I stayed with Devin and his family for several relatively uneventful months. With the exception of a couple of rumors about me and my morality, or lack there of, it was really quite peaceful.
Mordred and I were moved into the chambers that I had occupied before, and we began to feel at home. Mordred got along well with Devin’s children, and I was happy enough.
Kellan stayed with us during those first several months, and she seemed to be happy as well, thought there were several days that she withdrew from the rest of us and locked herself in her room. Devin’s wife, Breeda, explained to me in hushed whispers that those were the days that Kellan mourned the babies that she had lost and her husband’s attentions and affections.
“Cyric doesn’t care for her as he used to,” she told me. “She’s too old to go with him on his adventures easily, and with all of the miscarriages, he thinks that there’s something wrong with her. I suspect that there are times when Kellan, the poor dear, wonders the same thing.”
That reminded me bitterly of my original reasons for hating marriage and the men who had set up this system. It simply didn’t seem fair or right to me as I watched Kellan suffer, but I kept my mouth shut.
Yuletide was fast approaching, as was Christmas. The winter came slowly, causing water to freeze, and the dropping temperatures were making it harder to keep warm. I spent several weeks knitting a couple of pairs of hose, gloves and scarves for Mordred, not wanting him to be cold.
Kellan noticed, and she studied me like I was ill, the one day. My needles were clicking, and I sat as close to the fire as I dared, chilled through myself.
“Do you have your own hose?” she asked, her hands on her hips. “Or your own gloves?”
“I’m sure there’s something in my mother’s trunk,” I said dissmiseively, willing my teeth to not chatter. In truth, there had only been two pars, and the one pair had been almost threadbare, while the other pair was too small for me. “If there isn’t, I’ll make myself a pair when I’m done with these.”
“So you intend to freeze until you’re sure that Mordred is completely warm?” she asked incredulously. “Has it ever occured to you that you’ll catch your death of the cold, and then you’ll be no good to anyone? Go measure yourself, right now.”
“But I have to finish this,” I protested. “It needs to be done soon.”
“Now,” Kellan repeated fiercly, handing me the measuring cord. Meekly I did as she told me, taking the cord and stepping into the lavatory to measure myself. Cold air came in through the disposal hole, and the lingering foul scent came with it. I knew that within several months, Devin would have to send someone to melt or chip the excrement and such from the walls of the hole so that it wouldn’t all build up.
I measured myself and handed the cord back, telling Kellan what it was. She nodded, and picked out a color of wool yarn from her own work basket. We sat together in silence, knitting furiously.
Finally I had finished several pairs of hose for Mordred, and I turned my attention to making him a new tunic. He had grown a fair bit since we had left the abbey, and his old one had seen a bit too much love.
I spent the early winter making clothes for him, while Kellan busied herself with making things for me. She seemed to be more content when she was busy, and her periods of depression lessened. I offered to make the clothing myself, but she shrugged me off, making it clear that she was well aware that she knew that she was less depressed when she was busy.
The week before Christmas, some of the family began to come to Devin’s manor. Cyric and Kellan’s sons were among the first to arrive, closely followed by Cyric himself. Kellan’s elder siblings came from all corners of the country, bringing their children.
The last to arrive were some of the most surprising to me. Gavin rode up with his three children one afternoon. He, unlike the rest, brought no servants, oddly enough.
I stood in the outer ring of the group of relatives that had flocked to greet him, afraid of seeing him again after so much had happened. I can’t do this, I thought, wanting to turn and run. Someone jostled my elbow as the crowd shifted, and I looked up.
There was a gap in the crowd, and I stood with no one blokcing my line of vision. I could see him clearly, and he was looking at me, over someone’s shoulder. I saw him smile and murmur something to the relative, and then he moved closer to me.
“Morgan,” he said, smiling at me widely. “I wasn’t expecting to see you again.” He approached and took my hand, lifting it to his lips.
The warmth of his skin and the slight pressure he put on my hand brought back all of the old emotions like a flood. I fought the urge to blush, despite the fact that everyone was looking at us curiously. I tried a little smile as I met his steady gaze.
“I left the abbey, obviously,” I said. “It is good to see you again.” He smiled warmly, still holding my hand.
“You left the abbey?” he repeated, raising an eyebrow. “Was it for anyone?”
“Actually, yes,” I said. His face fell slightly, and I fought the urge to tell him that I loved him, and wouldn’t betray him like that. “They look down upon the sisters adopting the orphans that come to them for care.”
“You adopted a child?” he said, his face hopeful. I nodded.
“I’m sure you’ll see Mordred at some point,” I said. “And what of you? I hear that you have three children of your own.”
“Yes,” he said, looking around for them. Failing to locate any of them, he shrugged. His gaze was so intense, and I fought the urge to squirm. Guilt began to fill me, that Leslie’s widower was looking at me like that and, worse, that I was enjoying it.
“I wish to offer my condalances on the loss of your wife,” I said, well aware of what was expected of me. “She was a good woman.”
“Thank you,” he said seriously. “Although it’s been a long while since that tragedy occured, it means a lot to me.” Gavin had finally released my hand, and I let it fall back to my side.
“I believe there are others here who wanted to greet you,” I said, studying him. He was just as gorgeous as ever before and maybe morse so now. Back then he had been little more than a boy, and now he was a man. “It would be selfish of me to rob them of that opportunity, don’t you think?”
He laughed, and bowed to me politely. I saw some of the elder cousins nod their approval of how I had handled the situation.
“Indeed, it would be,” he said, looking at me just as intently as I had been at him. A hint of pride filled my chest as he finally tore his gaze away from me.
He still likes me, I thought triumphantly. Even after all of these years. Age has marred me, but I can still capture his attention.
I felt someone touch me, and I turned to see Kellan beaming at me. She seemed to almost be her old self again, she was so happy.
“Duty no longer binds you,” she whispered with a wink. I couldn’t help it, I smiled back. Over her shoulder, I caught sight of a silent and sulking Cyric hovering by the door to the great hall.
“You should probably go back to your husband,” I whispered, linking my arm through hers, like we used to. Kellan glanced over at him, and then her gaze fell to the floor.
“I suppose,” she said reluctantly. Quickly I dragged her over to Cyric.
“I fugred that you’d want your wife back, my lord,” I said to him, taking him in with a single sweep of my eyes. He was well built, admittedly, and his bulking muscles were a testament to his life long work as a knight of Camelot.
“Thank you, Lady Morgan,” he said stiffly, taking Kellan by the crook of her elbow. The way that he handled her was a very delicate manner, almost as if he didn’t want to touch her.
I felt the anger building, and I knew that Kellan saw it, too. She turned to her husband.
“May I go check on the horses, dear?” she asked.
“‘Tis too cold,” he said woodenly.
“Of course,” she said, looking slightly dissapointed that that particular escape route had been closed down so effortlessly.
“Might I speak with you, alone, Sir Cyric?” I said crisply. Kellan shot me a worried look, and I smiled a wan smile briefly at her. “Now?”