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 31 & 32
Love of a Mother
‘My lady, I am at your service. Devlin bowed and walked over to Moraig, snatched from the Eternal Shadow of Death. Amazed at her recovery, he helped her rise from the ledge. She now stood straight and tall, her body plump, her cheeks glowing, her dark hair a mass of waves and curls.
Smiling, she said, ‘I am aware you’re pledged to each other, t’was your destiny.’
Walking over to a carved wooden chest, she took out a velvet bag. Opening it, she handed Forestyne a chain of gold from which hung a faceted ruby. ‘Wear this always, next to your skin. Whenever you need me, dearest, just touch this stone; tis my link with you. I will come to you if you are in need. Remember, the bracelet of runes is embedded in your flesh. Through them, you are linked to the power of the Gods and goddesses. Call them if you have need.’
Forestyne bowed her head, the tears tumbling down her cheeks. ’But I don’t wish to leave here. I am a girl of the forest, I could not live anywhere else, I need the forest, the trees, the grass, the birds, the—’
‘Worry not, dearest, you will have the forest, Sir Devlin will see to that, be patient. Go join the Knights on their journey to the court of Vortigern. There this good knight will take you to your mother, the Princess Adreva. You are the image of her sweetheart. She will recognize you immediately, especially as she sees the ruby your wear around your neck and the bracelet embedded in your wrist.
Now to clothes, you cannot go wearing your course woolen tunics. Pray, go you to the chest, and bring forth the clothes.
Forestyne’s eyes widened as she saw the costly linen robes and surcoats of delicate wool. ‘These are too fine for me to wear. I would be frightened of tearing them; they are so delicate.
Moraig smiled, ‘Nay, they are strong enough.’ Turning to Devlin and the men, she said, ‘Do you go now and wait outside whilst Florestyne dons her new apparel.’
Devlin’s heart swelled with pride as Forestyne emerged from the hut. Her beauty was enhanced in a pale leaf green gown and gold surcoat, whilst a wimple of white voile, with a circlet of golden leaves, covered her head. Over her arm, she carried a woven wool cloak edged with fur.
She dimpled, twirling around for him to see her in such finery, then handed him the cloak to put around her shoulders. He grinned as he closed the beautiful gold clasp. ‘Methinks, you will be a singular jewel at the court, my lady.’
Re-entering the hut, he found Moraig wearing a modest linen gown with a white wimple caught in a silver cord around her head. She beckoned for him to come forward. ‘Dear Sir Knight, I beg you, take care of my beloved child; she is now under your protection.’
‘Madame, methinks tis Forestyne who will be my protector.’
Moraig laughed, a rosy flush in her cheeks. ‘Aye, the wolves will never be far away. Now go both of you and take care.’
Forestyne kissed her on her forehead and then each cheek. ‘I go knowing that dear Drustan and Bricius will watch over you. But never fear I’ll return soon.’
Moraig smiled, hiding the fear within her heart. There were dangerous times ahead.
Shadows gathered over the path, dimming the scarlet blood of the leaves as they set out. Devlin turned to her, ‘Dearest wife, we should not loiter on this path; I am sure the Picts will attack again if they see us. So let us ride hard and join our friends; only then are we safe.
Within hours, Devlin and Forestyne joined the cavalcade of knights, ladies, squires, soldiers, henchmen, monks, and cooks on the long trek to the fort.
Forestyne’s mouth dried. ‘Oh Devlin, there are so many; I am not used to large groups; I feel fear rising.’
‘Be calm; these are my friends and seek only to protect you.’
‘You say that, but have the two women told them I am a sorceress? Surely the good Christian knights would slay me?’
‘Nay, the two women, can barely speak our tongue; besides, they spent their time running away, twice no less.’
‘Yes, but you can only surmise.’
‘My love, there are those amongst us who only a few short years ago bowed to sorcery. I would not be surprised if some of them, ladies as well, still pray to the pagan gods, so never fear; besides, I would kill the first one to threaten you.’
‘Strong talk Sir, but you will not be with me all the time; an enemy would bide his time and strike when you are away from me. I could easily kill any attacker, but then I would have to flee to the depths of the forests; if I stayed, they would burn me as a witch for having such strength.’ ’
‘Darling, quell your fears. I will spread the word on pain of death no-one will touch or threaten you. Suffice to say no-one crosses the Black Knight, lest they wish to suffer a torturous death. I am sure the two women would not give you away.
Forestyne espied Tania with a knight at her side, his hair flickering with gold metallic lights under the gibbous moon, but the girl frowned and turned away.
Unaware of Forestyne’s friendly intent, Tania looked up at Gary, whispering, ‘that’s the girl from the forest. She’s done some strange things; honestly, I’m terrified of her.’
‘Oh well, she was mixing noxious herbs and singing to them. Treating them like they were alive, then dancing around a fire whilst her mother lay dying.’
Gary smiled. ‘She was most likely casting spells to bring her mother back from the dead. These people believe that nature is alive, even the soil beneath our feet has consciousness, as it is made up of dead leaves, rotting trees, and all that.’
‘Well, they are mad, she’s mad. Honestly, at one point, I thought she was changing into a wolf. She has a pack of them lying around the hut, and she was—’
‘Talking to them?’
‘Yeah, how do you know?’
‘Really Tani, be careful, if she was doing that, then she really is a witch or a sorceress – one powerful lady. Tread carefully, ‘
‘Oh, come on, Gary. Now you’re talking rubbish.’
Believe me, Tani; I’ve seen some strange things since I’ve been here. Once, I could have sworn, I saw a woman change into a wolf, but I was drunk at the time.’ His eyes narrowed. ‘What else did you see?’
‘Nothing much; we were too busy planning our escape.’
‘Well, be careful. I see she’s with the Black Knight, and they seem mighty friendly. So don’t cross him; he may look harmless but believe me, he’ll behead you as soon as look at you.’
‘Oh, that’s gross, Gary. He’s a knight. I read knights championed women, protected them.’
‘Yes, as knights, they were lovers to the wives of the king or Chieftain. But even so, if the woman took another lover as well as him, then it was ….’ He drew his hand across his throat.
Tani laughed. ‘You’re kidding.’
‘I am not; look, I’ve already told you, they kill a woman if they think she’d been unfaithful. She may be only his lover, but to him, that is an immense duty. He will die to protect her, fight duels over her, give up his life for her, so he demands absolute faithfulness. Lover, he may be, but he has tremendous powers over her. I told you how the kings behave. The other week, the king of Somerset kidnapped the wife of the King of Thanet. As he was taking her back to his fort, the King sent his knights to bring her back. ‘Well, they found her, but she refused to go back him, so one of the knights calmly stepped forward and beheaded her.’
‘Oh my God, that poor woman. Didn’t anyone try to stop him?’
‘Of course not, they wouldn’t want their own heads chopped off, would they?’
‘What about the King, wouldn’t he want to kill the man who beheaded his wife?’
‘No, she’d shamed him by refusing to go back to him. He would have been seen as a coward if he took her back.’
‘This is a strange savage world, Gary. I can’t see how a girl like her would want to be friends with us. We are too different. ‘
‘‘Darling, she’s a maiden of the forest. She is most probably afraid of you. Don’t forget the people of the Whispering Trees live in another world to us.
Tani looked over. ‘You see, she’s turned her back on me. Besides, we don’t speak the same language even. Look, I’ll be friendly, okay, but it’s going to take time.’
They would stop of an evening and make camp. The tents were of heavy canvas supported by poles for the knights and their ladies, whilst the rest of the caravan made do with tarpaulin hefted over branches. Soon fires were lit, and the hunted prey of the day roasting on spits over open fires. As the men jostled, played chess, or cleaned their weapons, Tania and Clara grew closer to the maid of the forest. Eventually, of an evening, she instructed them in the ancient Brythonic tongue and Latin.
On reaching the sturdily constructed wooden forts on the way, Forestyne would follow Devlin through surrounding hamlets to markets crowded with peasants, soldiers, and the occasional Knight. Stallholders called out their wares, whilst people bartered, shouting even louder. The air was rich with the aromas of roasted game, meat pies, and freshly baked bread, some with added exotic spices.’
‘My love, those pies smell delicious. Would you care for something?’ he knew she would not eat meat, but he may tempt her with some bread for fruit.
‘Oh yes, some of that fresh bread with herbs. I’m starving.’ Her stomach rumbled; the food on the journey consisted of any game the soldiers hunted, dried salted fish, or stale bread.
Seated in front of Gary on his huge destrier, Tania exclaimed, ‘Honestly, it smells heavenly, my mouth is watering. Look over there. I didn’t realize they sold pies and cooked meats. Gosh, they look like sausages on that tray.’
‘Oh yes, they’re called Lucanian. The Romans loved them. The soldiers refused to travel without their bottles of fish sauce and those sausages. ’
‘So what’s in them?’
‘Umm – blood, meat, berries, herbs, spices.’
‘Wow, they smell delicious. Honestly, they’re like our takeaways but even tastier.’
‘Yes, the Romans are renowned for buying fresh bread, ready-made meat pies, and roasted meats. I’m really surprised. Seems we haven’t changed much, have we? Sausages – takeaways.’ She turned beaming at Forestyne riding behind them. They were now fast becoming good friends. On the long trek to the fort, the train of knights and their parties would stop of an evening and make camp.
Forestyne’s eyes closed in ecstasy as she crunched down on the aromatic bread. It tasted heavenly even though it was brown and coarse, with poorly ground wheat and barley grains.
Wiping his chin free of gravy, Devlin looked up at the huge fort towering above them. ‘I hope they provide fresh straw for our beds.’
‘I’ve heard that most beds in forts are infested, full of people’s leavings, mice, and even rats. Ugh, I shall sleep on my cloak on the floor. Forestyne shivered at the very thought of the filthy piles of straw and pallets.
‘Nay.’ Devlin laughed. ‘I will ensure you sleep on fresh straw and fur rugs, my sweet, never fear.’
After weaving through a milieu of peasant huts and tents for knights and soldiers, Forestyne exclaimed, ‘By the goddess, I never thought the fort to be so splendid.’ Even Devlin’s description did not prepare her for such grandeur. The horses had to climb up three levels of palisade fencing. Every few yards, two sentries wearing iron helmets, chainmail coifs, and thigh length haubergeons stood on guard holding spears, with a large bow and quiver full of arrows slung across their shoulders.
She murmured to Devlin, riding by her side. ‘They seemed prepared to do battle.’
‘Yea, they are always on guard; the Picts didn’t waste any time after the last Roman outpost to leave our land. They’ve come in their thousands to conquer and rule, but never fear, we now have four thousand knights and foot soldiers in the garrison.
Entering the fort itself, some ladies appeared beautifully apparelled. On seeing Clara’s rainbow-coloured hair, they gave little shrieks of horror, hissing the word ‘maleficus,’ which Tania understood as ‘witch.’ But, a mature lady, spoke loudly, ‘attendite ad me.’ Immediately, they hushed, lowering their eyes, as she stepped forward, gracefully curtseyed, and introduced herself as the Lady Althea. ‘I am here to help you ladies befit the gaze of our king.’
Tania spoke hurriedly to Gary. ‘Lily, will you take care of her?’
He nodded, taking the long rein of the dog. ‘Fear not, Lily is safe with me. Many of the ladies of the court have pets, some even exotic.’
Biting her lip, Forestyne turned to Devlin, who gave an encouraging wave. ‘Go, my sweet; they will tend to your needs.’
The ladies showed them into a long narrow room heated by a central fire of logs, the smoke escaping through a small aperture in the roof. The windows were non-existent except for narrow arrow slits.
Forestyne was thrilled with the luxury of a hot tub lined with coarse linen. At the other end of the room, she heard Tania protesting but was too far away to hear her words. If it continued, she would have to get out of the tub and go and translate, but luckily, Tania grudgingly joined her and Clara. Forestyne felt her body tense as the ladies, on seeing Clara’s tattoos on her forearm, stepped back crying out, ‘magicae – magicae.’
This time the Lady Althea frowned and crossed herself, ordering one of the ladies to send for Devlin.
Before his arrival, the ladies threw large linen towels over the three girls to protect their modesty.
Within minutes Devlin appeared, listening carefully to the Lady Althea’s fears. Nodding, he pursed his lips, ‘My lady, I apologize if this has upset you. These words are not for a lady’s eyes or delicate nature. Sadly, this young girl was captured by the Picts and held down by force whilst they destroyed her soul, tattooing those maleficent words on her tender flesh.’
‘Hah, Sir Knight, we must save the girl.’ She leant forward, her full breasts pushing against the low neck of her gown; indeed, he caught a glimpse of the violet aureoles and rosy tips of the nipples. Such was the way of the Court. Her jade eyes roamed over his lips, down to his groin. He straightened up, hoping his wilful rod did not respond. It appeared the lady had other ideas than saving Clara’s soul. The pink tip of her tongue appeared moistening her full bottom lip. With her back to the ladies, she fluttered graceful fingers down the low bodice, as if to tickle her nipple, her lips curled in an enticing smile. Now deeply in love with Forestyne, he cursed inwardly; his rod was misbehaving. He shifted in his chair and placed his chainmail mitts in his lap while fully aware of his discomfort. Lady Althea gazed at him, a whimsical look in her jade eyes.
‘Err … yes, my lady tis my earnest desire to save her, for my new young wife loves her dearly.
Taunting him, she pushed her hips back, her bosoms almost falling out. ‘Hah, but Sir, I do have need of your advice in the privacy of my chamber, tis not for the tender ears of the ladies.’
‘My apologies, dear lady, but the King and his Council await me. There is an erstwhile lord threatening battle.’ He wanted to turn away, to cut her flirtation short. She was both irritating and too seductive for any red-blooded man, not to be affected with her sexual wiles. But, she was the King’s favourite mistress; he dare not cross her now he had Forestyne to protect.
She bowed her graceful head, not at all disconcerted. ‘Your lance is strong, your thrust to the point Sir Knight., I am sure you will be swift to serve.’
‘Err – yes, my lady.’ This woman was trouble, a man-trap.
She arched her delicate eyebrows. ‘Perhaps another time. But now, we must save the girl’s eternal soul. I shall call our healer monk; he will cut the offensive images from her tender flesh.’
The Amorous Lady
Forestyne cringed hearing the sultry tones in Lady Althea’s voice. Of course, Devlin was a great warrior, strong with the lance, his powerful thrust and accurate aim unerring. He never failed to score. Fortunately, she did not understand the true meaning of Lady Althea’s words. Yet the lady’s flirtatious manner was enough to raise the wolf in her. Breathing deeply, she battled down the urge. T’was clear Lady Althea had a passion for Devlin. But she saw, he did not succumb to her charms, freely offered. The lady was truly blatant in her desire for her handsome young husband. To quell her anger, she cast her thoughts on Clara’s dilemma. Although a strange girl in her manner and appearance, she’d warmed to her innocent heart and sweet nature.
Yet, Forestyne feared for Clara, for there was no way to obliterate the runes; besides, they were revered in her own pagan world. Yet if Clara chose to remain with the Christian world, she would take action. Moraig and the Tree people would dissolve the runes, as only a powerful Sorcerer or Shaman could achieve that and then be at great danger to Clara’s body and soul.
Devlin was glad to leave and also startled that he felt such fierce loyalty to his new wife. There was only one woman for him, and that was his sweet girl of the forest, well sweet enough until she turned wolf. He winked at Forestyne, messaging not to worry; all would be well. She felt his strength pour through her, for she relied on his prowess in the Christian world. Sighing, wishing she were with him, she lay back relaxing fully, inhaling the steam scented with rosemary and lavender, taking delight in the ladies gently washing and massaging her scalp and long locks. She looked over to see a group of other courtly ladies fussing over a chest full of clothes arguing as to what would suit their guests. Although Tania tried to keep her own clothes, they would not hear of it, looking at her scandalized. As they didn’t understand her, they glared, putting their fists on their hips to show their disfavour until Tania was obliged to concede. ‘
Clara spoke up again when they showed her the wimple she would wear. She refused, shaking her head furiously, but Lady Althea hissed. ‘Rex – eratus.’ She then drew her fingers over her neck, mimicking her throat being cut, speaking savagely, ‘occidere – sanguinem.’
Forestyne did not have to translate, for Clara understood the first two words, ‘King – angry.’ The other two words were explained in the lady’s example of her throat being slit. Gritting her teeth, she gave in.
Brimming with impatience, Forestyne wondered when Devlin would introduce her to her birth mother. Her heart pounded at the very thought of meeting the Lady Adreva. Would she recognize her, would she accept her as her daughter? Pray God the gem would help identify her.
Forestyne found Devlin waiting for her outside the dressing room. His eyes lit up as he appraised her slender form, the pale blue silk of her gown edged with semiprecious gems, clinging to her slender curves, the rise and fall of her plump breasts. A silk wimple covered her glorious hair, but that was court dress, so they had to abide by it. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a long narrow case. ‘Here, my love. I wish for you to wear these, they will enhance your dazzling beauty.
Forestyne opened the case to see a heavy chain necklace of gold with glittering cabochons on either side of a dazzling sapphire. ‘Oh Devlin, I can’t, I might break it – lose it.’
‘Come now tis a sturdy clasp and most befitting my adorable wife. Tis, an heirloom from my blessed mother. She will be thrilled if you wear it. As I am away from my homeland for years, I carry it with me, waiting until I find the most precious girl to be my wife.’
She looked up to him; he rarely spoke of his family, except to say he adored his mother and loved and respected his father, a powerful chieftain from the North. He also had five siblings, three sisters and one brother. Forestyne slipped the ruby from Moraig into her bodice, keeping her promise to wear the powerful amulet next to her skin, never to take it off.
‘Brace yourself, my darling, I have arranged for you to meet your birth mother, it will be in private, only the three of us will be present. We are to meet in the chapel, which is some distance from the main hall and will be very private. ‘
Forestyne smiled, ‘There are always ears, my love.’
‘Huh, not here, for the walls are guarded with her hounds. They accept no bribes.’
Forestyne’s heart thumped in her chest, the blood rising to her head as Devlin ushered her into the small building. There were no windows, the only light being from the arrow slits in the walls. Straining her eyes in the dim light, she made out a figure seated on a high-backed carved chair. Her knees trembled as she walked nearer. Stopping as the lady rose to her feet, her arms outstretched.
‘Rhoslyn, my darling girl, my baby.’ The gentle voice broke. Running up to Forestyne, she held her tightly. Gulping, Forestyne stood almost paralyzed with fear and longing. Her slender mother was virtually the same height, with a wisp of golden hair escaping from her wimple.
Devlin stood to one side, astonished; except for the difference in their ages, they could have been twins.
Holding her hand, Adreva let her to a chair. ‘Come sit with me, let us talk,’
Seated, still lost for words, Forestyne sat and took out the ruby.
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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: