Lotis Heroes Monthly - Summer Edition
Retelling Myths: The Family History of Morgan le Fay
Very late this time, unfortunately - my apologies.
A combination of new responsibilities in life and this edition’s story being extra long contributed to that.
So, on the upside, enjoy the much-longer story? 😅
(Also, thanks to my friend for giving me the idea to just call this the “Summer Edition”. 🙂)
The Family History of Morgan le Fay
Prologue: Mordred's Nightmare
I struggled to even breath.
As I desperately gasped for air, the voices in the surrounding darkness ominously called out to me, "Mordred... Mordred!"
Cloaked figures appeared from the darkness.
As they encircled me, they raised their fingers and pointed at me, "You will doom Camelot! You are the reason that Camelot will fall!"
The figures continued towards me, their voices getting louder and louder, "You demonspawn! You are doom! You are death!"
I fell onto my knees, as I continued struggling to breath.
"No... No!" I yelled.
The figures surrounded me - until all that I could see were their accusatory fingers, until all that I could hear were their portents of doom.
"You are the evil that will destroy Camelot!" they yelled.
"No!" I struggled to say, "I... I... I-"
I woke up, gasping for air, drenched in sweat.
Main Story: The Family History of Morgan le Fay
I opened my door, as the knocking outside grew more impatient.
On the other side of the doorway, my nephew, Mordred, nearly hit me with his fist.
"G-Good morrow, Aunt Morgana," he said to me, sheepishly.
I looked at him, with a bit of a glare, "What brings you to my tower so early in the morning, and rapping on my door so impatiently?"
"I'm sorry," he said, "but I needed to see you."
I gave my nephew another look.
He seemed to be in some sort of distress, and it was almost as if his eyes were pleading me to help him.
I sighed and relented.
"Alright, come in," I said.
As I led my nephew into my tower, I flicked my hand.
The fireplace ignited, and started to heat up the kettle of water that I had left above it.
"Your magic never ceases to amaze me, auntie," Mordred said, as he sat down.
"Thank you," I said, as I joined him at the table, "But, surely, you didn't ride all the way out here through the forest just to compliment me?"
"I've been..." he started, "I've been having dreams... a recurring nightmare, really."
I listened as my nephew described his nightmare to me.
After he had finished, I began to say, "Well, dreams can have many meanings, why do you-"
"It's because a sage at Camelot prophesied it - during my knighting, no less!" he said, exasperated, "And now it has spread throughout the court, and maybe even throughout all of Camelot!"
The water in the kettle boiled.
As my nephew was calming down, I waved my hand.
The kettle floated over to us - as did a teapot, some tea leaves, and two cups.
"And what did Merlin say?" I asked, as I put some of the leaves into the teapot.
Mordred grimaced, "He said something about how the sages are wise, but their visions are not set in stone. He said that I can still forge my own path... Or something like that."
I snickered a little.
"That is just like him to be vague about things like this," I said, as I poured hot water into the teapot.
"Well, what did he mean, Aunt Morgana?" my nephew asked me.
I sighed, "It means that he either has a plan... or that he has no idea and was just bluffing."
"Great," Mordred said, slumping in his chair a little, "I guess that's just my lot in life."
"Oh?" I asked.
"Surely, you know what I mean, Aunt Morgana," he said, "First, my mother has been distant with me... ever since I can remember. And then, with the exception of Gareth, all of my brothers have also been distant with me - I don't know whether they unconsciously picked it up from mother or they just don't like me."
"And even Gareth can be distant with me at times as well," he continued, growing upset, "as if he is torn between the rest of the family and me. And now, because of this prophecy, even King Arthur seems to have distanced himself from me, even though I am a Knight of the Round Table!"
I poured some tea into the two cups, as I carefully considered my next words.
Mordred looked at me.
"You've always been the only one in my family that I could really talk to, Aunt Morgana," he said, "As a great sorceress, is there any way that you can help me?"
I pushed a cup of tea towards my nephew.
As I took a sip of tea from my cup, I pondered again what I should say.
I watched as Mordred took a sip from his cup.
"Well," I began to say, "I don't know if this will help you or not, but there is something that you should know, Mordred."
"What is it?" he asked.
I looked at my nephew in the eyes.
And I saw the sadness and the pain that he had endured - probably for most of his life.
Seeing no other choice, I revealed to him, "You are King Arthur's son."
"I-I beg your pardon?" my nephew said, in shock.
"Yes," I replied, "It's true - you are King Arthur's son."
"But," he said, still stunned, "aren't my mother and the king..."
I nodded, "Yes, they are sister and brother - half-siblings, to be precise."
Mordred leaned back against his chair - eyes wide opened, taken aback by what I had said.
"H-How?" he asked, still incredulous.
Then, I began to tell him about our family history.
Many years ago, when I was a young girl, I lived with my sisters, Morgause and Elaine, along with my mother and father, Igraine and Gorlois.
Our noble family lived and served our king, and all was well.
That was, until Uther Pendragon entered our lives.
Succeeding his brother, who died of illness, Uther became the new king.
Heralding his coronation was a dragon-shaped comet, which Merlin took as a sign of Uther's glorious reign-to-come.
Thus, Uther took on Pendragon as his epithet - for he was now the 'head dragon'.
I don't know the exact details of what followed, but I do know that my mother then had an affair with Uther.
Shortly after, my father and a few of his fellow vassals rebelled against Uther, though the reason why is lost to me.
During the war, my mother, my sisters, and I had been sent away for our protection.
While away, my mother gave birth to a boy, and had the boy sent away - to be hidden, even from us.
At the time, my mother had sworn us and the staff to secrecy about the birth.
She said that she did not want my father to be distracted by a new son, and that sending the boy away was for his own safety - which was likely genuine, but not without ulterior motive.
Of course, as we now know, that boy was not the son of Gorlois, my father.
Instead, my mother had given birth to Arthur, future king and son of Uther Pendragon - she had given birth to my half-brother.
Soon, the war would be over - ending with Uther's victory, and my father slain.
Uther and my mother would marry, and my sisters and I became stepdaughters to the king.
It was around this time, as I would later learn from Merlin, that Uther and my mother had consulted him about Arthur.
Merlin had suggested that Arthur be brought back, and acknowledged as their son.
However, Uther was afraid of what his affair with his then-vassal's then-wife would do to his reputation - he was afraid of the people questioning his ability to rule and his loyalty to his own subjects.
After all, an affair is no small thing.
Instead, Uther had Arthur sent to Sir Ector, one of his most trusted knights, and asked that Sir Ector raise my half-brother in his stead.
I finished my cup of tea.
As I put my cup down, Mordred was unable to hide his impatience, "Yes, we already knew that the king is my half-uncle. But how does all this make me King Arthur's son?!"
"Patience, nephew," I said, as I poured some more tea into my cup, "Our family history is... complicated."
Mordred sighed and crossed his arms, waiting for me.
I took another sip of my tea, and began to continue.
Years would pass, and my sisters and I grew up.
Taking an interest in my talent for magic, Merlin would take me under his wing as his apprentice.
Meanwhile, my sisters would be sent off for marriage.
In particular, Morgause was married to King Lot - it was a political marriage, one to solidify an alliance between Uther and Lot's kingdoms.
More years would pass.
I continued learning magic under Merlin, who continued his role as Uther's court mage and advisor.
Morgause would give birth to Gawain, Agravain, Gaheris, and Gareth - all who would become Knights of the Round Table.
Soon though, my mother would die, and Uther would follow her mere years later - both from illness.
King Uther's kingdom was then thrown into disarray, as there wasn't an heir apparent.
Not being related to him by blood, my sisters and I were not considered 'fit to inherit the throne'. Though, there's no doubt in my mind that our gender and our political standings played a huge role in it as well.
Merlin, however, being the clever rascal that he is, managed to use Excalibur as a way of keeping the nobles in line - proclaiming that only the 'rightful king' could pull it out of the stone that he had sealed the sword in.
Unbeknown to me at the time, Merlin had already decided to prepare Arthur for the role of king.
Yet, more years would pass.
I completed my studies under Merlin, and I became a fairy with the blessings from the Queen of the Fairies.
Later, I would receive the sobriquet 'Morgan le Fay' from the people - dropping the last syllable from my name, for some reason unknown to me.
But, I digress.
I would soon leave this realm for a time, to carry out my duties as a fairy, so I am unsure of the exact details of what happened next.
However, as I would later learn from her, Morgause and Arthur would have a short affair during this time.
"The king... and my mother," Mordred began to say, in shock,"... had an affair?"
"H-How?" Mordred asked, incredulous, "Did they know of their relations?"
I shook my head, "No, you see..."
Young Arthur had been travelling with his foster brother, the newly-knighted Sir Kay, as a squire.
King Lot had welcomed the two into his castle - as Sir Ector was an old friend of his, he could hardly turn down the son and foster son of his old friend.
For Morgause, her marriage to Lot had mostly been loveless, being maintained only for political reasons.
So when the young squire entered her life, and the two found that they enjoyed each other's company, they decided to make the most of the time that they had together.
To Morgause, the young Arthur was just a squire and the foster son of Sir Ector - she had assumed that his parents were nobody of importance.
And as King Lot had introduced Morgause as his wife, it was unlikely that Sir Kay and Arthur had any knowledge of her lineage either.
I'm not even sure if Arthur knew about his own lineage during that time.
Regardless, the half-siblings would began a short affair, ignorant of their relations to each other.
"So...," Mordred began, still stunned, "is this why my own mother has been so distant to me, because she thinks that I'm her son through incest?"
I nodded, "Yes... I'm sorry, Mordred."
"How can she be sure?!" Mordred asked, "How can you be sure?! Is it not possible that I am still father's son?"
"You were probably too young to remember or understand," I said, "So let me finish my story..."
Around nine months after Arthur and Sir Kay had left to continue on their journey, Morgause would give birth to you, Mordred, and she and Lot would raise you as their own child.
At first, my sister wasn't sure who the father was, though she kept her suspicions to herself.
A few years later, however, your features made you undeniably Arthur's son.
She confided in me what had happened. And, with the help of an oracle fay that I knew, we confirmed that you were Arthur and Morgause's son - not Lot's.
Of course, at the time, we still didn't know of our relations with Arthur.
It was only when Arthur revealed his lineage and became king of Uther's kingdom, that we knew of the deeper implications of my sister's affair.
Lot, for his part, did not know, or did not care, that you were not his child by blood.
Instead, King Lot was unable to accept that an illegitimate child had succeeded Uther's kingdom, and he was convinced to go to war in a bid for conquest.
Using Gawain as the true claimant to the throne, King Lot waged war against King Arthur.
Though, I have my doubts as to whether or not Lot actually believed that Gawain had a better claim to the throne as Uther's stepgrandson.
Rather, I believe that Lot had, after initially being placated by Merlin's claim that Excalibur would choose the rightful heir, grew convinced that the kingless kingdom was his for the taking, and Arthur's illegitimacy provided him with an excuse to finally began his conquest.
However, as you know, Lot would lose this war, and he would be executed.
But, Morgause and her children were spared, as King Arthur had also learned of his relations with his half-sisters.
I finished my second cup of tea.
My nephew just sat there, in shock.
"Mordred," I asked, "Are you alright?"
"I...," he started to say, but couldn't finish.
I poured some hot tea into my cup, and traded it for his cup of cold tea.
"Here, drink something warm," I said.
Mordred nodded, and took a sip of his tea.
We sat for several moments in silence, as Mordred ruminated what on I had told him.
"Who else...," he began to ask, "Do they all know?"
"Who do you mean?" I asked.
"My brothers! The Round Table!" Mordred yelled, as he suddenly leapt from his chair, "Everyone!"
I paused and stared at my nephew for a moment.
He was in pain.
But, I couldn't lie.
"Perhaps not everyone," I said, reluctantly, "but, from what I know, it's pretty much an open secret in Camelot."
Mordred let out a pained sigh, and fell back into his chair.
A few moments passed, and I watched as my nephew's gaze wandered in desperation and rumination.
I reached across the table, and gently touched my nephew's arm.
"Why don't you stay for the day, Mordred?" I said, "Rest and recuperate."
"Y-Yes...," he said, looking up at me, "that sounds like a good idea. Thank you, auntie."
I smiled, "Of course, dear."
The next morning, Mordred prepared to head back to Camelot.
As he did so, I asked him, "What will you do now?"
He turned and looked at me.
"I will head back to Camelot," he said, "and I will become a great Knight of the Round Table."
"I will prove those prophecies wrong," he continued, "and I will make King Arthur-"
He hesitated before saying, "Father... I will make him acknowledge me as his son!"
I looked, and I could see the determination in his eyes.
It was then that I decided...
"It's time," I said.
"It's time?" Mordred repeated. Then, he realized, "Do you mean...?"
"Yes," I said, "I do."
"I had said before," I continued, "that I would give you an enchantment, just like the ones that I gave to Gawain and your other brothers, when the time was right."
"Well," I said, as I gathered the magic in my hands, "the time is right."
"At last!" Mordred said, as he knelt down on one knee, "Thank you, Aunt Morgana."
My hand touched the top of his head, as I began the incantation.
It was an ancient spell, one that would grant the receiver a blessing befitting them.
The magic pulsed in my hand as I continued the spell.
Then, as I finished, the magic flowed into my nephew.
"It is done," I said, "You may rise."
Mordred stood up, and looked down at his hands and body.
"I don't... feel any different," he said.
"You wouldn't," I said, "Not right now, at least."
"The spell that I used granted you an enchantment that would best suit you," I continued, "And, as it turns out..."
I touched his chest and closed my eyes. Then, I muttered another spell to divine his enchantment.
"You have been blessed with strength on the battlefield," I said, as I opened my eyes, "You will gain strength as you spill the blood of your enemies. But, it is only a temporary boon, and it shall wane once the battle ceases."
"I see..." Mordred said, "That is wonderful!"
He bowed, "Thank you, Aunt Morgana!"
"Be careful though, my beloved nephew," I said, my hand touching his cheek, "Do not let your impatience get the better of you. Find a path for yourself, one that is unencumbered by what others think of you - especially King Arthur. Lest your determination turn into resentment, and lead you down the wrong path."
Mordred reached up and held my hand, "I will. Thank you, Aunt Morgana."
Then, my nephew rode off to head back to Camelot.
Epilogue: Mordred's Determination
King Arthur laughed, "Well done, Sir Gawain, well done!"
Gawain laughed with pride alongside his king, "Thank you, my king."
From across the Round Table, where all the present knights had gathered, Agravain continued on to the next item on his parchment.
"As for the monster boars that we mentioned last time," he said, "Sir Mordred was able to quell all of them, by himself."
In response, King Arthur only nodded and said, "Good. Well done, Sir Mordred."
And he did so without even looking at me.
"Moving on," Agravain began to say, "Next, we have-"
But I could hold my anger no longer.
"Enough, father!" I yelled, as I leaped out of my chair and slammed my hands on the Round Table, "Is that all you have to say?"
The room fell silent, as my fellow Round Table Knights looked at me in shock.
"Don't act surprised!" I yelled, "How many of you knew, and never told me?!"
"How many of you just allowed them to call me a demonspawn," I continued, "and opted not to tell me the reason why?!"
I looked around the room.
Many of my fellow knights looked away, perhaps in shame, including Sir Kay and my own brothers - well, Gawain and Gaheris certainly did, Agravain was as hard to read as ever.
Gareth - sweet Gareth - was one of the few that looked surprised.
I felt a pang of guilt for involving him in this.
Agravain coughed, and then began to say, "The king felt it best that-"
"Don't tell me what the king felt!" I snapped at my brother, before turning to my father, "Tell me yourself, father!"
My father looked at me first for a moment, before answering, "You were a mistake of my youth and ignorance. I felt it best to not burden you with that knowledge."
I scoffed, "A lot of good that did!"
My father raised his hand at me, in an attempt to silence or calm me.
"Enough, Mordred," he said, "I understand your anger, but know that it was for the good of the kingdom."
"The kingdom?!" I cried out, "I am your son-"
"Enough!" my father raised his voice, "You are a Knight of the Round Table - nothing more, and nothing less! Do you understand, Sir Mordred?"
The 'Sir' in his sentence dripped with a coldness that I had never felt before - as if he was saying that I would never be his son.
Defeated, I fell back into my seat, "Y-Yes..., my king."
King Arthur lowered his hand.
He nodded at Agravain, and said, "Please continue, Sir Agravain."
With only a brief moment of hesitation, my brother continued, "Yes, my king. As I was saying..."
I sat at the Round Table.
The other knights had left, leaving me alone here.
The events earlier and from the past swirled around in my mind, as I tried to make sense of it all.
Suddenly, I felt a spark of anger and determination light up inside of me.
I stood up, and placed my hand on the Round Table.
And then, I made a vow.
"I will make you acknowledge me, father," I said.
"I will become the greatest Knight of the Round Table, and I will prove myself worthy of becoming king!"
Ah, finally - the end of the Fairies Duology (the first being Nimue and Merlin - An Excalibur Love Story), the Mordred Duology (the first being Mordred at Camlann), and the Camelot Septology (the first six being the preceding six stories that I wrote retelling parts of the Arthurian legends).
With the Fairies Duology, I wanted to spotlight two of the most prominent fairies in Arthurian legends and their roles in the stories.
With the Mordred Duology, I wanted to explore Mordred's beginnings and end.
And with the Camelot Septology, I wanted to give an overview of the Arthurian legends - I wanted to cover the rise and fall of Camelot, and take a look at some of the key players and key moments of the legends. Of course, there are many other characters and stories in the legends, but these seven cover what I feel is the 'main plotline' of the legends.
I hadn't originally planned on writing these seven; but after writing Mordred at Camlann, I got interested in covering Gawain and Lancelot, which led to covering Arthur's beginnings, and then the rest just spiralled from there.
I had also originally planned on making a video game covering the Arthurian legends instead, one with alternate 'what-if' scenarios; but, I think that my need to tell this story was serendipitously fulfilled by this format instead.
I may cover other stories from the Arthurian legends in the future (the Grail quest, etc.); but, for now, I feel as though I've finished writing a saga in seven short stories.
As for commentary about this story itself, let's start with Morgana.
In the early versions of the legends, she's not really a prominent character - just a goddess, a fay/fairy, or a sorceress who's generally benevolent and helps Arthur from time to time.
She even appears as one of the fay who helps guide a dying Arthur to Avalon, so that she can assist in healing him with the other fay.
However, in later stories, she gains more prominence, and different versions of her have different allegiances and moral alignments.
Later influential work from the medieval period and the Middle Ages started to portray her as an antagonist to Arthur and Camelot in various different roles - some portraying her as inherently evil, and as an enemy to Merlin in particular; others portray her as a temptress who would seduce and tempt the knights, luring them into dangerous situations.
Some modern interpretations (beginning just a bit before the 20th century) also popularized combining Morgana with her sister, Morgause, so that Morgana would be a sorceress AND the mother of Mordred.
Nowadays, there are many differing portrayals of Morgan/Morgana - hero, villain, or some other moral alignment; protagonist, antagonist, etc.
Gawain's sun-related enchantment doesn't show up in all versions of the legends, and it's sometimes vague as to where he got it from.
Since my version of Morgan le Fay is somewhat benevolent and loving to her family, I decided to have Morgana be the one to give it to him in my version.
In the same vein, the other Orkney brothers and Mordred don't have enchantments in most versions of the story. However, since Morgana gave Gawain his enchantment in my version, it made more sense that she would also give enchantments to all of her nephews as well.
As for Mordred himself; in the very early versions of the legends, Mordred isn't really that notable, besides being a good knight - he wasn't even related to King Arthur (that, or he was just Arthur's nephew, and not son), and he didn't really have much to do with the downfall of Camelot.
Later though, he would be portrayed as Arthur's son through incest, and as the traitor who would bring about the downfall of Camelot.
Now, for some miscellaneous items.
Pendragon means 'head dragon' in Welsh, which was figuratively used to mean leader; the whole comet thing was a later invention that came about because of a misinterpretation of what 'head dragon' meant.
In most versions, Arthur is conceived when Uther has sex with Igraine while Uther is disguised as Gorlois by Merlin. I changed that, because that's rape, and I didn't think that it was suitable for the version of the Arthurian legends that I've been telling so far. Furthermore, I also didn't want the version of Merlin that I've portrayed so far to have a hand in that.
I struggled with whether or not to mention that Morgana and her sisters weren't considered for the throne because they were women. But, since I wasn't planning on changing the genders of any of the other characters (such as in the Fate franchise), and my Camelot stories are set in a version of Britain that is basically medieval Britain with magic, it would feel like more of a disservice to not mention the sexism at all.
I also fiddled with the timeline of Morgause and Arthur's tryst a little.
Usually, Morgause and Arthur conceive Mordred during Lot's war with Arthur.
However, in my version, it's implied that Arthur uses his lineage as Uther's son as part of his claim to his kingdom's throne.
So, having Morgause be ignorant of Arthur's lineage during the war seemed a bit too much of a stretch for me (same for the common portrayal of her infiltrating Arthur's camp as a spy and then having sex with Arthur, all the while being married to Lot), so I moved the affair up to before Arthur reveals his lineage to the kingdoms of Britain.
Also, some versions have Morgause (who may or may not be combined with Morgan le Fay) seduce Arthur while knowing about their familial connection, specifically to have a child that would doom Camelot. But that didn't really fit with what I had portrayed so far, and I didn't want to use the trope of women using sex as a weapon for evil; so I didn't use this version either.
Monstrous boars are a recurring enemy in Arthurian legends, so I just threw that into the epilogue as one of Mordred's deeds, since I couldn't come up with anything else and it wasn't exactly important to the plot what Mordred did to earn a mention at that Round Table meeting.
Lastly: of course, we know that, thanks to tragic irony (if you've read my past stories on Mordred and Camelot, or if you know how the Arthurian legends end), that Mordred will absolutely fail, no matter how determined he is.
But, that's the tragedy, and also part of why we retell stories - to wish for something better, and to learn from them.
The Sun Aegis - Continuing work on Part 7.
Audrey, The Unicorn Girl - I’m currently not sure what the status is, hoping to have an update next time.
Thank you for reading!
More of my writing and other projects can be found here!
And I can be found on Twitter at @CyberPFalcon!