2.9 – Bonds

For the servants of Camelot, early mornings were a busy affair. They needed to be up long before their noble masters, doing chores, running errands and taking care of everything that needed to be taken care of in order to keep a castle of this size up and running.

The castle had a small army of cooks and kitchen staff to provide everyone with breakfast, lunch and dinner. For a maidservant, knowing how to cook well was not a requirement.
In theory. In practice, Sarah had risen to be the best chef in the entire castle.

Guinevere knew why. She had heard the stories. As a child, Morgana had been an incredibly picky eater, often sending back the meals that were provided by the kitchens and flat-out refusing to eat if she didn’t get anything else. And her tastes kept changing. After the Princess had thrown out a pot roast that had taken seven hours to prepare, the regular cook finally threw a tantrum and went on strike. He would no longer make her anything. Not a single loaf of bread. Not even a royal threat of beheading changed his mind.

And so, Sarah had been forced to take over Morgana’s dinner preparations. It turned out to be the greatest challenge in her entire career. The maidservant had tried everything she could think of, every recipe, every dish, determined to make her stubborn, toddling, tantrum-throwing mistress at least eat something.

Years later, Sarah was still reaping the benefits of that decision. Her dishes were without equal.

Compared to that, Guinevere’s cooking skills were worse than inadequate. The red-haired girl looked down on the lump of dough in front of her with a disheartened frown. Despite her best efforts, it did not even look edible, let alone like something that would actually taste good. She let out a defeated sigh.

Perhaps it was hopeless.

At that moment, Guinevere could hear Sarah’s voice ringing out from behind her.
“All right, that’s enough. What is going on with you?”

Guinevere turned around to see Sarah, standing not five feet away from her and staring right at her with that smirking, inquisitive gaze of hers. The red-haired servant quickly broke eye contact and cast her eyes towards the ground.
“N-nothing, miss.”
“Oh no, you don’t. You’ve been quiet enough to give a professional mute a run for his money. I know a distracted mind when I see one. Come on, then. Out with it.”

Guinevere cringed. Caught red-handed. The young servant hesitated. Would it be too forward to ask? What if it bothered her? She didn’t want to be a burden. But it wasn’t like Sarah was going to let this go, anyway… perhaps it would be all right? Guinevere gulped, deciding to take a chance.
“Oh, I, um… actually, I was wondering if I could ask for a favour, miss. Would that be all right?”
Sarah raised a single eyebrow.
“That depends entirely on the favour.”
“Oh. Right. Of course. Well, I wanted to learn some new recipes and, um, I was wondering if you could teach me. How to make them, I mean. You’re the most skilled chef in the whole castle.”
“Very true! And I do enjoy flattery,” Sarah winked at her. “Very well, it can’t hurt to teach you a few things. What do you want to make?”

A soft blush spread across Guinvere’s cheeks.
“Honey pie.”

And Sarah immediately knew.
“Hmm?” the maidservant replied, her lips pulling into a mischievous smirk. “And why would you want to learn that one, specifically?”
“Oh, well… it seemed like a good idea- I mean, like a good dish to know.”
“Riiiiight. And it has nothing to do with a certain someone liking the taste of honey, of course. Not in the slightest.”

“No!” Guinevere protested, the blush on her cheeks getting worse. “I just- Gaius said that it’s a good food for treating sore throats and illnesses, and I just- I thought-”

She turned around, unable to hide her embarrassment anymore. But Guinevere didn’t have to look at Sarah to imagine the look on the woman’s face. And her imagination was spot-on. In a teasing voice, the maidservant answered her apprentice.
“All right, Gwen. I’ll teach you how to make it. For the physician, of course.”
“Y…yes. Thank you, miss Sarah.”
“And quit it with the “miss” thing. I know I’m a knockout, but I’m not that young anymore.”
“Yes, mi-Sarah.”


While Sarah enjoyed teasing her apprentice, her ribbing ended there. She knew when to let things rest. Besides, they now had other things to focus on. When it came to cooking, the maidservant was incredibly passionate. Skilled, too. Sarah swiftly began to instruct Guinevere, giving pointers and working alongside her so the girl could learn from example.

And it was quite the example that Sarah provided. The castle staff had given her the title of “Kitchen Faerie” for a reason. Guinevere had seen Sarah cook countless times, but the sight never ceased to amaze her. Even with all the teasing and flirting behaviour of her mentor, Guinevere had never seen Sarah as happy as when she was cooking.

As Guinevere watched Sarah perform, a silent question bubbled to the surface. It had been on her mind for a while now, but she had never dared to ask. It was a little personal, but… she was curious. Guinevere decided to risk it. In a timid voice, the maidservant called out to her mentor.
“Miss Sarah, do you mind if I ask you a question?”
“Just Sarah. And go ahead. But if you want the spoon, I’m not giving it to you. Find your own.”
“No, it’s not about the spoon. It’s, well…”

“You… well, you’re a really good cook. Really good. And you’re great at housework, too. And other things. They even let you play music for the nobles sometimes. It’s like you can do everything.”
“Is there a question in there somewhere, or are you just trying to butter me up?” the maidservant grinned. Guinevere shook her head in response.
“No, no. I just… why aren’t you married yet? You’d be the perfect wife.”

“What, do you have someone in mind for me?” Sarah replied, still smirking.
“Ah- well, no, but…”
“Good. Because they’d have to be very physically fit in order to compete with the knights. If you catch my drift.”
Guinevere awkwardly scratched the back of her neck. She broke eye contact with the maidservant in front of her and mumbled:
“You know what I mean.”
“I know, I know. I’m just messing with you, Gwen.”

The maidservant grew serious, her usual expression of mischief slowly fading away. She let out a sigh.
“I guess I might as well tell you. It’s not a secret or anything. I recon most people in the castle know about it, anyway. The truth is… it doesn’t matter how skilled a woman I am. Any potential husband would not want me.”
Sarah placed the wooden spoon on the counter, her eyes cast downwards.

“I’m infertile. I cannot conceive. I’ll never have children of my own.”

A heavy feeling spread through the young servant’s chest. Her reply got stuck in her throat, and Guinevere suddenly found herself at a loss for words. She immediately felt guilty for asking.
“I… I’m so sorry, Sarah.”
“…yeah. I know.”

The next second, Sarah’s familiar grin came back. She playfully bumped against Guinevere’s shoulder.
“On the bright side, it does allow me to spend time with the knights without having to worry about the consequences! Really, I’m not complaining. I mean, have you seen them without a shirt on?”
The blush promptly returned to Guinevere’s cheeks. She turned away from Sarah, trying and failing to banish the visual from her mind.
“I… really don’t want to-”

“Oh, but that’s just not true,” Sarah said, giving her apprentice a suggestive eyebrow-waggle. “Come on, Gwen! Live a little! I’m sure you wouldn’t mind seeing a certain someone without a shirt on, no?”
“I-no! That is highly inappropriate!”
“Oh, fine. Stick-in-the-mud. All the more for me, then.”
The maidservant chuckled at her apprentice’s discomfort. Then, her expression turned gentle.
“Come on, Gwen. I’ll show you how to layer your pie.”
“Yes, mi-“
“Not miss. I’ll smack you with my spoon. I will.”


A short hour later, the kitchen smelled deliciously of freshly baked pastries. The scent drifted all the way into the castle hallway, where Sarah and Guinevere could hear some poor guard’s stomach rumble in response. Sarah let out a chuckle, amused at the sound.

“There. One apple-honey pie, learned and mastered. And it doesn’t even look half bad! You’re welcome, Gwen.”
The red-haired maidservant gave her a soft smile.
“Thank you, m-Sarah. I’m glad to learn from the best.”
For a moment, a prideful smile crossed Sarah’s face.
“Yes, well. Might as well pass on my secrets to somebody, no? Even if it’s to a prudish stick-in-the-mud like you.”

As Guinevere looked down on the still steaming pies, she finally noticed.
“Wait. What is the cherry pie for?”
“Oh, that one’s for Morgana,” Sarah replied, shrugging. Guinevere’s face pulled into a confused frown. The young servant placed a hand on her chin, cocking her head curiously.
“But… didn’t milady tell us to leave her alone? She gave us very specific instructions this morning…”

“Pfff! She’s been giving me “specific instructions” since she was a bratty toddler. I didn’t listen to her then, and I sure won’t listen to her now. I don’t care if she’s royalty – she’ll eat whether she likes to or not.”
“You were with her when she was a toddler?” Guinevere asked curiously.
“Of course. I’ve been here since they were both new-borns. I swear to the Watcher, Gwen, you would not believe the kind of trouble that those two brats caused me when they were toddlers-”

And the maidservant proceeded to go off on a tangent, leaving a surprised Guinevere to play an unwilling audience to her rant. It went on for a good five minutes. Guinevere learned more about Arthur and her mistress in those few minutes than she had in the three months that she’d been working at the castle. And then some.
And then she realized. Sarah’s words were angry and frustrated-
But her eyes were not.
They were proud.

And Guinevere understood.


In a different wing of castle Camelot, Arthur Pendragon had finally found a moment to talk to his sister. It had proved to be much more difficult than he thought – almost as if she was avoiding him. In the end, he was forced to make a servant wake him up at the crack of dawn, much earlier than he was comfortable with, just so he could try to catch her in her chambers.

Arthur despised getting up so early. But today, the Crown Prince wanted answers more than he wanted sleep.

“Morrie… why didn’t you protest father’s decision?”
“There was nothing to protest,” Morgana replied. But Arthur shook his head, not accepting her answer.
“Don’t lie to me. You had at least four suitors before Nemeth’s offer, and a union with any one of them benefits Camelot just as much as a union with Nemeth. I know how much you hate Richard. Plus – father listens to you, more than he ever listens to me. You could probably change his mind if you wanted to. But you didn’t even try. Why not?”

Her eyes trailed off towards the chess board; its pieces locked in the final stages of a match. Despite having the numerical advantage, the white side was losing, facing an impending checkmate. But there were still a few moves left. Still a few pieces that could be sacrificed. With a sigh, Morgana turned back towards her brother.
“This is the best move, Arthur.”
“What do you mean? If an alliance is father’s goal, we could-”

“Of course that’s not the goal!” Morgana suddenly snapped at her brother, her voice flaring up angrily. “Think, Arthur! Nemeth is almost as strong as we are. They are not and will never be an ally. They are dangerous. If they sway any of the others and turn them against us, we will be at their mercy. You cannot afford to let Richard take the throne unchecked. You need a pawn on the inside. You need-”

The Crown Prince couldn’t believe what he was hearing. He cut her off, grabbing his sister’s hand as he felt a strange sense of anger bubbling to the surface.
“You are not a pawn.”
Morgana chuckled to herself.
“Of course not. In terms of chess, I’ve been acting as the Queen. But even that one doesn’t matter if your King is one move away from a checkmate.”
“Stop talking like that!” her brother snapped. “You are not a chess piece! Stop talking about yourself as if you are!”

The Princess laughed; a dry, emotionless laugh that did nothing to alleviate her brother’s worries.
“I’m serious, Morgana. I worry about you. You don’t look well. Did you sleep at all these last few days?”
Morgana shrugged.
“Not really. But it doesn’t matter, I’m fine-”
“You’re not fine!” Arthur snapped back. “Stop lying. I’ve never seen you like this before. You’ve been acting strange ever since you came down with the flu. Did you have a strange fever dream? Did someone threaten you? What happened?”
“Arthur, just leave it-”
But the Crown Prince interrupted her again, this time giving his sister a strict, authoritative glare.
“No. Not this time. I’m not letting this go, Morgana. You are going to tell me what is going on, and we are not leaving your chambers until you do.”

His expression fell, the strictness in his eyes making way for genuine worry. When Arthur spoke, his voice had grown gentle. 
“I’m here for you, Morrie. Please talk to me.” 

His words were finally reaching her. Arthur could tell. Morgana let out a long, tired sigh. She leaned forward, resting her head on her hand and turning her head to face away from him.
“And I already buried half of it, too,” the Princess mumbled softly. Arthur shook his head, not caring that she couldn’t see him.
“You can’t bury everything.”
“…I can try.”
“Don’t. Just tell me. You can rely on me, too, Morrie. I promise.”

For a moment, the air between them was completely silent. Arthur half expected his sister to reject him again. She had developed a habit of keeping everything close to her chest. But then the Princess let out another sigh, finally caving.
“…All right.”
Slowly, painfully slowly, Morgana turned back towards her brother. Arthur was not prepared for what he saw there. The Crown Prince felt a heavy, sinking feeling in the bottom of his stomach as he looked upon his sister’s expression.
It was hollow.

“I saw mother.”
The Crown Prince fell silent. He had expected many things, had imagined all kinds of possible explanations, but… not that. It took a few moments for Arthur to even process Morgana’s words. And when he did, Arthur still couldn’t believe it.
It can’t be.
Cautiously, Arthur opened his mouth.
“Like… in a memory?”
Morgana shook her head.
“No.”

…Oh.

“…It was not just a summer flu, was it?”
Morgana slowly shook her head again, her eyes cloudy and lifeless.
“No. No, it was not.”

Suddenly, a lot of things began to make sense. Why Gaius had seemed so tense despite a summer flu only being a minor illness. Why Morgana had avoided all public appearances afterwards. Why he couldn’t find her anywhere over the past few days… and why his sister looked so completely, utterly exhausted. That sinking feeling in his stomach increased tenfold.
Whatever had infected her had almost killed her. She had almost died… and nobody knew.
Arthur reached out, placing a hand on her shoulder.
“Is that why you haven’t been able to sleep? Why didn’t you tell me?”

Morgana sighed.
“It’s not like I could… explain it. It just happened.”
“And Gaius? Why didn’t he-”
“Because I ordered him not to. I cannot show weakness.”
Arthur couldn’t believe what he was hearing. Weakness? Are you serious?
“Almost dying is trauma, Morrie. Not weakness.”
“I see no difference.”

There was no deceit in her voice. No attempt to deflect, or spin his words, or deceive him. In that moment, it dawned upon the Crown Prince that Morgana really believed that they were the same thing. The realization made Arthur’s blood run cold. When did she start thinking like this? Like she couldn’t ever show weakness? Like Agravaine?
I can’t let her think like that. If she goes down that path, she’ll-
He instinctively placed his arm around her, pulling her close and embracing his sister.

“I’m sorry. I should have realized it sooner. Morgana, listen to me. You don’t have to shoulder everything alone. I’m here, too. Please don’t forget that.”
Morgana nodded half-heartedly.
“I know. I’m all right. Really. I just… I just feel tired.”
Her gaze traveled to the portrait on the wall. A soft chuckle escaped from the Princess’s lips.
“You know… she doesn’t even look that much like the portrait. The real one. They painted her to look too regal.”
Arthur knew that it was another attempt to deflect, and take his attention away from her. He shouldn’t react to it. But the Crown Prince couldn’t help himself. Arthur barely remembered their mother, too. His own curiosity got the better of him.
“What… what was she like?”

A shadow of a smile passed by on Morgana’s lips.
“She was beautiful. A little taller than me. I remember long, wavy black hair. We both have her eyes, although the colour came from our father. We have her jaw, too. We… we look like her. A lot.”
Morgana’s expression fell.
“I wish I’d known her.”
“…me, too, Morrie. Me, too.”

The young woman pulled away from him, her eyes glancing back and forth between Arthur and their mother’s portrait.
“Do… do you have any memories of her?”
“Not really,” Artur said, shaking his head. “I was only a few years old when she… when she passed away. All I can remember is an old lullaby. I don’t really know the words anymore. It had something to do with… mountains… probably.”

Morgana’s head lowered, that same look of exhaustion appearing on her face for a second time.
“Would you mind… singing it for me?”
For the second time that day, Arthur was taken by surprise. He hesitated, not knowing what to do with himself.
“That’s… Morrie, I don’t…”
“You don’t need to know the words. You could just hum the tune. You could just…”

“…please. I’m so tired.”

“…All right.” 

Arthur placed his arm around her again. This time, Morgana leaned into the embrace, lowering her head onto his shoulder and closing her eyes as he began to hum. Arthur wasn’t a singer. He couldn’t keep rhythm. He didn’t even remember the words to what he was humming to her.
But the Crown Prince had a soft, pleasant, baritone voice.

And that was enough.

Arthur had not done this since Morgana was three years old. A scared toddler, spooked by the violence of a raging thunderstorm outside. Arthur still vividly remembered that night. He had ended up feeding her parts of the honey pies that he kept stashed underneath his bed. They played cards. He lost horribly. On purpose. The last thing he remembered was rocking her back and forth, long after his little sister had already fallen asleep.
He had only been five years old, himself.

It was the first memory he had of being a big brother.

I guess some things never change. 
Not really. 


-End-

19 thoughts on “2.9 – Bonds

  1. wow! It was touching 💖
    The description of Guinevere and Sarah in the kitchen was touching in the way that Guinevere would not reveal her budding infatuation but still revealed almost everything to the more experienced woman. Only the goal of her infatuation she has still kept secret … and it is probably also by far the safest for everyone.

    Arthur and Morgana in the chamber. Arthur shows so much care for his sister. He knows her all too well and has great love for her.
    Arthur gets angry when she emotionlessly talks about her strategy as if she were a chess piece.
    But neither can Morgana open up completely to Arthur … if she remembers everything at all.
    I love the description of Arthur’s care for his sister and how he eventually carries her to bed. It struck me with both warmth and sadness.
    So touchingly written 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Woo! I’m getting hearts! =D

      Sarah has always been a background character, but she’s always there and knows a surprising amount of what’s going on. I’d been waiting for an opportunity to pull back the curtain on her a bit.

      Warmth and sadness is the perfect summary of this chapter. I think we’re all hoping for the cast to catch a break from the sadness.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Aww.. Sarah is beautiful underneath her jolly personality. She doesn’t dwell on what can’t be changed and moves on. Such a wise person. I like that she isn’t afraid to share that part of herself. It shows how incredibly strong and open she is. I do wonder, was it natural or did something happen. I’ve no doubt that Guin will blossom underneath Sarah’s care and company. Sarah is just lovely.

    Btw, I’m really loving how you decorated the place. Everything! The foods, cheese, bread, onions, the chicken on the rack by the fireplace lol, leafy greens, even the broom at the back. I’m so amazed! ❤ So much detail ngaawww. Such a feast for my eyes.

    Also I really want to know who are the knight(s) Sarah has eyes on. Can’t be all of them, some of them are vile, like Lionel. (Oooh it rhymes!) Maybe she has one she particularly likes!

    I’m glad Morgana finally spoke to Arthur. She really needs someone to shoulder some of the weight she’s carrying. Arthur has his own, but so does she. I feel sorry for them both. Arthur has a slightly better advantage because he can still make decisions after his union with Nemeth, but Morgana once wedded there. Idk especially in those times, her fate is completely in that scumbag’s hands. Argh… so agravating. <- this word reminds me of agravaine. What does Arthur know about Agravaine that he’s not telling us?

    And that finally two screenie. Ooof I want to know what Arthur decides to do to support Morgana. :c

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’ve been waiting to show you guys more of Sarah. There’s more more layers to her than meets the eye. Though that’s the case with most of the cast, haha. I’m glad you like her. ^^

      Of course! I needed to show that Nemeth was making good on its promise, and what better way to do that than with obnoxious amounts of food lying everywhere? xD

      Okay, so, everyone in Arthur’s gang (except for Arthur himself) isn’t an actual knight yet. So don’t worry, no chance of her falling for slimy Lionel!

      Morgana really has been dealt a pretty cr.ppy hand, that’s for sure. We’ll see what her brother is able and willing to do, and how far he can actually go with that.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh gods I actually went and researched this. XD

        Well, that was a trip down the rabbit hole all right. Apparently the “average” bridal price for commoners is the price of one cow, which (currently) is about €2,000- to €2,500-. A cheese wheel here costs about €40-. So the price for an average commoner girl’s hand in marriage is the equivalent offfff…. 50-62 cheese wheels.

        This would be a royal, though. There’s records of bridal prices ranging in the hundreds of millions and bridal dowries bringing their husbands cities, land rights, international trade rights, whole chunks of a country and (lal) a discount on captive ransom.

        Soooooo let’s say Uther is cheap (he’s not) and only demands a million for his daughter’s bridal price. That’s still 25,000 cheese wheels. XD

        Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m glad Sarah is getting more screentime, she’s such a fabulous character with far more layers than initially meet the eye. I admire her strength, and how she’s made the best out of a bad situation. Gwen is lucky to have her as a role model.

    Aww, the Morgana and Arthur scene was so sad. He’s such a good dude, but she’s too far out of his reach, so he can just about feel her slipping through his fingers. Seems it’s only just hit him how much her way of thinking has changed over the years. It’s good she got at least partial relief, though nowhere near as much as she needed. But I feel like she’s no longer capable of opening up to the level she’d need to heal at least somewhat. After all, if she can’t open up to Arthur, there’s absolutely no one that could get through now. It’s all heartbreaking.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I compare her to an onion, like most of my characters. Just layers and layers and layers. And if you get too invested I’ll end up making you cry. XD

      It’s easy to leave the more cutthroat, less savoury side of life to others without thinking about how that will affect them in the long run. Arthur has always relied on his sister to take care of things for him. This is the reverse side of that.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hope Sarah doesn’t feel too bad about being infertile. She seems to be okay with it, but it could also be a mask she’s wearing as to not let the pain in. I could understand that too.

    Arthur and Morgana 🥰 He’s so so so sweet. Ugh, let him stay this way, Yimi! I have such a bad feeling about how everything is going to go down.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well caught – the sims in my cast are very fond of wearing masks. Who knows how okay she really is with it?

      A bad feeling? My, why ever would you have a bad feeling? >=D Arthur is a total sweetheart though, yeah. Let’s hope life lets him keep that even when he becomes an adult.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I am loving Sarah more and more. She is a such a strong and kind character. She also is very perceptive and knows what’s going on around the castle. I love that she is so open with Guinevere. I think she will be a good influence on her, help her come out of her shell. But I am wondering how this will work out between Guin and Arthur, he’s a prince, and she’s a servant, not that would deter him. He made friends with Gawain who is a commoner. But I could see this causing problems between him and his father.

    And the scene between Arthur and Morgana was touching. Ah, so she is his younger sister (this whole time I was thinking she was older than Arthur). I guess in life experiences she has seen and knows more than Arthur. She has a heavy burden that she carries that Arthur doesn’t. It is sweet that he cares for her, but I also think that he probably can’t completely understand what she is going through. She has a lot of secrets that she can’t really reveal to Arthur. I really like the dynamic between them.

    Like

  6. I’m caught up! “Finally!” I hear you cry.

    Even the maidservants are made of onion baumkuchen… so no one’s face is real in Camelot and not just because one of them can magically become a man or her mother. All the games and deceit… I’ve taken so many notes, I need a new notebook. Wow, what a pointless comment this is.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha, welcome to the front of the rollercoaster! I left you a seat right there. ^^

      Onion baumkuchen… that’s a new one. xD Camelot is one big web of lies and deception. And Gawain. He’s the exception that confirms the rule, haha. Wow, you take notes on my story?

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I hope so! That’s my goal, at least. If I can take you all for a spin, I’m happy.

      Not at all, but now we definitely have to play D&D together because a good note-taker is worth their weight in gold. xD

      Liked by 1 person

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