Father Philemon and Kel listened to me in silence as I told them of the events of the previous night. Finally I finished my tale, and Kellan rose.
“I expect you’re thirsty,” she murmured. “I’ll go fetch something to drink for you.”
“Thank you,” I said. Father Philemon nodded, his expression thoughtful.
“That was a truly horrific tale, Lady Morgan,” he said. “But I don’t understand why you wanted an old man like me to hear it.”
“Father,” I said, switching to Latin. “How can I- I mean, will the Church accept me as I am-“
“Sister, it is not the Church you need to worry about,” he answered, also in Latin. “Horrific and terrifying things happen to the saints, to God’s chosen people. Even King David’s daughter Tamar was raped, by her own half-brother. This thing that has happened to you is definitely horrific and terrifying. However, I do not think that God will hold this event, which was out of your control, against you.”
“But my virginity,” I whispered, my fears and shame overtaking me. He studied me with pity and understanding.
“Your virginity does not make you any more or less of a believer, of a Christ follower,” he said. “Did you cleave to the commandments of God? Did you follow them to the best of your ability?”
“Yes,” I whispered. “But-“
“There are no exceptions,” he said, smiling. “The blood of Jesus is where you’ll find purity, even when yours has been stolen.”
“Thank you, Father,” I whispered, feeling still more tears coming. This time, however, they were tears of relief.
“Oh, don’t thank me,” he said, switching to English as Kellan returned with a tray in her hands. “Thank our glorious God.”
“Would you like a drink, Father?” Kellan asked, pouring me a cup of something.
“Yes, thank you,” he said. Kellan smiled slightly and poured him a cupful as well.
“What are your plans now, Morgan?” she asked me.
“I cannot continue to rent the land I was living on,” I said, straightening up. In telling Kellan and Father Philemon, I felt as though a weight had been lifted. “The only thing I can think of now is to return to my paternal home and beg for a place to stay.”
“Oh dear,” Kellan murmured. “You do know that you could come and live with us, don’t you?”
“I do,” I said. “But I don’t feel that Mordred and I can invade your home forever.”
“Sister Morgan,” the Father said, rising stiffly. “Please remember that the church will welcome you with open arms in your time of need. Now, I must be getting back to the church. Thank you for your hospitality, Lady Kellan.”
“Thank you for coming so quickly,” Kel said.
“Yes, thank you,” I murmured. I felt an inner peace now, after sharing what I had been through.
“May the Lord bless you and keep you,” he said.
“And you too,” I responded, watching as he left the room.
“So, you are returning to your father’s home?” Kel asked me. “Will you take Mordred with you?
“I would rather now,” I said, pausing for a moment before adding, “Would you mind watching him? It should only be for two or three days.”
“Of course I’ll watch him,” she exclaimed.
“Thank you,” I said. “An Kellan-” I hesitated.
“What’s the matter?” she asked, leaning in close.
“Would it be possible for Mordred and I to stay here, at least for tonight? It’s too late in the day for me to ride to Camelot, and I would rather not return to-“
“I can completely understand that,” she said, cutting me off. “And I am sure that Cyric will as well, once I explain the situation to him.”
“Thank you,” I murmured, now feeling relief mingle with the peace.
“I wonder if he’s finished holding court,” Kel mused, rising to her feet again. I stood as well, picking up the small sack that Mordred had left on the floor. Kellan followed the motion with her gaze, and she smiled. “I’ll show you to your room and let you get settled before we go searching for my lord.”
She led me to the room I had stayed in before, and waited patiently as I left my small sack on the pallet. Then she led me down to the great hall, using the back corridors and servants stairwells.
We peered into the hall, reluctant to disturb Cyric’s business if we could avoid it. Several hours had passed since my arrival, and while I had been sharing my tale with Kellan, Cyric had been distributing justice to the people who lived on his lands.
When I had spoken to him earlier in the day the great hall had been packed with people, but now it was even more full. Many of those who had come throughout the course of the day were staying for the evening meal, and servants were milling around, setting tables and offering wash water to the people. Cyric himself sat in his seat of honor, murmuring to his secretary, who was sitting behind him and taking notes furiously.
Kel slipped into the room with me on her tail, weaving her way through the people. On occasion she would stop and talk to someone briefly, introducing me to them.
Finally we had reached the dais, where Cyric was sitting. She approached him, and he greeted her with a gentle kiss. Quickly and quietly she explained the situation to him.
He glanced up at me, startled, and I lowered my gaze, feeling the blood rising in my cheeks. My shame returned and wrapped itself around me as I saw the pity and something else- was it disgust? Guilt?- as he looked at me.
You got your wish, a little voice whispered to me from the back of my mind. No man will want to marry you now. You’re spoiled goods. You will be alone to your death, Morgan.
Anger rose at the voice, and my hands curled into tight fists. Go away, I thought at it. I could almost hear it laugh and for some reason all I could picture was a serpent coiling up, it’s beady eyes fixed on me.
You know it’s true, the serpent murmured. Isn’t that what you wanted, Morgan?
Part of me knew that the serpent spoke the truth, but another part of me balked at the thought of being alone for the rest of my life.
“Morgan,” Kellan’s voice broke through my internal argument, and I distantly realized that that hadn’t been the fist time she had said my name. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” I lied, forcing my hands to uncurl themselves.
“Are you sure?” she asked me, concern in her eyes.
“I’m fine,” I repeated, smoothing my skirts.
“Alright,” she said, not looking entirely convinced. “Cyric said that you may stay with us until you have succeeded in finding a new home.”
“I’m sorry that the arrangement with Merlin didn’t work nearly as well as we had thought it would,” Cyric said, coming up behind Kellan. Guilt flickered across his face for an instant, and I knew that he felt responsible for what had happened.
“It’s fine,” I said, feeling the need to soothe and reassure him. “Thank you for your hospitality. I feel like I am becoming a burden to you.”
“It isn’t a problem,” he said, taking Kellan by the arm. “Come, sit. The feast will begin in a few moments.”
“All the same,” I said, taking his other arm and permitting him to lead me to my seat. “I will be leaving for the manor of Avalon in the morning. I’m going to seek the aid of my-” the word “brother” wouldn’t come, so I changed tracks. “-of the king.”
He’s not your brother, the serpent hissed, rearing it’s ugly head again. He’s the bastard son of your foolish father. He’s the reason your father disowned you, you know. He’s the one your father always wanted, the reason your father didn’t love you.
I fought a sob, my fingers curling around the arm of my chair. I couldn’t handle this demonic voice. I had to get rid of it, one way or the other.