"Damnable northmen," growled Uther Pendragon, as he stalked to and fro, punctuating each step with a curse. Morgana watched him, growing more tired by the moment. She would have escaped to the church for a little peace and quiet, but she had already spent so much time there it was bordering on indecorous. Any more and she'd have to take orders.

For the past month, raiders from the northlands had been attacking Camelot's harbors. Because they were so far from the castle town, they were not as well protected as the interior lands. Uther was not willing to give up the coast, nor could he come to any agreement with the savage northmen. None of them spoke any civilized tongue, not that they seemed to care much for talk in any case. They sailed out of the north, took what they wanted, and left a ravaged town behind for Uther to clean up.

The two sides had been picking at each other, each hoping to wear the other down, with the only result being an ever-larger pile of corpses on both sides. The fishermen and farmers on the coast begged Uther to protect them, sending as much - and more - food as they could afford to Camelot. But in truth, Uther's only reservation was leaving his castle exposed. He couldn't send his full force so far out without creating an opportunity for his enemies to exploit.

Yet, the situation could not stand as it was, so Uther finally committed his full contingent of knights to beat back the invaders once and for all. The lesser security forces would suffice for a short time, or so he hoped. In the meantime, he was walking on daggers until the knights' safe return, and so was everyone around him.

Finally, a page arrived in the council chambers to announce that the knights had returned. Arthur followed him in, looking cocky as usual. After assuring his father that all had gone well, he haltingly admitted that there was one small issue.

"We captured one of their ships, and it was carrying...a gift. For us."

"What sort of gift?" Uther had many enemies, and they were never far from his mind. Morgana had a feeling he was imagining a large wooden horse.

"Bring 'er in," Arthur called.

Into the hall came a woman in flowing dress. Her hair was the color of sunset, and her eyes icy blue as the northern sea. She curtsied; her bearing was regal. "Hilsener, din majestet. Jeg er Prinsesse Sigrid av Balfonheim."