Author's Note: So, you guys somewhat like the update. And someone said they were interested in deleted scenes, so here this is, to tide you over a bit.

Chapter IX: originally planned opening - removed because it wasn't plot relevant and I wanted to change the date of the disaster. It is set directly after Guinevere and Ector leave the smithy with Marianne, a few hours past the end of the previous chapter chapter.

Last week of July, 527

New shod hooves strike discordant rings, a clatter of iron on stone, as they proceed up to the castle. Smith Farran was as good as his word: the two hours in the market passed quickly, and when they returned, Marianne was fully shod and confident on her feet.

Ector's gelding cannot report nearly as good behavior, having attempted to steal the smith's leather skullcap for a snack when Farran was securing Marianne at the outside post once more.

Money quickly exchanged for final payment, steeds and riders hasten at a fast walk toward the castle. If they're quick, Sir Ector reasoned, they may find a luncheon that is still hot.

Guinevere suspects her foster father in law has another reason in mind – one that involves getting far enough away from the smithy so that he can honestly express his feelings about the tradesman without giving himself a chance to punch the man who's annoyed him so.

Ector mutters under his breath at the smith's lack of manners as he rides a few paces behind the queen, the perfect distance that propriety demands without sacrificing his ability to engage a threat if necessary. While no words are audible, Queen Guinevere knows that tone all too well. It's the same tone of her brother-in-law when he's grumbling over taxes - and not the contented grumbling that he makes when there is truly nothing too worrisome to fret over, either.

She can guess what he's saying, though. Disrespect to the King, to the Queen, to the Seneschal - and how long has this been going on, and why has the man not been reprimanded, don't they worry that others will take this as license to speak ill of the king…

Like father, like son, it seems. Even if they worry over different topics.

Ector's mutters have only grown as she failed to reprimand Farran herself, or indicate for him to do so.

The fact that she would have done so if this had been any other man had occurred to her more than once during the visit, but every time she thought to reprimand him, the words stuck in her throat. To make such a choice, to even contemplate it… the thought tastes of pettiness.

While Farran leaves off proper forms of address too often, even for one not educated in formalities, his blunt manner is more a conveyance of sincerity than rudeness. That is a personal trait, not a matter of his class as a tradesman; the two hours she spent in the marketplace were more than sufficient to remind her that flattery is an art that is not limited to fawning courtiers and gallant knights. Any peddler with a bit of fruit or jewelry was ready to use their own beards to clean the cobbles ahead of her, if she would but buy a single item of their wares, or even praise it aloud. Farran spoke directly to her, met her eyes without looking down his nose – a notable feat, given their disparity in height and in gender.

To be spoken to in such a way, not quite as equals, but close enough to it… what should she call him? Courteous is inaccurate for a man who uses the barest number of courtesies. Professional is incorrect: his own opinions and gripes were as openly spoken to the air and her ear as business and payment matters – never repeating himself, but curtly mentioning each topic without extended explanation. Only at the beginning, though, did he bring in his own personal matters; business was all the speech after he confirmed the circumstances of the mount.

It rather reminds Guinevere of her father, now that she has the space to think on it. Leodegrance has a similar innate refusal to be awed by titles and deeds and abilities. The strength to question Arthur Pendragon, High King of Britain, on his intentions and interest in Guinevere as more than a political pawn; the skeptical intolerance of Merlin's deviant behavior and lack of manners, public disapproval that refused to be baited and shamed any companion of Merlin's out of learning from the Magus' example. The upright honesty and sincerity that led Uther Pendragon to trust Leodegrance with the Round Table on behalf of the Pendragon's successor, without fear of usurping the claim.

It is not disrespect, that sincerity – merely a refusal to be awed, a refusal to be impressed with a gust of words that imply much and give nothing away at all. Some take it as rudeness that they cannot overpower that sincerity, but allies rely on her father for his cool brains and inherent duty.

Like her father, Farran intends neither disrespect nor flattery, though people might read such into his words. His is not the air of a man who presumes himself to be liked by everyone, regardless of the length and form of their acquaintance, but an air that suggests that the greatest form of disrespect he knows is to waste time unnecessarily, and that all phrases of formality, repeated to the point of meaninglessness, are held as time-wasting in his mind. The curtness of service and refusal to promise anything beyond his skill is a respect all its own. And his arguments are easily remembered and difficult to disprove; she'll have to remember that bit about the respective sizes of a single forge and an entire kingdom the next time she argues with Arturia about learning to delegate. Maybe it will even work.

Would that all courtiers had to spend as little time on manners and rituals of rank and respect as that smith! We'd all save time, get more work done, and likely come out of it with better tempers at close of day!

In Farran's mind, it seems that flattery in words is time-wasting; flattery in gesture appears to be reserved for the horse. Farran wasted no moment of their conversation, bombarding her with questions that might affect the shoeing, haggling for a price, letting her know what she could and could not expect – and at the same time, allowing Marianne to become used to his touch, trusting him. Though he did not linger on his anger at forcing Marianne to walk a significant distance past the closest blacksmith to a farrier that neither horse nor rider were personally familiar with, nor did he mask his disapproval of it. In fact, one of his final recommendations was that, if a shoe came off at the castle again, that they make use of the closer smith rather than force the steed to walk three-footed.

A man who recommends a course of action for the animal's comfort, rather than the comfort of his own purse… It is a credit to Farran's character.

Perhaps, an explanation of his manners as well? Guinevere considers her own spouse's comfort with horses as opposed to other people. If King Arthur had found another man who found small talk unfathomable, combined with Farran's mastery of smithing, their interactions might found a sense of kinship. Certainly the stark honesty would be a welcome change of diet when contrasted with over-sugared courtesies that seek only to flatter and never to criticize. Even when criticism is truly needed.

What a pity that no position exists in the court that promotes such honesty. Were there an office that might freely and publicly criticize anyone with honesty and truth, so long as that was its only power, it would be an excellent way to give harsh truths to the king when no one else dared. If no one could silence that person, unless the king dismissed the man from office, that would be protection enough. But it would also be one more person the King could rely on outside his Queen, further limiting her duties to the creation of new heirs and running the royal household, and the latter is something she must already do through intermediaries.

Something for the future, then. In the meantime, Guinevere needs must discover her own offense and make amends for it, which means she must get her husband to talk to her. For more reasons than one.

It's been long enough since the wedding that she should have bled, but close enough that her cycle may be late. They haven't slept together since that first night. Guinevere would prefer enough of a working relationship with her friend to co-parent as they planned, or to be able to bring up the topic of repeating the spell should it not have worked the first time. For either conversation, she needs her husband to stay in one place without fleeing for more than three minutes.

I married you, willing to accept all the blame for barrenness, so that you could save the country. I agreed with a few minutes notice to let a spell be cast on both of us, and become your wife in truth, for a chance to escape that blame. Why can't you look at me? What have I done that you treat me so?

Straightening her spine, Guinevere rides through the castle gate, Ector behind her.

*here I intended to have those first survivors come in, shortly after she'd come back and tried to have a conversation with her husband, and Gwen to try and give orders for their comfort and for the disaster they'd come from, only for Arthur to countermand those orders because there was no point.*

Why are you staring at me like I'm speaking gibberish? I know a queen's duty. Why aren't you supporting me in supporting you?

Already, King Arthur is shaking his head. His voice is slow, picking over words like footsteps between patches of quicksand, halfway expecting the visibly solid ground to give way beneath his feet.

"My lady… I'm afraid there's no one to send those supplies to. The village is wiped out. The last two survivors are already elsewhere."