Summary: Once upon a time Hunith was a maidservant for a very prominent noble family.
Word Count: 1452
Author's Notes: val_creative , I hope I’ve done your prompt justice. I have to admit your prompt threw me a bit as I was expecting to write something Arthur or Merlin centric but I’ve enjoyed exploring two characters I don’t normally write about.
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
“Noble people are fat, lazy and stinky.”
“What?” Hunith stared in surprise as her six-year-old son blurted out quickly that that was what ‘Will said’ and she found herself not for the first time wishing her son had found a more level-headed best friend.
“Is it true?” Merlin asked, scrunching up his face as he thought about it.
“No dear, it isn’t. And you shouldn’t believe everything Will tells you either.”
“Are you sure?”
“How do you know?”
“Well, “ Hunith sat down next to Merlin, “because before you came along, I used to work for a noble family. And while some of them were fat or lazy and one had almost certainly not bathed in years, one of them was my friend.”
Merlin sat back up, pushing Hunith’s arm aside so he could lean against her side just like he always did for story time. Hunith sighed, deciding that just this once, bedtime could wait and wrapped her arm around him, giving his arm a rub.
“What was her name?” Merlin asked.
“Her name was Ygraine.”
“Not there you stupid child!” Cried Milicent. She was the maid of the lady of the manor and had taken Hunith under her wing to teach her how to serve properly. Hunith had been initially grateful until she realised Milicent’s way of teaching was to criticise everything she did. Apparently she believed it was better to learn from mistakes than to be taught how to do things in the first place.
“It needs to go by the fireplace not there, it’s useless there.”
With a sigh, Hunith lifted the heavy sack of vegetables and moved it the few feet Milicent had indicated. Her employers, the De Bois family, were not much better. Everything she did was too slow, too quick, too noisy, too clumsy. Nothing she had done so far had pleased anyone.
She thought of home, of the open fields of Ealdor where everyone pitched in together and helped each other.
“—and stop daydreaming, or you’ll be late taking that up.”
Milicent nodded to a tray loaded with drinks and food. Hunith had no idea what to do with it.
“Who is this for?”
“Take that up to the lady Ygraine.”
Hunith hadn’t met Ygraine, the De Bois’s daughter, yet. Great, one more person to insult me today.
“I have your refreshments my lady,” Hunith wasn’t sure if she had been told to curtsey or bow when addressing a noble but with the tray in her hands she settled for a respectful nod.
“Thank you. Set it down on the table over there.” Ygraine was brushing her long blonde hair with her back to Hunith but even from behind Hunith could tell she was beautiful. Quite unlike her younger brother who loved to duel but loathed taking the time for personal hygiene and could often be smelt before he was seen.
She was using a small hand mirror and Hunith accidently caught her eyes in the reflection; Hunith looked away quickly.
“You’re the new maid.” Ygraine exclaimed putting down her hairbrush and turning around.
“Yes, my lady.”
“What’s your name?”
“Hunith, my lady.”
“It’s good to meet you Hunith, and please call me Ygraine. You only need to call me my lady in front of my father. How are you finding it here?”
Several answers flew through her mind, most of which would see her reprimanded at best. Hunith didn’t want to lie though.
“Everyone has been helpful, I’m learning lots.”
Ygraine stared at her for several moments and Hunith started to wonder if what she had said was wrong when Ygraine spoke again.
“But you’re missing home and Milicent is being hard on you. Not to mention the exacting standards of mother and father.” Hunith made to interrupt, they weren’t that bad. “I know what they’re like Hunith, you don’t need to defend them.”
She paused and then picked up her brush again. “Come here, I need a hand with my hair. I’ll send word to Milicent she can spare you for the afternoon.”
Hunith smiled. She was supposed to be learning how to properly muck out the stables this afternoon, a lesson she would gladly miss.
The conversation was awkward at first, Hunith was all too well aware of the differences between them. But soon it became more relaxed and more often than not interspersed with giggles and laughter.
It wasn’t long before Hunith found herself being reassigned to the Lady Ygraine and work suddenly felt a lot like spending time with a friend rather than a miserable chore.
After the solstice, Ygraine went away for two weeks. She was travelling with her mother and father to meet the new King of Camelot. Lord De Bois wanted to curry favour with him and ensure he would be looked upon favourably.
Ygraine had confided in Hunith that she was not looking forward to the trip, she claimed politics gave her headaches and there was too much backstabbing and pretence to truly relax and enjoy herself.
So Hunith had been expecting a tired and stressed mistress when she returned and had gathered some calming herbs and tied them in a garland for a soothing bath. What she actually got was a mistress who danced around the room, hanging off the bedposts as she regaled her servant with tales of a tall, dark and handsome King.
“I did not want to like him. My mind was made up before I even set eyes on him. Oh, but Hunith, he is such a gentleman, not to mention a fine warrior and Camelot! Oh, Camelot. The most beautiful city you could imagine.”
Ygraine smiled, and Hunith could see the memories of her time spent with Uther dance across her face. One day she hoped to meet someone who would light up her face like that.
“Do you love him?” Hunith asked boldly.
Ygraines eyes darted around the room as if looking for eavesdroppers before she whispered, “I think I could, I really do.”
Soon the household was in carefully orchestrated chaos. There was so much to do and the wedding wasn’t even going to be held at the manor. Hunith’s chores now involved helping with dress fittings and accommodating all the various guests and visitors that now showed up on a near daily basis.
Ygraine’s dress was possibly the most beautiful thing Hunith had ever seen and she loved seeing it come together. It was made of fine fabric that was as white as snow and had delicate, intricate embroidery that shimmered in the light. Hunith was mesmerised by the skill of the seamstress. It didn’t go unnoticed and two days before Ygraine was set to leave for Camelot, Ygraine surprised Hunith one final time.
“Put it on.”
“My dress. The dress.”
“Oh no, I can’t my lady.”
“Of course you can. We’re roughly the same height and build; you’ll do it no harm. Besides, I want to see it on someone, see how it moves.”
Hunith cautiously approached the dress where it hung in front of the armoire and gently felt the material. It was so soft and fluid-like over her fingers and before she had given it any further thought she was down to her undergarments with Ygraine helping her into the gown. When she had it on Ygraine stepped back and Hunith swirled around. The dress skimmed across the floor and swished around her ankles.
“How does it look?” She asked.
“You look incredible.”
“Yes, one day you’ll find your own King, Hunith, and he will be a very lucky man.”
“He doesn’t have to be a King, I’ll settle for a Lord!”
Hunith stopped and glanced down at her son. Merlin had fallen asleep. Smiling fondly, she gently picked him up and without waking him tucked him into his bedding.
“Sleep well, my boy.”
Hunith was glad he hadn’t managed to stay awake. Merlin didn’t need to hear the end of this tale.
Ygraine promised to stay in touch and write to Hunith but she only received two letters before she was called away from the De Bois household. Her mother was gravely sick and needed tending to so with a heavy heart at leaving behind the place she had started to call home, Hunith went back to Ealdor.
She never returned.
Later, news reached Ealdor that Queen Ygraine had died in childbirth and Hunith wept for the loss of her friend. There was much speculation about the Queen’s death but King Uther’s rage against magic did not mean much to her. Not then. Not until she herself fell in love with a tall, dark stranger.
But that is the start of a different story.
Canon AU- in her youth, Hunith had been a maidservant for a very prominent noble family. All members of the Du Bois family had treated her like nothing, all except the lovely daughter Ygraine.