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 27 & 28
A Hidden Bower
She gritted her teeth as Gary led her through a coppice of silver birch trees, their slender lower boughs laced in luminescent leaves of the palest green. Tania paused, noting their utter delicacy as they appeared to float above the bed of the forest.
Taking off his cloak, Gary laid it over the grass. ‘Come sit with me.’
Snapping to attention, Tania glared at him. ‘Who was that guy you were arguing with?’
‘Him? Lord Hunstead, son of the Earl of Westington. I am escorting him to the Court of King Vortigern.’
‘Oh, for goodness sake, Gary, stop this and talk sense. You left me without a word – six months. Why – why? You broke my heart.’
Reaching for her, he tried to enfold her in his arms, but she sprung back, pushing him away. ‘Just talk – okay?’
He nodded. ‘Tani’ I got stuck in a time portal. It happened so—’
‘Time portal?’ she lifted her eyes up to her forehead, ‘come off it, Gary. Don’t play games with me – how dare you.’
‘Tani, if you remember, I went to the cottage to measure up; we had a lot of renovating to do. So anyway, I decided I might as well check out the foundations first. I thought maybe we needed to fortify them before starting on the cottage itself.’
She bit her lip as he paused but said nothing.
‘Well, there were a lot more cellars than I thought. They were full of old carved chests, ancient armour, and weaponry. It was fascinating, but then strange things started happening, the walls changed in height, the arches suddenly grew smaller, it was weird. I thought maybe it was the light, it was so murky down there, or maybe I’d got mixed up with them.’
Tania leant forward and clutched his hand. ‘It happened to us, too – go on.’
‘Anyway, I suddenly discovered what could have been the foundations of an old castle. I remembered the old stone wall by the pond, so I investigated and found they matched.
She frowned. ‘Tegwen never said anything about that.’
‘I know, but anyway, I went and got a spade and dug deep. I found traces of petrified wood planking about a foot down, leading to the cellars. They looked like the remains of an old wooden building.’
‘We didn’t see that, but I’m interrupting; carry on.’ Tania shivered; it was frightening; icicles crept over her skin.
‘I realized the old well was part of the cellar and the foundations. In fact, that well was part of an old privy, centuries old. It was as if stone walls were built on top of a great wooden hall or a fort, in a wood going back through time.’
‘So it was ancient – the dark ages?’ Tania frowned. ‘No, it couldn’t; the cottage was a few hundred years old, but not that kind of time.’
‘Could be, you know, maybe there’s always been a building there.’
’Hmm, it was a bit different for us. So what happened?’
‘I opted to check it out and discovered tunnels again.’ He paused.
Tania stiffened, ‘Oh my God you—’
‘I opened a small door to another tunnel when a gush of water slammed at me, and it all went black. I must have passed out or nearly drowned. I don’t know.’
‘That’s what happened to us.’
‘Really?’ He grimaced. ‘The next thing I knew, I was drowning. I heaved myself to the surface and kicked out swimming for the bank. I realized I was in the pond. But it was all changed; the trees, the bushes, were different; the water was so clear, there was no scum or moss on the surface. I just didn’t recognize where I was. Anyway, I managed to get out. I looked around for the cottage, but couldn’t find it. I doubled back and walked the other way, thinking I would get to the village, but it just didn’t exist, just this dense forest.’
Tania choked and grabbed him by the shoulders, laying her head on his chest. ‘Oh, Gary – Gary.’
He gripped her hand. ‘I was bloody petrified – thought I’d gone mad or was in some nightmare. After following this track for about half an hour, I met up with some people. I thought I’d wandered in on some film set. People were dressed in peasant clothes. You know, woolen tunics, barefooted with wild hair. I tried to talk to this guy, but he just spoke a load of gibberish.’
Tania gritted her teeth. ‘We thought it was a re-enactment camp. Anyway, go on.’
‘Where was I? Yeah, this guy, I told him I was serious. Pleaded with him to talk sense, but he kept on speaking garbage; I thought he was bloody rude or baiting me. So, I just lost it – punched him. He landed on his back, and I was just about to jump on him when the others grabbed my arms, and then they all started gabbling rubbish. Then they all backed away, and it was then I realized they were petrified of me. A couple of them pointed to my clothes.’ He paused, ‘Look, I’m doing all the talking here. What happened to you?’
She paused and bit her lip. Why didn’t Gary tell her he loved her? She wanted him to hold her close, kiss her, tell her he’d missed her. Where was his love, his passion? Tania lowered her eyes; maybe he needed just to tell her all that happened, before – before he showed her love – remorse. ‘No, carry on, then I’ll tell you what happened to us.’
He rose and paced the ground, his expression grim. Seeing the roots of an old birch straggling the path, he picked at it with his boot. ‘I couldn’t make any sense of them, so I thought maybe they were Danes or Swedes come over here to shoot a film. So I just left and followed the track. Anyway, I came across an old shack. I was surprised to see chickens and an old black pig snuffling around. I didn’t realize it was a boar then.’
‘Boars? I haven’t seen them, thank God.’
‘I thought maybe it was a woodsman’s hut. There wasn’t a door, just a piece of sackcloth strung across. I called out, and an old guy came out with his wife hiding behind him. But they were also dressed up as peasants, so I thought maybe the film set was strung out over the forest.
‘Oh, God, you must have felt terrible.’
‘Yeah, but I also thought I was hallucinating. There was no other explanation. The whole place had changed, no cottages, villages, farms, just this dense forest. Then I heard the wolves howling.’
By now, Tania felt the tears brimming; she’d misjudged him. Maybe he was telling the truth. This wasn’t real, but she reached out to him and held his hand, only for him to take it away.
Feeling hurt, she moved back some paces. ‘It was almost the same for us. We met people right away, but they thought we were witches. They didn’t understand us either.’ She told him of their capture and the viciousness of the Picts. She described the beheadings and how they believed the re-enactment group was a vicious cult.
As she finished, her whole body trembled. ‘We still haven’t found a village or even a farm or met anyone who’s not acting out. The cult seems to have taken over the whole forest. It’s been terrifying. You’re the first normal person we’ve met. Oh, Gary, I need to go home.’
Gary shook his head. ‘Tania, you’ve got to brace yourself. There’s no re-enactment, no film set, no actors; this is for real. We’ve gone back in time.’
Tani jumped to her feet. ‘No, oh please, God, no.’
‘Yes, Tania, face it. This is real. You – me, the knights. The wolves, boars, and the bears live wild in the forest.’
Tania froze as she stood, clenching her hands, her voice trembling. ‘I can’t believe it. It’s impossible. Oh my God, you’re mad, Gary, you’re mad. Or I am.’
The Silver Grey
Devlin looked on, amazed as the huge silver grey leapt past him with the wolves following. Fear roared through his veins. God in heaven, she was the silver-grey who saved his life. Clenching his teeth, he let forth a mighty roar and sprinted after them, his sword swinging from left to right as he cleaved the Picts heads from their blue-painted bodies. Covered in blood, he wiped his forehead to see the wolves leaping ahead, ripping out throats, tearing flesh from limbs, as the fleeing Picts tried to escape. Seeing the huge silver-grey shaking the body of a Pict in her treacherous jaws, Devlin gritted his teeth as an arc of bloodshot across his face. Yelling, he raced forward, as two Picts crept behind her, their axes swinging high. Hearing his cry, she turned around, taking off the arm of one of her assailants in one tearing chomp of her jaws. Another attacker fell back writhing on the ground, his leg hanging by bloodied sinews. Advancing, with sword aloft, Devlin saw another pack of wolves emerge from the trees, plunging into the midst of the shrieking savages, biting and tearing amidst the agonized screams of their victims.
Except for the groans of dying attackers the forest returned to silence. Invigorated but still shocked, Devlin stood stock still as the big grey loped towards him and, bending its mighty head, nudged his waist affectionately. Another two stood to one side, pawing the ground whilst the rest of the pack disappeared into the trees.
Frenzied thoughts reeled through his head as Devlin bent to stroke the silver fur. What in hell’s name happened there? His heart hammered as the fur crackled beneath his touch. The wolf’s body shimmered, stretching, narrowing, changing, the fur melting, as the young lissom body of Forestyne appeared. He stepped back as her sweet voice issued forth. ‘Devlin, I never intend for you to witness this. But we were all in danger, and I would not allow them to desecrate the body of my beloved mother.’
He nodded, horror entrenched in his face. ‘I hope to wake up from this to realize it is a nightmare.’
‘Nay, you saw true Devlin. I understand if you wish to depart henceforth and never return.’
He bared his own teeth. ‘And just how do I do that when I am in love with you? When I wish to make you my wife? I intended to take you to the royal court, but now I fear I love a demon.’
She bowed her head, biting her lip; with small white teeth. ‘I cannot change Devlin. If anyone threatens my loved ones, I am compelled to take on one of my souls – the wolf.’
He looked at her with a piercing gaze. ‘And pray, what are the other souls?’
‘I have no wish to answer that; like enough, your human mind can only accept the wolf.’
‘So now we must dispose of the bodies of the Picts?’
She lifted her chin, ‘They are the captured prey of the wolves. We must leave.’
Devlin swept over the battleground to see the wolves tearing at the bodies and shook his head. How could he ignore the bestial side of this woman? Indeed he’d heard of demon lovers but put that down to pure fantasy. Now it was his living hell, his reality. He cringed at her words, knowing full well the wolves would devour their enemies. He heard a soft sob and turned to see her standing with head lowered.
‘My lord, I am all that you see and have seen; I understand if you can no longer wish to touch me, that your love died here in the jaws of the wolf.’
‘Forestyne, they say love conquers all, and maybe it will now be tested. I need time.’
She nodded. ‘I understand. Every time you kiss me, you will feel my fangs; as you stroke my skin, you will feel the fur. Pray leave us now, for it breaks my heart to see your rejection.’
He took a breath, gazing at her standing before him; her head hung low, her sweet face laced in misery. As the tears sparkled on her soft cheeks, he muttered, ‘Please don’t, don’t. I cannot bear to see the tears of a woman. It tears at my heart, especially one whom I do so love with all my heart.’
‘You mean loved.’
‘Nay, love does not die in an instant. My head says I should reject you here and now, that I should despise the savagery of the wolf within you, but my heart will not listen; it sobs for you, for the love I yearned for.’
‘You say yearned as if it is in the past.’
‘Nay, just give me time, Forestyne – I need time.’
‘Love does not know time Devlin, feelings cannot be timed; there is no appointed time for true love.’ She paused, looking beyond him. He swung around to see Drustan and Bricius retreat silently through the trees. Delvin frowned; he could not comprehend how two such men, one crippled with age and the other with malformed bones, could turn into such lithe, treacherous wolves.
He turned to see Forestyne enter the hut. How did she cross such a distance? Indeed more and more, he saw the magic of this maid, one he thought to be a delicate sprite, now an angel and demon in one. He wished Ansgar was here; he longed to hear his dry remarks, his devotion to the ancient gods. He needed reassurance. What was clear was he could no longer question or chafe against the existence of the pagan gods of the tree people or his own Christian God brought to these isles from Rome.
Swiftly he covered the distance to the hut, and, pushing aside the sackcloth, went to Forestyne’s side. For now, he must centre his thoughts on the dying sorceress. ‘How could she sleep through such a furious battle?’
Forestyne didn’t look at him as she answered in low soft tones. ‘Tis the mandrake and the henbane, they ensure she will have peace and be unaware of what is going on around her. If we lost the battle, the ravens would have taken her soul to the Upper World.’
‘But what of her body?’
‘Her body is ever one with the trees; she would melt into them, feeding nature.’
Devlin shivered; he far preferred St. Peter welcoming him through the golden gates of heaven. He frowned, was there a choice? He decided to spend more time praying and contemplating the Blessed Virgin. Maybe she would appear to him and his fellow knights as they went into battle against the Angles, Saxons, and the Picts.
Forestyne sighed, breaking through his thoughts. ‘We must not disturb her journey of dreams. ‘Come, let us walk awhile through the fields; sadly, the forest is no longer a haven of peace.’
Taking his hand, she led him down a path bestrewn with the gold-red leaves of winter. Walking through a meadow of wild scented flowers, she murmured, ‘Let us rest and enjoy the sun, for full winter will soon be upon us.
Devlin nodded, and taking off his cape, laid it on the grasses. As he turned, he looked up to see spiraling silver lights on her golden hair, the slenderness of her figure with the high lifted breasts. He felt he would drown in such loveliness. At that moment, he realized he still loved her, with even more passion. It was not lust for her body but longing for her soul. Even though he witnessed the animal in her, the wolf’s fierce devotion to those it loved, he loved her. Even more so, as he tried to grasp the depth of this woman, tried to accept the savage soul abiding within such a tender one. A thought, a reasoning exploded in his mind, would he not kill for his beloved? Maybe not with fangs, but with a sword? The idea surprised and settled his mind. Yes, they were two warriors, one a female silver-grey wolf with fangs, he an avenging knight clothed in a black cape carrying a lethal sword.
As she lay down beside him on the cloak, he murmured. ‘I am in love with you, Forestyne, mind, body, and soul.’
She said nothing but gripped his hand.
Encouraged, he said, ‘let me show you, my love, no holding back. Indeed the revelation aroused the deepest feelings within me. You have forced me to search for my soul, to accept my heart, which does not listen to reason. Forestyne, if in your wolf form you were injured, I would nurture you back to health, praying you would not leave me, that you would not die. So I know now I love all facets of you. Woman and wolf, for in my eyes, you are one whole woman, the woman I love.’
He heard a quiet sob and felt her soft lips on his. Kissing him gently, she murmured. ‘Then I am yours, my love, yours for eternity.’
As he held her close, the very thought of this tender maiden with the skin of silk and the savagery of the wolf aroused him to the torturing heights. He needed to taste her mouth, dive deep into her barbaric depths, to release his torturing needs; to accept and love the wild beast within this gentle maiden.
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: