living room set has been cleared out to make room for the Christmas tree, so unfortunately we won't get as far as Chapter X in time for Midwinter's. However, courtesy of Simien Mountain Fox, we bring you Morgause and peacocks to brighten up your seasonal celebrations. (Actually, the peacocks are courtesy of
. They were my birthday present.)
Morgause! At last! It seems sudden to Medraut, who has been wilfully ignoring her existence, when in fact the whole reason she's here is because he told Artos to take her kids away from her. She comes along to see them ensconced in Artos's court.
Medraut comes home from a day in the mines and there they are, the whole fam-damily, sitting in the Queen's Garden.
I wrote this book in the late 1980s. It was not until I put this scene together that I realized HOW MANY OF THEM THERE ARE, when you stuff them all into the same garden. Or the same living room. FIVE of the boys are teenagers, plus another teenage girl. Plus, like, MORGAUSE, and Medraut. Can you IMAGINE what it is like living in this house???
Sara has pointed out that the Orkney boys all have the same hair. What she means is not that they all have orange hair, but that they all have their mother's hair—actually they all have girl hair, which is why it is so wavy. Agravain is surely my favorite.
I stepped onto the colonnade to join the family in the Queen's Garden, where we rested through the late sunsets, and stopped, struck through with a stunned, wintry surprise that felt something like despair.
Smiling, you rose and crossed the garden to where I stood, and clasped my hands in greeting.
I stood trapped, desperate and ridiculous, trying to find the sense in why you were here.
Ginevra, who is not stupid, sees how freaked Medraut is and orders him to come and sit by her. But
Oh, God, they were all staring at me--Lleu at his mother's feet stopped fiddling with his sandal straps, and your own four boys gazed with unabashed curiosity. Even Goewin watched intently from her perch on one of the low stone ledges, knees drawn up and chin resting on bare arms. And Artos, my father, bored through my patent desolation with ruthless scrutiny.
Morgause makes rather a show of attention to Lleu, which further freaks Medraut because he is now jealous as well as scared, so he gathers all the kids and takes them away for a tour of the estate. They also take a look at the menagerie Morgause has brought with them.
Mark made the menagerie. He was particularly proud of the flying crow.
Segue into a few scenes where the Orkney boys and the Pendragon twins start to get to know each other.
Lleu and Goewin, merely by doing what was expected of them and acting with friendly courtesy, quickly gained the devotion of their two younger cousins; for Gaheris is rarely treated with courtesy, and Gareth is easy to like. Not so with Agravain, the jealous one, the dour one. He is a few years older than Lleu and Goewin, but not, as is Gwalchmei, old or wise enough for the twins to feel they must respect him. So, your four children were subject now to the careless arrogance of the prince of Britain, who could not keep straight their names.
Their games over the course of the summer consist, relentlessly, of trying to get the best of the prince of Britain, and failing. They do a lot of mock-duelling… and one day Morgause comes along to watch, which puts everybody off (except Lleu, of course).
They decide to try fighting him three to one. Gwalchmei and Gareth refuse to participate (we like Gwalchmei and Gareth). Medraut, however, is incapable of saying no to his mother, and ends up having to join in.
Lleu disarms Gaheris more times than any of them bother to count. Gwalchmei and Goewin, the judges, tell Gaheris to get lost.
And with Gaheris out, Agravain, Lleu, and I were suddenly pitted against one another in earnest, and playing a little desperately.
Lleu basically hasn't got time for Agravain; he's focused on Medraut, who he probably considers his only serious opponent, which in fact is the case.
Agravain fought doggedly, retrieving his sword twice from the ground, growing more and more irritable. The third time Agravain's sword went flying across the grass, Lleu stamped furiously on the wooden hilt so that it splintered and cracked before Agravain could pick it up again. Agravain snatched hold of Lleu's arm, trying to pull him down with his hands.
Everyone shouts at Agravain to stop being a pain. So then Medraut and Lleu get to have their own private duel.
It ends, inevitably, with Lleu's wooden sword at Medraut's throat.
I knelt before him in formal surrender, as before a judge or an executioner, with head bowed and neck bared.
They are both very polite to each other. Gareth is impressed. Everyone else is seriously ticked off for reasons of his or her own.
-fin du chapitre-
Mark's set up:
The flag says, "FOOD (Humans)"
The speech bubble on Morgause's head says, "I'll have that one"
Medraut takes Lleu and Goewin to visit the local smithy. He is always taking them on outings. Here they are walking through the woods on their way there:
It is November. I have not got any "autumn" Playmobil so I kind of have to fake it (you may have noticed that the "dry leaves" on Goewin's skirt in the last post were in fact flowers).
Gofan, the smith, and his apprentice, Marcus, are busy making a gate:
But despite the furious clatter and the heat they were producing, the two were not particularly hard at work that day. In this late autumn time of hedge laying and hunting they had set aside the constant repair and production of harness and yoke fixtures, scythe blades and plowshares that kept the smithy busy earlier in the year. Gofan was teaching his young apprentice a more intricate work, and they were making a gate or screen of wrought iron.
(The gate is one of the few pieces that is not actually ours. We nicked it out of the next-door neighbors' castle.)
After a time the two men left their work quiet and came over to sit and talk with us.
Guess what they talk about? You guessed it, KINGSHIP. Again. The not-so-hidden agenda of ALL Medraut and Goewin's discussions about kingship is that neither of them thinks Lleu is up to the job, and this time, which is more or less in public, Lleu gets fed up listening to it. So he stomps away, presumably to stop himself smacking anyone, and Medraut comes after him.
Then Lleu surprises Medraut by talking about something else entirely. Well, maybe it's not such a surprise; part of what they were discussing was skill, work, and general usefulness to society.
"I wish I had made those mosaics," [Lleu] said. "I know they aren't perfect; you can see the mistakes, the wrong colors in places, uneven lines in the borders. But who does such work anymore, now that the Romans are gone? I wish I could see the pattern books they used. And the work of other artists, and other kinds of artistry. I wish I had seen the paintings that were on the walls before Father rebuilt the house."
After some big-brotherly reassurance from Medraut, Lleu goes back to the others, leaving Medraut "half smiling to think how absurd this was, that I should be working to convince Lleu of his worth."
And so a year has passed since Medraut came to Camlan, and Lleu is coming into his own. In the spring his father officially names him as his heir, the prince of Britain.
Lleu confronted the assembled crowd white-faced, but appearing strangely elegant; he stood slight and straight before his father, dressed simply and bearing no arms, his dark hair clipped short in the old style of a Roman soldier. He listened gravely as the high king informed him of the duties that were to be expected of him.
Then Ginevra armed him, as had his namesake's mother, binding to his side a real sword…
After the pledges were finished Artos crowned his son with a thin fillet of gold and declared him prince of Britain.
Afterwards Goewin runs off to sulk.
Medraut finds her snuffling about how it's too bad Britain isn't under Roman administration any more, and he points out that the Romans left nearly a hundred years ago and it's not like it happened yesterday, and Goewin swears that after she's married:
"You can be sure I won't sit by as queen of Dumnonia and watch Britain trickle through Lleu's fingers. If I have to I'll take the kingship from him by force."
"Princess!" I exclaimed.
"If you don't destroy him first," she finished. "I hate living at the end of things!"
Medraut doesn't have to say any of it, you see, even though it's what he's thinking. She says it all for him. It's spring, though, so to cheer her up he tells her, "There is no end. Only the beginning of something else."
Director's notes: Lleu's crown is my mother's wedding ring. Mine is too small for his little plastic head.
My children are so weird. This is what happens when you leave them alone with the Playmobil:
Sara's Set-Up: Everyone Attacks Goewin
(It's her father aiming the crossbow at her that I find most disturbing in this scenario. I wouldn't put it past her brothers.)
Mark's Set-Ups: 1) Looters in a Ruined House
He was especially proud of the spilt milk.
2) The Boar of Doom Club
In the midst of that mild summer Lleu learned to use a sword.
He gets taught by Bedwyr, who is one-handed, and who finally notices Lleu because he's still got this broken arm. And Lleu blossoms.
Isn't the hook great? It's the wrong hand, but whey-hey.
Medraut, meanwhile, goes hunting. He hasn't been able to hunt for a while, due to the mysterious injuries he sustained last summer, and now he is very happy. I was very happy, too, constructing this vast forest for him to hunt in.
His companions on this occasion are Priamos and Caius, and they are, maybe a little foolishly, going confidently after a boar.
I think this is my Best Set-Up Ever.
Lleu doesn't like to hunt. He is very soft-hearted. He calls Medraut bloodthirsty, which as you can imagine does not go down well, and Goewin points out, "I like hunting—am I bloodthirsty too?"
Bloodthirst was not all that Goewin and I had in common. One autumn afternoon, while she was roaming the colonnaded porch that opens off the atrium, she came upon me sitting on the wide stone steps that lead down to the Queen's Garden. I was fitting feathers to arrows, and Goewin sat next to me to watch. It is a task I enjoy, calling for deft hands, and perfect judgment and balance. Goewin sat companionably for a few minutes without speaking or interrupting me; then suddenly she asked, "How did you hurt your hand?
He tells her, kinda sorta. It was a hunting accident and the bones of his fingers were "set badly" and "had to be broken and set over again." Then they talk about some other stuff, ending up on their favorite subject, i.e. kingship.
Goewin scooped a handful of brown dry leaves from the flagstones and spread them over her skirt. It was a gown she had worn for two years, and was too short for her. In spite of the chill she was barefoot. But no one ever scolded her for that as they did Lleu; suddenly I saw her a little neglected. "No," she answered me. "After all, I could never manage a sword." She scattered the leaves about her dusty feet. "Only..."
"Only you could manage a kingdom," I said.
In a voice so soft it was almost a whisper, Goewin said, "Yes. I think I could."
"You see, Princess," I said quietly, "you and I are not so different."
They go inside and there's Lleu, sitting on the floor of the atrium beneath one of Ginevra's pot-bound lemon trees, toying with an unfinished corner of the mosaic.
He notices Goewin and leaps to his feet to whirl her in a short, wild dance across the tesserae, scattering a few unused tiles that clicked beneath their feet and shot across the floor like thrown stones skimming over ice. He's all excited cause it turns out he's disarmed his sword master four times today.
Both Goewin and Medraut are rather shaken by this. Goewin is quite pleased. Medraut doesn't think it's funny.
Artos is away at the time but when he hears about it he sends Lleu a letter exulting, "Lleu, my Bright One, you will make a king, after all--think of it, the finest swordsman in Britain at fifteen! I'll begin to train you as I've trained Medraut....Stay strong, grow wise, and I'll crown you with pride in the spring."
Medraut is jealous.
Goodness me, I don't know why people like this book at all. NOTHING HAPPENS IN THIS CHAPTER.
Well, he was not prince of Britain yet.
It's really all about Lleu—how untried he is, how unready. He's timid, thoughtless, frail, young, untrained, without any obvious talent. There is an important first paragraph where Medraut explains his family tree for the uninitiated (i.e, Lleu, Goewin, and any reader not previously familiar with Mordred's bloodline); Lleu points out immediately that "Morgause + Artos = Medraut" is in fact incest. It is meant to be a secret who Medraut's mother is, though Morgause fostered him. But he tells Lleu and Goewin because he considers it the true reason Artos won't make him his heir.
So, with that off his chest, in spite of himself Medraut relaxes a bit and hangs out with the twins:
Inwardly I longed for their companionship, and the two sometimes allowed me within their circle. Not completely, and not always. But enough. We visited the smithy; we flew my Oriental kites of red and gold paper from the top of the Edge. We rode together, and spent long hours exploring the surrounding country. And twice I took Lleu and Goewin into the copper mines. The first time was by day, with Artos.
We stood in the entrance of the cavern that leads to the main workings, and Cadarn the chief foreman explained to the twins how the copper ore is removed and how the shaft entrances are reinforced with stone lintels. But I am not sure they saw anything beyond an impression of the intriguing black, hollow place before them, shot through with darts of flame and glinting water, and echoing with the voices of men and the sound of metal against rock.
The second time I took them was by night.
During the long spring mornings Artos was rebuilding the floor and heating system of the villa; he was painstakingly prying up sections of tile and replacing the crumbling hollow clay bricks that lay beneath the atrium. The exposed catacomb of the hypocaust had the look of a miniature crypt, ancient and airless, so old and grim that while the floor was uncovered Lleu would not walk through the atrium by himself after dark.
One night I challenged him: "Would you see real darkness?"
Goewin, fearless, said, "Show us." So that night I took them back to the mines. We made our way quietly through the young fields to the forest and the Edge; Lleu's broken arm kept us from being able to climb, so we took the safest and most open paths. But beneath the Edge there is only the earth itself, and there the concept of safety becomes brittle and trivial. We stood in the first cavern, quiet now, and Lleu's face was waxen in the light of his taper… Lleu and Goewin had only seen these tunnels full of the movement of men pulling carts and cutting stone. The carts stood at rest now, and the stone lay in heavy piles or jutted strangely and unnaturally from the walls where it had been hewn. The caves are no darker by night than by day; our candle flames cut the darkness softly, like a hand parting hair, not a chisel shaping rock.
"…This is all yours, Lleu," Goewin said suddenly. "When you're high king, this will be part of your kingdom too."
"Dare anyone say he owns this?" Lleu said.
"Surely not one who is afraid of the dark," I answered quietly.
He hated that. He hated it, and never argued: we stood two hundred feet below the surface of the earth, and only I knew the way out. Even Goewin said nothing in his defense. The prince of Britain, and afraid to walk through his own house at night! Well, he was not prince of Britain yet.
Perhaps I managed to shame him with my derision, and now he learned to disguise his fear. After that night, as his father replaced the atrium floor, Lleu followed behind, filling in and matching the broken stretches of mosaic with chips of glass and malachite and azurite. After he had glimpsed the abyss, the low dusty hollow place beneath the villa no longer frightened him.
But I had not finished with this lesson in darkness.
So he takes them on a picnic. It's just a picnic, seriously—nothing of import happens except that they travel through a Tolkienesque landscape which is, in fact, part of the Pennine Way near Kinder Scout in Derbyshire, and I pretty much described it almost exactly as I experienced the same excursion, one memorable afternoon when I was 22.
One afternoon in deep July I rode north and east with Lleu and Goewin, straight across the green country toward the high moors on the horizon, through the forested park where the high king's deer and boar grew fat…
…across one of the old, straight Roman roads paved with heavy flagstones. Beyond that we followed a little river between steep wooded hills, and left behind us the poppy-lit fields. The way grew steeper; behind and below us the oak and birch leaves shone green in the sun, and the river snaked away in runnels of diamond light. Above, the high, flat peak that one can just glimpse from the top of the Edge was shrouded in cloud and mist. I know the moors well enough, but Lleu and Goewin had never been here before.
…We entered the fog. Beads of water hung like amethysts on the heather. Behind us where the ground fell away the cloud came down like a screen, hiding the countryside below.
At last we came to a wide, flat, shallow stream with unexpectedly white sandy banks like the mouth of a river; on the near bank stood a cairn of piled loose rock. We dismounted and added a few pebbles to the cairn, drank from the stream, and ate a luncheon of honey, bread, cheese, and eggs. We talked while we ate, for when we were silent we were too much aware of how alone we were, and how lost we could be.
And what they talk about is kingship. Lleu is full of highmindedness, and Goewin warns him of treachery. He laughs and says,
"When I find treachery within I'll call on you, suspicious one. I can continue Father's defense."
"But it isn't just a matter of defense!" Goewin pressed. "You have to be able to change, to know whether to attack or to organize new treaties yourself, even if you're not sure they'll work--you have to stand your ground but be fair to your enemy at the same time. That's what Father really does. You have to learn to take risks."
They turn back then, and the chapter ends:
We broke into sunlight again, and began the journey home across that broad, bright country.
Director's Notes: Since I can, I'll point out that the book ends with the same words. "We finished the journey home across that broad, bright country."
Geez Louise, it took me a long time to figure out how to do the fog.
Mark made the sun. He asked me to take this picture to prove it:
(I said to him, "Mark, I need you to make me a sun." It really does twist you in the gut when you realize you are more or less quoting yourself. Not to mention quoting Morgause.)
The second half of Chapter 2 is all melodrama about Lleu breaking his arm.
He has recovered from his winter's pneumonia or whatever it was, and plays outside a lot. Including going riding with Goewin, who is much the better rider.
This is what happens, as Goewin tells it:
"I said we should gallop, and I got ahead of him—we had to leap a stream, and he was going too fast to stop. It was dark; he missed the jump and was thrown. I—I couldn't stop it happening—"
…They came to me for help that night, after all, rather than anyone else. I answered the tentative tapping on my door to find Goewin, for once as pale as her brother, supporting a fainting and battered Lleu.
No questions, then; without thinking I caught Lleu in my arms and carried him to my bed as though he were a child of five, not fifteen.
As I cut away the shredded remnants of his jacket and shirt I could not help but murmur, "Good God, Princess; what have you done to him? After I spent most of the winter trying to keep him alive, you half kill him in one night."
So Goewin helps Medraut to fix Lleu up, and there's a moment of tension, quite impossible to simulate in Playmobil because the clothes don't come off, where Medraut's robe slips down his back as he's working and Goewin spies some weird and telling scars on his back which freak her out a little. (And if you have read "No Human Hands to Touch" you will know where they came from.)
So then Medraut kind of passive-aggressively sedates Lleu.
Both Lleu and Goewin are well narked about this when they figure it out. Lleu gives him an imperious order:
"Medraut, listen to me," Lleu said. His eyes were closed and he spoke slowly and very quietly. "I command you—I command you not to use on me in the future, no matter how ill or hurt I am, anything that might make me sleep, without my consent. Swear."
And he does. Sort of. He says, "I promise… not to send you to sleep at any time you might be ill or hurt, from now on."
Now Lleu's unconscious and they can't move him, so Medraut makes himself a bed on the floor, and Goewin, on her way out, gives him a vote of confidence anyway.
"Well," she said carefully, "it is behind you now." She did not mean the promise I had just made. Her words touched me with the cool surety of her fingertips. She had come to me for help; she trusted me even without fear, although she knew how you haunted me. "Thank you, Medraut," she said.
Filming hazards: Thirty seconds after I made the landscape it was invaded by a GIANT MONSTER.
The first half of chapter 2 is very
equinoctic episodic. So, here are some snapshots of what's going on. Apart from a few nightmares about his mummy, Medraut seems to settle in to life at Camlan.
Spring did not come gradually, with indistinct changes in the air and earth, but all at once.
(Mark made spring. It DID come all at once. He did this set-up all by himself, so I figured I'd post a landscape view of the whole thing to make him happy. He and I have added a Great Hall... that would be the thatched A-frame.)
One morning the snow was gone.
I also thought it might also amuse you to see where the snow went… it's just temporarily piled in a corner of the living room:
Anyway… Artos comes back, too.
All Camlan was cheered when he returned, and Ginevra held a mock banquet in his honor. We dressed in our finest clothes and brightened the dark beams of the Great Hall with garlands of holly that Goewin told me had never gone up at Christmas; the small ration of bread for the meal was twisted into individual loaves in the shapes of birds, flowers, and fish.
In the evening before the feast Artos took me into his study as he used to do, to talk with me in earnest and in private. When I was younger the hours spent there had been a privilege and an honor, and the room itself still seemed to offer me the promise of authority and fulfilled ambition… unique to Artos himself is the clay model of the city wall at Deva.
Oh, man, I was so excited when I realized we had a model city wall to put in there!
Well, anyway, Artos and Medraut have quite a long conversation, the gist of which is that Artos 1) gives Medraut a job, 2) asks him to keep an eye out for Lleu, and 3) tells him he is going to make Lleu his heir and Medraut his regent. Medraut doesn't say much except to warn Artos to send the social services in to take care of Morgause's other children. Which Artos agrees to do.
The weeks that followed were full with new work and knowledge. Artos made me one of his Comrades, gracefully bringing me into his select band of warriors and counselors an entire year before his heir would become one of them.
The dude in green is the Aksumite ambassador, BTW. The guy with the hook is Bedwyr, who is supposed to be missing a hand.
The mining too was a joy and a consolation to me. The mines at Elder Field are not large, though some of the natural tunnels go very deep; anyone looking for work can help in the less dangerous shafts and surface quarries. I had, when I was younger. Now I shared supervision of one of the deeper shafts with a man called Cado, each of us usually working only half the day.
I know, I know. I hadn't really counted them up before, but he has seven guys under his command (six minions and a jobshare). So it's SNOW WHITE AND… never mind. Suffice it to say that I could not help singing "Heigh ho heigh ho" as I put this scene together.
My small room was stacked with boxes I had sent from Byzantium and Africa, six years' worth of books, tools, clothes, ornaments, and gifts that I had not seen since I acquired them. I unpacked these things slowly; sometimes Lleu and Goewin helped or watched, fascinated by the mysterious assortment of foreign goods. The twins coaxed me to read to them, or to tell them stories of the distant lands I had seen.
Here he is unpacking his African souvenirs with Lleu and Goewin. There is an object in my own illustration of this scene (here: warning for big, i.e. 4.85 MB) which I mistakenly once took for an Ethiopian coffee pot, so I couldn't resist sticking a coffee pot in his trunk.
Enter the Bright One.
you have to know... Lleu was for oh-so-long the darling of my heart. It was at least seven years from his first appearance in my brain that I started to temper his all round Wonderfulness with less endearing qualities like 1) fear of the dark, 2) asthma, and especially 3) being a pain in the neck.
Even so I was momentarily astonished by his beauty. It struck at me as it had when I first saw him, when he was an infant. I think it is the single characteristic in him that I have always envied, will always envy. He is graceful and slightly built, like an acrobat or a cat, with black hair and brilliant dark eyes; but the eyes were closed now, the fair skin dry and fiercely hot to touch, and he did not know me.
He did not even know his mother. She tried to comfort him while I felt his forehead, gauging his fever; but when my hands moved to his throat, testing the swollen glands there, he fought me, wildly trying to tear my hands away. "You want to strangle me," he managed to whisper, coughing and struggling...
Medraut's all clever and makes him some cough syrup.
Enter Goewin! She comes in to wake him up and put him to bed.
Not long afterward someone woke me and helped me to rise, and I found myself being led through the corridors in the direction of my own chamber. I felt dazed and stupid; it was a long time since I had let myself grow so exhausted.
"No, no," she said. "You're half-asleep, and I have changed since I was eight. I recognized your pale hair." She opened the door to show me in and said conversationally, "You saved Lleu's life, didn't you? I insisted they open your window, so it's my fault if it's too cold in here. I remember you almost always had the window open, and it needed airing badly." There were wooden shutters instead of glass in my window, and I used to keep them open for light, not minding the cold. It touched me that Goewin had remembered.
I drew back the almost invisible bowstring, and shot; the sharp little sliver of bone struck straight through the minute black knot of embroidery, and pinned the cloth fast to the door.
director's notes: I nearly went insane balancing that damned toothpick in his tiny little Playmobil hand.
And we're off!
The first fisherman I spoke to was leaving that day for the mainland... the wind was perfect; we sped past the barren cliffs of Hoy, and the day was clear enough that we could see Cape Wrath looming in the distance.
So off he goes to Camlan.
When he gets there it's all snowy and miserable.
Director's Notes: The BEST, BEST thing about this scene is the hole in the atrium floor, which is THERE IN THE BOOK because part of the hypocaust has collapsed. In the picture it is blocked off with a "rock" and half a "wooden" plank.
Like the window seat? that's in the book, too. The villa is one of the few props we're using that's not actually Playmobil. It's Fisher Price... but it *is*, I kid you not, "Sir Mordred's Castle."
stay tuned. I promise I am working on the novel too.
Now, sit back and enjoy the madness.
Director's Notes: In our Cast of Thousands we don't actually have any Playmobil children with white hair. He has got a wig made out of Plasticine. Unfortunately it makes him so top heavy that he falls over backwards when you try to sit him up. (When it says "his own face was in shadow," it really means in the shadow of his massive hairdo.) In this shot he is precariously held upright by Ginevra and the arm of the sofa.
Me and Sara and Mark have been driving back and forth to Dundee planning the film cast for The Winter Prince. Mark got disgusted with planning something that was never going to happen, so we decided to use Playmobil instead. The grand plan is to act out THE ENTIRE SERIES
so far we have managed a family portrait. Here it is: