A New Exciting Read! Every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my enthralling fantasy, romance , ‘Maid of the Forest’ (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in a mystical Arthurian world, filled with mythical creatures, Goddesses, and magical powers, the reader is taken on a truly memorable journey.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 1 & 2
West Sussex. England.
No matter what you say, I can’t stay here, Clari.’ Tania Roberts crouched in the old chintz chair, crossing her arms tightly across her chest.
‘Look, the lease on my flat finishes at Christmas, so I could find somewhere near to rent. It’s not much further from the hospital.’ Clara Price pushed back a hank of blonde hair, ‘Really; I mean it.’
‘I couldn’t let you do that. You work all day and cram for the finals as well. ‘No, it’s not fair to you.’
‘Where else could you go? It’s nearly the end of term, the Uni’ halls are full, that only leaves the bedsits and they’re are all taken.’ Clara glanced up at the low hanging oak beams and bowed wattle and lime walls. There was no way Tania could ever afford another place like this; thatched cottages were gold dust. ‘Give it time – you never know; he could just walk through the door anytime now.’
‘He’s been missing nearly three months now. I don’t think I can cope—’
‘Yes, you can. Look, you’ve already half unpacked. Aunty Tegwen wanted you to have this cottage. She knew you’d keep it in the family.’
‘What’s the point – without him?’ Tania took a shuddering breath.
Clara bit her lip; how could she comfort her? It was an impossible situation. ‘Something will happen soon; it has to.’
‘What if he’s … oh God, I can’t feel him – his spirit.’
Clara hugged her friend, her tears dropping on Tania’s tousled curls. She bit on the silver ring, quivering in her lip, as she murmured, ‘Now, I’m going to make you a cup of tea.’
‘Yeah, I need it. I know I have to go through it, but staying here keeps bringing it all back.’
‘Come on; you’ve done so well.’ Clara murmured. How Tania coped was a miracle. She nearly died in the accident.
‘I have no-one else, Clari, besides you.’ Tania sobbed pitifully, ‘Mum’s living it up in Spain. She was furious when we got engaged, said we were irresponsible – eighteen was no age to get tied up. I should finish my degree, concentrate on a career.’
Clara bit her lip, allowing her to talk it out.
Tania’s voice almost broke, ‘how could she say that? Mum married when she was seventeen, had me at eighteen. Honestly, she just doesn’t care; you know all she thinks about is the holiday and the next man on the horizon. There’s Helen, but she….’ her voice trailed off.
Clara held her hand; usually, Tania was the stronger of the two. But now her fiery-tempered friend needed her help. ‘Helen’s going to make it, you see; she will. She’s fought it for five years now; she’ll beat it.’ Standing up, she went into the tiny kitchen to find the kettle minus a lid. Darn it; it was on its last legs; she’d buy another for Tania; otherwise, they’d be boiling water in a saucepan.
Finding a tray, she put out two mugs, popping a teabag in each. Biscuits? Where were they? Shuffling through the bottom cupboard, she found some in a Cadbury’s sweet tin. That would cheer Tania up; she loved chocolate wafers. She heard the kettle splutter; yes, it did need changing. She walked back into the room, forcing a smile, relieved to see Tania standing by the French windows. ‘That’s such a lovely garden, all those trees, and the cabin; just perfect for you to write and paint.’
‘I know I should be grateful, but it’s hard, Clari – so hard. Gary was over the moon when Aunt Teg gave it to us.’ Tania sucked in a tearful breath. ‘I do love the birds and the squirrels – watch them for hours. Lily’s just fascinated; look at her now.’
Clara went to her side to see the enormous white retriever standing at the bottom of the tree, gazing up at a lower branch where a bushy-tailed squirrel perched, watching her. ‘It’s teasing her, look, now it’s rubbing its tiny hands together, and that furry white bib … oh it’s so sweet.’
Tania’s voice lifted a little. ‘Look, see the pigeons and magpies up in the higher branches? I know I sound weird, but I can’t stop hoping Gary will appear through those trees.’
‘Maybe he will, one day.’ It was such a hollow assurance, but what could she say?
‘They’ve never found him; how could he just – just disappear? It’s not fair; Clari not fair. Maybe he’s alive; maybe he’s lost his memory, maybe someone abducted him. After all, he’s an IT wizard, his fantasy games are a hit, and then all those awards.’
Clara nodded. ‘Yeah, his latest medieval game is trending, isn’t it?’
‘Yeah, ‘Sorceror to King Drogartha.’ Where could he be Clari’?’
Handing Tania a steaming mug of tea, Clara frowned, ‘You know maybe he was kidnapped, forced to develop more software.’
‘But where?’ Tania pushed aside a chocolate wafer. ‘Surely he’d have tried to contact me, got a message through on the mobile or my tablet? She clenched her fists. ‘We were to be married at Christmas – a Christmas wedding no less. But he’s left me, hasn’t he? Just couldn’t face me.’
‘You mustn’t lose hope, Tani,’ he was so excited about the cottage; I mean, he was drawing up plans to renovate it. He wouldn’t have done all that if he was leaving, would he? If he’s held against his will, he’ll find a way to contact you.’
‘Maybe he doesn’t want to; maybe he just wants out of the relationship.’
‘But it was Gary who wanted you both to move here. He loves you, dearly; he just wouldn’t desert you – right in the middle of it all.’
‘Clari, it’s awful; every day, I just keep on hoping he’ll appear.’ She drummed her fist on the armchair.
‘But for now, sweetheart, you must get on with your life, for his sake. Think about how upset he would be to see you like this.’
‘I am trying Clari, but it’s hard.’
‘Don’t say that, be positive. You know, he could have lost his memory? Be out there, lost and confused even.’
‘But the police searched everywhere; his photo’s been on TV, and in the newspapers, surely someone would recognize him.’
Seeing the anguished anger in Tania’s sweet face, Clara tried to change the subject and walked over to the table. ‘Err … I never knew you had so many discs and books.’
Rising from her chair, Tania looked over books, piled on every available space, even perching precariously on stools. ‘When we decided to move, we threw out over a thousand of them; put them in the garage ready for the library or charity shop. But, after the accident, I saved them; brought them here. I’ve got every one of his books, his games, and all his plans for more games. I spend hours watching and playing them now. It makes me feel closer to him wherever he is.’
Clara smiled warmly. ‘So if you stay, where will you put them all?’
‘I haven’t said I would stay, Clari.’
‘I’m not in any mood to play games.’
‘Okay, I’m sorry, Tani; I’m just—’
‘Oh Clari,’ I’m a bitch; don’t take any notice.’
Clara smiled. ‘That’s better, bring the bitch back; it’s not like you to give in. Come on, let’s finish clearing the kitchen up, shall we?’ Seeing Tania follow her, she said, ‘So have you started writing the book yet?’ ‘No, every time I start, I just can’t get past the first three lines; I mean; I have it all set up, the computer, the music, the keyboard, and then I freeze.’
The Whispering Forest
‘Dearest mother, desert me not.’ Forestyne whispered, bending over the frail figure lying upon a mattress of straw. She could hear Death’s cackle through her stepmother’s brittle breath. ‘Prithee, chase Death away, you can, you must.’
Moraig struggled to rise; her pale face fanned by logs burning in the open fire pit. ‘My precious girl, hearken to me.’ She held out arms once rounded and robust, now skeletal; the rosy skin turned to ancient parchment. ‘You heard wolves howling, saw ravens circling; my life force is slowly ebbing away.’
‘I pray you, stay – stay with me.’
Moraig pointed a bony finger to heavy shadows gathering in the corner of the hut. ‘The Eternal Shade holds out the icy shroud, and I am drawn to its frosty folds.’
Forestyne shivered, icicles of fear scraping her spine, as she peered into the shadows. The flames from the embers of the fire flared up to the smoke hole. Her slender body trembled as freezing drafts blew in through cracks in the wattle and mud walls.
‘See dearest, Death’s shade swallows the heat.’ Moraig whispered.
Forestyne peered into the far corner to see a dark shape building. Was it Death? Was he so close? Had he thwarted the power of the most powerful sorceress in Albion? Sobbing, she lapsed back by the wooden ledge holding the straw mattress. ‘I beseech you, stay with me – stay.’ Tears sparkled as the firelight flickered over her ivory skin, her hair shimmering in tones of silver and gold.
‘The time is nigh, sweetheart.’ Moraig said, her voice so faint. ‘Even the most powerful sorceress cannot evade the sovereignty of time, and Death has that lethal control. Yet, even he obeys the Goddess Arianrhod, she who wove my fate at my birth.’
Forestyne gazed at the shape. ‘Methinks I espy him in the shadows rising tall and black. I shall cast the potion of the viper upon him; it will destroy him.’
Moraig sighed. ‘My sweet child, I trow your only failing is your stubbornness. You will make a great sorceress, for you do challenge the gods themselves. But, hear me Forestyne; you cannot conquer the Lord Death, for he is all-powerful. I bid you, help me up.’
As Forestyne lifted her into a sitting position, the failing woman said, ‘now the time is nigh for you to claim your birthright. Go to the old cauldron stowed away under the rugs and furs. In it, you will find a small leather bag. Prithee, bring it to me.’
Puzzled, the girl nodded and, burrowing deep in the cauldron, lifted the bag, which she carried back to her stepmother. Untying the leather thong, Moraig brought out a bracelet of polished stones. With weak trembling hands, she placed it on Forestyne’s wrist. ‘This is sacred to you, my dear. I cannot tell you of its origin except to say they are rightfully yours to cherish. Our ancient gods speak through them, and they guide and protect you. One of the great gnome smiths of the Lower World fashioned this bracelet. It hath nine gems; the magic figure. Each gem is empowered with the name of one of our ancient gods and goddesses. So treat it with great care. Once I place it upon your wrist, the gems will embed themselves into your flesh. It will become a living part of you forevermore; these gems are powerful aids for divination or prophecy.’
‘Tis beautiful, I will treasure it.’ Forestyne whispered, stroking the glowing gems.
Moraig smiled. ‘Your fate is woven in the golden strands of the world web. Hearken unto me; these gems will protect you. You know the precious stones for each god or goddess, so be careful whom you summon, be specific to their different powers. If you be in mortal danger, call thrice upon our goddess, the giantess Hanatac, and she will come to your aid. However, be warned, summon her not for trivial threats, for she will be sorely angered, her mighty spear turned against you.’
Forestyne trembled. ‘How will she appear?’
‘Hanatac fills the sky with her mighty girth so you may only perceive a part of her limbs for they are taller than our highest mountains. If you are beset with demons, call upon Deniac, the most powerful demon God. Remember, each one of these gems empowers a god or goddess; they are a living part of you, your spiritual body.’
‘I tremble at the thought of calling on any one of them.’
Moraig managed a faint smile. ‘If you treat them with great respect, they will be as squirrel kittens in your hands. Come now be still, as I perform the incantation.’
Forestyne shivered, feeling the gems colder than ice, sliding into her flesh, as Moraig chanted in a trembling voice.
Oh, ye Gods and Goddesses behold,
I have immortalized your greatness in these gems.
May they empower this mere human, as she calls upon your holy names.
Mayest ye heed her pleas in time of need,
Mayest ye heal her frail human body in times of pain.
Mayest, she walk ever heeding the whispers of the trees, may she understand their meaning.
Mayest, she tread amongst the magical beings of the world and the spirits of death at ease.
So Be it.
Forestyne gritted her teeth, feeling the gems grind through her flesh, her whole arm shuddering at the ache, but t’was bearable. Yet, she drew back as her skin became brittle like that of a cuttlefish, before changing to the palest blue.
‘Fear not child, as the gems become part of your wrist, your arm will return to human flesh. You are now empowered, and I can rest in peace.’
Yet the power and beauty meant nothing to Forestyne as she gazed upon her beloved carer’s pallor, those dark eyes fading to pale moss.
‘Why do you not send away the Spectre of Death?’ Forestyne fingered the runes around her wrist, tears stabbing her eyes.
With a frail finger, Moraig gently wiped them away. ‘You have reached your eighteenth year, and tis now your turn to become the sorceress for the tribe. Always respect the People of the Whispering Trees; they worship the old ones, not the new God of the Christians. You and I belong with them. I have taught you all that is necessary to help our people of the Whispering Trees. They will turn to you for healing and prophecy.’
‘But I am not ready; I cannot do it without you.’
‘Tis your destiny. You were sworn to serve the gods and thus destined to travel through the web of life alone.’
Forestyne hung her head, not disclosing the lover that haunted her dreams. He always appeared in a swirl of smoke, a tall man seated astride a black destrier, dark hair reaching the top collar of his black cape, his muscled limbs encased in chain mail armor.
Moraig stroked her cheek. ‘Alack, tis the time of your transformation, the gateway to your new life. Doubt, not yourself. You have the power to heal, to search for lost souls in the spirit worlds, while here in middle earth, you have dominion over the animal kingdom. Of course, the Lycans were forever within you. Use it wisely, unveiling only to those who are in need. Obey the true gods and goddesses; travel to the upper worlds to hear their wisdom, for they will come unto you in your hour of need.’
‘Mother, hush, I can bring back your life force; I will go directly to the sacred pool of the Sisters of the Wyrd; I will plead with Carrawana the Healer; I can find the most powerful herbs to—’
‘Listen, child, do not fight fate; accept it.’
Forestyne took Moraig’s frail hand and kissed it. ‘Nay, I don’t believe that we are prisoners of fate. My heart will not let me rest; I must save you. I love you so much. Please, please do not leave me.’ The girl wept, her tears hot on her stepmother’s skin.
‘I love you too; I worshipped you from the day your parents placed you in my arms, a sweet babe taken from her loving mother’s breast.’
‘Who was she? Why did she forsake me?’
‘She and your father did not forsake you, my sweet child; they sought only to protect you against those who would cut the gold strands holding you in this web of life.’
‘Tell me – tell me about my mother’s name, my father’s.’
‘Nay, tis not the time or place. Not yet.’
Forestyne hung her head. Why must she lose the stepmother who loved her? She may not be her blood mother, but she had given her such tender love, such strength, as she grew to maidenhood. ‘I shall plead with the gods, to spare your life.’ Forestyne’s skin grew cold, overlaid with goosebumps; she shivered at the thought of being so utterly alone. The Whispering Trees people were gentle and kind, but they had their own families; hers were scattered over time.
‘Hush now, you cannot go against the power of Arianrhod, the supreme goddess, the weaver of life and worlds. She hath decreed my death. She spews forth the golden threads spun from her own body. Hah, she is the Great Mother with a great, but oft-times, terrible love. I must submit, for I am needed amongst the Gods. Beware what you say, dear child; her minions are everywhere; they will surely report your treacherous words.’
‘Mother, there are other powerful gods; I shall plead with them. ’
‘There is no time, my sweet one, the Eternal Shade holds me in a tight embrace, and my guide now beckons. I must obey Arianrhod.’ Her heart reached out to this stubborn but brave girl. This very flaw would evolve into strength as she met the many dangers and evils in her perilous journey to rescue the tree people’s souls. She would pursue those dedicating their lives to wreaking fear, pestilence, and torture, those who would see a sorceress dead before she could save the innocent.
Forestyne heard the throb of wings, saw the ravens, the psychopomps, alight at the door, their beady eyes glittering. She knew they came to guide and protect Moraig on her journey to the Upper World. Her heart almost stopped as a golden squirrel raced into the room, then stopped abruptly, twisting its dainty head in jerks. It sat upon its haunches, folding its tiny hands across a sparkling bib of white fur. Forestyne bowed her head as the squirrel was the most powerful guide and protector to the Whispering Trees people. Now its sparkling eyes alighted on Moraig.
Forestyne gritted her teeth, unafraid she whispered, ‘get you hence; she’s not ready, d’you hear me? Fie upon you.’
The squirrel remained, rubbed its tiny hands together, moving its head sharply to one side. Forestyne cringed as the creature spoke softly. ‘do not resist. Arawn, the God of the Dead, heard the decree of the Spider Goddess and awaits his faithful subject.’
Never had she heard a messenger of the gods speak before; Forestyne’s heart thudded. She turned to see Moraig’s eyes close, the slight quiver of her lips, as the breath escaped. She looked at the dark shadows covered in frost, now gathering stealthily around them. Crying out, she tried to push them away, only for her hands to go right through their icy shapes. Yet, she would not give up; she had to try, had to race to the sacred pool of the Three Sisters, to unearth Carrawana. Only she could help her find the magical herbs to bring her mother back from Death’s embrace. Other shamans had quarrelled with the Spider Goddess and won, had snatched people she’d thrown to the eternal Death’s greedy clutches, why shouldn’t she?’ She visualized the enormous spider, its body larger than a hut. Its eight furry spiked legs were as high as three men atop each other. ‘I pray you, as I am gone; fight dearest mother – fight death – fight.’
Her mother sighed, dropping back on the straw pallet, her breath a crackling bark.
No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: