3.35 – Pawn Promotion

Author’s note: The chess term is explained below. It can be slightly spoilery so read the explanation at your own risk.
Chess term: A Pawn Promotion is a chess move where a pawn makes its way to the other side of the board and changes itself into a different piece. Suddenly having a bishop, rook, knight or queen appear at the end of the board is a devastating surprise, and can mean the end of the game. 

“This is a very serious accusation, Lancelot.” 

“I know, my lord,” the future Duke replied, straightening his back in response to Arthur’s inquisitive gaze. “But you know that I wouldn’t bring something like this to your attention without good cause. I know what I saw, Arthur. Those eyes were not human. Something about Pellinore is not right. Something that is connected to the Kingdom of Essetir.” 

I knew it.  

I knew something was wrong with him. 

Arthur had felt it from the moment he’d first laid eyes on Cenred. The Crown Prince had felt a cold chill run down his spine, paired with the sense of something else – something that he could not identify. Arthur remembered having had to suppress the urge to shove the King of Essetir away from his sister. 

He’d never felt that way about a fellow noble before. Not once. Not even with Richard. 

“You are certain?” Arthur asked. He watched as Lancelot nodded, his face pulling into an intense, almost steely expression.  

“Positive.” 

“Very well,” the Crown Prince nodded. “You have my permission to investigate. Continue to shadow Pellinore and find out all you can.” 
“Yes, my lord.”  
“Lancelot, you’re going after a member of foreign royalty. We’ll need irrefutable evidence. If not, this will end very badly. If you get caught-” 

But the future Duke cut him off.
“If I get caught, I will take full responsibility,” he spoke. “I will not let it be traced back to you. You have my word.” 

Arthur understood what Lancelot’s words meant. He knew the kind of risks that were involved with what his friend would be doing. If worse came to worst, it could cost him his life. And Arthur couldn’t back him up. Not this time. If Lancelot was caught and word got out that he’d been investigating on Arthur’s orders, it would have serious consequences. They were already at war with two countries. The Crown Prince could not be responsible for adding a third. Lancelot would have to operate on his own. The future Duke knew that, too. 

But Lancelot hadn’t hesitated. Not for a second. 

He had always been like that. Ever since Arthur had first met him. Much like Morgana, the future Duke never hesitated to throw himself in harm’s way. Even if it came at great cost to himself. And this was the second time in three weeks that the Crown Prince had given him an unreasonable order- but Lancelot hadn’t even hesitated to accept. Arthur looked away, suddenly unable to look the would-be knight in the eye.  
“You are a good man, Lancelot. Be careful.” 

Lancelot nodded. He gave Arthur a well-practiced salute before turning around. With swift, determined steps, Lancelot exited the chambers. The future Duke had never been one to linger. 

As soon as the door fell shut, the Crown Prince’s expression sunk from determination into worry. He hadn’t even realised that he’d been holding his breath. Arthur slowly exhaled, the air escaping from his lungs in a soft hiss as his shoulders slumped. 

He didn’t know what to do. 

Arthur knew that the situation surrounding Essetir was dubious at best. But everything that had been going on lately – the tournament, saving the druid child, last year’s Winter festivities and his budding relationship with Guinevere – had caused the Crown Prince to almost forget about it.
He wasn’t the only one. Much of their court had done the same. After Cenred’s claim to the throne had been backed up by all three Princes, political interest slowly waned. Most of the court moved on to new scandals. And Pellinore had been an exemplary guest throughout the entire Winter season. He hadn’t drawn any attention to himself. Nothing about his behaviour had been odd in any way. 

Lancelot’s words… didn’t make sense. 

Arthur needed more information. Not just on Pellinore, but on Cenred, too. What little information they’d been able to extract from the Princes of Essetir had been frustratingly vague. To Arthur, their new King was still just as suspicious as when he’d first set foot in Camelot’s ballroom- and now, one of their Princes was suspected to be a…  

A what? 

“He’s rather lovely.”

Arthur let out a groan of frustration. He needed more information. Arthur turned towards the fireplace in the corner and picked up a small metal hand bell from the table. He quickly shook it, making a loud, high-pitched ringing sound echo through his chambers.

About ten seconds later, the closest servant’s door opened. His manservant had an uncanny ability to appear at a moment’s notice. It was a good trait to have in his line of work- but it also unnerved Arthur to no end. The Crown Prince only rarely called on him as a result.

“Reginald. Find Sarah and have her bring Morgana to me. We need to discuss some things. Urgently.”

Normally, Reginald jumped at the slightest order Arthur gave him. But this time, the manservant hesitated. He raised his head, looking up at Arthur with a face that was slightly more tentative than normal.
“Forgive me, my lord. Lady Morgana seems to be indisposed for the evening.”

“… Again?”
“Yes, sire. The lady’s maidservant has left implicit instructions not to disturb her until morning. Would you like me to deliver a message, instead?”

“You went to Murkwood with Gawain?!”

“…No, that will not be necessary,” Arthur replied, visibly frustrated. “Just… let me know when she’s back.”

“Certainly, sire.”

Reginald’s footsteps made no sound as he quietly stepped back, bowing and disappearing behind the nearest door. It softly fell shut behind him. Arthur waited for a good minute, listening for footsteps, until he was sure that the person on the other side of his chambers had disappeared.

Then, the Crown Prince let out a soft groan.

Bollocks.

By now, Arthur knew exactly what Sarah’s indisposed really meant. He was getting very fed up with Morgana’s constant disappearances. His sister was gone more often than not lately. It seemed like every time he turned his back on her, she vanished off to Watcher-knew-where, to do Watcher-knew-what. And Arthur knew that it wasn’t to listen to love poems. The events of the previous Autumn had more than proven that.

And now she was gone again. What on earth was she up to this time?

And why does she insist on not bloody telling me in advance?

“You need to trust me more.”

But he did.

He… did.

For as long as the Crown Prince could remember, Morgana had always had his back. His sister was infuriating at the best of times and opportunistic to a fault- but when it came down to it, Arthur knew that he could count on her. He knew that he could trust her.

He could.

So why… why does it feel like you don’t trust me?

“Oh, that. We were going to poison Richard, but Sarah never got around to doing it.”

“Registering for the tournament, of course.”

“Morgana is indisposed. Now stop asking, sire. For our sake.”

Why don’t you ever tell me?

I’m your brother. You shouldn’t have to shoulder everything alone. You’re supposed to depend on me, too.

Am I that unreliable? Am I that weak?

I’d trust you with anything. So why won’t you do the same for me? Why won’t you tell me what you’re involved in?

Is it Essetir? You were so drawn to him during the tournament – is that why you keep disappearing without a word?

Is that it? Are you going after Cenred? Are you going…

Arthur groaned, rubbing the bridge of his noise in frustration. He couldn’t figure it out. Arthur could tell that he was missing something; some crucial bit of information that he desperately needed. But the Crown Prince couldn’t figure out which one.

As Arthur racked his brain, trying to recall any detail he could, the Crown Prince suddenly remembered his conversation with Morgana on the balcony.  

“Morrie… do you think he’s an enemy?”

“To you? Or to me?”



What… did you mean by that?

Arthur’s rapidly spiraling thoughts were interrupted by a sharp knock on the door. For a moment, the Crown Prince felt grateful for the disturbance. He didn’t like where his musings had been taking him. Arthur quickly shook his head and shelved his worries.

He could think about it tomorrow.

Arthur only allowed a handful of people to approach his bedchambers. He knew that it wasn’t Morgana. And at this time of day, Gawain wouldn’t be anywhere near the castle. That meant that it could only be one person.

Curiously, Arthur turned back towards the main entrance. Had his friend forgotten something?
“Lancelot, if you have more to report, we should share it with-”

But it wasn’t Lancelot that stepped through the doorway.

“What do you want?” Arthur asked the knight, his voice immediately growing hostile. “I do not appreciate people coming to my chambers uninvited.”

“Yes, sire. My apologies. I was sent to collect you, sire.”

“By who?” Arthur replied.
“The King, sire. He sent me to escort you to the war chamber immediately.”

“Our scouts have returned. There has been an attack.”

“Cornwall’s army marches on Camelot.”

On the other side of the castle, Guinevere had awkwardly made her way into Mithian’s chambers. The Princess of Nemeth had been moved from her guest chambers to a much more luxurious suite on the third floor. The number of guards outside of her door had doubled, as well. Even Guinevere could tell that despite the royal treatment, Mithian was still very much a hostage.

Normally, she ate together with the Pendragon family. But for some reason, their usual dinner had been cancelled. Sarah had been very annoyed, mumbling about a “waste of good bloody food” and looking for random servant to bring Mithian her supper. The young redhead had volunteered to go, instead.

Guinevere didn’t know why she’d done it. She’d volunteered on impulse. Was it a morbid sense of curiosity, to see how she’d taken the news? A feeling of obligation for being gifted the earrings? Or did Guinevere simply feel bad for her? The maidservant genuinely couldn’t tell.

But…

If nothing else… she knew what loneliness felt like.

Carefully, the maidservant placed the dish onto the table.
“Will that be a-all, milady?” Guinevere asked, trying her hardest to stay formal. The Princess of Nemeth gave her a single nod.
“Yes, this is fine. Thank you.”
“A-all right. Then please allow me to e-excuse myself-”

She had only having taken half a step towards the door when Mithian called her back.
“Guinevere, wait. Don’t leave yet.”

“W…what is it?”

Mithian wore a strange expression, looking up at Guinevere with a mixture of relief and shyness.
“The earrings,” she said. “They suit you. I’m glad you decided to wear them.”

Guinevere looked away, unable to keep a tiny blush from spreading across her cheeks. She wasn’t used to compliments. She wasn’t used to nobles addressing her in such an informal way, either. Besides Arthur and Morgana, they had always kept their distance, both physically and vocally. She’d gotten used to it. Expected it, even. Being talked to so casually by Mithian, of all people, weirdly put her on edge.
“T…thank you,” Guinevere muttered. “I, um… I a-appreciate it. Um. If there’s nothing else-”

“There is, actually. Would you like to keep me company for a while?”
“W… what?”
“It’s late,” the Princess explained. “You look like you’ve been on your feet all day. Ah, not that you look unsightly!” she quickly added. “Not at all! But I can tell when people are tired. I tire rather quickly myself, too. And you still have more tasks to do after this, right?”
The maidservant gave her a timid nod. Mithian’s lips pulled into a smile in response.
“You’re a very hard worker. But you deserve some rest, too. Sit down for a while.”

An order. Guinevere couldn’t disobey. The maidservant gulped, awkwardly scooting past the salon table and sitting down on the nearest arm chair. The lining was incredibly soft. She could feel herself sinking into the velvet cushions almost immediately.
This chair is probably worth more than me, she thought. The voices in her head answered almost instantly.

It’s so uncomfortable! Look!
How is an ugly chair worth more than a human? Are they that worthless?
Set it on fire.

Timidly, Guinevere glanced over at Mithian.
“Um. This is… very inappropriate,” she muttered in a small voice. The smile on Mithian’s lips widened.

“That’s quite all right. I won’t tell anyone if you won’t,” the Princess winked. “Don’t worry. You can relax.”

“Um… t-thank you,” Guinevere muttered softly in response. Her cheeks were burning. The maidservant didn’t feel relaxed at all. Guinevere felt like she was being pushed into a briar patch, and one wrong move would end up tearing her skin open. She instinctively shrunk into herself.

Calm down. Your emotions are written all over your face.
Is this a game? It’s a game, isn’t it?! Is it going to lose?
Can we break it if it loses?

“You have a very good timing, you know,” Mithian continued, seemingly oblivious to the mental chaos that was going on inside Guinevere’s head.
“I… I do?”
“Yes. I’ve grown a little bored in the castle. But the guards don’t exactly encourage aimless roaming outside, where they could lose track of me. I could do with a distraction. How do you spend your free time?”
“My free time?” Guinevere parroted, confused.
“Yes. What do you do for to amuse yourself?”

“I… I don’t know,” the maidservant muttered, quickly pushing the memory of baking with Arthur away. “I don’t get a lot of free time, milady.”
“There must be something, though, surely. Do you read? Paint? Play instruments? Back in Nemeth, I used to knit when the weather started to turn cold-”

That caught her attention. Guinevere blinked, looking over at Mithian with newfound interest.
“You… you knit?”

“What? Do I look like I’m incapable?”

“No, no, not at a-all,” Guinevere said, quickly backtracking. “I didn’t mean it like… I just thought… I’m sorry.”

The Princess of Nemeth let out a soft chuckle.
“That’s all right, Guinevere. I used to knit as a way of relaxation, back at the castle. It was quite enjoyable. Most of the rugs in my bedchambers were made by me.”
“Really?”
“Really.”
“I… I made mine, too,” Guinevere said shyly, surprised at the sudden common ground that she’d discovered. Mithian seemed to have the same reaction. The maidservant could see her smile widen even further, her back lifting from the velvet sofa as Mithian leaned in towards her.
“Really? What does it look like?”
“Um. Yellow a-and green. There’s rabbits on it.”

“That’s marvellous! I always have trouble with knitting complex shapes in my patterns. They always come out looking just a little disfigured. How did you make a rabbit rug?”
“I weaved that one,” Guinevere replied. “It’s less flexible, but the shapes look better. You, um, you should be able to knit them too, though.”
“Could you show me?” Mithian asked, her expression open and curious. “I’d be delighted to learn from someone experienced. Are your chambers nearby? Do you keep your tools there?”

At Guinevere’s hesitance, the Princess of Nemeth suddenly backtracked.
“Ah, that wasn’t an order. Feel free to ignore that, if you’d rather not. I won’t mind. It’s just- It’s been such a long time since I’ve had someone to talk with. I got a little carried away. My apologies.”

Guinevere rarely got to talk about her passions. Morgana simply wasn’t interested in subjects that weren’t mischievous or political. Gawain didn’t know a knitting needle from a shed stick, and although Sarah enjoyed cooking banter, anything related to knitting bored her to tears. Over time, the maidservant had simply stopped bringing it up. She didn’t mind.

Or at least, that’s what she thought. But the second she’d found out what Mithian and her had in common, the feeling of dread in her stomach had vanished and made way for an almost giddy anticipation.

“No, that’s… that’s all right. I have some things I can… bring here. I-if you like.”
“That would be wonderful! Are you sure it’s not too much trouble?”

She could indulge herself a little bit… right?

“Not at a-all. I’ll gladly show you.”

The attack had come completely without warning.

After months of keeping watch on the border pass between Camelot and Cornwall, their scouts had grown complacent. Their vigilance waned. Attention had slowly turned away from the pass and towards Nemeth – and Cornwall had immediately made use of it, sending a battalion of soldiers through the mountain. They’d faced no resistance. Cornwall’s troops moved into Hadrian’s Wall, occupying the border fort overnight.

By the time the first scout reached castle Camelot, the army had already started to move through Camlann.  

“Send out a regiment,” Uther spoke, addressing his new general. “Intercept them before they make it through those plains. Cornwall must not be allowed to set foot in Camelot.”
“Yes, sire.”

“Father, there are villages on those plains,” Arthur spoke, looking down at the map. “There will be refugees.”
“Indeed. Do what you can to accommodate them. They are citizens of Camelot. Their well-being will be your responsibility.”

“Yes, father.”

When Guinevere woke up that morning, she did not think that she’d end up skipping work to teach Mithian about advanced rabbit-knitting.

Life in Camelot had an odd habit of surprising her.

Mithian took to her instructions surprisingly quickly. She hadn’t been lying, either. The Princess of Nemeth wasn’t that skilled at knitting, but from what the maidservant could tell, she already had a decent grasp on how to do it. She didn’t need more than the odd correction. It was… nice, in a way. Relaxing.

As it turned out, she didn’t need conversation, either. Mithian left the maidservant in peace, focusing on her work as the two sat together in silence. Her calm had come as another surprise.

Guinevere didn’t dislike it.

Eventually, the Princess of Nemeth turned her head, glancing down at the project in Guinevere’s hands.
“That looks lovely. Who is it for?”

“My brother,” Guinevere answered softly. “It’s his birthday soon. He always liked foxes.”
“I see. He is lucky to have you.”

For once, Guinevere’s head remained silent.

The silence did not last for long. But it wasn’t her own voices that finally broke it.
“Guinevere… I wanted to thank you.”

“For the knitting advice?” Guinevere asked. Mithian shook her head, a strange, almost melancholy smile playing on her lips.
“That, too. But no. For your words last Winter. You were right. Prince Arthur is a true gentleman.”

Guinevere gulped. She tried to answer, but it was like her voice had suddenly stopped working. She couldn’t imagine how Mithian would feel. The maidservant suddenly regretted every decision that had led to her ending on that velvet chair. But Mithian didn’t seem to notice. In a chipper tone, the Princess of Nemeth continued.
“From one lady to another… I was thinking of making something for him. What do you think he would like?”

“…What?”

“He has been incredibly kind to me,” Mithian smiled in response. “More than I ever thought he’d be. I want to make something personal, something to show my devotion.”

“…Devotion?”

The Princess chuckled, neatly folding her hands in her lap.
“I’m sorry, is that inappropriate to discuss? Forgive me. I can get a little carried away sometimes. I suppose it’s all right. There’s no rush, after all.”

“I’ll have an eternity to prove myself once we’re married.”

Wait….

What?

“What a-about Mithian?

“I didn’t choose Mithian. I want to choose you.”

“This way, we’ll both be free.”

He hadn’t told her.

“Guinevere? Are you all right? Your face looks pale.”


He hadn’t told her anything.

9 thoughts on “3.35 – Pawn Promotion

  1. Wow, Arthur wanting to shove someone even more than the Crown Prick of Nemeth? Are you sure Arthur? : P Still, pretty risky business- who’s to say Pellinore can’t just somehow spin the story so that it looks like Lance is wrong to have accusations? And even if Lance’s accusation doesn’t make sense to Arthur straight away, people not wanting to draw attention to themselves probably makes them more of a concern than less of one, sometimes.

    Haha, I’m with you Gwen. Not feeling like you’re being somehow pushed away or pushed out is a big red flag. Still, you gotta take those moments wherever you can get them, even if it’s just compliments on earrings and small talk. Finding common ground is always good fun, though. Still, with those two sort of getting along a little, can’t help but think back to Morgana’s reaction to knowing Mithian gifted her the earrings…Even Mithian is starting to sound like Gwen now, apologising for just wanting a moment of company. It’s nice to see Gwen have someone else who enjoys the same things she does though. It’s just a shame she’ll probably have to keep their getting to know each other quiet. And the best bit is that maybe eventually Mithian will stab Richard in the eyes with them < 3

    To be honest? Didn't expect Uther to immediately be willing to accomodate refugees like that. Also…as nice as it was that they were getting along, I had a feeling something like this would come up. Big OOF moment indeed. All I can say is OUCH. All of that happiness and confidence back out of the window…though on a side note, it was sweet she was cross stitching something for her brother.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Pellinore technically outranks Lancelot, so that’s exactly what he could do. He could even spin it into a way worse story, too. I’m with you on that- people trying hard to stay out of the spotlight could be even more suspicious, not less. Or introverted, like Guinevere. Or antisocial. Come to think of it, there’s many reasons to avoid the spotlight…

      Mithian does sound a lot like Guinevere, doesn’t she? It seems the two have more in common than you would say at first glance. Bwahaha, your loving hate for Richard runs deep, I see 🤭 we’ll see Richard again, in the not-so-distant future.

      Uther is stubborn to a fault and despises magic, but he’s still the King, and they’re his people. I rolled for him, and he actually did really well on this one. Gotta take those victories where you can and all 😆

      Amazing how quickly happiness can lead to despair sometimes, isn’t it?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Ugh, there he is again, my favourite character. Absent for so many chapters and still hanging around like a bad smell. “I knew something was wrong with him.” Yes, everything.

    Ooh a manservant, summoned with a tiny bell. Where can I get one? 😆 Aww, Arthur. You’re not weak. I wish she could tell you that no, she’s definitely not running off to bonk CtFG, though she might be running off to bonk Monoroe, fingers crossed she’s trying to protect you. Hey, a little glimpse at Arthur seeming very Uther-like there, but right back to Arthur by the end of the scene, good good. War, not so good.

    Aha, so here we are with Mithian again. Guin volunteered to go? She really is a glutton for punishment, isn’t she? Despite it all, the little voices telling her to set it on fire made me laugh, and further reinforced my dragon theory. Maybe she has an Iggy in her hair. Break the game if it loses? Break what if it loses? How odd… hmm… I do really feel for Mithian, even if I’m not convinced that this is the whole truth. But that’s probably just me not seeing the pretty pom-pom in the stinky mud puddle, right? 😉

    I see Uther has his generals out again.

    Interesting. I wonder if Mithian genuinely doesn’t know, or if someone has told her and she is very good at being deceptive. I’m drawn to the former. Also, her lack of knowledge about what is and isn’t appropriate is suspicious to me, as she would have been raised in a similar environment, no? Unless… she wasn’t, or something else has happened… hmm. Aw Guin, this is the game you are in, falling for a king. His hands are tied and so are yours.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. He does loom over the arc a bit, doesn’t he? Maybe if we open enough windows, he’ll float out with the wind.

      Get your Manservant Bells and Chimes here! We have Dedicated Butler Bell, Grumpy Priest Peal, Great Dragon Gong and last but not least, Sassy Witch Chime! Arthur may have a little bit of a doubt problem and his sister constantly vanishing on him without letting him know is not helping things.

      She really is, yes. Whether she realises that about herself is another matter, though. Ha! let’s hope her Iggy isn’t as much as a wealth hoarder as Myrtle’s. Still seeing the stinky mud through the pretty pom-pom dressing is one of your specialties and all I can say is, you can still see the mud for a reason.

      😂🤣 never going to unsee that. Ever.

      Guinevere might not see the entire game that she’s gotten herself stuck in, but she’s very much in the middle of it now. You ask a lot of very good questions that I can’t answer right now without spoiling a great many things so for now I’ll just 🤐😘

      Like

  3. V important update from Lance-hot, sir. He must enact a steely gaze while telling you about Cenred!

    Gahhh, okay, enough my Lancelot-swooning. It’s out of my system, I swear.

    WordPress also ate this comment, so I’m going to try and pull it together:

    How dare Arthur!?!?!?! okay, sorry, that’s my last comment.

    How dare Morgana!?!?!?! Listen, I get it, this is a chessboard, but she is putting everyone she loves in danger by withholding all this information. She and Arthur are both self-centered. Morgana loves to be at the center and sees herself as the one to save or sacrifice, but what if she misses something? Then, instead of having someone else there to catch it or pick up the slack, she risks the whole thing falling apart. And yes, Arthur has his issues, but he has more than proven that he can be there for her and have her back. It sucks that she won’t fill him in and leave him in the lurch.

    Uh, war coming can’t be good, and I’m going to completely ignore that and pretend it is all fine. ::internal screaming::

    Now, how dare Arthur?!?!?! I get it, Guinevere is a servant, and there are political motivations and blah, blah, blah. But I can’t help but feel that she deserves better. She deserves to be openly courted, not hidden away, waiting for scraps and forced to listen to ravings from his fiance. ARTHUR GET IT TOGETHER.

    Also, 100% do not trust the princess, and Guinivere is in over her head.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lance-hot 😂🤣 you’re killing me Ferosh. I just snorted out loud in the office and now everyone is looking at me oh no

      Oh darn, it ate it? It’s been doing that to some of mine too lately. I hope it stops happening soon because having to re-type comments really sucks. 😐

      They really are. Selfish can be debated, but self-centered is spot-on. Morgana has been warned about her overreliance on herself in the past, but it seems that the warnings aren’t really coming through. Her secretiveness is a strength but also one of her greatest flaws, unfortunately.

      War? What war? Everything is fine 😬

      Guinevere is in way over her head, to a degree that’s not even funny. Oh my. You’re getting really close to something big again with your comment so for now all I can say is 🤐 and leave it at that. You’ll see. 😐

      Liked by 1 person

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