Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sixty-ninth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          “Shit!” exclaimed Gwilym and he crawled after Fred down the passage. It ran straight for about a hundred feet, and then opened into a hole that led outside. The two men squeezed through this hole and heard the sounds of hoof-beats in the distance. “Did you bring your horse, Fred?”
          Fred looked downcast. “I brought Bleddyn. I didn’t think about th’horse. I’m sorry, Gwilym!”
“It’s all right, man. You saved my life. You’re back early. What happened? And you, son. How did you know where I was? And how did you make Brendan crawl down the tunnel?”
          “I’ll tell you all about it as we walk back to town. Your sons are worried about you.”
          They walked back, Gwilym rubbing his wrists and hands, getting his circulation back.
          “I came back because I have news about Palomides. I’ll tell tha about that later. Bleddyn told me tha would be back for supper, but tha didn’t return and we grew worried. He told me what he thought tha were doing so we came to see. When we came close to th’mound we saw a light appear on th’side. That mun have been them breakin’ through. We saw th’men working in th’passage. So we went around to where Bleddyn said he saw th’openin’ of a hole into th’hill. There we saw another light and a man comin’ through. I tried to ask him where you were but he fought me. Bleddyn threw a rock that stunned him and I took off his arm. He bled a lot and died trying to get back in to th’tunnel. I didn’t like walkin’ through that tunnel into th’unknown so I pushed him in front of me. Turned out to be a good idea.”
          Gwilym turned toward the villa. “Where are you going, Da?” asked Bleddyn
          “We should let the owner know what rests on his land.”
          They woke the man and told him all about the grave, the robbery, and the dead men. The owner seemed excited. “Is there more treasure there?”
          “The gold has all been removed, along with the skeleton of the man buried there. But there is a thousand year old bronze couch and wagon. Also a bronze urn.”
          The man’s face dropped in disappointment. “Bronze,” he sighed.
          Gwilym touched the man’s arm and looked met his gaze. “This grave robbery is a serious offense to you. You own a lot of farms, right?”
          The man nodded agreement.
          “Disturbing the final resting place of these old chieftains is bad for crops. It would be a prudent investment to get back the treasures, especially the body, and return them to the grave.”
          “I’ll put the body back if I can find it but if you think I’m going to invest my gold by burying it in the earth, you’re a mad fool!”
          Gwilym shrugged, wished the man luck and took his leave. Fred and Bleddyn were silent on the way out. Bleddyn asked his father, “Do you really believe that disturbing an old British burial place will cause bad crops, Da?”
          Gwilym brightened. “So you recognized it was old British?”
          “Sure, Da. All the decorations on the couch had old British designs. Plus you’ve taught me about their burial mounds. But what about the crops?”
          “I don’t know, son. I’ve seen a lot of things I can’t explain, including you and your brothers disappearing and reappearing in a forest because of some spell. These old British have powers. If it were me who owned all that land, I’d make the investment. Maybe I’m just superstitious.”
          They walked on for a while until Gwilym remembered something, “Why did you return early Fred? What did you say about Palomides?”
          Fred slapped his forehead. “He came to Huish, he gave us all these coins.” Fred fished around in his belt as he continued. “They have thy face on th’one side and thy tools and name on th’other. They’re made of bronze, but he told us that he would give us a gold one if we led him to tha. Here it is.”
          Fred handed Gwilym a large coin. It was bigger and heavier than any in circulation. Gwilym held it up to see it, but the new moon made it difficult. Gwilym lit a torch and stared at it. There was a remarkable likeness of himself on the head side. On the back were the hammer and trowel of a mason plus the saw and square of a carpenter. Printed on the bottom was the name ‘Gwilym’.
          “Well! Now he’s resorted to bribing the countryside to find me. I think it’s time I took up the scimitar again. I had hoped those days were behind me. What else have you heard about him?”
          “He’s a knight errant. He’s not a member of King Arthur’s companions although they talk of him. He is well respected because he does well at jousts but he makes some un-knightly moves. Avoiding th’lance at a joust and beheadin’ those who ask mercy. The other knights think it’s just because he is unchristened and they offer to baptize him.”
          “And how does he respond?”
          “He says that he has to win seven jousts before he considers himself worthy to be baptized. He did pretty well at the joust of Mary, two days ago. But he was bested by Tristam and he was so angry. It was funny to watch his temper tantrum.”
          “That’s a new name, Tristam. Who is he?”
          “A new knight and a favorite of th’ladies. Very handsome. Comes from Cornwall. Nephew of King Mark who rules down there.”

          The trio arrived back at the inn and settled in for a night’s sleep. 

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