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 21 & 22
Silver birch and horse chestnuts gave shade to a sunlit glade as Devlin walked through the trees to his tryst with Forestyne. The birds fluttered in the branches above, sweetly warbling. He felt the beat of his heart quicken as he saw her sitting on a tree trunk waiting for him. Shafts of light shimmered on the golden hair flowing over her shoulders to her thighs. He swallowed, taking in the lissom body, the curves filling out a simple white woolen tunic, the sides laced with pale blue ribbons. His fingers itched to undo them as he saw her soft bosom rise and fall. Unaware of him, she played with a bracelet on her slender arm.
He saw her startled look as he entered through the trees, her delicate hand fluttering to her breast, her dark eyes widening in greeting.
She rose hesitantly, then with a brilliant smile, held out her arms.
Startled, he woke to the rough jogging of his shoulder. Angered to be dragged from such a sweet tryst, he growled, glaring up at his usurper of dreams
‘What’s wrong? What’s happening?
‘Sir Knight, the prisoners have gone.’
‘Sir, I know not; I didn’t see the going of them.’
‘But you were on guard; what happened, man?’
‘Sir, I went over to relieve Thomas, and we—’
‘You took your eyes off them. For God’s sake, man, I’ll have your hide for this.’
‘But Sir, they were sleeping, covered in their blankets. I thought all was well.’
‘God’s bones.’ Devlin threw off his cape and sprang to his feet, following the guard.
‘God’s teeth, man. I warned you they were two feisty women. Tis the second time they have escaped.’ He saw the ferns piled up to create a body shape. ‘They are cunning females.’
‘Sir, forgive me I—’
‘There’s no time for that; I shall deal with you later.’ He strode over to Ansgar, tucked up in his cape snoring peacefully. He swallowed in some trepidation. His friend would be furious to be awakened; they’d gone without sleep for some nights now. Gently he shook him awake, but Ansgar tried to ward off his hand even as Devlin persisted. ‘Wake up, man, wake up.’
‘Fiends teeth what—‘
‘They’ve bloody well escaped again. Come we—’
‘Tania, and Clara. Come rise, we must be off.’
‘Clara? Gone? But she kissed me, she – demon’s armpits/’ He sprang to his feet, pulling up his cape and grabbing his sword.
‘Come, we must plan this. Ansgar, you take a couple of the knights and their guards. ‘I fear I cannot come with you. I dare not leave Forestyne alone another night. The girl is unprotected and—’
‘She is a woman of the forest, she is well used to protecting herself, besides she has her wolves, that wild boar and—’
‘I must keep my word Ansgar. I promised I would return on the morrow. I trow the girl is in danger; word would have spread. She is unprotected. Besides, she is nursing a very sick mother, and she needs my help. I vowed I would be there with her. I cannot gainsay my word.’
‘So what did she do before you came on the scene, heh?’
‘Argue not my friend, I pledged my word.’
Ansgar pursed his lips. ‘Hmm, forgive me, Devlin, I was selfish; it’s just that Clara means the world to me; I am in love with her, there I have said it.’
‘Devlin frowned, ‘In love? With a heathen, a witch?’
‘Watch it – you are talking to a heathen.’
Devlin sighed. ‘O course, I apologize, old friend. But I cannot waste any more time, I must hie to the woman I love.’
Ansgar raised his eyebrows. ‘You confuse me, Devlin, one minute you’re branding her a witch, and in the next breath, you say you are in love with her.’
‘Aye, I know, but now is not the time to argue the matter. It is the middle of the night, but I will waste no more time; I must be on my way.’
‘But you have no guards, not even a squire?’
‘Tis no odds, I have my sword and my worthy steed. But let us go our own ways to find the witches.
Ansgar snarled, ‘I for one respect a witch. Indeed I would trust a witch with my very life.’
Seeing tempers rising, the guard stepped forward and bowed to Devlin. ‘Sir Knight, allow me to go with you. I am ashamed at my laxity and would now offer my services.’
Ansgar grimaced. ‘I’d have your head if it were me.’
Devlin frowned. ‘Nay, I am grateful for your offer, man, but are you serf to another knight?’
‘I am a freeman, Sir, and choose to be at your side.’
Devlin frowned, ‘Nay, I must needs square this with the knight in question. Pray to lead me to him.’
They walked over to a slumbering form on the edge of the clearing. Speaking softly, the guard bent, shaking his master awake. ‘Sir Knight, forgive me—’
‘God’s bones, what is it?’
‘Sir, this knight has need of a guard, and I would offer to escort him through the forest this night.’
‘Huh?’ the man on the ground turned, screwing his eyes up. ‘Hah, Sir Devlin. You have need of him? So be it. Now go away and let me sleep.’ Grumbling, he turned on his side.
The guard bowed to Devlin. ‘Sir, I am at your command.’
Devlin nodded. ‘I am grateful for your support, man. Pray, what is your name?’
‘Well, Thomas, go get your steed, for we ride this instant.’
Devlin saw the Ansgar approach. ‘So you are decided to search for the lady Clara?’
‘Aye, when I find her, I will make my way to the castle.’
‘Very well, hopefully, we shall meet there. May your God be with you, my friend.’
Nodding, he strode off, whilst Devlin mounted his destrier and, followed by the guard, rode from the clearing. As he entered the wood, he gritted his teeth; twas just as well he rode before dawn. The forest crawled with the blue-skinned tattooed brutes. Forestyne was in danger of being attacked, raped, or her throat slit on the spot. His only assurance of her safety lay with her wolves, yet even then, against a horde of marauders, she stood no chance. Now it was up to Ansgar and a few chivalrous knights to find the two women.
Devlin’s heart rose on seeing Forestyne seated outside the cottage, her head bent over one of the wolves. Hearing his horses tamping, she looked up, a relieved smile on her lovely face.
‘Thank the Goddess Arianrhod, you are safe.’
‘I too am thankful you came to no harm. I could not wait to see you again. Pray, tell me, how is your mother?’
She lowered her eyes. ‘She sleeps, but I fear the end is nigh. At least the goddess Carrawanna gave us another three days. But I pray in that time my mother will change her mind and decide to stay with us. I know it is selfish of me, but I do love her so.’
‘So she has the power over her own life and death?’
‘Oh yes, my mother only accepts the wishes of the goddess, as she is needed in the upper world. Now that I am trained in sorcery and shamanism, there is no reason to stay.’
‘But what of her love for you, have you both other family?’
‘Oh yes, the people of the Whispering Trees are our family. We live for each other, and our brethren, the animals, birds, insects, and plants.’
He nodded, remembering her singing and gathering when he first saw her. He understood her feelings. He, too, felt the wrench when he left his mother for the South. Although he was fostered out to a neighbouring fort to train as a knight at seven years of age, his love for his mother did not dim. In fact, it grew stronger as lying on a pallet of straw miles away, he would sob himself to sleep, yearning for her tender embrace and soft words. Neither time nor distance quelled his love for his beloved parents.
‘I understand your feelings full well. However, I fear tis time you decided to leave for a more dignified life within the castle walls.’
Her head shot up, her eyes narrowing. ‘Sir, have we not settled this? I am amazed at your stubbornness. I will never leave here. I have trained since a young child to be the sorceress for these people of the trees. I cannot break my vows or even stem the love I have for my people. And yes, I too, am stubborn; I will fight to the bitter end to keep my mother alive.’
‘Have you no thought about your mother’s wishes? You cause her much distress on the eve of her death, think you not?’
Forestyne bit her lip, knowing the truth of his words, but she would not give in.
I cannot accept death; the only time would be if someone was in agony and begged to escape the pain. Otherwise, life is precious and not to be cast aside, even at the wishes of the greatest of goddesses. There I have said it.’ She looked around nervously, her face tensing, ‘Do not make me repeat those words as even now the ravens stir Lord Squirrel is bound to pick up the vibrations.
Her words and expression were so sincere Devlin felt a quiver in his stomach as he glanced at the surrounding bushes and into the trees. Then I respect your wishes but will warn you and your mother are in grave danger. The woods are teeming with savages, both Picts and Saxons.
Forestyne gently washed the blood from the wolf’s ear. ‘Then heed my words; I will make sure we are not harmed.’
Devlin sucked in his breath. ‘And how pray, will you achieve that?’
She looked straight up into his eyes. ‘I shall make our little place invisible. They will neither see nor smell us.’ She rose to her knees, saying softly. ‘Barnel, roll over for me.’ To Devlin’s astonishment, the great wolf whined and rolled over, showing its wounded underbelly.
Devlin winced to see the darkening blood staining the soft white fur. Dipping a clean rag in a cauldron of water from which wafted a mixture of herbs, she gently began washing the wounds.
‘I am amazed he allows you to do that. Is he wild or —‘
‘None of my family of wolves is wild, sir; they are natural to their habitat. They kill only for food for their pack and for those people of the trees who are ill and cannot hunt.’
‘You mean they hunt for humans?’
‘Yes, of course. We have lived in harmony with the wolves for eons and thus ensuring our mutual survival.’
Devlin went a few paces to tether his horse and then came back to stand over her, watching as she deftly cleaned and then placed fragrant unguents on the wounds. ‘You certainly have a gift with these animals.
‘Why thank you, but may I correct you? We are all animals, and I am proud to be classed amongst the wolves.’
Devlin decided to humour her. ‘So be it. But my lady, I beg you to reflect upon your safety. ‘Sir, we are safe here, and if necessary, will make the place invisible. So pray, when will you be leaving?’
Devlin clenched his fists. Never had he met such a determined female. Was there no way of getting through to her besides flinging her across his horse? He took a deep breath.
‘I cannot leave you. You have not witnessed the savagery of the invaders. Nor will I go into detail on how you would suffer at their hands if they captured you. You are so beautiful, so fair of face and figure; you would be swept away in an instant, never to be seen again.’
‘So I would just chew on the henbane. I would die rather than be taken away from my forest home.’
He gritted his teeth, was there no way he could persuade her? Frustrated and angry, he snarled and, clutching her face, kissed her hard on the lips.
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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: