To Build a Bridge

“And I trust your studies are going well, dear?” asked the Queen.

“V-very well,” Garnet replied — no, not merely replied, stammered. She was stammering! She never stammered!

Garnet did not quite dare to glance into the Queen’s tired, worn face. She had to keep looking forward. But if she had, she would have seen how the Queen’s brows knit in concern, how her head cocked to one side, listening for an elaboration that never came. She might have seen the Queen’s hand lifted from her skirts, only to fall again. She might have even noticed the sigh.

Whether any of that would have had an effect on her was an entirely different matter. As things stood, Garnet could only look around the room and try to sit still as her stomach tied itself into knots of knots. She could only wonder a couple of things:

Why hadn’t Morgan come along?

And why did Lamorak have to be seated halfway across the room?

Lord Pellinore was seated by his side, going on and on about some stuffy topic that nobody cared about but him. Insufferable old man — after doing everything in his power to keep her and Lamorak apart, he had the gall to be polite to her when they met! Couldn’t he just admit that he hated her and be honest about it? Why did he have to pretend that he saw her as anything but some witch’s daughter who was not good enough for his son?

He was even trying to include them all — all of them — in whatever his conversation was. Garnet wanted to vomit even more than she had when she first walked into the palace and was shown to the Queen’s sitting room. Mordred, sulking by the window, had the right tactic to take. He would doubtless burn a hole through the leaded panes with his stare, but at least he wasn’t putting up with this hypocrisy.

Why couldn’t the King just come in, lay down the law, and let Garnet go back to Morgan’s or back to Camford? Why did he have to put them through this elaborate charade? He was going to pretend, Garnet knew, that he was listening to all of them, but he was going to let Lord Pellinore have his way and advise Garnet to look elsewhere. What else could he do? Why else would he call them all here?

Clank, clank, clank — Garnet froze. Was that …?

Ambrosius slipped into the room, bowed to the Queen, and gave the rest of the room’s occupants a brief nod. Garnet’s eyes were drawn to the continual nodding of his crest. Her heart was drawn, called really, to her stomach when he spoke. “Lady Garnet, the King will see you now.”

***

“Garnet!” The King was rising from his seat before Garnet could even curtsey. “There you are. Sorry to keep you waiting, my dear, but I had to finish a bit of business first. The wait wasn’t too tedious, was it?”

“No, Majesty.”

The King, halfway out of his seat, fell back into it with a thump. He watched her with gray brows narrowed over his gray eyes. How old he had gotten! It could not have been that long ago when he was her brown-haired, laughing Uncle Arthur, who always had a sweet for her when they met … could it be? But of course it was — it had been years, years, since Garnet was of an age to be placated with a sweet. She had grown and changed. Why not he?

He was not one to be placated at all, it seemed. “Majesty?” he repeated, questioning.

Garnet could not look at him when the tiles were calling her name.

She heard something, a cross between a sniff and an equine snort, escape from him. “Never mind that. Let me have a look at you, my dear.” He brooked no argument, coming up to her and bestowing a kiss on each cheek. Then he held her at an arm’s length, brows coming together as he surveyed her face.

Once again, the tile called Garnet’s name, but she could not see them and had to rest her eyes on the King’s brocaded shoulder instead. She did not see the King’s frown, or even the way he pinched the bridge of his nose as if to ward off a headache.

“Garnet …” His voice had more of the silken fur of a child’s toy bear than the growl of the real thing. “Why don’t we sit down, honey?”

Garnet nodded, expecting to sit on one side of the great desk with the King on the other. Instead, he took her arm in his, patted her hand, and led her over to the bench by the windows. It was Garnet’s turn to fall to the sitting surface with a thump. And this time, as the King looked her up and down, she did not look away — she stared back in shock.

The King seemed at a loss for words for a moment, then he sighed. “Garnet, you’ll have to forgive me for prying into your life like this — but at the moment, I think I’m the most capable guardian you can have. Ah ah!” He lifted one hand to forestall her protest. “I don’t mean anything anything against Morgan — but, well …” He scratched his head. “Morgan,” he decided, “is the type of woman to do what she wants and damn the consequences — while I prefer a … subtler route. I think you might prefer it, too, at least in this case.”

“… I would?” Do what you want and damn the consequences — it was sounding attractive right about now — but Lamorak would never go along with it. And who was Garnet fooling? She couldn’t even handle the consequences of her mother’s wrongdoing. What would she do when faced with the consequences of her own wrongdoing?

“Believe me, you would. It’s much better to get what one wants while upsetting as few people as possible. You’ll have to live with all of them, you know. Best to let Uncle Arthur try his hand at waylaying the dragons before you go after the treasure. Now, my dear, this is the part where I begin to pry. Why do you want to marry Lamorak?”

Garnet gasped and stared. “I — I — I don’t know …”

“You don’t know?” asked the King, gently. “Is it because of his title? His lands? His –”

“No, no! None of that!”

“Then what?”

“I — I love him.” Garnet gulped and stuck her chin out. “I love him.”

Then it fell and Garnet returned to staring at the tiles. “But — but I couldn’t …”

“Couldn’t what?” the King pressed.

“Tell you … exactly why …”

He — was that a chuckle? “Garnet, believe me, you don’t get as many grey hairs in your beard — er — hair as I have without learning a few things along the way. One of those is that the heart wants what it wants, and there’s no use trying to ask it, ‘why this one and not that one?’ But surely you can tell me what it is that you like so much about him?”

Garnet blinked. Of course she could, but — where to start?

When she had first noticed him, when she was but a green girl? He’d been a fine dashing lad, then, a friend of her older brother’s, the most eligible young man in the kingdom who hadn’t already had his heart taken or his hand promised. That would be enough to set any young girl’s heart a-pittering. But there was more than that — it was the way he smiled at her, the twinkle in his eye when he looked up to find her watching him. It was the way he listened to her girlish problems, and instead of tut-tutting them and patting her head like her father, or launching solution after solution like Morgan, he seemed to indicate that he would fix them, just by his presence.

She had to say something — she might as well start with that.

“He — he listens to me,” Garnet started, “and he — he has a lot of honor, Maj–”

“Uncle Arthur will, I think, be sufficient for this conversation,” Arthur murmured with a wink.

“… Uncle Arthur,” Garnet murmured.

“Continue, dear?”

“He — he has a lot of honor, Uncle,” Garnet continued. “He …” She couldn’t tell him — not the ways Lamorak had shown his honor. He’d told her about Morgause — he need not have done that! He’d refused her whiles twice, which hopefully came from honor and not repulsion with her. “And he has a good heart, Uncle! Such a good heart. He …” He loved me, and he still loves me, even after everything that’s happened. “He’s the only one in the kingdom, I think, who is trying to make things up with my brother.”

“You’re probably right about that. So … listening, honor, a good heart … good reasons to love another, in my humble opinion. Good reasons to marry, too — and other than your mother’s … misdeeds, and your brother’s temper tantrums, I cannot think of any reason for you two not to marry, provided Lamorak feels the same way.”

“You — you can’t?”

“No,” Arthur replied. “You two are social equals; your dowry is sufficient to his rank. You have, if I so flatter myself, excellent familial connections, while Lamorak is the son and heir of one of my most valuable servants. Your marriage also introduces the possibility of magic in future generations of the Gwynedds, which you, my dear, may or may not see as a particular advantage, but which I — all right, well, more Tom than I at first, but now even I do. Again, other than your mother’s and your brother’s conduct, which you have no control over and are seeking to distance yourself from, I don’t see any objections.”

“But — but I thought –”

Arthur raised his eyebrows.

“I thought … I thought, when I came here and saw Lord Pellinore, that you would surely be on his side … I mean …”

“You mean?”

“… Those are rather large objections …”

“Hmm,” Arthur murmured. “Well, I’ll grant you that. They don’t, how, outweigh your most important family connection — at least, not in my humble opinion.”

Garnet finally giggled — which must have been what Arthur was going from all along. He grinned, stood and helped her to her feet.

“Now, my dear,” he said, embracing her, “you just leave Lord Pellinore to me. And do me a favor, won’t you, honey, and send him in when you leave?”

***

When Pellinore entered the room, Arthur was ready. Pellinore seemed to know it, too, for he stopped dead — not even bowing! — and watched his monarch with the gaze of the most practiced lawyer.

Arthur only grinned. This did not serve to calm or mollify Pellinore in the least, which was exactly what Arthur was hoping it would do.

“My liege?” Pellinore asked.

“My lord,” Arthur answered, closing the distance between them with a single step. “I am going to get right to the point — so please forgive me. What are your objections to the match between your son Lamorak and my niece Garnet?”

Pellinore smiled faintly. “So it is like that.”

Arthur narrowed his eyes. Should he ignore that, or ask, as Pellinore clearly wanted him to do? Well, there was something to be said for walking into a trap — with one’s eyes fully open, of course. “Like what?”

“‘My niece Garnet,'” Pellinore repeated. “You … have decided to make this a personal affair. Your Majesty, I swear to you, I have no objections to the young lady personally. She is all that a young lady should be, and I wish her the best. However –”

“I trust you have no objections to her family?”

“To her extended family, there are no objections that could possibly be raised.” When Arthur’s eyebrow went up, Pellinore smirked a bit and pointed out, “After all, she is not related by blood to King Vortigern. But as for her … immediate family … well, Your Majesty, can you blame me?”

That would depend entirely upon what Arthur was blaming Pellinore for. Pellinore seemed disinclined to let him in on the secret, too, so Arthur hazarded a guess. “I did not think you the type of man to object to a young lady based on the actions of her mother — especially when that young lady had nothing to do with those actions and abhors them as much as you do. More, even.”

“I am not that type of man.”

Arthur sighed. “Mordred, then.”

“He treated my daughter abominably, Majesty. You cannot expect me to want to bring him any closer to my family than I have already, regrettably, brought him.”

“Allow me to point out that he is the father of your grandchildren. You’re not getting rid of him, Pellinore. Even if the Church annuls the marriage, you’re stuck with him.”

“As I said — I do not want to bring him any closer. And you also know …”

Arthur lifted his hand. “I know. I know. You do not think he is to be trusted.”

“He is furious, Majesty. He is furious and in his rage … I do not know what he might do in his rage. I do not want my family to be the ones to find out. He believed her — I think he still believes her — innocent, you know. He will think right is on his side, no matter what he does.”

“Pray the Lord it be so.”

If that was true, then Mordred was as much Lot’s son as he was Morgause’s. Maybe Mordred had a bit of appreciation, too, for Arthur and Arthur’s justice in him. If Mordred had to think himself right to act wrongly, then he was not all Morgause’s creature. Morgause never gave a damn about right and wrong. If Mordred did, then Mordred could still be saved.

Pellinore sighed. “Majesty, you do not seem to appreciate how dangerous he could be. I understand he is your nephew, and you care for him, but –”

“But Pellinore,” Arthur interrupted, “if everybody cuts him off, then what choice will he have but to cut everyone off in turn?”

Pellinore let his head fall back, face scrunched in a grimace to the heavens. It was the closest he would come to shouting at the heavens, or at Arthur.

Arthur continued with his logic. “You know Sir Bors won’t have anything to do with him. He’s the most conservative of us, and even he couldn’t justify Morgause this time. The du Lacs? They might come around eventually, but they won’t be making any first moves. That leaves your family.”

“The family he has most wronged!”

“The family that is already his family. Look, I’m not asking you to let or force Lady Dindrane to patch things up with Mordred. Lord forbid. I am asking you to allow — not force, allow — your son to marry a woman for whom he cares a great deal, and a woman who loves him. And let me remind you that the woman in question is also my niece. If you still want no more contact with Mordred than is absolutely necessary, then fine. I won’t ask that of you. You don’t even have to invite him to the wedding if Garnet agrees. But this leaves a door open. When we’re dead and gone, Mordred has a door open.”

Pellinore sighed. “And the matter of her dowry? Mordred would be within his rights to refuse it to her.”

“I happen to know precisely what her father promised her in his will.”

“In other words, you’d pay it.”

Arthur grinned. “No law against that, as far as I know.”

“So in other words, I have very little choice.”

“You have every choice, Pellinore.”

“Then I have only one sensible choice.”

Arthur shrugged. He often thought being King was little more than limiting a man’s sensible choices to what would be most to the King’s advantage.

“Very well, then. I accept.”

“Excellent! You won’t regret it! After all …” Arthur clapped Pellinore on the shoulder. “Remember — your heir is marrying my niece, my son’s cousin. We’ll remember that, even if Mordred would prefer to forget Garnet ever existed. And speaking of Mordred … you wouldn’t mind doing your monarch a favor, would you, and sending him in after you leave?”

***

Arthur was sure to be seated at his desk when Mordred came in. Mordred bowed. “My liege.”

“Nephew. Please, have a seat.”

Mordred stood for a moment, eyes narrowed, tall and imperious in his dress uniform. Both of the Orkney siblings had worn their best, though Arthur could not help but feel that they had done so with dissimilar motives. Mordred bowed again and sat without a further word.

“When my sister came out,” he remarked carelessly, “her eyes were very bright and she only had eyes for Sir Lamorak. Now, the latter is hardly a cause for concern or notice — but the former? The former, I think, is somewhat rare on her these days.”

“It is indeed,” Arthur agreed.

They stared at each other across the desk. It was really all a question of who would fold first, which would lay his cards on the table. Whoever spoke first would lose, give the other information he could use. And Mordred wore the small smirk of a man who could sit and wait and stare all day, if that meant victory.

Arthur didn’t have all day. He also didn’t have the patience for what young men with too much time on their hands might construe as a victory. He spoke first. “I wish to speak to you about your sister’s marriage to Sir Lamorak.”

Mordred’s eyebrows arched. “I was not aware that any such marriage was planned.”

“It is her wish. It is his. Lord Pellinore is amenable to the situation.”

“If she has no dowry, will he be quite as amenable?” Mordred asked.

“She will have a dowry.”

Mordred’s eyes narrowed. “Is that an order, Majesty?”

“No. It is a statement of fact. You may choose to approve — and grant her her dowry — or not, but she will have a dowry of the amount that was granted to her by her father. Not a farthing more or less.”

Mordred sat back and surveyed Arthur with something very close to shock. “You would undermine my authority? I am her guardian, you know.”

“Technically your guardianship ended on her eighteenth birthday.”

Technically. You know it is my right to approve her suitor.”

“It is your right to grant or withhold her dowry. I am not taking that away.”

“You are just rendering it useless.”

“Only if you choose to see it that way. I do not intend to fund her dowry if she marries a swineherd, you know. Only Sir Lamorak — or any other reasonable candidate –”

Reasonable candidate?” Mordred exploded. “The son of the man who sentenced my mother to death! The brother of the woman who accused her! The –”

“The only man in this kingdom who would look past your mother’s crimes — she was convicted in a court of law, Mordred, and most of the kingdom will not care for much beyond that — and marry Garnet regardless.”

“Then let her marry out of the kingdom! It’s what my mother wanted!”

“But not what your father wanted.”

Mordred’s jaw opened, shut, opened again. “My liege … please do not use my father’s shade against me in this. Have you no mercy?”

“I will if you grant me no other choice, Mordred. I am doing this as much for you — and for your father’s memory — as for Garnet.”

“For me? For my father’s memory?”

“He worked hard to put your family in the position that it is, or was, before Lady Morgause … well. She is beyond my judgement now. But there is no reason why you, your sister, or your younger brother should suffer for the crimes for which she was found guilty.”

“My liege …” Mordred sneered.

“And if you persist with this feud with every family in this kingdom,” Arthur continued, “they will suffer, and you will suffer.”

I will suffer?”

“Aren’t you suffering already?” asked Arthur.

Mordred did not look at him. Arthur could have driven the point home — mentioned the crumbling family relationships, the abandonment of friends, the wife who left him. He did not. He only waited.

“My suffering,” Mordred finally snarled, “is nothing you can relieve.”

“No. It is not. I do not pretend to understand what you are going through, Mordred. But I can tell you this much: it does not have to be this way forever. You can repair all that has been broken. It will not be easy, and it will take time –”

“And if I have no interest in cleaning up others’ messes?” Mordred snapped.

“And you do not need to do so right away. You may take your time about it. But let me tell you, Mordred … if you agree to give your sister her dowry when she marries Sir Lamorak, you will have cleaned up a great deal of the mess.”

Mordred looked away. “Will I have? And why should I care for people who would care nothing for me? Who think I am in the wrong for doing my duty as a good son should?”

“If you give your sister her dowry, they will begin to wonder if you were in the wrong.”

Mordred bowed his head. But he still had one parting shot to give. “If I was not in the wrong, then who was?”

Your MOTHER! But Arthur would not say that. “If they determine that it was not you, does it truly matter?”

“It matters,” Mordred murmured, “more than you can imagine, Majesty. But … I will think upon your suggestion. That much I promise.” He ran a finger along the desk. “I will give it my deepest … and utmost … thought.”

And with that, Arthur decided, he would be content.

For now.

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10 thoughts on “To Build a Bridge

  1. Arthur is awesome. I’m gonna miss him. You know what I do miss right now though? When Pellinore was awesome too. He’s kinda been a jerk recently. He used to be a lot less hidebound and stuck in his rut.

    I hope Mordred sees that the person he’s hurting most with his actions is himself. Garnet doesn’t have to follow in Morgause’s shadow. Mordred doesn’t either. Why can’t he see her for the twat she was? You know, oddly, that’s one place Mordred doesn’t take after Morgause. She was very clear-eyed about the others in her life. She didn’t cling to sentimentality or soft fluffy stuff.

    *sigh* But yay! I hope that Lamorak and Garnet get to get married! Thank you, Arthur, for pulling the rug out from under Pellinore and Mordred.

    It was sad though that Garnet was so sure that Arthur would blame her. Um, no. I think the appropriate person to blame is Morgause and Arthur already does that. And I still haven’t gotten that Smustle on the Morgause’s grave pic. πŸ˜›

    • Ok, ok, I will get the picture of the Smustling on Morgause’s grave! πŸ˜‰

      Well, Pellinore has been burned pretty badly by the Orkneys. And if you’re reacting to Garnet’s anger with him for ruining her life … well, this is Garnet. Pellinore is being polite to her because he honestly has no problem with her, personally. It’s just the thought of getting more Mordred into his life that gives him the heebie-jeebies. If Garnet came without Mordred, he’d be approving the marriage much more easily.

      No, Morgause never did cling to sentimentality … but I see Mordred trying to see the best in her as a good part of Mordred, not the opposite. But that’s just me. πŸ™‚

      The wedding is still a while away, but Pellinore has agreed, Lamorak and Garnet have agreed, and Garnet is getting her dowry no matter what Mordred says. Barring any other major blow-ups from the Orkney-Gwynedd corner, it should be wedding bells for them … in a round and a half or so.

      As for Garnet being sure that Arthur would hold her responsible/ruin her life because of what Morgause did, well, Garnet used to think of Pellinore as a reasonable authority figure, and from her perspective, that’s exactly what Pellinore is doing now. So it wouldn’t be surprising for another reasonable authority figure to do the same thing. πŸ™‚ Luckily, she was wrong about that.

      Thanks, Andavri!

  2. Yaaaaaay Arthur! πŸ˜€

    I’m glad things have worked out for Lamorak and Garnet, and I’m glad Pellinore came around, even if he had to be brought there. I wonder if any of them have actually spoken with Dindrane about this, since I can’t imagine she’d have any objections. Garnet’s not the one brushing off Dindrane’s kids in favor of the not-so-secret other family, after all.

    Mordred just does not have a functioning grayscale when it comes to people, does he? Either they’re on the shiny white pedestal or they’re doomed to lurk in the shadows forever.

    I’m going to second that picture request πŸ˜›

    • Dindrane would absolutely have no objections to Garnet marrying Lamorak. She always liked Garnet, and she wants her little brother to be happy. Besides, she’s stuck with Mordred for the rest of her life no matter what she does. Annulment or not, having kids with somebody will do that to you.

      That’s one way of looking at Mordred’s way of viewing people. πŸ™‚ More than that I won’t say.

      Thanks, Van!

  3. It almost feels like Mordred is afraid to admit his mothers guilt, because it would reflect on him or something. I mean, it’s almost like all he wants to hear is that it wasn’t his fault and that he isn’t to blame (basically like Garnet) and that he didn’t fail as a son… I don’t really know what to think of him right now… it just makes me wonder…

    • Oh, if that was all Mordred needed to hear, so many problems would be solved … but I don’t know if there are people who are willing to say that to him. The only one who I can think of would be Rosette, and I don’t know if she would necessarily be able to suss out of Mordred exactly what’s bothering him. If that’s all that’s bothering him. We shall have to see.

      πŸ™‚ But I’m glad there’s a bit of ambiguity, all the same. At least this is one person not on the Mordred-hate bandwagon!

      Thanks, Saquina!

  4. Yes! It worked out exactly as I wanted! πŸ˜€ Although poor Garnet, thinking she would be blamed right up until Arthur said that it would be fine. Also, the bonus was Arthur and Mordred. Hopefully this will get him thinking in the right direction, although I wish that someone was able to pop up and shout ‘Your mother!’ at exactly the right time, when Arthur was too tactful to do so. It’s got to be driven home at some point.

    Emma πŸ™‚

    • Besides Arthur being too tactful to shout, “Your mother!” Arthur and Mordred don’t have the kind of relationship where they can shout at each other and it clears the air. Furthermore, I see Arthur as the type of king who only shouts at his underlings when a) it’s finely calculated to get their butts in gear and b) when he has well and truly lost it. So, he’s not willing to start that with Mordred, because he doesn’t think Mordred will react well to it.

      But yeah, Mordred does need to realize that, or … *shudders*

      Thanks, Emma!

  5. Yay I’m glad that Arthur gave permission for Lamorak and Garnet (lol nearly said Pellinore and Garnet) to marry. I can certainly see Pellinore’s point of view though even if I don’t necessarily agree with him. But as Arthur said, he won’t regret it.

    Heh, I like Arthur. I hope Tom is as good and wise a king as Arthur is

    • Oh, YIKES! I don’t see Pellinore and Garnet getting on at all! (And Eilwen definitely wouldn’t be going to the King for help with that!!!)

      I’m glad people can see Pellinore’s point of view — he’s not being entirely unreasonable, I don’t think. Obviously, however, Garnet and Lamorak can’t be expected to share that view.

      Well, some things — like wisdom — tend to come with age and/or running a kingdom for 20+ years. However, Tommy and Arthur are very similar in temperament, so I have nothing but hope for Tommy. πŸ˜€

      Thanks, Joseph!

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