Sunday, August 24, 2014

Ninety-third excerpt from 'Twelve Towers'

          The family saw many more monks on Glastonbury, all with the same hair style. They at first didn’t recognize Father Drew as he came, smiling, into their presence. “Welcome, Gwilym! Welcome Grainne! And welcome to you too, Bleddyn, Jac and Llawen. And you two must be Madoc and Brice. Let me show you to the guest house.”
          Father Drew took them along the street towards the abbey. The houses lining both sides of the street leading from the dock to the abbey were built with knee-high stone foundations and the daub was all in good repair. The walls were all painted white. The roof thatch all seemed twice as thick as normal.
          They stopped at the door of a substantial home. The front door opened into a large hall with a fire-pit in the center and lots of niches in the walls full of bedding. There was a trestle table with four chairs and a bench. Cooking implements rested on the short wall of the fire-pit. The fire was going and Gwilym noted with satisfaction that smoke was making its way through the thatch without filling the room. Half of the room had a loft as a ceiling that caused Gwilym to duck his head.
          There was a smaller room attached to this hall. Shelves stretched from wall to wall, their ends built into the walls. The shelves were already stocked with barrels of flour, corn-meal and salt. Dried meat, bags of apples, vegetables and fungi hung from a beam.
          “Thank you father,” said Gwilym. “We’ll be most comfortable here.”
          “I will leave you to settle in here, Gwilym. Shall I escort you to Avalon now, Grainne?”
          Madoc gave his mother a sharp look. She smiled at the priest. “Not just yet, Father Drew. Gwilym and I still have things to discuss.”
          The priest blushed deep red, looking from Gwilym to Grainne. “Oh…” he stammered. “Will you all join me for supper in two hours?”

          Gwilym’s family moved into the house while Grainne unpacked a few items from her cart. Gwilym, noticing this, asked her what her plans were. He had enjoyed the three weeks they had spent together and was afraid of losing her now.
          “Let’s walk up the tor!” she announced to the family. The boys raced ahead, Bleddyn with Brice on his shoulders, leaving the adults to walk up alone. Grainne took Gwilym’s large hand in hers.
          “You are a wonderful father. You will raise your boys to be strong men. Strong in every way. Smart, caring, learned, careful, funny, loving.”
          Gwilym smiled and looked at her, surprised that tears were flowing from her eyes. “What is the matter, my love? Why do you cry?”
          “Can I leave Madoc with you? I’ll visit almost every day. But I have to return to Avalon. And he can no longer live there. Can he stay with you? Play with his brothers, learn how to be a man?” Her tears were flowing down her cheeks and dripping off her chin.
          “You told him you wouldn’t do that. I thought we could all stay together. Why not marry and raise all the boys together? What about Brice? Won’t he miss his brother?”
          Grainne stopped and knelt down on the grass halfway up the Tor. She covered her face but Gwilym couldn’t fail to hear the heartbreaking wail that tore from her chest. He sat in front of her and wrapped her in his arms. “Grainne, my love. Why? What is more important than raising your sons?”
          She shook her head and kept crying. Gwilym stroked her soft hair with his calloused hand. He looked behind him to see his boys playing on the top of the Tor, trying to scale the large rock standing there.
          Finally, Grainne calmed down and uncovered her face. She looked at Gwilym and he was shocked to see emptiness in her large, green eyes. “You ask what is more important than raising my sons. There is only one thing more important. Protecting them and other children from the danger that comes next year is more important.”
          “When the hordes stream out of their boats, do you think they’ll leave our boys alive to fight against them when they get older? Of course they won’t! They’ll slaughter them!”
          “Protecting our offspring and other British children, hundreds, thousands of years in the future is more important than staying with my son this year. But I will miss him. And Brice will miss his brother. So we’ll visit almost every day. We won’t be far.”
          Grainne stood up and they climbed the Tor. The boys had stopped playing and were watching the adults. They smiled at the boys to reassure them. Gwilym looked over the lake. There seemed to be a connection between the surrounding land and the island through swampy land to the woods. Further away from this peninsula he saw swamp dwellings sitting on poles like herons at the water’s edge. He noted the ferry he had taken earlier today. He was troubled to see that this was the sole island in this portion of the lake.
          “Where is Avalon, Grainne? I see the willow where I summoned you many years ago. But this is the only island. And apart from the woods behind us, it seems to be made up of the Glastonbury religious settlement. Is Avalon in the woods? I see no buildings, no smoke rising.”
          Grainne gave a half-smile. “We share this island, Gwilym. Avalon and Glastonbury are one place in two different times. The priests cannot come to Avalon but we can travel to Glastonbury. A trick of the mists. I’ll take you there in a few days.”

To read the entire first draft in one shot, click here:

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