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 23 & 24
Adreva gasped and then clapped her hands. ‘The amulet, Moraig kept it all these years. It is powerful magic, my child, and has protected you all these years. Oh, that your blessed father could be with us, could see you. You are our first and only child. ‘
Forestyne cleared her throat, ‘For years, I believed Moraig to be my mother. T’was only some weeks, some days ago she revealed the truth of you. I always felt something was wrong, that—’ She choked, the tears tumbling down her cheeks’
Adreva leant over, taking her in her arms, ‘Moraig raised you well; I was forced to give you into her safekeeping. Vortigern slew many of the knights and ladies at the royal court, then … then killed your father. Vortigern knew not of you, for we hid you well, in a crypt no less. No-one would think of searching the tombs.’
‘Moraig told me my father’s name was Cadeyrn.’
‘Yes, our Welsh King Cadeyrn, of Llandmadoc and the lands for many miles around. We named you after the charming coastal land lands of Rhosilli, our beautiful lovely Rhoslyn, our daughter. He loved you so much, my darling and had great plans for you.’
Forestyne looked over to Devlin, ‘Mother, I don’t really know how to address you.’
‘Mama would sound heavenly coming from your precious lips. Just to think, after all these years, I hold my child in my arms. How I longed for you, Rhoslyn, all the days, the weeks, the years, you never left my mind or my heart.’
Forestyne frowned. ‘And Vortigern?’
‘He is kind to me. I did not, and could not love him. He came to realize that, but he has been good and kind to me except for his terrible jealousy. No knight may gaze upon me except to bid me a good day or good night. No man is allowed to talk with me.’
‘Have you any children?’
‘No, my love, I did not submit to him; I threatened him; I would take my life if he forced himself upon me. I bade him take a mistress for, until my dying day, I am wife to Cadeyrn, in life, and in death, there could be no other man for me. I lived only in the hope to see you again, to cuddle you and love you.’
‘Forestyne sobbed, holding her mother, whilst Devlin gulped, holding back his own tears.
As she tried to recover, tried to talk, Forestyne took Adreva’s hand, stroking the delicate fingers with tender love. ‘Mama, I have something to tell you.’
Adreva leant forward. ‘Take your time, sweetheart.’ She reached over and took off Forestyne’s wimple. ‘Let me stroke your hair, I oft have longed to do that, so many things I dreamt of, so many things I missed. But thank God I have you here now.’
Forestyne fumbled for the word. ‘Umm … Sir Devlin is my husband; we wed only five days ago, just before we traveled here.’
Adreva raised her hands in surprise, joy flooding her face. ‘Oh my darling, such news, I often dreamt of what your future husband would look like, and indeed you art fortunate, he is strong of mien and fair of face.’
Devlin’s heart raced as he came forward and knelt before her. ‘My Lady, I am forever in your debt for your grace. I am proud to be the husband of your daughter, Princess Rhoslyn. I will do all in my power to protect her.’
‘Hah, how I wish you could take your place beside her as King of Llanmadoc but alas tis now in Vortigern’s power.
Devlin took his sword from the scabbard and held it up before her. ‘Madam, my queen, I swear by the sword, in this chapel, this sacred abode, your daughter will take her rightful place on the throne of Llandmadoc. This is my undying vow.’
Adreva’s voice broke as she softly. ‘Pray God and the goddess, you sit beside her dear Sir Devlin, as her rightful husband and King.
Devlin smiled, so the Queen held to her pagan ways, which he knew would warm Forestyne’s heart.
Looking to Forestyne, Adreva said, ‘I know not how long we can talk here safely, so I will ask this, do you carry the power of the wolf?’
Forestyne’s eyes shone. ‘Yes, as a babe, I drank the milk of she-wolves. Moraig went through the initiation rites when I reached two and ten years.
Adreva smiled, patting her hand. ‘She kept her promise, for the blood of the wolves runs deep in our veins. See, the hounds are at ease with you. Normally, I would have to put my scent on you before they would allow you entrance. Oh my darling, how proud your father would be. I truly believe he is now looking down upon you from the Upper World.’ A strong breeze swept through the small chapel as outside wolves howled in unison.
Devlin felt the hair on his neck rise. Being brought up in a northern king’s court, he had little knowledge of the magic and wizardry of pagan gods. He looked over to Forestyne as she raised her head, literally sniffing the air; she had a wild soul; would she feel trapped living in a fortress?
Adreva sighed, ‘Ah, my daughter, if only we were free to roam with our kindred souls, to release our spirit of the wolf and race across the world.’
Forestyne nodded, ‘One day, Devlin will release you from this prison of cruelty, this prison of vice and lies. Together we can roam through forests, run through meadows of long grass and sweetly scented flowers, and delight in baying at a racing moon.’
Devlin laughed, ‘I doubt I could keep up with you gentle ladies even with my faithful destrier.’
Adreva beamed. ‘Tis a wolf thing –but we soon return to our human bodies.’ She paused, frowning. ‘But now to a matter of life and death. Vortigern must never know you are my daughter, the lost princess; you would be in mortal danger.’
Forestyne nodded. ‘I am known to the knights as Forestyne, so he will not connect me.
‘Good; at the banquet to be held this night, I shall not acknowledge you. As you are so beautiful, the King may well summon you to the High Table.’ She turned to Devlin. ‘You must make sure you do not leave her alone. The knights carouse long into the night, but linger not with them, for the King is so lascivious he will surely steal along to your bed chamber whilst you drink with your knights.
As Forestyne struggled, she felt the blood rise to her head, a rush of warmth in her stomach, heat surge to her thighs. Overcome with the strength of her desire, she melted against him.
Feeling her respond, he clasped the back of her head in his large hand as he kissed her tenderly; he heard her soft moan as she slumped against him. Lifting her easily, he strode to the trees, laying her down on green grass amongst the rainbow hues of wildflowers.
Her breath came fast and tight, as desire sizzled, tensing her muscles; was this magic? Was he casting a spell on her? Wrenching her head away from his captivating mouth, she gasped, ‘You have enchanted me.’
Groaning, he released her, laying his head on her panting breasts. ‘I want you, I cannot stop thinking of you; you invade my days and my dreams, when I awake when I dream tis always of you. Forgive me. My need is mighty, quarreling with my will.’
‘Then fight it, Sir Knight and release me, my mother lies sick – now tis, not the time or place. I cannot respond to your passion, not now, not yet.’ She stroked his rough waves of black hair, now soaking with desire. Sensing his hunger for her, she shifted beneath him. ‘Release me, Sir, release me.’
Gently, he lifted his weight from her and helped her to her feet.’
‘Let me love you Forestyne, I beg your tender heart to relent. I pray you to take away this pain, my love is so I can hardly bear it.’
‘Sir, just leave if you cannot rein in your craving. You are like a wild stallion. Have you no thought of my distress? Tis, not the time nor place. My dearest mother is not long for this world, even as I pray for her not to leave me.’
‘Forgive me, I am driven by such wild desire; it fills me with shame that I added to your sorrow. Pray, forgive me. But remember this, I will never leave you, sweet lady, how can I? You have imprisoned my heart to you for all eternity.’
Bowing, he strode away; he had to control his passions. Fiends teeth, he’d behaved like a rabid dog. He must think. Clearly, she was prey to the invaders’ brutality who could overrun this small clearing in minutes. He dare not leave her alone again. Somehow he must persuade her to flee with him.
Taking a deep breath, he fought to quell his longing before returning to her.
Determined to persuade her, he sat leaning against the side of the hut. He’d exhausted every idea. He felt a shadow fall across him, her sweet scent of lavender wafting over him. Looking up, he saw she held out a wooden cup. ‘Come, Sir, drink this; you have ridden hard throughout the night. This will help revive you.’ She did not add it would also deaden his lustful urges.
Not in the least suspicious of her intent, he gave a rueful smile and drank it down in one go. ‘Hmm, that tasted like honey.’
Satisfied, Forestyne offered her hand and helped him rise.
He managed a rueful smile as she led him to two wooden stools outside the modest hut.
‘Sir, pray tell me what of your friends and the two women?’
He grimaced. ‘Tis a long story, but in a few words, the ladies were abducted by marauding Picts. T’was rumoured the savages invaded some villages on the coast, but now it is evident they come further inland. Fortunately, Sir Ansgar and I came upon them in time and saved the ladies.’
‘Oh Sir Knight, how brave of you both.’ I saw you had the help of some fellow knights. The gods favoured you.’
Devlin took a step back. ‘You saw us? But how?’
‘Through my scrying bowl.’ She paused, t’was not wise to tell him more.
Devlin paused; here was an occasion where the pagan Gods showed their power using the old magic. Clearing his throat, he said, ‘Your wolves also fought bravely; the savages were terrified of them, especially as the wolves fought alongside us knights.’
‘Yes, indeed, methinks one saved your life.’ She looked up at him, holding his gaze.
Startled, Devlin took a step back as he looked at the fire in the depths of those dark eyes. His mind flashed back to the same fire in the eyes of the silver wolf. No, it wasn’t possible – never. He swallowed, denying his thoughts; he would be damned to hell if he believed for one moment this gentle maid was….
He felt a gentle touch on his arm. Heard her sweet voice, ‘but pray, where are Sir Ansgar and the ladies?’
Devlin frowned, shaking his head. ‘Alas, the ladies Tania and Clara escaped once again. I fear they believed I would take them to court to stand trial. But I had since changed my mind, especially as Sir Ansgar favours the lady, Clara. Yet unfortunately, I did not have time to tell them before they fled.
‘Oh dear Lord, now they are at the mercy of savages and wild animals. They know not how to talk to animals. May the Gods save them.’
Devlin was tempted to ask her to use her scrying bowl again, but the image of the silver wolf leapt to his mind. Was it she? Had Forestyne really seen his peril and materialized as the wolf? Was it her wolf tongue that healed his fatal wound, saved his life?
A Meeting of Hearts
‘I didn’t know forests were so huge. Not one village, not one damn cottage anywhere.’ Oh God, what are we going to do?’
Tania’s legs trembled with exhaustion, falling to her knees; she looked at her hands and arms, the blood seeping from so many cuts and scratches. The bushes were almost impenetrable, the thorns, scalpel-sharp ‘Damn – damn, we’re utterly lost.’ She peered through the gloom, the dawn light hardly penetrating the darkness of trees, barely a foot between their gnarled trunks. Whining, Lily came up and licked her wounds. Tania stroked her soft head, ‘Oh Lily, you poor – poor girl, we’re lost again, and you are starving. Dammit, it all to hell.’
Clara pushed through winter bronze ferns, ‘I can hear running water; there’s a stream or something nearby. There’s bound to be a cottage or a farm. I mean, people do build their homes by water.’ Groaning, Tania got to her feet. ‘I’m parched; my throat is so dry.’ Grumbling, she rose to her feet to hear Clara scream.
‘Run – run.’
Tani took a few paces forward. ‘What’s the matter?’
She saw a huge shape lurching towards her. It took a few seconds to recognize it. ‘God, a bear, a bear.’ Crying out, she ran after Clara, ‘climb Clari, climb.’
Clara dashed to an ancient oak, with a huge cavity in its knotted trunk. Scrambling up, she reached for the lower branch hauling herself up with Tania close behind. Panting, she stretched to a higher one.
Tania looked down to see they were still near to the ground. The bear was almost upon them. She took a breath and jumped for her life to a branch above. The vicious claws of the bear barely missed her legs. She felt her fingers clutch the narrower boughs only for them to break off in her hands. Screaming, she fell backward, but Clara clutched her arm and clung on for sheer life.
Scrabbling for a foothold, Tania clambered up again, gasping for breath. Terrified, they looked down into the open jaws of the bear. It roared as it grabbed the lower branches, trying to shake them loose. To Tania’s horror, she saw Lily snarling and biting at the bear’s feet.
‘Lily – Lily – go.’
She knew it was useless; Lily never listened to a word she said, never had, she had a mind of her own, and Tania had allowed her to have her own way.
The bear stopped for a moment swiping at the dog, but Lily jumped nimbly out of the way before going into the attack again.
Tania looked down. ‘We’re only a foot above him.’ For God’s sake Lily,’ she shrieked, ‘Go – go away.’
‘Do bears climb trees?’ Clara gasped.’
‘I don’t know.’ Tani watched wide-eyed, praying they were high enough, as the bear clutched the trunk of the trees, scratching and leaping.
Clinging onto branches growing lower down from the vast trunk, they stopped to catch their breath.
Tania panted, ‘It can’t reach us from here.’
‘I’ve never heard of bears in a forest, at least not in England. Maybe it’s escaped from a zoo.’
‘Or stupid people who secretly bring them into the country. God, have they no sense.’
Huddled together clinging to the branch, they watched as Lily snapped at the bear. Tania screamed as it swiped at her brave dog, sending her flying, howling.
‘Oh no, please God no.’ To her relief, she saw Lily struggle to her feet. ‘Lily stay – sit – sit.’ To her horror, Lily went for the kill again. Tania sobbed, her brave little girl, her brave white retriever, please God, Lily, just run away. Tania vowed if they ever got home, she would have Lily trained. She’d never wanted to train her; she believed she should have as much freedom of choice as possible. She was a being, a dog who should be in the wild, a respected member of her pack. It was only humans that enslaved them. But now Tania was paying for her beliefs, she couldn’t save Lily’s life.
The bear roared up at them, beating the trunk. Standing on its feet, it must have been over twelve feet tall. They were only two feet away from its claws.
‘Clari, we’ve got to climb higher.’
‘I can’t. I’ve never climbed a tree.’
‘You’ve got to.’
‘I don’t know, Tani.’
‘Come on, we’ve got to climb higher.’
‘It’s so angry.’
‘Maybe it‘s protecting its cubs, you never know.’
Clara looked up at the branches above. ‘What if I fall, I’ve had it.’
Tani nodded. ‘Maybe we should stay where we are.’
‘‘Let’s hope it gets hungry and goes away.’
‘It will come back.’
They looked down to see the bear pacing, then reaching for the lower branches and shaking them.
‘Thank God it’s an oak tree; it can’t push this one over.’
Mutely, they looked down, wondering how on earth they were going to escape. Tears rolled down Clara‘s face, ‘I just don’t know what’s happening; since we went down into the cellar, it’s been one nightmare. Re-enactment groups gone mad. People running around with painted blue bodies, bloody naked. Then knights charging around in armour. I haven’t seen one normal person since we found ourselves in the pond.
Tania touched her arm. ‘Look, it’s shaking its head, gone down on all fours. It’s turning away.’ She prayed Lily would give up attacking and stay.
‘Maybe it’s got bored, knows it can’t reach us.’
‘Let’s wait a little while to see it if it’s really gone.’ She shouted down to Lily, to be still. To her surprise, Lily obeyed, for once. Maybe she realized the bear had gone quiet, and perhaps it was no longer a threat to Tania or Clara. She would guard anyone Tania loved.
Clara nodded. ‘Okay, let’s start praying.’
They remained still and mute for some minutes until, to their relief, the bear went on all fours and lumbered away. ‘Whew, thank God, it’s gone – gone.’
Tani looked around. ‘It’s really gone. I’ve got to get down to Lily. I can’t leave her alone down there.’
Clary shook her head. ‘I’d wait; it might be a female, maybe she’s gone to see if her cub is alright or something.’
‘No, come on, we’ve got to go now and run.’
‘I’m too scared to do that.’
‘You’ve got to Clari; otherwise, we could be stuck up here all day, all night.’
Clara nodded, breathing hard. ‘Okay, let’s do it.’
They crouched on the branch, listening intently, but for the hoot of an owl, the warbling of the wood pigeons, and the trill of the dawn birds, the forest remained silent.
Tania whispered, ‘It’s gone, you know, really gone.’
Clara nodded. ‘Okay, let’s do it.’
‘Now.’ Tania urged. ‘Come on – now.’ Tania took a deep breath and carefully put her foot down to the lower branch whilst clinging onto the one above. Feeling her heart thud, her foot reached to the lower branch to the ground when a fearsome growl split the air. Screaming, Tania clambered back up, ripping skin from her calves.
Desperately, they scrambled up to the perch and looked down into the small angry eyes of the bear.
Sobbing, they huddled together as the bear reached up, shaking the branches just below them, then roared as a spear flew towards her, bouncing off her shoulder.
Tania gasped, ‘Look, Clari, look.’ – knights.’
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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: