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|Part Two of Gwenievere's story||
“She will wed Arthyr,” Viviane announced. Both Alirick and Enhywfar looked up from their child, the joy on their faces slowly turning to confusion and then worry.
“Why Arthyr? That child is going to be raised a devout Christian!” Alirick protested. He pushed his black curls off his forehead, his intelligent dark eyes scanning Viviane. “By the time he is King, his people will be hunting Gwenievere to burn her at the stake as a witch, and you propose a union?”
“Arthyr is of the Avalon line as well, even though his father will convert him to the New Religion,” Viviane replied, without responding to Alirick’s question.
“I don’t like this idea, Viviane. It seems unfair to her,” Enhywfar said, looking down at the tiny babe in her arms. Already she had a tuft of blue-black curls, inherited from her fae father. She slept peacefully, nestled against her mother’s breasts, entirely unaware of the fate that awaited her. How could Enhywfar and Alirick argue with Viviane? What she had offered them was too irresistible to pass up. There could be other children for them. Viviane smiled, her blue eyes sparkling with the glee of knowing once again, she had won.
“You gave her to my keeping, and now it is my choice what becomes of her. Your child in exchange for your freedom, Enhywfar, that was the bargain. She will be safe, she will learn the ways of Avalon as you did and she will wed the Pendragon’s son.”
Alirick stood from his love’s bedside and strode to the window, glaring out at the rising sun. “I must leave soon, Enhywfar. Do you come with me, or do you stay?”
Gwenievere was six years old when she learned that her mother was dead. It wasn’t a shock her to her; she had spent all her life living at Avalon, and had never met the woman, or her father. Viviane’s eyes were filled when tears when she told the child, but she wasn’t surprised that she didn’t get much reaction from her. Enhwyfar had given up her daughter at birth, and made no attempt to contact her over the years, or so Gwenievere had thought. In truth, both Alirick and Enhwyfar were very present in their daughter’s life, but it was only as a couple working a flower wagon in a town Viviane brought the girl to visit, or as a lone woman spending the night or a man looking for a day’s work. Gwenievere was far too involved in her own life to notice the way the woman looked at her, or the man would sigh over her. They both loved their daughter more than life itself, not only because for an entire nation she was more precious than life itself, but because she would be the only child they could ever have. It wasn’t discovered until years later that Enhwyfar’s womb had been ruined by an infection that set in after Gwenievere’s birth, and no matter what healers did, fae or human, the damage could not be undone.
It did not occur to Gwenievere that there could be life outside of Avalon, or that anywhere else could be as marvelous as the isle where she grew up. As a child, she was kept separate from the other girls, as Viviane was training her not just to control her Avalon-given powers, but also the powers she had inherited from her father. She knew little about the other women living at Avalon, but occasionally she ran across a woman named Igrane. Igrane had once been beautiful, but time and grief had taken it’s toll on Viviane’s younger sister. Her thining red hair was streaked with grey and it was hard to tell that it had been red at all. She was a kind woman, and would talk to anyone who would listen about her son Arthyr, who had been given to her by the great Pendragon himself. Many of the young girls spent hours with her, but not Gwenievere. There was something frightening about the lady, and as much as she hated to admit it, she knew exactly what it was. When Irgrane realized that she had betrayed her husband Galoris to his death, only to lie with the terrible Uther Pendragon, she put her own eyes out, ostensibly to stop the Sight. Of course, there was no true way to stop the Sight than to renounce one’s belief in the goddess and the ways of Avalon, but Igrane was too fearful of life without the protective magick of the Isles. Gwenievere could not stand the wrinkled eyelids sewn over the empty sockets that had once held eyes, and so she tried her best to avoid Igrane whenever she could.
Gwenievere grew into womanhood safe on the Isles, never once leaving, nor did she have any desire to leave. She always assumed that she would become a priestess and spend her life serving the goddess that she had worshipped since she was a child. Never did Viviane discuss matter of the outside world with Gwenievere, and she had no idea of the turmoil Britian was in. She was completely ignorant of the onslaught of Saxons that repeatedly threatened the borders, the death of the Pendragon and the rise of his son, the Summer King Arthyr to the throne. All of the country was speaking of the young boy who tore the sword from the stone, shattering it and proving he was indeed the heir to the Pendragon, and Gwenievere knew nothing of this.
The girl had just turned sixteen when Viviane called her into her chambers and delivered her news. As usual, Gwenievere had to stand and patiently wait for Viviane to finish her mediation, before the priestess called her to her side. Seated on skins of stags killed during the past Beltide hunts, and with the hide of the spring’s kill resting on her shoulders, Viviane told Gwenievere that the time had come for her to leave Avalon and travel to Camelot to become the Summer King’s wife.
Gwenievere sucked in her cheeks and stared at her mentor, worry making her luminous green eyes seem to glow. “Marry Arthyr? I do not even know this man!” she protested. This news shattered her world; everything she had known and expected to be or have been was now torn away from her. “Viviane, I want to be a priestess of Avalon, not a wife of some Christian!” she spat the last word as if it had a vile taste on her tongue. Christianity was the destroyer of the mother Goddess and the Old Ways and now Viviane expected her to marry and bed one of those beasts? It seemed almost too much to bear and she had to bite her tongue to keep from saying even more.
Viviane waited silently until her charge had her emotions under control, and then began to speak in her quiet, yet forceful voice.
“You and he have been bethroathed since the day you were born. You know you are of the royal fae line and he is of the Avalon line. Together, you will rule both the Summer Country and the fae worlds. Arthyr may be Christianized right now, but he will not remain so. It is up to your union to preserve our world and our way of life, my Gwenievere.”
The girl shook her head, feeling the heavy burden of trying to hold to warring worlds together weighting on her shoulders. “Why does it have to me, my Lady? I know nothing of the outside world and nothing of ruling a country. Surely the high king deserves someone more his equal.”
Viviane smiled and reached over, taking the girl’s face in her hand and lifting it gently so her wise eyes met Gwenievere’s scared ones. “There is no one else. Let us not discuss the matter further. In the morning you leave for Camelot.”
Gwenievere stood slowly and bowed herself from the room, concealing her clenched fists in the folds of her robes. Once she was free of the room, she began running, out of the vineyards and open buildings at formed Avalon and into the hill beyond them. She ran until she had come to her favorite spot in all of Avalon, a nice flat ledge overlooking the lake. Off to the side, through the mists she could just make out the gloomy buildings of Glastonbury, and occasionally, the clear sounds of their bells would make their way across the sound. She threw herself down and glared across the water, not seeing or appreciating the beautiful scenery about her; her mind was far too occupied with other matters. So lost was she in her own thoughts that she didn’t hear the knight approaching until he laid his hand on her shoulder.
Gwenievere screamed and leapt to her feet, spinning around to face the tall knight. She had never before seen a man like him; he radiated beauty from his dark, curling hair and blue eyes to his impeccable smile. To her, he seemed a fairy prince, imagined from daydreams and fairy tales, but then again, she had known very few other men in her life.
“My Lady, could you direct me to where the Lady Viviane resides?” he asked. His voice was deep and rumbling, like summer thunder, and she shivered when she felt his gaze rake over her body, even though the day was warm. She nodded, trying to find words.
“Through this wood, and over the hill,” she said, gesturing. She felt a hot flush burning her cheeks and had to force herself to meet his gaze. The knight smiled, fully seeing what he was doing to her.
“Thank you for your assistance, my Lady.” He bowed low, his fine mail clinking softly together and set off down the path Gwenievere had showed him.
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