Sunday, March 23, 2014

Eighty-second excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          At night, after the boys were asleep, they would make love quietly under the covers. These sessions were slower and gentler than their love-making on the runes. Was it due to the presence of the boys or the absence of the rune? Either way, they enjoyed it and he slept afterwards, her wrapped in his warm, safe cocoon. On stirring in his sleep later, he often found her gone. He looked for her the first few times and found her studying the stars. Gwilym learned she was a night-owl who preferred to stay up late than to greet the dawn. Gwilym was the opposite. Usually, Gwilym lifted her in his arms while the boys packed away the pallet and he carried her into their cart.
          The bumping caused by Gwilym’s inexpert guiding of the horse woke her before long. She would get up, rub her eyes and sit next to Gwilym. She would look from him to the horse and back again for a few minutes then shake her head. She would take the reins and, with a few clicks of her tongue and shakes of the reins, guide the horse along the smoothest trail. Her head would droop again and she would appear to sleep while the horse continued down the trail. She would wake at each road turning and, with a quick glimpse at the sky, direct the horse down one track and doze off again. Gwilym learned to give her a couple of hours to wake up then prepare her a bowl of the leftover oatmeal. He had to add a surprising amount of honey to meet her satisfaction. After eating she would be ready for a conversation. 
          One day Gwilym re-opened the subject of Avalon. “You said you were being told to breed with me as part of your goal to become Lady of the Lake. Yet I am not of the royal line. Aren’t you diluting your royal line so that you can never be Lady?”
          “Viviane also bred with the other royal line. It meant she could never have daughters and her offspring could never be Lady following her. But the sons she had! Launcelot, and Ban and… All great knights and leaders. I have no doubt that Madoc and Brice will do as well.”
          Gwilym studied her face. What was she saying? Then he noticed something else. She was suffused with happiness, glowing. “You’re breeding again,” he said.
          She smiled in contentment and nodded her head.
          “That’s wonderful! How long have you known?”
          “I felt the baby start in me the night we lay on the tower. Just as I felt them start the last two times. He will share a birthday with Madoc and Brice.”
          Gwilym hugged her tight, and then stroked her belly. “I can’t wait to meet my next child. I hope it will be a girl this time. I’ve a hankering to dress up a girl in pretty clothes.”
          She shook her head. “It will be a boy, Gwilym. I will only have boys. Didn’t you hear me? The curse of the other line.”
          Gwilym put the puzzle together. “You are saying that I am of this other line. This line that only breeds boys. This line that includes Sirs Launcelot, and Ban. How is that possible?”
          “It’s simple, Gwilym. Your father was of the line, so you are too. The better question is: Who is your mother?”
          “She was a Cambrian woman my father met while searching Glastonbury for the Gospel of Joseph. They made love at Beltane. She fostered me out with my father when I was a baby. I know no more than this.”
          “You know enough now.”
          Blood was rushing through Gwilym’s head as he took in this information. He needed confirmation.
          “What is the origin of this other line?”
          “You already know the answer, Gwilym. It entered Avalon almost 500 years ago. Do the math.”
          Gwilym shook his head. “That old rumor? The Holy Grail? The bloodline of Jesus?”
          He looked at her for confirmation but she was looking around her. He hadn’t noticed before but they had entered a small village. The Roman road was intersected by a muddy track. An open square covered in straw occupied one corner. This was crowded with people hawking wagons and barrows full of produce. Goats, sheep and cows strained against the ropes held fast to poles driven into the ground. Pens held squealing pigs. The smell and sounds of market day assaulted his senses.
          The opposite corner held a prosperous round building, most likely a church. The other corners were occupied by a small inn and a house. People filled the square and the intersection.
          He looked down at a villager to give a greeting and then he saw what Grainne had noticed. The man was looking from Gwilym to a coin he held in his hands.
To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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