Sunday, July 3, 2011

Thirteenth excerpt of 'Twelve Towers'

What he remembered most was her constant smile.

Chapter Two – Airmyn

Post 13
“The first stone is in place,” said Viviane, “Where do we place the second one?”
“The top-stone must be placed by the fenlands of Hatfield,” replied Merlin.
“And yet our man has refused the task.”
“He refused command of all the towers. That suits our purposes better. We want him to be close to this one particular tower.”
“Still, he sits at home while the tower is being built by someone else”
“He cannot refuse too long, fate will force his hand. How did your priestess do on her part?”
“She fulfilled the role of a loyal priestess.”
“No ties to the man?”
“Hard to tell yet.”

The next five months were blissful for Gwilym and his family. He had enough money left over from the tower job and the bonus to live in comfort, so he spent his days watching his boys grow. In exchange for church maintenance and some small renovations, Father Drew gave Gwilym and Bleddyn full access to his small library and, in return, Gwilym let Father Drew borrow his few scrolls of Greek epic tales.
Only in the evenings, when he was putting the boys to bed and then staying up alone, did Gwilym allow his mind to dwell on his lost Kaitlyn. What he remembered most was her constant smile. She had such a happy disposition that she looked on everything with a contented smile on her lips. He recalled the first time he saw her, in the Holy Land, making a pilgrimage. He had been fascinated by this smiling woman with the sad eyes and followed her through the medina. When he had moved in for an introduction, her smile faded away and was replaced by fear. She became hysterical and one of her companions had asked him to leave, telling him that her family had been killed by Saxons and that he looked like one.
He worked hard after that to slowly introduce himself to her in a non-threatening way and for brief periods until, one day, she had turned that smile onto him and melted his heart. They talked then, about their lost families, his father’s quest. And she told him about Wales, the green fields, the sea and the singing. And she had sung to him in her deep, soulful voice and he loved her. He told her that his mother was Welsh but that he had no memory of her, having lived with his father from his earliest memory. He took her to all the holy sites. She was impressed with his knowledge of their shared religion. At Cana they had married, and when she was pregnant with Bleddyn, they had traveled home, not wanting to give birth in Bethlehem.
Life was difficult for them in Wales. Her home village was destroyed and no-one knew her in other towns. Gwilym’s Saxon looks made it difficult to find work so they traveled often. But Kaitlyn never lost her smile and she made friends easily. She was frugal with the money Gwilym made, spun wool and made clothes, adding to the family funds whenever she could. She loved him and loved Bleddyn. Her smile had faded during the one miscarriage and the two lost babies that followed Bleddyn’s birth but it had always returned and she was determined to bring this next pregnancy to term and raise the next baby to be big and strong. Gwilym now took on that responsibility and watched all his children like a hawk.
Under Father Drew and Gwilym’s tutelage, Bleddyn’s Latin improved rapidly and he started making progress in Greek. As the long, summer days passed, most were spent scratching words in the smoothed dirt outside their home. Gwilym would scratch math problems for Bleddyn to solve. If Bleddyn asked about his father’s travels, Gwilym would turn it into a geography lesson. Walks around the village or the surrounding countryside would prompt questions that led quickly into science lessons. Bleddyn was awed at the knowledge his father had stored.
Jac and Llawen were crawling energetically everywhere. Gwilym made some wooden blocks for them to play with and carved letters and animals on their sides. Llawen would studiously stack these on top of each other while Jac would throw and try to catch them, then stare intently at the carvings. The twins were getting older and could join their brother and father most of the time, only leaving them to feed at their wet-nurses. The village women would laugh at and tease Gwilym when he would change and wash his babies, but his studied care in their raising soon garnered their respect. He was considered quite a catch in the village and many men approached him with offers of their daughters. Some of the daughters came themselves with their own offers but Gwilym turned down all comers. He was respectful in these denials and never made the ladies feel inadequate, but he was firm and returned home every night to sleep with his sons. The family accepted dinner invitations and gave some in return, surprising the guests with Gwilym’s uses of spices that turned the bland fare of Huish into fine feasts.
“Where did you learn how to cook lamb like this, Gwilym?” Father Drew asked one day.
“Salt isn’t the only spice in the world, Father,” he replied.
On being pressed further, he admitted to tasting many dishes in his travels and learning the judicious use of good spices. He showed Father Drew his treasures: A rack filled with many small jars of pungent powders. He then led the priest outside to his herb garden and taught him to pluck leaves and smell or eat them and guess which were in the lamb.

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