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.”