I was grateful for my uncle’s defense, and I thanked him profusely for it after father had left. He stared at me seriously for a couple of moments before speaking.
“I never liked that fool that father married Anna to,” he said. “And I didn’t want to see the same future for you. Knowing him, it most certainly would have been.”
“Thank you, Uncle,” I said with a curtsey before I turned to leave the room.
“Morgan,” he called, and I stopped, turning slowly on my heal. “I’m sorry for making you face him.” I stared at my uncle in surprise. He never apologized to anyone, for any reason.
“‘Tis alright,” I said, finding my voice. “I’m still here, aren’t I?” He smiled and dismissed me with a wave of his hand.
It did not take very long before the excuse I had used, my mother’s needing me, was completely true. Within a week of father’s visit she became extremely fevered and completely unable to leave her bed for any reason. She drifted in and out of conciousness, occasionally waking with a scream of terror.
From that point up to her dying day I spent every moment by her side, feeding her when she awoke, lying damp rags on her forehead, cleaning up after her when she messed herself.
Her lady’s maid and I were both given mattresses in her chamber, and one of us would sit up with her at all times. Priests and physicians drifted in and out of chambers for the next week, both trying to make her better and trying to prepare her for death.
At the end of that long, torturous week she finally passed on, leaving this world smoothly. To this day I am convinced that she felt no pain in her passing, but that she simply fell asleep and awoke before the judgement throne of heaven.
She died in the night, and I recall being shaken awake by her maid when she stopped breathing. Until day break the next morning we sat a silent vigil by her body, praying and mourning.
Uncle was informed first thing that day, and he promptly gave his men orders to dig mama’s grave near their parents in the ancestral burial grounds, before telling Aunt Mary and I to prepare mama’s body in the way of the old religion. Aunt Mary tried to argue that, but Uncle Cadman slapped her and repeated his order, pointing out that he was her husband and that he had the God-given right to tell her what to do.
Reluctantly she helped me clean my mother’s body and dress her in the traditional funeral garb. Once we were done with that, Uncle placed an elegantly carved cross in mother’s hands, and then told me to find my mother’s favorite things, so the could be buried with her.
I had been fine until he told me to do that, but digging through my mother’s belongings was painfu. I spent most of that day in tears as I selected my mother’s most precious items- an elaborately decorated needlecase, her embroidered pocket and a gorgeous silver necklace.
The funeral mass took place the second morning after she died, and it was a very somber event. The priests preformed the service and I went through the motions half-heartedly. The morning passed in a blur, and I only really remember looking down on my mother’s body in the grave, holding a handful of dirt over her.
The emotions were overwhelming as I let go of the dirt. I turned away from the grave as the menfolk began to shovel dirt into it.
‘Why do you care, Morgan?’ I asked myself. ‘That’s just her shell. She’s in a better place. She’s beyond hurting. Father can’t touch her now.’ Quickly I wiped away the tears and turned back to watch.
“You don’t have to go through with this,” Aunt Mary said kindly. “You don’t have to watch.” I looked up at her, surprised.
“My place is with my mother,” I said quietly, forcing a smile. “Until the end.” She nodded, and motioned for my cousins to follow her inside.
Finally everyone else had left the burial grounds, leaving me alone. tiredly I knelt beside the fresh burial mound, giving in to the tears.
I can’t fully explain what I felt as I lay there, crying, but I’ll try. I felt like I was completely alone in the world. My mother was dead and my father had disowned me. My uncle’s family hated me. Even if I wanted to, I had no dowry other than my mother’s things, so marriage wasn’t a possability.
I felt that I had no where to go, that I had no one who cared. I felt that, if there was a God, He must have turned his back on me.
I was scared, uncertain of my future. I was even a little angry at mother, for bringing me here and then dying. There was so much more to my emotions, but try as I might I cannot name or explain them.
Finally Uncle Cadman sent a servant out to fetch me in, and to bring me my supper in my chambers. I didn’t want to eat, but mama’s lady’s maid coaxed me to do so.
Tiredly I lay on the pallet that I had been sleeping on for a week, unable to even undress myself. I had no will of my own, and I fell asleep, crying again.
When I awoke the next morning I found that someone had undressed me, and that there were maids in the chambers my mother and I had shared, cleaning up her mess and making the room clean, as if my mother had never been there. Cousin Kellan stood, watching over me irritably.
“Father wants to see you as soon as you are decent,” she informed me haughtily as I struggled to my feet.
“Of course,” I murmured, even though I had no idea why he would want to see me. She “harrumph”ed just like Aunt Mary, and turned on the maid that was dusting off mother’s trunk.
“Get that dreadful thing out of here,” she ordered. “It reeks of sickness and evil things.”
“No,” I said, turning and staring at her in horror. “Clean it off, but it is mine now, and I say that it stays.” Kellan gave me a filthy look, which I returned before washing my face.
One of Aunt Mary’s maids offered me a simple mourning gown, which I pulled on, and another maid did my hair for me, braiding it and then coiling it before offering me a hair covering, showing that I was freshly mourning. Finally I was ready to leave, but I was most reluctant to do so.
“Kellan,” I called across the room as I paused in the doorway. “If you get rid of any of my mother’s things, or any of my things, I will inform Uncle of your appalling conduct in the stableyard with his squire. I know that you would hate to have your father learn of that…”
“You wouldn’t dare,” she said, paling.
“You would hate to find out what I’d dare to do,” I said with a slight smirk as I left my room. I was fairly confident that she would leave my belongings alone now, and I quickly made my way to the great hall.
Uncle was waiting for me when I walked in. I curtseyed politely, feeling everyone’s eyes on me. Uncle rose as I stood.
“Morgan le Fay,” he began. “Please, come with me.”
“Yes, uncle,” I said, curious and afraid. My stomach chose that moment to grumble, and my hands slipped to cover my waist.
“Arland, bring her a tray up to the solar,” Uncle ordered, a small smile on his face.
“Yes, sir,” Arland, Uncle’s manservant, said. Uncle left the room with me trotting at his heals.
Aunt Mary was awaiting our arrival, and she ushered me to a small stool by the fire. Uncle Cadman sat in the large chair in the center of the room, while Aunt Mary stood behind me.
“Morgan,” Uncle began, watching me sadly. “You must know that your future is uncertain. You have nowhere to go. We must figure out where you will live, who will be your caretaker, and who will provide for you.”
“Yes, Uncle,” I said, studying my hands.
“Your father has rejected you as his child,” he continued. “And you have no other living relatives, beyond this palace. You are not betrothed to anyone, and you lack a dowry.”
“I am aware of what I do not have, Uncle,” I said evenly, trying to keep my voice even. He smiled slightly.
“You are just like your mother,” he said. “Morgan, you have an option or two available to you. It would not be odd if I were to adopt you and treat you as I would my own daughter.”
“Oh,” I said, surprised. I had not expected him to offer me that.
“Or, if you would prefer, you could simply become my daughter’s companion, a ward of my lands,” he said, leaning forward in his seat. “It is your choice, Morgan.”
“May I think about it, Uncle?” I asked. Either way I would be taken care of until Uncle’s death, but I didn’t know what my place would be if he were to die.
“Of course,” he said. I smiled at him slightly as Arland entered with a tray. “Please eat, and when you are done you can return to your chambers, to tidy up your mother’s things.”
“Yes, Uncle,” I said, lowering my gaze to my food, suddenly not feeling very hungry.
“Oh, Cadman, do be kind to the girl,” Aunt Mary said, reprimanding him gently and quietly. “She’s still mourning.”
“Of course, Mary,” he said, standing up. “God, forgive me. I’m being ruled by my wife.” Aunt Mary blushed slightly as she shot him a dissapproving glance. With a shrug he walked out of the room.
“If you require any assistance,” Aunt Mary said, turning to me. “Send a servant for me.” I nodded, greatful for her new kindness towards me. Later I would remember it as one of the only times she did so, but at the time, I was just thankful for what I had.