Today’s post will bring us to the end of Part One and into about mid Part Two. As such, I’m going to divide it like that.
Morgain is tasked to create a scabbard for Excalibur that will make it so Arthur sheds no Lifeblood in battle. She spends at least three days working on this, weaving patterns into velvet with golden thread, pricking her own fingers without noticing, adding her blood to be sure his is not split. When Vivian and she gift it to Arthur, he thanks them, and promises to rule justly, no matter what god or gods his people follow.
Arthur is crowned as High King and Morgaine heads out to Isle of Glastonbury to witness this as the representative of Avalon. Here, she sees her mother, Igraine, for the first time since leaving her at age 11, and her aunt Morgause. Her aunt is the only one who figures out that the young priestess is pregnant, and that is it Arthur’s child. There is much celebrating, and Morgause tries to comfort Morgaine with words about the ease of childbearing and that it’s natural to feel that your life is over when one is with child. But in the end, it gets better.
Morgaine disagrees. With a lot of tears. And starts to think that perhaps Avalon is not the home she once saw it as.
A few days later, she goes out into the wilds of Avalon to find some specific herbs that will “cast out the child”. And she runs into an Elf. This elf gives her the choice of bearing the child without pain in these lands beyong Avalon and leaving it with them, to be reared as an Elf. She takes off running back into Avalon instead, and cries herself to sleep. Vivian goes in to check on her, and the two have an argument where Morgaine finally accuses Vivian of making this happen. And thus the Lady’s prophecy comes to pass. “one day you shall hate me as much as you love me now.”
The next morning, Morgaine is no where to be found in Avalon. She has taken her aunt up on the offer to live with them in the North.
Part two focuses on Gwenhwyfar, the soon to be wife of Arthur. Like the first few chapters of Part One, these opening chapters introduce the characters in this section, breathing life into them. Gwen meets lancelet for the first time since she was young, and tells her father that she wishes she could marry him. Instead, he tells her that she’s to marry Arthur. The High King sends Igraine to “fetch” Gwen from her castle and bring her to his. This trip she has to undertake in an enclosed litter, as she is incredibly frightened of the open sky and world around her.
At the castle, the wedding happens. Only Igraine and the Merlin recognize the fact that Gwen is more in love with Lance than she is Arthur. Sadly, there is no viable way of stopping the marriage and keeping all honor intact. Morgaine is seen out in the world for the first time since leaving Avalon. She bore her son, Gwydion, in Morgause’s northern court. But because of the cunning and plans of her aunt, she is never able to hold her son when he is first born, and her difficult pregnancy and birth lead to her basically having a stranger as a son.
Arthur and Gwen offer Morgaine a place as one of the new Ladies in Waiting for the High Queen, a position she accepts as it will get her out of the North and keep her out of Avalon.
Time passes, and Gwen finally grows comfortable of being High Queen, even if she would still prefer to be wife of Lance than of Arthur. She seems to be unable to bear any child though, a curse she attributes to God’s displeasure at her constant attraction to the High King’s best friend. Her stout belief in Christianity and Morgaine’s Priestess training often times come into conflict in this section. It’s a great personalization of the fight that is going on in the world at large between the two religions.
After Morgaine finally gets a night with Lancelet, she realizes he does not care for her as she loved him. angry and bitter, she gathers her things and leaves in the dead of night. No one is sure where to though.
Vivian leaves Avalon for the first time since Igraine’s wedding to Uther to go to her son’s foster-mother, who is on her death bed. Easing her pain, as requested, with a poison to send her to sleep and death, she is accused by one of the sons of the family for being a murderer and a sorceress. She asks for word of Morgaine at Arthur’s court, and we realize that she hasn’t been in Avalon for years. Returning to the Island, she determines that there is no way she can continue on her path of being the Lady, and she must turn over leadership to someone younger. But of the two choices, one is untrained and can not control her Sight, and the other has taken a vow of silence, giving her voice to the Goddess. Weeping, Vivian admits she hasn’t the slightest idea of what to do.
Meanwhile, Igranie lays dying in Tintagel. Gwen travels there to comfort her in her last days as Arthur is out fighting the Saxons once again. Igraine asks again and again where her daughter is, saying that the Sight should have told the Priestess that her mother was dying. She calls upon the Goddess to bring her daughter to her, and Gwen tells her that only God could answer the prayer, and that the nunnery isn’t a place to call upon “the Goddess of the fiends”. Pissed off, Igraine gets enough oomph back in her to speak the overarching theme of the novel so far: all Gods are one God. “Religions come and go, but She is beyond them all”, thereby proving that she isn’t the pious near-nun even she thought herself to be. In the morning, she dies.
Wow…that was a lot to go over. I should start taking notes so I remember what went on when…
So, some notes on what I have noticed…. Part One is called Mistress of Magic, and focuses mainly on Morgaine. Sure, other characters are mentioned, but she is the one who carries the majority of the plot along. Her realizations about what home is and what family is are ones that we as readers can relate to. I can’t begin to remember the times I thought that I didn’t fit in, and just went along with what others were doing to try to fit in (high school anyone?).
Part Two is all about Gwenhwyfar and how she copes with being in a position she does not want, married to a man she does not love. Even Arthur notices how she looks at Lancelet, and basically gives her permission to go be with him, taking the blame that she is unable to have children. As the ever-devout Christian, she blames herself, instead staying with him because God willed it so (according to the priests at the wedding). This is an action that stands in stark contrast to Morgaine’s belief that love is sacred, is a gift from the Goddess and one should be with who they love because they want to be with them, not because they have been ordered to do so. These two women are polar opposites.
Gwen’s story is the main story here. Morgaine has the cameos, acting only as support or a foil to allow Gwen to come into her own as a character. While Part One had various “Morgaine Speaks” moments, there aren’t yet any in Part Two. I do enjoy this separation between the two, as it makes it easier to follow the story and not keep thinking “I wonder what so-and-so is doing right now…” and only hints of what is going on in the minds of the supporting characters.
Next up: starting with chapter 11 of Part Two. This time with a notebook…