Chapter Seventeen

I kept quiet about Gavin’s offer at first, not wanting my cousins to intervene. All the same, I longed for someone to give me advice, and several times I sought out Kellan, always just falling short of telling her.

That week passed torturously slow, and I couldn’t make up my mind one way or the other. Finally, on Thursday, I cracked. Gavin would be leaving early Saturday morning, and I needed to figure out what I would be doing.

“Kellan,” I said, catching her by the elbow as she passed me in the hall. She stopped and turned, not like she had much choice. “I need some advice, and I don’t know who else I could tell.”

“What’s the matter, Morgan?” she asked, concern flashing across her face. Her husband had left earlier in the week, and she seemed to be sad that he was gone. I made a mental note to ask her if anything had changed- either for the better or for the worst.

“I’ll tell you,” I said. “When we’re alone. It’s, well, it’s private, and I don’t want the others to hear.”

“Alright,” she said, sounding bemused. “Let’s go to my chambers, shall we?”

“Alright, but it can’t take long,” I said. “Mordred asked me to teach him how to read and write.”

“Really?” Kellan asked, pushing the door to her chamber open. “But he’s only little!”

“It can’t hurt him to know,” I said with a shrug. “Besides, even if he doesn’t actually learn now, at least he’s showing interest.”

“I suppose that’s a good thing,” Kellan said, taking a seat. “Now, what was it that you wanted to tell me?”

“Gavin has invited me to come to his lands, to live,” I said. Kellan grinned.

“That’s wonderful,” she said, looking younger as the happiness lit up her features. “Will you be marrying him, then?”

“I don’t know,” I said, sitting down beside her. “I have no wish to marry yet.”

“You ought to catch yourself a husband soon,” Kellan teased. “You’ll be too old to get yourself a good man if you don’t. Either that or Mordred will scare them all away.”

“I’ll marry when I’m ready to,” I said calmly, unruffled by Kellan’s antics. “If that means I never wed, then so be it.”

“You’ll be a lonely old maid,” Kellan said. “You’ll never know what it’s like to be with a man.”

“I seriously I doubt I’ll be a shriveled old maid,” I retorted. I smiled momentarily, enjoying the banter, and then I returned to the matter at hand. “Do you think I should go with him? It could be hazardous for both of our reputations, you know, and the older cousins- your half siblings- won’t approve at all.”

“Do they ever approve of anything?” Kellan asked dismissively. “And I wouldn’t worry too much about reputations. The things that have happened in the courts of Camelot would make whatever you do in Gavin’s mansion look innocent.” I cringed at the mention of my father’s lands.

When I was little I had always dreaded the days that my father held court. As his only living child it had been my duty to be present. Theoretically I was supposed to be learning how to rule a kingdom and to familiarize myself with the different knights and lands under Camelot’s control, but I don’t think I ever learned a thing. Privately, I had wondered if it was little more than my father’s attempts to arrange a marriage for me, but I had no answer to that question.

My only memories of those awful court days were of my being dressed up and forced to sit beside father on the stone throne. Mother had not been permitted to be with me, and I was the only female present. My father’s knights were a lot of lecherous old men to my child’s pint of view, and they would all watch me like a flock of vultures.

It was little surprise to me that they used court days to pursue lovers and affairs to satiate their ravenous desires. I suppressed a shudder as the memories flooded back, and Kellan watched me sympathetically.

“My only advice, Morgan, is to follow your heart,” she said. “Do what you feel is right.” I nodded.

“That reminds me,” I said. “Are things any better between you and Cyric?”

“A little bit,” Kellan said, the vaguest hint of a smile appearing on her face. “Thank you for asking.” Relief flooded my chest, and I sighed.

“I was afraid that my meddling had made things worse for you,” I told her. She shook her head.

“No,” she said. “Whatever you said to him must have worked.”

“That’s good to hear,” I said, standing. “It’s getting late, and I need to go. Thank you for the advice, Kellan.”

“Wait,” Kellan said, reaching out and catching me by the wrist. She let her voice drop to a a whisper. “Cyric asked me to come home. He promised that he would make up for his negligence, over these last several years.”

“That’s wonderful,” I exclaimed, leaning down to hug her. She hugged me back.

“I’m beginning to think you’re a miricle worker,” she said, watching me as I turned away.

“Hardly,” I laughed, waving at her over my shoulder as I let myself out of the room.

I spent the remainder of the afternoon with Mordred, teaching him the letters of the alphabet. While I did so, I allowed my mind to wander.

Would I be willing to marry, even if it is Gavin? Before I left, the answer was yes, but I don’t know if I truely am ready to wed, I thought, watching as Mordred struggled to identify the letters in his name.

“Sister,” Mordred said, drawing me out of my thoughts. “What’s this letter?”

“It’s a ‘D’,” I said, glancing at where he was pointing on the scrap of paper I had been using. “And how many times have I told you that I am no longer a sister?” I affectionately kissed the top of his head, holding him close. He giggled, and tried to wiggle free of my embrace.

“Morgan, no!” he protested. I tickled his stomach and he giggled even more.

“I’ve got you,” I told him, laughing. He was so precious to me and I sighed as I looked down at him. He was growing up so fast, and before I knew it his fourth birthday would be here.

“Morgan,” he protested breathlessly as he wiggled free, his tone reprimanding. “No tickling!”

“Is that so?” I asked, ruffling his hair fondly. “Well, alright. I suppose I won’t tickle you for now. Tell me, love, what letter is that?”

“Is it an ‘R’?” he asked. I nodded, and he returned his attention to the paper. “‘M’…’O’…’R’…’D’…’R’…’E’…’D’. Mordred!”

“Good job,” I said, sliding the paper over and uncapping the ink bottle. Quickly I wrote another word. “What about this?”

We continued on like that until supper, and after supper I put him to bed before I went to join Gavin. He was waiting for me in the library, ever so patient.

“Have you made up your mind about my offer?” he asked me, gently kissing my face. His fingers followed the laces of my dress down my back, to my hips, and I shiver ran down my spin.

“Yes,” I said, kissing him back. “Mordred and I will come with you.” He pulled me close enthusiastically, enveloping me in a tight hug.

“That’s wonderful,” he murmured. “The best news I’ve heard all night, honestly.”

“I should hope so,” I said, snuggling closer contentedly.

“I had another proposition, Morgan,” he murmured, loosening his grip on me. “You may wish for a seat.”

“I’m sure I’ll be fine,” I protested, not wanting him to let go of me. He took a step back.

“Morgan, daughter of King Uther, former ward of Sir Cadman and mother of Mordred,” he said, placing his large strong hands on my shoulders. “I would like to take you as my wife.”

“What?” I asked, feeling faint. I was sure I must have misheard.

“If you’ll have me, I would like to take you as my wife,” he said.

“I-” I started, unsure of what to say. In all honesty, I didn’t even know what to feel. I had feelings for him, yes, but I had no desire to marry. “Oh, Gavin, I don’t know.”

“You don’t have to give me an answer tonight, if that’s the case,” he said. “But I do want you to know that I have cared for and admired you for a very long time, and I would be the happiest man in the whole world if you would even consider it.”

“I don’t know,” I said, feeling guilty that I had no response for him. “Let me think about it, Gavin.”

“Of course,” he said, dissapointment flickering across his face for a moment. “So how shall we spend this evening? Games? Reading a book? Talking?”

“Is there a game you would like to play?” I asked, trying to divert the awkward feeling that had descended upon the room. “What about that one you were trying to teach me?” I felt nervous and uncomfortable, and nothing about my voice was natural or normal. He studied me for a moment, and hten laughed.

“Games it is, then,” he said, leading me to the small table against the wall. “Have a seat.”