She arrived at court an orphaned girl of ten years, utterly alone save for her governess. The woman in question was a kindly matron by the name of Katie who had raised the child from birth. She was often to be heard saying that "it was such a shame, that she doesn't have a mother. It would be bad enough for a boy, but for a little girl... well, I do what I can."
The little girl in question did not seem inclined to believe that she was at any disadvantage. She gave the air of knowing what was and what was not right, and having very clear convictions that this was where she ought be, whatever the circumstances. Conviction was the word that summed this girl up; it was in her poker-straight spine, her lifted chin and most of all in her knowing green eyes. No amount of gentle coercion from Katie had been able to soften the piercing gaze of those eyes.
Katie was a calming presence in the child's life, with her reprimands and her comforting words that never changed and never would. She knew her charge better than her own daughter, God rest her soul, and prided herself on it. Katie's inane babble filled the child's days more surely than meals or sleep or water, and indeed in these past years the chatter had been far more readily available than the luxury of sustenance. War did that to a nation.
For a young girl, this child knew far too much about war, and this war in particular. Perhaps that was true of every child, but this one knew even more than the rest. She knew not only the harsh reality that everyone can die, that some will, that food and water and safety become scarce; she knew that the war was primarily a fight against the evil sorcerers in the Great Purge but also that its secondary aim was to forge a true alliance between her father's nation and Camelot, up to and including the annexation of her nation by Camelot, through her. As the sole heir to Gore, her father's realm, she was immensely valuable, and knew it. She also knew that her father had been blinded to the dangers he would face. Most importantly, she had known he would die. She had told him not to go to battle. She had told him Uther would not send more men.
He didn't listen to her.
Aged ten, she had an absolute faith in her own prowess as a Seer, not that she would have used that word. She knew simply that what she dreamed came to pass. She did not doubt this. She could not, when the proof surrounded her entire life. As a child, this did not worry her. It was what she was; she had never known anything else. Of course, her father and Katie had both cautioned her not to mention this gift to anyone, especially to anyone of Camelot. There, the distinction between malignant sorcery and harmless magic was non-existent, and her gift would be seen as a threat. She knew this.
It seemed to many who met her that there was little this child did not know. Even if she was unaware of a fact, she would absorb it quietly and calmly, and never let the speaker know that she had been at a disadvantage in terms of knowledge. More than this, though, she gave off an air of omniscience, perhaps as a result of her gift.
Very rarely did her aura of conviction and omniscience slip, but slip it did, for she was a caring girl. She had always been disinclined to believe in killing of any sort and had rather the affinity for stray cats; Katie had often had to smuggle an overfed animal back out of whatever refuge in which they were currently residing, after her charge had smuggled it in. Pets were simply not an option for a noble girl on the run, much less so cats, the familiars of witches. Stray puppies were often tolerated for a little longer though at the most until they could be trained to be a guard dog or hunting dog. Lord Gorlois' pack of dogs was the most full of mongrels in the known world.
The child never showed weakness when it was herself under attack, whether that attack be physical or psychological; she knew the consequences of betraying fear. However she was oft to be found defending something or someone other than herself. Katie had found herself grateful for this selfless tendency on several occasions when she had been engaged in less than admirable activities, usually with her sweetheart John, who just so happened to be one of the guards assigned to keep her charge alive.
John was dead now, along with Lord Gorlois, ruling knight of Gore, and their abandoned darlings, Katie and the child, were entering the court of King Uther Pendragon.
"Are you alright, sweetie?" Katie asked as they waited to be announced.
The child turned to her with ever-solemn eyes, and nodded gravely. There was the echo in her face of absolute certainty as to why she was here. She apportioned blame in her simplistic childish way, and that blame did not go to he who had struck her father down in battle.
"Now you must be kind to his Grace," Katie cautioned nervously. Now was not the time for the child's frank stare to land them in trouble. There was magic in those eyes, and sometimes one couldn't help but see it.
"I know," the girl said in her clear soprano. "I will be."
She meant it. She knew that she would be kind to the king because he was doing a great kindness in taking her in without immediately organising her betrothal to his son. She also knew that she would always blame him for her father's death. In her view, the two concepts were reconcilable so long as they were kept separate in her mind. Here and now, this seemed not only achievable but imperative, and so there was no option and no doubt. She would be kind to King Uther. There was no other possible outcome.
With five words, Katie understood all of this. For such a cryptic child, she was painfully easy to read.
"Are you ready, m'lady, madam?" asked one of the guards, clearly expecting Katie to answer for the girl.
"Quite ready," the child replied, knowing that the guard had not been addressing her. A small smile flickered at the corner of her mouth and died before it could become discovered.
The guard blinked, surprised at her composure, then smiled at her. With a nod to his partner, they threw open the great oaken doors as a herald cried her name and girl and governess stepped forward.
There was a veritable audience for her début at court. The Knights were assembled, as were the various nobles, their retainers and servants, various personnel from the castle staff and of course the king and his prince. The child ignored them all, as though she were royalty in this kingdom too, walking with all the precision and measured pace of a princess. Katie stayed directly behind her, marvelling at her little girl who walked with her head held high.
Every person in the room noted that she was a remarkably pretty little thing, with dainty features, creamy white skin and the most glorious shining hair that tumbled in sculptured curves to her waist. The more astute saw that although her dress was no doubt designed for a child of the aristocracy, it was well worn, and the hem had been let down more than once. One or two shivered because they had attempted to look into her eyes, and were barely able to see that they were green.
Gaius frowned slightly. He had not been a sorcerer for nearly a decade, but he could feel the magic emanating from this highly political young girl. Politics and magic did not make good bedfellows, as well he knew, and he resolved to take an active interest in her upbringing. If, for her sake, he could quash her mythical abilities, it would greatly ease his mind. In the meantime, he would say nothing to Uther.
King Uther saw first the daughter of his dear friend. Gorlois had been one of his greatest allies and advisors, despite the obvious threat Camelot posed to his smaller nation. They were related as most rulers of this area were, and although the affinity was distant, Uther considered Gorlois a cousin. His daughter, he considered a niece. Second, he saw her composure, admirable in a noble girl who had just become an orphan. Third, he saw the beautiful addition to his court, a companion of noble birth for Arthur and a first lady of the court.
Arthur, standing beside his father opposite the grand doors, fidgeted slightly. He was nine years old and longed to be outside practising his swordplay or his archery. He was not interested as of yet in the pomp and ceremony of the court, though it was fun to see everyone paying him attention. Today, no one was paying him any respect at all, and he was therefore not interested at all. He did not know any girls besides the servants, for there were none of suitable birth and breeding for him to consort with. Consequently, his childish mind connected girls with servants and believed they were all entirely below him.
The girl, as she approached, catalogued every person of note in the room even as she kept her eyes firmly on the throne just above King Uther's head. There were one or two knights who looked at her with pity, and she scorned them. Pity would do nothing. There was the old man with oddly long white hair who stayed deferentially behind Uther and frowned at her, but she could not place him, nor could she understand why he frowned. She would have to investigate him later, especially as he was positioned so close to the King.
Arthur she saw as another noble young boy who would have to be polite to her and to whom she would have to be polite. He was of no consequence, or at least not yet. As soon as she reached a marriageable age, maybe in three years' time, she would have to pay him far more attention. She knew that one day she would have to be married, and she knew that there were many who would want to marry her to their sons. Perhaps better the Crown Prince than son of a mere knight, though she had yet to evaluate him. Never mind; she need not worry about him yet.
Katie felt daunted by the experience. She had never been in a court such as this; Lord Gorlois had been at war for too long to allow his daughter to attend court if there even was one at the time. In fact, she was rather closer to being scared than she would ideally like to admit. The king terrified her; with his reputation for an exceedingly intolerant view of magic, she feared for her charge's very life. She tried not to look fearful, and hoped no one would be watching her. Goodness knows if she were watching their entrance, she certainly wouldn't be looking at the dowdy governess following behind this little wonder.
Finally, they reached their destination and both dropped into a dutiful curtsy, Katie's the lower because of her own lower status. They rose together, both keeping their heads down for a second before the child looked back up.
"My lady," the king greeted her.
"Your highness," she replied.
Her voice, clear and high with a western lilt to it, made one or two look up and reassess her. She spoke with strength and with certainty; she was used to performing before an audience. Gaius felt distinctly uneasy; she reminded him far too closely of a younger Nimueh, back when she had been his student and protégé.
Uther appraised her approvingly. Such poise was to be expected of a well-bred young girl. "It is with pleasure that we take you into our home, although we would it were not in such sad circumstances."
"I too would that were so, Sire, but I thank you nonetheless for your kind welcome."
The words were unfailingly polite, but Katie trembled. It was clear to anyone who cared to listen that the child blamed the king for the aforementioned sad circumstances. Thankfully no one was inclined to listen for discrete insults in the words of a girl, and no one else noticed.
King Uther stepped forward and came to kneel before the child in a familial manner. Her eyes narrowed a little, surprised. This was not kingly behaviour.
"I want to welcome you into my family, my lady," he said gently, though still loud enough that every last man in the room could hear him. "You will be as a daughter to me, and as a sister to my son Arthur."
Her eyes narrowed still further, but she steeled herself to answer:
"I thank you, Sire."
"There is no need to do so. It is my duty to provide for you, and my pleasure." He smiled. "Now, I expect you would like to be taken to your chambers, is that so?"
She took a second to consider which would be the right answer, then decided it would be best to agree with the king. "That would be lovely, thank you, Sire."
"Very well. Would you like to dine with me tonight?"
Again, she thought it best to acquiesce. "It would be an honour, Sire."
He stood and took a step back. Katie breathed a sigh of relief.
"I shall see you tonight," Uther declared.
"Thank you, Sire," she repeated. She curtsied again, Katie following suit, and turned regally to exit the room.
Uther frowned as he watched her go, noticing along with everyone else that her long skirt had been visibly patched. He beckoned to an aide behind him.
"Send my tailor up," he said in a low voice. "And find her a handmaiden, one of her own age, I think; her governess can do the rest."
"Poor child," Uther muttered.
The said child stiffened as the door closed behind her.
"Excuse me, my lady, madam?" said one of the guards. "Shall I guide you to your chambers?"
"Yes, thank you," the child answered, colder than she had spoken before.
Katie hurried to her side. "Now, that was very kind of the king, wasn't it?" she prompted, trying to loosen the girl's locked spine.
"He is not my father," she said simply.
Katie glanced at the guard, who was now studiously practicing the art of being deaf. "I know," she whispered, "but he said he will be as your father. He's not trying to replace him."
"Come now. You must be polite and friendly."
"Oh, I know you know," Katie said. "But will you accept it, Morgana?"
A/N: Please don't review telling me that Morgana's totally unaware of her powers - in my own head I know how she gets from here to Merlin s1. She's definitely my favourite character, because she's layered in ways that others might not be. I'm not entirely sure for how long this story will continue, but I do have the next six months to a year planned out vaguely in my mind. I would imagine not too much further than that.