Sunday, April 1, 2012

Thirty-second excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

From the almost finished tower, Gwilym could see the few Beltane fires glowing in the distant fields across the river but could make out nothing going on nearby. Londinium was a city and the folk there thought little about fertile fields. Life in the large town seemed to go on as any other evening. It was a warm night and Gwilym worked shirtless, the sweat cooling him off in the warm breeze. As he hammered in and out the wedges that allowed accurate placement of the river-jade, he kept an eye and ear out for Grainne’s arrival. He wondered how he was going to approach this evening.
The first time, two years ago, he had been overwhelmed by pure, animal lust. The lovemaking had been selfish and savage on his part. The second time she had set the tone and the lovemaking was more mutual. Afterward he had attempted to talk with her about this but Grainne had used her priestess powers to cast some kind of enchantment over him, forcing him to lose control and to sleep.
This time he wanted something different. The conversation they had held earlier today needed to continue. She had given birth to a son of his, a thought that filled him with joy and longing to see the boy, brother to Bleddyn, Jac and Llawen. When would he get to foster the child? And this enchantment she was casting, with his towers and their lovemaking and the Beltane timing as key elements; what was the meaning of it?
They certainly differed on their approaches to religion. She thought of Christianity as an evil, opposed to her Druidic teachings, something which must be fought. He saw it as another, similar religion that was being used cruelly now but had at its core the same basic tenets of the older religion, with some added concepts that made it beautiful. How did this spell help him in his own research? Did it go against the life-course he had set for himself when his father died, or did it move him forward? He must talk further with Grainne.
Merlin would give him no answers, but he might ask the right questions if he could get the old man into another conversation. That would have to take place tomorrow. Tonight, he must stay awake and learn more from Grainne.
Grainne- who was, even now, standing in the center of the rune on top of this capstone, barely visible in the new moon. Once again he hadn’t heard or seen her climb onto the top of this tower, yet here she stood, barefoot, wearing a simple white shift. Again he couldn’t see the color of her hair in the starlight; all were shades of grey.
This time he knelt before her, his head at the level of her breasts, and wrapped his arms around her. He moved his hands down her back and rear and caressed the backs of her legs. On reaching her feet, he slipped his hands under the hem of her shift and then caressed his way back up her calves, the backs of her thighs and buttocks, then up her back to her shoulders. By spreading his arms to their full extent, he was able to pull her shift off her completely and place it on the stone next to them. His hands then caressed their way down her neck, shoulders, breasts, belly and privates, parting her hair to perform his own ministrations, the way he had been taught long ago in Jerusalem.
Grainne threw one leg over his shoulder and enjoyed the treatment,
finding pleasure in his attention, feeling her juices flowing down her legs. She had been given this job by the high priestess but there was nothing wrong in her enjoying herself while she worked. Grainne tried hard not to lose herself with this man, especially after the maddening conversation they had held earlier this day. Was he just a fool or was there some truth in his words? If he was just a fool, why was she still thinking about his words?
“Oh Goddess!” she murmured out loud as Gwilym’s tongue found the perfect rhythm and she started to lose control. But she remembered her orders and pulled away from him and lay in the center of the rune. Gwilym was ready for her and entered her smoothly, strongly, deeply, bringing her quickly to her climax.
Gwilym was more controlled now and took his time making love to her, long and slow, fast and furious, then carefully again. Changing positions when she grew uncomfortable, giving her new pleasures with different angles, finally losing control and bucking inside her as she clawed his back in her own pleasure.
He stayed awake this time, his weariness the normal, post-coital kind that he could fight through as Grainne allowed nature to take its course. He noted the mist that surrounded them, thicker this time than previously.
“Well that was lovely,” he remarked as he turned to her and kissed her full on the lips.
She searched his eyes and inquired, “And how many other lovers have you?”
Gwilym was surprised at the question but answered truthfully, “Since my Kaitlyn died, there has been only you. Why ask, though?”
“I want you to stay true to me, Gwilym. It is very important.”
Her insistence made Gwilym pause. Why had he remained faithful to Grainne? It wasn’t because he felt any commitment or loyalty to Grainne. He was being faithful to Kaitlyn except for his once-a-year trysts with Grainne. But why?
It certainly was not for lack of opportunity. In every town he had worked there were many pretty women who looked lustfully on him, from maidens to married women to prostitutes. He had been propositioned often and had always turned them down. Men had offered their daughters in marriage and he had respectfully turned these all down. Why?
He certainly missed the lovemaking. Kaitlyn and he had nurtured a rich sex life and enjoyed each other most nights. Yet he relieved his own tension rather than taking any of the many opportunities open to him. Gwilym wondered if it was because of the boys. He didn’t want his sons to see him with a woman other than their mother. And Grainne offered that. Each time she had been gone by the morning so his boys didn’t know about her. But that couldn’t be the only reason because the whores could offer the same discretion and secrecy. So why Grainne?
The first time had been other-worldly. He had been aroused, certainly, and she had been present and beautiful but there had been something else, some kind of enchantment that had weakened his defenses and caused him to accept her. The second time he had felt the enchantment and had fought against it but it was too strong. And this time he entered the love-making willingly and with the knowledge that they had created another son together. Was he making a life for the two of them?
She was staring into his eyes, waiting for an answer. “If you want me to stay true to you, you have to tell me why. What are you doing with me? Why this consecration of these capstones? What does it all mean? What are you doing with my son?”
“Our son is being raised to be a Druid. He is of the royal blood of Avalon and may one day become the great Druid of the land and replace Merlin. His education is important.”
“Answer my other questions. What are we doing?” Gwilym wouldn’t let her get away with answering only one of his questions.
“We are protecting Britain. These watch-towers protect us from the invading hordes. The rune-stones add another layer of protection. Our consecration of them at Beltane is part of an ancient spell.”
“Then why me? Why not consecrate the stone with another Druid of Avalon? Is it because I was here and the only man? Or did I interrupt you from consecrating it with the man of your choice?”
Grainne paused and pursed her lips together. “You are the choice of Avalon, Gwilym. You built the towers and that makes you special. You must be the one to consecrate the stones. As for me, you may well ask why I am the lucky maiden to be with you every year. I too, am of the royal blood. But I know not why I was chosen. Perhaps the high priestess simply thought I would appeal to you physically.” Grainne blushed and turned her face away.
“You certainly do appeal to me, Grainne. Your looks, your conversation, your healing skills. Do you like to read?”
She turned and smiled. “I memorize. Right now I’m learning lately a story of my namesake, Grainne. She was betrothed to an old man, but ran off with Diarmid, a handsome, young warrior, instead.”
“I would like to hear that story. Could you tell it to me so I can copy it. I collect stories and read them to my boys.”
Grainne smiled. “You do love your boys. I find that appealing. Most men think that their boys are should only become warriors and carry on their line. They leave the raising of them to women and see them only at special events. You are a mother and a father to them. I admire you for that.”
“I worry that I am cheating them out of a real mother. Perhaps I should marry again and give them that gift? Rather than some new watcher-woman at every town we work, from whom they get pulled whenever we leave. It’s hard on Jac and Llawen. They cried for days when we left Airmyn.”
When Gwilym stopped looking at the stars and turned his face to the silent Grainne, he was surprised to see her looking furious. “Stop it!” she shouted. “You cannot to marry! This spell we cast takes three more years. You cannot break it in the middle. Promise me you will remain true to me until then!”
Gwilym looked at her. What had he gotten himself into here? Could he use her insistence on this one thing to get something more from this relationship or was he in real danger? He told her, “I am a man. If you want me to be faithful to you we cannot meet just once a year. I must see you more often. Come to me on days other than Beltane. Let me introduce you to my sons. Become part of my life.”
She reached out her hand and traced the outlines of his face. “I will Gwilym. I will.” Then she curled up against him, her head resting on his chest and fell asleep. Gwilym reached out and found their discarded clothes with his long arm-span and covered them up. He lay awake for another half hour, wondering at this relationship, this spell, how he was to bring Grainne into the lives of his sons. Then he too, drifted off to sleep.
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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