High Infidelity

Never, never in a million years did Morgause imagine that, in her old age, she would take up gardening.

Then again, Morgause had never been quite able to imagine that she would reach what was conventionally known as “old age,” either. How could a woman of such alabaster and coal beauty ever survive the indignity of becoming old? It was impossible to dream, and so Morgause did not dream of it.

At the same time, dying young and leaving a beautiful corpse behind also had its drawbacks. It was all well and good for empty-headed beauties, court favorites, princesses and queens to take that route. But though many adjectives had been applied to Morgause’s head and various features thereof, “empty” was not one of them. She had more important things to do than die.

Such as discovering the secret to eternal youth.

She smirked as she stroked the slightly gummy leaf of one of her many cuttings. Poor Dindrane, such a little fool! Morgause had kept one close eye on the cowplant in the backyard. Instead of doing the sensible thing, what Morgause would have done, and finding some peasants who would not be missed and using them to prolong her youth indefinitely, she was … feeding the thing! Watching the thing! Taking notes!

Morgause would have thought it the arrogance of youth, but Dindrane was not that young. She was twenty-five — a quarter of a century had passed her by! The best, most blooming years of her youth had already passed her by, wasted in the musty libraries of Camford. But Dindrane did not seem to realize that.

Poor fool. She’ll be regretting not using that cowplant when she had the chance. Perhaps I’ll share a bit of my formula with her, once I perfect it.

… Nah.

“Evening, Mother.”

Morgause craned her neck back, though there was only one person who that could be — one person whom the wards on her workroom would let pass without question. “Mordred. Good evening.”

Mordred did not even look sidelong at her cuttings, for of course a witch of the Dark path could be expected to have many plants and herbs of indeterminate origin and purpose cluttering her workroom. Instead, he paced over to the couch and threw himself down.

“Something wrong?” Morgause allowed herself to ask before turning back to the plants. She took the gummy residue and tested it between two fingers. In texture, it was so close to the secretion of the cowplant that she had milked to such good effect …

But texture was nothing. She’d tested this residue on servant after servant. On none did it seem to improve youthfulness and good looks. There was still something missing.

Mordred sighed. “Father Hugh just left.”

“It’s a bit late for him to be calling, isn’t it?”

“He came when he could make time,” Mordred spat. “That is how low Father has fallen.”

Morgause turned to see her son slouched and sulking like a child. “Sit up, Mordred.”

He did not. “He’s barely trying, Mother. He just drops by to check in every now and again.”

It was all Morgause could do to keep her shrug from reaching her shoulders. “Father Hugh has a great deal of things on his plate. The royal wedding is less than a fortnight away.”

“You’d think a man’s life would be worth more than a hundred royal weddings.”

“Your father is still alive, so clearly Father Hugh is still placing him above my dear brother’s spoiled brats.”

“He’s not improved in … in …”

He hasn’t improved since before he had that brainstorm, Morgause thought, but did not say. Except in looks, thanks to your wife and that excellent example of bovine vegetation she has in the garden.

“Can’t we ask the Lady Morgan for assistance?” Mordred asked.

Morgause froze. “What?”

“The Lady Morgan. We can ask her for assistance, can we not? Even if she refused … even if she tried to harm Father … she can’t possibly leave him in a worse state than he’s in now.”

“No.”

“Mother …”

“No!”

Her son’s sulk said everything she needed to hear about his thoughts on her refusal.

Or so she thought. “In Father’s … illness,” he finally said, “I am the master of this house.”

“And whether your father is sick or well, I am the mistress of this house, and I refuse Morgan entrance.”

“If Father is … is no more,” Mordred murmured, “then Dindrane is mistress here.”

“Ha! That underfed milksop! Do you really think she could ever take the title of mistress here?”

“To the King, to the other nobles …”

“Mordred, please. If those such as you and I ever bothered to bow to the opinions of fools like your uncle and the rest of his court, we should never accomplish anything.” She sniffed. “No. You know very well that I shall be mistress of this place until I leave it, Dindrane’s presence notwithstanding. And so Morgan will not set foot on this land. Unless, of course …”

Mordred perked up. “Unless?”

“Unless you — or Dindrane, I suppose — are able to lift my wards and grant that woman free access. Then, I suppose, I shall not have room to argue.”

“Mother …”

“What?”

Mordred sighed. “Perhaps Garnet would be able to do it,” he spat. “She will be home for the wedding.”

“Oh, please. Garnet? She hasn’t the strength of purpose to commit herself to either the Light path or the Dark. You think she could summon the will and the knowledge to alter my wards?”

“She summoned the will and the knowledge to pass the entrance examination for Camford two years early.”

Morgause waved her hand dismissively. “Please. It was not so long ago that you were taking that examination. How hard was it, truly?”

“Hard enough.”

Morgause raised one eyebrow.

“Well, I barely studied, and so –”

“You still passed, barely studying, and had enough leisure time during the course of your studies to get twins on your little mistress. Whereas Garnet barely passed, studying like a regular bluestocking, and as far as I can determine has been so busy trying to keep abreast of her studies that she has barely had time to get herself into any trouble. No. It is not the same for you and for Garnet. If you will not even try to break through my wards, then you can rest assured that she cannot possibly succeed.”

Mordred sighed. “Must you start on Garnet?”

“You brought her up.”

Mordred shook his head. “Did it ever occur to you that I am not willing to try not for lack of power or ability, but for lack of patience to deal with you if I should succeed?”

“Good boy,” Morgause replied. “I’ve trained you well.”

“This isn’t the time to joke.”

“If you insist.” Morgause crouched to examine a cutting on the lowest shelf. A bit more water? she thought, examining the yellowing leaf. She tested the soil. Damp. A bit less?

Mordred rubbed his temple. “You know, Garnet still might do it.”

“What makes you say that?” She felt the underside of the leaf. Not a hint of residue. She murmured a quick spell for the extermination of insectiod life. The plant suddenly shuddered and shriveled between her fingertips. Damn it!

“What … why did you kill it?” Mordred murmured.

Morgause almost jumped. She narrowed her eyes at her son. “It was dying anyway. I could use the pot for a hardier plant.” Damn it all. I thought I had bred the resistance to magic out of the damn things.

Then again, she mused, it was hard to breed a certain trait out of the plant if she could barely get it to the stage where it would germinate. Perhaps she should find a way to break Dindrane’s leg, laying her up for a time, and simply feed a few peasants nobody would miss to the cowplant after all.

Though with her luck, Dindrane was already pregnant with a spare for Gawaine, and breaking the girl’s leg would cause her to miscarry, which would only —

Morgause was returned to reality by the sound of her son’s sigh. “Mordred?”

“He is my father, Mother,” Mordred said. “Not some … weak plant filling a pot you can use for a hardier specimen.”

What in Wright’s name is he talking about?

“And even if you think that Father’s time is past, that we should all be better off if he were to … to pass on –”

“Mordred. Say it.”

Mordred only looked up at her, his silver eyes glinting unnaturally in the orb she had set above the plants to give them constant light and heat.

Those silver eyes. It was all Morgause could do to avoid a shudder. Somehow, out of all her children, Mordred was the only one to end up with those silver eyes. Morgause could not help but be glad of it. Those silver eyes had been her mother’s, and no one had known better than Igraine how to put reproach and shame into a pair of eyes.

As if she had any right! I did all I was supposed to! I behaved myself — mostly — I married well at my king’s directing, and I never abandoned my infant into some drafty dowager’s castle so I could take up with a king before my husband was cold in his grave!

Though, in truth, Morgause had no idea if the dowager’s castle was drafty or not — she could not remember it. King Uther had given her mother a lovely palace on the banks of the River Sarras as soon as she became pregnant with Arthur, and as it was spring, Igraine had sent for Morgause as soon as the weather was warm enough for travel. It was in that palace that she had grown up.

Second place to Arthur and Morgan, of course. They had a right to be there. I was just the baggage from the first marriage.

“Die.”

Morgause turned to see Mordred staring at the wall opposite. “Die,” he repeated. “You think we all should be better off if he were to die.”

“I never said that,” Morgause demurred.

“You never said that you hated Accolon or Morgan, either, but that doesn’t make it any less true.”

“Please. Let us not bring that maggot-infested corpse into this.” Morgause rolled her eyes.

“You prove my point even with that.”

“No, no, I do not.” Morgause sighed. “For Wright’s sake. If I really wanted your father dead, do you think he’d still be alive?”

“Mother!”

“Well? Do you?”

Mordred hung his head. “I cannot imagine you would kill Father.”

“Then you,” Morgause replied, sidling away from the plant cuttings, “have a very limited imagination, my boy.”

Fire sprang into Mordred’s eyes.

“Now, I will admit, it’s never seriously crossed my mind to actually do it,” she continued. “Your father has always been most tolerable as a husband, and he’s been an excellent father, if a trifle indulgent, to you and your siblings. I’d be a fool to trade that for whatever husband it might please my stepfather or worse, your uncle to marry me to without excellent reason — and your father, bless him, never provided me with that reason. So, you can see that I do not desire him dead.”

Mordred closed his eyes. “I never said that you did.”

“Then what did you say, if not that?”

He stared up at her. “That you think we would all be better off if he were dead.”

Morgause watched lack of expression after lack of expression pass over her son’s face before seating herself on the couch beside him. “Mordred, I would have never thought that a year ago. Your father was a clever man and a capable one.”

Was? He’s not dead!”

“His body is not, no.”

“Nor is his mind!”

“Oh, Mordred,” Morgause sighed. “If you cared for your father at all, you would pray it was.”

“No,” Mordred whispered.

“Yes. Yes, you would. Put yourself in his shoes!” Morgause shook her head. “Unable to move, to speak — cared for in all things like an infant — Agravaine, your son Gawaine, they are less helpless than he is! His dignity is gone, his ability to affect the world, to be a man — and you would wish him cognizant of all of this! You would wish he was aware and understanding!”

Mordred squeezed his eyes shut and leaned forward like a child with a stomach ache.

“However,” Morgause purred, “all the same, I do not think we would all be better off if he were dead.”

Mordred sat up.

“I only think that he would be better off dead.”

“Then why not kill him yourself? Put him out of his misery, if you feel that way?” Mordred snapped.

“Your sake, mostly,” Morgause replied. “And your sister’s, and your brother’s. Don’t forget, I know what it is to lose one’s father before one is ready to.”

“You never knew your father.”

“Precisely.”

Mordred stared at the wall opposite. “It is not the same. You had King Uther. He was … he was your father figure from since you were too little to know differently.”

“You are right. It is not the same. You were never lied to, led to believe that there was a man who loved you as his own, only to have your illusions rudely shattered when that man got a daughter of his own and then proceeded to shower affection on her, leaving you out in the cold.”

“Perhaps …”

You know what your father was like. You will someday be able to tell your children, ‘This is what Grandfather used to say, this is how he used to walk, this was his favorite story that he used to tell me and that I will tell you.’ So yes, it is different! It is very different for you.”

Mordred turned away. “I see.”

“You see? Good. I hope you do see how much more fortunate you are than your poor mother ever was. And I hope you understand why I am not willing to end your poor father’s suffering before his time. Even if there is little hope left … well, I must have hope. For your sake, for Garnet’s sake … and for Agravaine’s.”

“I understand.”

“But all the same, if the Lord Wright were to take your father soon … it would be a mercy, for your father if for no one else.”

“So you say.”

“And I do say.”

Mordred rose. “I’m going out, Mother.”

“To see Rosette?”

“That is none of your concern.”

But Mordred never left the room that quickly, that decisively, if he were not going to see Rosette.

Morgause allowed herself a moment’s luxury to roll her eyes, and then she was up again.

Her search had gained a new urgency. If she was soon to be widow — and Father Hugh’s conduct did hint at that — then she would soon be on the marriage market again, and she would need to regain what youth and beauty she had carelessly allowed to slip through her fingers quickly. She already had someone lined up for husband number two, and she would need to be young and fertile enough to conceivably bear him an heir.

Not that that would be too much of a problem, Morgause smirked. After all — I’ve already born him one fine son. Surely, it won’t be much trouble to bear him another.

Alone in her workroom, Morgause could finally permit herself to smirk her feline smirk.

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12 thoughts on “High Infidelity

  1. Morgause, you whore. You, ugh! I hate her. Hat’s right, she is the top of the list on the worst of Avalon list.

    I hope, very, very much that Lamorak will never again touch you with a ten-foot pole, that you get shot down, and that you get humiliated in front of everyone in the kingdom at the very, very, very least. Cause I suppose it’s too much to hope that the old crone falls down a well and becomes a missing person that nobody misses in the slightest.

    Poor Mordred. It’s somehow odd to hear myself say that. I mean really “Poor Mordred?” But I digress. He cares about his father. You know, there’s an idea he sorta didn’t think about. Is there any way to get Lot out of the house rather than Morgan in. Although if I were you, I’d put a boot to your mother’s head. Although maybe that’d be a bad idea, cause I know that once I started kicking Morgause I would never be able to stop and while I’d like to see her dead… but killing your own mother…

    … Well.. then again, it was either Gaheris or Mordred depending on who you’re reading…

    • Well, I’m glad to know that she’s garnering such a strong reaction!

      Lamorak probably doesn’t want to touch Morgause with any kind of pole, however … she’s not always particularly cared to do what Lamorak wanted. So, even if he’s completely unwilling to have anything to do with her, it may not save him. Poor guy, he has no idea what kind of snake he’s got on his trail …

      Getting Lot out of the house would be … possible, I would think. It would certainly take some doing, as in servants and stuff to move him, but it would be possible. I don’t even know if Morgause would have much room to complain if they did that, especially if Mordred asked Father Hugh to broach it as an idea. What’s she going to do, refuse to let her husband get medical care so she can trade him in for a newer model that much faster?

      And as far as killing Morgause is concerned — don’t forget, in The Once and Future King, it was Agravaine that did it. 😉

  2. I like Andavri’s idea of smuggling Lot out of the house–easier said than done, of course, but still.

    Morgause wants to marry Lamorak? …did not see that one coming. I honestly think she’s starting to lose her mind–not because of the slightly stalkerish cougar obsession, but because if she marries Lamorak, people are going to be talking. First of all, the whole Camford crowd knows about Lamorak’s relationship with Garnet, so that will cause a scandal. Then there’s the extreme age difference, the fact that she’s still young-looking and popping out kids in spite of her age, and there’s bound to be some discussion of Lot’s death depending on how soon after she marries (err, assuming that he does die–and I hope someone can help him at some point). She’s already the least popular lady in the kingdom, and this… well, it certainly won’t help :S

    But hopefully her plans don’t get a chance to fold out. Mordred seemed like he was plotting something. Hmmm…

    • If Morgause wanted to help her popularity … at this point, I think even kissing babies and feeding puppies wouldn’t help. People would assume she had something bad planned for the babies and/or puppies. 😉

      Morgause marrying Lamorak would definitely cause a scandal, at least at first. But marrying Lamorak does have tactical advantages. He’s a young guy without much of a clue of what he’s doing as far as being a lord and things like that are concerned — Morgause would roll right over him and be able to run everything herself, just the way she wants. (Well, she’d run what she wanted to run and leave the boring stuff to Lamorak.) And she would have power over two of the noble houses of Albion. If she was able to get enough Elixer of Life (and enough time), she might conceviably marry into each Albionese house. Who knows, let enough generations pass and she might even become queen!

      Or at least, that’s how her diseased mind is thinking. We shall see if it actually pans out that way. 😉

  3. Now please don’t go and try making me feel bad for Morgause! It’s not gonna work. I refuse to have even the teensiest shred of pity for that witch!

    But it’s interesting to see where all that intense Morgan-hatred comes from. I suppose it makes sense, though I’m sure Morgause could have endeared herself to her … uhm, step-father-figure? I don’t think Mogause is quite the victim she makes herself out to be.

    But then she can’t be in her right mind although I doubt she ever was) if she’s seriously trying to marry Lamorak. That is so wrong I don’t have words strong enough for it. And what is she gonna do? Bespell the boy into marriage? That wouldn’t hold long with Morgan and Jess around, I’m sure. Even if Garnet couldn’t go against her mother alone (which I’m not sure she can’t) she’ll have powerful backup with those two.
    And even Merlin and Naomi might want to get involved in this seeing as Morgause is so obviously misusing her powers. After all she might start the church on the case of witches and wizards in Albion. And then where would the magic school be?

    Doesn’t Arthur have some say in who marries whom? Would he allow Morgause to go ahead with her plans and leave his niece heart-broken?

    If Mordred is going to Rosette I hope he’ll ask her for advice on this. I’m sure she’ll put his father’s health over Morgause’s objections.
    Getting Lot out of that house might be difficult, but I think it’s a good idea. Father Hugh could take him back to the monastery for instance, the better to keep an eye on him. Morgause couldn’t say much against that.

    • I think Morgause was partially dealt a bad hand in her early life, and partially screwed things up with her family through her own fault. Her father died before she was born, and if Morgause had been a boy, she would have inherited all the Tintagel holdings. Since she wasn’t, her mother Igraine got the dowager’s castle and a lifetime interest in one-third of Duke Gorlois’s estate, while the rest went to some distant relative. Igraine’s family also regained control over her, and after a few weeks to recover from the birth they pretty much ordered Igraine to report to the court so they could find a new husband for her. Morgause was left behind at the dowager’s castle since she was obviously too little to travel. Mother and daughter never really bonded when Morgause was a baby, and that pretty much set the tenor of their relationship for the rest of their lives.

      Morgause could have endeared herself to Uther, though. Uther actually always treated her very well. However, Morgause was pretty cold and standoffish from the get-go, and once she got old enough to know her history she didn’t bond with him, because he wasn’t her “real father” who surely would have treated her better than this (he wouldn’t have — Morgause gets her temperment from him).

      Ah, but there are other ways to get a guy to marry you than bespelling him! I mean … think about Gunnie & Alwy … if Morgause tricked him into bed once or twice or three times more, and they either got caught there or Morgause got pregnant … well, Lamorak would pretty much have to marry her. Look at what happened to the other guy who got a King’s sister pregnant and then didn’t marry her pronto. 😉

      However, I would advise you to hold that thought on Merlin and Naomi.

      And you’re right about the idea of getting Lot out of the house. It could be done … the question is, will anybody think to do it?

  4. Question: Would the Cowplant restore her fertility? I mean, sure, she looks young and beautiful, but her body is still elderly, right? So, even though her skin is smooth and wrinkle-free, her reproductive system is still that of a much older woman and therefore infertile. I mean, it’s fine if she wants another husband, but chances are pretty good she still can’t have kids, right? Morgan doesn’t have any more children, but how much of her infertility is due to Accolon’s lack of life and how much to her age?

    Also, are you going to do a Black Widow challenge with Moragause? It’d be a cheap and quick way to keep her supplied with Cowplant Juice, but maybe a little obvious?

    • Yeah, the Cowplant actually would restore her fertility. It’s not like medieval plastic surgery, restores the looks (er … sort of) and nothing else. 😉 It makes the person younger, which means restoring functionality to organs and everything.

      Now, there are limits — it won’t regrow lost limbs or lost brain cells, and if your kidney or liver or something up and died, Elixer of Life wouldn’t fix that. But since Morgause hasn’t hit official menopause (i.e., elder transition), it will make her more fertile. The more she drinks, the more fertile she’ll get.

      Morgan’s actually not infertile, everything is working fine on her end. However, being sexually exclusive with a sterile zombie does sort of cut down on the chance of kids. Especially since she hasn’t been doing any telescope-gazing. 😉 If she got together with someone who wasn’t sterile, she’d have as much a chance as conceiving as any woman in her late teens/early twenties.

      However, Morgan doesn’t want more kids that badly. If anyone in that household has the baby-rabies, it’s Accolon.

      Hmm, hadn’t thought of doing a Black Widow challenge with Morgause! That certainly would keep her young and fresh! But it might wreak havoc on my male population. 😉

  5. I like Mordred. I always have, really. He’s a right bastard who schemes and plots and is in no way above villainy, but he treats his wife fairly (which is about all his wife asks for) well and absolutely loves his mistress and children (hopefully all of them, although we never see as much of him with Dindrane’s kids as we do with Rosette’s kids). Loves his father, too, and would like to restore him even if it would mean he had to step down a bit. I won’t go so far as to say he’s a fundamentally decent person, but by god I like him.

    Morgause, on the other hand…

    … Shame her little calfplants there are so small. Perhaps she’ll grow one someday with an effective resistance to magic– and then it’ll eat her.

    • Note to self: Show Mordred with his legitimate kids at some point. They’re just starting to get photogenic. (I grew up Gawaine a couple of days ago. Boy, is he CUTE! And he’s nice enough that I’d suspect he wasn’t Mordred’s kids if I wasn’t the demigoddess deciding who gets to woohoo with who.)

      I wouldn’t go so far as to say Mordred is fundamentally decent either, but he’s not on Morgause’s level of cruelty by a long shot. Or at least … he isn’t like that with the people he loves. And he has a slightly longer list of “people I love” than Morgause ever has or ever will.

      LOL! Morgause eaten by her own cowplant! I love it. I really love it! 😉

      Thanks Hat. 😀

  6. OK, I would maybe have agreed with Morgause that her husband is suffering if his brain was still functional but his body wouldn’t allow him to do anything (at all – I hope I understood this right), but she totally ruined it by already thinking of husband #2 (poor Lamorak – he really had been put in a bad position here)… I hope she’s gone soon…

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