A/N: Hope you like it (if you do you could always review *hinthint*) I know I have a few ongoing stories that people are waiting for me to get on with... and I shall! But just enjoy this (or not) for the moment, eh? :)
Morgana had resolved to dislike her new handmaiden.
She folded her arms sullenly across her latest silk dress, scowling in a most unladylike manner at nothing in particular.
She fiddled agitatedly with the embroidered fabric of the sleeve, trying to unravel, in a matter of minutes, the dainty threads that some poor seamstress had no doubt spent days toiling to stitch on.
But Morgana refused to feel bad about it.
After all, it wasn't as if the dress hadn't been paid for.
She narrowed her eyes, and picked with more ferocity.
The dress had been an attempt by that wretched man to buy her off!
As if she, Morgana, could ever be swayed from the path of her cause by the purchasing of trinkets or clothing…
It was insulting.
He thought her some weak, petty-minded woman, easily distracted by any shiny jewel that he might waft under her nose.
Morgana's mental rant slowly ground to a halt at that point, as she caught sight of one of her necklaces glimmering in the sunshine; it did look ever so pretty…
She shook herself out of her temporary, jewellery-induced haze.
What had she been thinking about?
It was just so terribly misogynistic of him to treat her like one of those vain and idle women of the court, whose loyalties could be bought and sold and whose minds were as passive as their swordsmanship.
Was that really what he thought of her?
"I'll show him!" she grumbled, kicking herself off the bed sullenly and pacing about her chambers. "Mark my words! I shan't back down… Not this time! He shall regret the day he incurred the wrath of Morgana Le Fay!"
A timid knock at the door shook her from her thoughts.
Morgana steeled herself.
Whoever this person was, she was going to be unreservedly, unabashedly, unashamedly unpleasant to them. She was determined.
She could not allow Uther to win this war.
Because that was what this was to Morgana: war.
Morgana moved to tell the girl to come in, but decided instead to simply wait, and see what happened.
Perhaps she might just go away.
Then Morgana wouldn't have to be unreservedly, unabashedly, unashamedly unpleasant to her.
Not that she thought there was anything wrong with her plan, of course.
Her plan was excellent; flawless, in fact.
Her plan was going to teach Uther Pendragon a lesson.
It would teach him a lesson about interfering in the affairs of others, when his interferences were nothing but meddlesome and cruel.
Because that's what Uther was being, Morgana decided, with a curt nod of the head.
He was being cruel.
He shouldn't have dismissed Elaine.
That was a wrong thing to do.
Cross certainty stabbed at her stomach, and she felt the same strong surge of feeling she always did whenever she felt anything: Morgana never did things by halves, if she loved she loved, if she hated she hated.
Elaine was her nursemaid, and had been Morgana's only real comfort upon finding herself abandoned in a cold, unfamiliar castle with lots of names to learn.
It had been cruel to take her away.
She didn't care that it wasn't proper for a lady of Camelot to still be being attended by some shoddy peasant nursemaid.
She didn't care that people sniggered and sneered whenever they saw her reaching out to take Elaine's hand.
She didn't care that maybe Uther wasn't trying to be cruel; he was just oblivious (although she knew this, really).
All that Morgana cared about was that Elaine smelled like cooking and her voice was soft and she remembered stories about her father.
So she had to be nasty to this whoever-it-was, still hovering behind the door like some nervous little fly.
It was a matter of principle; a battle of wills.
Morgana simply refused to lose.
Especially after what that wretched Arthur had said to her when she first announced her intentions…
She had seen him booting his latest in a long string of apparently substandard manservants out of his chambers, barking orders at a ridiculous speed, so there was no hope of the boy possibly remembering all of it; he had noticed her eventually, leaning on the wall and smirking at him.
"I suppose you're about to tell me off?" he had grumbled, watching with vague amusement as the servant, whose name escaped him, scurried away.
"No, actually… I was wondering if I should be taking notes!"
Arthur had frowned.
He had had that look on his face that suggested he thought she was probably up to something, but couldn't quite work out how it was she was trying to manipulate him.
She had thought she might as well explain herself: "I am going to be like you."
He had looked her up and down with obvious disbelief, "You're going to become a boy?"
"No… I'm going to become unpleasant."
"Thank you, Morgana."
"I wasn't finished: unpleasant to my new servant. So we shan't get along," she had paused. "It seems to work for you."
"I resent that, Morgana! I get along very well with… err… um… uh… ah…" Arthur had squinted, scratched the back of his head, and gestured in the direction his servant had scurried off in.
She had been about to stroll off sassily, pleased with her victory over him, when he stopped her in her tracks.
"You're too flighty."
She had had that look in her eyes that suggested she had killed before and would kill again, but Arthur Pendragon was not that easily intimidated. Or so he liked people to believe.
"You're too flighty; you'll never stick to it. You'll forget you were even upset with father by next week!"
This did not go down particularly well with Morgana.
Morgana grinned to herself, remembering the panicked look on Arthur's face in that fateful council meeting when their eyes met and he realised just what she had done.
She rubbed the fabric of his beloved blanket between her fingers, and chuckled evilly.
"I am sorry for the intrusion, my lady," babbled a pretty, pastel-clad girl, smelling of flowers and looking as though she probably conversed with birds and woodland creatures, who had apparently decided to stop standing behind the door like a moron.
Morgana jumped up from her perch on the bed, instantly hiding the incriminating blanket, and eyeing the young girl suspiciously.
"Who are you?"
"Guinevere," she stuttered, curtseying a little clumsily. "But everybody calls me Gwen."
Morgana turned her nose up haughtily at the peasant. "I am not 'everybody'."
"Indeed not, my lady," Gwen smiled nervously, bobbing down into another curtsey.
Morgana drew her immaculately sculpted eyebrows into a look of patronising disbelief, one that she practised often in the mirror, and sneered. "What are you doing here?"
Gwen seemed somewhat thrown by the question. "I… I… I was appointed as your new maidservant, my lady."
Morgana made an even more concerted effort to scowl, which was becoming increasingly difficult the more confused this nice little girl seemed to get. "That seems highly unlikely."
"If your ladyship does not consider it an impertinent question, might I ask why it seems so?"
"I do consider it an impertinent question, but I shall answer it nonetheless," Morgana drew in a deep breath, deciding that she could no longer bear to look at this girl, who seemed to radiate some kind of horribly adorable aura of innocence and lightness, that made a person want to cuddle her. "Because we have not met. Does it not seem strange to you that you would be appointed without my having met you first?"
Morgana conveniently forgot to mention that the reason she and Gwen had not already met had been her refusal to take any part in the interview process.
"Well… I suppose it does seem a little strange, my lady…"
"It does indeed. Perhaps you simply imagined being appointed?"
"Uh…" Morgana might have been refusing to look at the girl, but she could tell from her tone of voice how flustered she was getting.
"Now, I suggest you just…"
Morgana turned, hands outstretched to push the baffled girl right out of her chambers, and made the grave mistake of making eye contact with sweet little Gwen, the blacksmith's daughter.
Gwen's eyes are wide and innocent, greatly resembling that of a baby deer. There is a kind of wisdom and yet naivety that swirls about the irises, something so pure and honest that a person finds themselves wanting to protect. If eyes are the windows of the soul, then Guinevere's soul shines like polished marble.
Camelot's Court Physician has, himself, been quoted as saying that, "I don't think anyone has ever looked into Gwen's eyes and not become her best friend instantly."
Morgana had no hope, really.
Gwen was slightly taken aback when the noble lady suddenly flung her arms about Gwen's neck, buried her head in Gwen's shoulder, and begged for Gwen's forgiveness.
No one of Morgana's standing had ever begged Gwen for anything before, and she really had no idea how to respond.
Unfortunately, Morgana interpreted this as meaning that she was so wicked as to be beyond forgiveness, and simply howled some more.
"There, there," Gwen murmured, patting this strange, but seemingly nice girl on the head. "Whatever it is, I'm sure it's going to be quite alright…"
As it turned out, Gwen was right: it was 'quite alright'.
Morgana's quarrel with Uther was all but forgotten by that afternoon, as she and her new-found friend stood, hiding at the top of a tower, peering down at the knights in training.
Morgana grinned devilishly at Gwen. "I like Sir Leon!"
Gwen blushed, and fidgeted with her worn skirts. "He is a great man."
"You know him," Morgana gasped, and slapped Gwen's knee, shuffling closer. "Tell me!"
Gwen rationalised that she could not disobey a direct order from her mistress. Besides, there wasn't really much to tell. "We grew up together… He is a good friend," Gwen smiled slightly sappily to herself.
"And a great man," Morgana mocked, grinning.
"Yes," Gwen nodded shyly. "A lovely man."
"Oh!" Morgana raised an eyebrow. "He's lovely, is he?"
"He has always been very nice to me…"
But before Morgana could ask for examples of this, they were rudely interrupted.
"I told you: flighty."
Morgana scowled at Arthur, got to her feet, straightened her dress out and took Gwen's hand defiantly.
"Those are tall words for such a short person!" she retorted, patting him on the head to emphasise her point and skipping off with Gwen, their giggles echoing down the corridor.