I was born in the twelfth year of the reign of Jean Sans Terre, being the eleventh of our Prince, Llywelyn Fawr, in the Usk Valley. My father, Gwyn ap Rhys, was the Lord of our village as had been his father and all our fathers until the dawn of time. We lived in one of the few stone buildings in the valley, which had stood since Roman times, and, while it was somewhat ramshackle, still had warm floors and kept us comfortable throughout the year.
My mother was a wise woman from the next part of the valley, and my father had fallen in love with her at first site, when she was gathering herbs in the hills above where we lived. She had been schooled by the holy women who lived near the Church in her village, although she had kept true to the old religion that was once known as true by all who lived in Wales before the time of the Romans.
When I was born, she vowed to herself that she would see that I, too, was schooled in reading, writing, and all of her skills. While this did include spinning and weaving, she could not abide the decoration of clothing or other womanly skills. She preferred to keep to the still room or up on the hills and mountains that surrounded us. Alas, she died in birthing my little sister when I was in my seventh year, and my sister survived her only by minutes.
A few years later, my father wed again, this time to a noblewoman from a distant part of Powys. My new mother and I were not at all alike, and we disliked each other intensely. She was appalled at my love of reading, wandering the hills and, most of all, writing. She often forced me to sit still for long periods of time plying a needle to make clothing and subsequently decorating them. While I could see the sense in learning to fashion clothing, I could never understand the need for applying elaborate decoration. As soon as she ceased to watch me, I would slip away. She complained frequently to my father of my growing rebellion toward her instruction and “care.”
I far preferred to hide in a corner of our home, studying the Liberal Arts of Marcellus Capellanus, and copying it so that I could have it for my own. I loved the feeling of quill against parchment, and practiced my skills whenever I could. Our goats and sheep provided me with many pages, but I was still forced to clean my parchments to be used as many times and for as long as possible. Gradually, I came by skills that would serve me for the whole of my life.
When I was seventeen, my mother proposed to marry me to a nobleman far older than me, who lived in the Marches that separated Wales from England. As soon as we met, I found I loathed him, and would not stand his hands upon me. Thereto, I fled me into England, and toward London.
It was, as the Europeans would say, Anno Domini 1228; and the call had gone forth for all godly men to go on Crusade. I became a camp follower, one of the women and men who provided services and (some of them) comfort to they who fought. The nobles on the campaign soon discovered my reading and writing skills, and that I had a well-formed, readable hand, and began to use me for dictation of letters and records of their great fêtes and prowess on the field of combat.
This led me to the Holy Land, where disgust for my fellow humans caused me to depart from their company. I disguised myself as a stripling, and arranged travel. Something kept calling me eastward, and, a year or so, I came upon the Mongols.
The courage, strength, and openness to the people of other cultures who would subscribe to the Mongol way and submission to the Kaghan caused me to admire them. Slowly I began passage to the Kaghan’s home in Karakorum, where I was called into Ogadai’s presence. He had heard that I learned to speak in his tongue, and that I also knew several of the languages of Europe. I became one of his scribes, and served him for many years.
Near the end of his life, the Great Ogadai called me to him. He told me that he wished me to be his ambassador to the lands from which I came. Although I told him that, as a woman, I would not be welcome as such, he insisted that I go. And so, in the company of bodyguards, I returned to Europe. It was as I was crossing the Danube in the company of Subatai’s Golden Horde that I learned that my great friend had gone to his Tngri.
At the last, I arrived in Paris, where I remain to this day. I formed my own atelier, took students, and they and I copied and decorated all manners of books, from study books for the students of the University (and also provided exemplars for those students to poor to employ us) to decorated books for noblemen who would show their learning to their world.
I have grown old since those times of my travels. My students have become masters and left me to found their own ateliers with their own students. I retired to the Kingdom of Northshield where I have spent many years as a recluse. Then, one day, I received a summons to duty once again, this time as a Herald, who would be responsible for the education of the heralds of the Kingdom. And once more, I do more than survive, but, to my joy, to serve.