clare_dragonfly: woman with green feathery wings, text: stories last longer: but only by becoming only stories (Reading: books and tea)
[personal profile] clare_dragonfly
Title: Lettered
World: The Ursulan Cycle
Word count: 1,262
Rating: G
Prompt: Crowdfunding creative jam: "The community of scholars/physicians, while Morgan is in school."
Notes: This is a rather quiet little story. It surprised me; I thought there was going to be a lot more dialogue. But I guess monks don't talk much.


Morgan did not want to go away to school. He hated the idea of being away from his daughter for that long—bad enough he was going to be away from everything else he’d ever known. But his mother insisted he learn to read and write Latin, and his master insisted, and eventually even Lot insisted, and he gave in.

His mother insisted on bringing him to the monastery in her finest carriage. He would have preferred to go alone, or with a servant or two, on ordinary horses, but she would have none of it. So he wasn’t surprised when the other boys, those few who were also studying at the monastery, gave him nasty or appraising looks.

The brothers didn’t seem to care. Of course, some of them had come from wealthy families, too. They had given up a lot to be here. Some others had given up less than nothing; this was the finest home they’d ever known.

And the other boys—well, considering where they were, and what the land was like around here, they would be closer to the other end. And Morgan, the son of a queen, was not one of them.

At supper that evening, the first time he sat among them, he tried to tell them that he had not been so different from them, once. It was true, he and his mother had never lacked any material thing, but he had never had servants before a few scant years ago, and he had had to work for his food. But the other boys gave him sidelong glances, and the words stuck in his throat. He ducked his head and focused on his plain food and hoped that when his studies began the next day, they would go well.

He slept poorly that night, in the tiny cell that the brothers had provided for him.

In the morning there were prayers, and breakfast, and then he was taken to his studies straight away. All of them worked in the same room, the library: along one wall, the brothers copying manuscripts; along another, the more advanced boys copying other manuscripts; at the back of the room, where there was the least light, Morgan and two other boys who still needed to learn the basics.

The monk in charge of them, Brother Alphonse, placed a sheet of paper in front of Morgan. “Let’s see your abilities. Read it off.”

He looked down, and he recognized some of the letters—his mother had taught him the very basics (and where had she learned them, he now wondered? He could hardly picture Morgause at a convent)—so he sounded his way through them. The Latin sounded like so much gibberish to his ears, but the monk nodded to him, so he knew he must be doing something right.

And then one of the other boys leaned in to whisper in the ear of the one next to him and his heart sank. He’d done something wrong. Most likely, he was the only one to arrive at the monastery knowing any letters at all. It was too late to hide his knowledge, even if it had been in him to do so. He would just have to learn on his own.



The learning was painful at first. He could not tell the difference between some of the letters, and the brothers did not spare the rod when he made a foolish mistake. The words and the grammar were not what he spoke in everyday life, and he stumbled over them. He wished they could just write in the language that they spoke. But that was not the way of learned men.

The other boys started to speak to Morgan sometimes, during meals and their scant moments of free time. He tried to be friendly and polite to them, but feared he fell short. He had been popular enough in his home village, but he did not know why, and could not emulate whatever it was that made him so. It didn’t help, of course, that the accent these boys used when they spoke was even less similar to his own speech than that of the people of Lothian castle.

Some of the boys who had been there the longest moved on, whether to continue their training at other monasteries, to make pilgrimages, or to return to their home villages, there to become the scribes and letter-readers for their lords. A new boy arrived and Morgan was friendly to him. They did not perhaps become fast friends, but they did speak.

And then came the day when Morgan could read the simplest of manuscripts. The brothers knew that he was in training to become a doctor, so they gave him an illustrated herbal, only captioned with the briefest of sentences. And yet it was as though a whole new world opened before Morgan.

The book, of course, could not be taken from the library. But he spent all his time thinking about it, comparing the knowledge in the book to what his mother and his master had taught him, itching to go out into the wild and find some of the unfamiliar plants and test their properties.

Without realizing it himself, he became warmer to the other boys. And when he told them about his manuscript and let them join him in reading it, they became warmer toward him. They began to tell him about some of the things they were reading, and it was fascinating. Finally, topics of conversation developed.

Time moved faster after that. He found more to read, and it came more easily to him. His handwriting improved, and he was allowed to make copies of manuscripts for his personal use. He spent many laborious hours copying the illustrations in some of the books—but the other boys helped him, did the coloring for him or judged with fresh eyes how well his copy matched that in the book before he inked it in. And he helped the others, explaining phrases in their books that came more naturally to his, even suggesting herbs to put into the beer when there was illness going around.

And then, suddenly, it was time to leave.

The brothers told him that they had taught him all that they could teach; he had copied their best medical texts and learned how to read every word in them. He knew more than everyone in Lothian castle except his master and, perhaps, his mother. He had nothing more to learn.

He had not thought about his home much in the last few months. But suddenly he realized that he missed everyone there with a pang like a spike through his heart. He had found good friendship, good scholarship, and good fellowship here; he would be sorry to leave, but he would be sorrier to stay forever.

He gripped each of the other boys’ hands in turn as they said their goodbyes. They said they would miss each other. They made promises for if they should meet again.

Morgan knew it was unlikely, if not impossible, that they should ever meet again. But if they did, he would be glad to buy each of them a tankard of mead, to hear their stories. He wished them all the best in all they did.

He said a simple goodbye to his brothers. And then he turned for the road home.

His mother had arrived to pick him up in her finest carriage, and this time, none of the other boys seemed to care.

Did you enjoy this story? You can read more stories in this world (and donate for more fiction) or see all my fiction posted at Dreamwidth!

Yay!

Date: 2014-08-19 02:46 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I love the introspection in this, and how Morgan grows into relationships very slowly. It will be interesting to see how he fits into Queen Ursula's court later.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-08-19 03:02 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I think it will be a challenge for him, because Morgan makes friends slowly. If there are courtiers who try to cultivate him for their own ends, he may fall prey to that just because they're being nice to him. But once they know who he really is, it's going to turn into a madhouse.

Conversely, Morgan seems like the type of person who doesn't care much about someone's background. He could quite plausibly wind up making friends with the local abbot, any of the priests, the court letter-reader, servants, gardeners especially if they know about herbs -- anyone he's got something in common with.

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-08-19 03:24 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
>> Oh, yes, and there absolutely will be courtiers trying to cultivate him--in my timeline Morgause told him who his father was, so he told Ursula and they're going to announce it quickly, just keeping secret who Morwenna is. <<

Fascinating. I think I like that. It is different from most Arthurian versions. It gives them a chance to get ahead of the crowd and do some damage control, because something like that is almost guaranteed to get out eventually. ("Two may keep a secret, if one of them is dead.")

>> You're absolutely right about that. I can see him now chatting with a gardener, making suggestions for each other what to plant and how to care for the plants... ::adds that to the list of stories to write:: <<

That would be awesome. In medieval times, herbs were highly important. Monasteries, manors, and castles had massive herb gardens. I love looking at the old patterns.

Here are some pictures:
http://www.pinterest.com/smalovrh/medieval-garden/

These are herb garden plans:
http://www.gardenvisit.com/history_theory/library_online_ebooks/ml_gothein_history_garden_art_design/monastery_garden_plans
http://www.hellenicaworld.com/France/Literature/MilburgFranciscoMansfield/en/RoyalPalaces.html

Re: Yay!

Date: 2014-08-19 03:35 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
Glad I could help.

I actually have some herb gardens like this, nothing as elaborate, but the cistern garden is lined with bricks, then there's the strip garden nearby, and a barrel garden out in the yard -- all with a variety of plants in and around them. The wildflower garden is more rustic.

And as a side note

Date: 2014-08-20 01:15 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
The primary hero of the Brother Cadfael mysteries is an herbalist monk, and many Pagans study herbs and herbalism because of traditional (and magical) meanings as well as medicinal usages, so the tradition of written herbaries is still alive and well in the modern day. :)

Re: And as a side note

Date: 2014-08-20 01:28 am (UTC)
ysabetwordsmith: Cartoon of me in Wordsmith persona (Default)
From: [personal profile] ysabetwordsmith
I have heard of that series, yes.

Cunningham's Book of Magical Herbs is one of my go-to references.

Date: 2014-08-19 04:26 am (UTC)
technoshaman: Tux (Default)
From: [personal profile] technoshaman
I s'pect this is going to be a much more pleasant version of things than the usual cycle.... :)

I don't normally agree with sending kids off to boarding school. This... is an exception.

his mother--

Date: 2014-08-19 12:54 pm (UTC)
dialecticdreamer: My work (Default)
From: [personal profile] dialecticdreamer
Very subtly gets him off to school to further HIS education, but--

- she separates him from Morwenna at a critical bonding time.

- she becomes primary influence over Morwenna

- Morgan is unlikely to have the same "Wow, Morwenna is an awesome, adorable baby!" reaction, and will /probably/ react more like "a young man should"-- which is not necessarily meant to harm either Morgan or Morwenna, just make them "safer" by making their relationship more normal-for-the-day.

- and the wet nurse is unlikely to have had one WORD of influence over Morwenna, the entire time; this was implied by the first intense conversation Morgan wasn't privy to, only the effects therof.

Wow, this was fun to read! Thank you!

Re: his mother--

Date: 2014-08-20 01:12 am (UTC)
zeeth_kyrah: A glowing white and blue anthropomorphic horse stands before a pink and blue sky. (Default)
From: [personal profile] zeeth_kyrah
Yyyyeah. Morgause is not a nice person. :/

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