Uther didn't feel prepared for this first meeting. It still disappointed him that his first grandchild had been born to a former servant but it was made all the worse that the child had not been born in Camelot, or in proper wedlock.
His own grandson wasn't even being presented at court.
It wasn't proper to have to sneak out of Camelot first thing in the morning to a small hill just outside of the city to meet his son, his son's lover and their issue. He kept thinking of it as 'their issue' because this child didn't feel like a proper grandchild. A true grandchild of the Pendragons should be of royal blood and legitimate.
It was bad enough that Arthur lived openly with that woman; to then be foolish enough to father a child with her and expect him – the King of Camelot – to drag himself out of the city to see said child was atrocious. Yet he did it, out of duty more than curiosity. As the king and father to the child's father he knew he should help provide for the child and its mother... regardless of her background.
He arrived at the hill before Arthur and Gwen did.
He waited at the top, despite how windy and unpleasant it was. He wondered if maybe he should have allowed Arthur to bring them to Camelot, to the court where it was safe and warm...
Then he remembered why; it was humiliating to admit to the existence of Guinevere let alone her children. If he allowed them to return now it would show the whole dynasty up to the nobility, to the people and to the neighbouring kingdoms; the very kingdoms Arthur had left to fight against and keep his private life away from.
There was just a small assembly of knights who had accompanied him. He left them at the foot of the hill and proceeded alone. He then continued to wait until finally he saw another small group approaching the moor. It had to be them; there were army men, knights fighting in the war and 'loyalists' with them. He also caught sight of Arthur's idiotic servant Merlin. He had gone with them too.
Uther turned his back from the view of the moorland.
He had underestimated how long it would take for Arthur and Gwen to reach him. He must have waited for nearly half an hour before he finally turned back to see what was going on and saw them coming towards him. Thankfully the hill wasn't too steep or high a climb.
Gwen was carrying something in her arms. That had to be the baby.
Uther stood stoically, waiting for them to come face to face with him. When they finally reached him neither Arthur nor Gwen said anything. They just bowed respectfully and nodded.
The king's eyes were firmly on the bundle that the former maid kept close to her breast. "How goes the war against Cenred? You didn't say much about it in your letter."
Arthur was disappointed this was the point his father started with. "It goes well, thank you. I'm sorry if you thought my letter lacked in detail – but it wasn't a war report."
It had been to tell him about the birth.
"Indeed," Uther nodded. "Battle reports that have been sent to Camelot have been far from adequate. Ensure that they are clearer in future."
"Of course," Arthur said, glancing at Gwen. He took a deep breath and looked to his father again. "That wasn't why we came here though."
"I know it isn't," Uther said coldly and pointed to the bundle. "This is he?"
Gwen looked towards the tiny figure in her arms and moved it away from her bosom so the face could be seen. Despite the wind he was sleeping peacefully. The parents then looked back to Uther. It was strange but just at the sight of the baby's face and Uther felt his resolve to be clinical about this situation was lost.
"Does he have a name?" he asked.
Before either Arthur or Gwen could answer Merlin came up behind them, carrying something. Uther nearly growled a reprimand at him a mere servant interrupting them like this but his son didn't seem to notice his father's brief anger. He gently took the bundle from his servant's arms.
"She's still being a bit fussy," Merlin warned him.
"Better than she was before," Arthur chuckled.
Uther stared as Arthur stepped forward again; he was holding one child and Gwen was holding another. "You didn't tell me there were two."
"I know," Arthur said quietly. "I suppose a part of me was hoping you'd find it a nice surprise."
The king bit his lips; he didn't want to admit grandfatherly instincts were already kicking in, double-fold now he was presented with two children, a boy and a girl no less.
He cleared his throat. "What are their names?"
"This is Llacheu," Gwen said, indicating the child in her arms and then the one in Arthur's, "and that is Eiliwedd."
Uther stepped forward to see them both better. It had been a long time since he had been confronted by one baby let alone two. They were so innocent, snug and warm against their mother and father, completely unaware of their position in life. Had their mother been someone of better standing, things could have been very different.
"I'm sorry the meeting had to be like this," Uther said after a while. "It didn't seem right to present them at court..."
"You couldn't have the children of a servant presented as your grandchildren, could you?" Arthur muttered bitterly.
Uther felt hurt even though it was true. "It would be putting our family on display for public scrutiny."
"How is that?" Arthur asked aggressively.
"With the war going on, and your rejection of eligible women of your own station," the king replied carefully, "I feared that presenting your children and... their mother... would be unwise."
"You think it's better to meet us in secret and treat us like something to be embarrassed about?" the prince mumbled under his breath. "You still won't accept that I married Guinevere."
"It would be injudicious for me to recognise your marriage," Uther replied bitterly, glancing at Gwen – his look wasn't dirty but ashamed. He looked back to Arthur, "There might not be a law against nobility marrying commoners but your marriage is not valid unless I recognise it."
"You continue to speak about Guinevere as if she were my mistress not my wife. The worst part is that now you're not just snubbing us, you're betraying your own grandchildren by calling them illegitimate..."
"Arthur!" Gwen said in a firm whisper, indicating the babies again. "Don't start this up again, not with the babies trying to sleep and with the king seeing them for the first time..."
He took a deep breath, leaning his forehead against her temple. "I'm sorry."
Uther looked to her and sighed. "Thank you."
Gwen gave him an indifferent look. "That doesn't mean I agree with anything you've said. I just don't want Arthur waking Eiliwedd again – she's the fussiest baby you'll ever meet."
"Like father, like daughter," Uther chuckled.
Arthur had been the fussiest baby he had ever met, but he couldn't help but note how well-behaved and sweet-tempered Llacheu was being. He imagined he took after his mother in nature.
The king realised that Gwen's expression had not softened.
"I have tried my hardest to understand your position, my lord," she began softly. Llacheu was cradled against her chest angelically; his head was tilted against her like he never wanted to be held by anyone else. "From the moment you found out about me, you have done nothing but belittle and patronise me. You took a dislike to me simply because of my background, not for who I am as a person."
Llacheu stirred and Gwen held him against her shoulder. He didn't start crying.
"You just don't like the idea of your fellow sovereigns looking down on you because your son married a former servant and that their children are 'half-commoner'," she said accusingly.
Uther started to feel angry again. How dare she talk to him like that?
"Even now you're looking at me like a jumped up servant, not your son's wife," Gwen said sadly. "You don't even show me the consideration of a royal mistress."
"There is little consideration to be given to a royal mistress," Uther said.
"Exactly," Gwen said simply. She had made her point quite clear Uther knew it. She sighed, "You don't have to like me or recognise me... but for their sake at least recognise them."
Uther said nothing.
He looked at Eiliwedd, who had settled down again and like her brother was now leant against her father's shoulder. It kept dawning on Uther each time he looked at one of them that they were his flesh and blood. Even with just a glimpse at their faces he saw so much of Arthur in them and it reminded him of how he felt the first time he saw him. It was an odd feeling of pride that the line lived on, even in the wake of Igraine's death.
At least these two had a mother who was alive, kicking and clearly sick of being talked about rather than to by her snobbish father-in-law (who refused to be recognised as such.)
Uther reached out to touch Llacheu's head. Had it been Eiliwedd, Arthur might have flinched, worried he would wake her up. Gwen stood calm and still as the king felt the tiny head of his kin shift a little beneath his palm.
He moved his hand away and looked up at the sky above. He then looked back to Arthur and Gwen.
"It looks like it's going to rain," he announced.
"So it does," Arthur said in monotone, not looking up at the sky. "I think we had better go. I don't want you or the twins getting ill."
He used his free arm to loop around Gwen's shoulders. They slowly turned to leave. As she turned Gwen kept her eyes on the king, a look of disappointment in them. She didn't know why she had expected better from Uther – he had always treated her (and people of her station) as dispensable tools rather than loyal subjects.
Despite all the pain he had caused her over the years she had been prepared to put it behind her for Arthur's sake, and now she was all the more willing for the sake of her children. That he still seemed reluctant to accept them scolded her deep.
"I will remember to make the war reports more detailed in future," Arthur muttered as they walked off.
Uther felt a tug in his heart as he watched them go.
He called out to them, "Wait a moment!"
"Before when I talked about the rain," he said slowly, "I meant we should all find shelter. You've come a long way. I think it would be best if we all returned... to Camelot."
Arthur and Gwen turned fully around.
"Really?" the prince said.
The king nodded. "Yes, I... would hate to see the children be caught out in this weather. It's not just damp, it's also chilly."
Gwen smiled faintly; it hurt that he still couldn't bring himself to refer to them as his grandchildren, but it was better than nothing. A small part of her allowed her to hope that Uther would change once he spent time with the children. Llacheu was a potential heir, after all.
"Thank you," she said softly.
Uther watched as they walked on to greet the knights from Camelot with the children. He didn't know how he felt about any of this nor did he know what he was going to do. There was no way to avoid people finding out about the children, no chance of convincing Arthur to hide his 'wife' and children somewhere in the countryside... and truth was Uther didn't want to hide them, certainly not the children.
He sighed, and wondered where he would go from here.
He turned to look down at the army party that Arthur and Gwen had come with when he realised Merlin was still standing nearby from when he had brought Eiliwedd up the hill. The moment he met Uther's eyes he smiled boldly. It had been a while since Merlin had been eye to eye with Uther.
The king scowled. "Go and tell your master's party that we will return to Camelot."
Merlin dropped his smile and nodded. "Yes, my lord!"
He bounded down the hill so fast that once he reached the bottom he nearly bowled over Sir Leon, who braced himself to catch the servant.
Merlin wanted to stay on Uther's good side for now – he wasn't sure how the king would react when he found out that a manservant was the godfather to Llacheu and Eiliwedd.
A/N: 'Llacheu' is the name of Arthur and Gwenhwyfar's son in the legends and possibly the only one to make it into adulthood or have legends of his own as his brothers Gwydre and Anir (Amhar) both died young.
'Eiliwedd' is the original form of 'Eluned' which is the root for the Arthurian name of 'Lunette' (or Linnet/Lynette if you will) who was a Welsh saint that lived in the century Arthur would have been born. In some pedigrees he and Gwenhwyfar are credited with a daughter with this name (As well as one called 'Elen' who died in infancy) although in the actual legends daughters are never mentioned, only sons.
The reason I chose it is 1.) 'Lynette' is a character in the legend and 2.) I have used the name 'Linnet'/'Eiliwedd' as the name of their daughter in the TYAA-verse. 'Llacheu' means "bright" and he was apparently known as "The Bright One" while 'Eiliwedd' means "Image or Idol" hence the title of this fic Bright, Idol.