Tintagel Part 14 – An Heir is Born

In the last episode everyone got married.  Now Ygerne breaks the news of her pregnancy to Uther…

It was the morning after the wedding.  Ygerne sat by the window of the throne room, sewing, while Uther conferred with Merlin nearby.

Uther descended from his throne to take a turn about the room, easing the stiffness from his knees.  Ygerne seized her moment, “My lord?”

“Yes, my love,” the king smiled at her.

“May I have a word with you in private?”

“Of course.” With a low voice he dismissed Merlin.  “Now what may I do for you?”

“Nothing,” said Ygerne mechanically. “I just wanted to tell you that I’m pregnant.”

Uther’s face lit up, “Ygerne, that is wonderful news!”

Ygerne managed a feeble smile, “Yes, indeed, my lord.”

“I am to have a son and heir!  I love you, Ygerne!” He bent and kissed her on the mouth.  Ygerne returned the caress as well as she was able.

“Congratulations, my king and queen.”  A smooth voice made them break apart.  “I foresaw this joy for you.”

“Merlin!” the king cried. “Of course you did.”

Ygerne looked upon the magician with bitter dislike.  She could not stand the weasel cunning of the man, especially as he had helped to deceive her.

“But I have some bad news,” he continued.  “My king and queen, you will not like what I am about to say, but I have foreseen the future.”

The king’s face went still. “Well, go on.”

“You are indeed to give birth to a son, my queen, who will come to reign and be one of the most glorious kings England will ever have.  But…I must break it to you, King Uther, that you do not have many years left.  If you keep the boy with you, there will be much strife and bloodshed over the succession, years of civil war due to his youth.  He may even be assassinated.  If you will give the child to me, soon after his birth, and tell no-one he is your son, I swear before God, and by the good of this land, that I will keep him safe from enemies, and see that he has the training fit for a king.  I will make sure he comes to the succession at the proper time, and I will be with him as he rules.”

Ygerne hung her head in numb horror.  The words of the king and his magician came from very far away.

“And this is what you believe, Merlin?”

“This is what I have foreseen as the most likely future.”

“Then I agree, Merlin.  You are my most faithful advisor and I trust you.”

Spots danced before Ygerne’s eyes.  Without even asking her they were giving away her baby?

“My lord,” she managed in a high, tinny voice. “You would take my child from me the moment it is born?”

“I am sorry, Ygerne, but you heard Merlin.  It is best, for his own safety and for the good of this land,” said Uther.

“You may visit him, my queen,” surprisingly Merlin intervened, “and I will see to it that you are kept informed of his progress.  But no-one must know of his existence.  This is imperative.”

“Not even your daughters, wife,” the king echoed. He and Merlin left the room together, speaking in low voices.

Tears blurred Ygerne’s sight and she threw down her sewing.  Was it really for the good of her son – if it really was a boy – to bar him from his true family?  She had no faith in Merlin’s supposed gift of prophecy.

Until her pregnancy showed, Ygerne occupied herself with visiting her daughters; helping Elaine adjust to her new role as queen and mistress of a large household.  Elaine was incredibly quiet, but she had a new dignity and courage about her.  They shared their joy over another baby, for Morgawse was pregnant as well, and then prayed for one for Elaine.

A few months later she was only able to hold her baby boy, Arthur, for a week before Merlin took him away by night, to the house of one of Uther’s knights, a very respectable man named Sir Ector.

Ygerne strained her eyes after the hooded and cloaked magician as he rode away, catching the last glimpse of her son.  One day, she vowed, one day after Uther is dead, they will not keep my son from me.  He will meet his real family. He will know who his mother is.

Tintagel Part 13 – The Weddings

Last week Morgawse and Lot made a plan to get the king’s consent.  Will they make it to the altar?

The weddings took place two months later.  Lot had come down from Scotland, making it in record time of only a week, during which time Morgawse watched Uther in desperation in case he picked too quickly.  Lot and Morgawse had both pretended to be delighted to see each other, and then no more acting was necessary, as all they had to do was to be together as much as possible.  After a few days, Lot and Morgawse presented themselves before the king and asked permission to marry.

Uther was in a good mood that day. “Well, so you fancy each other, do you?”

“Yes, if you please, sire.” Lot spoke boldly.

“Well, these days are days of rejoicing,” he glanced up at Ygerne, standing patiently beside him.

He agreed to the marriage, on condition that Lot’s parents also agreed.  Knowing this to be no problem, Lot and Morgawse beamed at each other.

After official consent had been got, they prepared for their wedding, in a rush of new clothes and marriage settlements.

“I must admit, I am a little nervous,” Morgawse confided. “This is very permanent.”

“As am I,” Lot whispered back, “but we chose each other, and that is what we have to hold on to.”

A more honest couple it would have been hard to find.  Certainly not Elaine and her betrothed, King Nentres of Britanny, a man in his late twenties.  In the days leading up to the weddings Morgawse observed them.  They talked a little, and he appeared to be kind, but that was all she could see.  Poor Elaine was being expected to grow up overnight and there was not much anyone could do about it.

Things were a little better for Morgan.  After making secret enquiries of Morgan’s old teacher, (for everyone on the network of magic knew each other), Ygerne had found a noblewoman in Devon who was willing to take Morgan to live with her, and keep teaching her magic.  Ygerne presented the idea of this woman to Uther, and won his consent.  Morgan was to leave as soon as the weddings were complete.

In late summer sunshine, Ygerne stood on the steps of Winchester Cathedral by the side of the king, making her vows, after having watched her daughters make theirs.  She had done her best for them, but she wished it could have been more.  At least Morgawse was happy.  It was Elaine who would need her now, but hopefully, love would grow.  Looking at Morgawse and Lot, it was likely to start off well, and go downhill, but hopefully their good friendship would carry them through.

Ygerne placed a fleeting hand on her stomach.  It was not easy to hide her sickness every morning, but she seemed to have managed so far.  She would tell Uther after the wedding.

“I’m pregnant,” she told her amazed mind once again.  “I thought I was through with having kids.”

Tintagel Part 12 – Planning

Last week Morgawse and Lot became engaged.  But how will they win over King Uther…

They looked at each other, giddy and fearful smiles growing.

Lot flashed a playful glance at her. “May I kiss you again.”

The memory of their first kiss jumped out vividly.  She nodded and without another word Lot led her into a corner of the hall.

“Ahem,” loud coughing brought them back to reality.  Blushing, Morgawse dragged herself out of Lot’s embrace to meet the mocking eyes of the king and queen.  “So is all arranged, then?” the king asked.

Lot took her hand and led her forwards. “Yes, we are to marry.”

“Excellent,” said the king.  “Now all we need to do is make sure King Uther picks you, Lot.”

“Oh yes,” Morgawse cried. “I forgot about that.  How could we manage it, Lot?”

“Well, we are friends with him, aren’t we?” Lot asked doubtfully.

“Yes, officially.”

“Well then, all we can do is send a letter, surely, father.”

“Wait, I have an idea coming,” cried the queen. “What if we were to send Lot down on an official visit, husband?”

King Cynfarch nodded, slowly smiling. “And he just happens to see Morgawse there, at the court…”

“And most romantically falls in love with me.” Morgawse’s eyes lit up. “That is a very good idea, Your Majesty.”

After some more discussion they determined that Morgawse would return with Morgan, and then Lot would set out for Camelot early the next morning.

Nothing remained now but to wait until Morgan woke up.  Lot and Morgawse withdrew slightly, talking in hushed whispers about the future, confiding their hopes and fears.   It was about an hour later when Morgan came up to them, rubbing her eyes. “Well, Morgawse, did you achieve your quest?”  Her eyes fell on their clasped hands and she smirked. “I see you did.”

They bade farewell to the king and queen and were soon standing outside the palace with Prince Lot.  He kissed Morgawse one last time. “I will see you soon, sweetheart, I promise.”

Morgawse nodded, and they locked eyes until they were whisked away from his sight.

Morgan had aimed slightly better on their return trip, and they found themselves in the courtyard of Camelot.  Exhausted, they stumbled to their apartments.

In their sitting room they were confronted by the sight of Ygerne, asleep in an armchair, with a book open on her lap.  Morgawse felt a great rush of love for her mother.  She turned to Morgan, who was once again swaying on her feet.

“You go to bed.  I’ll wake mother and tell her what happened.  And,” she gathered her sister’s hands in her own, “thank you a thousand times for what you did for me tonight.”

Morgan nodded and went blindly through the archway that led to the bedchambers.  Morgawse shook her mother’s arm. “Mother, we’re back.”

Her eyes flew open. “Morgawse?  Is it you?”

“Yes, mother.”

Ygerne breathed a sigh of relief. “Thank goodness, I was beginning to worry.  Has Morgan gone to bed?”

“Yes, she has.  And mother, we were successful.  Now, if we can persuade King Uther to agree, I am betrothed to Prince Lot.”

Ygerne immediately threw her arms round Morgawse. “Well done.  Congratulations.  One of you at least has a chance.”

Morgawse hugged her back, joy beginning to flow from her at last.

Tintagel Part 11 – An Agreement Made

Last week Morgawse won the consent of the king.  Now she must get Lot’s agreement…

“How are you, Prince Lot?” she managed.

He raised his eyebrows. “I am well, Lady Morgawse.  And you?”

“Well, thank you.”

“May I offer my condolences on the death of your father.”

“I thank you, Prince.”

The two young people stared at each other.  “Well, it is lovely to see you again,” Lot broke the silence, smiling.

A flame of hope danced across Morgawse’s face. “It is lovely to see you, as well.”

“Why are you here, Morgawse?  If I may ask?”

“Of course you may ask.  Thank you for making this easier, Prince.”

His mouth twisted. “Well, I’m extremely curious.  To make such a long journey, almost on your own, even if you didn’t come the ordinary way…you must be pretty desperate about something.”

“I am.” She turned to look Lot full in the eyes. “Lot, I must ask you to be honest with me.”

“I will,” he said, surprised at her serious tone.

Morgawse clasped her hands tightly together. “Lot, last summer, we discovered feelings for each other, did we not?  At least, it was that way with me.”

Lot hastened to reassure her. “And with me, Morgawse.”

She flashed an uncertain glance up at him. “Well, I still hold those same feelings for you.  What about you?”

“As far as I can tell, Morgawse.  My feelings for you had gone a little dormant, but I have them even more now I am seeing you again.”  He smiled at her. “Such a rush I got when you came in through the door.”

Morgawse drew a sigh of relief. “You speak the truth, Lot, you still care for me?”

“I think I do.”

“Well, then,” the words came out in a rush now. “You heard my story, I am pretty desperate.  Uther is planning a marriage to goodness knows who.  So my errand in Lothian – entirely my own idea –  is to see if you still care for me, and to see if you would be willing – really, only if you want to – to marry me.  I’m trying to fight for a good life for myself, but only if you want it too.”

Morgawse stared at him desperately, her heart in her throat.  Prince Lot looked at the ground, frowning.  Presently he raised his head. “Morgawse, I do think we became very good friends, and I do like you a lot, but I’m not sure I would call what I feel for you love.  It doesn’t seem like the overwhelming emotion one associates with that word.  Do you want to risk a marriage without that?”

Was he going to refuse?  “It’s alright, Prince, I don’t think I would call my feelings love, either.  But for me, it’s either this, or a marriage to someone I don’t know.  Of course, you might get other chances.”

“I don’t think I will, Morgawse,” said Lot. “My parents have started to look for a wife for me.  Are you sure you want to marry me?”

Surprised, Morgawse sat back.  She was supposed to be the one asking questions!  “If my father was not dead, I would not have rushed up here.  But, to be honest, I wouldn’t have got much of a choice anyway.  In view of that, I would probably have chosen you.”

“You have been very honest, Morgawse, and in my turn, I was willing to go along with whoever my parents picked out for me, because it did not seem to me that we “love” each other in the commonly understood way.  But you are right, this seems like the best thing.”

“Only if you want to, Prince.”

He looked at her long.  Morgawse felt her cheeks go hot under his gaze. “I’m not sure that a have a great overwhelming desire to marry you, Morgawse.”

“Nor I,” she smiled.  They were on the same page at least.

“But I am very willing.  We are lucky indeed to get any sort of choice.  I choose you, Morgawse and we will make the rest come.”  He held out his hand.

“Under the circumstances, I am very willing,” she echoed, giddy with relief.

“Exactly.”

“I choose you, Lot.” She laid her hand in his.

Tintagel Part 10 – Audience with the King

Last week Morgawse and Morgan arrived at the court of Lothian…

The king nodded curtly and rising, led the way into a small anteroom.  “Well, my lady, you may speak,” he said, lighting a couple of torches which illuminated some low chairs. “Sit.”

Morgawse swallowed, “Sire, you might think me rude, but I see no other way to put this than to be blunt.  When you came to visit us last summer, Prince Lot and I fell for each other.  I assume this much is known to you.”

The king nodded slyly, “Yes, indeed, it was quite obvious.”

Morgawse felt herself turning annoyingly red.  “Anyway,” she continued, “I still hold your son in remembrance.  King Uther means to marry me and Elaine for political advantage when he marries Mother, which he won’t delay in.  So, Your Majesty, would you welcome an alliance with the south?”  She held her chin up and looked Cynfarch right in the eyes.

The king’s eyebrows rose, “Well, Morgawse, you are a brave and bold woman.”

His expression was ambiguous.  “My lord,” she returned, “none of my family have been asked what we want; we are just more pawns to Uther, with no wishes of our own.  I see no reason why I can’t fight for the best life I can get under the circumstances – if you are agreeable, of course.”

“Morgawse, you have my respect,” he assured her. “Not many girls would have the grit to do what you have done.  As to my son’s marriage, I was beginning to think of it.  And you are right, it would be a useful alliance.  I give my consent, on the condition my son agrees.  Since you have taken your wishes into account, where others have not, I assume you would want to consult his own.”

A sigh escaped from Morgawse.  Half the task was complete. “Yes, of course, Your Majesty. Thank you.”

King Cynfarch gave a rare smile. “You are welcome, Morgawse.  Now come and rest.  Speak to my son.  How long do you think your sister will be asleep for?”

She followed him back to the hall.  “I don’t know exactly.  A few hours, at least.  One thing is certain, she won’t wake up till she is ready, and nobody will be able to wake her.”

Now Morgawse could pour all of her attention onto Prince Lot, as she had been too afraid to do before.  As she approached the table, he stood up and pulled her chair out for her, holding her gaze, intensely curious.  She let herself drink him in.  He was more handsome than she remembered.

A pulse fluttered in her throat.  Time for the second part of her quest.

Tintagel Part 9 – The Court of Lothian

Last week, Morgawse and Morgan found their way through the dark Scottish countryside to the capital of Lothian…

Once the porter had let them in, Morgawse pushed open the door of the hall and entered, followed by a sleepy Morgan.

Morgawse was immediately dazzled by the bright light, from the central fire that blazed invitingly from the middle of the room and the myriad of lamps that hung from every beam. All around her there was clamour and laughter.

At first, they went unnoticed in the crowd, but as the girls approached the dais, one by one the hall began to fall quiet until there was not a sound but Morgawse’s hesitant footsteps. From the high table King Cynfarch and his queen, Adwenna, gasped in shock. Morgawse’s heart began to pound. She threw only one quick glance at Prince Lot, who was staring at her with mingled surprise and expectation.

I must focus on the king, she thought. If he won’t take my side then there is no point.

She stood before the dais and curtseyed. “Your Majesties, Heaven’s blessings on you.” Her voice sounded small and tinny in the lofty reaches of the hall.

“And on you, Lady Morgawse.” King Cynfarch found his voice at last, “Come, sit with us and tell us your business.”

Five minutes later, the girls had been given food and wine and the feast had resumed. Morgan gulped down her meat in a flash and curled up in a corner, dead to the world, leaving Morgawse sitting with the king and queen. And Prince Lot. She had not ventured to look at him again, but she could feel his gaze, like an eagle’s trained eyes.

“My child, I hope all is well with you,” Queen Adwenna broke the silence. “How did you come, and for what purpose? We have heard of nothing untoward in the south. We have not heard of your journey towards us.”

“Peace, Adwenna, let her speak,” Cynfarch gently interrupted.

“The queen is good enough to remember me with kindness,” Morgawse said hesitantly, “I hope the king extends the same favour?”

“Of course, you are the daughter of a good friend,” the king nodded.

They watched her, waiting for her to speak.

“Morgan brought us here,” she confided. “That is why she is exhausted. The mental powers such a journey uses are taxing for a girl of her age.”

The king and queen’s eyes widened as they understood but made no comment. Morgawse hesitantly began, “Perhaps you have not heard – my father was killed in battle less than a week ago.”

The eyes of her audience widened. “No, we had not heard,” Cynfarch breathed. “How?”

“I will get to that.” She bowed her head, swallowing the tears that threatened to overcome her. A hand touched her arm from beside her. She flashed a glance at Lot, who looked back at her with concern.

“So Mother and Father paid a state visit to court, as they wrote to you. They came back early. Something had gone wrong. We were not told what, but Father went to Dimiloc, Mother came to us at Tintagel, and we prepared for war. King Uther went to lay siege to Dimiloc. A few days later, Father managed to slip away by night and pay a swift visit to Mother, but he died immediately upon returning.” She paused and took a bracing sip of wine. “Mother did not seem well after that, but she had recovered by the time Uther arrived two days later and announced he was taking us all to court. Tintagel had barely disappeared behind us, when he asked Mother to marry him.”

“When we got to the court, he asked to meet us girls, and immediately began to plan what use we could be to him.”

The air among them fell silent as each contemplated the story, the king and queen with compassion and horror, Morgawse with sadness and confusion, and Lot with impatient curiosity.

Morgawse shook herself. There would be time enough to explore her dark thoughts later.  She knew it hadn’t been her father who had paid that hurried visit, but there was no need to tell the king that.

“That is why I am here,” she continued. “King Uther knows nothing of this; I slipped out of my own accord. King Cynfarch, all of us are caught in a web, and there is only one spider. All we can do is the best we can with the time given to us.”

King’s Cynfarch’s eyebrows twitched together sharply, “I may be beginning to understand you. But you will have to confirm what I am thinking.”

Morgawse nodded, heart thumping, “May I speak a word in your ear, sire.”

Tintagel Part 8 – Scotland

Last week Morgawse and Morgan constructed a daring plan to go to Lothian and see Prince Lot…

They stumbled to the ground in the middle of a field. Panting and winded, they lay there for a few moments, then Morgan got up and offered Morgawse her hand. The sun had not long set, leaving the sky vividly painted in vibrant reds, oranges, and blues.

“Thanks,” Morgawse stood up. “So, where are we?”

“Well, the air is colder, so we’re obviously further north.”

“True, and I remember Lot told me his father’s capital was near the sea. It’s on a hill called Traprain Law.” She sniffed, “I can definitely smell the sea. Let’s find some respectable passers-by and enquire the way.”

The girls ran over to the gate and clambered over it. They stood on the darkening road a moment, scanning the horizon.

“That looks like the tallest hill around,” Morgawse pointed, “And there are lights on it. Let’s make for that.”

They set off quickly along the road.  In the near distance, a couple of fires burned, and as they got closer they slowed down, creeping in the shadows. The buzz of voices in an unfamiliar tongue faded in and out with the breeze.

“What language is that?” Morgan crouched down as they were getting close.

“I’m not sure, but I think it might be Cumbric,” Morgawse whispered.

They were on the outskirts of a small village. All around, the bulks of squat, single-storey cottages were indistinct through the gathering dusk. The lowing of cattle came from one side of them, and with it the acrid smell of manure.

The voices came from a large fire in the center of the village. Morgawse swallowed down her fear, and boldly went up to them alone, leaving Morgan half hidden behind the corner of a house to magic them out of danger if they attacked her.

“Excuse me, good people.” The unfamiliar language came haltingly to Morgawse’s tongue. The group of men and women turned as one to stare at her. “Can you tell me if that,” she pointed to the hill, “is the…” she searched for the word, ‘capital’ but it would not come, “is the…hall of King Cynfarch?”

They did not answer her at first, because they were all still staring. Despite an inner tremor of fear, Morgawse stood her ground.

“It is,” one of the women said, finally. “But where are you from?”

“The south,” Morgawse replied, “I have urgent business with the royal family. Thank you.” She turned to go but the questions continued.

“You are a noblewoman. You must have companions somewhere. And a horse. Unless you are a sorceress!” A ripple of fear ran through the little crowd, and another woman stood up threateningly.

 

Morgawse’s heart thumped hard, yet she held her chin up and spoke politely, “I am not a sorceress. Thank you.” She ran into the darkness. Morgan joined her and they stumbled on until the fires of the village faded into the distance. They halted, panting.

“Is that the capital?” Morgan asked once she could speak.

“Yes, it is.” Morgawse replied. “It’s still a long way off. Please, do you think you could make a horse or something? I’m getting tired.”

“I just teleported you to Lothian. Don’t be ungrateful!” Morgan snapped.

An hour later, in full darkness, they stood outside the gate of the palace. Judging from the bright light streaming from the hall, and the laughter, feasting was underway inside. Morgawse and Morgan marched up to the gates.

“Open for Lady Morgawse and Lady Morgan of Cornwall.” As they had agreed, Morgawse took the high line.

It worked. The guards opened the gate, too stunned to think. Before they recovered, the girls darted inside and were lost to sight.

They stood outside the great door, collecting themselves. “You have about an hour before we can go back.” Morgan whispered, “Are you nervous?”

“I’m just about to ask a boy to marry me!” Morgawse huffed. “Of course I’m nervous!”

“Then let us go in,” said Morgan. Morgawse lifted up her hand and banged loudly on the door.

Tintagel Part 7 – Working in the Shadows

Last week we left Ygerne and her daughters stunned, as Uther cheerfully assigned a future to each one of them…

(The legend gets rather bare at this point, as it skips straight to the weddings, so I have taken the liberty of making the intervening time more interesting.  The action does not return to Tintagel, but it is all part of the same story, so I am still using pictures of that castle.)

Morgawse had always been the mischevious one. Bold and daring, she fought for what she wanted, although tempered by sense and maturity now she was grown up.

That evening, she sat in the room she shared with her sisters and sunk deep into thought, staring into the hearth. The king would marry her off, there was no doubt about that. So she might as well try and get someone she liked, and that there was a chance of a good marriage with.

The King of Lothian had visited the south the previous year, and with him was his son, the crown prince, Lot. He and Morgawse had gotten along very well and had fallen for each other. They had parted, as they knew they must, for each of them had duties, and both knew their feelings had not gone far enough for eternal promises, but Morgawse still held Lot in remembrance.

She smiled now as she remembered the stolen kiss one twilight down in the bay. They could make a marriage between them work out, she was sure. At least he would be a lot better than someone she did not know at all. If only he still liked her.

The door creaked open, “Morgawse? Are you alright?” It was Morgan.

“Yes,” Morgawse turned to smile at her youngest and favourite sister. “I’m just considering who I could marry.”

Morgan came to sit beside her, “You think you can persuade the king to let you choose?”

“Yes and no,” Morgawse replied, “I just think he might welcome an alliance with the kingdom of Lothian.”

Morgan raised her eyebrows, “Oh, I see. Prince Lot.”

Morgawse turned to face her sister, including her fully in her confidences, “I still like him, I just don’t know if he likes me anymore.”

“And you are telling me this because…”

“Can you help me get to him?”

Morgan puffed out air so hard it blew Morgawse’s dress, “That would be hard. I don’t know. Let me get my books.”

Half an hour later the two girls, having told Ygerne they would be gone for a few hours, stood outside on a bare hilltop. Morgawse sat on a stone and shivered while she watched Morgan make preparations.

“All is ready,” finally Morgan called out. Morgawse hurried to join her. “Now I don’t know if this will work, I’ve never done anything like this before.” Morgan warned. “And it will be a couple of hours before we can come back, I’ll need to recover my energy.”

They clutched each other round the waist. Morgan hesitantly stumbled over the words from the book in her hand, and they vanished.

Tintagel Part 6 – Husbands

Last week Ygerne agreed to marry Uther.  Now, he considers the political advantages of Ygerne’s family…

“These are my daughters, Lady Morgawse, Lady Elaine, and Lady Morgan, my liege.” Uther had asked to meet them at once, so Ygerne formally presented them to the king, once they had arrived at court.

“I welcome you to court, girls,” Uther said, acknowledging their curtsies. “I have good news for you. Your mother and I are to be married.” The girls said nothing, looking up at him with sober, empty faces.

“I promise I will do my best to fill your father’s shoes, and take care of you in the way he would have done,” Uther continued. “Well, aren’t you pleased at this joyous news?”

“We wish you and our mother very happy,” Morgawse said at last. “I speak for us all.”

“Excellent.” Uther moved to his throne and sat down. “So, how old are you?  You two eldest seem to be old enough for husbands.”

Morgawse and Elaine exchanged a glance of apprehension, “I am fifteen and my sister is thirteen, Your Majesty,” Morgawse replied.

“Good. There are a couple of kingdoms we could use alliances with. I will seek out some potential bachelors and you can be married on the same day I marry your mother.” He paused, delighted at his plan, looking expectantly at the girls.

“We thank you for taking thought to our lives,” said Morgawse, and she and Elaine curtseyed. Ygerne’s heart sank as she helplessly watched the king dealing out futures to her girls.

“And you, Morgan,” the king turned to where Morgan stood sullenly, hands twisting together. “How old are you?”

“Nine, Your Majesty,” she replied, her voice cold and distant.

“And how do you fill your time at the moment?”

“I study.”

“As you should do,” the king nodded. “Excellent, I will find you a governess.”

Life flashed into Morgan’s face then, one look of pure terror that stabbed Ygerne’s heart. She well remembered the little cottage where the old woman lived on the estate at Tintagel, where Morgan would go everyday to “study.” Morgan was no doubt afraid that she would not be able to pursue magic any more.

“Very well, you are all dismissed,” Uther continued. “Ygerne, I will need you soon.”

“Yes, my lord,” she said woodenly to his disappearing back.

Uther had barely left the room before the girls rushed to her outstretched arms.

Ygerne hugged them to her as they hid their terrified faces, “I’m sorry,” she choked out, “Sorry that your destiny is decided just like that.”

Elaine raised her head, “It’s not your fault, mother. We always knew a marriage was our destiny; that Father would choose for us. It’s just bringing it forward a little.”

“I know,” Ygerne pressed her face in her hands, “Is there anyone you girls prefer? Are you good friends with anyone?”

“No-one, mother,” Elaine said sadly.

“And you, Morgawse? I know you liked the Prince of Orkney a lot when you met him.”

“Yes,” Morgawse remembered, smirking a little.

“Very well, I will see what I can do.”

“Mother, please,” Morgawse begged. “In my opinion, if I cannot fight for love myself, then I don’t deserve it.”

“As you wish,” Ygerne cast a bemused look at her eldest daughter and turned to the others. “Elaine, I will try and influence Uther’s choice of a husband for you. And you, Morgan, I will try and get you educated by someone who understands magic.”

She went to her new quarters to unpack.

Tintagel part 5 – Conquered

Having heard the news of her husband’s death

A few days later Ygerne and the girls awaited Uther by the gate of the castle. He rode in through the gate on his black charger, like an all-conquering knight, a large smile plastered across his face from ear to ear. The women sank to their knees. Elaine slipped her hand into Ygerne’s.

Ygerne watched Uther leap off his horse and stride towards them. She kept her head bowed and eyes downcast.

“Keep calm, keep calm,” she willed herself.

Uther took her hand and raised her, “Ygerne, my heart lifts to see you.”

“My lord,” she murmured.

His smile increased, “I am here to bring you and your daughters to court. How soon can you be ready to leave?”

Court? Leave? Her mind whirled. “In an hour or so, my lord,” she whispered, dazed.

She went back to her room to pack. Was there anywhere she and the girls could run to? Anywhere that the king could not find them?

It was a vain hope. They had all considered where they could go over the past few days, and they had come to the conclusion that any journey they could make would be more dangerous than the court would be. Besides, all Ygerne’s hopes were now fixed on her daughters, to give them the best life she could. To that end, she would be obedient and gentle, even if she could not be cheerful.

They were all ready a few hours later. Uther guided them to where horses from her own stable were saddled and ready for them, and helped her to mount. The girls followed silently and were helped up by grooms.

Not one to beat about the bush, Uther spoke his mind to Ygerne before the castle, now with the royal standard fluttering over it, had sunk beneath the horizon.

“Your husband is dead, Ygerne, I presume you heard.”

“Yes, I did, my lord.” You killed him.

“Very well. You have no protector.” Thanks for reminding me.

“I have loved you since the first moment I saw you, Ygerne. Will you marry me? I will protect you and your daughters.”

“You don’t care whether I give my permission or not, it’s just a formality,” Ygerne hissed under her breath.

What could she say? Uther would keep her with him at the court whether they were bound at the altar or not. If she was his wife and queen she would have respect, at least from the people, and perhaps she could even manage to gain some influence and respect over her husband. The other possibility…she shuddered. It did not bear thinking about. She looked behind to where her daughters rode side by side, closely hemmed about by men-at-arms. If she was his wife, they would be given status and protection. If not…they would probably end up just like their mother.

She looked back at Uther, “I will marry you, my lord.”