Chapter 2 : Chapter One
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Morgaine Slytherin speaks...
I remember vividly the day Mother brought that squealing brat into my home. It is one of my first memories. Strange, really, I can almost point towards that day and call it my first memory. Maybe it was my dreams playing tricks on me; they have been known to do that, but I do not think them responsible this time.
It was weeks before I first laid eyes on the source of the noise. Winter crept inside the castle, reaching every corner, paying no attention to how huge it really was, and I barely left the warm comfort of my own chambers. The child stayed hidden from my curious intentions; I wanted to see it. Of course, such a thing was not allowed, Mother made sure of that. As soon as she sensed my animosity towards the new addition to my household, she saw to it that it was safely in their chambers.
Three years of age, and I already resented it. It cried all the time. Mother once said that the Wet-Milk Potion did not suit the baby, and that had made me so mad! Never had I heard of a child refusing a Wet-Milk Potion; what made this one so special? Of course, now I know all about that, and I can hardly blame Godric for his troubles, but back then I was angry beyond words.
For some reason, though, I wanted to see the origin of all my troubles, and I did. It was midday, yet the dark and gloom had already descended upon the castle. I had just escaped Wobee, my faithful house elf, who had been trying to feed me porridge on Mother’s orders, and I hated porridge. I still do. Passing through the corridor that also led to my parents’ chambers, I heard the sharp cry of the baby, stopping me mid-walk. By the Gods, it was loud!
True, I was a very aware child and intelligent far beyond my years, but I was still a child, and it was a child’s curiosity that opened the oak door and let me inside the room. I recognised the green curtains around the bed where I had often slept before that brat had intruded upon my family’s peace.
There he was, so much smaller than I had imagined, golden head, his face swollen and red from all that crying. It was wailing and wailing, the infinite sound hurting my ears. But somehow, between two crying fits, the baby opened his eyes and dully focused them on me. I never really found out why he stopped crying then, but I remember his huge eyes staring at me, mirroring my curiosity.
Startled, I spun around, the doorway revealing the full figure of Mother.
“He stopped crying, Mother,” I informed her as soon as I got a grip. She closed the door behind her slowly, perhaps trying to not frighten the baby, else it could have continued crying.
“Did he, now?” Mother asked, her voice amused and maybe even relieved.
“Yes,” I confirmed after stealing another confused glance towards the baby. The red from his face was slowly giving way to a healthy pink colour. “Why?”
She shrugged, and glided towards the cradle with all her elegance. “Perhaps it was the sight of you.”
We remained like that in that blissful silence for a few moments, before she exclaimed in relief, “Gods, I’ve missed the silence.” There was a small giggle.
“Where were you?” I suddenly asked, remembering something. “He was alone.”
I may not have liked him, but even then I knew that a baby so small and frail should not be left alone, and yet there he was, waiting. Something akin anger rose inside of me, and this time it was not directed to the baby, but to Mother.
She looked at me peculiarly with her piercing eyes before answering me. “I was sending an owl to your aunt, Rosalind. And what exactly are you doing here? Where is Wobee?” She looked around, as if hoping to spot my house elf somewhere in this room.
“Waiting for me in my chambers,” I lied, but Mother did not question me further, just sent me on my way and I obliged without saying another word.
Looking back at that day, it was certainly odd, but from that day on I was the only one who could calm the crying Godric with my mere presence, and when the golden-head child learned how to walk, I was there to catch him in his falls and get him back on his feet again and again. It never bothered me. In fact, it may have made my childhood just a tiny bit livelier. One thing was clear; Godric adored me, and I took upon the role of his mentor.
My birthday brought the autumn, and soon after that came the winter with Godric’s first birthday. All sorts of strange things started happening in the castle. Weird people arrived, then left, most of which I never got so much as a glimpse of. The weirdest of them all, though, was Lady Rosalind. In the years that were to come I never forgot my first sight of the Lady of Avalon. Her long flowing dark hair, her huge blue eyes, the pale complexion with strict lines… she reminded me of someone. It took me years to realise that she looked like Mother.
They were having dinner. I was to eat in my chambers, but the music in the Great Hall was much too inviting for me to ignore. We rarely had any music, or people really, in the castle, save for the Earl Ceinnech of Buchan, who came from an old and pureblood family, as my parents called them, and an occasional witch or wizard.
“Lady Morgaine, you must stay in bed,” Wobee reminded me, but I barely heard her.
“I shall not be long,” I assured her, slipping into my robe, and soon I left, leaving the frightened and huge eyed elf behind.
I followed the music to the Great Hall, and as soon as I entered my eyes widened in shock. I had never seen so many people in the castle. It was usually just Mother, Father and me, and lately Godric. We didn’t mingle with the non-magic folk, as they were not allowed in the castle.
Voices mingled, sounds peaked then quietened then peaked again, magicians were performing exquisite and colourful entertaining enchantments, and the food was refilling itself once the plate was clean. And there she was, seated next to Mother, all beautiful and mesmerising. I could not take my eyes off of her. And somehow, I knew she had noticed me even before she turned in my direction and waved her hand, inviting me to join her. I did not need to be called twice.
I ran to her and jumped in her lap, ignoring the giggles of those around me.
“Morgaine, what are you-?” Mother inquired, surprised to see me there. “Why aren’t you in bed? Where is Wobee?”
Before I could reply, I heard the melodic voice of the Lady of Avalon. “Come now, sister. Can you not see the child is enjoying the music? Aren’t you?”
I nodded, unable to speak.
Mother gave me one of her rare smiles. By the Gods, this was fun!
“Are you hungry?” the Lady asked me, and I shook my head. I had just eaten.
More laughter. People were looking at me, seated in the lap of the Lady. The smile I gave them was so big, that it half-closed my eyes and I could barely see. I was happy.
“This is Rosalind, Morgaine,” Mother told me. “She is my sister and your Aunt.”
“Hush now, Elena,” the Lady said, then continued in a smaller voice, asking me, “you already knew that, did you not? Child?”
I stole a glance at Father, deep in conversation with one of his Knights. How could I know that? No one had ever told me about this woman. Yet, I knew she was right. I did know that. Maybe someone had told me, after all. A story from a half-forgotten dream, but vivid and colourful too.
Yes, I knew who she was, and I had known it all of my short life. I was born knowing it.
I felt light headed and my eyes watered. The music was too loud; it started hurting my ears. And that light; it was too bright. Outside a dog barked. It was probably one of my father’s hunting dogs; he had so many. Was the rich dinner my father’s kill?
What was the dream? Had I even dreamt it? I could not remember.
Between the drunken laughter and the music and the barking, I was vaguely aware that Mother had been calling after me.
“- Morgaine? Morgaine!”
I looked up, dazed. The look she had was not one I had witnessed before. Eyes wide open, mouth slanted, forehead creased… was it worry? She held out her arms and took me in her lap, touching my cheeks gently with the back of her hand.
“Stop fussing Elena,” the Lady said, her voice rich and deep. “She has the Sight. I knew it.”
“Of course she has it; she is my daughter, and of Avalon as well. But to show it so young…” Mother cradled me, my head propped against her breasts. I was taking in the entire conversation; it sounded important. But then, why was nobody else listening in? They were all engaged in their own conversations. I was the only one included in that bubble.
“Is it dangerous?” even though I was convinced no one could hear Mother and Aunt even if they shouted at the top of their voices, Mother still lowered her voice even further.
“Four is certainly a small age,” the Lady agreed, eyes half-closed in thought, “but I do not think it dangerous. No.”
“Will you take her, then?” What? Take me? Take me where?
“In two or three years. But not yet. She is far too young.”
“We grew up in Avalon, sister, and no one ever told us we were too young,” Mother snapped. Was she trying to convince the Lady to take me?
Did I want to go? This was my home. My chambers with the bed, draped in that warm green lining. The yard, where I’d go outside, waiting throughout spring for summer. My first Beltaine fire was on those magnificent hills. Mother had taken me. I remember it. Godric, as well. He was home too.
“Elena, she has a family here, and a brother on the way,” Aunt said, gently, before she took a short glance towards Mother’s belly. “How far are you in? It barely shows.”
The Lady nodded solemnly. “Just as I foresaw it.”
“Rosalind!” Mother hissed, glancing around nervously. No one seemed to hear.
“Calm down, Elena,” the Lady scoffed; a grimace so unlike her, it seemed. “Even the child knows we cannot be heard.”
The Lady gave me another smile, one which I did not return. Mother’s embraces were rare, and that made this one all the more special, as well as sheltering. Aunt’s eyes were too bright. They frightened me sometimes.
“I know.” Mother shook her head as if to clear it.
Rosalind exhaled heavily and turned towards her cup, from which she took a sip, and spoke in a resigned voice, but it carried something else, too. Disappointment, perhaps. “You have spent too much time in this household. You are forsaking the sacrifices one must make, the sacrifices we have all made for Avalon –”
I felt, rather than saw, Mother tense. “I intend to bring my children up in the ways of Isle.”
“All of your children?” the Lady asked pointedly, as if her words carried more meaning than she led on.
“All of my children, Rosalind. Irene was like a sister to me. Her son is as good a son to me as the one in my belly.” I knew that tone Mother spoke in. It was stern and cold and carried little, or no, emotions. She was angry, I could sense it, and even though Aunt gave no sign of noticing, I could swear she could feel Mother’s anger as well.
“As for the sacrifices one must make,” Mother continued in the same voice, “ – do not presume you can lecture me. I have known them on my own skin, in fact, were that not explanation you offered when you sold me like a mare?”
“Enough,” Aunt’s voice rose dangerously. I felt mother inhale sharply and hold her breath. “This child understands more than you or I can imagine.” The Lady then turned to me, “How is Godric, Morgaine?”
“He used to cry,” I spoke truthfully. “Now he is learning to walk. He’s golden-head, you know. No one I know is golden head.”
“I am sure you love your little brother.”
“He is not my brother.” Why was everyone repeatedly insisting that Godric was my brother?
“And yet,” the Lady leaned towards me, whispering, “you must learn to love him, just as you must learn to love the brother your mother carries in her belly.”
“Rosalind, that was enough,” Mother spoke sharply. “You may be the Lady of the Lake, but I am the Lady in this house, and I decide when and what I say to my children.”
“And when did you plan on telling this one? When your belly’s weight pins you to your bed?”
“Morgaine, please go to bed,” Mother said sharply, and suddenly I was no longer a part of this confrontation between the two women. She lifted me down from her lap, then looked around the crowded room, looking for someone. “Wobee! Wobee? Damn that one, where is that elf when you need it?” When she failed to see my elf, she turned to me and spoke with a resigned tone, “Morgaine, are you afraid to go to your chambers alone? I am sure Wobee is waiting for you.”
I shook my head. “No, Mother. Good night. Good night Aunt.”
“Good night, child,” the Lady smiled softly. I did not know whether to like her or not. She was strange; the strangest person I had ever met.
Realising that I could decide upon that in my bed, I turned to leave, then suddenly stopped and looked back. “Mother? Will I have a brother soon?”
She closed her eyes before nodding tiredly. “Yes, Morgaine.” I spun around to leave, when she called after me, “Morgaine? Wait. I shall go with you, I am tired. Lord Slytherin?”
Father, who was wiping his tears from laughter at something Lord McDermot had said, turned towards Mother, “Elena?”
There was a moment which I shall always remember, somewhere between my Father’s drunken laugher and Mother’s tired gaze. A moment where their eyes locked, and there was no one in that room that could question their love. The kind of love which the Gods had later denied me.
“I am taking Morgaine to bed, and I shall retire. I am quite tired. Good night. Sister.”
That spring my brother was born. Unlike Godric, this one rarely cried. Everyone said he looked nothing like Father; his black hair was the same colour as Mother’s, as mine. They named him Salazar. I always thought it went well with our name.
Salazar Slytherin. My brother.
I did not need to be older to realise that all the attention was averted from Godric to my brother. But where I helped Godric, Godric helped Salazar. No one would mistake them for siblings, for they were too different, but even I knew that since the moment Salazar could chase after Godric and take his toys, which the other one gave away willingly, they forged a bond stronger than blood.
The spring of Salazar’s third birthday, and after I had turned seven, Aunt came again. This time she came to take me to be fostered in Avalon and learn herb lore and potions and to master the forces of nature.
She became my foster-mother and I left home, leaving Godric’s tears and Salazar’s questions unanswered. How I wished to take them both with me, but they were to be raised warriors, not priests of the Gods.
When we finally arrived at the edge of Avalon it was nearing sunset, and the quiet waters were bathed in gold. Soon it would turn dark, and that frightened me. It was the first time I was away from home. But this was my new home, now, and I blinked back my tears.
I glanced up. She was tall and beautiful. The blue cloak that marked her as High Priestess hung in motionless folds around her. Nothing about her showed the fatigue I felt after five days on the road, and she had to have been older than Mother.
“Is the Isle of Avalon there?” I glanced towards the fading light in the Lake, cooling the mists to silver. There was no Isle to be seen, but I knew it was hidden, so that only those who seek it might find it.
“It is,” she answered. “I know you miss home, Morgaine, but Avalon is your new home now. You must learn how to control your gifts, else they would be dangerous to you and to those around you. The training of a priestess is not easy; there will come a time when you will hate me and might think me cruel, but remember that I must have Britain’s best interests at heart. We are nothing but instruments of the Gods, never forget that. Now, I shall summon the barge.”
She took out a bone whistle from her cloak. The sound it made was quiet and clear, yet it carried across the water. Soon after that, a barge appeared, driven by a small cloaked figure. We stepped onto the barge and it carried us to the mists.
There was something strange about them. Unreal. And heavy too. I could feel the silver fog press against my body and I shivered, but it was not because I was cold. Wrapping my cloak tightly around me, I sunk back and it was then that I truly saw the Lady of Avalon.
I knew her to be a tall woman, but in that moment she seemed taller still. She pulled back her hood, lifted her arms, and without so much as a glance towards me, spoke those words in her strong voice. The sound ringed in my ears, and I can still hear it sometimes. The command in that strange language that separated the mists and gave way to my new home.
I did not know then how truthful her words would prove to be. Everything she had told me came true. But what was I to know then? I was a mere child, innocent of the ways of the world or the Gods. Maybe I should have run away to the marshes, as far away from her as possible. Maybe I should have been a coward.
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