The first time Sophie came home to find her husband playing with a very familiar black kitten, Calcifer had had the good sense to point out rather quickly how the whole thing had been Howl's idea, before hiding among the logs in his fireplace.
Without saying anything, she proceeded to remove her hat and her shawl, giving Howl time to really think through his next words. And he better have a very good explanation for this.
"Hello Sophie!" he said happily as he dangled a piece of string in front of the restless feline she knew to be their son. "You are home early."
"What did you do to Morgan, Howl?" she asked, ignoring his attempt at casual conversation.
"And I missed you too," he replied, picking up Morgan as he stood. "And so did Calcifer. And Morgan, of course. Poor thing wouldn't stop fussing and crying after you left. It was heartbreaking, really."
"I see. Did you even attempt to calm him down before resorting to this?"
Howl looked properly offended. "Sophie, dear, are you accusing me of taking the easy way out? I only did what was best for Morgan since he is quite happy like this. Why deny him the joy of being free to move around just the way he wants? He obviously misses it."
"Because our son happens to be a human child, Howl. Not a cat."
"I seem to recall you spent quite some time as a cat yourself."
"That was different! You know we… Oh, Morgan!" Sophie exclaimed as the kitten jumped from Howl's hand to her shoulder, then proceeded to curl up as Sophie gathered him in her arms.
"See?" Howl said, gesturing at the now purring Morgan. "Such a happy child turned kitten! And when he's happy, he is not shattering the eardrums of everyone in Ingary with his wails. Everybody wins."
"Because getting a baby to stop crying is such a hard thing to do," she said, shaking her head and looking at Morgan, now quite entertained by a bit of lace on Sophie's sleeve. And more importantly, blissfully quiet.
"I could turn him back right now," Howl offered, a hand already hovering over their son. Sophie sighted.
"Maybe later," she said, stroking Morgan's fur and looking at him lovingly. The look she gave her husband wasn't as loving. But Wizard Howl knew that underneath the sullen stare there was a cleverly concealed "I love you."
Once Morgan grew enough to move around on his own, there was no need for him to be a kitten on occasion – or least, that was what Sophie had said. A few mishaps regarding their furniture aside, Howl honestly couldn't see anything wrong with it – he considered one of the cleverest ideas he had come with, brilliant even. But Sophie would have none of it. She had been quick to point out that this included turning their son into anything else. So much for Plan B.
Nonetheless, Howl was a very smart and resourceful man. And his wife's new rule didn't say anything about Howl himself.
"Don't tell Mama," he told Morgan the first time they sat down together to play with Morgan's wooden bricks. "She won't fink ith funny."
Morgan's first formal suit was a lovely shade of dark green with golden trimming, so lovely that upon seeing it, Howl declared he needed one with fabric just like that, which was alright by Sophie as long as he didn't try to wear it on Morgan's birthday. Never mind how many times Howl would mention that drawing attention away from Morgan was not a bad thing under certain circumstances.
"You win," Sophie said as she worked on Morgan's suit. "If a group of Lubbokins threatens to kidnap Morgan again, you are more than welcome to draw attention to yourself so they'll get you instead. Again."
Howl put a hand over his chest and looked horrified. "Sophie! How could you live with yourself if the Lubbokins succeeded on taking me away this time?"
"I am sure I'll manage," she said without looking away from her sewing. She focused on her task at hand long after Howl wandered off.
"Stay clean," she whispered as she put the finishing touches in the suit. "I want everyone to see Morgan at his very best. You're such a beautiful suit and Morgan will look so good in you! Please don't get dirty."
Later, after the party was over and Sophie washed strawberry jam off Morgan's hair, she had to recognize the spell had worked wonderfully. On the suit at least.
The first time young Morgan conjured a toy horse from one room to the other, Howl's first thought was "Will you look at that." It was quite a proud thought as well.
Aw, the things his son could do with some proper training. The places he would visit. The people he would meet. Who knew? Maybe he'd succeed his dad as Royal Wizard, finally freeing Howl from such a suffocating position. Then he'd make new friends like dukes and princes and wizards from other lands that would come just to consult the great Morgan Pendragon. Who knew? Maybe he'd be a greater wizard than Howl himself!
Now wait a minute…
Certainly Morgan had it in his blood – as the child of Howl and Sophie he was bound to have lots of potential, but it took true skill and charm to make that magic work. Then again, not being Royal Wizard anymore would be liberating. And it's not like the King would ignore Howl, considering all the commissions gone his way back before becoming Royal Wizard. Unless Morgan could do those as well. And better than Howl…
And what would be of Howl after that? Neglected, alone and discarded like a once beloved toy that just cannot compete with the shiniest, newest toy around. Proud of Morgan as any father would be, but still oh so neglected.
And then there would be nothing but cobwebs and green slime all over their once loving home.
Years later, during a walk around Porthaven, Morgan was so fascinated by the large boats that he said he would love to be a sailor when he grew up.
"A very sensible profession," Howl said approvingly and only slightly disappointed Morgan wasn't considering a career in magic.
"Once upon a time," Dad started. "There was a great, powerful wizard. The best in all the land if I may be modest. He traveled to many different lands with the turn of a doorknob. He defeated the Witch of the West and her fire demon on the same day. He…"
"You may be many things, Howl, but modest is not one of them," Sophie said as she stood in the doorway.
"Sophie, dear. I'm just telling our son a bedtime story. It just happens to be based on a true story. A story of dashing feats and…"
"And many other things that are too long to discuss here. And Morgan's bedtime already passed."
"Can I hear the end of this one, Mama?" Morgan asked with a hopeful look that his father was quick to imitate. "Please?"
Not even she could resist such a sight. "Five more minutes," she said before walking away with a smile.
"And more importantly," he whispered once they were alone again. "He had one thing that made him not only the best, but the luckiest wizard and man around."
And even though this was the first time Dad told this story, Morgan knew what came next.
"Mama," the boy said sleepily. "But I cannot tell her you said that."
"That's right," Dad replied. "Aren't you a bright young man?"