Morgause was in the midst of a new plot. Magic and strength of arms together had been brought against Arthur's knights, and the kingdom was desperate. When word arrived that a faery enchanter was willing to give aid against the Enchantress, many of the Round Table were suspicious. But Gawain seemed to trust the news, and so did Terence. And strangely – or perhaps not so strangely, Arthur thought, that was all the reassurance he needed to agree to meet a messenger.
Now he found himself sitting at table with his knights in anxious silence as they waited for this faery envoy to appear. When a short, bearded man with an Otherworldly Look walked in, Arthur rose to greet him.
"Your Majesty," the faery greeted, bowing. Arthur nodded in return. "Welcome, friend."
There was a pause before Kai grunted, "I don't know what's usual amongst faeries, but here it's rather rude to withhold your name."
Arthur shot Kai a quelling glance before turning back to the messenger, who answered, "But I have many names. Though if you must have one to call me, you may call me Robin."
Some of the knights shifted, shooting each other glances. Gawain, he saw, was unusually focused, completely intent on the man standing before Arthur. Terence, on the other hand, seemed unusually apprehensive. Arthur felt a stab of doubt at his decision to trust this messenger (and when had Terence's trust become so reassuring, and his worry so concerning?) but kept his gaze grave and still on the faery in front of him.
"Very well, Robin. Would you care to join our meal?" They both knew this was merely a formality. The situation was serious enough that the opening of contact between worlds was expected to begin at once. Robin shook his head. "Thank you, Your Majesty, but no. I was sent with a message only."
Arthur nodded. "Speak."
Robin's gaze flickered off to the side for a moment and for a second he hesitated, before he said, "Ganscotter is ruler of Avalon, and the Seelie Court. There are ancient laws and rules of the worlds, and he cannot come to your aid himself. However, he would ask that you hear his son in his place. He wishes me to assure you that whatever decision his son makes, he will support absolutely, and he may be of great help to your world, having spent much time here already."
Arthur paused a moment, thrown a little, but one of the younger knights had risen. "And how can we trust this? First he claims to want an alliance, then he won't even come, and to top it, it's faery magic that's attacking us! Why should we listen to anything he says?"
Arthur's gaze fixed steadily on the knight, and he slowly turned red and sat back in his seat. Surprisingly it was Gawain, and not Robin, that answered. "The Seelie Court has never sought to harm the World of Men. There are two courts in the Otherworld- at least, there are in Avalon. The Seelie and Unseelie. Those allied with Morgause are of the Unseelie court. You need not fear treachery from Robin."
Arthur noticed with a bit of curiosity that Gawain had begun to look a little worried when Robin was speaking, and Terence had actually gone slightly pale. His words belied his look, however, and Arthur held his peace as another of his knights spoke up.
"You seem terribly familiar with the way all this works, Gawain." It was Tor, and he spoke lightly, but there was a knowing look in his eyes. Gawain nodded to him, an apology in his eyes.
"Yes, well, I have been there before. On occasion. There are… passages."
"Ones that might happen to take you away for years, and return you not a year older?" Arthur asked softly, remembering the grief of those long years he had thought his nephew lost.
Gawain looked at him steadily as the court drew breath in realization. "Yes. I have been to the Other World. I have met the enchanter Ganscotter and his son. I trust them."
That was all Arthur needed to hear. "Robin, tell your master I will meet with his son, and hear him out."
Robin smiled, and was it Arthur's imagination that it looked a little regretful? "I told you already that he will support whatever decision his son makes, absolutely. It is not Ganscotter's decision any longer."
As the court muttered once again, Arthur noticed Robin's gaze once more inexplicably flick off to the side. No, he realized, towards Terence. Who looked resigned, but nodded slightly. Arthur began to realize an inkling of a suspicion, but held his peace.
Robin nodded suddenly, and then said, "He is here. May I present him to the court?"
Arthur nodded in return. "Certainly."
"King Arthur, I present to you the Prince of the Isle, the Duke of Avalon, and the Knight of the Island, His Grace Duke Terence, son of Ganscotter."
When the doors didn't open and nobody came in, the court began to whisper, but he saw comprehension slowly rising on only a few faces. Sir Tor looked surprised, but somehow resigned. Arthur's suspicions had been confirmed.
"Ah… Robin, when you say Duke Terence…"
Arthur turned slowly and deliberately to look at where Terence stood behind Gawain. Robin stepped forward and bowed low. "Your Grace." Terence began to move to where Arthur stood. As he stepped forward, the court went dead silent and stared in disbelief. Arthur noticed with not a little amusement that Terence looked rather sheepish, and quite a bit nervous, though he concealed it rather well.
Terence stopped before Arthur and gave him that bow, that half-bow from the waist that suddenly made so much sense, and looked up and met his eyes. "Your Majesty."
Arthur held Terence's gaze a moment, before bending into a half-bow of his own. "Your Grace. I think I'll be hearing quite the explanation later."
Terence looked sheepish again for a moment before composing himself. "Ah… yes, I expect so, Sire."
Hours later they had hashed out the first details: Avalon could not send an army in any normal sense of the word; however, many of the faeries who dwelt in their world (and wasn't that a shock to hear) would defend it, and many more might of their free will come to oppose Morgause. They would be under no one's command, technically – apparently that wasn't quite how the faery world worked. But they would fight under their own commanders, who would keep Terence aware of their doings, who in turn would keep Arthur aware and pass on strategies and battle plans. Arthur strongly suspected Robin would be involved in this somehow; he and Terence had gone off and spoken quietly with the ease of old friends as soon as the meeting ended.
They had now gathered in Gawain's chambers, and the Round Table within the Round Table were all watching Terence. Lady Eileen had arrived the same time Terence had, slipping inside after him. She didn't usually attend, but neither Terence nor Gawain questioned it, and it had been a strange enough day as it was that no one else felt inclined to object to her presence. Terence moved almost automatically to stand behind Gawain, stopped himself, and then settled into a chair, looking slightly uncomfortable.
"So you're a Prince?" It was Kai's blunt question that broke the silence, and Terence winced a little at the straightforward question.
"Ah… yes?" Terence answered cautiously. "Sorry?"
This was apparently the final straw for Gawain, who bent over and burst out with hearty laughs. Every eye in the room turned to him. Terence scowled, and Eileen chided him softly, "Really, Gawain!"
Arthur waited until the moment had died down, and then fixed his gaze on Terence, who swallowed nervously. Everyone seemed to sense the moment; they were all waiting for him to speak. He almost asked several times, but wasn't quite sure what to say. Finally, he asked what seemed to sum it all up. "Why, Terence?"
He didn't elaborate. He didn't need to.
Terence met his gaze with that strange, knowing look that somehow seemed right on him. "Sire," he said, "I knew long ago that I would serve you, and die for you if I must. Learning who my father is doesn't change that. My duty may be to Avalon, and that is my true home. But my life and my heart is here, Sire, and my first loyalty will always be to you."
Arthur felt a traitorous tear prick at his eye. Somehow he felt that with Terence's declaration their troubles were already half over. And perhaps they were – he did seem to have an uncanny way with these things. But the declaration of his nephew's squire had moved him greatly.
After a silent moment, Gawain nodded briskly. "Well, that's that!"
"That's that?" cried Tor. "I still want an explanation!"
Terence looked at Gawain, and something silent seemed to pass between them. Gawain looked ready to speak, but Terence pre-empted him. "I expect most of that can wait until after we've dealt with Morgause. But first things first, Robin brought these along." He held out a stack of letters that Gawain made for at once. Terence dodged out of the way. "Oi, domnoddy, let me see whose are whose first!"
Gawain grinned. "Such insolence! You do make a terrible squire sometimes, you know."
Terence felt a grin rising unbidden to his own face. "And when I act like a proper squire you whine about it the rest of the day. Shut up and read your letters."
Gawain looked at him for a moment before grinning and standing to make an exaggerated bow. "As you say, Your Grace. While Terence spluttered, Gawain snatched his letters and muttered to the others, "Excuse me a moment." He hastily exited into his bedchamber, where he would have a little more privacy. He didn't hear the murmured question, but he did hear his squire's response.
"Oh, I'd imagine he's just rather anxious to hear from his wife." Terence said casually.
Gawain burst out of his chamber to see the slack-jawed faces of his friends and king, and the smug expression of his squire. "TERENCE!"
As the others found their voices and began to throw questions at him, Terence just raised that damned eyebrow.