When I woke up the next morning it was just getting light. Dawn. My favourite time of day. My father's favourite time of the day. When the air was a blanket, frothy with morning clouds and fresh dew, touched with the first of the sun's warmth, and either marbled a soft, light pink, or stained brilliant colours of orange and yellow. I sighed, remembering the times I used to have with my father out in our fields. We'd start with the intention to move the sheep into a different field to let the grass grow back, but then we'd end up with my father chasing me around the field in a game of cat and mouse! When he would finally catch me, he'd lift me up in his arms and tickle me until I'd beg him to stop. My laughter and screams would bring the neighbours to their windows and then they'd laugh at the sight of us two playing in the field.
'Aren't you getting a bit old to be playing around in the fields now, Brant?' they'd say to my father. Yet, he'd always reply with: 'You never get too old to play.' And then he'd wink at me and we'd carry on playing until the sun rose fully.
Oh, how I wished he was here now. What would he say to me?
'Don't worry, even if you upset Morgan, you'll still be my special little girl'? Would he scoop me up and kiss me like he used to do when I was nervous about something?
At that point Vivienne stirred and rolled over to face me.
'Glad to see you're awake. We tend to start early here. Morgan likes to get up at dawn.'
I smiled at her. 'I'm used to it. I used to get up at dawn to move the animals with my father.'
'That's good, we've had some maids that haven't been used to it and it takes them quite a while to adjust. Morgan gets so angry if something isn't done immediately. Anyway, we had better get dressed. Someone will be along in a minute to tell us to Morgan is ready to break her fast. She doesn't like to eat alone – well, you can understand why, can't you?'
'Yes,' I agreed. 'I wouldn't either. Imagine everyone watching you whilst you eat so much food.'
I shook my head and got up, pulling out a pale pink smock that I had been given on my arrival. It had long, dainty sleeves that flared at the end, falling just short of my wrists and an open neck that fell quite low. The skirt was long and flowing, swirling down to my ankles and turning paler and paler as it continued downwards. I held it up to Vivienne.
'Will this do?' I asked her, not sure on what you were supposed to wear for meals.
'Yes that's perfect. In fact, I am thinking about wearing the same sort of thing, but in pale green.' She held it up for me to see. 'Do you like it?'
I nodded, the shade of green was perfect for her. 'Yes, it's beautiful; it really suits your blonde hair.'
'Thank you. I always have the problem on how to fix my hair. What do you think? Up or down?' she asked me.
I hesitated before answering. I was never any good with hair. With having no mother to help me with it when I was younger, I had taken to just wearing it down under my caps. The day before, one of the women in my village, Ingrith, had done it for me under my travelling hood for the special occasion, but apart from that, it had just stayed down.
'Um...I don't know how to do hair, with not having a mother, and not having any Lords or Knights that used to oversee the village, I never learnt all the fancy ways of doing it, I never needed to.' I blushed then, embarrassed by my ignorance.
'Oh...would you like me to do yours then? I could teach you when we have some time to ourselves this evening, if you like?'
I watched as she took a section of her hair and started to twist it. Then she picked up a pin and secured it in her hair so the twist stayed in place before repeating it on the other side. It looked so nice when it was done that I wished I could do that with mine and then wear it loose so everyone could see it, like Vivienne did, but I knew I couldn't risk it, not after I what promised my father.
I thought that her offer of doing mine now, so I could hide it under my cap, and then teaching me how to do it this evening so that one day I might get to wear it down, was a very generous one, so I agreed.
When she'd finished with it, I regretted having to cover it up. She'd braided it and then pinned it up so it wouldn't fall out the bottom of my cap, as it had tended to do when I was at home in the village, and it looked beautiful, I thought, admiring it in the looking glass.
'Thank you.' I smiled a grateful smile at her, but reluctantly picked up my linen cap and slipped it over my head so no piece of my dark hair was showing.
Then someone knocked on the door. I got up to open it, but the person came in straight away, not bothering to wait for my response. It was Millicent.
'Lady Morgan would like you to dine with her,' she announced, before checking we were ready and looking proper enough. Then she gave us a curt nod and bustled out again, leaving Vivienne and I to follow after her.
'Do we eat–?'
'In the Great Hall.' Vivienne answered my question before I had even finished asking it and hurried off after Millicent, leaving me to follow behind.
We came back to our bedchamber afterwards feeling as if we would burst. I wasn't used to eating so much so early. At home I usually missed the first meal. I had never been hungry enough, but here I had felt obliged to eat with so much laid out for us.
We were just about to leave to find Morgan when William came to the door.
'Catelyn, there's a lady at the gate. She says you left something in your home village and she would like to speak to you.'
'Oh, all right. I'll come straight away,' I said, frowning. I couldn't think what I had left behind and who it would be. Would it be Roxanne? She was the girl I had always played with in the village, we were of a similar age so we had tended to do the same work around the village. Or perhaps would it be one of the older women, like Ingrith or Alfreda?
Still debating on who it could be, I followed William down to the gate where a lady on horseback was waiting. I squinted, trying to recognise the face underneath the travelling hood. It was Roxanne.
As I approached, Roxanne dismounted with a huge smile on her face and embraced me in a tight hug.
'It's so good to see you,' she whispered, then she pulled out a small package wrapped in linen from her saddle bag. 'I wanted you to have this, but I was so distracted by saying goodbye, that I forgot to give it to you!'
She handed me the parcel and I looked at her quizzically before opening it. Inside was a beautiful book, containing many illustrations of our village drawn by Roxanne herself. She had always been good at drawing and had often done it whilst we had the spare time to do what we liked. I flicked through the pages, silently admiring the dark, flowing lines of charcoal on the rough parchment that was likely made by Roxanne too.
'Thank you ever so much, it's beautiful,' I told her. 'You know I'll never forget you, you are the best friend I could ever wish for and if I can ever get away for a couple of days, I'll come back and visit, I already miss it all so much.'
'We all would love that, everyone misses you. However, I also need to give you this.' She pulled out another package. 'It was something your father had, but it was meant for you. There was a note with it saying he wished you to have it when he passed away; it was something your mother gave you when you were a baby.'
Carefully, I opened the second package. In this one there was a silver locket, engraved with the initials AP in fancy italic lettering on the front. Did this mean my mother had been wealthy, surely a poor peasant wouldn't have been able to pay for such a thing? I opened it up, inside was a small lock of hair the same colour as mine. I frowned.
'Is… is it my mother's hair?' I asked Roxanne, a lump rising in my throat. I tried to swallow it, I had never got so emotional about my mother before.
'That's what Ingrith told me and she was the one who read the note left by your father. No one else knows about the locket, apart from Ingrith and I. She said it's slightly darker than yours.'
I closed the locket and put it round my neck, tucking it inside my dress. It was not something I wanted to have to explain to Morgan or Millicent.
'Catelyn! Catelyn! Morgan would like you to attend to her, quickly!' Vivienne's voice cut into my thoughts, making me jump. I knew from Vivienne's tone that I would have to say farewell to Roxanne immediately.
'Roxanne, this is Vivienne. Vivienne this is Roxanne, from my village.'
'Pleased to meet you, Roxanne,' said Vivienne. My friend just looked at her with a blank expression on her face.
'I'd better be off,' she said stiffly. 'I will be needed back at the village.'
'I'll see you soon then.' I tried to ignore Roxanne's sudden jealousy. 'Give my love to Ingrith.'
We hugged before she mounted her horse and rode off. I saw her go out of sight beyond the hills before I turned back and fled to the Great Hall with Vivienne.
We arrived at Morgan's feet out of breath.
'Where have you two been? I sent you, Vivienne, a long time ago.' She was angry, you could tell from the tone in her voice, but she had a right to be, after all Vivienne must have been sent a while ago.
'Sorry, Morgan, it was my fault...' Vivienne started, and I realised I couldn't let her take the blame, it had been because of me after all.
'No, it's my fault,' I cut in. 'A friend of mine from my village came to give me something.' I produced the book, praying she wouldn't take it away from me. 'I was just about to see her off when Vivienne came, so I stayed a bit. I'm sorry.'
Her face was still in a frown, but she took the book and opened it, flicking through it, her expression unchanging, before handing it back to me.
'I see. Well, your friend is certainly good at illustrating, but it is no excuse for lateness,' she said sternly and I hung my head, ashamed. 'I would like you both to fetch me some water and I'm feeling a little hungry.'
'Of course Morgan,' said Vivienne, standing up. I did the same, not knowing what I was supposed to do.
'Also, never let this happen again. I am willing to let it pass this once, for Catelyn didn't know, but I will not tolerate lateness from my maids,' she added.
'Of course not, Morgan,' I said quietly before curtseying and following my fellow maid out of the room. Once out of Morgan's view, Vivienne turned to me.
'I usually have to do these errands on my own, just to warn you, but it seems she has sent us together because you don't know your way around the castle yet. It's this way to the kitchens,' she said, pointing down a wide corridor, just to the left of the two grand wooden doors of the Great Hall.
We walked down to the end of the passage and turned a corner. In front of us was a small staircase leading down and round. It was making me feel quite dizzy as we descended, but I assumed I'd get used to that as it was obviously a regular chore.
We soon reached the bottom and went through a door straight ahead of us, leading straight into the kitchen. It was small and dark as being under the castle there was no windows, the only light came from the candles lit on the walls. A few women were in there bustling around all the pots and pans, hissing and spitting on the stoves. They all had their hair up in linen hats and aprons round their kirtles. One of them came up to us. She wasn't a young lady; the lines around her kind eyes showed that, but she beamed at Vivienne, still full of life.
'What can we do for you?' she said, wiping her hands on her apron.
'Morgan asks for water and a small something to eat.' At that moment, it seemed she noticed that the woman was staring at me with a curious look in her eyes. 'Um... yes, this is Catelyn, one of Morgan's new maids. She doesn't know her way around the castle yet, so you will see a lot of her from now on.'
'Alas, she has not got another maid has she? I thought after Lilly, she wouldn't take on another one. Well, it's a pleasure to meet you, Catelyn; I'm Rosa, the head of the kitchen.'
'The pleasure is all mine,' I said, smiling at her, hoping to be on friendly terms with her in the future.
'Ah, at least she's polite.' She threw a grin at Vivienne, who beamed back.
'If you ever need anything to nibble on, just see me,' Rosa offered, still smiling brightly at me.
'Now if you'll just stay there, I shall fetch the food for her Ladyship.' She started to give orders to the other kitchen ladies who all stopped what they were doing to fetch the food for Morgan. She was soon back with a tray full of food. I had no idea how that was a small bit of food, it looked like an entire meal!
'You take the water, Catelyn; I think I had better carry the tray,' Vivienne said, taking the food from Rosa.
And, with that, we headed back up the spiral staircase, more slowly this time.
When we finally reached the wooden doors we were told that Morgan had gone to her bedchamber, someplace else I had yet to explore.
'Right, thank you,' Vivienne said to the servant, but I could see she was fed up. She looked like she was struggling with all the food.
'Do you want me to take that for the rest of the way, it's only down the passageway, isn't it?' I offered.
'Would you?' She seemed relieved. 'It's just so heavy.' When I took it I could see why she had been struggling. It was as heavy as carrying a live pig! But Vivienne didn't allow me the time to get used to it. 'We have been long enough already,' she told me. 'Morgan will get angry if we don't hurry.'
I complied, following after her as fast as I could without dropping it. I did not wish to suffer Morgan's wrath so soon as earlier had been scary enough.
When we arrived, Vivienne knocked on the door, seeing as though I had no hands free. The answer was immediate.
'Come in.' Morgan had such a pretty voice that I was sure so many men would've found attractive in a way. It seemed low, as if she was whispering in your ear, but it had a strange, almost foreign, ring to it, like a melody. I liked it. It was different.
I placed the tray on the dressing table, in front of the looking glass and then stood back, studying the room. Much of it was taken up with a large four poster bed. It was the largest bed I had ever seen, smothered with blankets, furs and hides. The curtains were a deep red against the bearskin rug that stretched itself lazily across the floor. Morgan caught me looking.
'You like it then?' she said, making me jump.
'Yes, it's um ...it's very beautiful,' I said, looking down. It wasn't because I was doing as my father said this time; it was because Morgan's deep blue eyes were searching me, curious as to how I would answer and it was intimidating. The sister of the King of Albion, one of the most powerful women in the land, was staring at me, waiting for my answer.
'I'm glad you like it. It's my favourite room in the castle.'
'Could I take Catelyn on a stroll around the castle, so she gets to know everybody around here?' Vivienne butted in, obviously getting impatient and, to be honest, I was glad of it. I was starting to feel a little uncomfortable with Morgan's attention.
'Yes, of course, I will want you at supper though.'
'Yes, Morgan,' replied Vivienne, although I wished she would stop looking so impatient, I was sure Morgan would notice it soon if she hadn't already done so.
Thankfully, Vivienne moved away and I followed her out, pulling the door shut behind me, grateful Morgan hadn't commented on her behaviour.
'Where do you want to show me first?' I asked, unsure of who I hadn't met in the castle.
'How about the servant's quarters? There are other maids you know, we are just the main ones who wait on Morgan.'
'I don't know anything about castles as I have never lived in one, I hadn't even seen one until yesterday, I don't know how they work.'
'These maids look after everybody in the castle. The guards, the cooks, Millicent and us. Posy looks after me; I think she'll probably look after you too.'
'What do you mean by look after?' I asked, curious as to why I had not met her yet.
'She comes to help us get ready for supper and feasts, when Morgan throws them.'
'Oh, please, you know what a feast is, Catelyn.'
'Well, Morgan throws them if someone royal comes to Pendragon Castle,' Vivienne explained. 'Sometimes King Arthur comes, and even, I've heard, King Lot, although he's never come whilst I've been here and, according to Millicent, hasn't come for years.'
I nodded, however, it wasn't the people that attended the feasts that was my main worry.
'I've never attended a feast before. I'm not sure I could eat that much.' I thought back to the tray of food I had taken to Morgan earlier. If that wasn't even a meal, what would a feast be like?
'Oh, stop asking questions, we have a lot to see,' she butted in to my thoughts and started dragging me along the corridor. It seemed I wouldn't get an answer out of her to that statement.
Posy was sweet; she must have been about the same age as me, her sorrel-brown hair fell in soft waves just past her shoulders and her hazel eyes watched me curiously as Vivienne introduced us.
'So, where did you come from originally?' I asked. 'I know a lot of people were here with King Uther, were your parents servants of his, or did you come from somewhere else?'
'I came from a village. It was burned down a few years ago. This was the first place that would take me in. I had nowhere else to go after the village was gone.'
'What happened to your parents? Are they alive?' I was genuinely curious about her story. It seemed many people in service at the castle originally came from outlying villages.
'I don't know where they are. I don't know whether they are still alive or not either. They told me to run when the village was attacked and take my brother with me, but I got separated from him in all the chaos.' She bit her lip and looked down at the floor, wringing her hands awkwardly.
'Oh… I'm sorry, although, perhaps you could go back? Your parents and brother could still be there. Mine aren't, they're gone.'
'Maybe someday, but for now, I'd rather stay here, where I am happy,' she replied, still looking down.
I could understand that and I wanted to speak with her more, but it seemed Vivienne was eager to show me the rest of the castle, so, after saying goodbye, she took me to meet all the guards. Besides William, there was Aldwin, a huge man who terrified me at first, but turned out to be the friendliest of the group, Wayne and Godwin. They all seemed to be friendly towards us, but I'm sure that was because we were maids of Morgan, if we'd have been enemies... I'm sure we'd have been treated very differently and I don't think I'd have seen Aldwin's nice side.
Each told me of their backstories, William was born in the castle to a former guard and maid of King Uther's. He had decided to stay after King Uther's death, even though many of his friends fled to King Arthur's Camelot soon after he had claimed the throne for fear as to who would own Castle Pendragon after the late King's death. Many believed Morgan would be unable to keep the castle from being invaded.
Aldwin had been here a few months. He came from Camelot. He told us he said he had needed work as there was none in Camelot, where he had grown up. Finally, Wayne and Godwin were brothers with a similar story to Posy. Godwin was the eldest and they both had grown up in Pendragon Castle after losing their parents to King Lot after he had raided their village.
I noticed the sun setting whilst we were talking to William and whispered to Vivienne about it, not wanting to seem rude. She gasped and, apologising to William, pointed out that Posy would be waiting for us, so we quickly said our goodbyes before hurrying back to our room. I crossed my fingers and hoped we wouldn't be late for the second time, however, Posy was there, waiting with our dresses in her arms.
'Quickly, ladies, you are running a little late,' she told us. 'Lady Morgan will call for you soon. I picked out your dresses.' She held up the gowns.
Mine was a white kirtle with a red gown laid over the top. It laced at up the bodice, allowing the white to be seen at the front of the skirt. Vivienne's was black velvet with long, flaring sleeves and an elegant golden pattern of intricate swirls and fleur-de-lis going from the neckline to the hem of the skirt. They were really the most beautiful dresses I had ever seen, perhaps except for Morgan's.
Posy helped me lace up the back of my kirtle and with the cord on the gown. I was grateful for her help, I would have been there for hours without her nimble fingers.
'Would you like me to do your hair next, ma'am?' she asked. My heart dropped. I looked over at Vivienne; concern showing on my face. I couldn't let her see my hair yet. What if she told someone?
'I'll do her hair, Posy, could you do mine though, please?' Vivienne thankfully answered. Posy turned towards Vivienne and I swallowed as I felt the relief surge through me. That had been close.
I sat and watched her tie Vivienne's hair so half of it was piled on top of her head and half was left loose, flowing down her back. Then she helped Vivienne to put on her dress, tying up the back of the kirtle and the gown.
'You can go now, Posy, thank you for your help,' Vivienne told her as soon as she was ready.
Posy curtseyed and picked up our dirty clothes before leaving, shutting the door quietly behind her; the opposite of Millicent's habit of slamming doors.
'Should I cover your hair with a red veil and put a circlet to keep it in place or would you rather just wear your linen hat?' was the first thing Vivienne said once Posy's footsteps had faded away.
'I think I like the first idea, it will be different to what I usually wear,' I said, excited at wearing something new.
Smiling, she rummaged in the armoire and brought out a crimson veil before re-doing my hair to let it down, placing the veil over it and fixing a white circlet around my head to stop it from falling off. It felt strange, but when I looked in the looking glass Vivienne passed me, I didn't even recognise myself! I was just so used to seeing my hair under a cap.
Vivienne and I were a little late to supper after doing my hair, but luckily, Morgan didn't seem to mind too much and gestured towards the two empty seats next to her. We sat down where she had indicated. Once seated, I stared at the table in shock. I knew there was going to be a lot to eat, but not quite as much as was laid out in front of me. I had never seen so much food; there was venison, pork and beef, quail soup, pigeon pie, a strange, brown meat that looked like some kind of bird… the list was endless. And then the courses just kept on coming. As soon as I had finished one, another lot of dishes found their way to the table.
Just as I was about to tuck into the third course of biggest meal in my life, Morgan leaned towards me.
'You look stunning in that gown,' she smiled. 'Have you noticed the men looking at you?'
I looked up, and sure enough a few of the men kept glancing at me. I immediately looked down. I didn't like attention of men. I wasn't used to it, and their warm, almost overeager smiles made me feel uncomfortable.
'Thank you, Morgan, but you are always more stunning than any of us. I'd rather not get looks like that. Well, not yet anyway.'
She laughed loudly in response, making me and half the people on the table jump.
'So young, yet such wise choices,' she said to me, shaking her head and smiling.
I looked down at my plate, embarrassed by her compliments and then continued to eat when Morgan shifted to talk to the person on her other side.
"That was a compliment and a half from Morgan,' Vivienne's astonished voice came in my ear.
I turned to her. 'You know I'd rather not have the attention, Vivienne.'
'But you were just complimented by the King's sister,' she hissed at me. 'At least be a little more like you care!'
'I do care. Trust me when I say her compliment has made me feel very honoured. I just don't want to make a big fuss of it.'
She just looked at me as though I was foolish, so I went back to my food.
Throughout the rest of the evening, I made polite conversation with Vivienne, the men that came over to us and occasionally to Morgan as well. It was really rather tiresome and I was glad when Vivienne and I were finally dismissed and were able to relax in our bedchamber without being expected to act, speak and eat politely.
'Would you like me to teach you some styles for your hair, now?' she asked a few moments after we got back to our familiar room.
'Yes, I should be grateful if you would,' I told her, delighted she had kept her promise.
'Well, I'll start off with wrapping hair round the circlet. It's my favourite for everyday work as it keeps it off the face.'
She took me through how she did it in my hair very slowly and I thought I had got the hang of it, so Vivienne let my try with her hair. It didn't turn out quite the way I expected it to, but when I got frustrated, Vivienne just said it came with practise. So I did. By the time we wanted to retire I had managed to do wrap her hair around the circlet prettily, but was still not very good at the other hairstyles she had shown me, such as plaiting, half up and half down, threading beads into her hair and pinning it up into a bun. All of those I struggled with, but Vivienne explained to me that it had taken her months to master some of them and that I had done very well for a first try.
'Thank you, Vivienne; I am truly grateful for your help and the use of your hair for my practise,' I said once I had changed into a loose nightgown.
'We could do more another day, when we both have some spare time, but I don't think it will be this week, you will be fetching water from the well in the courtyard, attending her to help her dress, fetching meals for her. She'll use you for everything this first week. I reckon you'll fall asleep on duty before the week is out.'
My eyes widened. 'Oh, no, I wouldn't dare anger Morgan. It's scary enough when she just looks at you, let alone falling asleep when you're supposed to be attending her! She'd be furious.'
'I did, when I first came here. She didn't get furious with me, but Millicent did. It was Morgan who saved me from Millicent's wrath, not the other way round.'
'That makes me feel just a little less nervous, Vivienne,' I said sarcastically.
'Sorry,' she smirked. 'Good night, Catelyn.'
And with that, she blew her candle out and rolled over.