Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sixteenth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

Inside he found three new scrolls.
The day before Gwilym and his family left Huish, they held a feast outside to celebrate their friendship with the villagers. All came to say their goodbyes and feast on the pig which had been turned over a low fire all day, filling the village with its fine smell. Gwilym had spiced it well and added a huge stew pot brimming with vegetables, also spiced to his satisfaction.
Fred was the first to ask where he was headed. Kay had not brought him along to the new building sites. “There is a tower being built on the Ouse in a town called Airmyn. I can’t tell you why it’s being built inland, but Sir Kay wants one there. Anyway, there are problems that Kay wants me to sort out, so I go thither.”
“And whar be t'Ouse, Gwilym? I never heard of it.”                                      
“It lies across the land, to the north, about ten days journey by horse.”
“Would thar be work for me there, Gwilym?”
Gwilym looked curiously at Fred. He was a strong fellow, dark and hairy with eyebrows meeting over his stubby nose. He was well-muscled from years of hard work, about twenty-five years old and skilled with tools. He had taken over the work-site a few times in Gwilym’s absence and had handled himself well. “And what of your family, Fred?”
“Ma and Da can live wi-out me fer a while. And thar be no maidens here I fancy. So mayhap I can find me a lass in t'wild North country?”
Gwilym was embarrassed at finding out he knew so little of his foreman and silently vowed to ask more questions of his men in the future. He recognized that his reticence was driven by the animosity his Saxon looks engendered amongst these Welsh. He had always held himself aloof from the crowd in defense. But looking around him now at the feasting villagers, he realized that they had forgotten their earlier distrust and had grown to love him.
“Fred. If you can make your way to Airmyn, I’ll grant you fair work there for the winter. And I’ll speak your praises to any fair maidens I see there.”
Fred blushed and was tongue-tied for a moment. Then he hugged Gwilym tight and walked away, embarrassed. Gwilym was unsure if Fred would come, but he figured all would be clear on the morrow.
After most of the villagers had eaten and drunk their fill and had said their goodbyes and wandered off home, Heilin and Heulwen came by with their sleeping foster children in their arms. They brought them to their bed and laid them gently, kissing their brows and smoothing their sparse hair. They wept, hugged Gwilym, and demanded that he return some day to show his growing boys off to them. Gwilym promised, and they walked off home, looking back often at their sleeping charges.
Now only Father Drew remained with Gwilym and Bleddyn. He was holding a long wooden box. He presented this to Bleddyn with a humble smile. “It is time you started your own library, Bleddyn.”
Bleddyn caught his breath, looked to his father and the priest for confirmation then, with trembling fingers, opened the box. Inside he found three new scrolls. He opened them carefully and found a copy of the Latin scrolls he had been studying in the priest’s home. “You made these for me, Father?” he asked incredulously.
“What else is there for a priest to do at night?” replied the priest.
“Thank you so much, Father! I’ll treasure these always!” Bleddyn hugged the box of scrolls to himself and watched the priest with wide-eyed admiration.
Gwilym shook the man’s hand warmly and thanked him profusely. “Scrolls are the greatest gift you could have thought of, Father. I wish I’d done the same for you.”
“No need, Gwilym,” the priest replied, looking a little ashamed. “I also copied yours for myself. I hope you do not mind.”
“You didn’t copy my Gospel did you?”
“No Gwilym. You asked me to keep it secret and I have done so. But I am still thinking about it seriously. The story it tells is more in keeping with the early British church and less with the Roman one. I would like to help you in any way I can to find the truth. The stories I copied were from your Greek adventures. You do not mind that do you?”
Gwilym laughed aloud. “Not at all, Father! That Odysseus had some great adventures didn’t he? Enjoy them! Father Drew, you’ve given me a great head start in my career. I’ll never forget you.”
The priest smiled warmly, shook Gwilym and Bleddyn’s hands firmly, then walked off, leaving the family alone in their packed-up home.

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

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