I am morgan le fay, p.1

I Am Morgan le Fay, page 1

 

I Am Morgan le Fay
 


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I Am Morgan le Fay


  Table of Contents

  Title Page

  Dedication

  Copyright Page

  BOOK ONE - Caer Tintagel

  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  BOOK TWO - Caer Ongwynn

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  BOOK THREE - Avalon

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Chapter 13

  BOOK FOUR - Caer Morgana

  Chapter 14

  Chapter 15

  Chapter 16

  Chapter 17

  Chapter 18

  Chapter 19

  Epilogue

  Merlin

  Somewhere, someone was crying. A woman. Sobbing, but choking back the sound. No one was supposed to hear.

  Something swept down the corridor toward me.

  It was so much like a huge darkness moving in, like storm clouds over the sea, that I froze a moment before I understood that it was a man. Then I heard his heavy footfalls, saw his starry, shadowy floating robes. I shrank against the wall, and Merlin, massive in his hooded mantle, strode past me with the blanket-wrapped baby in his arms. He did not look at me, but I saw his face, for on his forehead, above the terrifying blackness of his eyes, he wore a luminous band. And centered on that band shone a stone I recognized at once.

  Long after he had passed I stood there trembling.

  FIREBIRD WHERE FANTASY TAKES FLIGHT™

  The Beggar Queen Lloyd Alexander

  Crown Duel Sherwood Smith

  The Dreaming Place Charles de Lint

  The Ear, the Eye and the Arm Nancy Farmer

  Fire Bringer David Clement-Davies

  Growing Wings Laurel Winter

  The Hex Witch of Seldom Nancy Springer

  I Am Mordred Nancy Springer

  I Am Morgan le Fay Nancy Springer

  The Kestrel Lloyd Alexander

  Mossflower Brian Jacques

  The Outlaws of Sherwood Robin McKinley

  Redwall Brian Jacques

  The Riddle of the Wren Charles de Lint

  Spindle’s End Robin McKinley

  Westmark Lloyd Alexander

  To Brian, Angie, and Travis,

  with thanks for everyday heroism

  FIREBIRD

  Published by the Penguin Group

  Penguin Putnam Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014, U.S.A.

  Penguin Books Ltd, 80 Strand, London WC2R ORL, England

  Penguin Books Australia Ltd, Ringwood, Victoria, Australia

  Penguin Books Canada Ltd, 10 Alcorn Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M4V 3B2

  Penguin Books (N.Z.) Ltd, 182-190 Wairau Road, Auckland 10, New Zealand

  Penguin Books Ltd, Registered Offices: Harmondsworth, Middlesex, England

  First published in the United States of America by Philomel Books,

  a division of Penguin Putnam Books for Young Readers, 2001

  Published by Firebird, an imprint of Penguin Putnam Inc., 2002

  Copyright © Nancy Springer, 2001

  All rights reserved

  THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS HAS CATALOGED THE PHILOMEL EDITION AS FOLLOWS:

  Springer, Nancy.

  I am Morgan Ie Fay : a tale from Camelot / Nancy Springer.

  p. cm.

  Summary: In a war-torn England where her half brother Arthur will eventually

  become king, the young Morgan le Fay comes to realize that

  she has magic powers and links to the faerie world.

  1. Morgan le Fay (Legendary character)—Juvenile fiction. [1. Morgan le Fay

  (Legendary character)—Fiction. 2. Magic—Fiction. 3. Fairies—Fiction.

  4. Knights and knighthood—Fiction. 5. England—Fiction.

  6. Arthur, King—Fiction.] I. Title.

  PZ7.S76846 Iaap 2001 [Fic]—dc21

  99-052847

  eISBN : 978-1-101-14262-2

  http://us.penguingroup.com

  Prologue

  SEATED AT THE HIGH TABLE, WITH THE EMERALD NECKLACE her husband had given her resting on her half-naked bosom, the emerald tiara nestled in her dark hair, Lady Igraine tried not to answer the leer of the king. After years of warring with the duke—her husband—why now had the king suddenly called a truce and summoned them to his court? Why was he now feasting them? And why was he ogling her so?

  She tried to listen to the minstrels playing upon lute and viol—music was a rare treat, but it could not cheer her. Nor did the sweet fragrance of scented beeswax raise her spirits, or the way candlelight glowed upon vessels of pure tooled gold. Although the servants placed before her roast suckling pig, quail in pomegranate sauce, sweetmeats, plum pudding, and many other delicacies, Igraine ate little. At last the marzipan was served and it was over. She rose to rejoin her husband, who was seated near the king, next to that fearsome old sorcerer who served as the king’s chief counselor. A look into the dark pits of the sorcerer’s eyes made Igraine shudder almost as much as her spidery sense of the king’s stare on her bare shoulders.

  Lifting her heavy silk skirt a few inches to free her slippered feet, Igraine took a couple of steps toward her husband. But the king stood in her way.

  “Lady Igraine,” he said, grasping her hand and pressing it to his lips.

  She curtsied without replying. Perhaps she blushed, although she hated herself for blushing—but he was kissing her hand more than once, far more than courtesy called for. She wanted to pull her hand away, but did not dare. He was the king.

  “Igraine the Beautiful,” he told her in a low, vibrant voice, “there will be peace if only you will be my paramour.”

  Panic stabbed her; her heart pounded. With a word she could save the lives of many, many men—but her husband! How could she betray her husband? Did this lecherous king not know what it meant for a woman to love and be loyal to her husband?

  “What say you, my lovely Igraine?”

  “I say no, Your Majesty.” Her voice trembled. She wished it would not tremble, but it did. So did her hand.

  The king scowled. “What?”

  “By your leave,” she quavered, pulling her hand away from him. She fled to her husband’s side.

  “What is the matter?” he asked her.

  “Shhh.”

  Later, in their bedchamber, she told him. He leaped up and started slinging on his armor. “I’ll kill him!”

  “No, darling, think what—”

  “He must die. I’ll kill him now. As he sleeps.”

  “Dear heart, there are guards! You’ll be one against many! You’ll be slain.”

  “I care not. I will kill him.”

  “And if he kills you instead, what will become of me?”

  He faced her without speaking.

  “Let us take to horse,” Igraine said, “and leave this place at once.”

  They did so, making their escape in the night. When the king heard of their flight, he was enraged. He sent a messenger after them with word that they could expect either to be dead or be his prisoners within six weeks.

  The duke manned and provisioned his two strongest castles, one for his wife and one for himself. Although Igraine understood that they separated for her safety—for the king would attack the duke first—still, she missed her husband dreadfully. Four, five, six weeks the king and his army besieged the duke’s castle. Igraine paced the battlements every day. Even the playful hugs of her little daughters, Morgause and Morgan, could not comfort her.

  Daughters. Two daughters, and her husband loved her still, even though she had not given him a son. Her heart swelled with longing for him.
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  On a night of the dark of the moon, she lay abed in her lonely chamber—although not yet sleeping—when she heard the surprised cries of servants in the hallway. Her chamber door opened and her husband strode in.

  “Darling!” She sprang up to meet him. He looked weary and grimy from weeks in the field.

  Without a word he took her into his arms.

  She gave herself to him utterly. But something was wrong. He did not speak to her; he did not whisper endearments to her. He did not caress her as he usually did. It was as if she had given herself to a stranger.

  At dawn he arose, kissed her silently and left her.

  She gazed after him, longing for something more, some sign. And perhaps it was a sign she saw, but a freakish one. As he passed through the chamber door, beyond it she saw the wolfish gleam of eyes, one glimmering green, the other eerily purple. Igraine knew those fey mismatched eyes: her younger daughter, Morgan, roaming the shadows like a restless spirit.

  Then the door closed.

  Igraine lay for a while staring into the shadows of the ceiling groins, then called for her women to help her dress. She refused breakfast. An uncanny knowledge rode in her belly: She carried a son from the night just past.

  She climbed the spiral stairs of her tower. At the top, standing upon the windy battlements, she looked up—and shuddered. Over her head hovered a great soot gray carrion bird. It answered her stare with its pale, beady eye, then gave a harsh cry and flapped away.

  Dread clawed Igraine’s heart as she descended to the great hall.

  Messengers awaited her. Her husband was dead, they told her. After seeing the king ride away from his encampment, the duke had sallied forth in a nighttime attempt to lift the siege. He had been killed.

  He had been killed some four hours before dawn. Four hours before he had kissed her good-bye.

  BOOK ONE

  Caer Tintagel

  1

  MY FATHER LOVED ME.

  He was the only one ever to love me truly.

  They killed him when I was six years old.

  I am Morgan le Fay, and I will never die. I hover on the wind, and fate falls out of each slow beat of my wings. That is what my name means: Morgan the fate, Morgan the magical, fey Morgan of the otherworld, Morgan who must be feared. But I was not always Morgan le Fay. When they killed my father, I was only little Morgan.

  I saw him once after he was dead. I will never forget that night.

  While he yet lived, I saw him perhaps eight or ten times that I remember. My father was the Duke of Cornwall, and he was often absent, at war. At first I thought he went out to fight a dragon. Later I understood that he fought a king with an odd name, something about a penned dragon. I did not understand or care what the battles were about; it was the nature of noblemen, evidently, to fight one another, and my father was very much a lord and a warrior.

  When he came home to Tintagel, the whole castle shouted and sprang up to make him welcome. Nurse would restrain me with one hand and my sister, Morgause, with the other, for we were lady born, not common urchins to go capering under the horses’ feet. We had to stand on the steps of the keep and watch with dignity, like Mother, as Father rode in at the gate, his head lifted so that his russet beard jutted from under his helm, his mail jingling and shining, his war horse curveting under his spurs. When he dismounted, he would look first to my mother, Igraine the Beautiful—that was what folk called her, and they did not lie. She was like moonlight on the sea, a goddess made of starlight and shadows. Proudly she would descend to meet him, my father, and he would look only at her, he would not even glance at me, and I would feel a fire dragon burning in my heart even though all the servants would cheer crazily. Father would toss his reins to a page boy and give Mother his hand. Hand in hand they would walk to the tall arched doorway and go inside.

  Then no one would see them for a while. Father and Mother would go somewhere by themselves. And the castle folk would cheer and laugh and talk and joke. But Nurse never let Morgause and me hear the talk, the joking. She would take us back to our tower chamber, where she would scrub us. She would wash our hair and brush it and plait it with cord of gold and wind it around our heads so that it looked like a crown made of braids. She would put us in our best frocks, with hose and shoes.

  Then we would wait.

  Nurse would try to feed us porridge and milk for supper but we could not eat.

  And then. Then, finally, my father would send for us.

  In his chamber amid torchlight and shadows he was a warm glow awaiting us in the big red velvet chair. Now he was not a mailed warrior; now he wore a soft woolen tunic and smelled of tallow soap. He would open his arms to us and hug us each to one side of his chest and kiss us amid his prickly beard and perch us each on one burly knee and turn his smile and his shining gray eyes upon each of us. “So, Morgan.” He would address me first, for I was his favorite. “My little firebrand, how goes the mischief these days?”

  And I could tell him anything fearlessly. “I put the cat in the wash water, Daddy!”

  “I heard. Kitty came out very clean and the linens very dirty.”

  “And I ran away from Nurse. I ran outside in my small-clothes.”

  “So I am told!”

  “And I climbed the big pear tree and tore my apron.”

  And my father would say proudly, “You are born for trouble, Morgan.”

  That was why I loved my father so, because he saw me truly. He looked in my eyes and he knew. Morgause and I had dark eyes, deer eyes like our mother‘s, but mine were not quite like: One of my eyes peeped shadowy emerald green, and one violet, like deepest dusky amethyst. My eyes marked me as fey right from the start. Most folk did not notice—they just saw dark eyes, almost black—or they chose not to notice. To all the others, even my mother, my sister and I were a sort of two-headed animal called Morgan-Morgause or, more commonly, “Girls!” Although Morgause was a year older, we might as well have been twins. They dressed us alike, lessoned us alike, scolded us alike when our noses were dirty and exhorted us alike to sit still and keep our legs together. But Daddy and I knew that I was not the least bit like prissy Morgause.

  “And how is my beautiful Morgause?” he would ask her next. He never called me beautiful, even though Morgause and I looked much alike, with our mother’s porcelain skin and smooth sable hair. I knew we looked alike because folk said so, and also because Mother sometimes let us look at ourselves in her mirror. Father had gifted her with it, a mirror of polished silver, worthy of a queen. Most noblewomen had a circle of polished bronze for a mirror if they had any at all.

  I did not mind that Daddy did not call me beautiful, because it took nothing to be beautiful, and I knew he liked my mischief better.

  “I’ve been good, Daddy,” Morgause would answer, almost in a whisper.

  “I knew it.” He would give us each a hug. “You’re my good little girl. And Morgan here is my most excellent daredevil. You’re like scabbard and sword. You go together.”

  Then he would hug each of us again and kiss us again and send us off to bed with a gentle swat to hurry us on our way.

  The swat did no good in my case. I was not one to stay in bed.

  Morgause and I slept in the same chamber, with Nurse on a pallet between us. Nurse snored. Morgause slept quiet as a mouse all night long, flat on her back with her hands outside the coverlet the way Nurse told us to lie. I slept sometimes. More often I lay awake and wondered about things: What was war for? Was it fun? Why did women not do it? Why did women always have to keep their legs together, even on horses, riding sideways? Why must I keep my hands outside the coverlet ?

  And sometimes, quite often actually, I grew weary of lying on my back with my hands to my chin and I grew weary of wondering and I got up out of bed, crept past Nurse and out of the chamber, and wandered the shadowy corridors of the castle. Often I drifted toward my mother’s chamber, for my mother was a great mystery to me. Once a day I was brought to her to be inspected and chided
and kissed, but other than that I seldom saw her. And other than on those occasions I never entered my mother’s chamber. I would wander there only in the night sometimes, and stand cold and barefoot staring at her closed door awhile, and wander away again.

  So it was that I saw my father one last time, after he was dead.

  It was a night of the dark of the moon, very silent. I heard no owl call. Even the dogs down in the village beyond the wall were silent, and even the sea washed quietly against the rocky cliffs below the castle walls on that night, and the wind for once was still. I ghosted through the great hall, gazing up into the vast vaulting shadows of the groins, and I wished I could slip out to the kennels or the mews, but the guards might see me there. So I drifted up to the darkened solarium instead—through the costly glass windows I could see just a whisper of light in the east. Dawn. I must return to my bed soon so that Nurse would find me there in the morning, or else she would scold. Not that I much minded her scolding. Nurse was a plain, blocky Cornishwoman, perhaps of middle age; she seemed to me as old as the mountains, and as blank and patient. She never beat me. Nor did she ever speak a word more than was necessary. I understood that, being a sandy-haired commoner, she was different from my sleek, dark-haired, finely bred Bre ton mother, different from my sister and me.

  After all, I did not much care about getting back to my bed before dawn. I wandered toward my mother’s chamber.

  And as I padded toward her door, it opened and my father, fully armed, strode out.

  I was so surprised that I could not even shout. “Daddy!” I squeaked, and I ran toward him with my arms flung wide.

  He barely looked at me. He shoved me out of the way with one gloved hand, sending me sprawling, and strode on.

  I could not comprehend. I could only react. “Daddy!” I whimpered, and I picked myself up and trotted after him.

  I could not catch up with him. His stride was longer than two of mine, even when I ran. But I followed him down the corridor and the spiral stairs and another long corridor to a postern gate where guards with torches and men on horses awaited him.

 
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