Word count: ~1550
Summary: Queen Annis has always been the fairest of rulers, and now she has to take revenge for a man who was never really King.
Warnings: Spoilers for 4x05
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement intended.
Note: A quick (and unbetaed) ficlet as my answer to why Queen Annis accepted peace with Arthur so easily.
Well, it was only a marriage of convenience.
This is the last thing her husband said to her.
It is also the first thing that comes to her mind when she sees his body. The hurt and the anger she feels, those are mainly toward herself. She's angry about not being stronger, not standing up to him more. And more than anything, she has a wounded pride to bear.
So when she swears revenge against the young Pendragon it's not really because of him, but more because she wishes her husband had listened to her, and it is not a young king's place to punish her for her mistakes.
All in all, it might be her husband's fault, but her mother taught her early on never to think ill of the dead. Now that her husband is no more, it's too late for her to resent everything he's done wrong in her life.
The sun is setting and only now she learns of her husband's plans for the next day. How come she's been so busy all day that this only came to her ear so late?
Every day, all day, she's only got her mind (and her heart) for her kingdom; so much so that she has to be reminded often that Caerleon isn't actually hers. She has to be reminded that she's got a husband who is supposed to be King, who is supposed to be involved in his people's issues, who is supposed to care that his wife rules in his place.
So when she confronts him and tells him how foolish his endeavour is, he only laughs at her. She tells him that he should have told the Council, he should have told her. He is risking his kingdom's safety after all. He is risking war. But he still doesn't care, doesn't take her seriously. Arthur Pendragon is not a real King, he says, there is no danger. He gropes the maid who is stoking the fire in the room in front of her.
If not officially, she holds all the power in Caerleon. She is a much respected Queen, by all but her own husband, the only person she still has to obey.
She gets angry, she shouts at the maid who has done nothing wrong and the girl leaves the room in sobs. She spares a thought for feeling guilty, but she has to get a grip.
She tells him (maybe yells, maybe screams) that she is his iwife/i and he cannot do that, at least not in front of her. She says that they made vows that were supposed to mean something, that he at least has to listen.
Well, that was only a marriage of convenience, is his only answer.
She leaves the room and feels so empty.
When Morgana Pendragon enters the room, Annis is doubting herself. Will the war she wanted to prevent heal the tear inside her Kingdom (and inside her heart)?
Her husband has been so stupid to let himself killed this way, not with the honour of a battle, not as a martyr for a cause, but as a fool who thought he could violate his neighbour's lands and his kingdom's trust without consequences. She hates Arthur Pendragon for forcing her into war.
Morgana talks about Gorlois and something ignites in her. He was more than a good man. If his daughter is as similar to him as she claims, she can't help but trust her more than is advisable. And what she says about the Pendragons… it makes her want to blame Arthur for all of her troubles even more.
Never would she have listened to Morgana so easily if she was her ordinary self, but given what had happened, it just seems easier.
The flowers are starting to peek out of the snow and the winter seems definitely over when her mother announces she is to marry. From the look on her mother's face, she knows her betrothed isn't Gorlois. She even knows it's not this French prince who has been considered for some time.
Her mother speaks of the necessity for a kingdom to be strong and of making alliance in the North and Annis knows it's going to be about Caerleon. It's always been about Caerleon.
She knows nothing about its young prince except that he's a proud warrior and that it's better to be on his side than not. She knows a lot more about Caerleon, though. She knows its wealth, its culture, its people, she's been taught everything there is to know about Caerleon. She wonders why her mother hasn't mentioned that she could marry there before.
She doesn't waste time being heartbroken and sends a messenger to Gorlois immediately. She knows he will not be surprised either; her mother's love for Caerleon is well-known in all of the five kingdoms.
When she meets her future husband, she understands why her mother has never mentioned him before. He's rude and pompous and so self-centred. His is certainly no King (nor husband) material.
But she doesn't have a choice and she marries him on a warm spring day. They spend their wedding night traditionally but she's felt more with one kiss from Gorlois than she would with a hundred from her husband. She never goes to bed with him again. Even if their parents keep on pressing them, the prince doesn't seem too preoccupied with the idea of an heir.
Her first months in Caerleon are very lonely and it is hard to be a stranger in a foreign land.
She adapts, though. She's always known how to do it. She gets interested in the affairs of the kingdom, she asks if she can witness some Council meetings and quickly she gets regularly invited to attend them. The King takes her under his wing and her husband is jealous but doesn't show more interest in politics (or in her) than he's done in the past.
In private, the King tells her that ishe/i is going to rule, not his son, and that he doesn't mind.
When the King dies and her husband goes on a hunting trip for twelve days, she knows that she will.
Convincing her men to go to war isn't difficult. The soldiers aren't hard to find. If her husband didn't care for his people, his people did love him.
Everybody wants the revenge she swore and she cannot go back, even if it means the death of all.
When the young Pendragon appears in her tent, she wants to kill him on sight. She doesn't, though, she just slaps him and she knows she's gained some admiration from those of the men who favoured her husband.
The young King's proposal is unexpected, but oh so interesting. She doesn't know if she can accept. She wants to, she does, but it seems so much like a trap, especially when the strange character with the big ears appears. It is all fishy and she wants time to decide, but her men are watching her and she cannot afford to be conflicted.
She accepts because she doesn't really want any death, except maybe for Pendragon's, and she knows she has magic on her side if anything untoward was to happen.
It is like a liberation to know that her first acts as Regent won't result in the death of thousands. She is satisfied with the deal even if she isn't sure she wants to win all these lands like this. With Morgana hidden in the adjacent tent, she feels like a cheater.
Come morning, she doesn't know why she came any more. She feels like she's betraying Gorlois, using Morgana like this.
Out in the sunshine, seeing the way his men look at Arthur, she knows she won't be able to really rule a land where most people will always be loyal to their true King. She also realises that her husband never deserved to be King as much as Arthur does.
She sees the magic happening when it does and she wishes that Arthur doesn't. She wants now to earn his respect, whatever outcome the battle may have. She wants his respect more than she ever wanted her husband's, even if she feels like she deserves it less now than then.
Arthur is a good warrior, a great King, an honest man. He is the exact opposite of what her husband was. As an enemy, he had more consideration for her than her husband in thirty years of marriage.
It was only a marriage of convenience, after all.
It doesn't make what Arthur did to her husband right, though. But once she's realised that she could have done nothing to prevent her husband's (her King's) death, it's easier to forgive herself. And once she's done that, she can also forgive Arthur too.
Everything eases and when Arthur chooses not to kill her champion she is truly happy for the first time in so many years.
Morgana was wrong and she knows it now. She chose the wrong Pendragon to trust, because she can see a bit of Gorlois in Arthur, even if they share no blood.
And above all, she can see a lot of herself in him, and it gives her hope.