“He went for a walk,” said Llawen. “He didn’t want his supper tonight.”
Jac looked concerned. “I don’t like it when the family is not together for supper. Could you get him? We can wait.”
Gwilym smiled. Jac always wanted the family to be together. When they walked in the woods, he always placed himself in the middle and looked back at the ones lagging. He either held up the ones in front or called for the laggards to speed up. During a rare argument, he was the one who sought compromise to stop the bickering. “Sometimes a boy of Bleddyn’s age needs to spend some time alone. I’ll go and get him after supper.”
“Sorry I told about you marrying Miss Grainne, Da.” said Llawen. “I didn’t mean to but we were talking and it slipped out. Are you mad at me?”
Gwilym tousled his son’s hair. “No son. It’s all right if the boys know. But it’s better if Grainne hears it first from me. What if she says no? Won’t that be a disappointment for you and the other boys?”
Jac’s eyes teared up. “Why would she say no, Da? And how do you make babies anyway if you’re not married already?”
“That’s a quick question with a long answer, Jac. Can I save that one for when you are older? The important thing is that Madoc and Brice are my sons and Grainne’s. I’d like us to be together as a family. But Grainne needs to believe that also. She has to make the choice.”
“I’d like that. Those two are fun. And everyone says Brice looks like me when I was one. So maybe he’ll be just like me. And I always wanted a younger brother. And Da?” He looked up with shining eyes “I do want a mother.”
Gwilym’s heart broke. He took his son into his arms, almost upsetting the board, and let him cry on his shoulder. Llawen cleaned off the board and put it away so that Jac could crawl onto his father’s lap and let loose his tears. Gwilym just held him and stroked his back until he fell asleep out of exhaustion. It had been a long, emotional day for the boy. Gwilym took him to bed, and then read to Llawen until he too fell asleep. Then he set out to look for Bleddyn.
He found him on the beach, looking out across the water. He moved to his son’s side and put an arm on his shoulder. “Thinking about your mother, son?”
Bleddyn twisted out of his father’s grasped and looked at Gwilym with fury in his eyes. “A lot more than you were. Was Ma’s body even cold in the grave before you fucked Grainne? Or were you two lovers before she died? I saw her strip you when you were injured. I also saw her walking you around on the day Ma died. When did it start, Father?”
Gwilym took his time to gather his thoughts before replying. “Almost a year later. My Kaitlyn, the love of my life was dead. It was Beltane. I was aroused. Grainne came to the top of the tower. She seduced me. I can’t blame her alone. I could have refused. But I was aroused and she was beautiful and it was Beltane and... We made love and then she disappeared. The next year she came again to the top of the Airmyn tower at Beltane. Grainne and I are part of some great spell being weaved across Britain. I don’t know the details but it involves Sir Kay, Merlin and perhaps even the high king. We are pawns in this game. Well, maybe not pawns, maybe knights, or bishops…”
“Rooks,” interrupted Bleddyn and Gwilym smiled at the appropriateness of this image.
“Yes. Rooks we are; castles. And the enchantment must be completed. Grainne says that there is one more tower after this one. The spell will be complete and we can live a normal life.”
“She’s going to join you on the tower again tomorrow night, isn’t she?”
“Da. You know this is wrong! You are a Christian and you are meddling with a spell. What would Father Drew say? What does the Bible say about meddling in witchcraft?”
“Don’t be too quick to call witchcraft anything that is not Christian orthodoxy. There were a lot of similarities between the early Christians and the Druids. They worshipped together. It wasn’t until
Rome came to this land
that the religions clashed. Remember that the church started in Jerusalem, not Rome.
And it came to Glastonbury before Rome brought its own version
here. It was corrupted by Rome
just like so many other things were.”
“What does the Bible say about worshipping Ashtoreth poles? And would Jesus approve of you fucking some woman once a year during a pagan festival?”
Gwilym hung his head. “I want more than that, Bleddyn. I want a woman with me every night. I want help to raise you boys with a woman’s compassion. I want a woman who can be my partner, who I can talk to about my day, about your boys growing up, about our futures. I want a woman to grow old with. That was supposed to be your mother but she’s gone now. I can never get her back.”
Bleddyn was crying. “You can’t just replace her with the first woman that comes along, Da.”
“She isn’t. I’ve been approached by many other women. But there is something special about Grainne. It’s not just this enchantment either. Or the sex. She protected you when I couldn’t. She has a spark about her that I’ve seen in no-one else since your mother. I think I love her.”
“You think you love her? Like you loved Ma?”
“It’s different. Nobody can replace your mother. My love for Kaitlyn will never diminish. But the feelings of emptiness I get are filled by Grainne.”
“And Bleddyn, your brothers need a mother. You’ve seen them with their milk mothers and the women who watch over them in the villages we stay in. You’ve heard them ask for a mother. It’s different when you’re thirteen. You’re starting to feel like you can make it on your own. But remember what you felt like when she died. Jac and Llawen are only five. They need that love and tenderness and caring that I cannot provide.”
Bleddyn searched his father’s face. He said nothing and walked back to their lodgings.