Uther studied his son for a long moment, so long that Arthur nearly squirmed under the assessing gaze. “Already you begin to think like a king. You have done well, Arthur. I will take your proposals to the council.”
Arthur stood, sensing the dismissal, and bowed. “That is all I ask, sire. Thank you.” He turned and left, feeling his father’s gaze on his back as he walked away. Phase one was complete. Now on to phase two…
As he strode to his chambers to retrieve his cloak, he suddenly slowed his pace, playing on another hunch. He knew his father; when Uther had made up his mind about something, he went forward with it—informing his council of advisors was more of a formality than anything. And that assessing glint in his steel blue-green eyes-eyes that were so much like both of his children-told Arthur that his instincts had been correct. Uther had been swayed by his son’s arguments for Morgana’s promotion, and also saw in the solution a way to save face without ever revealing his infidelity, as well as bind his temperamental daughter closer to him with the bribery of power and influence without actually giving her either one.
When he reached the courtyard, he found Merlin, Morgana, and Gwen waiting with their horses, chatting idly. Before Merlin could speak—because of course Merlin would be the first to say something about Arthur’s dawdling—one of Uther’s personal servants appeared.
“Lady Morgana, I’m sorry to intrude, but his majesty the king has requested your presence in the council chambers.” He said with a brief and very correct bow.
Arthur spared a moment to hide his sudden smile and a brief spurt of admiration at the man’s manners and style. The smile widened to a smirk as he pictured Merlin delivering the same message. Well, considering that it was to Morgana rather than to Arthur himself, there was a chance that he’d still be polite, but likely only because of the scolding he’d get from Gwen later and the sharp slicing of Morgana’s tongue if she felt slighted. Still, it might have been amusing to watch.
Morgana frowned. “Now? We were just about to ride out, on Uther’s orders from not even thirty minutes ago!” She protested.
“Yes, my lady. His majesty was very explicit about his directions. He has some news of great importance that he wishes to share with you which will not wait. Please, my lady.”
Huffing, she handed her reins to a nearby guard and turned to Merlin and Arthur with a smirk. “I suppose we shall have to do this another day, although I was so looking forward to beating you to the lake—not that either of you are much competition as it is.”
“Hey!” Both Arthur and Merlin protested indignantly, causing her smirk to widen.
“Bryn, please make sure Zephyr is at least exercised on a long line; I may still wish to ride out later, and would like her limber and loose if and when I do.” She called over her shoulder at the stable hand, who nodded before leading her mare and Gwen’s gelding away.
Merlin and Arthur watched her stride away, graceful and sleek as a predator, Gwen trailing respectfully in her wake, before turning to look at each other.
“Well,” Merlin began. “So much for that idea. Guess I better put these two away as well—“