Saturday, January 22, 2011

First few pages of 'Twelve Towers'

Just then he felt a hard, heavy blow in his chest and he was flying off the dirt pile and out of danger.

Chapter 1 - Huish
Merlin stepped off the barge and was escorted by the young priestess into the presence of the Lady of the Lake. She grasped both his hands and sat down opposite him by the fire.
“Arthur is now accepted as High King?” she asked. 
“I have returned from the ceremony. Most of the lesser kings have accepted him, the rest will rebel.”
“And still I worry about the new religion. They have no respect for the Goddess. They call us witches and demons. Will Arthur put an end to it?”
“Arthur has publicly pledged his allegiance to Avalon. Yet he is pledged also to protect all of Britain, Christians as well as Druids.”
“So the old fight continues below him.”
“We have a common enemy in the Saxons. They cut down the sacred groves and demolish the ring stones.”
She looked thoughtful. “What can we do to bind the High King closer to Avalon?”
“We must prove valuable to Arthur. We can add a layer of protection to Britain. There is an old enchantment that might work. It is complicated and will take time but, if it is done properly, the spell will bind all of Britain to Avalon.”
“How can I help?”
“We need six towers to be bound together and bound in turn to Avalon. The builder of these towers must be of the old royal blood and the towers must be sanctified with the blood of Avalon. The first tower is being built now. You have a priestess who can perform her part of the spell. Let us look into the well and find our builder.”
Merlin and the Lady of the Lake walked to the sacred well. Viviane waited until the wind rippled the surface of the water and then cast her spell. The view was of a patch of British countryside from above, as a bird would see when flying over it. The view swooped down to see a construction site in progress. Men were swarming all over a large hole in the ground inside of which log walls were being placed on top of each other. At first the view zoomed in on a young boy sitting just outside the site, on the hill caused by the dug foundations, playing around with a pile of small sticks. “Too young!” cried Viviane.
The view panned out again and then zoomed in on a large, blonde man, deep in the center of the works, arguing with a smaller dark-haired man. The view shifted as the bird flew around the site. The man’s face was obscured by his depth within the site. Finally Viviane uttered a high-pitched scream and both men looked up straight up at her. The blonde man’s strong face and blue eyes focused straight into Viviane’s. Viviane was shocked and stepped back.
“You’ve tricked me, Merlin!” she cursed. “How did he get there?”
“Fate is sometimes a cruel master.”
“But he is not even in charge. And he looks like a Saxon. How will he be the one?”
“Fate,” he replied. “Let us watch.”

Bleddyn smiled to himself and looked up from his two completed wooden puzzles. His father had told him that these would keep him busy until he returned with their lunches but Bleddyn could hear the shouting and hammering of men still hard at work on the other side of the hill. He hesitated, remembering his father’s words of warning: not to approach the works, but his eagerness to show his skill to his father won out. As a hawk screeched above, Bleddyn stood and stretched, brushed his long blonde hair away from his brow and started climbing up the dirt pile leading to the work pit. He was tall and fit from the exercises his father gave him. The loose dirt made it difficult to get to the top of the pile but eventually he was able to look over the lip into the works.
The men had been building swiftly this morning. Logs had been stacked on top of each other to make
 a square tower that now rose 25 feet above the lip of the dirt pile. Bleddyn knew that two days ago the tower had started 10 feet below the lip. He frowned when he saw that the men were using the log pattern from the first puzzle his father gave him: the unstable one. Why did these men never listen to his father? He looked at the second puzzle that lay snug in his right hand, growing tighter with each passing minute.
Bleddyn struggled to see his father amongst all the men in the works. There must have been 30 of them struggling with the huge logs, cutting the notches, hauling them into place, hammering pegs from one into the next. Looking between the logs, in the middle of the tower, Bleddyn saw his father arguing with another man. They were standing on a log that stretched across the tower from corner to corner. That was a feature that was in neither of the puzzles and Bleddyn could see no reason for it.
The other man, red-faced with anger, stood with his head at the height of Gwilym’s chest, staring up past Gwilym’s crossed arms, yelling at his impassive face. Bleddyn finally made out the words, “Because I say so!” Gwilym shrugged, shook his head and with quick, confident steps, walked along the diagonal log and called up to the waiting men. Bleddyn was proud of his dad, the tallest man in the works by at least a head. From behind, his massive legs looked like tree-trunks, his back spread out like the bottom of a wine cask and his massive shoulders and neck looked like the roots of an ancient oak. He too, had the long blonde hair of a Saxon; perhaps that was why they yelled at him.
They always seemed to yell at his father. Bleddyn and his parents would wander from town to village, his Dad asking for work and usually getting turned down. The locals could see at an instant he was strong enough for the work but they called him a Saxon and preferred to keep their friends and family working over him. They would use him when there was a lot of work but he would be the first one let go when the work was finishing up. The family must have been getting low on stores and money because he saw that his father was eating less than usual until he got this job. His mother was careful with the little money they had but his father wouldn’t allow her to skimp on her own food because she was expecting his baby brother or sister. She did make the little food they had taste great with the spices she carried with her from village to village.
Bleddyn looked up to the top of the works. A new log, longer and thicker than all the rest, was being lowered into the tower by the men, one sharp end held by Gwilym who wedged it carefully into the corner made by the diagonal cross-brace. The other end was being slowly lowered to the opposite corner, ten feet above the level at which Bleddyn stood. Bleddyn looked into his father’s face and saw sadness and resignation in his grey-blue eyes. Because both of their sightlines were along the new log, neither of them saw the disaster as it started to occur.
A young, neatly dressed and shaven priest was also standing on the lip of the dirt pile but perpendicular to the new log and he saw at once what must happen. As the weight of the log began to be felt at the corner where the top end of it rested, this bowed out dangerously. The first thing Bleddyn noticed was the snapping sound as the pegs holding the logs together on his corner gave way. He looked up to see the huge logs leaning over, and then tumbling down straight toward him. Bleddyn turned to run, his feet scrabbling in the loose dirt like those in a nightmare and he knew he was lost. Why hadn’t he listened to his father? Just then he felt a hard, heavy blow in his chest and he was flying off the dirt pile and out of danger. He lost his breath, recalling the time he had strayed into his neighbor’s field and had been bowled over by a young bull.
The sound of the falling logs died away to the cries of agony as the men in the pit started to assess their injuries. Bleddyn opened his eyes to see himself wrapped up by the young priest. This man had run headlong into his chest and thrown both of them off the pile toward the corner of the tower. All the falling logs had dropped away from this corner leaving them breathless and scratched but otherwise unscathed. The priest looked Bleddyn over quickly, then climbed back up the pile to help the men.

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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