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 15 & 16
AD 449: Ambush
Having boiled and mashed the healing herbs, Forestyne began chanting softly, not disturbing the sleeping knights. As she carefully lifted the mandrake from the woollen bag, she whispered, ‘my Leif Lord, I beg you give off thy healing powers. I pray you to stay the pain and ensure my beloved is wrapped in the velvet softness of your healing powers.’
The plant stirred, waving the green leaves and jerking greasy limbs, it spoke in rasping tones. . ‘I promised, did I not? Stop your dithering and get on with it. I have waited long enough. Get on with it, you wretched girl.’
Smiling, Forestyne took no notice of his abusive language, t’was just his way. Still, despite his rancour, he did indeed heal the dying, giving them such tender care as they journeyed to the Eternal Shadow.
Placing the plant in the boiling water, she winced, hearing his screams, but knew his painful death would be swift, as he would soon enter the Upper World of the Gods.
Stirring the mandrake in the water, she hummed a soothing song. But all she heard for her efforts were his dying cries. ‘Shut up – shut up, you stupid….’
She added some lavender and honeysuckle, as the stench from the healing herbs, let alone the mandrake, was enough to make the strongest stomach lose its contents.
She glanced over to the wooden ledges to see the two knights laying content in their slumbers. Good, sleep would help heal Sir Devlin’s wounds and restore his strength. Resuming her soft chanting, she implored Lady Henbane to give her mother beautiful visions as she passed through to the embrace of the Lord of death. Forestyne watched the last weaving struggles of the plant. Then, stirring the herbs rapidly, she poured the liquid into a wooden goblet for another few minutes.
Rising, she went over to her mother and gently roused her. ‘Dearest mother, I have the potions ready. Is it still your desire to leave this Middle World?’
Her heart almost broke as her mother nodded. ‘Thank you, my darling. But first, if I had power over my destiny, then I would stay with you. But, I must honour the goddess Arianrhod.’
Biting her lip, the tears tumbled down Forestyne’s sweet face. ‘Oh mother, tis the hardest thing I do. I must live, knowing I helped you to die.’
Moraig rose and took Forestyne in her arms. ‘Tis the greatest gift you give me dear daughter mine, for I will pass into the Upper World to take my place amongst the spirit guides and healers. Even the gods and goddesses seek sorcery, healing, and advice. And you dearest will make my journey one of peace and wondrous dreams.’
Forestyne gripped her mother’s hand. ‘Please don’t leave me. I love you so. I know I am selfish, but please don’t leave me alone.’
As she sobbed on her mother’s failing chest, Devlin lifted his head to see her hand her mother a wooden goblet. His heart went out to her; she was a brave girl and would be strong enough to let her most beloved mother fill her destiny. At that moment, he realized he had tender feelings for this strange, strong-headed maiden; for the first time in his life, Devlin felt love for a woman, the woman for whom he’d sought for in many lands. And he’d found her in a humble shack in the forest.
Devlin heard Moraig’s faint whisper. ‘You know I must go sweetheart, but you are young and understand not the way of Fate. I pray you to listen to me; I promised your beloved father on the advent of my death to tell you the truth of your birth. My dearest, you are the beloved daughter of Lady Adreva and the mighty Cadeyrn, King of Llanmadoc, this place being on the Welsh coast. They were married and deeply in love.’
‘Are they still alive? What happened to them?’
‘Dearest, let me explain, King Vortigern, cast eyes upon your beautiful mother. He was fairly sick for the love of her and vowed to make her his own, so he went to war on your father. Sadly, your gallant father lost his life fighting for his wife, and you, his beloved baby daughter. On his deathbed, he begged me to steal away with you, for Vortigern was jealous of anyone your mother loved, even you., He would surely have put you to death. Your father made me promise to care for you until the Bear king, also known as Arthur, appeared.
Forestyne cried, unable to stem the fierce tears stinging her eyes and cheeks. Her chest heaved with sorrow and longing for the parents she never knew. ‘My mother? My father?’
‘Yes, I promised never to reveal the truth until I lay on my deathbed. Your birth name given to you by your mother and father is Rhoslyn Muriel Ann, named after Rhosilli, one of the estates owned by your father. The bracelet of gems I gave to you is an ancient family heirloom, fashioned as I told you by the ancient gnomes, the silversmiths of the Lower World. It is blessed by an ancient wizard, an immortal. They are from your father and are proof of your heritage. You are never to take off the bracelet Forestyne, as the Wanderer of the World prophesied the Bear king will appear soon who will recognize the bracelet. Tis through him, you will reclaim your kingdom.’
‘My kingdom? Oh dearest mother, I would forsake all, just to have you with me, for you truly loved me, cared for me. I remember you cuddling me in your arms when I could barely walk. You played and laughed with me as you cooked over the fire, stitching my clothes, making my dolls by rushlight. There is no price on the love you give to me.’
Moraig stroked the silken waves of Forestyne’s hair as she held her in her arms. ‘I will always be with you, my sweetheart. Just call me, and I will hear from the Upper World. Tis, only the curtain of mortal death that separates us, for our spirits, are immortal. Now tis time – pray to give me the goblet.’
Forestyne’s hands trembled as she obeyed, watching through a veil of tears as her step-mother drank the fatal portion. She felt she could not bear it, that she would not die with her mother. She knew she had to carry on, taking on the role of sorceress and healer for the tree people. Deep in despair, she held her close.
Even though charcoal clouds sketched the night sky, Tania ran to the bank; she could see the water sparkling as if carpeted with falling stars. Slipping off her shoes, she waded into the stream, taking care not to slip on slippery rocks. ‘Clari, it’s okay, we can drink the water, it’s clear; I can see the stones on the bed.’
Clara ran to join her, kicking off her shoes, she leapt past Lily engrossed in snuffling the reeds. Cupping her hands, Clara gulped it down, almost choking. Shaking the droplets from her face, she beamed. ‘Oh God, I needed that; I was so dry, my throat was like sandpaper.’
Tania nodded. ‘My feet feel a lot better now. As she bent once more to cup water, something caught her eye; she squinted; yes, there they were again, flashes of light in the woods. Immediately, she touched Clara’s arm; putting her fingers to her lips, she pointed to the trees.
Clara stiffened, her heart hammering as she peered into the dense woods. She heard Tania gasp when a sliver of silver swished in an arc, slicing through a blanket of darkness.
Tania’s heartbeat tripled, seeing a figure emerging from the bushes, carrying a spear aloft in one hand, the other holding a small square shield. His skin shone a startling shade of blue, the moonlight swooping over his naked body. Her heart nearly leapt to her throat as more figures emerged. ‘Don’t move – don’t move.’ Tania whispered, grabbing Lily and making her lie down on the mud.
They watched in silence with bated breath as the figures came closer.
Clara almost choked as she saw their bodies covered in a mass of tattoos, ‘Oh God, they look like savages.’
‘Who are they?’
‘Hmm, must be part of the re-enactment; I think they’re Picts. I remember studying in upper school. They warred with the southern kings in the dark ages.’
Clara made to go forward to meet them, but Tania stayed her arm. ‘Let’s hope these are sane.’
She shrieked, as in that moment, a man leapt over the bank to her. She tried to run away, only as another covered in more tattoos leapt into the stream, seizing her arm. She heard a dreadful snarl as Lily attacked the brute, only for him to kick her aside, raising his axe. In desperation, Tania grasped his arm, shouting at Lily to go. But Lily snarled viciously, sinking her teeth into her attacker’s thigh. Struggling, as he heard Clara’s screams, as the brute pushed her head underwater.
Tania gasped; they were carrying the re-enactment game too far; this was serious. Crying out, she tried kicking him, but to no avail, it was like fighting granite; all she did was stub her toes. She saw her brave friend turn her head underwater, her hair streaming like reeds as she bit the creature in the leg. Yelling, he let her go and stumbled back, as Clara shot up through the water, arms raised. Shouting in a guttural language, the beast jabbed at her forearm. Speedily another savage plunged into the stream and hoisted Clara out, screaming, choking, and struggling. As he climbed to the bank, he lifted her arm aloft, showing his fellow players the tattooed runic cross.
Realizing they were excited about her tattoos. She kept quiet, suspecting they may not be players but part of some deranged cult. They were even more insane than the knights on the horses. Best to humour them, but what the hell was that language? Maybe they were just gabbling gobbly gook to give more atmosphere. As Tania’s captor dragged her out of the water, she saw another tie a rope around Lily’s neck, shouting to the others and pointing to her white fur. It appeared they looked upon her as some prize. Tania’s captor hauled her up the bank to join them.
Tania shuddered, petrified, seeing the most ferocious animals tattooed all over the attackers’ bodies, along with snakes, flaming suns, and spiral designs. They must be imitating the Picts. One man walked up to her and her captor, the tattoos on his manhood apparent, as he jabbered away. Both turned and began examining her, excited over her painted nails and toenails. Petrified and furious, she snarled. ‘Come on. this has gone far enough, this is only a re-enactment, you’re hurting people.’
The man blatantly ignored her and began stroking her hair whilst his partner examined her scalp. She saw a group of them gather around her, staring as one of the men tore her top apart. Angrily she punched him on the chest, only for another to throw her to the ground and, with the help of two others, pulled off her jeans.
Ignoring her cries, they jabbered excitedly, examining the seams, the zips, and the buttons, looking in awe of her. Yet maybe it wasn’t awe, as one held her down, another examined her from head to foot, whilst others shook their heads frowning.
One stepped forward with proud bearing, taller and more muscled than the rest, with every inch of his body covered in tattoos, his only apparel being a crown of feathers. Thumping his spear on the ground, he glared, shouting gibberish at her attackers, whereupon the men bowed and backed away. She glanced over to Clara, who remained fully dressed, whilst the men held her arm aloft, as if in reverence. Clara looked over, gently shaking her head, trying to give a message. When she put her finger to her mouth, Tania realized she wanted her to remain silent.
She watched, fascinated but shivering with cold, as Clara shouted out loud, and pointed to the top rune of the cross and screamed, beating her chest. The men immediately groveled on the ground before her, whereupon Clara, wearing a vicious scowl on her face, strode pompously over to Tania and grabbed her hair. Turning her to face the savages, she whispered, ‘just pretend you’re a slave or something. They’ll think we’re players as well.’ Clara muttered between her teeth.’
Tania immediately hung her head and stood very still. But to no avail, as the leader shook his spear and pointed to the woods. The men jumped up, and lifting her aloft over their heads, carried her to the trees. Screaming, she resisted, only to see Clara striding after her snarling viciously at the savages.
After some minutes of stumbling through waist-high ferns, they arrived at a cleared spot in the forest. On the edge of a circular patch stood a huge oak tree, where their leader pointed to a low branch. She could not hold her terror in anymore and sobbed, thinking they were about to hang her. One of them climbed the tree and sat astride the branch as another threw the ropes to him. Immediately, she felt her arms almost wrenched out of their sockets as they hauled her up, her toes barely touching the ground. She saw her captors bow reverently to Clara and usher her to the side of a fire pit, on which roasted some wildfowl.
Clara bit her lip; what could she do? Obviously, she’d done the wrong thing trying to communicate that Tania was her slave; instead, they treated her as an enemy. But then, it was all one big game; they were re-enactors playing with history. She was not only puzzled but frightened; it was getting out of hand; Tania was suffering, almost hanging. She would dislocate her shoulders if she was not let down soon. She had to do something and fast.
As Tania sobbed in the background, the men brought a pile of furs, laying them on the ground, and then beckoning Clara to sit. They gathered around her, kneeling and bowing their heads to the ground before looking up and smiling hesitantly as they gazed upon the runes on her arm. Yet no one sought to touch them; neither did they attempt to touch her; thankfully, she was still in her clothes. For some reason, Lily had pride of place, even though tied to a post; they gave her a fur rug to lie on. Yet, she whined soulfully for Tania, refusing the bones offered by the savages. Their acting was incredible; they were so well-rehearsed. But she could not get them to understand she was not part of the re-enactment group. She heard a slight rustling in the bushes and saw the men immersed in the runes, now pointing and chattering excitedly. She dare not look around but prayed someone would save them or explain to these nutters that she and Tania were not part of the group.
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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
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: