Chapter One

Arthur, my half brother, put out many lies about me in my later life, but few are true or even relevant to my tale. This story will begin with my father, who had cast aside my mother in favor of a younger wife, one who could give him a healthy son, when I was ten. This enraged my mother, who took me with her to her family’s lands – where she sought refuge. I often wish that I had never seen my father again,  after that horrible day.

It was terrible – mother was livid and hurting, a fact my father knew as well as I did, but she hid it under a mask of pleading and repentance. Her fate would be set if she was forced to return to her family and rumors of her being a woman of ill repute would be sure to spread. Because of this, she was willing to do what was expected of her.

She was kneeling before my father, clinging to his tunic with tears streaming down her face when I happened upon them. Neither of my parents took notice of me, and I slipped into the shadows, afraid of what was happening; but even more afraid of not knowing.

“Please, you can’t do this to me!” she cried as her body shook with repressed sobs. “I’ve been a good wife, haven’t I? I did what you willed.”

“What I willed was for you to give me a son,” he said, his deep voice echoing slightly on the stone and plaster walls. “You have not done that.”

“I have tried! We have tried repeatedly! You cannot do this!” Something warm and wet was rolling down my face, and I raised a trembling hand to wipe away the tears.

“It’s too late, Anna.” He told my mother, his face and voice both cold. “My mind is made up.” He kicked her away, not hard enough to injure her, but she sprawled across the floor and didn’t get up.

“If not for me, then what about Morgan? How can you do this to your only living child?” my mother spoke from where she lay, muffled by the hand she had pressed to her mouth.

My heart jerked into my throat and my breath caught. I wanted to run to my mother’s side, but I was paralyzed by my fear.  I knew I shouldn’t be hearing this, so it would be wise to remain hidden. Besides, I couldn’t leave now that my name had been mentioned.

“Morgan will have a secure future,” my father said. “I have already spoken with several possible suitors. She will make a good match.”

“You can’t do that to her!” my mother was standing up now and she dragged herself back to my father. “I would rather see her be declared illegitimate before I see her married at such a young age. She’s still a child, only ten years of age and not yet a woman.”

“How can you say that?” Father was livid. “Be gone from my lands, woman, but my daughter stays.”

“She’s not your pawn,” Mother spat at him before turning and hurrying out of the room. I sunk further into the shadows, unable to move and unable to breathe. My father turned and stormed outside and I was left alone.

He’s planning on marrying me off, I thought, terrified. I wanted to run far, far away from this place. Nothing good can come of this house, I thought hopelessly. Nothing.

I knew the men that my father had spoken of, and all of them were at least thrice my age. I knew that I wouldn’t be a first wife for any of them, and I also knew that I didn’t want anything to do with any of them. Eventually my horror and error lessened and I managed to get away from that terrible spot, fleeing deeper within the small manor house. I knew that my mother was most likely in the solar, where she conducted most of her business, and I needed to be with her. I needed to beg for her to take me with her. I needed to get away from this place.

I had no desire to be married, but I did long to be small enough to hide myself in my mother’s skirts, like a small child. When I entered the solar I was shocked to see my mother sprawled on the bed in the center of the room, sobbing. Her body was shaking, and as I watched, she let out an unearthly shriek, grasping the bed linens in her tightly clenched fists.

“How dare he?” She choked, her voice ragged. I was terrified by this display of unrestrained emotion.  My mother had always seemed so strong to me, able to handle anything my father did. He had pushed her around a lot, beating her badly at times, and when he was done she would sob and beg for his forgiveness, docile and fearful, always the perfect wife. This was the first I had ever seen my mother angry at my father. The first and only time I had seen or would see her out of control.

She lay on the bed looking so vulnerable and weak. Seeing her like this made all my fear vanish. In its place was anger, maybe even hatred, towards my father. I wanted nothing to do with him. He had hurt my mother repeatedly and planned a similar life for me – no doubt for the alliances with friends or something of the like. To him I was an item of no more worth than his livestock.

This realization cut deeply, and it seemed more urgent that I get away. I knew I couldn’t stay knowing what I did.

“Mama,” I whispered, reaching out for her as I rushed across the floor to her side. The desire to protect her was my drive and I knew that if I protected her I would be protecting myself from a life like that by extension. Either that or an early and painful death in childbirth. “Mama, take me away from here, with you.” She turned to face me and weakly stroked my hair as I knelt beside the bed.

“Morgan, you know –“

“Mama I need you to take me with you. All father will do with me is marry me off. I don’t want to get married yet. I know that father is sending you away. Take me with you please.”

Mother’s eyes narrow. “If your father discovers that you’re gone he’ll kill me,” she whispered, seeming distant, like she was lost in thought. “Bring me the things you need the most. I’ll pack them with my own belongings. And Morgan, please be careful to not let your father see you doing so.”

“Of course, mama,” I said, hurrying out of the solar, excited and feeling a little hopeful. Quickly I returned to y room, where I rummaged through my things, pulling out the few articles of clothing I had and my writing set.

Father had given it to me when I was five, in order to teach me my letters. It was and, even as I am now writing these events down, is not common for a woman to know how to read and write, and it is only slightly more common for a man to be able to. Because of this, that writing kit was extremely precious to me, with the three small bottles of differently colored inks and a variety of quills and papers.

Hurriedly I gathered my things and returned to the solar, where my mother was carefully packing her trunk. A stack of things sat at her feet, beside the trunk, on the floor, and it wasn’t until much later that I learned that those were the things she was forced to leave behind for my sake.

“You’re just in time,” She said, smiling at me weakly. I knew that she had brought that particular trunk with her when she married and it seemed only natural that she would take it with her now. Deftly she took my things and folded him neatly, hiding them among her belongings.

“How will you be able to take me with you?” I asked, fear striking my heart. “Father won’t let me go with you, not willingly.” I was uncertain as to how much I should reveal I had heard, but my terror and the thought of being left there overrode my desire for secrecy. Mother gave me a suspicious look but didn’t push the matter.

“You will meet me out in the farthest field your father owns,” she said firmly, a spark of life back in her eyes. Maybe it was my imagination tricking me and it really was anger. Did it matter?

“Yes, mama,” I said.

“Your father must not learn of this until we’re far away from here,” she said, shutting her trunk. “Do you have your cloak? ‘Tis a bit chilly today.”

“I’ll fetch it,” I said, gathering my skirts and returning to my room. I had never kept my cloak amongst my other clothing, partially because I enjoyed taking walks at odd hours and partially because I was often cold.

Hurriedly I fastened it as I made my way out of the manor house. In my haste I ran, quite literally, into Father as I passed the stables. He caught me with his large rough hands and laughed.

“Where are you going so quickly, Morgan?” He asked, picking me up easily and setting me on the low walls that made up the pig pen.

“I was planning on taking a walk, Father,” I said, lowering my eyes. Disgust and anger boiled up in me, both at the way he had treated mother and the way he was planning on treating me. The urge to smack his hands away was nearly overpowering, so I balled my hand into fists under my cloak in an attempt to restrain myself.

“Morgan, Morgan, Morgan, what am I going to do with you?” he asked, sitting down beside me. “You’re growing up, but you still act much like a child.”

“Is that so wrong, Father?” I asked, keeping my tone polite as I stared out at the fields pointedly. Even at that young age I knew that if I looked at him I’d lose control of my emotions.

“How will I ever find a husband for you, if you refuse to grow up?” his words caught me by surprise.

“A husband?” I repeated in a gasp, finally looking at him. I was appalled. Yes, I had heard him telling Mother about his intentions for me, but I hadn’t expected him to mention it to me! He never told me important things that might change the course of my life, ever.

“You’re nearly old enough to be married off,” he said seriously. “In two more years I will have chosen a husband for you.” Blood was pounding in my ears and I felt like the world was spinning around me, disconnected from everything I knew to be real.

“I’m not ready to marry,” I said weakly, standing and fleeing into the fields.