Her rooms were spacious and richly furnished. The bed had hangings of crimson velvet and elaborate tapestries covered the walls. That they had a tendency to portray images of war was immaterial; the year was only just turning to spring and Morgana would be glad of them in the cold nights. A window with real glass opened onto the courtyard below, filling the room with sunlight. In short, these were the grandest that Morgana had ever ventured within, let alone lived in, and her eyes widened in astonishment.
When Morgana had been born, her first home had been a castle much like this, a little smaller and a little more homely, but a castle nonetheless. When she was three years of age and her mother died, however, the little lady was taken from her home, fleeing with the castle household to a loyal noble's estate. From there, they had moved from house to house, and their longest stay turned out to be safe only because their host had been feeding information to their enemies. Morgana was not used to the concept of a home, and she certainly wasn't used to the grandeur of a royal palace.
Katie noticed the change as soon as they were alone; she noticed the widened eyes and smiled. For all her grief and her other worldliness, she was a girl like any other and could be swayed like any other. She was just a girl when she had no audience.
Governess and charge both remained silent as Morgana examined her chambers with increasing wonder and excitement. The child forgot her regal bearing as she opened her new wardrobe, empty as of yet, but made of beautiful dark wood and ornately carved. She closed the doors with a melodic click and whirled to finally go and fling herself on that bed, and stare up at its canopy.
"I dreamed it from here," she announced. "I didn't see the rest of the room."
Katie's good mood vanished immediately, transmogrified into fearful fretting. "My lady, you know—"
"I mustn't speak of my dreams," the child finished dutifully. "Can I not when it is only you and me?"
"No, dear," Katie answered, and felt a surge of familiar anger as the child frowned. Not towards her charge, never, but towards these dreams and whatever source they might have. Any other child might be allowed to regale her nurse with an impossible tale or complain of a nightmare; why not this one who was struck by nightmares so often?
"Very well," Morgana said, and the light was gone from her eyes. She raised her head to turn a pleading gaze on Katie. "Then can you please not call me 'my lady'?"
Katie sighed, and sat down beside her. The question was more loaded than one might think. Uther's court was much more formal than Morgana was accustomed to, and while she might play the part to perfection, she wanted only reminders of her life before. She wanted a parental figure who could call her by her name and not worry for its familiarity. She wanted safety within her own household, even if she had never known it outside before. Katie, however much she might want to give these things, was scared to provide them for her.
"Darling, you know that I am your servant," she began.
"I have always known that, and you have always called me Morgana."
"Let me finish," Katie cautioned, more sternly than she might ordinarily have done. "Here, things are done a little bit differently." She watched Morgana swallow the urge to say I know again. "The King's servants do not call him by his name. The Prince's don't either."
"I am not the Prince, nor the King," Morgana countered quietly.
With a small smile, Katie answered, "But you are to be as a Princess here. It doesn't matter what I call you, my dear lady Morgana. A title is not important."
Morgana looked ready to argue, but before she could commence there was a knock at the door. She jumped up, flung back her hair and called imperiously, "Enter."
An old man poked his head around the door. His silver white hair was combed back from his forehead to reveal ice blue eyes beneath thick wiry eyebrows. His nose was straight but over long, and his chin was sharp. As he emerged into the room, it became clear that sharp was the word to describe him, for he was more a collection of angular joints than a cohesive body, being paper thin. Although his spine was poker straight, he walked as though in a constant bow, perhaps because of his height, which was slightly above average. A servant, clearly, but a highly placed one, if one were to judge by his smart clothing and the way his head was held up at the end of his bowed neck. Behind him came an equally elderly woman, her steel coloured hair combed harshly back into a bun at the nape of her neck. She, too, was painfully thin, and she was dressed in a severely cut black dress, giving her the appearance of being a shadow. From the way she stayed just behind the man and the way her eyes were perpetually focused on the floor, she might as well have been.
"Excuse me, my lady," the man said in a clear, clipped voice. "I am the King's personal tailor, and he has asked me to attend to your need for any new clothing you might desire."
Morgana's eyebrows were delicately raised at the man's odd manner of speaking, but she refrained from commenting.
"My name is Andrew," the tailor offered when a response was not forthcoming.
"This is my wife and assistant, Mary."
Katie, standing behind her, sensed the problem. Morgana did not know what 'new clothing she might desire' as she didn't know what was needed for a woman of her newfound station. She didn't want to risk asking for anything and having her request deemed as improper or impolite.
"My lady will need everything new," she intervened smoothly. "We left our last abode in rather a hurry."
"Of course," the man smiled gratefully, but his eyebrows creased together. Clearly he was not expecting to be addressed by this lowly placed woman. "What would that—"
"We will trust everything to your discretion," Katie interrupted, smiling disarmingly.
Andrew blinked in surprise, but hid his emotion well. "Of course, madam," he repeated. From his pocket, he withdrew a piece of white tape. "Shall we begin?"
Morgana smiled briefly, icily, and stepped forward to show willingness. Not having spoken before, she thought it best not to make herself look a fool by suddenly chattering away. She obviously felt very uncomfortable as the woman, Mary, ran the tape over her body and made small marks on it, but she held herself straight and allowed herself to be manipulated like a doll.
For her part, Mary never gave an indication of approval or otherwise. She was like a soldier on patrol, utterly controlled. Katie found her slightly unnerving.
Andrew stood back, surveying the young girl with a critical eye. "It's such a shame she is in mourning," he muttered, apparently unaware that he could be heard with ease. "Such a pale complexion would suit reds: scarlet or crimson, certainly. Perhaps not for a child. But purples and midnight blue... not grey, I think. Not for such colouring... one black, maybe, for propriety..."
"Something lighter for daywear?" Katie suggested.
He looked up, surprised at the interruption. "Well, yes. Not too light, of course, it wouldn't be seemly in this time of—" he lowered his voice conspiratorially "—grieving."
Morgana didn't flinch, giving Andrew the impression that she hadn't heard.
Presently, Mary stepped back and Andrew gave a courtly bow.
"I shall return tomorrow with the first of your gowns to be altered," he announced.
"And what of my nightclothes?" asked Morgana. The fire in her eyes was carefully controlled to flicker only slightly. It was an impertinent question, a crude question, but it was a question that no one else seemed willing to ask.
Thankfully, Andrew positively beamed at being addressed directly by her. "Mary will bring them to your governess this evening while you dine with the King," he informed her proudly.
None but Katie would have noticed the stiffening of the child's spine.
Morgana smiled courteously. "Thank you," she said prettily.
"It's an honour," Andrew declared. He made to leave, but Mary stepped towards Katie.
"You would do well to let the young lady speak for herself," she warned. "Noisy servants are not appreciated here."
For all her caution and care, Katie had her pride and she could feel it simmering. Noisy? Why, all she had done was served Morgana, speaking for her when she would rather not speak herself. How dare this woman presume that she was behaving in any way detrimental to her charge? Nevertheless, she kept her composure and inclined her head in thanks.
"I shall remember your words," she promised.
The gaze of both foreigners followed the couple out of the room. Neither was amicable.
"So this is how it is to be in Camelot," Morgana stated.
Katie wanted to say something reassuring, but Morgana turned abruptly to her. Her face was cold and yet still impassioned.
"We need to learn about the ways of this court," she said, "and quickly."
Another knock on the door cut off their conversation yet again. Immediately, Morgana was smiling, as though Katie had just spoken the most charming joke, and she simply had to smile. The change was like the lighting of a torch, and utterly convincing. "Enter," she called once again.
This time they were a woman and a girl of a dark complexion, and they held hands. The woman was still dressed in an apron from whatever task she had been doing before she was called away, but she had a single daisy behind her left ear, standing out starkly against her near-black hair. The hair in question was wild and tightly curled: a veritable mane. Her face was kindly and pretty in a gentle way, and she smiled. The little girl bore an amazing resemblance to her. Her hair was perhaps a little better controlled, and tied back with a ribbon acquired from somewhere, and her face, although still round with youth, was a little darker in colour and bore marks of a beauty that had yet to be realised. For the moment, though, that face looked positively terrified. She clutched at the woman's hand as though it prevented her from drowning.
"Hello, my lady," the woman said. Her voice was bright and welcoming, and Katie found herself liking this newcomer. "My name is Alicienne, and this is my daughter, Guinevere."
Those were noble names, and Morgana found herself curious as to why on earth they had taken such aristocratic names for themselves when they were quite clearly servants.
"Though we more often go by Ali and Gwen," Alicienne continued. "Gwen's been asked to be your handmaiden, my lady?"
"I... I see."
Morgana spoke hesitantly, because she hadn't considered having extra servants. In Gorlois' court, she had kept only Katie in her personal service. She thought it rather extravagant to have someone else, too. The intrusion into her private life, too, had the potential to be a nuisance.
Katie longed to step in and speak for the child, but she didn't dare. If too many people took a disliking to her, her position could be at risk.
Ali smiled still. "She's a little shy, and she's not done much in the way of being a lady's maid before, but she'll learn. Gwen, say hello."
Gwen barely breathed, "Hello, my lady."
That was the key. Morgana saw in Gwen someone to be protected and she smiled at her. "Hello, Gwen," she said, and her friendliness was not feigned. "Don't be scared."
Gwen looked up from where she had been determinedly scrutinising her feet. "Sorry," she said hastily. "I do not mean to be scared."
Morgana smiled still wider. "How old are you, Gwen?"
"I'm twelve, my lady."
"Well, I'm ten. You don't need to be scared at all."
Morgana had had few friends in her own country. Children were not common on the battlefield, and the daughters of their hosts had been kept away for fear that a child's words were less cautious than those of an adult. Gwen, by contrast, lived in the lower town where the children ran rampant and the friendless were hard to find. She had begun working from an early age, though, and had at the moment a post in the royal kitchens, washing whatever there was that needed to be washed. As a consequence, she had less playtime than her contemporaries, and was not as close as maybe she should have been to any one of them.
They went well together. Ali and Katie shared a knowing look as Gwen consented to smile.