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  • Jo-Anne Blanco

Free Extract from 'Small Things and Great'

Read the first two chapters of 'Small Things and Great' the first book in the Fata Morgan Series by Jo-Anne Blanco.

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Chapter I

The Deluge

Morgan woke with a start. She lay in bed, her heart racing, trying to

make sense of the dream. She’d had bad dreams before, but nothing

like this. Everything had felt so real – the cold, the wind, the burning

angels, the drowning people, her terror.

Why had she dreamed such a horrible thing? She had certainly

never seen anything like it in real life. As the eldest daughter of the

Duke and Duchess of Belerion, and the apple of her father’s eyes, the

precocious five-year-old Morgan had always led a cosseted

existence, safe behind the walls of Tintagel Castle. She was only

allowed to venture out accompanied, either on a horseback ride with

her father, Gorlois, or on walks with her tutor, Sebile. Her mother,

Igraine, preferred to stay inside the castle walls or within the

courtyard, and she liked it when her young daughter would stay in

with her and show off her ever-improving reading and learning


As Morgan lay in the darkness waiting for her heartbeat to return

to normal, she became aware of a strange noise. It sounded like a

ferocious beating and pummelling on the roof of the castle. She sat

up. Listening closely, she realised it was water. Rain was beating

down loudly and fiercely upon Tintagel. She could see it lashing

against the window, blown savagely by a strong wind.

With a twinge of fear and still reeling from the intensity of her

dream, Morgan got up and ran to the door. “Arcile!” she called,

hoping to see her young maid at the door with a candle and her

reassuring presence.

There was no one in the passage. A few of the torches were

burning, but the light was dim. The noise of the rain on the roof

seemed to be getting louder. Frowning, Morgan reached for a

woollen wrap to cover her nightgown. She slipped into her shoes and

ventured out into the deserted corridor.

“Morgan?” A small, scared voice made her turn and she saw her

younger sister Blasine standing behind her in the passage. “Morgan,

what is it?” Blasine asked her nervously. “Where is everyone?”

“I don’t know,” Morgan said. “There’s a bad storm outside.

Maybe they went to help the people in the village.”

“Or maybe they all went to bed,” another voice chimed in. Just

behind Blasine stood her twin sister Anna. Anna and Blasine were a

year younger than Morgan, but while Morgan loved Blasine, Anna

annoyed her. Only when they were with their parents was Anna ever

nice to Morgan. On those occasions Morgan tried to be nice back

because she knew she should love her sister, but Anna made that

very difficult.

“Not all of them went to bed,” Morgan pointed out. “There’s

always a guard here at night. Something must have happened. I’m

going to find out.”

“Can we come?” asked Blasine timidly.

“No, you stay here,” Morgan said. Out of the corner of her eye

she saw Anna scowl.

Morgan ran down the passage to the stairwell. The noise of the

wind and rain was becoming deafening. She went downstairs,

running through the main corridor. The castle door was open and she

felt powerful gusts of wind coursing through the building. At the

door she stopped and looked out upon an astonishing sight.

The storm had caused flooding in parts of the courtyard and a

number of her father’s men, knee-deep in the water, were attempting

to siphon it away. There were dead animals, chickens, rats, even a

small puppy, floating in the debris. Morgan’s stomach turned. There

was panic everywhere; people were running in all directions as the

storm whipped itself into a frenzy. A woman Morgan didn’t

recognise screamed and pointed upward. Morgan looked in the

direction she indicated and saw some of her father’s men standing

sentinel on the castle battlements. Barely able to maintain their

positions, they were bent double in the gale. As she looked, one of

the men lost his balance and was swept off his feet into the sea.

Morgan cried out in shock.

Lightning blazed and thunder crashed. In a panic, Morgan looked

for her father but she could not see him anywhere. Then she saw her

father’s page, a boy of about two years older than her, leaving the

stables carrying a pile of ropes, running out of the courtyard as he

cringed from the downpour. Morgan had only spoken to him a

couple of times before. Maybe he could tell her where her father


“Taliesin!” she shouted, but he didn’t hear her. Morgan ran out

into the rain. It felt like sharp droplets of ice hitting her head and

scratching her skin, but that didn’t deter her. She negotiated her way

round the edge of the courtyard to avoid the floodwater and caught

up with the page as he reached the foregate. She grabbed his sleeve

and he turned, startled.

“Morgan! I mean ... Lady Morgan!” the boy exclaimed. “What

are you doing out here?”

“Where’s my father, Taliesin?” she asked.

“Well, he’s ...” Taliesin hesitated. “I’m not sure I should tell you,

but ... he’s down there.” Taliesin pointed down toward the cliff path

and the rocky cove below Tintagel.

Morgan was puzzled. “Why?”

The boy looked worried. “There’s a wreck, Morgan ... Lady

Morgan. A ship’s been wrecked. They think it’s the Sea Queen.”

“What?” Morgan gasped.

The Sea Queen was the ship Tintagel had been expecting for two

weeks now. Morgan had been so excited. Her mother had told her

that Princess Blanchefleur of Ynys Môn, daughter of Igraine’s sister

Sardoine and her husband King Pellinore, was being sent to Tintagel

to stay with them and to study with Sebile. “She will be your

companion,” Igraine had told Morgan. “She’s your age and, like you,

she’s very, very clever, according to her mother.” Igraine had

stroked Morgan’s hair and said softly, “It will do you good to have a


Morgan had felt pleased, but said, “Why can’t she study in Ynys

Môn? Why does she have to go away from home and come here?”

Igraine had been silent for a moment and then said, “Well, your

aunt Sardoine says she’s very interested in learning about healing.

You’ve started studying the healing arts with Sebile and you know

there’s no one with more knowledge than her.” Morgan knew that

was true. Sebile knew everything. And so Morgan had looked

forward to Blanchefleur’s arrival with anticipation and had made

plans to show her where to find the best herbs to help concoct

Sebile’s remedies.

“It can’t be! It can’t be the Sea Queen!” Morgan said in horror.

She ran down to the cliff path with Taliesin running behind her

shouting, “Morgan, wait!” At the top of the path, Morgan stared

down into the cove and, with a sick feeling in her stomach, saw a

sight that already looked frighteningly familiar.

In the sea below her was a heaving mass of people, screaming

and shouting as the waves battered them onto the rocks. There were

bodies broken, covered in blood; others, still alive, flailing and

struggling, were fighting against the malevolent currents trying to

pull them under into the black holes of the coastal caves, or fling

them against the sharp jagged edges of the cove. The massive ship,

torn almost in two by the rocks, was lying askew at the mouth of the

cove, caught in the snare of the rocks around Tintagel’s jutting

island, being tossed and turned by the sea as pieces of its hull and

mast were ripped away. The sails were long since gone.

Running around frantically like ants on the rocks, attempting to

help the people in the water and salvage objects being thrown up by

the waves, were some of Tintagel’s soldiers, women from the castle

and what looked like fishermen from the village. Bodies were being

hauled away from the sea and laid out high up on the wide beach out

of immediate harm’s way. Morgan could not tell if any of them were

dead or alive. She caught sight of Sebile’s distinctive headdress and

saw her going from person to person, kneeling down next to each

one in turn with her bag of medicines. Morgan then saw her father,

Gorlois, standing right on the edge of the rocks, shouting out orders,

joining his men in throwing grappling hooks into the sea and helping

drag people from the water.

“I have to go down there,” said Taliesin at Morgan’s shoulder.

“He sent me to fetch these.” The boy indicated the ropes over his

shoulder. “You should go back to the castle, Lady Morgan.” He ran

past her and down towards the cove.

Morgan knew she could not go back inside. She followed Taliesin

quickly down the steep cliff path to the rocky shore, stumbling as her

soft shoes got snared on the stones. She held on fiercely to the cliff

side while the wind tried to blow her over the side of the path. Her

woollen wrap was already soaked through to her nightgown but she

didn’t care. People ran past her up and down the path, ignoring her in

their attempts to help or to fetch help for those below. She descended

as fast as she could.

As she arrived on the beach there was an almighty groan; the

wounded ship out at sea split in two. People on the shore gasped as

the wood from its hull snapped. Morgan ran out to the rocks at the

side of the cove; she didn’t want her father to see her. She watched

Taliesin approach him and hand him the ropes. Morgan looked away

and stared out to sea at the ship, helplessly watching its last dying

throes as the sea swallowed it up. She felt desperately sad. It was like

seeing an animal being eaten by an enormous monster.

The sky blazed once more with crackles of lightning. Thunder

boomed out, like an ominous funeral bell tolling to signal death. The

two halves of the ship rolled over and began to sink into the

billowing waves. Standing on the shore in the aftermath of the ship’s

painful death, Morgan felt the immensity, power and force of the sea

and the storm. Strangely, even though it made her feel sick because it

reminded her of her terrible dream, she somehow at the same time

felt an extraordinary sense of happiness that she couldn’t understand.

Deep inside her she felt a connection to the waters in the ocean and

the sky, the currents and their pulses, the cloudbursts and their

deluge, as if she were one with them. As if she were the waters


As she reeled from the sensation, just for an instant Morgan

thought she saw the giant face of a man in the waters that parted the

two sides of the ship; a face lined with ripples, surrounded by a head

and beard of white foam and small dark whirlpools for eyes that

seemed to look directly at her. She was stunned and afraid – what

was that face? Had anyone else seen?

She looked around at the chaotic scene in the cove and then up at

the sky. The black clouds swirling above her seemed to breathe fire;

as Morgan watched, she began to see fiery eyes appearing one after

the other, like evil stars, glaring down. Then, gradually, from within

the murky depths, huge black figures materialised, mounted on

horrifying horses the likes of which Morgan could never have

imagined, roll-eyed and demonic, all teeth and eyes and saliva.

Trailing them was a pack of red-eyed black dogs, foaming fire at the


Their leader was a powerful-looking huntsman with only one eye

in his head. Where his other eye should have been there was nothing

but a hollow socket. He had a long white beard blowing in the wind,

a spiked steel helmet with feathered wings on each side, and a

billowing cloak. He was wielding a spear that crackled with

lightning. The spear’s sharp pointy head gleamed in the darkness as

the lightning bolts struck, while its slender shaft shone red and silver

like steel dipped in blood.

The spear was the one Morgan had seen in her dream. The one

that had fallen from the sky and pierced the ocean, making it turn

into blood.

She heard the sinister laughter of the dark riders as they roared

across the sky, observing the carnage and destruction of the wreck

with glee. As they leered at the helpless victims below, Morgan

could see what looked to her like small round pale lights hovering

over the lifeless bodies. To her blurred eyes the lights almost seemed

alive. They hovered helplessly while columns of what looked like

smoke rose from the corpses and headed towards the fearsome

huntsmen in the sky. Triumphant laughter rang out from the dark

riders whenever one of the dead gave up its ghost. The lead

huntsman’s cackle rumbled like thunder and sent a chill straight to

Morgan’s soul. Petrified, she closed her eyes to banish the nightmare

vision. “I’m still dreaming, please God,” she prayed fervently. “I

must be.”

A high-pitched screaming nearby roused her. Morgan opened her

eyes instinctively to see an injured woman lying on the rocks nearby,

her head bleeding. Her right leg looked odd, askew at an unnatural

angle. “Help me!” she screamed as she struggled to move on the

slippery rocks. It looked to Morgan as if the woman was moving

towards the water instead of away from it and was about to fall in.

She ran forward, careless of the danger, and tugged the woman’s


“I’ll help you! Come this way.”

“My children!” the woman cried, staring wildly at Morgan.

“Please! Help me find my children!”

“Morgan! What are you doing here?” Morgan would have

recognised that voice anywhere. Sebile was running towards her,

both fast and formidable for a woman of her advanced years. Morgan

didn’t know how old Sebile was. She gave the impression of being

an old woman, but although her hair (for the most part hidden under

her headdress) was white, her face was remarkably unlined. She had

an aura of deep, abiding knowledge of which Morgan was in awe.

Usually she carried herself with an air of serenity and dignity, but at

this moment she was furious, her face strained with anxiety and


“What do you think you’re doing?” Sebile demanded, grabbing

Morgan by her shoulders and shaking her. “How dare you come out

here in this storm? What were you thinking?”

“I wanted to help,” Morgan protested, tears stinging her eyes.

“And what help could a child like you be? What good will it do

anyone if you come to harm?”

“Also ...” Morgan hesitated. Sebile looked shrewdly at her. “I

had a dream,” Morgan finished.

Sebile’s eyes narrowed. “What kind of dream?”

“It was like this,” Morgan said, indicating the terrible scene

around them.

Something flickered behind Sebile’s eyes. Then she turned her

attention to the woman on the rocks. The force of the wind was still

trying to blow them away into the sea, but it did not seem to worry

her. Morgan felt her feet slither as she lost her balance and she knelt

down, holding on with both hands. Lightning and thunder crashed

around them again but Morgan dared not look up at the sky.

“It looks like her leg’s been broken,” Sebile said matter-of-factly.

“It must have happened when she was flung upon these rocks.”

“Can you make her better?” Morgan asked.

“It will take time ... but yes.” Sebile finished her brisk

examination, then shouted out to some of the men on the beach.

Morgan thought it was a miracle that anyone could hear her through

the howl of the gale, but several people ran over to help. Sebile

ordered them to take the woman up to the castle. As she was lifted

up, the woman clasped Morgan’s hand.

“Please,” the woman begged Morgan, staring at her with wild

eyes. “Find my children. They were together. A boy and a girl. Save

my children.” The woman’s hand dropped Morgan’s as she was

carried away, but Morgan still felt its pressure.

“And you, Morgan,” Sebile said as the woman was carried off.

“You go back to the castle with them. Immediately.”

Morgan suddenly felt angry. “She asked me to find her children,”

she retorted and without further ado jumped off the rocks and ran up

the beach. Ignoring Sebile’s infuriated shouts, she scurried along the

stricken coast and shoreline, the wind buffeting her small body so

hard that she couldn’t walk straight. She searched for anything that

might look like children from the ship.

There were fewer people in the water now and fewer cries being

carried through the air. Morgan felt hollow in the pit of her stomach.

Soon all she could hear was the wind. She reached the other end of

the beach, further down from where most of the people had been

driven by the currents. She looked back at all the figures and activity

behind her. They suddenly seemed tiny and distant and very far


Then she did hear something faintly over the storm. An odd

voice, unlike any she’d ever heard before. “Help us! Please help!”

Morgan turned and saw a boy struggling to pull an injured little girl

of about Morgan’s age out of the crashing waves and onto the beach.

For a second Morgan thought she had found the wild-eyed

woman’s children, but then she knew at once that these could not be

them. These children looked different from any Morgan had seen in

her life. The boy was about eight years old, dark-skinned and dark-

eyed, with short cropped black hair. The little girl was beautiful; her

eyes were closed, her hair long, black and poker-straight, her skin

smooth and perfect. Morgan was so startled that at first she didn’t

move. The boy managed to pull the girl up the beach just out of

reach of the waves that were chasing them and behind a boulder to

protect them from the worst of the storm. He looked at Morgan again

and shouted, “Please!” He had a strange accent.

Morgan forced her legs to move, ran over and knelt down beside

the unconscious girl. She laid her head upon the girl’s chest as Sebile

had taught her to do and heard a faint heartbeat.

“She’s alive,” Morgan told the boy. He nodded wearily, sank to

his knees and rested against the rock on the wet sand next to her.

“You saved her,” Morgan said, looking at him in wonder.

The boy smiled sadly. “I don’t think anyone will thank me.”

“Why not?” Morgan asked.

The boy looked back at her and Morgan sensed that there was

something unusual about him, something she could not quite put her

finger on. “They’ll be angry if they find out. I wasn’t supposed to be

on that ship,” the boy said.

“You’re a stowaway?” Morgan had heard of such people from her

father. The merchant traders regarded them as a menace, no better

than scavengers or rats. “Where have you come from?”

“A land far away,” the boy said so quietly Morgan could barely

hear him over the wind. He paused for a moment and then indicated

the unconscious girl between them. “I’m a stowaway, but she’s a


Morgan gasped. “Are you sure?”

“It’s the Princess Blanchefleur,” said Sebile, looming over them.

Morgan realised that Sebile had followed her up the beach and she

withered under her tutor’s angry glare. Sebile bent down to examine

the girl while Morgan and the boy waited anxiously.

“Is she going to be alright?” Morgan asked.

Sebile frowned. “She’s had a nasty knock on the head.” The tutor

indicated a bloody gash on the back of Blanchefleur’s scalp. “We

must get her up to the castle.” She looked at the boy. “You, what’s

your name?”

“Safir, my lady,” the boy replied.

“You’re a Saracen,” Sebile said. It wasn’t a question.

“Yes, my lady,” the boy said. Morgan was curious. What was a

Saracen? The boy seemed about to say something else, but Sebile

stopped him

“I don’t care how or why you’re here, but I need your help now.

Do you think you can help me carry the princess down the beach, so

we can take her to the castle with the rest of the survivors?”

“Yes, my lady,” the boy repeated. Sebile gathered little

Blanchefleur’s head and shoulders in her arms, while the boy lifted

the young princess’ feet.

“And you, Morgan,” Sebile commanded in a voice that would

brook no transgression, “you are to follow us back and stay close.

And do not disobey me again or there will be consequences.”

Chastened and subdued, Morgan stood up shakily and followed

Sebile and the boy Safir as they carried Blanchefleur back towards

the teeming mass of people on the other side of the beach.

It seemed to Morgan that the anger of the storm was dying down

a little; the wind seemed less strong and the noise of the thunder

more distant. Chancing glances up at the sky, Morgan saw the

terrifying hunter figures had gone. There were only the black storm

clouds emanating fainter flickers of lightning as the tempest began to

subside. The darkness was dissolving into an eerie light that began

penetrating the clouds and shining down upon the beach.

Increasingly aware of how cold, wet and tired she was, Morgan kept

looking upwards to the sky, irresistibly drawn to the strange dawning

light. The black clouds were slowly developing yellowish-tinged

haloes as they appeared to shrink. Thunder still rumbled, but now it

sounded as if it were coming from further away. Hurrying in Sebile’s

wake, Morgan’s eye caught sight of something strange above them

and she stopped short, startled.

On the edge of the cliff directly above the beach, she saw the tall

silhouette of a man standing gazing out to sea, stark and imposing

against the nascent light of the sky. Morgan’s heart leapt. She didn’t

know if she was frightened or excited. What amazed her was her

realisation that the standing man had the antlers of a stag growing

out of his head. Against the light, he looked half-animal, half-man.

As Morgan’s eyes adjusted to the new light, she could see the

Horned Man wore a deerskin around his waist and a pointed beard

on his chin. Images flashed through her exhausted young brain,

trying to make sense of what she saw – everything from the

illustrations of ancient satyrs in Sebile’s story texts to the pictures of

the Devil himself in the Christian books she had studied. Is this man

the Devil? Morgan asked herself. Was he the one who started the

storm that threw all the people into the sea and caused them all to

die? Was he the one who led the angels she had seen in her dream,

screaming as they streaked across the sky with their wings on fire

before they fell into the raging darkness? Were those terrible sky

hunters his servants, circling like crows over the dying, and

collecting the souls of the helpless dead for him? Strangely, despite

the wild thoughts swirling around her impressionable young mind,

Morgan did not feel frightened. She wasn’t sure if it was evil that she

felt from the Horned Man. She knew that it was something

unimaginably powerful. But was it evil?

As her thoughts coalesced, the Horned Man looked down from

the cliff and directly at her. Morgan felt as if her heart had stopped.

Everything around them seemed to grind down, as if time itself were

slowing and stopping.

Morgan continued to stare up at the Horned Man. Somehow, even

at a distance far below him, she was able to see into his black

impenetrable eyes that seemed all-knowing. The Horned Man looked

from Morgan out to sea, and then back to Morgan again. She sensed

that he was silently trying to tell her something. He looked again at

the sea and Morgan followed his gaze. The ocean that stretched out

to the island and beyond was now empty. It seemed that everything

and everyone had either been dragged ashore or swallowed down by

the waves. Morgan looked up again at the Horned Man on the cliff

edge, but he was no longer there. The skyline was unbroken. She

looked back out to sea and her eye caught a movement in the water

that she had missed before. As she stood beneath the cliff, she saw

Sebile and Safir walking further away ahead of her, carrying

Blanchefleur between them and getting smaller in the distance.

Feeling very alone, Morgan hesitated. If she disobeyed Sebile

again, she knew she would be in trouble. She looked up again, but

there was still no sign of the Horned Man. Whatever was moving

towards her in the sea was coming closer. She had to know what it

was. Instinctively, she ran towards the shore and felt her way across

the rocks that cut through the beach and the water. There she stood

upon a rock as the movement came into focus. Her heart began to

race once more and time returned to its normal pace as she looked,

astounded, upon a sight she had already seen in her mind.

A little dark-haired boy of about her own age was swimming

determinedly towards the rocks. On his back, clinging to him, was a

little girl who looked almost exactly like him except for her slightly

longer dark hair. The little girl’s eyes were pure white with no colour

to their centre, wide open and watery. She was blind.

Morgan watched the two children with fascinated horror, unable

to believe what she was seeing. Were they real, this boy and girl

from her dream? How could she have dreamed about them without

ever knowing them or seeing them before? The boy’s wet hair was

plastered to his head and his face was strained with the effort of

swimming to shore while carrying the girl. Morgan remembered how

he had refused to take her hand in her dream and how, after his

refusal, the sky in her nightmare had rained down blood. She

recoiled from the memory and for the first time in her life she

hesitated whether to help or not. But then the girl raised her head and

her sightless eyes seemed to look directly at Morgan. Still clinging to

the boy, she pointed at her. The boy, still swimming, followed the

girl’s silent signal and saw Morgan. At once he almost imperceptibly

changed direction, swimming straight towards her.

As they came closer, the pain and exhaustion on their faces was

too much for Morgan to bear. With the strange sense of having

entered her dream and done this before, she stepped to the edge of

the rock, went down on her knees and held out her hand. This time,

however, the boy did not stop. He swam all the way towards the rock

until he reached her.

“Help me with my sister,” was all he managed to gasp. Morgan

leaned over, grabbed the little blind girl’s arms and pulled. The boy

pushed the girl from the water until between the two of them they

got her out. The girl lay on the rock, her sightless eyes staring up into

the sky. Morgan then held out her hand to the boy. He didn’t

hesitate, but took hold of her hand with one hand and the rock with

the other. With Morgan pulling his arm the boy hauled himself up

onto the rock and collapsed next to her.

“Are you alright?” Morgan asked them both.

The boy, out of breath, did not answer for a few seconds. “I think

so,” he eventually replied.

“What about you?” Morgan asked the girl, who was lying

immobile but breathing on the rock.

“She can’t answer you,” the boy said, not looking at his sister.

“She doesn’t speak.”

Morgan felt a surge of sadness for the little girl. “I’m sorry.”

The boy looked at Morgan. Morgan felt a cold stab when she saw

his dark eyes were exactly as she remembered in the dream. Before

she could say anything, the boy said, “I know you.”

“What?” Morgan gasped.

The boy didn’t smile, just stated calmly, “I’ve seen you before.”

“Where? How?” Morgan demanded. The boy said nothing, but

merely looked at her.

“Morgan!” came Sebile’s outraged voice.

Morgan started up and cried, “Sebile! I’ve found them! I’ve

found the lady’s children!”

“You saw our mother?” the boy asked, frowning. He tried to

stand up, but his legs gave way. Morgan grabbed his arm to stop him

from falling. The boy reacted with unexpected violence to her touch,

almost as if she had wounded him. He pulled his arm away roughly

and took a step back from her, almost cringing. Morgan was startled

and hurt.

“She’s alive. They’ve taken her to the castle,” Morgan told him

warily. The boy stood looking at Morgan, but this time, oddly, did

not look into her eyes. “She asked me to find you,” Morgan went on.

“How did you know it was us?” the boy asked.

“I knew as soon as I saw you,” Morgan said. She couldn’t explain

how; she had just known. The boy then looked back at her again,

appraisingly and interestedly. This time it was Morgan who looked


As Sebile came running up from the beach, Morgan negotiated

her way back across the rocks. “It’s them, Sebile!” she said

breathlessly. “It’s her children!”

The fury on Sebile’s face subsided when she saw Morgan’s

earnest, pleading expression. She looked at the boy standing shakily

on the rock, and Morgan heard her sharp intake of breath. Sebile then

saw the girl lying without moving, made her way across the rocks

and picked her up. “Follow me,” Sebile commanded Morgan and the

boy, and they obeyed her. Together, Morgan and the boy walked the

remaining length of the beach, now empty save for a few scattered

remains of wreckage and clothing. The survivors and the dead alike

were being carried up the cliff path towards Tintagel as the light

grew brighter and the wind started to blow itself out.

At the foot of the cliff path, Morgan turned to look back once

more at the sea. Like the wind, its anger and force were dissipating.

The waves were still high, but not as ferocious as before and not as

strong. Morgan thought with a shiver that it was as if the monster

that was the sea had eaten until it was full and was now happy with

the wreck and its passengers that it had taken that night.

“So you’re Morgan,” the boy said. He had stopped with her and

was looking out at the sea as well.

“Yes. My father’s the Duke of Belerion,” Morgan told him.

“I know.”

Morgan could not work out if the words were said with hostility

or not. Before she could think of a suitable retort, the boy indicated

his sister, who was being carried ahead of them by Sebile. “That’s

Ganieda. She’s my twin.”

“And who are you?” Morgan asked coldly.

The boy looked directly at her and this time she held his gaze. At

this, the boy smiled for the first time.

“I’m Merlin.”

Chapter II


“How could you have done this?”

Morgan had never seen her mother this angry before. Igraine was

always calm and patient, but today her fury was clear in the coldness

with which she spoke to her daughter. Morgan quailed before her

and could not reply.

“How could you have left the castle in such a storm? Anything

could have happened to you,” Igraine went on, her eyes not leaving

Morgan’s face. “You knew how dangerous it was. Sebile told you to

return at once. How dare you be so disobedient?”

Morgan wanted to explain to her mother about her dream, about

feeling the need to help that she didn’t understand, but the words

wouldn’t come. Behind Igraine, Anna smirked, enjoying Morgan’s

discomfort and disgrace. Blasine, on the other hand, looked scared

and tried to give Morgan a friendly smile when Anna wasn’t looking.

“So you have nothing to say for yourself?” Igraine demanded as

Morgan stayed silent. “No reason why you acted so foolishly, so

selfishly, with no thought about what might happen, or how other

people would feel?”

“I’m sorry, Mother,” was all Morgan managed.

“That’s not good enough. You will not be allowed out of the

castle again until I allow you to go. And that will not be for a very

long time.”

“No!” Morgan exclaimed in dismay.

“Don’t argue with me!” Igraine snapped. “If I hear one more

word, you will not only stay inside the castle but in your room! That

is the end of the matter.”

Morgan’s eyes stung as Igraine swept out of the room. Anna

skipped after her, took one last triumphant look at Morgan and

giggled as she left. Morgan’s tears turned to anger when she heard

Anna’s laughter and she wiped her eyes with her hand, determined

not to let anyone see. She felt a hand take hers.

“I’m sorry, Morgan,” Blasine said.

Morgan smiled and squeezed her younger sister’s hand. “Come


The two little girls walked together out of the door and down the

passageway to the castle’s main hall. They entered to find that a

large number of Gorlois’ knights and Igraine’s household were

already present, as were a number of other noble-looking people

Morgan didn’t recognise.

As always, the room appeared huge and intimidating to the five-

year-old’s eyes, with its long stone walls divided by shafts of light

entering from the largest windows in the castle, bathing the room and

all those in it in a soft glow. Rich, floor-length tapestries hung on the

walls between the windows. The long wooden tables and benches

used for feasts had been taken apart and removed, and only the small

wooden benches under the windows remained.

Gorlois sat on one of the two carved oak chairs on the raised

stone dais at the far end of the hall, as he always did when receiving

visiting nobles or granting an audience to his vassals. Morgan

remembered from time to time seeing her father receive elegantly

clothed noblemen and women calling themselves ambassadors. They

came in from trade ships carrying goods from far-off lands and told

her father that they wanted to be friends with the people of Tintagel.

They offered goods and friendship in exchange for similar things

from Belerion.

Igraine mounted the dais and sat next to him on the other chair.

Little Anna, following with her blonde head held high, climbed up

onto a smaller chair next to her mother. There were two other chairs

the same size, one next to Gorlois and the other next to Anna.

Blasine made a move forward towards the dais but Morgan pulled

her sharply back. Blasine looked at her inquiringly and then

nervously back at the dais. But Morgan didn’t want to sit with

Igraine or with Anna in front of the whole court of Tintagel after the

scene she had just been through. Instead, she pulled Blasine behind a

group of the well-dressed people she did not know and sat down

quietly on a bench underneath one of the windows, hidden from

view. With a show of reluctance, Blasine sat down next to her. All

around them the adults talked and murmured, their chatter filling the

hall with noise until one voice rose above the rest.

“Silence in the hall!”

Morgan strained to see through the crowd gathered in front of her

and made out the tall figure of Sir Brastias, her father’s seneschal.

She knew Sir Brastias as Gorlois’ most loyal friend and chief officer

of the Tintagel guard. He was a thickly-built, imposing man who

inspired a lot of respect and some fear, but Morgan thought of him as

a kind and friendly greying uncle.

The noise in the hall died down almost at once. Morgan saw her

parents seated together on the dais, looking every inch the reigning

Duke and Duchess, and she felt a swell of pride despite her

resentment at Igraine’s harsh words. She watched Gorlois say

something to Sir Brastias, who then turned to the assembled court

and announced, “The Lord Gorlois calls forward Grand Master

Cadwellon of the Druidical Order and Father Elfodd of the Christian


The assembled people fell back on either side of the hall like a

parting of the waters. In the centre, four men walked towards the

dais. Two contrasting figures led the way. One was an old man

whose age was clear from his long white hair and beard, which were

almost the exact same colour as his robes and staff. However, the

way in which he stood upright and straight-shouldered and walked

with quick, purposeful steps seemed to Morgan to make him appear

much younger than he was. Next to him walked a young man, hardly

grown-up at all, with thick brown hair and a lean but handsome face.

In contrast to the old man, the young man was dressed all in black,

and moved in a slower way that made him seem very elegant and


Behind them walked two other men, a younger man behind the

old man and an older man behind the young one. Seated by the

window, Morgan was too far away to see them properly. She moved

her head impatiently, looking in between one set of people and then

another, trying to get the best view of the proceedings while

remaining out of sight herself. The men stopped in front of the dais

and Gorlois acknowledged them with a nod of his head.

“Welcome back to Tintagel, Grand Master Cadwellon. I’m sorry

we have had to convene here in such tragic circumstances.”

“My lord Gorlois.” The old man inclined his head. “This storm

was one of the worst we have witnessed for many years. And the loss

of life in the shipwreck ... truly terrible.” He paused. “I need hardly

tell you, my lord, that there are many among our Order who see this

as an omen of a great tragedy that is to befall the people here.”

Morgan heard the sharp intakes of breath around her and

wondered what an omen was. It must be something bad because the

people in the hall were looking worried and afraid. Except for her

father. Gorlois was saying that he didn’t believe in such things and

asked the young man in black what he thought. Father Elfodd

declared that no one could know the will of God. He looked at the

old man next to him and said that some people believed they had

ways of divining what would happen and of interpreting omens, but

it was only blind speculation. The words didn’t make sense to

Morgan, but she carefully stored them in her memory so she could

find out what they meant.

Through his tired-looking expression, Cadwellon gave a half-

smile. “And yet, our young Father Elfodd would have us believe that

his own Lord Jesus Christ foresaw both his own death and the

manner of it. Was that just blind speculation on his part, too?”

The crowd in the hall tittered nervously. Morgan strained to see

the young priest’s face. He did not look angry or annoyed. He too

half-smiled. Why was he smiling? Had Cadwellon said something


“That was different, Grand Master. Christ was the Son of God.

His divine nature enabled him to know and to see what we mortals


“So, you admit at least that those of a divine nature can see into

the future?” Cadwellon pressed him.

Morgan eagerly awaited Elfodd’s answer, but Gorlois held up his

hand. “Enough. Keep your religious disputes for another time. I’ve

summoned you here to help us deal with the immediate situation

concerning the survivors of the wreck. How many people were


“There were eleven survivors, including three children, my lord,”

Cadwellon said.

“One of them being the Princess Blanchefleur?”

“Yes, my lord.”

“Thank the heavens,” murmured Igraine.

Morgan was startled. That was wrong. There were four children

survivors. Princess Blanchefleur, the twins Merlin and Ganieda, and

the stowaway boy Safir. She wanted to shout out that they were

wrong, but remembering how angry Igraine was with her, she kept


Gorlois was looking at Igraine and gently took her hand. “And

what arrangements are being made for the poor souls who did not

survive?” he asked.

Cadwellon and Elfodd exchanged glances. Morgan noticed that

the look between the old Druid and the young priest was not


“Unfortunately, we don’t know the faiths of the dead,” Cadwellon

said. “Father Elfodd and I wish to arrange their funeral rites

according to their beliefs, but we have no way of knowing what

those were.”

“We thought perhaps we could honour them together, in similar

fashion,” Elfodd added.

Before Gorlois could respond, the older man standing behind

Elfodd spoke up.

“I can tell you what their faith was, my lord.”

Gorlois beckoned him forward. “Who are you?”

“My name is Blaes, my lord. I am one of the survivors,” the man

said. He was round-faced and middle-aged, dressed simply in a

brown robe. “God saw fit to spare me from the waves.”

“I take it you’re a Christian?” Gorlois asked him.

“I am, my lord. Like the people of Gwynedd on the ship with me,

may God have mercy on their souls.”

The man shot a look at Cadwellon; Morgan was startled at the

nastiness of it. “Gwynedd is a God-fearing country, my lord. King

Einion banished the Devil worshippers from our land many years

ago. The last remnants of that heathen scourge ran away to the far

corner of Ynys Môn. If any of them return, they face the choice of

conversion or death.” He glanced at Elfodd beside him and anger

entered his voice. “Unlike this boy priest you have here, our holy

men of Christ never betray their calling to work alongside these


“What’s a Devil worshipper?” Blasine whispered in Morgan’s


“I think he means people like Grand Master Cadwellon and the

Druids,” Morgan murmured back.

“But what is it? Is Grand Master Cadwellon one?” Blasine


Morgan didn’t know much about what Cadwellon and the Druids

were. She had heard rumours and knew that they lived in the forests

and mountains, away from the castle and the village. She had also

heard some dark things about sacrifices, which made her afraid and

which the storm eating the shipwreck in some strange way made her

think about. But because she was too young, no one at Tintagel had

told her anything and they probably wouldn’t if she asked. She’d

have to go to Sebile if she wanted to know more. But she didn’t want

Blasine to know that she didn’t know either, so she silenced her with

a “Shhhhhhh! I’ll tell you later,” and turned her attention back to the


Gorlois was saying, “... so, in Belerion, Brother Blaes, the

Christian followers and the Order of the Druids are all treated with

respect. I myself am Christian and so is my wife, but many of our

people follow Grand Master Cadwellon and his Order, and they live

among us in peace. Father Elfodd understands that and I would

advise you to do the same.”

“I am aware of your ... views, my lord,” Blaes said evenly. “That

is why I accompanied the Lady Aldan all the way here to seek an

audience with you.”

“The Lady Aldan?” Igraine asked, as the people in the hall

murmured excitedly at this news. “Do you mean King Einion’s

daughter? She was on the ship?” Morgan heard a strange tone in her

mother’s voice. “She survived?”

“Yes, my lady. She survived, thanks to the ministrations of your

healer woman. She’s here now, waiting outside. She wishes to speak

with you and the Duke.”

Igraine looked at Gorlois. Morgan thought she saw alarm in her

mother’s face. Gorlois nodded at Sir Brastias. “Of course. Show her


As one, the people in the hall turned towards the entrance door.

Morgan turned her head with them. Sir Brastias made his way down

the aisle and outside the hall, returning almost immediately. A

woman seated on a chair carried on poles by four male servants

followed him. The woman’s right leg was tightly bandaged and stuck

straight out in front of her, held rigid by attached wooden straps. So

fascinated was Morgan by the treatment of the injury that she did not

notice the woman’s face until her chair passed close to where she

was sitting. For the most part, the woman kept her eyes on the dais

ahead of her, but occasionally she looked round at the gathering.

When she looked in the direction where Morgan and Blasine were

sitting half-hidden, Morgan could not contain a gasp. The eyes that

had stared at her so wildly on the rocky shore the previous night

were now calmer, though still full of pain.

Walking behind the woman were her children, the twins Merlin

and Ganieda, the boy leading his blind sister with her arm through

his. Paying no attention to the curious murmurings of the crowd,

Merlin’s dark eyes darted about the room as if he were looking for

something or someone. Instinctively, Morgan shrank behind a tall

nobleman standing in front of her. For some reason, she especially

did not want Merlin to see her at that moment.

The party reached the dais. The servants set down the woman’s

chair directly in front of Gorlois and Igraine, who both rose to greet

their guest. Anna, next to them, followed suit.

“Welcome to Tintagel, Lady Aldan,” Gorlois addressed her. “We

are very happy and relieved to see you alive in the wake of this


“We did not know you were on the Sea Queen, Lady Aldan,” said

Igraine. “We would have made suitable arrangements for your

arrival if we had known, but we had no word from your father that

you would be journeying to Belerion.”

“My lord Duke and lady Duchess.” Aldan bowed her head.

“Forgive me, but my father does not know that I am here. I had to

leave Gwynedd in secret with the help of Brother Blaes.”

“But why?” Gorlois inquired worriedly. “You are the King’s


“That is why, my lord. I was no longer safe in Gwynedd. And nor

were my children.” Aldan indicated Merlin and Ganieda standing on

her right-hand side.

“Surely King Einion would protect his grandchildren?” Igraine

asked somewhat disbelievingly.

“He no longer acknowledges them, my lady,” Aldan said quietly.

There was an outbreak of astonished muttering at this revelation.

Morgan leaned forward to get a better look at the proceedings. She

saw Merlin glance back towards the crowd and his eyes flashed.

There was something chilling and dangerous in his stare.

Morgan then noticed the man standing behind Cadwellon, the

younger, leaner, dark-haired Druid who had entered with him and

who she had not seen properly before. The man seemed very

interested in Merlin. He was watching him like a cat watching a

mouse, never taking his eyes from the boy’s face. Morgan could

almost feel the man’s tension and a strange excitement emanating

from him. She was puzzled. Why was he so interested in Merlin?

Gorlois was asking Aldan questions. “Why would King Einion

not accept his grandchildren? And why would you bring them here,

my lady?”

“Perhaps the children are illegitimate, my lord,” Cadwellon

suggested. He looked at Blaes and then at Elfodd. “Pardon my

bluntness, but we know how a Christian king might feel about

grandchildren sired out of wedlock.”

“Well, I can’t deny that,” Gorlois said with a sigh. He turned back

to Aldan and said gently, “Is this the case, my lady?”

Aldan did not reply, but looked close to tears. Blaes stepped

forward and said, “I believe I can tell you, my lord. But it is a very

delicate matter that needs to be discussed in private.”

With a flicker of his eyes towards Sir Brastias, Gorlois motioned

a silent order. Sir Brastias immediately called out, “Clear the hall!”

The sound of mumbling and eager discussion filled the room as

the crowd moved to find their way to the door. Blasine slipped off

the seat next to Morgan and ran towards the door with the others,

clearly bored by the proceedings and not curious to know anything

more. Morgan, however, wanted to know everything. She needed to

find out why Aldan, Merlin and Ganieda had come to Belerion.

Ducking between the adults, she ran quickly in the opposite direction

to one of the tapestries and hid behind it.

The room emptied quickly. Peering from behind the tapestry,

Morgan saw that Anna had also been made to leave, almost certainly

unwillingly, since Morgan knew that Anna always wanted to know

everything, just like Morgan herself. Gorlois and Igraine remained

with only Aldan, Blaes, Merlin and Ganieda as their audience, and

Sir Brastias, Father Elfodd, Grand Master Cadwellon and the

mysterious dark-haired Druid as witnesses.

“Well, Brother Blaes,” Gorlois said. “Tell us why the Lady Aldan

has come here.”

Blaes hesitated and looked at Aldan. She nodded at him, turned in

her chair and reached for her children, taking Ganieda’s hand. The

little girl’s sightless white eyes were fixed straight ahead. Morgan

wondered if Ganieda could even hear what was going on, or if she

knew she was in the hall of a castle with people around her. Merlin

was watching Blaes, his mouth pursed. Morgan could not read his


“My lord,” Blaes began. “Nearly six years ago, I was a hermit

living in the mountains of Gwynedd. The Lady Aldan sought me out

there to make her confession. She felt she could not confide in the

priests of her father’s court because what she had to confess was too

horrifying for them to hear.”

There was a pause. From behind the tapestry, Morgan strained to

see the faces of the listeners at the dais. Cadwellon and Elfodd

looked both interested and alarmed. Gorlois looked concerned, but

Igraine, while also seeming worried, did not appear surprised. But

Morgan’s eyes were drawn to the dark-haired Druid. His predatory

gaze was still riveted on Merlin.

“Go on,” Gorlois said evenly.

Blaes took a deep breath. “The Lady Aldan confessed to me that

she was with child. That she had been ... taken against her will.” He

hesitated. “But this was no ordinary violation, my lord. The thing

that impregnated her was no man. It was a demon, a monster, an

incubus from the pit of Hell. It came to her in the night when she was

alone and defenceless. At first I had no idea how to help her, my

lord, so I bade her return to her father’s court to wait for my counsel.

Then I prayed to God to guide me.”

He looked at Aldan. She did not return the look, but held tight to

Ganieda’s hand and watched Merlin. The boy did not take his eyes

from Blaes’ face.

“Is this true, Lady Aldan?” Gorlois asked.

Without meeting his eyes, Aldan replied, “It is true that the father

of my children is no man, my lord.”

“So what happened then, Brother Blaes?” Igraine’s voice sounded

unnaturally loud in the now still, almost empty hall.

“God gave me the answer, my lady. It was clear from Lady

Aldan’s description of the monster that defiled her that he was the

Devil. I foresaw his plan to bring a powerful demonic child into the

world and use this child born into a royal household to counter the

spread of Christianity in our land. I went to King Einion’s court to be

at Lady Aldan’s side during the child’s birth. As soon as he was

born, I baptised him in the name of Our Lord and drove the nature of

his Devil father out of him.”

“I’m sorry.” The young priest Elfodd spoke up. “Forgive my

interruption, my lord and lady, but I must speak. You cannot

seriously believe what this man is saying? It’s superstitious


“How dare you!” Blaes’ face was red with fury. “How dare you

question me! What kind of priest do you call yourself?”

“One who doesn’t think much of those who call themselves

learned holy men and yet indulge in fairy tales such as this,” Elfodd

countered coolly. He turned to Gorlois and Igraine. “My lord, there

are many of my fellow Christian priests who unfortunately cling to

stories of devils and demons to try to explain what they cannot

understand. But I assure you there is almost always a reasonable

explanation for situations such as this. Perhaps the Lady Aldan was a

participant in the heathen ritual of Beltane and that was where she

became with child? I understand that the appearance of some of the

men who dress up there would fit the description of the Devil.”

“There are certainly similarities between some of our gods and

what Brother Blaes might consider demons,” Cadwellon said wryly

and, Morgan thought, almost as if he was making fun of Brother


“Lady Aldan,” Igraine said and the room went quiet again. Aldan

looked up at her, and for a second Morgan saw something intangible

flow between them, an undercurrent of what seemed like

understanding. “Did you conceive at the Beltane fires?”

“No, Lady Igraine,” Aldan replied. “I am a Christian woman.”

“There you have it,” said Blaes triumphantly. He indicated

Merlin. “The boy is the child of the Devil. But I saved him when I

baptised him as a new-born baby and thwarted the Devil’s plan.”

But what about Ganieda? Morgan thought, looking at the little

blind girl standing next to her brother, staring at nothing. Her father

was the same as Merlin’s and she was born at the same time. Did

Blaes save her and baptise her too?

No one at the dais seemed interested in that. Instead, Gorlois

demanded, “Does King Einion know about any of this?”

Before Aldan could speak, Blaes responded, “We did not tell him,

my lord. On my advice, the Lady Aldan let it be known that a

visiting nobleman had taken advantage of her and left the kingdom

soon after. King Einion was furious, of course, but at first he

accepted our story and the children.”

“So, what happened to change Einion’s mind?” Gorlois queried.

Blaes and Aldan exchanged glances. It was Blaes who responded.

“Regrettably, we could not convince everyone of the nobleman

story, my lord. Rumours spread as to the children’s parentage.” He

looked at Merlin and Ganieda, standing arm in arm. “Their ...

afflictions were obvious from the beginning. The girl, of course, is

blind, deaf and mute. She is cursed to live in darkness and silence.

The boy ...” Blaes stopped.

“What about the boy, Brother Blaes?” It was the first time the

dark-haired Druid had spoken. Morgan felt a shiver go down her

back; she could not say why. There was something in his voice that

made her immediately wary.

This time it was Aldan who spoke up. “My son has unusual gifts.

He could speak when he was still a baby. He has visions of things

that have not happened but that later come to pass. He has other gifts

too, my lord and lady.” A note of pleading entered her voice. “But

they’re not evil gifts, I promise you. They are wonderful gifts that

can be used to help others. But the people in our country began to

fear my son. They thought he was the Devil’s child and that his gifts

were those of the Devil.” She stopped, unable to speak further.

Morgan saw Igraine whisper something urgently to Gorlois, while

Blaes continued. “There were several attempts on the boy’s life in

Gwynedd, my lord, and even on the girl’s too. Finally, a month ago,

Lady Aldan was summoned before her father’s judges and accused

of consorting with the Devil. I argued in her defence, explaining that

it had been against her will, and that the boy was baptised and was

no danger to the realm. But they would not heed me. Thanks be to

God, King Einion could not bring himself to execute his daughter or

his grandchildren, so he ordered them into exile, never to return.”

“So you came to Belerion,” Gorlois said.

“I know of your tolerance and your goodness and your desire for

peace among different faiths, my lord,” said Aldan. She looked at

Igraine. “And that of the Duchess, too, of course.” Morgan saw her

mother flinch momentarily and wondered if she was angry again. “I

beg of you, let us stay,” Aldan went on. “My son is still only a little

boy. His education is in the hands of Brother Blaes, a good, Christian

man. If you allow us to stay, I swear he will grow up to be an asset to

the Duchy of Belerion.”

“Naturally, Lady Aldan, you and your children may stay,”

Gorlois said kindly. “I would not for the world turn you away.” He

looked interestedly at Merlin, as if evaluating him. The little boy

stared back at him impassively. “I’m sure the boy is gifted, though

I’m afraid I tend to be as sceptical as Father Elfodd in these matters.

Although I do have reason to believe there are many things in the

world we don’t yet understand.”

Aldan looked up at Gorlois, her face shining with gratitude.

“Thank you, my lord Duke. Thank you. For my children and for


“Welcome to Tintagel, Lady Aldan.” Igraine stood up again and

spoke to Sir Brastias. “Please call the servants back in. We’ll take

Lady Aldan and her children to my chambers and find them quarters

in the castle.”

Morgan watched as the group broke up. Cadwellon and Elfodd

walked towards the door, talking together. Blaes observed the old

Druid and the young priest as he followed them, his eyes narrowing.

The dark-haired Druid made as if to follow Cadwellon, but lingered

behind still watching Merlin. The boy paid him no attention at all,

but guided his sister to turn and follow their mother being carried out

on her chair with Igraine walking beside her. As he left, Merlin’s

eyes roamed around the room once more. His eyes caught the

tapestry and Morgan quickly withdrew her head behind it at once,

hoping he hadn’t spotted her. She hid as the room emptied of

everyone but her father and Sir Brastias.

“Do you think there will be consequences if King Einion finds

out his daughter and her children are here?” she heard Sir Brastias


“I doubt it. It seems from what we just heard that he’s only too

glad to be rid of them,” Gorlois replied.

“And what of the suspicions surrounding the children, my lord?

Do you not think the people of Belerion might come to fear them as


“This is a land of very different beliefs,” Gorlois said. “As long

as they don’t fight each other or kill each other, you know I’m

prepared to let people follow whatever rituals they choose. This

country has seen enough bloodshed, which is why we must help

Vortigern succeed in this alliance with the Saxons. The last thing we

need now is our own people fighting amongst themselves over which

gods are the right ones and spreading fear of the others.”

“Yes, my lord,” murmured Brastias. Morgan heard footsteps walk

briskly to the door. She peered out from behind the tapestry again

and saw her father alone, stepping down from the dais and strapping

on his sword belt.

“Father!” she called and ran towards him.

Gorlois was startled. “Morgan!” As Morgan reached him, he

picked her up in his arms and hugged her affectionately. “I asked

your mother where you were. Do you mean to tell me you were

hiding there the whole time?”

“Mother was angry with me,” Morgan said ruefully.

Gorlois looked intently at her. “Yes, she told me. She said you

went out in the storm.”

“I was on the beach, Father. I saw the wreck. I helped people. It

was me who found Merlin and Ganieda. I saved them!”

Gorlois smiled. “I don’t doubt you were very brave, Morgan. I