Arthur refused to be part of it.
The man, Thomas Collins, had only been trying to help, saving a little girl from being crushed when the wagon tilted over, but Uther would not forgive even the smallest of magical infractions. Instead, as always, it was head-chopping and feasts and Arthur was heartily sick of it.
So instead of attending the murder of a yet another sorcerer, instead of standing beside his father and watching the never-ending farce, he rode away. Helpless to stop it, helpless to temper his father's sometimes ravings, helpless to help anyone really. At least Morgana argued with Uther, screamed at him each and every time, but Arthur had learned long ago that it only made things worse.
Instead, escaping, ignoring the guards and the mutterings of the court, ignoring his surroundings – he'd almost run down a scruffy, dark-haired peasant on the road – riding as fast and as far as he could, still Arthur couldn't ride away from his own failings.
If he were less of a coward, he'd stand up to Uther, as Morgana had, as Morgana would again the next time it happened. If he were less of a coward, he'd protect his people from his father's excesses.
But nothing seemed to work and it only made Arthur so frustrated that he wanted to throttle something or someone.
So, thwarted at every turn, he was going to try a new tactic. Pretence.
He'd appear to agree with his father, to hide behind cruelty, to pretend that Camelot's prince was as hard as Camelot's king. It would be difficult and dangerous - and lonely, too. He certainly couldn't tell Morgana and the others of the court were really just toadies.
It was the only way to go behind his father's back and not get caught. To help his people any way he could.
And he thought of the perfect way to start.
In the morning, he'd use his manservant as target practice in front of the entire court. Arthur knew he was a good-enough marksman that Morris was in no danger, and yet to most, it would look as if he was deliberately trying to hurt him. The change would be noticed, commented on. He'd be the faultless son to his father. A bully, a prat. A tyrant for all to see and no one would be the wiser.
That way, no one would believe that he was the one helping the innocent to escape.
After all, what could possibly go wrong?