It was going to be a friendly visit to the Rumps in Cornwall before Ingraine was to board a coastal craft to sail with her foster son to an isolated Welsh cottage on Mona. But life at the Rumps was always complicated; either by the threat of the Duke’s iron fists or by the haphazard magic of his children. So Ingraine had to keep the King’s four-year-old son, Rufus, under a spell of utter protection, and encircled by a swarm of hidden bees, ready to sting at her command. And although Rufus loved chasing Morgause around this shambolic castle, Ingraine was still uneasy. Where on earth was Morgana?
The feasting hall was draughty and already full of peat smoke because Ygern, the Duchess of Cornwall, was frantically stoking up the fire. Ingraine coughed and spluttered wondering why her friend seemed so distracted. Wiping her eyes from the smoke, Ygern looked up and pleaded, “what am I going to do about Morgana?” Ingraine felt a sense of dread, “Why do you ask?”
“Because, in all truth, if Morgana was fifteen or even only ten years, I could say she was already an enchantress, properly trained, but because she is not yet five summers, she is too immature to understand her powers.” Tears slid down Ygern’s face, and she lifted her apron to pat them away. “Just before you arrived, Morgana grabbed Mouser by his tail, my gentle old cat, and he clawed at her to escape. Her temper flared and shrieking at him and glaring fiercely at me; she turned my puss into a large rat. I screeched at her and tried to grab the rat but the moment I touched it, she cursed me, and she turned it into a woodpecker, and so it flew away out of my reach. “
“Where is Morgana now?”
“She is locked in the darkness of our cellar, and there she will stay until I can find out what in God’s name, I should do next!”
“Was that lovage I saw blooming at your door?” Her friend nodded dumbly. “Good, later I will brew a tea from it to calm her down, then…well… just watch me. I should be able to out-magic a four-year-old!”
But first Ingraine paused. She had birthed a wizard, Merlin, all bright and shining and there could never have been a sweeter child but Ygern had birthed this shadowy blood witch, and now it was too late to throw her to the crows. Softly, she walked down the curved steps to the cellar. She saw Morgana’s eyes glint in the dark, darting to re-discover that blink of power she used to fling the curse onto her mother’s cat. The air there was dank with mould, and her child’s voice squeaked, “Who would you be?”
“Ingraine, Arch Druidess and Royal Princess of the Silures. And who would you be?”
“Morgana, daughter of the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and my father, is a powerful man!”
“My father, too, is a powerful man. He is a king who governs vast lands in Wales. But I do not rely on anyone else for my power. My art comes from my wondrous herbs and my sacred songs and spells. My powers come from the dragon lines that criss-cross our land and lie below our waters. They allow me to fly above our country and all its seas.” And Ingraine leaped into the air and threw down a flare of magnesium which began to flicker with the pallor of the moon before it blazed brighter than the sun. Certain now that she had Morgana’s complete attention, with a deft movement, she released her swarm of bees.
The child’s reaction was instantaneous. Morgana screamed, batting the bees away with the swats of her floppy four-year-old fist. She burst into tears. “Stop them, please, I beg you.” she implored, “Call them away.”
“Only if you call back your mother’s cat.”
“Can you not do it? You are powerful. Can you not call back a woodpecker?”
“Only you can do this, Morgana.”
“I will try.” But nothing happened.
“Try again, my dear,” Ingraine whispered gently. “You can do this.” A few minutes passed until the woodpecker flew onto Ingraine’s shoulder.
“Thank you, Morgana. That was clever magic! We now need a double reverse from you. First, from this woodpecker to the rat and then a second command to change the rat back to the cat. This double move will need your steady hand. And remember only you can do this! Keep your commands short and true. And show me the stone you clutch when you say them because only I can appraise what you are doing.”
Later, when Ingraine told Merlin about how the four-year-old Morgana had successfully done a double reverse spell, she revealed the following. “For a second Morgana showed me the stone grasped in her fist, as she mumbled, in a foreign tongue, her spells. While I could not understand her language, I knew it was Carthaginian because I had heard it spoken by Moloch.”
“And the stone she held in her fist?” Merlin asked, “I presume it was a bloodstone.”
“You know it was and it confirms for us that this extraordinary child, who is soon to be Arthur’s sister, is already working for the Dark!”