Saturday, December 14, 2013

Seventy-fifth excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          The next day, as he rode in a heavy cart back to the clearing to recover the capstone, he struggled broaching the subject about his son’s half-brothers. He knew that Bleddyn knew about Grainne but he was unsure how the little ones would react.
          “Remember last year, as we drove to Huish and we talked about me getting you a new mother?” The boys all looked at him with serious expressions. “And Jac and Llawen wanted me to marry again but Bleddyn didn’t?” They all nodded. “How do you feel about it now?”
          The twins looked at Bleddyn who arced his head back in forth in a mixture of a yes and no. Jac and Llawen looked at their Dad and nodded yes.
          “Remember Grainne, the woman who saved you from the evil knight?” They all nodded. “I’m thinking of marrying her some day.”
          With wide open eyes they questioned their father. “What is she like? How old is she? Do you love her? Will she bring a dowry? Is she a princess? A witch?” Plus a hundred other questions that Bleddyn tried his best to answer.
          “She hasn’t told me she’ll marry me yet but while we’ve been thinking about it, we’ve created two brothers for you.”
          The boys stared at him. “Brothers?” asked Bleddyn.
          “Aye. Their names are Madoc and Brice. Madoc is about three and Brice is just one. They’re fine boys and you’ll meet them when we get to the clearing.”
          Jac and Llawen were jumping up and down with excitement. Jac tried to do a cartwheel and Bleddyn had to grab him before he fell out of the cart. Bleddyn looked at his father with a serious expression. He whispered to him, “Two years younger than the twins. You didn’t wait long after mother died.”
          “It’s complicated son. It’s not what you think. Can I explain it all to you tonight?”
          “When will you marry her, Da?” asked Jac.
          “Now that’s a serious question you need to leave between me and her. Please don’t mention marriage until I tell you it’s all right.”

          Bleddyn stepped down off the cart and walked alongside it in silence. Jac and Llawen continued peppering their father with questions about their brothers.

          When the group arrived at the clearing, Gwilym set the crew to retrieving the rune-stone. When they saw that it was partially buried, they questioned him about its suitability to meet the purpose. He reassured them and they set to work. All this time, the flaps of the pavilion had stayed down. While the crew was working to dig out the stone, Gwilym took his sons to the pavilion.
          He coughed and asked, “Grainne, are you awake?”
The flap opened down near the bottom and Brice’s face peered out at them. He took in the family and then disappeared. Jac and Llawen laughed at this. Llawen hugged Jac and said, “He looks just like you!” Gwilym looked at Bleddyn out of the corner of his eyes and saw a suppressed grin on his face.
          The flap moved again and this time Madoc’s face appeared. He examined all three boys, then glanced up at Gwilym and whispered, “Ma’s not awake yet. Come back later.” Then his head disappeared into the pavilion again.
          Gwilym nodded his head and said to his disappointed boys. “This clearing looks like a good place for some cartwheels. Why don’t you have some fun here while I check on my crew?”
          He walked back to the crew, looking with guilty pleasure at the tree Grainne had held as they made love yesterday. He watched the crew with one eye while he kept his attention on the boys outside the pavilion. Jac and Llawen did some cartwheels and somersaults. Bleddyn wrestled with them and played wheelbarrow with them. Within five minutes Madoc and Brice came out and played along. Before long, Madoc was on Bleddyn’s shoulders and Brice on Jac’s and they were racing. Then Bleddyn was holding Llawen by an arm and a leg and swinging him around while Madoc did the same with Brice. All the boys were shrieking with pleasure.
          Gwilym stepped inside the pavilion. When his eyes grew accustomed to the dark, he saw a pile of blankets on the pallet and a tangle of red hair peeking out from underneath. The blankets rose and fell with her breathing. He felt an intense tenderness towards this woman with whom he had just now decided to spend his life. Really? Spend my life? But how else could he raise all those boys together while Grainne spent all her time with them?
          He sat down on the pallet and removed his boots. He took off his cloak and crawled under the covers with her. She fussed a little in her sleep and he took the opportunity to work one arm under her neck and drape the other over her waist. He watched her as she slowly awoke. Her face was wrinkled from the bed covers. Her expression was unlike any he had seen her wear. There was no guard on it; she seemed content for the first time. Then she opened her eyes.
          He smiled.
          She didn’t.
          “What are you doing in my bed!” she shouted. She pushed him hard in the chest and he rolled out. She glanced around the pavilion. “Where are my boys?”
          “They’re outside, playing with mine. I’m sorry. You looked so comfortable and warm and I wanted to be with you. I’ve never woken up with you before. I wanted to see how it felt.”
          “Don’t take liberties with me! My bed is not yours to share!”
          “I thought...after yesterday… we were something more than just Beltane lovers.”
          “There is something more. Sometimes I just want to fuck! You’re good for that. Don’t think you own me and can come into my bed in the middle of the night.”
          All the thoughts Gwilym had of them becoming one big family were dashed by her tirade. He put on his boots and cloak and walked back out into the clearing. The boys were still playing noisily and the crew was still working. He hoped no-one had heard Grainne’s outburst. Bleddyn met Gwilym’s eye and turned away. He moved towards his boys and watched them play for a while.
          Madoc ran to him. “Are you going to marry my Ma?” Gwilym looked at his boys and Llawen blushed and covered his mouth.
          “If she’ll have me. But I haven’t asked her yet. You know, son, asking a woman to marry you is one of the greatest moments of your life. It is wonderful to see the surprise in her face. Do you want your Ma to see that surprise when I ask her?”
          Madoc nodded.
          “Then, can I ask you to keep that secret for a while. Just until I ask her. Then you can tell her that you already knew. Is that fair?”
          Madoc nodded again with a serious expression on his face. “But I don’t think she can marry you. She’s a priestess of Avalon and they’re not allowed to marry. I think she’ll say no. Do you want me to ask her for you?”
          “No Madoc. I’d rather it be me.”
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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