Igraines Paradise: A Castle by the Sea
Silvered moonlight weaved through the thin veil of rolling mists that swept over Cornwall's shore and into the window of the Lady Igraine's chamber window. Cold came in from the salt waves that battered the rocky craigs the lonely castle Dintagel called home. a dewy mist frosted over the window and despite the fire burning away in her hearth, the lady felt only cold.
The sea cried below her only growing more violent with each passing moment and the babe in her stomach cried to be free. It was Igraine's turn to cry out as the pain took over her body. The midwife and waiting ladies cared for her every need, seeing to it that she was looked after thoroughly. They spoke to her, put a damp cloth on her brow and the midwife stayed at her post, watching for the child to crown.
It was all a fog, Igraine was only vaguely aware of the goings on around her, and even the pain of the birthing seemed to barely register. She was only brought from her numbness when the child ripped out her, tearing through her insides to come into the world. Igraine gave a shriek that could part the mists as she gave one last push.
She heard her child cry in the distance as they carried her off to be cleaned. The midwife at her bedside was attempting to stay the bleeding. Igraine grew colder by each passing second as the very life drained out of her. Weariness clouded her mind as her eyes floated around the room, her body too weak to shiver, her mind unfocused, Igraine had accepted that she may die on her birthing bed despite Elowen's best efforts.
She faintly heard a tapping on her window and slowly moved her eyes upwards, straining for the laziest of movements. The last thing she saw was a raven perched on the branch of a shedding elm, its black eyes staring into her as the mists parted to reveal a full moon behind it and the seas below quieted with the distant cries of her child.
* * *
The child wailed inconsolably as Igraine paced up and down the chamber. Mórghaínne she had named her, it seemed fitting for both its meanings, the sea calmed her and Igraine had the unshaking feeling her daughter would be great, possibly a queen. When it wasn't too cold Igraine had taken her down for walks along the beach with her eldest daughter Morrowen picking up seashells and bits of drift wood. Mórghaínne however had been born on Samhain, and the weather did not stay warm long after that.
Morrowen had been such an easy child. Even birthing her had proved to be the easier of Elowen's tasks as a midwife. Igraine and her husband Gorlois adored their quiet beautiful baby. Even now at four years old Morrowen kept that behaviour.
Mórghaínne was different from her older sister in every way. Morrowen had Igraine's smooth red-gold hair, slender build and cornflower blue eyes that observed everything. Mórghaínne observed, and had her quiet moments, but often her green eyes were closed to the world and she wailed.
“ Mórghaínne,” Igraine sighed in her failed attempts to quiten her daughter.
“My Lady,” Elowen came into the chamber holding Morrowen's hand. The midwife and nurse was a stoutly woman with bright red hair and a permanent matronly smile which normally soothed Igraine.
“What is it?”
“There's a Cymri bard here to see you. A gift for the bairn I think.”
“Very well,” Igraine sighed.
She came to meet the bard in her solar and Mórghaínne finally silenced in her lap, looking out the window at the ravens flying by, watching each one intently and seriously.
“Lady Igraine,” called a familiar voice.
“Myrddin?” she gasped turning to meet her old friend.
Myrddin stood in the entrance leaning on an oaken staff dressed in holy with a small woodharp strapped on his shoulder and a raven perched on the other shoulder. He looked upon her with smiling green eyes. His black hair fell to his shoulders and grey had come into his beard. He wasn't too much older than her, she thought, but he held the wisdom of past centuries.
“You've escaped the Nemetons, I see,” Igraine chuckled bouncing Mórghaínne on her hip.
“I've been travelling for quite sometime, my lady.”Myrddin replied. “I've just come back from Eireann. Before that I had been in Normandy, Alba, and the frigid Northlands. Most courts these days welcome a bard more kindly than a druid, though the Nemetons here in Albion and Eireann all thought to welcome me.”
Mórghaínne stared at Myrddin with her wide green eyes, blinking at him knowingly. Igraine looked from her daughter to Myrddin concern growing in her heart. She turned from her friend to the window looking out to the sea. Morrowen stood on her tip toes to gaze at the waves through the roving mists.
“Morghainne isn't Gorlois's is she?”
Igraine bit her lip turning to look in to her friend's fey emerald eyes. She held to her youngest daughter more tightly as the world came crashing down around her. If Gorlois were to find out she knew it would mean her death and the death of her child. Morrowen's legitimacy might fall into question as well. “I am glad to see you as ever, Myrddin, but you need to leave.”
“Igraine,” he sighed placing his hand on her shoulder. “Is she...?”
“Who the hell else do think it would be?” she snapped near tears. “You need to leave.”
“Igraine, there is something you need to know if I...”
The doors to Igraine's solar opened and in through walked the Duke of Cornwall, Gorlois beamed, his hazel eyes gleaming in the torchlight dressed in dark blue finery with his yellow beard and hair well groomed and newly trimmed. He bent down to kiss his wife and his daughter's cheek. “Ah, Myrddin, here to regale my new daughter with fantastic tales and songs?”
“Actually, Myrddin is otherwise engaged and was just about to leave.”
“Lady Igraine,” Myrddin started.
“I will perhaps see you again soon, my lord.”
Myrddin cast his eyes downward, his face drawn as he stiffly bowed his head. “I will return soon, my lady.”
Hurt, Myrddin left the room with his head bowed. Igraine turned back to her window to see the waves batter the cliffs once more, wishing desperately she were riding upon the waves and drifting out to sea.
"Look! Look!" Morrowen begged her father with a smile on her shining face. She shoved a yellow-haired fabric doll in his face. "Elowen made her for me!"
Gorlois grunted happily as he lifted her daughter into the air. "And what a fine specimen she is, almost as lovely as you!"
Igraine smiled at her daughters and her husband as the evening melted away into the warm glow off the evening hearth. Igraine sighed heavily and tried to keep the tears from brimming over. She knew Myrddin's visit was not just a call from some old friend, and despite all her smiles and laughter that night with her dear family; Igraine knew that her paradise by the sea would soon be at an end.