"Welcome to Camelot"

"Mother, is this truly necessary?" asked Holly timidly.

"Yes! Yes it is," whispered her mother anxiously. Her eyes nervously watched the two guards leading them, afraid they might overhear.

"With your father gone, we have virtually nothing left. Now, we have a little more to get by on, but if we want things to stay the same, we must do this. Now be a good girl, and dazzle the prince with that beautiful smile of yours," she requested, tenderly touching her daughter's cheek. Holly could not help but to smile. She and her mother had always been extremely close, and her sweet words were enough to better Holly's spirits.

"I hear he's a very handsome prince," her mother teased with a wink. Holly laughed at her mother's silliness. Soon however, she and her mother stood still as the guards stopped just before the courtroom. The nerves shook tremors through Holly's body and her mother squeezed her hand reassuringly. The guards slowly pushed the doors open, revealing a modest courtroom. Holly breathed a sigh of relief that the room was not grandiose.

"You look beautiful!" was the last thing Holly's mother whispered to her as they stepped inside. A genuine beam lit Holly's face. Her mother was so precious, always knowing just what to say.

A middle-aged man, relatively attractive for his age, stepped down from the throne at the far end of the room and came towards them, arms outstretched kindly. Although his clothes were free of any excessive show of wealth, it was still plain to tell that this was King Uther. His presence in the room was by far the most commanding, and his clothes befitted him very well as a king, if a humble one.

As Holly noticed how commanding his presence was, she glanced around with a start, almost surprised to find that she had in fact not noticed the other person present.

Standing off to the right of the throne was a young man with dirty blonde hair and a polite smile. His posture was straight and formal, and his build certainly made him look rather strong. His clothes were only slightly less fine than King Uther's.

This must be Prince Arthur, Holly realized. Mother was right... he is very handsome.

Holly was roused from her thoughts as Uther began to speak.

"Lady Clarissa, Lady Holly. It is a pleasure to have you grace my court with your presence, although truly regrettable of course, given the circumstances. I offer my sincerest regrets for the passing of Lord Calvin. He was indeed a fine man," the King said graciously.

"Thank you my Lord," replied Lady Clarissa as she sank into a graceful curtsy. Holly followed her mother's lead and curtsied as well, lowering her head in deference to her King.

As she began to lift her head, Holly caught movement out of the corner of her eye. Glancing over, Holly now noticed another young man standing behind Arthur. By his garb it was plain to tell that he was not of nobility, so most likely he was a servant to Arthur. Holly had not seen him earlier because he was standing behind a pillar on the edge of the room. Indeed, he now stood bent over at the waist, peeking his head around the column in order to see. Holly chuckled very quietly at the rather odd image.

Meanwhile, King Uther reached down to Clarissa, and she obediently gave him her hand as she rose. Maintaining eye contact, King Uther brought her fingers to his lips and gently kissed them.

"Well," he said, breaking the silence. "I'm sure you two must be tired from your travels. Arthur will show you to your chambers where you will be staying during your time here with us in Camelot. I hope you find everything to your satisfaction."

Holly and her mother each gave another deep curtsy and thanked the King for his kindness. The man Holly had correctly identified as Arthur now came strolling over to them and gave them a curt bow.

"If you will follow me," he requested. With that, Arthur led their group out through the double-doors and into the cold, stone hallway. Hearing a slight shuffling noise behind her, Holly turned around slightly as she walked.

Bringing up the end of their little parade was the other young man, who Holly had also correctly identified as being Arthur's manservant. Hesitantly, Holly nodded and smiled at him. His response was a rather goofy, but sweet, grin and a nod of his head as well.

Holly turned her attention back to her guide until they reached the first stop.

"Lady Clarissa, this is your bedchamber," said Prince Arthur. Arthur opened the door before sweeping his arm to indicate that Lady Clarissa was free to enter.

Holly's first impression of Arthur was grand indeed. He was just as handsome as she'd been told; he was gracious, kind, polite. She could picture herself loving a man such as him. Hopefully she did, and hopefully he would come to love her in return, for that would please her mother. In turn of course, Holly would be pleased. Well, naturally one would hope that being in love would please her to begin with.

"Well, thank you very much for your assistance Prince Arthur," said her mother gratefully from inside her new room.

"Do you require anything else right now?" he asked.

"Oh no, I'll be quite fine, thank you," she assured him. Arthur nodded his acceptance.

"If you ever find yourself in need of something, please do not hesitate to call upon my servant, Merlin," said Arthur, simultaneously plucking Merlin by the collar and dragging him to his side. Merlin grinned and raised a hand in acknowledgment and greeting.

"Thank you, that's very kind Prince Arthur," said Lady Clarissa.

After Arthur bade the Lady Clarissa a goodnight, Holly and her mother also bade one another goodnight and the door was closed. Holly's heartbeat increased now. Being separated from her mother made Holly a bit anxious. Now she was alone with two young men, with nothing familiar around her. Her fingers clenched her satin, violet dress for a moment, but she forced her fingers to uncurl and hang limply at her sides.

Arthur set off once more, and Holly followed, gliding through the halls gracefully. A few minutes later, they turned into a new corridor and soon stopped at another door.

"I apologize that we could not give you and your mother rooms beside each other, but I'm afraid these two rooms were the only two vacant," explained Arthur.

"Oh, that's fine," Holly assured him sincerely. "We're very grateful that you are even gracious enough to offer us a stay in your wonderful city and to room here at the castle in addition to that."

"You're very welcome," was the polite response. Although Holly might have worried that the Prince was simply being polite and was truly apathetic- or worse, annoyed or unhappy- about the situation, the bright grin on his face assured her that he was not. Holly felt relaxed around his confident posture and teasing smile, earning him a sincere smile of her own.

"May I enter?" she inquired cautiously when the Prince made no move to open the door.

"Oh! Of course, my apologies Lady Holly," said the Prince in a rush, hurriedly opening the door for her before she could do it herself.

Holly stepped inside her chamber but turned back to face Arthur.

"Please... just call me Holly," she requested shyly. "Lady this, Lady that: it all just makes me feel rather strange. Holly is fine- preferable actually."

Arthur smiled in understanding.

"Holly it is then, fair lady," he consented with a sweeping bow and a gay smile. Butterflies fluttered in Holly's stomach in response to his gentle flirting. "In return, you must grant me the privilege also of being called only Arthur. My heart wearies of hearing the title of 'Prince' so often. Will you grant me a respite from that?"

"Of course, if that is what my lord wishes," said Holly, curtsying nervously.

"Well then. I bid you goodnight Holly," said Arthur. Reaching out, Arthur took her hand and brought it to his lips, brushing his lips ever so lightly on her fingers.

"Goodnight... Arthur." The casual name sounded strange to Holly, but she was sure she would soon become used to it. Arthur began to leave, but his manservant lingered momentarily.

"If you need anything, let me know. I'm at your disposal during your stay Lady Holly," said Merlin kindly. With a bow he turned to follow where his master had just exited.

"Thank you!" Holly said before he could leave. Merlin turned back to her in mild surprise, but he merely grinned and nodded his head. As he once again began to leave, Holly could not bring herself to stop from watching him all the way out.

"And goodnight, Merlin," she called out as Merlin began to round the corner. He halted instinctively at the sound of his name and almost tripped backwards so that he was in view again. His lopsided grin seemed so genuinely happy as he managed to regain his balance that Holly almost giggled.

"Goodnight to you, Lady Holly."

"Just... Holly," she said sweetly. Merlin's grin reduced to a soft smile. Closing his eyes, he bowed his head once more, this time out of what seemed to be respect instead of decorum.

This time Merlin really left and Holly was left by herself. Walking back into her room, Holly was impressed. This was quite a sizable guest room. Comfortable bed, good furniture, and all of her things had already been brought up.

Taking off her satin gown, Holly hung it up carefully in her wardrobe. Opening her trunk, she pulled out a soft pink nightgown and pulled it gently over her head.

Glancing once more round the room, Holly walked over to her window and observed the city below. The night was not yet very late, so there were many people still up and about. The peaceful atmosphere was very calming and pleasing to Holly.

"I think I'll enjoy my stay in Camelot," Holly mused aloud as she settled herself into bed for the night.