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Jul 23, 2008


Table of Contents

I. The Girl From Gwent

II. The Lady of the House

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I often feel as if I am watching the world from a distance. Rarely do the inhabitants pass a glance my way, and yet I am sure I am here for a reason. I find myself awaiting the dawn with a hard resolve knowing that choices will be made this morning that will far outweigh my normal routine of child-rearing and sewing.

Today I step into a new role. Today I am not just Morwenna, daughter of Idnerth. Today, I am Queen of the Britons.

Around me, the household is beginning to awaken from their long night’s slumber, and I can hear the cooks bustling to prepare breakfast for the court. Sitting by the window, I have a wonderfully clear view of the first rays of sunlight as they break over the hills on the distant horizon. I often sit here, welcoming the beacon of the new day, but now I find myself willing the sun to reverse its course. I am too young, and yet I already know too much to pretend to be less than I am.

My husband, Bleddyn ap Cynfyn, is a good man and he takes his responsibilities as the Prince of Gwynedd very seriously. Our families have been close allies for decades, and I had grown up hearing tales of the bravery he had shown in battle, larger-than-life in the mind of a young girl from Gwent. I remember the first day I met him -- despite his greatness, his manly heart was broken, for he had lost not just one wife but two. He had been married to his first love for thirteen years, but the fever took her while he was away on campaign, and she died before he could return to her side. Shortly thereafter he took a second wife, and although she was young and strong, she died in childbirth along with her baby girl. Although the people loved the Prince, there were still the rumors – old wives’ tales of “the curse” placed upon him and his household. He had lived silently in his grief those many months, reluctant to take yet another new wife.

One evening my father, being a perceptive man and a good friend to the Prince, took me to dine with him at Bleddyn’s Llys at Aberffraw – a princely court more than befitting his high station. I was instantly drawn in by the serenity of the grounds, and by the quiet strength of the lavish main hall. However, it was the Prince himself that truly took my breath away. He was still strikingly handsome, despite his middle-age. His wavy dark hair had small streaks of grey at the temples that served only to increase his dignity. His smile was warm, but his eyes were distant, lonely, and seemed to ever be seeking solace. Being young and filled with romantic notions of courtly love, I was sure I could make those eyes smile again.


And so our courtship began and ended a few short months later with a simple but lovely wedding. We had barely grown accustomed to being husband and wife when we discovered I was already pregnant with our first son, Iorwerth. What a joyous time it was, welcoming a new baby into the household, at least it was for me. Bleddyn was so proud, and with the light back in his eyes, he had the exuberance of a man twenty years younger. Only two years later, our second son, Rhiwallon came kicking and screaming into the world full of life and energy. Yet despite our great happiness, there were others present at the Llys who were not so pleased, though I would not discover it until it was too late.

I soon learned to turn a deaf ear when the servants would compare me to the women who had previously been the matrons of the home, but I was terrified to think that Bleddyn was also comparing me to the other women who had shared my place in his bed and his heart. The fear of failing to measure up inspired me to work harder to create what I thought would the ideal home for the husband I wanted so badly to impress, but I often found that while in name I was woman of the house, I was definitely not in any position of authority.

When on the battlefield and on official business, Bleddyn commands with a strength and valor that draws men to him. He is a highly successful leader and truly a hero to the people. However, at home, my dear Bledd is often so comfortable. He is content to leave matters of politics at the door and just watch the boys chase the geese. It is a pity his older children do not do the same.

While his previous wives may have been angels, their children most certainly are not. Bleddyn was been blessed with a boisterous brood of eight children before I was brought into the family, their ages ranging from sixteen to two years. The younger ones were dear to me and they never hesitated to climb into my arms, but the older children were understandably defensive of bringing another stranger into the home to be their “mother.” My two beloved sons were like stabs to their half-brothers’ hearts, as they grew to fear that the babies would replace them in their father’s eyes. However, Bledd loved each of his children, no matter which of his wives had brought them into the world.

The abuse and the scheming of the older children has only grown, and over the past week I have felt an increase in tension throughout the corridors of the LLys. Bleddyn’s eldest son and heir, Maredudd, is particularly hostile towards me, being only a few years younger than myself. When he was not harassing my little sons, he would brag to the other young men about what he’d do to me after his father was dead. I was shocked when I overhead one of the servants repeating his boast. Bledd was not home to quell the disturbance, having left some days earlier to go hawking with his brother in Powys. Something dreadful was going to happen; I could feel it, and I had no idea what it was. Last night I resolved in my heart that today would be the day to take the reins of the household and bring it to order. For if nothing else, there would be peace in my home.

A clatter in the courtyard below brought my attention back to my current surroundings. Scolding myself for the wasted time, I stretched my arms, feeling the tightness in every muscle. I stood, straightening my hair and the wrinkles in my gown. Praying to God for strength, I reached for the door latch. Hesitating to open the door, I closed my eyes and took a deep breath, reminding myself that today I would no longer be Morwenna, the self-doubting young Welsh girl. I would be Morwenna, Queen of the Britons.


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Wow. Great start. Love the way yous et the scene in the first person and the hint of menace and what is about to unfold is just right. More please!
Intriguing and self-contained. The first-person perspective works very well - it's hard to write that way, and you do it well. The nice part about this kind of writing is that you can skew the perspective, and you skew it well by making Bledd out to be a champion in the eyes of his wife. You also lay some very Arthurian groundwork here with the queen's step-son being intent on ill designs against her, and presumably her husband, and the queen herself having a revised Gueneverian focus of sorts.

Your writing also demonstrates a light touch. The prose is not bloated or overstated, but gives enough detail that we are drawn in. And I love the picture of that great hall; no massive castles of stone here, no! There is a female tone to the writing too. I'll check in and see what happens in the future.
Cartimandua, please don't get me wrong when I am going to blather about a woman writing an AAR. I don't want to overemphasize this gender issue, but I still feel that you bring a female point of view and touch to AARland that is delightfully different and refreshing. Your approach to the story is unlike any I've seen so far, and you bring up issues I have not yet seen brought up. I like that very much and I am greatly, even excitedly, looking forward to what you are going to do with Morwenna and where you are going to take her and us.

Like phargle, I do love the wooden hall. In the 11th century, these were much more prevalent than the castles of stone one sees in so many AARs, and doubly fitting for a backwater region like Wales. Great to see you plunge right into the spirit of the times.

And, oh yes - your style isn't all bad either! :D ;)
I'll have to echo everyone else. You've already created a couple of very compelling characters just in your introduction. The fact that it is from Morwenna's point of view helps establish a great atmosphere as well as the character's voice.

As you can tell, Cartimandua, I'm already hooked.
Ah, so this was the secret project that was hinted at! Despite women being a vital part of CK, there are far too few AARs that start from the female perspective... all to often female characters end up as either femme fatales, supporters of their main-character husband/brother/son, or just disappear into the distance. I can only echo what others have said - its refreshing to get a new story with such a different angle, and it only helps that you're a wonderful storyteller! :) I'm hoping this turns into something long term, I'm definitely going to be following along!
Ah, so this was the secret project that was hinted at! Despite women being a vital part of CK, there are far too few AARs that start from the female perspective... all to often female characters end up as either femme fatales, supporters of their main-character husband/brother/son, or just disappear into the distance. I can only echo what others have said - its refreshing to get a new story with such a different angle, and it only helps that you're a wonderful storyteller! :) I'm hoping this turns into something long term, I'm definitely going to be following along!

Now, now Melody was/is more than a femme fatale though she does have some of that quality about her. :D

And Becky, well... yeah. ;)

But to respond to the AAR itself, brilliant work thus far Cartimandua and I'm looking forward to more. :)
Hmm, I'll repaeat what the others said about women being so rarely the main character of an AAR. I havent seen such a ... domineering female character since Phargle's Duchess Marguerite.
I guess I'll join the chorus...this is off to a very nice start, your prose is elegent and not over-wrought and the story, well, its compelling. Please keep up with it!

(and also register this delightful AAR in the LibrAARy!)
Misty will have words with thee.
Celtic woman. Splendid. I eagerly await the display of good, old fashioned female celtic fury and wrath.

And the great hall looks very nice, indeed, although the beamcross (or what do you call that) seems a bit too norseish.

Consider me watching, Cartimandua.

(Also, has there been a very positive female invasion since I last visited?:))
A facinating perspective, Cartimandua, and one that is hardly represented in AARland. The women, at least as the main character, is so rare here, I don't think I have read on AAR where that is so. And this is obviously a woman with celtic spirit. This is, I have no doubt, going to be interesting. You might even match your Husband in writing skill ;), it was a very gripping and well written chapter. Do continue :)
Great stAARt.

About time I got back into the CK forum. And there seems to be something bothering me. How come all the newcomers are such good writers :D

It seems there is some major hostilities within the rather large and disjointed family. IMO, I would bring them down with an iron fist, serves them right!

Please continue I am eagerly waiting for more. :)

EDIT: Such a beautiful beginning picture, I think I could stare at those eyes and freckles for eternity.
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Thank you all for your kind words and encouragement. I hope to write a new update soon.

@ Rex Angliae - Thanks! Writing in the first person just seemed natural to me.

@ Phargle - Wow, thank you very much. You make an excellent connection with the perception of the story. That's the wonderful thing about first-person narratives. What is written doesn't need to be fact, just as long as the character believes it.

@ The_Guiscard - I appreciate your interest! When thinking about what angle to take the story, it was simply natural to write from the woman's perspective, as it is the one I am the most familiar with. ;)

@ east_emnet - I'm glad you are enjoying the story and I hope you stick around.

@ General_BT - Don't worry I will continue writing this story, we have to see how it ends after all. ;)

@ Jestor - Thank you, I hope you keep reading.

@ kadvael56 - I think we are all wondering what will happen when the door opens.

@ Teep - Yes, the women of this AAR will be quite in control.

@ Alfred Packer - Thank you for the compliment, and don't worry, I will make sure this AAR gets in the LibrAARy.

@ Herbert West - I can assure you that this picture was taken in 1065, and is a very accurate depiction of a very typical building style of the era, even in Wales :D

@ robou - I doubt I will ever match my husband's skill, but he is an inspiring example.

@ comagoosie - Yes, she is very beautiful and her name is Emily Blunt.