I can imagine the confabulation as Ciaran paints for Evaine a portrait from memory of what it was like to grow up in a castle full of vulgar men and unfulfilled women. What ordinary mortal could resist this curious child born under a cloak of secrecy and taboo? Who could avoid falling under the spell of his angelic appearance? What ordinary human would be immune to the speculation and suspicion that seemed always to hover around him? The unorthodox circumstances of his birth left much to the imagination and prompted many to question the legitimacy of his lineage. For some, it might have felt safer to objectify and demonize him in order to avoid examining too closely their own sins.
“For years, everyone thought I was a girl!” he said, his voice brittle with indignation. “My foster-brothers dubbed me “Princess of Narberth” until I turned ten when I, at last, developed the skill and the muscle to fight back. The ladies of the court fussed over me relentlessly. The nuns and the nursemaids used to chase after me with their hair brushes! Can you imagine?”
Keeping a straight face, Evaine pressed a palm to her heart, frowning at the injustice of it all. “How on earth did you defend yourself?” she asked earnestly.
Ciaran continued without pause. “Most of the time, I contrived to elude them,” he claimed, thrusting out his jaw with an air of self-importance. Adding an aside, he explained, “I knew all the castle’s hiding places. Whenever I spied one of them coming, I would scramble for the nearest hole-in-the-wall where I could keep out of sight until they grew weary of the search.”
“What happened when they found you?” Evaine wondered.
Ciaran scowled. “They sought to adorn my hair with ribbons and dress me in skirts!” he said contemptuously. “I complained bitterly, of course. But no matter how loudly I bellowed, the sisters would have none of it.”
He then commenced, in his most theatrical falsetto, to deliver a scathing parody of the dreaded voices of courtly female authority: “Sweet child, you’re just going through a phase. All little girls like to pretend to be boys up to a certain age. You’ll see. Eventually, you’ll outgrow it. Now be a lamb and fetch my comb. That’s a darling. And please do try to sit still whilst I work the snarls out of your hair. Spun silk such as yours would be the crowning glory of most young ladies. Why you resist the necessity of grooming it is beyond me! Such abuse of one’s God-given endowments is an insult to the Lord!”