Osgary 26, 1014
Another day, another crisis.
Morgan steered her broom to land right by the message box just outside Dyfed Keep. She supposed she could have gone right to the front door — Garnet was still lady here, and surely Garnet herself did the same — but she sensed she would need the walk up the drive to gather her thoughts. The fly from Apple Keep to here had somehow not been enough time.
So she walked up the drive, passing the merry fountains and flowers still bright with all of summer’s glory, passing the fine carriage — the two fine carriages — parked. Looking out here, you’d never guess everything that had gone wrong inside the keep since the year turned. Morgan hoped that the gardeners were getting hazard pay for this, because they had surely earned it.
And as she walked, she thought. Not that there had been much to think about — all she had to go on was a hastily-written note, signed by Lady Eilwen, begging her to come at once. At once had been underlined several times, so Morgan had only paused to grab her bag of herbs and magical tools and kiss Accolon good-bye before rushing out.
Now that she was here, though, her questions had boiled down to one: Delyth … or Garnet?
She took a deep breath, ran the last steps up the bridge, and knocked on the door to find out.
The door swung open, and though there was a porter there, he didn’t lead Morgan anywhere or take her name or anything. Instead, Lady Eilwen cried out, “Oh, thank heaven! You’re here!”
The strangest thing was that Lady Eilwen and the porter (who quickly hurried away) were not alone.
Lynn? Morgan wondered. What was she doing here? And the other woman … Morgan didn’t recognize her, but that didn’t mean anything. She didn’t know everyone in the kingdom. Besides, there were more important things to worry about than introductions.
“Indeed.” She nodded to Lynn and the unfamiliar woman. “What’s the trouble?” she asked Lady Eilwen.
“It’s Garnet!” Lady Eilwen sounded near tears. “I–I don’t know what’s the matter. She didn’t leave her room this morning –”
Oh, Lord. An alarum bell started to ring in Morgan’s mind. Today was Garnet’s birthday — you never knew how a birthday might take someone, especially someone who had shouldered a great loss barely a month beforehand. If she hadn’t gotten out of her room —
“The door is locked — both of them! — and I can hear her crying. But she won’t open up or tell me what’s wrong …” Lady Eilwen stopped and added. “Er … I hope you don’t mind me sending for you …”
“Mind?” Morgan exploded. “Do I mind? Of course I don’t mind! This is Garnet!” Garnet, the first of her daughters who wasn’t born of her body. Garnet, just about the only thing that had made Morgause’s existence on this earth worthwhile — though maybe that was being unfair to Agravaine, and Lady Eilwen’s grandchildren.
Morgan swallowed and tried to calm down. “You say you can hear her crying?”
“She sounds like a wounded animal, Morgan!” answered Lynn. “I–” She flushed. “I tried to ask her what was wrong — I was going to take her out today, for her birthday — but when I came …”
“She’s been like this since this morning. I just don’t understand …” Lady Eilwen cradled her head in her hands. “I thought — I thought yesterday might have been the trouble, given that yesterday marked the full month since … since …”
Lady Eilwen sounded like she could need a counselor almost as much as Garnet. But — crises usually came first. “You know,” Morgan replied, “why don’t we just go up — and — figure things out from there.”
Lady Eilwen nodded eagerly and led the way up the stairs, Morgan, Lynn, and the woman Morgan didn’t know following.
Lady Eilwen hurried to the bedroom that Garnet and Lamorak had shared. She knocked on the door. “Garnet? It’s me — won’t you let us in? Please?”
The only reply they got was a sob.
Morgan stepped forward and gently gestured Lady Eilwen to the side. “Garnet?” She knocked to punctuate her question. “It’s Morgan. What’s wrong?”
That got a verbal response — albeit not an encouraging one. “Go away!”
We seem to be getting somewhere. “And why should I do that?”
“You won’t help!”
Won’t help? Morgan put both her hands on her hips and stared that door down. “Won’t help? Garnet, when in your life have I ever told you that I won’t help you?”
“You will this time!” A hiccup, followed by a sob. “You will!”
“Could you explain that a bit, perhaps?”
Garnet didn’t answer.
Well, blast. Morgan stepped back and eyed the lock on the door. “Lady Eilwen, you wouldn’t happen to have a spare key to this bedroom lying around, would you?”
Lady Eilwen shook her head. “There’s only the one key. We — we never thought …”
She must have had an extraordinary amount of trust in her children. There wasn’t a bedroom in Morgan’s own house that she couldn’t get into in an emergency — and she thought she was a trusting parent.
Then again … for her, getting into a bedroom never relied on keys alone … Morgan eyed the lock.
“Blast,” she murmured.
“What is it?” gasped Lady Eilwen.
“It’s iron — the lock on the door, that is. Iron’s always a bi–er–difficult to magic …”
“Er …” That was the unfamiliar woman speaking. She brushed her bangs away from her eyes, and even then still wouldn’t meet Morgan’s. “Perhaps I can help …”
“Oh, can you, Mistress Carey?” asked Lady Eilwen.
“I think so … if you’ll excuse me, Lady Morgan?”
Morgan moved to the side, and Mistress Carey took a pin from her hair and got to work on the lock.
“I was a lady’s maid before I got married,” she remarked, though for exactly whose benefit, Morgan wasn’t sure. “It’s how Florian and I met.” She twisted and turned the hairpin in the lock. “And you’d be amazed how often people manage to misplace spare keys — or won’t let the lady’s maid have them, even when it’s necessary — and, well, I thought I would be a housekeeper someday …” Mistress Carey made a face, probably as the lock was being stubborn. “Anyway, you never know when it’ll be handy to know how to pick a lock if necessary–ah-ha!”
Morgan heard the faint click of iron on iron. Mistress Carey stepped back. “That should do it.”
“Mistress Carey — I know we haven’t been properly introduced — but from now on, in my book, you will always be a godsend.” Morgan just refrained from patting Mistress Carey’s shoulder, since she didn’t know how that would be taken. She walked up to the door.
And stopped. She glanced over her shoulder to Lady Eilwen and Lynn, eyebrow raised in mute invitation.
It was Lynn who declined it. “You–I think it would be best if you went in alone, Morgan. It’s — it’s hard enough admitting you need help …”
Without an audience. Morgan nodded once. Then she pushed open the door and in she went.
She saw much of what she had expected to see: Garnet laying in the huge, intricately carved bed that she’d taken such pride in ordering when she and Lamorak had first been married. She looked absurdly small in it. That bed was made for two people, for three, maybe even four. But it was never made to just have one occupant.
Garnet didn’t acknowledge Morgan’s presence. Morgan was glad of it. It meant she wasn’t screaming for Morgan to get out, to leave her alone, as Morgan had half-feared.
She closed the door behind her and softly walked to Garnet’s bedside.
As soon as she was within five feet of it, she knew — or at least could guess — what was wrong.
There were some things it was difficult, if not impossible, to hide from a witch of the Light — particularly a witch who specialized in healing. But Garnet wasn’t attempting to hide this. True, there was a locus of energy there, negative energy — but it wasn’t meant to shield and hide. Quite the opposite. It was meant to find and …
Morgan cocked her head to one side. It wasn’t meant to destroy. Not … quite. A witch’s will could be very powerful, and if Garnet had wholeheartedly set her mind on destruction, it would have already happened by now. Her despair, Morgan thought, was keeping her back from that. That, and there was a thread — just the tiniest thread — of ambivalence.
But despair could be just as destructive as anger or hatred. It was good that Lady Eilwen had sent for her. Left much longer like this, and who knows what Garnet or Garnet’s magic might have done to herself.
So when Morgan spoke, she made it plain and to the point. “You’re with child. And you know it.”
Garnet’s eyes slowly turned to Morgan. Then she rolled onto her side and curled her knees up to her chest — like the baby inside her. If, that is, it was even baby-shaped yet. Garnet couldn’t be far along. If it was more than two months, Morgan would eat her wand.
Morgan put her hands on her hips and waited.
“Go away,” Garnet finally mumbled.
“Why not? You won’t help.”
“If by ‘help’ you mean rid yourself of the baby — no, I won’t.” Not unless it was absolutely necessary, and it didn’t seem to be necessary … yet. Morgan would have to see that it stayed that way. “You’ll do that yourself, you know, if you keep thinking the way you’re thinking.”
Garnet pulled the covers over her head. “I just want to die!”
That was Morgan had been afraid of. Perhaps a medicine of tough love was necessary. “That would be awfully selfish of you, if you did.”
Garnet froze. Then, in one swift motion, she threw the covers off and sat up. “Selfish?”
Morgan didn’t reply. She put her hands on her hips, raised her eyebrows, and dared Garnet to keep going with that.
She took the dare. “You — you –” Garnet’s arms were shaking as they held her up. She swung her feet to the floor. “You’re calling me selfish? You? You spent your whole life doing whatever you pleased, and damn what anybody else thought!”
“I’ve lived my life for myself, yes. And it was a long time before I found someone whom I loved enough to think about living on their terms as well as mine. I won’t deny it.” Morgan crossed her arms in front of her chest. “But I never thought doing what you’re thinking about.”
“I’m not thinking about –”
“Garnet. You’re a witch. Remember everything I taught you. If you want something, feel that you need something badly enough — if you focus your whole will on it –”
“Well, obviously I haven’t done that, or else I wouldn’t still be here!” Garnet snarled.
“And I’m glad you haven’t,” Morgan replied. “There are too many people who would suffer — even as you’re suffering now — if you did.”
“Oh, I doubt anybody’s suffering like I’m suffering!”
“What about Percival?” Morgan asked.
“He’s not even ten months old! He doesn’t understand –”
“Yet. He will someday. What do you want him to understand, Garnet?”
Garnet stopped. Her lips started to quiver. She looked away. “He’d be–”
“Don’t. Even. Say that.” Morgan swallowed. “He would not be better off without you, Garnet. Don’t think that.”
“I can’t do it on my own, Morgan!” Garnet finally shouted — finally got out what Morgan thought was bothering her. “It was — it was bad enough with just Percival! Hard enough then! But — but another …”
She was starting to tremble all over. A hug was what was needed — but a hug now would only be shrugged off, if not violently pushed away. So Morgan forced herself to stay still, to not step in, as much as she wanted to.
“And don’t tell me I’d have help, Morgan! Don’t tell me I’d have support! I know that! It wouldn’t be enough! Because — because nobody else would be their mother! Or their father! I can’t be both, Morgan! I — I could barely manage the one — and I can’t, I can’t do both!”
“I know how that feels. But, Garnet–”
“No, you don’t!”
“I don’t?” Morgan put one hand on her hip. “Garnet, remember who you’re talking to.”
Garnet’s jaw fell. “It’s not the same.”
“Maybe I was a little older then than you are now,” Morgan conceded. “And maybe I knew I was pregnant before I lost Accolon. But –”
“You got Accolon back!”
“I did — but I hardly knew that at the time.”
“But you — you –” Garnet was trembling again. “Did you ever feel like this? Look me in the eye and told me you felt like this!”
“… No,” Morgan admitted. She had not despaired, even when Accolon died. Even when she had known that Morgause had murdered him.
She’d been too bloody angry for despair. If Morgan hadn’t known she was pregnant, she probably would have challenged Morgause to a witch’s duel then and there, and damn the consequences.
But her baby — Ravenna — had been one consequence she couldn’t damn. Ravenna was to be her revenge. Not literally — even at her worst, she’d had no foolish, melodramatic plans of raising her baby to avenge her father’s death. But having her baby, loving her baby, proving to Morgause that Morgan would go on living, go on loving, go on being the antithesis of everything Morgause stood for and thought was important? That would be a revenge better than any killing spree.
“You see? You see?” Garnet asked. “You’re stronger than I am! You –”
“Garnet, no. That’s not –”
“You could do it! I — I –” Her face crumbled and she hid it behind her hands. “I can’t!”
“That’s not true, Garnet. You –”
The sobs came back, and — worse — Morgan could feel the despair-energy flooding back as well.
“Come here, Garnet,” Morgan soothed. She put her arm around Garnet’s shoulder. “It’s all right. Don’t be so sad –”
“No, it’s not!”
“… All right, maybe you have a point there.” If Morgan was hoping for a laugh, or even a chuckle, she didn’t get it. “But — don’t say you’re not as strong as I am, or was –”
“Isn’t that obvious?”
“No. Garnet, hear me out. I didn’t break down like you are. Like you have every right to be breaking down.”
“What? You just said I was selfish –”
“For thinking of hurting yourself, of leaving this world and leaving a hundred other people hurting like you’re hurting now. That’s selfish, Garnet, and I won’t pretend it isn’t. But,” Morgan went on. “You have every right to be miserable. You have every right to feel crushed. You’ve especially got every right to feel overwhelmed. Because Fate has not dealt you a good hand, and I’m not going to pretend it has.”
“But — listen to me, Garnet — Fate’s never dealt you a good hand, has it? Your mother was — was — insane. Yes, that’s the best way to put it. Not in a legal sense, but she never cared about anything or anyone other than herself, and she … she took against you in a way that was just sick. And your father loved you, he really did — but all the same, he wasn’t much help.”
“Don’t say things like that about my father!” Garnet snapped.
If that was the only argument Garnet could muster up, then that must have meant that Morgan won. She let it rest. “Very well. But — Garnet, by the end of her life, your mother had it out for you. She would have destroyed you if she could have. But you survived.”
“That wasn’t because of m-me!” Garnet protested. “You did that! And Betsy, and Jessie — and Will and Lord Pellinore and the King, putting her away and promising to execute her!”
“Garnet, I’m not talking just talking about physical survival. I mean your heart. I mean your mind. That’s what Morgause always really wanted to destroy — your body was just incidental. And you pulled through. You were stronger than she was in the end.”
“I had help there, too! L-Leona — and Jessie — and you –”
“So? No man is an island, Garnet, and no woman is, either. We all tossed you ropes, true — but you had to pull yourself up them. And you did.”
“But what if I can’t do it anymore?”
“You don’t know that!”
“Yes, I do. Garnet … grit, determination, it’s like a muscle. The more you work with it … the stronger it gets. You …” Morgan sighed and leaned her head against Garnet’s thick, curly hair. “You made yours stronger than most people’s ever will get before you were out of your teens. This …”
It wasn’t nothing. Morgan wouldn’t insult her by saying it was. And perhaps, it would be harder than surviving Morgause had been, in the way a marathon was harder than an all-out sprint. The sprint had an end. By the time things had gotten bad, terribly bad, surely Garnet must have known on some level that they wouldn’t last forever. They had to dissipate or break. Whereas this …
This was a marathon Garnet would be running the rest of her days. But it would get easier with time. It had to. It had for Morgan — and she’d barely had two years apart from Accolon.
“You will get through this. And, Garnet — you are not alone. You’ve got so many friends and family who want to help you –”
“I can’t do any more to Eilwen! She’s — she’s already –” Garnet started to tremble again.
“She’s been through hell,” Morgan agreed bluntly. “But …” No, she wouldn’t tell Garnet just how thrilled Lady Eilwen would be to hear Garnet was carrying Lamorak’s child. That would just add more pressure. “But you don’t have to lean on Lady Eilwen if you don’t think it wise. You’ve got Jessie, you’ve got Lynn — Leona will be home soon — and might I mention, Garnet, you have me?”
Garnet moved her hands away from her face, finally. The sobbing seemed to have stopped. But she still wouldn’t meet Morgan’s eyes. “I should be strong enough by now.”
“You are. Maybe not strong enough to face everything alone –”
“No, I didn’t. I had Arthur and Alison. They stood by me, you know. Even if I didn’t need them by my side every second, they were there if I needed it.”
Garnet looked up, sniffling. “They — they were?”
“Of course they were.”
“I …” Garnet wiped her eyes. “I don’t remember that …”
“Garnet. You were two.”
Garnet laughed wetly, and she managed something like a smile at Morgan. It faded. “And you’ll … stand by me?”
“Oh, Garnet.” Morgan reached out and folded her into her arms, where Garnet belonged. Where, perhaps, she should have put her from the first. “Where else would I be?”