This fic was written for 14 Days of Arthur & Guinevere on LJ with prompt F-14 "Blonde child; Arthur and Gwen have a daughter that looks more like Arthur". This fic is set in the TYAA verse in which S1 happened but not S2 (or at least not all of it). You don't need to read To You, An Admirer to understand the fic (Although you might enjoy the details a bit more if you *have* read it). Just think of it as a regular AU future!fic.


i.

Linnet was born with sunshine in her hair.

The circumstances of her birth were somewhat different from other royal princesses. She had been an early birth, coming nearly two weeks before she was expected. She had also decided to take her bow in the world at the most inconvenient time for her mother too. Guinevere had been at the temple at Tor with other royalty to give thanks to the Blessed Mother. She had every reason to seek favour since the baby was soon coming.

Linnet was born at a time of war, the greatest war Albion had ever seen. Here at Tor the five Dumnonian kings had surrounded themselves with their friends and allies. It was just months ago that the war had brought them to the tip of Cymru in Gwynedd where the lawless king Maelgwn had finally fallen to the army of Camelot. He and his armies had tried to invade south Rheged on behalf of Prince Claudius, to try and sneak up on the armies of Eidin (The armies of the great northern king Lot and his son – Arthur's cousin – Gawain) and push forward into the north. Arthur had been tipped off about the upcoming attack immediately set off to stop Maelgwn before he could make his move.

Arthur had been victorious and the conquest of Cunedda's old lands (His own maternal great-grandfather) had left the five of them (And King Lot) very rich men indeed. They now had control of all the gold that lay in those once glorious and powerful lands. It was a very good reason to give thanks.

After the ceremony Uther and the other kings immediately began to talk about the war. They spoke of how the idiotic Prince Claudius was running out of land to flee to and how the eastern kingdoms such Mercia had begun to fight on without the foolish prince. They then all looked to Arthur who stood nearby with his very pregnant wife, and praised him for his excellent work in Gwynedd.

"A star that outshines us all," the elderly Margh declared. "Never did I think I would live to see another like him. You must be very proud Uther."

"Of course," Uther nodded, smiling with his teeth. "Every father is proud of his son."

"He's certainly his father's son," Olaf then added. "I remember the days when you used to be a real terror in Gwynedd, Uther!"

Uther chuckled. "It feels like yesterday."

Both Arthur and Gwen looked at Uther ironically. In the last two years neither of them could remember him actively taking part in battles. He was out of shape; the thought of Uther being an active terror by doing the work himself seemed bizarre!

"Yes three cheers for Arthur," Alined then announced with a pleased smile. "For winning our battles and filling out coffers."

There was a mutual murmur of approval from all but one king.

"This has certainly been your year, Arthur" said Melwas in his deep yet hissing voice. "I look at you and wish I had trained harder as a boy. You are an exceptional warrior."

Arthur narrowed his eyes. He had taken an instant disliking to Melwas and that feeling seemed to intensify the more he saw him. Melwas was outwardly a charming king who had yet to do anything to warrant dislike but was the sort of man no one would trust as far as they could throw an iron ball.

Gwen disliked Melwas too; his interest in Arthur disturbed her.

The king eyed the crowned princess's stomach. "And with a little one on the way too..." he said it in a forced, almost bitter tone. It made Gwen shiver. "This really has been your year."

Arthur had had enough. Melwas was starting to get on his nerves. His cold amber eyes watched him as if he mocked him while praising him. Once more he didn't like the way Melwas was eyeing Gwen's stomach cynically. He didn't like the way he looked at Gwen, full stop.

He immediately excused Gwen and himself from his father.

That was when it began.

Arthur tried to usher them out of the hall Gwen's pain began. She slumped into a chair and, before they knew it, every one of the kings and lords were crowded around her asking is she was all right.

After a ten second chorus of 'are you alright' and 'what's happening' the only queen in the room, Arthur's aunt, the northern queen, Anna came forward to take control. She had been strangely silent all through the day but now she was in her element; pushing men aside and taking control was something Anna was renowned for. She shifted the men away and, with the help of a few others, was able to help Gwen to her feet and into privacy elsewhere in the temple.

There was no chance of getting back to Camelot now, and Anna – having given birth enough times to tell – told Gwen that the baby was already well on the way.

Gwen was horrified. Never in her life had she been more embarrassed and frightened. She had expected to be safely at home when she gave birth, in confinement with midwives and a very alert Gaius just in case something went wrong. Here all she had was a matriarch queen and a few useless royal women hopping around her curiously. Thank goodness Anna got rid of them very quickly, sensing how exposed Gwen was feeling.

This was the world that Linnet came into.

Much like her father before her Linnet was born into a world where everyone was watching her. It was a world that both welcomed her with open arms and feared for her. She was an idol even before she had opened her eyes, before she had even entered the world.

The war had dragged on for two years; not a kingdom in Albion was unaffected. When Arthur and Gwen found out that they had a child on the way they had been more worried than anything. The thought of bringing a child into this torn world seemed cruel. And they were still so young. They had thought not to have children until the war had ended or at least settled... but whether they were ready or not they would become parents.

However the young royal couple might have felt about the prospect of becoming parents the news had been well received by everyone back in Camelot. The birth of any royal child was exciting but this one was special; it was their product.

Gwen remembered very little of the birth itself.

She couldn't remember how long it had taken once the pain began although she was told it was a mercifully quick birth. In her memory there was only the sweet smell of blood and sweat (already familiar to her from being in camp with Arthur and the army at times), the overwhelming pain and the sound of her own cries, and then her cries, and then it was over.

She looked up, and there she was.

"It's a girl," were the first words Gwen remembered. It was all faded in with the sound of her daughter howling at the cold world she had just entered. All she wanted to do was see the child.

Gwen thought she must have passed out or fallen asleep for a few seconds because the next thing she remembered was Arthur sitting next to her. The sight of his face comforted her but the lack of weeping unnerved her. For a brief moment – she didn't know why – she feared the worst. She sat up urgently when she realised that there in his arms lay the baby, wrapped in his cape for lack of blankets.

"It's a girl," he said proudly with a smile.

Gwen was just relieved to see her daughter there in his arms.

"I know..." she said looking keenly at the now silent sleeping bundle. "I see you've already dressed her in the Pendragon colours."

"There was nothing else to wrap her in," Arthur said, as if defending his actions.

"I'm not complaining," Gwen chuckled. "She's already starting to look like you."

Arthur looked at her as if not too keen on the idea. He delicately passed the precious child into her mother's arms, desperate not to wake her. He whispered, "Not too much like me, I hope."

It was the first time Gwen saw Linnet. The child was still red with blood that mildly stained the velvet cape, like the little red-cap from fairytales. Gwen pushed back the cape a little to look at the child's face better. She was very small but healthy and content. And she was so beautiful.

Gwen gently stroked the top of the child's head.

"She has blonde hair," she stated simply.

Arthur smiled, "It'll darken with age. Most babies' hair does."

ii.

Anna had quickly sent the gawping royalty away once the dust had settled and they had offered Uther congratulations on his new granddaughter. He thanked them all and slumped into one of the chair, trying to take it all in as Anna cleared the room and saw off each of the kings.

"What a turn of events!" Alined remarked to everyone around. "Not every day you witness a future generation of Albion come into the world; my congratulations to the whole family."

"Thank you," Anna said cheerfully, seeing him off. "I'm sure my nephew and his wife will be happy to hear."

The extravagantly apt king then appeared to tip his crown suavely and made his way out to meet his men and horses. He was followed by old Margh, being helped along by his just as old servant.

"Wonderful thing are daughters," Margh said. He then smiled and pointed at Anna, "I'm sure she's going to be a little leader like her great-aunt, isn't she? Yes..."

Anna laughed. "I've flattered you think me a good model for my great-niece—but it is her mother and father I would wish her to be like."

"Yes," Margh muttered contently as he walked along. "She'll be a beautiful girl, just like her mother. Mind you—her father has a beautiful face too!"

Anna was distracted by the muttering between Olaf and his tired (and very bored) daughter Vivian. She turned and offered them a smile; they did not see her at first as Olaf was too busy reminiscing about when his daughter was born, much to her devastation.

"And I remember" he said laughed cheerfully "during the worst of it your mother said she was going to kill me!"

Vivian rolled her eyes and spotted Queen Anna, rushing up to her to try and distract her father from his rattling. Olaf smiled at Anna, "Wonderful, isn't it? The great-great granddaughter of Cunedda born on the thanksgiving after his great-grandson takes back Gwynedd!"

"Absolutely wonderful," Anna agreed, and turned to Vivian. "She is a very beautiful baby."

The young lady tilted her head. "Aw, how sweet—although I have to say I don't think that I could go through what she did. It looked awfully painful!"

Anna couldn't help laughed. "You'll feel differently when your child. It is painful but it's worth all the pain when the baby first grasps your finger. I thought I'd die from the joy."

"And she knows what she's talking about!" Olaf declared to his daughter. "You are looking at a true matriarch here."

"Indeed," Vivian said distantly, before appearing a little embarrassed. "And... I'm sorry for fainting the way I did. The sight of the blood... it was all a bit too much for me."

"I'm sure Guinevere didn't mind. I doubt she even noticed."

"Yes," she said thoughtfully. "I was surprised at how dignified she was about the whole thing (the thing being the childbirth) especially since she used to be a servant girl."

"We must remember that dignity does not come with status but with character," Anna said poignantly.

It went straight over the young princess's head so it seemed. She simply smiled and floated dreamily through the door. Olaf smiled cheerfully at Anna and followed after her.

Anna turned to return inside to talk to Uther when Melwas came through the door. The queen narrowed her eyes at the only king younger than she. "Oh forgive me, Melwas! I'd completely forgotten about you..."

"Most people do," he said. "I believe congratulations are in order."

"I'm sure Arthur and Guinevere will be happy to receive them," Anna said, thinking they wouldn't care either way. "I'd have thought you have left by now."

Melwas smiled unnervingly. "I always like to see the end of a show. Better luck next time, I think."

"Why do you say that?"

"A daughter is all very sweet and lovely" he told the queen. "But a woman cannot carry on the Pendragon name."

Anna folded arms. "Does that matter?

"It will to Uther," Melwas grinned in amusement, glancing back inside the temple. "But not to worry—I'm sure Arthur has it in him to sire a son soon."

Melwas then swiftly pulled his cape about him to leave. Anna rolled her eyes; she did not like that man.

She went back inside. Uther was sitting in the same chair he had slumped in when he got the news that his grandchild was born. She sat beside him and nudged him cheerfully with her shoulder.

"Are you alright?" she asked.

Uther looked up. He had long since removed his crown which sat on the chair beside him. He felt tired. He didn't know what to think. He cleared his throat and sat up.

"I'm fine, just a little..."

"It was very sudden," Anna agreed. "I've never seen such a quick birth. It was certainly never like that with me."

"The child is healthy, though?" Uther asked keenly.

"From what I can tell, yes" Anna replied, knowing that Uther anxiousness came from past experienced with childbirth. "Gwen is fine too."

"I'm glad," the king said awkwardly, and eyed the room where his son, daughter-in-law and granddaughter were. "I was wondering whether it would be alright to..."

Anna looked at the door and realised what he meant.

"Oh, of course!" she said getting to her feet. "I'll check and see if she's ready."

"Thank you," Uther said softly. "Guinevere and I aren't exactly—"

"I'll ask them, don't worry" she said, patting his knee.

Anna went over to the door, knocked twice and entered. Gwen and Arthur were huddled over the tiny little baby wrapped in red. It was a lovely sight. They both looked up when she entered and smiled.

She smiled back, "I just saw all the kings and their parties off. They all congratulate you."

"That's nice," Arthur muttered absently, distracted by the child. He then looked up, suddenly curious, "which one of the women was the silly cow that fainted?"

"Did someone faint?" Gwen said in surprise.

"That was Lady Vivian," Anna told them.

The pair then nodded and looked back to their baby, unsurprised. During the war in Gwynedd she had been the only woman who would not offer assistance in the infirmary with the wounded soldiers because the sight of blood made her cringe. Anna's own daughter Elaine had brushed her off immediately as a waste of space.

"I gave Merlin to her a groom during the period we were all hulled up at the castle in Gwynedd," Arthur said, his voice drifting off distractedly. "He didn't have a nice thing to say about her."

Gwen laughed. "I don't think anyone did, but you weren't exactly sympathetic to Merlin's request for someone else to be her groom."

"Men were in short supply and it seemed like an easy job for him to do, holding the reigns of her horse," Arthur said cheekily.

Anna stood silently as they joked about poor Merlin. When it went silent she finally spoke. "Your father asks if he might see the child."

Arthur looked up and then at Gwen as if asking her permission. She nodded, "Of course—I don't mind. He'll have to see her sooner or later."

They both nodded in agreement and Anna opened the door for Uther to enter. In no time he was through the door looking down at the little child. He watched as Gwen attentively handed the baby to Arthur who subsequently got to his feet to bring her over to him.

Truth was Arthur felt more anxious than Gwen. He knew how much his father wanted the Pendragon name to continue – and there was nothing to say it wouldn't since he and Gwen might have many children yet – but Arthur was anxious to see how his father would react to his granddaughter. It had been the presentation of the child, regardless of sex, that Arthur had wondered about since the day Gwen told him she was pregnant.

Arthur handed the girl to his father.

Uther seemed a little inexperienced with holding babies; Anna quickly jerked forward to help him support the baby's head. He smiled to her gratefully and rocked the child in his arms. Arthur stepped back and watched as his father stared at the child. The baby then opened her eyes and looked up at the older man.

Uther chuckled.

"What?" Arthur asked.

"Nothing," he said with a smile. "It's just that expression... it reminds me of the way you used to look at me."

The king pushed back the red cape to look at her face better.

"Blonde," he remarked upon seeing the girl's hair. He then looked to Anna and grinned, "That's five generations now. It's still going strong.

Anna then looked to Gwen and winked.

iii.

The sun was just coming up when they finally returned from Tor.

Surprisingly the news hadn't reached the city yet so they were able to pass undisturbed on their way to the citadel. Once they were home the entire castle swung into action, shocked and surprised that the baby they had all been on standby for had already arrived.

The first Merlin had heard of it was when a servant rushed to fetch Gaius to check Gwen and the baby were alright. He rushed to Morgana's chambers to tell her; she had been unwell and stayed at home rather than going to Tor for the thanksgiving. At least that's what she told Uther; truth is she just didn't want to go.

She was at her chamber door before Merlin could even knock.

"Guess what!" he said excitedly. "You're an aunt!"

Morgana's eyes widened, "Huh? Wha—what do you mean?"

"Gwen had her baby while at Tor," he explained. "They only just got back."

Morgana gasped, covering her mouth with her hands. "Oh my God—is Gwen alright? Is the baby alright?"

Merlin nodded. "As far as I can tell they're both fine—Gaius has gone to check them. I'm on my way to see Arthur."

The lady grabbed her dressing gown and, without any explanation to her maid Cecilia who she had just snatched the gown from, hurried after Merlin. "Wait, I'm coming too!"

Gaius very quickly decided that Gwen was fine and the baby was perfectly healthy. He advised her to rest in bed for a few days just in case and congratulated her with a smile. "She's lovely," he told her.

"Thank you," Gwen said sleepily.

Gaius smiled again and turned to Arthur. He had been watching the old physician curiously, anxious to make sure that his wife and daughter were healthy and well. He nodded to the prince respectfully, "All is well so you can stop worrying."

"Easy for you to say," Arthur muttered rubbing his eyes.

"You should get some rest too."

"Yeah," he yawned. "Easy for you to say."

It only took Gwen a few minutes to fall asleep once Gaius left. She was exhausted.

Despite what Gaius said Arthur didn't feel he could leave the room. He sat quietly beside her and watched her sleep. He loved her so much.

Arthur thought about what his birth must have been like to his father. For the first time he felt he could understand just how painful it must have been when his mother died. If Gwen were to die right now, at a moment that was supposed to be joyful... he just didn't know. He didn't want to think about it.

She was fine; alive and fine.

To try and distract himself he walked over to the cradle to watch his daughter sleep. He watched her tiny breaths for what felt like ages as he tried to get his head around how he felt about this little person.

He had been frightened about the prospect of fatherhood and the idea of bringing a child into a war-torn world where he might go to battle and not come back. But those feelings felt distant now. They had dissolved the moment she had looked at him. He had no reason to fear fatherhood because he loved her unconditionally and completely. And although the world was falling apart around them Arthur knew it was his duty to rebuild it for her. And he would rebuild the world for her; create a world of peace and beauty that one day she could inherit.

He vowed in that moment he would always come back from his battles to the two women in his life.

There was a faint knock at the door in the main living area that dragged Arthur from his thoughts. He threw both Gwen and the baby one more careful look before he quietly rushed into the next room to answer the door, worried that the tiniest noise would awaken his wife and child.

He opened the door. There stood Merlin and Morgana still dressed in their nightclothes with the same expectant looks on their faces. They were almost like a double-headed coin.

"Morning," Arthur said sounding more irritant than he intended to, "I assume you're both here for the details."

"We came to make sure you were alright," Merlin said defensively.

"And get the details," Morgana added honestly.

Arthur rolled his eyes.

"I'm sorry we just couldn't wait," she finished.

Arthur let them both into the room, ordering the strictly to be quiet because Gwen and the baby were sleeping. They obeyed faithfully and proceeded to ask for information in whispers, standing side by side in front of Arthur.

"Is Gwen alright?" was the first question put forward by Merlin.

Arthur swung another look over into the bedroom. "She's fine; she just tired. After having a baby away from home and then having to travel back from Tor to here, can you blame her?"

"And how is the baby?" Morgana added keenly.

He smiled proudly, "She's perfect."

The two friends both said 'aw' in chorus.

"It's a girl?" Merlin grinned.

Arthur nodded, still smiling.

"Aw how sweet" Morgana cooed.

Behind their backs Morgana reached into her pocket and handed a silver coin to Merlin, who took it eagerly. From the front Arthur was none the wiser to reason for Merlin's triumphant smile and Morgana's suddenly irritated one.

I told you it would be a girl, he thought to her.

Lucky guess, she replied telepathically.

I was right about the early birth too, he added proudly. At which point Morgana shoved another coin into his hand. You're supposed to be a seer; you're losing your touch...

Shut up! Morgana thought before she said aloud. "What colour is her hair?"

"If she has hair," Merlin muttered amusedly.

Arthur glanced to see what they were doing with their hands behind their backs. Their trading money had ceased for the moment through. Arthur was none the wiser, as per usual to most things Merlin got up to, and Morgana for that matter. He had always suspected something was 'up' with those two but... what the hell were they doing?

"She does have hair," he finally said, still giving them an odd look. "And it's blonde."

"Oh!" the two said in chorus.

Morgana smiled proudly and snapped her fingers behind her back as Merlin handed one of the coins back to her. She then looked to Merlin and said aloud, "Told you so."

iv.

It was such a pleasant thing having a child in the castle after so many years.

The sound of baby cries were like music to the elder residents who never thought they would live to see another royal baby. Even then cynics who had looked down on the fact that the baby's mother was a commoner or that the baby was a girl couldn't help be moved by the delightfully cheerful baby.

Gwen leant over Linnet whom she had laid down on the bed. The cheerful little baby of four months stared up at her with very dark blue eyes showing indication that they would probably go darker before her first birthday. Her soft dusky skin seemed to glow with her happiness; her cheeks were blushed with happiness and her smiled was wide with simple amusement.

"I can't believe how much I love her," she said in amazement. "I didn't think anyone could love someone so... unconditionally."

Linnet gurgled and then cooed happily when Arthur came up behind Gwen. He slid onto the bed next to her and rested his head against hers.

"Do you find it hard to imagine life without her?" Arthur suddenly said, looking down at the baby who was none the wiser to her parents talking. "We spent all those years without her and now..."

"It feels as if she's always been here," Gwen finished, smiling.

Arthur smirked; he gently placed his hand on the child's chest, causing her the laugh again. He needed to talk to Gwen.

"We've had reports from Gawain that Prince Claudius has fled the Rheged area and has appealed to Cenred for protection," he said suddenly.

Gwen's heart ached. "So you'll be leaving again soon?"

"I have to," he said softly. "Cenred is right on Camelot's doorstep; it is my duty to protect this kingdom."

"I know, but it's just... I hate you going away and I not being able to go with you," she said painfully.

Arthur wrapped his free arm around her shoulders.

"I know but you have to stay here with Linnet," he told her. "Maybe when she's older you can both come with me but now... the best place for her is in Camelot."

Linnet clenched her fists and made a protesting sound that demanded their attention. They both looked at her. She had no idea of what her parents were talking about. At four months she didn't have a clue that her father was leaving to fight another battle, that this one blurred image of him could be the last and that her only memento would be the colour of her hair...

No, Arthur wouldn't allow that. "I promised myself when Linnet was born that I would always come back, and I stand by that now."

"I know you will," Gwen said, changing her position to stroke his face. "I just hate having to say goodbye."

He leant forward to kiss her lips. Linnet wiggled excitedly; she seemed to be amused by the smallest things.

v.

Gwen hated being left behind.

Morgana had gone to visit her uncle in Cornwall; Merlin had been supposed to be one of the servants due to go with her but, when the five kings turned up in Camelot to discuss the issue with Cenred, he was once again called upon to 'hold the reigns' of Lady Vivian's horse. He would only be free when Arthur left for Cenred's borders to negotiate with Claudius. The five kings were holding their breaths; they hated having an Angle on their doorstep. Granted it wasn't as bad as having a Saxon but, as far as the old kings were concerned, there was no difference between Angles, Saxons and Jutes.

"There is no difference," Arthur had told the five kings before he left as their prejudices came to light. "And there is no difference between us and them."

Gwen had sat in corner sewing and listening to the men arguing.

Alined scoffed. "You are seriously suggesting that we people of Albion are anything like the barbaric Angles, do you?"

"We all share the same island," Arthur said plainly.

"They invaded our island," Olaf told him.

"Actually," Margh spoke up. "They were invited over; yes, Lord Vortigern asked them over to help defend Albion from those damned Picts in the north and brutal Gaeilge in Hibernia. It was a dark time."

"One," Uther stepped in quickly, "none of us wish to remember."

"My point is," Arthur said firmly, "that the villain in that story was Vortigern, not the Angles or the Saxons or the Jutes."

"You forget that his wife was a Saxon," Melwas said creepily.

"Then are we to tarnish all of them with the same brush?" Arthur asked. "This is their land too and I won't fight them unless they provoke me; we must do our best to make peace with Claudius and Cenred."

"Here here," Gwen's voiced lofted over from her corner.

Arthur smiled; the other kings looked at her before turning back to face each other. The only look that lingered was Melwas. He had always been the type of man who wished his women to be seen, not heard. That was probably why he disliked the eastern kingdoms so much; they said women owned most of the land there!

"I agree with Arthur as far as I'd rather my granddaughter married an honest Angle than a dishonest Cymrii," Uther said, trying to save the situation somewhat (not that it needed saving), "but the fact remains that Cenred has no obligation to any of us here. Claudius could use that to his advantage."

Gwen decided to excuse herself to her chambers. She had not seen Linnet all afternoon; she desperately wanted to be reminded of that joyful little smile. When she reached the room she found Merlin packing Arthur's things. It made her heart strings tug again.

"You escaped for a few hours then?" Gwen joked.

Merlin sighed, "Never thought I'd be so pleased to be going 'home'."

Gwen sometimes forgot that Cenred's kingdom was Merlin's homeland. It felt as if he had always been there, a permanent fixture in their lives, just as Linnet was now.

"I hope you're not finding the lady too hard to deal with," Gwen said honestly.

"She's a nightmare," Merlin groaned. "You do the slightest thing wrong and she starts screaming at you. Why the damned hell does her father take her everywhere he goes?"

"I suppose he's worried she'll be taken advantage of while he's away," Gwen said generally.

Merlin scoffed, "You'd have to be mental to poke her with a ten-foot lance pole! She has said some really mean things about people and I just want to tell to her 'Shut up!'"

Gwen sighed; she knew that people such as the Lady Vivian that said things about her behind her back but Gwen had stopped caring. After all she had Arthur and Linnet; they had nothing.

"I take it you wish you'd gone to Tintagel, then?"

"I'd take collecting sea shells at Tintagel with Morgana over being an acting groom to Viviane any day," he muttered under his breath.

He threw down what he was doing and folded his arms.

"Trust Prince Claudius to go to Cenred's kingdom of all the places!" he moaned. "Still, with the abuse I've been taking since the five kings got here to Camelot—bickering with Arthur will be a welcome release."

Gwen went into the other room to see her baby. "Maybe if you got to know her, used some of that Merlin charm of yours she'd be a bit nicer."

"I don't want to get to know some so... so... stupid!" he grunted, shoving the last items into Arthur's bag and shutting it. "I just wish she'd talk to me as someone a little higher than dirt under her shoes."

Gwen had stopped listening when she caught sight of her baby in the cradle. The nurses and maids smiled and curtsied as she walked in. Linnet happily wiggled happily when she saw her mother, longing to be picked up.

"I'm just saying," Gwen finally replied as picked Linnet up, "that if she saw you more as a man and less as a servant, she might be less inclined to scream at you."

Merlin came into the room, his annoyance over work seeping away in seconds at the sight of the fair haired baby over Gwen's shoulder.

He grinned, "God, she's a lot like Arthur, isn't she?"

Gwen sat down with her cradled in her arms. "She is."

Merlin watched as Gwen looked at the little baby, brushing her finger across the smiling baby's nose and smiling herself at Linnet's pleasant response. Gwen looked up, "Do you think you'll ever have one, Merlin?"

"Me?" he squeaked in surprise. "God, I-I don't even know who I'd get married to let alone have a family with. I don't know if I could take the pressure of a kid..."

"You might feel better when it's your own child," Gwen suggested with a smile. "You'd make a good father."

"I don't know if I could handle the responsibility," Merlin confessed after a while. His words were ironic because he held the responsibility of looking after Arthur and at times Camelot itself. It was not like he didn't understand responsibility. "Maybe one day... but right now I don't even want to get married. I'd miss Gaius telling me off so much."

"You might feel differently in a few years," Gwen laughed.

"Knowing my luck I'd get a wife that nags, and if I want a woman to nag at me I'll saddle Lady Vivian's horse incorrectly," Merlin joked.

Even Linnet seemed to find that funny.

vi.

Linnet seemed to be aware of her father's absence whenever he was off fighting a battle somewhere in Albion. As Gwen held her daughter sometimes Linnet would coo 'da-da' over and over. It was a sound she had first made when she had seen her father so Gwen knew she meant Arthur.

One day when Gwen returned from a walk with one of her ladies-in-waiting she was very surprised to find an uncommon visitor in the nursery with Linnet; it was Uther.

"My lord!" she gasped in shock and fumbled a curtsy.

Uther sat standing by the window with Linnet in his arms. She seemed perfectly content and happy to be held by him. And the king seemed much better with holding the baby than he had been the day she was born. He was even smiling.

"I was just visiting to see if she was alright," Uther explained, holding the child firm. Gwen's sudden appearance had surprised him. "I rarely get a chance to visit."

"Oh," Gwen said softly.

"What?"

"It's just—I didn't know you did visit, my lord," Gwen confessed, looking down.

Uther looked away from her and smiled down at Linnet.

"I visit every chance I get," he said pleasantly.

He walked over to Gwen and carefully handed her over to her mother. Gwen eagerly took her, still a little surprised to see her father-in-law there in hers and Arthur's apartments. Linnet gurgled for her mother 'ma-ma'. Uther's eyes were completely fixed on Linnet.

"She is a perfect angel," he said affirmatively.

Gwen couldn't help but smile. "She is."

After that she knew what Linnet meant whenever she mumbled the words 'gra-da' too.

vii.

Linnet's birthdays were always a special occasion.

Arthur was home and the family was visiting. After all they had been through it was hard for Gwen not to have developed a warm affection for those in Arthur's family, especially his aunt Anna and his cousins. Gawain and Elaine were the ones Gwen knew and liked best, although she was fond of little Gareth too.

The entire family unit had gathered in the royal chambers to look at the little cousin some of them had yet to meet.

"I can barely believe it's been a year since I first saw that girl," Anna said in disbelief.

"You practically delivered her," Gwen said, placing a hand on her shoulder. "If you hadn't been there I don't know what I would have done!"

Anna smiled and placed her own hand on Gawain's shoulder. "When are you going to get married and have one of these?" she joked.

Gawain laughed. "When I find the right woman, but until then..."

Elaine looked longingly at Linnet before turning to Gwen. "Do you mind if I pick her up?" she asked.

Gwen chuckled, "Of course not!"

Elaine carefully reached into the cradle and picked Linnet out. The little child cooed excitedly as she was lifted up into the air and held by her cousin. The young woman held Linnet like a natural.

"I'm never getting married," Gareth suddenly declared.

Arthur looked down at the ten-year-old. "You might change your mind."

"I won't," Gareth said determinedly. "I don't like girls."

"That's what I used to think until I fell for Gwen," Arthur told his younger cousin. "You just have to find the right girl to love."

Elaine sighed and walked over to the window sill to sit down and called her younger brother over. "Come and say hello to Linnet, Gareth."

The boy huffed in boredom and walked over to sit behind his sister and younger cousin. Linnet's large dark eyes stared into Gareth's light blue eyes. Hers were keen and his were distracted, wishing he was elsewhere.

Suddenly Linnet bashed her clenched fist against Gareth's cheek. It didn't hurt but he still cried out. "Ouch, why'd she do that?"

"She's telling you to cheer up," Elaine told him with a smile.

"Ya!" Linnet cried as if in agreement.

Arthur, Gwen and Anna watched the exchange.

"She really is growing into a pretty girl," Anna said cheerfully.

"Well we are very beautiful people," Arthur said, hooking his arm around Gwen's waist.

"And still blonde, I see" she pointed out.

"It'll probably darken," Arthur said, looking over his shoulder again at Gareth and Linnet. "After all her eyes did."

viii.

Linnet grew up in a world where everyone seemed to smile at her.

There was no child as revered, idolised or adored as that girl. In a world where Albion was under the longest and most painful war since before living memory she was like a diamond in their dull grey lives, or the first blossom in spring. She like her parents was a symbol of better things to come.

They loved to see the little flaxen haired girl walked in town with her mother. They would walk anywhere and everywhere. Gwen did a lot of charity work with the poor and would often take Linnet with her, to try and encourage gratitude for what she had... although Arthur said it was difficult to explain to a three year old that she should be 'grateful'.

"She doesn't even understand the concept of 'we' yet" he joked to her one night in bed. "She only thinks there is a 'me'. Given her another year and then she might understand what 'we' means."

"I just don't want her to become spoiled and awkward like—"

Gwen stopped mid-sentence.

Arthur chuckled, "Go on, say it. 'Like you', is that what you were going to say?"

"I only meant," she swallowed, trying to save the situation, "that it is very easy for a child to be taken in when everyone treats them as if they're special."

"She is special," Arthur told her. "There's no point in pretending she isn't."

"That's not what I meant either," Gwen sighed. "I just don't want her to hold herself above other people."

Arthur rolled over to look at her better.

"Guinevere," he began, "if you and I have no more children then one day our Linnet will be Queen Eluned of Camelot and Gwynedd... and probably a few other places by the rate kingdoms are falling these days."

Many old kings were dying and leaving their kingdoms without an heir. One by one Arthur was taking control on behalf of the Pendragon clan. He was building up quite a little empire for himself and, one day for his daughter.

"Linnet will have a great weight on her shoulders, and we won't always be here to help her" he went on. "I know I was a rotten child but I was always taught that my people were the most important thing. She will have to learn the same."

Gwen sighed. "I know but just..."

"What?"

"Don't spoil her rotten," Gwen told him laying her head against his shoulder. "I'd like my daughter to grow up gracious."

Arthur sighed. "That is a very difficult thing to ask of me, Gwen. She is my daughter after all."

"It's different for you," she said. "You grew up the same way she will; I didn't have a tenth of the things I can give her now..."

"Then why not just give it to her?" Arthur laughed, circling his arm around her back. "Like I said—she is three years old. Being born royal is a privileged life but it is also a hard one..."

"What are you saying?"

"I'm saying," he paused for a moment, trying to get the wording right. "Let her have the next ten years to herself because I promise you when she hits thirteen she will be tutored in so many different aspects of being a monarch she won't have time to be kid anymore. I know—that was how it was for me. Hell, father didn't even give me those ten years..."

"Arthur," Gwen whispered softly, smiling.

He was silenced.

"I'm sorry," she then said. "I forget that Linnet now has to live with the same knowledge you did, that one day she will be queen..."

"That's a long time off," Arthur assured her with a smile. "I'm not even king yet."

There was a moment of silence before Gwen chuckled.

"What?"

"Look who's here," Gwen said pointing to the figure in front of her.

"Daddy..."

Arthur looked to his side. There standing right next to the bed, her face barely visible over the top was the little princess in question. Her dark eyes stared at them innocently and her flaxen hair was tangled and knotted. "Hello," the father said, not too surprised. Without saying a word Linnet scrambled up onto the bed and crawled over her father to reach her mother.

"Mummy," she said, opening her arms for much desired affection.

Gwen sighed and nodded 'Alright' she whispered and allowed the child to nestle her head against the pillow. The un-brushed curls of the back of her head were all Arthur and Gwen could see once she had settled down. Gwen then lay her own head down, draping her arm over the tiny little body. Then she felt Arthur settled down and his own arm thread over her, meeting at the hand that rested besides Linnet.

They were like one entity.

ix.

Linnet was the only one to cry true tears of sorrow when Uther died.

By the end of his life people could only remember the bad things. Even Arthur had no more tears to waste on his father; there were too many lies that had come to light. He was still sad but he could not bring himself to cry. Uther had pushed him to the limits.

As for the likes of Merlin or Morgana or anyone who had a magical talent in and out of Camelot, it was a day of thanksgiving. The tyrant was dead, long live the new king and hope for better things.

Yes, Linnet cried when no one else would. They were the tears of an innocent child that had only ever witnessed the good side of a grandfather who adored her. And Uther had loved Linnet very much. He had been a million times kinder to her than he had ever been to Arthur. Not that he loved his son any less than his granddaughter.

The truth was that Uther had found it easier to be affectionate to a little child that did not judge him. He looked into Linnet's dark eyes and saw nothing but love. It was something he had not seen in a child's eyes before, ever. Arthur had loved his father but Uther had never taken the time to look into his son's eyes when he had been Linnet's age and seek out love.

He hadn't thought it mattered then; it was old age that taught him a child's love was everything.

As the knights carried the coffin the new king, queen and lady royal walked behind them on their way to the family crypt. Guinevere held her daughter's hand while the little girl clutched a white flower in her other hand. Their hair was loose in a sign of mourning; two heads of wavy locks, one dark and one fair.

When the previous king was about to be sealed up forever Arthur picked up Linnet so she could see the coffin from a higher point. She threw her flower down onto it and leant her head against her father's neck as the knights carried it inside.

Linnet shivered at the sight of the cobwebs and blackness.

"Poor Grandda," she mumbled against her father's neck. "It's so dark in there!"

The people watching the funeral felt more sorrow for Linnet than for the dead king, moved by the innocent tears of remorse.

"When we go, let's be buried somewhere else," Arthur suddenly said to his wife once they had finally settled Linnet down in bed. "Like at Tor, somewhere significant..."

"Don't talk about that now," Gwen said solemnly. "We have many years before that."

"I just don't want Linnet to ever go back to that dark and dreary crypt," Arthur said seriously. "I don't want her last memories of us to be of all those rotting corpses of kings past. I want to be buried somewhere peaceful and light that doesn't frighten her."

x.

Arthur and Gwen always 'made up' after arguments. It was true that the arguments had become more frequently since they ascended the throne as king and queen of Camelot, Cornwall, the minor kingdoms and a good chunk of Cymru (Not just Gwynedd), and since then they had acquired a few more kingdoms and lands too. People thought soon they would possess the whole of Albion.

Just before the May Day masked ball they had argued over whether or not to use Merlin in an upcoming battle. It was well known that the King of Wessex Cerdic used enchantments to influence the battles.

"If you allow Merlin to use his magic then you'll easily defeat him," Gwen had told her husband.

"That would be like cheating," Arthur stressed.

"This isn't a game, Arthur!"

"Guinevere, if we go to battle to ask Merlin to influence the battle with his magic would be... dishonest."

Gwen swallowed. "I would agree with you normally... but I don't see how it is cheating when you know your opponent will use magic too."

"Cerdic's magician is no match for Merlin," Arthur told her. "I would have an unfair advantage by asking him to help me with magic."

"So you'd risk the lives of yourself and your men by giving Cerdic the advantage?" Gwen challenged him.

Arthur looked down. "I didn't say that."

"Then what are you saying? Arthur!"

He looked up again, irritated.

"You know what?" Arthur snapped, and grabbed his red cape and mask. "We're already late for the ball so why don't we just go and argue about this when we get back?"

Gwen was also irate; his stubbornness to see the situation frustrated her to no ends. Nonetheless she knew her duty as queen was to smile happily and pretend nothing was wrong. She would pick Arthur up on his offer later.

She too grabbed her mask and linked arms with him.

"Of course," she said sarcastically. "We wouldn't want people to think we aren't happy."

They marched off to the great hall, mentally trying to suppress the desire to slip little comments under their breaths to each other. The moment they walked into the room the whole court burst into applause. Arthur and Gwen sat next to each other, smiling for the whole court but ignoring each other for half the night.

It wasn't until the wine was brought out that their resolve to ignore each other was softened. Thankfully, their conversations didn't manifest in a negative way.

Gwen leant over to Arthur. "I'd have thought the threat of Merlin's magic would be enough to frighten Cerdic into agreeing to a treaty without going to war."

Arthur sighed. "Cerdic doesn't make treaties with Albii. He doesn't even make treaties with other Angles; he is loyal only to himself."

"Then warn him to play fair on the battlefield," Gwen advised him softly, pulling off the mask she was wearing to see him better. "Tell him that if you suspect he uses magic at any point during the battle – and tell him you'll know because Merlin will sense it – then you will use Merlin's magic to cease his attacks. You know how frightened those people are of Merlin."

Arthur never ceased to be impressed with Gwen's ability to find middle ground that he could agree with. It was sometimes worth starting an argument with her, letting her stew and then allowing her to come up with a compromise. At the end of the day she only thought of him.

That night when the ball was over Arthur and Gwen retired to their chambers to 'make up' for their argument earlier.

It was as the king worked tender kisses along his queen's neck, up to her ear that he looked up and chuckled under his breath. Gwen looked at him, "What are you chuckling at?"

"I have a confession to make," Arthur whispered playfully into Gwen's ear, smiling as he indicated the open door of their bedroom behind them. "It appears that there is a very beautiful blonde in our bed."

Gwen spun around and smiled too.

Linnet was curled up in the middle of the bed. The blankets tucked right up to her neck and she was hugging her favourite doll close to her.

This was a common occurrence if Linnet heard her parents argue; it made her feel sad. So she would sit in their room to comfort herself. Crawling into bed with her mother and father at five years old was a habit they were trying to knock on the head but they always felt bad when they walked into their room and found her there. They tried to explain to her that sometimes mothers and fathers argued, but it still upset her. It was probably because they were usually so happy, and then they'd starting arguing. She was still too young to understand.

Arthur carefully picked her up out of the bed and carried her to her own room. Gwen followed behind him.

"I wish she wasn't so sensitive," Arthur confessed.

She pulled back the covers and he laid Linnet inside before they both tucked them around her.

"It's never harmed you," Gwen said quietly, smiling at him. "You're more sensitive than you'd like to admit."

"Am not," he said definitely though Gwen could see him smiling.

As they turned to walk out the room Gwen took hold of one of Arthur's hands and brought it to her lips. "You always used to take things to heart too much... and you still do."

xi.

There was a knock at door of the table room.

A groan escaped both the throats the king and queen as they broke a particularly passionate and 'moving' kiss. "Come in," Arthur shouted.

The door opened and a young handmaiden stepped into the room. She seemed embarrassed to have walked in on the queen sitting on the king's lap but Arthur and Gwen, used to having servants walk in on their intimate moments, were unaffected by the girl's appearance.

She bobbed a small curtsy and her eyes made contact with the queen. Gwen nodded. "What is it, Abhie?"

"Forgive the intrusion, highnesses," she said timidly, and briefly glanced at the king. "But Ysgudydd sent me to fetch you immediately in regards... to the Lady Royal."

"What's wrong with her? Is she ill?" the queen replied, her maternal instincts instantly hooking her in. It seemed odd that Linnet wasn't awake was she was an early riser. "If she is you had best tell the court healer—"

"N-no, your highness," the girl stuttered in reply. "The Lady Royal is not unwell. It's just that... she is refusing to get out of bed, or get dressed, or let us brush her hair. She said she won't listen to us or you ladies-in-waiting."

Gwen rolled her eyes and slipped off Arthur's lap. "Thank you, Abhie. I'll be there in a minute."

The girl curtsied once again and left the room, closing the door with a faint click.

The queen strolled over to the mirror to re-organise her dress and fix her hair. Normally she wouldn't have bothered what she looked like on a lazy summer day but she suspected that if Ysgudydd had been so desperate as to send for her then 'The Lady Royal' must be having a furious tantrum. That ensured that there would be an audience of mesmerized servants and Guinevere's train of ladies in waiting gathered outside the bedroom door.

"This is your fault, you know" Gwen said, stepping away from the mirror.

Arthur's eyes widened and he laughed. "What--? How is it my fault?"

"You indulge her tantrums."

"I do no such thing!" he protested, still laughing.

Gwen rolled her eyes and went off to reprimand her daughter's behaviour. She was nearly seven and far too old to be acting in this manner. The queen worried her daughter was becoming a spoiled brat. She knew it was difficult not to give Linnet everything (especially since she was the daughter of the most powerful king in Albion) but she wanted her to stop acting like the world owed her something.

The queen went to the royal chambers to the outer door of Linnet's room. There she found a line of Linnet's nurses and Gwen's maid Ysgudydd. At the front of the queue were Gwen's three chief ladies-in-waiting; Lenora, the Lady Leon; Gladys, the Lady Kay and Arthur's cousin, Elaine.

Nora tapped Elaine's arm and whispered, "She's here."

Elaine had only recently come to Camelot's court having spent time at her home court in Eidin with her younger sisters and her son. She turned and sighed when she saw Gwen. "I'm sorry we bothered you, Gwen. Ysgudydd said fetching you was the only way..."

"It's alright," the queen said, and patted her shoulder. The queen then knocked harshly on the door and called inside. "Linnet, open the door."

There was no reply.

Gwen tried the handle; the door was locked.

"She locked the conjoining door between your dining area and her room too," Ysgudydd told her mistress. "I checked."

"She's not stupid, is she?" Elaine joked.

The queen rolled her eyes and knocked again. "Don't think these locks will keep me out. Open the door or I'll have Merlin open it for me."

There was still no reply, but Gwen heard tiny footsteps rush away from the door. She knew Linnet was too scared to open the door now, worried she had pushed her mother too far.

As if on cue Merlin walked past at that moment, curious to know what the women were doing outside the chambers. He laughed, "Has Linnet locked herself in again?"

"Could you just open the door for me?" Gwen asked.

Merlin, without any effort, placed his hand on the door handle and the lock clicked open.

Gwen turned to women surrounding her. "I'll deal with this; the rest of you should retire for now. I'll call when I need you. Ysgudydd, wait in the next room for me."

They all obeyed and made their way off. Merlin also left, offering an amused look as he did so.

"Don't be so cocky," Gwen warned the warlock. "In three years this could be your little girl."

Merlin laughed. "If she's anything like her mother I anticipate it."

Linnet's room was filled with flowers, dolls and books for study; the things you would expect to find in a royal princess's room of her age.

Gwen's head immediately turned towards the bed where her daughter was clearly sitting under the sheets. She sat on the edge of the bed next to the hill of sheets. It sank down a little but Linnet refused to come out. Gwen began to peel away the sheets to uncover her daughter's face. Linnet resisted but after a gentle struggle Gwen managed to uncover Linnet's messy blonde hair.

She hesitantly looked up at her mother's dark eyes with her own. Gwen scowled. A huff of frustration escaped her lips, "What a performance! You're getting too old to behave like this..."

Linnet said nothing and turned away.

"Look at me, young lady," Gwen said firmly.

The child obeyed.

"You are too old to behave like this," Gwen repeated, and she untangled Linnet from the rest of the bed sheets to get her out of bed. This time she did not resist. "This is not the way for a future queen to behave."

Gwen placed Linnet on the ground.

"I'm sorry," she said sulkily.

"Go and get your brush," Gwen ordered the child. "I want to do your hair."

"No!" the little girl screamed and folded her arms. "It's all tangled and it hurts. Ysgudydd hurt me!"

Gwen walked to the dresser to fetch the brush herself. "That's what happens when you leave your hair un-brushed for days on end. You're worse than your father!"

The child watched as her mother patted the chair in front of the mirror.

"Come on," her mother told her. "You know I'm good at brushing out knots."

Linnet still stood sulkily; Gwen tilted her head.

"You know," the queen said. "Merlin's little girl is much better behaved that you are sometimes and she is only three years old. You don't want to be a baby do you?"

Linnet didn't like being called a baby. Certainly not one as young as Merlin's daughter was. The child stomped her foot and marched over to the chair. She dropped into it as loud and irritant as she possibly could. 'Thank you,' the queen muttered softly, and began tackling the mass of blonde curls. They really were knotty and she wasn't surprised Linnet was so reluctant to have them brushed.

"When was the last time you brushed your hair, Linnet?" Gwen asked.

"I don't know."

"I hope it wasn't Monday." That was the last time Gwen had brushed it.

"No," Linnet said hesitantly. "I brushed it yesterday... a little bit."

"Did you brush it after you had a bath?" Gwen asked.

"I can't remember."

"That's a no, then."

Linnet swung her legs on the chair, her feet unable to touch the floor. "I brushed it a little bit after I had a bath. I swear I did!"

"But it was too knotty so you left it?"

Gwen was unable to resist smiling. She knew it was unwise to smile while trying to discipline her child but the coy look on Linnet's face softened her resolve. The expression matched one she had seen a hundred times before on her face. And a hundred times again on Arthur's face. It was a face that didn't want to admit to being caught out.

"Yes, mummy," Linnet finally confessed.

She did not wiggle or struggle as her mother dragged the brush painfully through her hair. It wasn't a fraction as painful as when Ysgudydd had tried to do it. They was no point complaining. She didn't resist as Gwen ran her fingers from the roots of the scalp to the almost-white tips of her strands.

"This needs washing," Gwen sighed, and she turned to call Ysgudydd. "Ask one of the menservants and a few of the younger maids to fetch Linnet a bath. I'm washing her hair."

Linnet groaned.

xii.

Linnet liked being in Merlin's company best.

He was like a teacher to her; holding great knowledge from the books he (eventually) had read on the famous and wise Gaius's instruction, and his own life's experiences. Linnet was very young when Gaius died and barely remembered him, but his wisdom lived on in her wise tutor. Merlin understood Linnet in a way she didn't think her parents did.

Somehow he made the burden of one day being queen seem a lighter one.

"Take birds for example," he once said as he tried to explain to Linnet the importance of motivation and boundaries. "When a bird is flying up in the sky, what can it see?"

Linnet looked up at the blue sky above them, her hair golden in the sun.

"Well," she thought, knowing that Merlin had some sort of 'clever' answer that she hadn't thought of. "It can see... us, and the citadel, the town and the forest..."

"Can it see beyond the forest?"

"I don't know," Linnet squawked. "I'm not a bird!"

Merlin sighed. "Yes, Linnet; he can see beyond the forest. You've been through that forest plenty of times when you went with your father on his campaigns."

"Yeah, what's the point?"

"Well," Merlin said kneeling down to level himself with Linnet, pointing up at a flock of birds above them. "When a bird is on the ground like we are now he cannot see anything, but when he is flying he can survey the kingdom and see for mile," he looked at her and smiled, "Just like when you stand at the top of the highest tower in the citadel. A queen knows that there are no boundaries."

Linnet smiled. "I think I see what you mean—you are far too deep for me, Merlin."

Merlin patted her shoulder. "You are smarter than you look, Linnet..."

"Thanks," she quipped sarcastically.

"Don't let anyone talk you down," he advised her.

Linnet tilted her head and smiled in the same way Arthur used to smile at him when Merlin said something, whether it was obvious or profound.

"As if I would!" she laughed.

xiii.

Linnet was unaware but someone had developed an obsession with her.

He eyed her pretty face, dark eyes and wavy blonde hair. He knew he shouldn't be there but he wanted to watch. And Linnet didn't notice. After all why would a thirteen year old girl pay any attention to someone watching her in town. She had been used to being watched her whole life by people of all ages, and one man in his early twenties wasn't going bother her.

She hadn't a clue of the significance of this man.

Had she been walking in town with Merlin that day instead of his ten-year-old daughter, this man would not have dared watch her let alone go near her. And had Morgana been there, the girls would have screamed and ran away.

But Linnet had no reason to fear this man, and more fool Merlin for not thinking to warn her.

If Arthur had known he would have been horrified, and Guinevere too.

Somehow Linnet's pendant with the Pendragon on it fell from her neck and dropped to the floor. He picked it up and tapped her shoulder. She turned around. He smiled.

"You dropped this, your highness."

Linnet gasped in shock. "Oh my God! Thank you."

The stranger smiled and bowed as the princess rushed off to catch up with her little friend dark haired friend calling to her. He then turned to leave. He was still smiling, this time with triumph and deviousness.

A few more years, Mordred thought to himself.

xiv.

Linnet worked hard her whole life to prove to her father that she was worthy to succeed him one day.

She knew that it saddened her parents never to have had more children (a boy in particular), but never in her life did they make her feel like they regretted that she was a girl. That didn't matter; what mattered was her worthiness to be queen one day. And she was worthy.

Although she inherited a few of her father (and her mother's) annoying and foolish mannerisms she had also inherited their nobility, their character and their strength. If anything Arthur was grateful that Linnet had been a daughter and not a son. The lack of a male heir had kept Arthur active instead going the way of his father had; becoming an idle king.

That was the thing Arthur feared the most.

The thing he feared slightly less was dying and leaving Linnet unable to defend the kingdom. Over the years Arthur had helped Guinevere learn to fight; even the blacksmith's daughter needed tips in warfare. But it was unfair to Gwen and to Linnet to expect the mother to forever help her daughter fight her battles. What would happen when both of them had died?

Linnet was a fighter; Arthur had trained her since she was old enough to pick up a wooden sword. When they were encamped during campaigns Arthur, Gwen and Linnet would all play fight together; it was good practise for all of them.

Arthur picked up Excalibur and turned around.

There stood Linnet awaiting instruction. Her dark eyes were watching intensely, her wheat locks had been platted and tied back just that morning by her mother. She was thirteen years old and she was beautiful. Even dressed in what only could be described as drag she was pretty and girlish. A lot like her mother had been when she was young.

Arthur had noticed that some of the younger noblemen and petty princes from over Albion turning their heads when she past. They never approached her, and just as well too. Arthur felt at his most protective when he saw boys (no matter how innocently) eyeing his daughter up. He had this insane fear that one of them would hurt her...

"Linnet said she doesn't want to marry anyway," Gareth assured his elder cousin with a smile.

"You used to say the same thing," Arthur said.

"And I'm no closer to getting married, am I?" Gareth pointed out.

After all the trouble he and Guinevere had been through to be together Arthur wasn't going to plot Linnet a wedding. Not now, not ever. He wasn't going to pick someone. Arthur was the High-King of all Albion, the emperor to put it mildly. No man in the land was Linnet's equal, so she might as well just marry someone she loved.

Arthur handed Excalibur to her. He smiled as she fought to keep the blade up. "How does it feel?"

"Heavy," she groaned as she tried to pull the blade up. "It's lighter than normal swords though..."

Arthur picked the sword from her, placed out her hands and rested the blade upon them. It was easier for her to hold it like this."

"But how does it feel," he asked.

Linnet tilted her head and looked at the inscription on the side. Take me up, it read. It was strange, as if the sword was speaking directly to her.

She looked up at her father, "I don't know. It feels... like it belongs to me."

Linnet quickly handed the sword back to her father.

"I know that's wrong because, of course, it belongs to you..."

Arthur smiled. "You are a lot like me."

"I'm your daughter."

"And I trust you to carry the sword one day when you are old enough and sword enough to use it," he explained, showing off his nimble wrist by swinging the sword delicately in his hand. Linnet watched keenly; she could do that with a training sword but never a regular sword. "It'll probably be another ten years before you're ready."

"Do you really think I'll be strong enough to carry Excalibur?" Linnet asked.

"Give it another ten years or so, definitely."

And Arthur was pleased to see the smile creep up along Linnet's lips. It was not his smile, nor was it Guinevere's. It was purely Linnet.


A/N: This turned out to be way longer than I thought. I had to split the entries so if the numbers seem a little weird when I post this you'll know why. Some of you might have picked up on some legend-hints. Anyone who reads TYAA will have noticed the obvious references I make throughout the whole thing too. I don't know why I chose to write in a AU semi-TYAA universe. I suppose I just want to have a bit at the start when both Merlin and Morgana quiz Arthur about Linnet. I can't have that in a real Merlin-verse. I wanted to write a child!fic that was different from The Difficulties of Fatherhood.