The prince’s wife is a thin, scrawny thing.
She stands next to the prince in the throne chamber as he faces his father’s wrath and the incredulity of all the royal advisers.
The prince’s marriage was supposed to be a matter of strategic importance. The prince—the brave, beautiful, blessed prince—would have to marry a princess worthy of his status. His wedding was to be a grand affair, feasts and hunts and tourneys, and the king would beam his pleasure at his golden son.
It is not to be. The prince stands, tall—taller than he had seemed when leaving on that fateful journey—and listens to King Uther’s enraged hiss.
“Arthur, what have you done?”
And everyone knows this: whatever else he may be, strong and honourable and courageous, Prince Arthur is a good son to his father. An obedient son. They have all seen him bow his head before his father’s demands, and steel his heart to do the king’s bidding. Prince Arthur will not disappoint his father.
The prince raises his chin, and stares squarely into the king’s furious eyes.
“I’ve done what any honourable man would have done. Father.”
The girl shifts at his side, attracting stares. She frowns sideways at the prince, and there’s no ladylike decorum, no sweetness in her expression. Her hands clench harder where they’re clasped in front of her, and the line of her shoulders seems impossibly stiff.
“Arthur,” she murmurs to the prince, emphatic, and a collective sigh runs through the room.
To speak so out of turn, so brazenly, to use to prince’s given name—
“Merlin, please.” The prince tilts his body towards her, and the look he gives her is very near imploring.
If she is a village girl he’s ruined, what is he begging for? And if she is a fortune hunter, why is she so reluctant to let him defend his choice before the king?
Her eyes seem a piercing kind of blue when they lock with the prince’s, the set of her jaw defiant. Not the tattered dress, and not the wild mane of black hair at her back can take away from the sudden air she radiates. For the first time, one could almost call her a princess.
“Arthur!” the king thunders. “Do you expect me to tolerate—”
The prince’s stance is still respectful, and he does not raise his voice. But no one can doubt his resolve when he meets the king’s gaze again and utters a quiet:
“I will not bend on this, father.”
There is a moment of silence. Then, the Lady Morgana stirs for the first time.
Her mouth spreads into a smile when she steps off the dais and comes up to the wedded pair. She touches the girl on the arm, lightly.
“Well. Allow me to welcome you to Camelot, then.” The lady’s eyes flit momentarily to the prince’s face; he gazes impassively back, then gives a tiny nod. The Lady Morgana looks back to the girl in front of her and sketches a small curtsy. “Your Highness.”
The words ring out in the room, loud and clear. A wave of murmurs rises, but the Lady Morgana seems unbothered—either by the courtiers’ amazement, or by the king’s disapproval. She stands—she, whom the people had long imagined as their future queen—next to the prince and the scraggy girl who will take her place.
The Lady Morgana is resplendent in her beauty and her majestic bearing. It seems incredible that she should bow before some girl whose hair has not seen a comb.
The prince’s wife smiles. It is more of a nervous twitch of her mouth, but she clearly makes the attempt.
“Thank you,” she says. Her voice is surprisingly low, and pleasant. “You are very kind.”
The girl throws a glance at the king, and the Lady Morgana follows her gaze. King Uther’s lips are pressed together, and his face may as well be carved of stone.
“Come,” the Lady Morgana says then with false cheer, turning back to the girl. “We can walk together.”
The prince lays a hand on his wife’s arm, halting her. She pauses and looks at him in silent question, and the court watches them, greedy to know every detail, wondering as to where this union will lead.
There will be change. That much is clear.