The boys slept in the pavilion at night and explored the countryside during the day. While Grainne and Bleddyn directed the slow-moving wagons south and west, the younger boys would climb trees, jump over streams, and leap from rock to rock. Eventually they would sprint to catch up to the carts again. Grainne would crane her neck and stand up in the cart to try to keep an eye on her boys and would call to them if they left her sight. After the tenth time they disappeared, she looked at Gwilym and asked him, “How can you stay so calm? Don’t you care about what might happen to your boys?”
He reached for her hand and gave it a reassuring squeeze. “I worry myself sick when they do dangerous things. But I’m doing them no favors by keeping them within reach at all times. They have to stretch themselves, make mistakes, and learn from them. We discuss what they did during meals and that’s when I make suggestions. I try to make them think that the safer courses are their idea. They don’t want to injure themselves. They just want to try new things.”
Gwilym told her all about his father’s quest to find the Gospel of Joseph and his theories about the life of Jesus. She told him about her childhood in Avalon, the expectations placed on her due to her royal blood, her hopes that she would rise to follow Viviane as Lady of the Lake.
“What’s the origin of the royal blood of Avalon?” he asked.
“There are two royal lines,” she replied. “One is much older and stretches through the Ladies of the Lake. Viviane has that blood, as do her sisters: Igraine and Morgause. Igraine’s daughter, Morgaine, has the blood too. Morgause and Igraine married men so they cannot become the Lady. Morgaine is reputed to have ‘The Sight.’ But she wanders the land and does not seem interested in becoming Viviane’s successor. It is rumored that she had a falling out with her aunt, Viviane, and will not wear the mantle.”
“How are you related to Viviane? Where did you get your royal blood?”
Grainne’s mouth smiled though her eyes belied the mood. “I am the daughter of her younger sister.”
“Does the blood of the man come into play at all?”
Grainne gave him a sharp look. “It does indeed. For the Lady of the Lake royal line, it is assumed that the women choose their mates so that their blood does not become diluted with lesser lines.”
“Incest?” inquired Gwilym.
“Most often the women mate with cousins to keep the line clean.”
“Just like among the Saracens. No one there marries outside the clan. It’s a dangerous practice. Too much inbreeding is bad for a line. Farmers avoid it for good reason. Bad traits are doubled.”
“So are good traits. And if a line has no bad traits, why bring any in from the outside?”
“You are breeding outside your line. That can’t be helping your quest to be Lady.”
“I was following the direct orders of the Lady.”
Gwilym thought for a moment. “You said there were two royal lines. What of the other line?”
Grainne hesitated. “That line is shorter. It entered Avalon less than 500 years ago. That line follows the males. It seems that they only breed boys. They leave Avalon and often become the Druids you see wandering about the land. Merlin is of that line.”
“Why are boys not allowed to grow up on Avalon?” he asked
“Avalon is a spiritual place, a land that teaches girls about the Goddess. They cannot do so around the distraction of boys. Young boys, like mine, are fine but they are fostered out when they turn three.”
“Can Madoc return?”
She shook her head. “To visit. For a few days. We have accommodations for that. But he cannot live there anymore.”
“That must be difficult for you, choosing between your son and your calling. What will you do?”
“I don’t need to decide yet.
Glastonbury and Avalon are next to each other. Madoc will stay with you and I will visit daily, often stay with him for many days until Avalon requires my presence. In a year, this spell will be over and I can decide.”
“We could marry and stay together all the time. Never be separated from your sons until they grow old enough to leave on their own.”She looked at him and stroked his face. “Dear man. Priestesses of Avalon do not marry. Though if they did, they would marry men like you.”