Every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my enthralling fantasy romance novel, 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 7 & 8
Still clutching the cat, Tania sat on a wooden chair in the kitchen. ‘I must admit I really did see eyes in that suit of armour. How’s your face?’
Clara dabbed at the scratches. ‘Hmm, not too bad; they are sore, though.’ She bit her lip, her face sombre. ‘Okay, then let’s get the kettle on; I think this poor cat is starving.’
Hearing a soft growl, Tania turned to see Lily glowering at the cat, her black smiley lips drawn back, revealing vicious fangs. She’d never realized Lily had fangs, long teeth yes, but never like this. ‘Lily, stop it, stop it now.’
Ignoring her, Lily slunk forward, her back sinking, the large brown eyes narrowing to slits. ‘
‘Lily, I mean it, stop it now, stop it.’ Shocked, she realized Lily would kill the cat if she could.
Nonchalantly, the cat jumped up on the sink draining board, proceeding to a shelf higher up. Enraged, Lily put her paws on the sink, snarling angrily. Being a huge retriever, she was very long in the body. The cat stood still, back arched, hissing and spitting. Tania said quickly. ‘Treat Lily, treat– treat?’ Lily would stop everything for a treat. She was such a gorgeous, loving, and loyal dog; Tania was shaken to see this side of her. Lily immediately lifted her head and gave a great black smile. Tania whispered to Clara, ‘get her a Dentyx Rawhide in the bottom cupboard; she thinks they’re her treats.’
Clara nodded, swiftly found the plastic bag of white dental chews.
Lily padded over, her long silk tail swinging in anticipation; the cat ignored her.
‘Good girl.’ Clara said as Lily snatched the white rawhide.
‘Thank God for that.’ Tania blew a relieved breath.
‘We can’t leave them together.’ Clara grimaced.
‘It’s difficult; I’ll open a tin of Chappie food; I’m sure the cat won’t argue about that. I’ll put it up here on the worktop.’ To their delight, the cat swiftly finished the bowl, whilst Lily chewed contentedly on her rawhide.
Moving into the lounge, Tania slumped down in the chintz armchair. ‘If I sit here, I can watch them. But, changing the subject, d’you know; I’ve never believed in magic, spirits yes, but never shadows turning into black cats. It’s all so weird, the arches getting smaller, the trunks filled with ancient musty clothes. Then the eyes in the suit of armour; I was petrified. It must be the murkiness down there.’
Tania frowned. ‘Maybe we’re a bit unhinged with it all.’
‘Yes, the imagination working overtime. However, I really don’t think we can explain everything away.’ Clara replied.
They watched as the cat gulped down the last bit of Chappie.’
‘Poor thing was famished.’ Clara murmured, getting up and walking over to it. The animal did not struggle as she gently picked it up and, stroking the sleek, black fur, carried it back to her chair. Placing it on her lap, she looked into its steel-grey eyes. ‘Oh look, it’s got some tiny tufts of white fur on its upper lip; they look like fangs. Hmm, he looks quite evil, you know. I think we should call him Spectre.’
‘Well, I think he’s cute. He must have been famished.’ Tania smiled.
‘Good thing we went down there, really.’
‘Yes, but now what do I do? I mean, Lily will kill it.’
‘Or Spectre will kill Lily.’ Clara frowned.
‘How on earth are we going to deal with this? I don’t want to take him to the cat’s home?’ As she spoke, she saw a massive blur of white fur charging towards her, black lips snarling. She screamed as Lily leapt.
Clara grabbed the furious dog as she sprang at the cat on Tania’s lap. Holding her tightly, she gritted her teeth. ‘It will take time for them to get used to each other. The cat has taken to you, Tani. They do say animals choose people.’
‘No, I think it was just a case of starvation, and I happened to be there.’
‘Okay, so let’s have that cup of tea.’ Clara said as Lily pulled away from her and made for Tania.
Immediately, Tania rose and handed Spectre to Clara. ‘Here, let’s swap; Lily will calm down soon. ‘Sit Lily – sit. There’s a good girl. Mummy loves you.’ Laughing, she said, ‘I think this calls for something stronger. I think a glass of wine or brandy.’ She went to the small cocktail cabinet. ‘Hah, just the thing, some Shiraz. Now, do you like chili crackers or sour cream and chives snack bites?’
‘Hmm, the sour cream, thanks.’
Taking a sip of the Shiraz, Tani murmured, ‘God, that’s better, I feel more human now.’
Clara nodded, only to gasp as the cat stood up on her lap, and sipped from her glass, then turned and licked the silver ring in her nose.
Tani laughed again, ‘I told you that nose cutlery would get you into trouble.’
‘Hmm, yes, but Tom loves it.’ She grinned wickedly. ‘He prefers the one in my tongue, really.’
‘Honestly, Clari,’ I don’t know how you cope with them.’
‘I know that look of yours – you don’t like the face ornaments, but I do; they give me confidence plus a few other things.’
Well, at least, you don’t have tattoos.’
Clara raised her eyebrows. ‘And why not?’ She pulled up her sleeve to reveal a tattoo.
‘Oh, that’s quite nice actually, but what is it?’
‘The Runes – powerful magic. They can take you through time and other worlds.’
‘You never said anything about it to me.’
‘Well, I only learnt about it last week; one of the nurses on my ward was talking about it. Said she was going to a meeting so I asked if I could go with her. It’s so exciting, Tani – really.’
‘So what do the Runes do?
‘Honestly, I’m so excited about them. But you have to so careful; the runes can be dangerous in the wrong hands. I’m still new to it all. But, I think I’m getting the hang of it.’
‘You know, you’ve got me interested now. I don’t really believe in it all, but I’d try anything now that Gary—’
‘Yes, I know, but we’ll have to be patient,’
‘So where did they originate from?’
Clara beamed; at least, Tani was interested in something. It was just surprising it was the runes. But she understood Tani saw them as a chance to contact her lost lover. ‘Well, they’re from the Nordic legends; it’s believed Odin, a Norse God, discovered them. He’s also known for healing, sorcery, death, poetry, among other things. The Anglo-Saxons believed he was human, the ancestor of the royal family. The runes are also revered and worshipped by the Celtic Druids, in Wales and Ireland.’
‘So they may have some power?’
‘Oh yes, but both Norsemen and the Celtic Druids believed we have to dive into our own spirit – a personal voyage of discovery and knowledge, you could say. They say our souls travel above the centuries – time travel does exist. We find the power of runes within ourselves.’
‘So there’s a chance time travel exists? This sounds so eerie. It sounds so interesting.’
‘Join the coven, Tani. Who knows what could happen?’
Tani sat back, staring wide-eyed at her friend. ‘Oh no, I couldn’t do that.
‘I don’t mind talking about it with you, but I don’t particularly want to get caught up with witches and covens.’
Clara laughed. ‘You’re afraid, aren’t you? It’s not that you don’t believe; it’s just the whole thing scares you. Admit it.’
Tani nodded. ‘You’re right. I like to rely on reality; I mean no-one’s ever proven spirit exists.’
‘Look, just give it a try; if you don’t like the first visit, then you don’t have to go again.’
Tania said softly. ‘I just wish I could travel through time; maybe I could have stopped Gary—’
‘I would take you to him right now, Tani’ if I could. This is a Wicca group, who are into the runes and claim to be masters of time travel, but I am just an initiate; it will take time to learn their magic.’
‘But, there’s hope?’
Clara nodded, ‘Oh yes, but not now; this could take months, years before I start time or astral traveling. You can’t mess around with them. The ancient ones live through the runes, but then so do demons and devils.’
Tania’s skin paled. ‘But why have them tattooed on your arm? I mean, you said don’t know how to handle them yet.’
Clara gave a rueful smile. ‘You know how impulsive I am.’
‘Hmm, so the coven did the tattoos?’
‘Oh no, it was the guy in the tattoo shop on the corner. Donna gave me drawings of the major runes, and I took them into him. He was marvelous; he not only did an exact copy. Doug seemed to bring them to life with the colours he used. It was then he told me it was an honour for him to do them, turns out; he belonged to a wizard’s circle.’
Clara held out her arm, and Tani bent nearer, studying the tattoos, pointing to one. ‘Hmm, believe it or not, I saw this in the cellars.’
‘You know the cape that had the golden cup on it?’
‘Hardly golden, it was so mildewed.’
‘It had that Y on the front, remember? It had a line at the top.’
Clara frowned. ‘Hmm, come to think of it; you’re right. Why didn’t I recognize it?’
‘Well, the embroidery was dirty and wispy.’
‘Gosh, I know what it is, the sign of Algiz, the Spiritual Warrior.’Clara said.
‘It was in that circle of oak leaves.’
Clara’s eyes widened. ‘Wow, then it’s Celtic. It’s one of the sacred trees of the druids. Tani, I think there’s more to it. The runes and the cup cape symbolize the spiritual quest; maybe this cape points to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.’
‘So someone used the cloak to dress up as King Arthur?’
‘Or there’s some magic going on here. Those clothes were ancient, practically in shreds. Maybe it points to an older age again, perhaps the onset of the Dark Ages.’ Clara said.
Tania twisted her lips, a wary look in the green eyes. ‘Why dress up in filthy shredded clothes? Doesn’t make sense, does it? ’
‘No, maybe we disturbed something, woke something up in the suit of armour. We did look in that old mirror; mirrors are supposed to be haunted or magical. They may even be a portal for time travel. It could be that; maybe we woke Merlin or King Arthur?’
Tani laughed, her eyes sparkling. ‘Now, that is impossible.’
‘I know, but you must admit it is mysterious.’
Tani grinned and rose to her feet. ‘Let’s go and get the clothes and bring them up here. We can have a good look at them in the light.’
Entranced with the maiden’s beauty, Devlin growled at the gnome Knight. ‘Put up your sword Drunraig, you will frighten this gentle creature.’
Spluttering, Ansgar sheathed his sword whilst scowling at Forestyne. ‘Hmm, mark my words, you’ll regret this. You are bewitched Sir Knight, bewitched.’
Ignoring him, Devlin spoke to Forestyne. ‘may I be of service to you? I would be privileged to escort you to your home.’
‘Tis nearby. My mother is a healer of the sick. I come here to gather some herbs for her. She didn’t dare say she was a great sorceress, as the Knight was most probably one of the new Christians and would kill her for her devilry.’
Devlin frowned, a witch more like, or a sorceress, maybe Drunraig was right. But then he took a deep breath; he was lapsing into the pagan beliefs again. He must remember his new vows to the Blessed Virgin. ‘Hmm, I see, but know you not, tis dangerous for a maid to wander through the forest alone, the Saxons will show you no mercy, as for the Picts, t’would be better you were in hell. Lief, it is my vow to protect any courtly lady or damsel in distress. I shall escort you to safety.’
Forestyne, aware of her nakedness, stooped lower in the water, her tresses swirling behind her like silver reeds. ‘Sir Knight, I thank you, but there is no need, tis not far.’
‘Nay, I perceive that you are frightened I may do you harm, but I cannot allow you to journey alone. As he walked towards her, she saw he limped, as if in pain. ‘Let me introduce myself; I am known as Sir Devlin, the Black Knight of the court of King Vortigern, now your protector. These woods are filled with marauding savages, pagans who would not hesitate to enslave such a wondrous creature. I would carry the shame in my heart forevermore if anything were to happen to your sweet self.’
Forestyne gasped, ‘the Black Knight? You are truly the Black Knight?’
‘Aye for my sins.’
Yet Forestyne was suspicious; what was the Black Knight doing wandering, ill and wounded, in these woods, and with only a vicious looking gnome? Surely he would have a master of arms, a squire and knights, even a train of courtiers to accompany him on his adventures.
Loathe to reveal where she lived, she said, ‘But my liege lord, I am not in need of protection. I shall go by hidden paths to my abode.’
‘Alas, I must insist, dear maiden.’
Forestyne sighed as she knew the knights were pledged to give protection to any titled lady but could take any peasant girl by force if needs be.
‘I thank you, my lord, but pray to give me privacy to dress.’
‘Of course.’ Casting his eyes about, he espied a white woolen bag and a drying cloth. Laid out on a bush was a woolen undershirt and a simple woolen tunic of a cornflower blue. Averting his gaze, he mumbled, ‘I shall await you yonder.’ Devlin’s throat constricted as he struggled not to give in to his need to watch her dry that delicious body. He glanced down on Drunraig, eyes bulging at the sight of her nudity. ‘Fie on you, Ansgar, cast your eyes down – move away.’
‘I was looking out for her, my lord.’ Grumbling, the gnome trudged away.
Trying not to smile, Devlin stroked the silken mane of his horse. ‘So Thunder, what say you to this? We are behaving ourselves.’ He was astonished by her hold over him; even the shooting pain from his wounds did not grab his attention. He would have seduced the woman in other times and other climes, but this simple maid in her pure grace overpowered him. Was it the force of the pagan Goddess shielding her from his lust?
Her voice rang out like the chimes of silver bells. ‘Sir, I am ready now.’
His pulse quickened as he ventured forth from the screen of the trees to see her dressed but barefoot on a carpet of gold and scarlet leaves, holding the woolen bag to her bosom. Maybe she deceived him; maybe she was indeed a nymph wielding strong magic, her fatal charms enslaving him to her slightest whim. Devlin’s chest swelled as he advanced towards her, forgetting Drunraig running behind him. ‘Come, lead us to your home in the forest, tis the least I can do.’ Without further ado, he swept her up in strong arms, only to grunt painfully as he placed her on the saddle of his powerful destrier. Seeing the pallor paint his chiseled gaunt cheeks, she said, ‘Sir, you are suffering, pray may I be of assistance? I am a healer, as is my beloved mother. Do you carry fresh linen and unguents with you?’
‘Nay lady, we lost all in a fierce battle. But first, let us see you safely home. Then I will tend to the wounds.’ Trying not to reveal the extent of his pain, he gritted his teeth and climbed up behind her, taking the reins. He pulled her slight body against his stomach and groin, feeling her curvaceous body push against him; maybe desire would lessen his pain.
Feeling the hardness of his armour, the strength of his magnificent body, Forestyne shivered; she’d heard of maidens ravished by wandering knights. Was this to be her fate?
Ansgar cried out from under the belly of his horse, ‘Drat if Sir, willst you not lift me onto my horse, would you desert me now?’
Devlin laughed. ‘Of course, I would not desert my friend, come.’ He leant over and grunted as he hefted the gnome onto the horse. Drunraig was short of stature but no lightweight with a hefty body and bulging muscles. Turning back to Forestyne, he held her close, enjoying feeling her rounded bottom against the chain mail covering his groin.
Unaware of his rising lust and growing discomfort, Forestyne grasped the bag holding the herbs, making sure it did not bump on the horses back. ‘Sir, what I carry is precious, they are herbs that will help my mother’s pain, but they must be not bruised or harmed in any way; otherwise, they will refuse to help us.’
Devlin raised his eyebrows; at the moment, the only precious things of any importance to him were her buttocks. Clearing his throat, he muttered, ‘So the plants talk with you, do they?’
‘Oh yes, Sir, but only to the people of the Whispering Trees.’
Devlin smiled. ‘I have heard of plants talking, but now I listen to the wisdom of the new Christian God and his blessed son, our saviour Jesus Christ.’
‘Oh, and how do they speak to you, Sir?’
Devlin frowned. ‘They do not have to, for tis all written in the Holy Book.’
‘I see, but forgive me; tis little help to those that cannot read.’
What a sharp-witted woman and intelligent to boot. Devlin remained quiet. She was not only arousing him with her sensual body, but she was also engaging his mind.
The horse gathered speed, alarming Forestyne. Shivering in trepidation, she said, ‘Sir Devlin, I pray you will ride carefully; I do not wish to jolt or bruise the plants.’
‘Of course, my lady, your wish is my desire.’
Thinking her to be shivering from the cold, he unbuckled his black cloak and gathered it around her. ‘There, that will warm you.’ Feeling her shake at his words, he murmured softly, ‘Verily I say unto you, you are safe with me, my lady; no harm will come to you, whilst I am here.’ He didn’t add that it was his wont to ravish any unsuspecting female in his grasp, with their consent, of course. Yet so expert was he in the ways of love, they rarely refused.
‘I thank you, kind sir, for your chivalry.’
Sir Devlin frowned. ‘Forsooth, I must say your speech is that of a cultured lady of the court, yet you live with your mother in a cabin in the woods; you mystify me.’
‘Sir, my mother, tutored me in many subjects, but I am as I said a simple maiden from the people of the Whispering Trees and happy to be so.’
‘So a castle does not tempt you?’
‘Nay Sir, the living trees are my castle walls, the fresh streams my moat. I am free here, not a prisoner to rock and stone. Yet I fear soon I shall be alone.’
‘Alone?’ Thoughts and questions raced through Devlin’s mind. A beautiful creature, both nymph, and human, alone, unprotected? ‘Pray, why?’
‘As I said, my poor mother is taken with a wasting illness, one that attracted the Eternal Shade, even now Death holds out his shroud to her. It is the Goddess Hanatac who conveyed me here by her mighty magic.’
Drunraig rode up beside him, and with raised eyebrows, whispered, ‘Now do you see? Devils – I warned you.’
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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
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Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: