Sunday, April 10, 2011

Seventh Exerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

It was in the shape of a circle, flanked by two crescent moons.
One morning Bleddyn woke up to see his father writing on a new sheet of sheepskin. He loved to see his father’s neat script so he looked over his shoulder to see what he was writing. The sheepskin gave many details about the tower, why it was being built, who had to do the work, who was in charge of what, where the materials would come from. “What are you writing, Da?”
“It’s a letter that I’ll get the king’s signature on so that no-one argues with me any more about what we’re doing and how we’re doing it.”
“Ooh! Like a royal charter?”
“Aye. That’s what it is, son.” Gwilym wrote carefully at the top of the skin: Royal Charter for the Huish Tower. “Will you come with me to Caerleon?” he asked casually, knowing full well the prospect of this adventure would have on his son.
Bleddyn was overjoyed and started packing immediately. He was full of questions: “How many days travel? Where will we sleep? How should we dress? Will we meet the king? Will we meet Sir Launcelot? How do you bow to a Knight? a King?”
Gwilym smiled at the boy and did his best to indulge his questions. He organized the tower workers to continue the project in his absence and made sure his newborns would be taken care of at the smith’s. Bleddyn and he rode off together in the cart, Bleddyn handling the reins.
They followed the banks of the Siger to the salt water and then followed this northeast toward Brycgstow, keeping the water on their left. Bleddyn was curious about the land they could see across the water. “That, son, is not the sea, merely the mouth of a great river, the Severn, which feeds the sea from the inland of this country. Across there you see where we are going. Cardiff is the large settlement. Caerleon is further Northeast and on higher land. We follow the river to where it narrows. We’ll take a ferry at Brycgstow tomorrow morning.”
They arrived at the outskirts of Brycgstow around supper-time. Bleddyn was goggling in every direction, seeing sights for the first time. They ate a hearty meal at a tavern where they stabled their horse and Gwilym negotiated a place for them to sleep. He was tired from the painful journey but Bleddyn wanted to explore. Gwilym indulged the boy, taking up his crutch and hobbling down the street to show his son parts of the town. They went in and out of a few buildings, some selling stuff for sailing, some food, some clothing. One was a store that sold pretty trinkets for women. Gwilym was heading out when he stopped in his tracks. He asked the proprietor about a particular brooch. It was in the shape of a circle, flanked by two crescent moons.
“Aah, that’s a beautiful piece isn’t it? Just came in from France, it did. I paid a pretty penny for it and I’m thinking about keeping it for my wife. But I might part with it for 15 silver.”
Gwilym looked furious and, keeping his voice steady, asked the man, “Do you buy a lot of stolen goods here? Is that the place you are running?”
The man sputtered his innocence but Gwilym pressed on. “I know the owner of that piece and she’d never sell it. We haven’t seen her for two weeks now. Tell me who sold it to you and what he looked like!”
“It was only two days before. He was my height, dark hair, beady eyes. I didn’t catch a name. He said he’d bought it in France but lost his sweetheart to another man.”
Gwilym took the piece and declared, “I’ll take this back to the poor girl’s mother. We think she might have been killed by this man. And you’d better be more careful about who you buy from.”
“I may not be able to prove the stories about my merchandise, son, but I can prove it is mine now. And if you steal it, I can have you imprisoned for a thief. So don’t go running off with my jewelry without buying it.”
“Prove it, then!” challenged Gwilym.
The shop-owner turned and pulled a sheet of vellum from the shelf behind him and unrolled it. He pointed to a line two from the bottom that described the piece and the 4 silver he’d paid for it.
“Here’s your money back, then, and be glad I’ve not the time to send you to prison for buying stolen goods.” He took the man’s quill, dipped it in ink and quickly wrote under the last line: ‘Sold to Gwilym of Huish for 4 silver to be returned to its rightful owner’.
The man whined but shut up when Gwilym rose to his full height and crutched his way out of the door. They returned to the tavern and drank a cup of ale in the common room before heading to the sleeping room to rest. “Is that Lowri’s brooch, Da?” Bleddyn inquired.
“I’m pretty sure it is, son. This is the brooch of a priestess of Avalon. It shows the three phases of the goddess. You see,” he pointed out the features of the brooch, “the first crescent moon is waxing, showing the maiden just entering womanhood; the circle represents the mother, in full bloom; the third is a waning moon, representing the death-crone. No priestess would ever allow this to be sold. It is a sacred relic. I’ll return it to Tirion. I’m afraid this means that Lowri did not meet a good end. She may be dead.”
“Why did you threaten to steal the brooch?”
“So the fool would show me what he paid. That’s a pretty good bargaining position don’t you think, lad?”

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

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