of wolves. It was hours before they found her.
Her mother decided she needed a change of scenery, and pleaded with her husband to take her with him on his diplomatic visit to Camelot. Merlynn was 10 years old, and she adored her father, but now, during this long voyage, she didn't know what to say.
"Talk to me, my darling," he said after they'd been on the road for several hours, and hadn't tried to talk his ear off.
Merlynn looked up at the man who had raised her. How could he not be her father? "I don't understand. Mother told me you aren't my father, but… I don't understand," she repeated, frustrated that she couldn't seem to voice her own thoughts. She wanted to know what had happened, how she came to be, who was her real father, and where was he now? Had he not wanted her? Looking up at the King of Galdara, she dared to think the one question she wanted to ask most: did he love her?
King Olaf's eyes softened. "We should have told you much sooner, little bird," he said, adopting the nickname her mother usually used for her. "We just… I just wanted you to grow up without having to worry about it."
Merlynn didn't say anything, didn't know what to say, and just stared out the window of the carriage.
"Merlynn," her father – no, the King – said, drawing her attention back. "You are still my daughter, and I love you, no matter your parentage. You are as dear to me as my own Vivian, do you understand?"
The girl's vision swam, as tears rose to the surface and spilled over her pale cheeks. "Come here, my darling," her father whispered, and held out his arms. Merlynn dove across the carriage, into his arms and sobbed. She wasn't even sure why she was crying, but it felt good to be held. Her father didn't usually show this kind of affection, especially to Vivian, who wasn't much of a hugger, but his youngest had a way of bringing it out of him. Only in private, of course.
The next day's journey was spent in a much lighter mood, with Merlynn chattering on about everything and nothing. If she wasn't buried nose-deep in another of her books, that is. As they neared Camelot, Olaf took his place on his grey mare, while Merlynn hung out of the window to talk to the soldiers accompanying them. They were members of the royal guard, and had gotten quite used to the little girl's enthusiasm. Most of them simply listened, amused, and occasionally offered a comment.
Merlynn was fairly well liked by most of the staff and soldiers, but it was her beautiful sister Vivian who was well-liked amongst the nobles, even if she could be horribly arrogant. That made Merlynn quiet again. The King, hearing the lull in conversation, slowed his horse until he rode by the window again. "What is it, Merlynn?"
The girl bit her lip, thinking. "Does this mean Viv isn't really my sister?" Oh, she and her older sister fought, of course, like all siblings would, and Merlynn simply didn't understand Vivian's obsession with boys and make-up, as her sister didn't understand Merlynn's love of books and knowledge. But the sisters loved each other. When confronted with the outside world, they were a united front. It was odd for Merlynn, knowing her sister's temperament, and that she could be incredibly rude and arrogant, while still knowing her sister loved her, and would never let anyone speak ill of her… How could she not be her sister?
"Merlynn… Even though you are not of my blood, I have chosen you as my family. You are my daughter, and Vivian, though she may not say it, loves you. She is your sister, in all the ways that matter."
"Is that why everyone always says I'm not a real princess? That I'm worthless?" she asked. She had meant it innocently, an honest question, but her father looked angry now.
"Who said that? I'll have their heads! Don't let anyone ever tell you that you are worthless, Merlynn, do you understand? You are a legitimate princess of Galdara, and the only reason you will not inherit it, is because your sister is older than you. If anyone ever says that again, I want you to come tell me, or Sir Fredrik," he said. Merlynn shrank back in the face of his anger, even though she knew it was not directed at her. Sir Fredrik – the head of the royal guard – looked solemn, but nodded when she looked over, and offered a tiny smile.
"Yes, papa," she said, dutifully. The King nodded shortly, and moved back to the head of the column, looking every bit the fearsome northern king that he was.
It took them another hour to get to the gates of Camelot, but when they got there, a welcome party was standing on the steps. Merlynn had only been there once before, when she was five, and she didn't remember much of it, but she did recall being amazed at the beauty of the city. And now it amazed her again.
The King of Camelot, Uther, stood at the front, knights in bright red cloaks flanking the steps, and a blond boy of about Vivian's age stood behind the King, next to a pretty, raven-haired girl.
Merlynn's father and King Uther were friends, she knew, so when they clasped arms, it was done with big smiles on their faces. That smile melted away when Merlynn stepped out of the carriage. Uther whispered something angrily to Olaf, but the man simply glared and responded, equally angry. Their clasped arms seemed far more hostile now.
As Olaf let go, he motioned for Merlynn to come closer, and, gripped with an unexpected shyness, she rushed into his side, hoping to hide in the many furs he still wore. "May I present the Lady Merlynn, my youngest daughter," her father said, somewhat louder than before.
Uther looked like he'd chewed on a week-old root, but managed a nod in her direction. He scared her. "And may I present my son, Prince Arthur, and my ward, the Lady Morgana."
The two children walked down the steps and bowed and curtsied respectfully. At least they didn't seem angry at her presence. She quickly curtsied in response, but stayed close to her father. Where the city had seemed so beautiful to her before, it seemed darker now, like it wanted to draw her in and keep her prisoner.
She was shown to her rooms by a serving girl who couldn't have been much older than herself, and Morgana, who seemed curious about Merlynn. The princess was equally curious about this new addition to Uther's household, as she was sure the other girl hadn't been there 5 years ago. "Are you really Olaf's daughter?" the Lady asked, seeming more curious than sceptic.
"You don't look like him."
"I look like my mother," Merlynn replied. She'd gotten her mother's dark hair and blue eyes. At least now she knew why she had no features connecting her to her father.
"She must be pretty then," Morgana said diplomatically. Merlynn only blushed. She paled in comparison to her sister's beauty, and wasn't used to being complemented when they were in the same room – which was most of the time – so she had a hard time accepting compliments.
"She is," she managed to say, but stared at the ground.
"Milady?" the dark-skinned serving girl said. "Your bed has been made and there's a banquet in an hour. I can help you get ready."
"Thank you… I'm sorry, I forgot your name," Merlynn said with another blush.
Gwen looked sheepish. "I didn't give it, I'm so sorry! My name's Gwen. Well, actually it's Guinevere, but my friends call me Gwen. Not that I'm presuming that you're my friend, milady, but–"
Morgana interjected. "She's a friend, she can be yours too, if you'd like. And if she'll fetch my things, I can get ready in here."
"Alright," Merlynn said, still a little shy, but bolstered by this girl's kindness.
"See? We're friends already," she replied with a grin while Gwen slipped out to get the Lady's things.
She finally met Prince Arthur at the banquet that night. The food here was strange, and Morgana helped her sort it out, but Arthur wasn't so kind. "What kind of strange land are you from if you even eat normal food?" he asked haughtily.
For the first time since arriving at Camelot, Merlynn found her temper again. She glared at him. "We do eat normal food, you're the ones with strange food!"
Morgana hid a giggle behind her hand, so Arthur sent a glare in her direction as well. The rest of the meal was spent mostly in silence, except when Morgana whispered a few words to her. Merlynn decided she didn't like the Prince of Camelot one bit.
By the end of that week, she was ready to go back home. She had found a friend in 11 year-old Morgana and Gwen, but Arthur, at 13 years old, was insufferable. He used every opportunity to tease her, and even made her trip in front of King Uther. He still scared her, even though he glared at her less often now. When she told her father of this, the man had only sighed and said that Uther had his reasons.
When they returned back home, Merlynn finally understood why her mother had made her come on this trip. She had no longer felt like she was a part of the family when she'd left, but as she returned, she realized that she had missed and her mother her sister, even though the latter was not related by blood. She was home.
A/N: Don't worry, I'll explain how this situation came to be in the next chapter (titled 11 years ago. I'm so original, right?)
Anyway, constructive criticism is always welcome, so review!