It didn’t take much, Eilwen Gwynedd knew from long experience, to swell a mother’s heart with pride. First garbled words, first tottering steps — a line of scrawled handwriting saying, “I luv u, Mummy [sic]” — a short poem proudly but painstakingly memorized. And Dindrane, Eilwen’s eldest, had delivered her fair share of such moments. But standing in the room while her daughter prepared for her wedding, Eilwen could not help but think that she had never been prouder.
“Dindrane, you make a beautiful bride.”
“Thank you, Mother,” Dindrane replied with the ghost of a smile.
Eilwen’s own grin faded somewhat. That was her Dindrane, all right — never so much as an unnecessary syllable, never mind a whole word out of place. If they had been back in Glasonland, this would not have worried Eilwen a bit. The men there wanted their women submissive and dutiful, and the less out of their mouths, the better. Whereas here in Albion …
Eilwen stifled those thoughts. Yes, this was Albion, but how many men would really mind a submissive, quiet wife? And who was she to complain about her daughter being quiet? It wasn’t as if Eilwen had ever been a social butterfly.
But even so, Dindrane … Dindrane was different, whispered Eilwen’s mother-instinct. Eilwen at least opened up once she got to know someone. Dindrane … well, Eilwen sometimes wondered if even she, her mother, knew Dindrane at all.
Stop wool gathering! Poor girl’s probably just nervous, Wright knows you were on your wedding day! Remembering the prime reason for her nerves, Eilwen asked, “Dindrane, do you have any more questions about … what to expect tonight?”
“No, not really.”
“It won’t be so bad,” Eilwen babbled anyway. “I mean — it might be a bit painful — but I’m sure Sir Mordred will be — I mean, I’m sure he’ll make sure you’re relaxed, and take things slowly –”
“Mother,” Dindrane interrupted. “I’m not nervous about that. From what you said, I don’t even have to do anything.”
“Well …” Eilwen hesitated. “Well, you don’t have to. Um — you know what, don’t worry about it, not at first. Later, when you and Sir Mordred, er, get to know each other better …”
“Please stop, Mother. You’re embarrassing both of us.”
Eilwen was certainly embarrassing herself; she could feel the flush rising through her cheeks. Dindrane, on the other hand, didn’t seem in the least bit discomfited.
She took a deep breath as Dindrane got up from the vanity after one last cursory inspection of her face. “Dindrane … you know your father and I are so proud of you, don’t you?”
Dindrane cocked her head a little to one side. “Proud?”
“Well, of course! You’re a beautiful, brilliant, accomplished young woman — you’re about to make a wonderful marriage –”
Dindrane’s left eyebrow slowly rose. Eilwen held her breath. “You and Father had more to do with the wonderful marriage than I did.”
“But sweetheart, there isn’t exactly a dearth of young women for Sir Mordred to choose from. The fact that he chose you …”
For a second — just a second — Eilwen almost thought she saw something flicker across Dindrane’s face. But it was gone before Eilwen could register what it was. Dindrane’s shrug, however, was far easier to catch. “From what I understand, it was Lord Lot that chose me, not Sir Mordred.”
“Of course he had a hand in the decision, but you can’t imagine that he would arrange something so momentous as his son’s marriage without any input from his son?”
Dindrane shrugged. “It’s possible.”
“But not likely,” Eilwen retorted. “Lord Lot cares a great deal about the happiness of both of his children. Why, he’s been …” But Eilwen had to shut her mouth, for it wouldn’t do to be discussing the negotiations over Garnet’s hand when everything was still so up in the air.
Dindrane didn’t ask. “Even so, I didn’t have much to do with this match … all I did was refrain from making a fuss.”
Make a fuss? The hair on the back of Eilwen’s neck stood up. But she schooled her expression into mild curiosity (Dindrane wasn’t the only Gwynedd with a good poker face). “Make a fuss?” she repeated.
“Well, you have to admit, Mother, Sir Mordred and I aren’t exactly a love match,” Dindrane pointed out. “And many young ladies would be a bit … frightened by his powers. Not that I am, of course, but many would be.”
“Of course not. What is there to be afraid of? I’ve seen some of what he can do, and … well.” Dindrane shrugged. “It isn’t that frightening.”
Sweetheart, don’t you know that you’d be the last person he’d show the frightening powers to? But Eilwen told herself to stop being foolish. This marriage meant too much to the Orkneys for Sir Mordred to be terrifying his new wife with powers best left unseen.
“And before you mention that he’s not likely to have shown me the truly terrifying powers,” Dindrane continued, causing Eilwen to almost jump, “I think Sir Mordred would value a peaceful home. Terrifying the new wife isn’t a good way to get it. As long as I stay on his good side, I doubt I’ll see anything more than him afflicting some hapless passerby with bees.”
Before Eilwen could properly react to that, Dindrane added, “But enough about this. Mother, hadn’t you better be getting ready, yourself?”
“Oh, sweetheart, it’s more important that you’re ready than I am …”
“But I am ready,” Dindrane pointed out.
“Er … well, true.” Eilwen patted her hair absently. “I suppose I had best make sure your sisters have managed to get into their dresses …”
“Mother, they’re ten years old. They ought to be able to put a dress on. But if you’re so worried, I’ll check on them.”
“Oh, Dindrane, it’s your wedding day! You shouldn’t be worrying about them!”
“I’m not.” And now Dindrane actually smiled — a real smile, the smiles she used to give whenever she had solved a difficult math problem, or had correctly solved one of Pellinore’s riddles. “I’m worried about the mother of the bride looking a fright and embarrassing the poor bride!”
Eilwen smiled and shook her head. “All right, all right, I can take a hint. You go take care of your sisters … and oh … Dindrane?”
Dindrane raised one eyebrow, and Eilwen folded her into an embrace. “I am proud of you … I know you don’t think that you’ve done much to deserve it … but I’m prouder of you than I can say. Even if it’s just for being you.”
When Eilwen was finally able to let go, she thought she saw tears standing in Dindrane’s eyes. “Thank you, Mother.”
“Don’t thank me, love.”