author of fantasy
Villainess of The Green Lion trilogy
Diaspad was neglected as a child. The King was not very interested in a daughter whose paternity he was not even certain of, and the Queen was still hoping for a son to supplant Cynwas. And Morfudd was a hard, selfish woman; when she did bother to notice her plain little daughter, she showed no affection and was often cruel and abusive.
It was probably some such incident of abuse that first brought her to Manogan's attention. He was always sensitive to the distress of others, was very fond of children, and was bound to be sympathetic. She, of course, would have noticed him at once and developed a violent infatuation, as most women who met him did. His casual, unsuspecting kindness naturally made her love him more.
Her only real friend was Sidonwy—for the most part a long-distance friendship, since Sidonwy spent most of her time in Rhianedd. It was a friendship based more on the similarity of their situations than on any sympathy of mind or emotions. That Sidonwy developed a crush on Cynwas (who was as inaccessible to her at that time as Manogan was to Diaspad) only brought the two girls closer together. It was later, when Diaspad was so very unhappy in her own life, and Sidonwy was finally going to marry Cynwas, that Diaspad considered Sidonwy's attachment to her brother as a kind of betrayal.
At about thirteen Diaspad was beginning to show some signs of the beauty that she would later become. She was learning to use her power over men to get what she wanted. Yet she remained technically a virgin, perhaps still entertaining some hope of Manogan. At about that time she fell in with the Old Ones, the dissident faction from Draighen that had played such a part in bringing Morfudd and Anwas together. They taught Diaspad some of their secrets, held out the promise of even more, and encouraged her attachment to Manogan.
Meanwhile, Manogan had learned that Madawc's daughter had not waited for him to return: she had married one of her own cousins. Heartbroken, he took to riding across the countryside late at night, alternating with periods of drunken debauchery. It was on one such occasion, returning to the castle late on May Eve, drunk and in a dangerous mood, that he met the fifteen-year old Diaspad dancing around the bale-fire. Had he known her to be a virgin, things would probably have turned out quite differently. As it was, he swept her up before him on his great stallion and carried her off. Not at all reluctantly, she permitted him his will—for all that he was drunk and the encounter began roughly, it ended with great tenderness.
They were lovers after that, and Diaspad was ecstatically happy. Being Diaspad she had to put her happiness and Manogan to the test. There were flirtations with other men, furious quarrels, and passionate reconciliations.
It was after one such quarrel that Gwdolen ni Dyffryn first appeared at court. Manogan first met her crying among the roses in Morfudd's garden. Touched by her distress, moved by her beauty, highly susceptible because of his own emotional pain, Manogan promptly fell in love with her. Manogan's brother Maelgwyn also courted her, and it was he whom she chose in the end.
Diaspad might have forgiven Manogan then, but he gave her no opportunity. He returned to Tir Gwyngelli for a time, without even a farewell. Diaspad retaliated by taking Corfil of Mochdreff for her lover. At first she was even attracted to him, for he superficially resembled Manogan, and she thought he was a man of ambition who might go very far. Her principle motive, however, was to hurt her Gwyngellach lover by consorting with a man that she knew he hated. In an evil moment, she married Corfil and went with him to Mochdreff. Her brother, the King, refused to recognize the marriage, and in many other ways it was not a success. After several unhappy years as Corfil's quasi-wife, she left him and returned to her brother's court.
It was shortly after her arrival that circumstances threw her and Manogan together again. It was not long before they were sleeping together once more. Manogan was called back home, but promised to return as soon as he could. While he was gone, Diaspad discovered that she was pregnant. She had no way of determining whether Manogan or Corfil was the father. What was she to do? Manogan, of course, knew that she had lived with Corfil; Corfil did not know that she and Manogan had reconciled. She doubted that Manogan would marry her and consent to raise his enemy's child as his own. She might have rid herself of the child—but, like many other lonely, abused, and insecure teenagers, she was drawn to the idea of motherhood, and a baby who would belong to her as no one had ever belonged to her before.
Moreover, she did not want her child to suffer the stigma of illegitimacy as she had, and perhaps marriage to Corfil was meant to be another test. So Diaspad begged her brother to recognize her marriage, and when Cynwas finally agreed, she returned to Corfil — and a loveless marriage that was doomed from the very beginning. To make matters worse, it became evident over the years that Corfil was incapable of fathering any child—and the boy grew more like Manogan in small ways every day. Her mistake was all too evident.
She could not have been a good mother, as filled with bitterness as she was, swinging back and forth from love to hate when she thought of Manogan, seeing in the boy, alternately, both the men to whom she felt she owed all her misery. And young mothers who suffered abuse as children are the most likely to become abusive themselves. Calchas was kept totally confused by his mother's alternate cruelty and smothering affection. His love for her was always tinged by fear.
She dispensed of Corfil by magic, having sought out practitioners of the black arts all through Mochdreff, in order to continue her quest for power. For her revenge on Manogan she adopted a more subtle plan. How better to avenge herself against a sentimental Gwyngellach prince than through his son—even if he knew the child not? She taught the boy to hate everything Gwyngellach and took special delight in warping his personality, in making him into the heartless little monster that he eventually became. Then she took him to Caer Cadwy, partly in hopes of realizing the promises the Old Ones had made to her, partly to display her handiwork to Manogan. He couldn't know, but he must sometimes wonder. Yet the Manogan she knew was dead, and beyond her revenge. The cool, cynical man who remained in his place meant nothing to her, neither to love nor to hate. Nothing remained to live for but ambition.
Her Interesting Affliction
This was a side-effect of her dabbling in black magic, and also probably a punishment for murdering Corfil. The more apparent stigmata were not always present, but she had no way of knowing when they would manifest themselves. Having become a freak herself, she surrounded herself with cretins, hunchbacks, and others similarly afflicted. Only the most trusted of her servants ever saw her undressed, and the young boys she took as her lovers were subject to certain restrictions in their love-making. If they gave her reason to suspect that they knew too much, they died.
She developed a great craving for flesh, especially red meat, occasionally indulging herself with a meal of live goldfish. She was not interested in most other foods, except for an occasional bowl of sweetened cream, but she pretended to like them for the sake of appearance.