Sunday, February 13, 2011

Third Excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

"It were like he had a death-grip on it and were determined to choke t’log before it killed us.”
Father Drew watched her skill with admiration and, after she tied up the last two lengths of cloth, they both looked up at the surrounding crowd. Standing in front, with his arms crossed and a sour look on his beetled brow, stood Tarrant, the supervisor of the works. Next to him stood the Mother Superior, looking aghast. Tarrant spoke while the nun nodded her head in agreement, “I know you like to try new things, Father, but practicing witchcraft at the foot of the altar is going too far.”
Father Drew stood up. “Can you not see the difference between healing and witchcraft, son?”
 “I’d say any craft done by a witch is witchcraft, Father. And this one has been a thorn in the side of our fine nuns since she was an infant, isn’t that right, Mother Superior?”
The nuns all nodded this time. Mother Superior added, “Witchcraft was the reason for this tower falling in the first place. This tower was haunted even in Uther’s time. Merlin removed two dragon eggs from a lake below it when I was a child and the new tower lasted for some years but again it falls.”
 “It looked to me,” said Father Drew, staring at Tarrant, “that the cross-brace you forced into the tower pushed out the sides and caused the collapse. What were you and Gwilym arguing about before you placed it?”
 “The Saxon didn’t want to put it there so he must have sabotaged it. I bet he caused it to slip and that made the tower collapse.”
 “No! If his end had slipped, the whole log would have fallen into the pit. Because his end held, the top of the log pushed out the tower. Is that what he predicted, Tarrant?”
Tarrant, his eyes shifting left and right, scratched his pockmarked cheek and denied this. He was a medium height man with thick, dark hair and two thick eyebrows that almost met above his hooked nose. His lips were thin and his chin weak.
Fred came forth and stated to the priest, “That’s a damn lie! I were right under them and I heard it all. If we’d listened to Gwilym we’d all be fine right now. This man,” he pointed to Tarrant, “will kill us all with his foolishness!”
 “You’re fired!” screamed Tarrant at Fred, who gasped and looked at his priest.
 “No Tarrant,” sighed Father Drew, “it is you that must go. Take your wages for the week and be on your way. This work is not for you.”
 “You’ll regret this!” he screamed at the priest. Then he scanned the room and addressed them all, “You’ll all regret this! I promise you!”
As Tarrant left the church, he shoved his way through a throng of women who were flooding into the church from the village. They all spread out, weeping over wounds or crying in relief at finding their men untouched. Bleddyn stood and ran to his mother, heavily pregnant and panting. He hugged her fiercely and led her to his father. She knelt awkwardly and stroked her husband’s face while Bleddyn told the story of the collapse and the healing. When the story was over she asked Bleddyn to show her the healer.
Bleddyn ran to Grainne and brought her over to his mother. “Miss Grainne, this is my mother, Kaitlyn.”
 “Thank you so much for saving my husband’s leg. He’d make a lousy beggar.”
 “He’s not safe yet, Ma’am. He’ll need to stay off that leg for a month at least and then use it sparingly. The bones must knit together, you see. And you are heavy with child. Can I see?”
A collective gasp was heard
from the surrounding nuns at this request and the Mother Superior bustled up and ordered Grainne from the church. “How dare you defile this place with your baby-stealing witchcraft?”
As the priest took a deep breath to intervene, Grainne waved her hand and said, “It’s all right, I’ll go. See you in the village ma’am.” As she walked through the doorway, every man in the church watched her silhouette through the thin, white dress with appreciation.

Father Drew called the men to the church the next day to find out what happened in the collapse. Fred was the main spokesman.
“I were down in t’bottom of t’pit with nine others, shorin’ up t’foundations and listenin’ to Gwilym arguin’ with Tarrant. Gwilym were tellin’ Tarrant that t’cross-brace would make t’tower unstable, Tarrant were arguin’ t’other way. When t’last log started to break t’tower, I didn’t know what was happenin’ but Gwilym did. He pushed Tarrant down, then jumped down himself and pushed and dragged us all into one corner. Before we knew what were happenin’ we were all in a corner and he were holdin’ t’horizontal cross-brace above us on his shoulder and t’whole structure collapsed. There were barely enough room to breathe. If we’d stayed where we were, we’d have all been crushed.”
“He were holdin’ t’cross-brace with his hands and shoulders so I stood to try and help him, but he’s so tall I could barely reach t’log, leave alone tryin’ to lift it. We tried usin’ tools but nothin’ we did seemed to help. Sweat were coverin’ Gwilym and his legs were shakin’ but he wouldn’t let go. It were like he had a death-grip on it and were determined to choke t’log before it killed us.”
“We heard you removin’ t’logs above us and before too long Gwilym must have felt t’weight on his shoulders get less because, just when we were sure he was goin’ to collapse from t’weight, he bent his knees and straightened his arms and then, with a choke-hold on t’log, straightened his legs by tremendous effort and lifted t’whole pile enough so that we could all escape.”
“Tarrant were first to push his way out and t’others followed but I wanted to help Gwilym so I held t’log at a lower point while others went up for braces so that Gwilym could escape. I pushed with all my might but I don’t think I really made a difference; Gwilym were doin’ all t’work. Then he looked at me and, with legs shakin’, told me to run for it. I argued but then I looked in his eyes and saw he were done so I took his advice. I barely made it out. That man is a hero. He saved us all.”
Fred blushed from his long speech and others took their turns to agree with Fred’s story of what happened. Tarrant had left town right after being paid his wages so there was no opposing view.
Father Drew asked the men to appoint a new foreman to the job. The unanimous choice was Gwilym. “But he is a freeman and a Saxon” said the priest. “Do you not want one of your own to lead you?”
“He saved our lives and we trust him” was the general reply.

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

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