Katy’s Blog

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 29 & 30

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 29 & 30

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 29 & 30

Chapter 29

A Strange Reality

Tania gazed at Gary, her eyes wide, horror-stricken. ‘Of course, this is real. I’m real, you’re real, the damn forest is real, but the people in it have gone mad.  I have to pinch myself to know I’m awake, but perhaps I’m dreaming I’m pinching myself.’

‘Tani listen, listen to what I have to say, then you’ll understand. Sweetheart, don’t get so upset. You’re not dreaming, neither are the people mad; they’re genuine.’

‘Genuine? How can you say that? Oh, God.’ She put her hands to her face, ‘I can’t bear it – can’t bear it.’

‘Babe, just listen, okay. I promise you’ll understand.’

She looked at him through her fingers and shuddered, but to his relief, she nodded.

Gathering her close to him, he stroked her hair. ‘I’ve been where you are now. So let me explain – listen. I went for two days without meeting anyone, just searching for the forest. It was never-ending, more trees, more bushes, streams, and ponds, a hut here and there, but no villages, no towns. Then I met a couple of guys dressed up as knights. So like you, I thought they were part of a film company or re-enactment group. I’m afraid to say I lost my rag again. I thought they were baiting me, just like the others. I was desperate, hungry, and worn out, let alone petrified of those ruddy wolves.   So I punched the next person who spoke double Dutch to me. It ended up in a brawl; I had my hands around his throat, throttling him when the other guy knocked me out with the hilt of his sword. When I came to, I found myself lying down by a fire surrounded by knights, squires, and guards. By that time, one knight was examining my watch and another, my mobile. They’d actually managed to tap up some photos. When they saw the video, it scared the life out of them. They dropped it and ran. Later, when I could understand what they were saying, they told me they thought the images were alive – fairies – evil fairies. They thought the faires etc., were trying to snare them and imprison them in the mobile. They thought I was either a wizard or a demon.’

‘Oh, Gary, it’s the same for us. They think we’re either witches or demons.’

He was glad Tani sounded more reasonable; she must have gone through hell and was still feeling it.  He had to help her before she did lose her mind.   ‘Yeah, I can understand that now. Anyway, there were a couple of monks, and one of them  tried to save me from a knight who was ready to run me through.’ He sat me down and, believe it or not, spoke to me in Welsh and old Cornish. Saved my life, I think.’

‘Welsh? Good lord. You know Tegwen is Welsh, and I’m half Welsh, half Irish.’

‘Thank God I’m Cornish. Not that I know much of the old Cornish tongue, but I get by.  Anyway, then came the shock. Speaking in Cornish, I managed to make the monk understand I was lost, that maybe I was on some film set. But then he put me right, he had no idea what a film was or a film set, so I didn’t pursue it. But I said to him, I felt everything was so strange that maybe I was suffering from concussion. But he didn’t understand that either.’

‘So what did you do?’

‘Well, he asked me for my birth date.’

‘Why?’

‘Well, they map out what stars you were born under to find out your humours.’

‘Humours I’ve heard of them, but I don’t know what they are.’

‘They explained them as the four humours that make up our body, that rule our body and the state of our health.  They are blood, yellow bile, black bile, and phlegm with the four states of mind or personality, Sanguine, Choleric, Phlegmatic, and Melancholy. He explained they could find what humour was out of balance and then cure me of my madness.’

‘Oh my God, so what happened?’

‘I couldn’t say the date in Cornish, but I managed to scratch out the date in roman italics. That’s when the shit hit the fan. The monk shook his head and insisted it was 449AD. That was when I passed out, literally. I was weak from lack of food, let alone terrified. For the firsttime in my life, I was petrified. I honestly thought I’d gone mad. When I came round, they’d stripped me and dressed me in knight’s clothing.’

 ‘So what did you do?’

‘Well, I didn’t believe it, of course. When anyone tried to talk to me, I just went deeper into silence; I’d gone beyond arguing. We traveled for days through forests, fields, and villages, which were just a few shacks in a clearing scattered around a huge wooden fort. It was a little child that broke into my disbelief. He was the son of one of the knights, a perky little bugger, and cheeky. Anyway, I happened on him paddling in a stream trying to catch eels; he spoke only Latin. Children invariably tell the truth; they can be damned embarrassing at times. So I asked him what the date was, what year, what month. He looked up at me, then grinned. ‘Why don’t you know it?’

I said I’d been ill and lost track of time. So he just said July 449; the child didn’t hesitate. The monk was nowhere near, no-one to nudge him, but he said exactly the same date as the others.  So, I thanked him and then helped him catch some more eels. I let some time go by, and I said, ‘You didn’t tell me the right date did you? Come on, tell me the right date.’ You can have all these eels if you tell me. Your papa will be so proud of you.’  

He laughed, shouting out at the top of his voice, it’s 449 – 449 – 449. Then he splashed over the stones in the stream, chanting the date. I knew then he could not keep up a lie like that. I handed him the bucket of eels, and that was when I began to believe.  I had to accept it, I had to let go of the fantasy of film sets and re-enactments; this was my reality.’

Tani buried her face in her hands and wept. Drawing her to him, Gary stroked her tangled hair. ‘I know it’s a strange reality, sweetheart, but you’ve just got to accept it.’ 

‘I can’t – I can’t. But the same happened to us. We explored the tunnels in the cottage cellars and thought we were drowning when the water gushed out on us. When I regained consciousness, I was floundering in a pond with Clari, Lily, and a strange cat,’

‘So who were the knights you met?’

‘Well, I don’t really know; I couldn’t understand the language, except for a few Latin words. Even then, it didn’t make sense.’ 

‘Describe the knights to me.’

‘Why? What’s the point?’

‘I know some of the knights really well now, at least the ones at the court of King Vortigern.’

‘King what?’

‘King Vortigern, King of the Britons. He took over the South of England when the Romans left. He’s weak, and he’s done some stupid things, asking the Saxons, to help him fight the Picts – got himself and Albion – England that is, in a load to trouble. Anyway, first, describe the knights to me.’

‘Well, one is tall, black hair, well built and wears a black cloak; the other is short, and a gnome I think the knight called him Ansgar.’

‘Sir Devlin, the Black Knight.  You fell in with the elite; Ansgar is a prince of the Lower World, heir to the Kingdom of Irondragarth no less.’

‘And Sir Devlin?’

‘He’s the son of a mighty king, a chieftain from the highlands of the North.’

 ‘Ansgar is in love with Clari; he worships her.’

‘Oh, and what about her?’

‘She’s attracted to him. But she still thinks he’s acting it all out.’

Hmm, you’re going to have to put her right, Tani.  Ansgar is a powerful figure in these times, and Devlin also. No-one would dare cross the Black Knight.’

‘Well, he’s in love with a girl from the forest.

Gary grinned. ‘The knights are always in love with one woman or another. One thing is for certain here, sex plays a major role in court life.’

‘Oh no, I think this is serious; he’s absolutely besotted with her.’

‘The knights all have their fair ladies, who are mostly married.’

‘What d’you mean?’

‘Many women are betrothed at birth these times, or the marriage is arranged. The girl has no say as to who she will marry. She is there to deliver the heirs, and God help her if she disobeys.’

‘But you said they have affairs?’

‘Yes, once they’ve done their duty and delivered an heir and a spare, they are free to have affairs with the knights. The knight must play court to them, to provide the romance and excitement in their lives.’

‘You’re kidding.’

‘No, it’s true. As long as they are very discreet and don’t run away with the lover, the woman is free to dally with any knight that takes her fancy.’

‘Hmm, how romantic, but tragic too.’

‘Yes, so I think we should marry as soon as possible. You are beautiful and will soon catch the eye of an Earl or King.’

‘But you said they all marry at birth, or the marriages are arranged. Surely a King will be married.’

‘Yes, but he will set his wife aside if he wants another woman. It’s done all the time. Read Sir Thomas Mallory. He wrote Le Morte D’Arthur; it was all fiction and written in fourteen hundred and something, centuries after our time here. But you never know, we might end up in the Mallory tales and somewhat change the course of history. However, for us, it’s reality. ’

‘Yes, but is there a King Arthur now?’

‘Don’t know, I’ve heard murmurings of the coming of The Bear, and that’s a sign for Arthur, but you never know. Honestly, after what we’ve been through, I wouldn’t be surprised if Arthur appears wielding Excalibur.’

‘Honestly, don’t joke, Gary.’

‘I’m not, I’m serious; if a knight takes a fancy to you, they are just as likely to carry you off. You would be married within the day.’

‘Well, I would fight it; I’d just refuse.’

‘You wouldn’t have any choice. If you angered a knight or aroused his jealousy, he’s likely to cut your head off. Mallory wrote of it anyway.’

‘Oh, come on.’

‘No, I mean it. No-one will turn a hair to use a pun. So we must tie the knot here and now.’

‘And a knight won’t carry me off then?’

‘Less chance of it, but if he’s completely head over heels in love with you, he could still abduct you. It’s been done. Even a King’s wife isn’t safe. Last year one of the Kings lay siege to another’s fort, determined to steal away the Queen.’

‘So, what happened?’

‘He won, the King was killed, and the other King divorced his wife and married his prize.’

‘I thought you were talking about King Vortigern?’

‘Ah no, there are many kings of this age. There’s the King of Sussex, the King of Thanet, King of Kent; King of Somerset and so on.’

‘Oh, so it doesn’t seem worth marrying, does it?’

‘It’s a safeguard, Tani. Come on, we should marry today.’

‘In all of this, I have not heard you once say you love me. ‘

‘Of course, I love you; I wouldn’t ask you to marry me if I didn’t.’

‘It all seems rather cold to me, Gary. I’ve had the shock of finding you again, alive, but apart from that, you’ve been cold, so matter fact.’

‘Look, I love you; I’ve missed you, gone half crazy at the thought of never seeing you again.’

‘Show me. I want to feel your love.’

He grinned and grabbed her, his tongue exploring hers. She tugged at his hair as his tongue explored her lissom body.

She cried out, clinging to him, her full breasts hard against his muscled chest.

‘God Tani, I love you, every inch of you. Marry me, Tani, marry me.’ As his hands tugged at her top, she shuddered as his hands lifted her skirt, she gasped. ‘Yes, – yes.’


Chapter 30

Secrets

Devlin gazed down at Forestyne, the fires in the eyes of the wolf now the fathomless waters of midnight, her sweet tender breasts quivering. Bending his head to her, he tentatively took her lips, aware that within the gentle depths lurked the savage. Gently he pressed down, easing that glorious mouth to open, to accept him. He groaned as her sweetness enveloped him, enticing him deeper. His hand found the soft full breast, larger than he anticipated inflaming him.

He heaved his body off her, whispering, ‘you are a virgin, and you must wait for your husband to be.’

She panted, clawing his hips, drawing him to her.  ‘You said you loved me, wanted to marry me, then marry me now.’

He moaned; his body, his heart, his mind all rose as one as he lifted her off him and then re-mounted her writhing body. Grunting with desire, he took them to a star-filled universe.

He gathered her to him, kissing the long sunlit waves covering them both, feeling her limbs quivering. Stroking a stray curl from her pale forehead, he whispered. ‘So, will you marry me?’

She smiled slowly, ‘yes, I will, Devlin. I will.’

He grinned, kissing those swollen lips. ‘Then tis done. We plighted our troth and are as one.’

‘Oh, Devlin, my lord, my husband.’

‘Aye, so when—’

He gasped, pulling away as two ravens screeched above them. He looked up to see the squirrel scrambling down the rough bark of the tree to their side. 

Forestyne leapt to her feet. Running, she cried out, ‘Moraig – Moraig.’

Within seconds, he followed, keeping pace as she flew down the track and into the clearing before the hut. To his surprise, Drustan and Bricius appeared, their faces grim.

Leaping into the hut, Forestyne went to Moraig, who sat up, her back straight, her arms reaching out to her.

‘Child, my sweet child.’

Forestyne felt warm arms enfold her, holding her close; she heard her stepmother’s heart beating strongly. Raising her head, she looked into the dark eyes. ‘You live –Tis not your wraith I hold?’

‘Nay child, Lord Squirrel bore a message sent by the Divine Eagle from the top of the World Tree.’

Forestyne waited, hardly daring to breathe, as Moraig said, ‘The Goddess Arianrhod declared there is need of me here on Middle Earth. People whisper of the Sign of the Bear. With it, there comes a time of great wars, a time when our fair Albion sinks beneath the waves of wrath. Devlin knelt beside Forestyne, speaking softly. ‘War? Albion? Besieged?’ Moraig turned her head to him. ‘You are needed, Sir Knight. Go you now, and take Forestyne with you. She and her wolves are worthy warriors.’

Forestyne cried out, ‘Nay, mother, I will stay with you, I cannot leave you alone, who will protect you?

Drustan spoke, from the entrance, his voice deep and calm. ‘The ravens spoke to us not minutes ago; they bade us come here to receive the news. Fear, not Forestyne, we will protect Moraig, the tree people look after their own. We shall keep back nine wolves, and the rest will be with you.’ Moraig took Forestyne’s hand. ‘Help me up. I have something for you both.’


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 27 & 28

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 27 & 28

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 27 & 28

Chapter 27

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.’ 


Chapter 28

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.


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 25 & 26

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 25 & 26

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 25 & 26

Chapter 25

A Heart in Anguish

Clara looked to see a group of knights emerging from the trees to form a semi-circle around the bear. One of them threw a spear, landing just by the bear’s feet. It was apparent they did not intend to harm the animal, as they encouraged him to leave speedily. Giving a thunderous bellow, the bear looked at the knights raising their spears and their horses tamping the ground and neighing. Falling to all fours, she shook her great head, snorting defiantly, and ran.

Ansgar, a huge smile on his broad face, lifted a hand to Clara. At least he didn’t look furious as he guided his destrier towards the tree, and in one sweep of his muscled arms, lifted Clara onto it. One of the knights pushed past him looking up at Tania. Holding up his arms, he spoke in Latin, ‘tis safe now, pray descend my lady.’

Not understanding his speech, Tania allowed him to grasp her limbs and lifted her to safety. She kissed her rescuer on the cheek and ran over to Lily, who jumped up at her in delight.  ‘Thank God, thank God you are safe.’ As she spoke, she looked up to see a couple of the knights looking on.   She had to make them understand the game was over. She needed to go home, needed to leave all this madness behind her.  She called up to Clara, now safely ensconced in Ansgar’s lap. ‘They’ve got to start speaking English to us, Clari. This has gone beyond.

One of the knights bowed to Tania offering his hand to help her up on the horse, but she shook her head. ‘Look, this has gone far enough; I don’t know what is happening, but we want out; we’re not part of any games.’

‘Yes, we’ve got nothing to do with re-enactments. Just cut out the Latin and listen to us.’ Clara said, presuming they were pretending not to understand her. ‘Please just take us to the nearest village or town, and we can find our own way back then.’

Swiftly, Tania’s rescuer rode up and caught her up in his arms, carrying her to his destrier. Kicking, she beat on his chainmail chest, crying to Lily to follow. It was no use fighting; these men had iron muscles clad in chainmail. She realized there was no point in trying to talk; they were determined to keep the play going.  As they turned on to a larger well-worn track through dense woods, they were hailed by another group of knights. Tania frowned; there were so many armoured knights with what she presumed to be squires and guards. It took a definitely large organization to stage such a vast re-enactment. Ahead, one of the knights shouted, galloping forward, waving his arm aloft.  As he approached, he lifted his helmet, yelling, ‘Tania – Tani.’

She knew that voice, but it couldn’t be; what on earth was going on? As the knight drew nearer, her heart almost leapt from her chest. No, no, it wasn’t possible. Was it some cruel trick?

He leapt from his horse and ran towards her. ‘Tania. Thank God – thank God.’

Stricken, Tania’s voice trembled, ‘Gary? Gary?’

‘Yes, it’s me.’ She saw the huge smile, tears falling from those dear grey eyes. Coming alongside, he reached over and held out his arms. The knight holding her grinned and lifted her over to him.  Safe within Gary’s arms, she tried to talk but found her mouth dry, her lips numb.

‘But where – where have you been?’ Fury raced through her body, causing her to shake.  ‘Don’t grin, you left me, you just left, you bastard.’

‘No – no, sweetheart, I—’

‘All these months, I thought you’d deserted me. I thought you were dead.’

‘Let me explain—’

‘You don’t have to explain anything, you piece of shit – you bastard.’

A couple of the knights chortled, others clapping their gloved hands as they caught the gist of her words, her rage.

‘I nearly died,’ she cried, thumping his chest. ‘I had a car accident, fought for my life in hospital, and mourned you.’ She glared at him, hitting him again. ‘All the time you’ve been playing silly games.  I’ll never forgive you – never. Let me down. I’d rather walk. I hate you – hate you.’

‘No, you don’t. Listen, Tania, you’re mixed up; I don’t blame you—’

‘Blame me? You should be shot; just let me down now.’

She tried to swing her legs over, struggling against his muscled body, the chain mail scraping her skin.’

‘Don’t – don’t sweetheart. Look calm down, let me ex—‘

‘Calm down? You miserable bugger. Just let me go.’  Yet beneath her rage, her heart was breaking. She’d trusted him; how could she have misjudged him? How could he desert her to play games? She swung around, trying to land a punch on his jaw but missed.

Seeing his horse become anxious, he reined it in. ‘Steady – steady Rameses – steady.’

‘Rameses? What’s this all about? I didn’t know you rode. You never told me?’

‘I didn’t; it was a necessity.  Look, Tania, I’m going to stop here; I’ll pick a spot in the trees where we can sit. We can talk.’

‘I don’t want to talk to you. There’s nothing to say. You left me – left me alone. Who is she – eh? Tell me, who is she?’

‘Who?’

‘Don’t be clever with me. Where did you meet her? How long has it been going on?’

‘There’s no-one else, never will be, you’re the only one for me; for life.’

‘Oh, I see, for life? That’s why you left me? Don’t be so bloody stupid. Who is she?’This other woman?

‘Just be quiet for a minute. I need to speak to the Commander.’

‘Commander, stop it, stop this stupid game. If you have any decency left in you, you’ll let me go, or take me to the nearest bus stop.’

Taking no notice of her angry words, Gary rode to the group’s head and, reining in his horse, saluted a grand figure dressed in chainmail with a velvet Capernaum. He spoke in Latin or some version of it. From his voice and gestures, Tania understood that Gary was remonstrating with this so-called leader.  The Commander raised his arm, stopping the cavalcade of horses and knights with their retinues.  He listened patiently as Gary explained his dilemma.

Nodding and answering, he raised his arm, waving the train of knights on, leaving Gary to stand to one side.

Seeing she would be separated from her friend, Clara cried out, ‘Tani, don’t leave me please. Refuse – whatever he says, refuse. Don’t leave me.’

Tani shouted back. ‘I will catch you up, Clari, I promise. We just need to sort things out.’ She paused, muttering under her breath. ‘Before I kill him.’  

Watching the troupe disappearing down the winding track, Gary turned to Tania, and catching her chin, kissed her firmly, his lips hard on hers. ‘Don’t say another word until I have told you all.’ He took her hands, gazing into her eyes.

‘You expect me to be silent, shut up, whilst you talk? Well, you’ve got another thing coming.’ Raising her fist, she punched him on the chest only to cringe as the chain mail scraped her skin. ‘Ouch – that hurt.’ She exclaimed, sucking her knuckles’.

Gary watched her, his eyes full of remorse. ‘Darling, if you won’t let me speak, then I will have to gag you.’

‘You wouldn’t – you wouldn’t dare.’ 

‘I would; I know you are heartbroken, but let me explain.’ Searching her face, he murmured, ‘So which is it? You listen, or I’ll gag you?’

She grimaced, realizing he meant it, and he was strong enough to do it.  ‘Alright – I’ll listen to you – you bastard.’


Chapter 26

Farewell

Devlin felt his skin grow cold. Had Forestyne been at the battle, was she the wolf that saved his life, the wolf that tore off the heads of the Picts? No, it wasn’t possible. She was no sorceress; she was too young, too sweet. If anything, she was a sprite, a sweet water fairy. Her stepmother was a sorceress, but this young girl was an innocent. He must insist she leave with him. ‘Pray Lady, tis a sorrowful time for you, and if I can be of any assistance, please—’

‘There is naught you can do fair Knight, but I thank you for your charity. Old Drustan, the man I care for, helped me prepare my mother’s resting place. Twas easy enough anyway, for we have a natural burial.’

‘Really?’ Pray, what is that?’

‘We came from the trees and to the trees we return. We will ensure one of my mother’s souls will enrich the tree. So we will place her within the belly of the trunk or at its roots.’

Devlin shivered. He’d heard of the ways of the tree people with four souls but never paid it much attention. It was a myth, known in ancient times when monsters and giant dragons roamed the earth.

Noting his consternation, Forestyne continued. ‘With the grace of the Spider Goddess Arianrhod, her spirit soul will journey to the Upper World.’

‘The Spider Goddess?’ Devlin’s skin grew cold. Trying to hide his shudder, he said, ‘You still worship her?’

‘Yes. But when it is time, I hope you will help Old Drustan in bearing my mother’s body to the Yew Tree. The Spider Goddess may deign to make an appearance, as Moraig is a renowned sorceress throughout the three worlds.’

Hiding his horror at the thought of meeting the fearsome spider, Devlin bowed. ‘Certainly my lady, I am honoured’ He wondered why there were no humans present to celebrate the sorceress’s journey to the Upper World.

Forestyne murmured. ‘The rites will be carried out as soon as my mother breathes her last breath. The tree people will stand guard until the new dawn.’ 

‘So you have informed them already?’

‘Oh no, the squirrels and the ravens will do that; they are the messengers and psychopomps who will guide her to the Upper World.’

Devlin nodded uneasily, hoping one of God’s angels was not nearby, to hear his traitorous agreement to such heresy.

‘Have you broken your fast this day, Sir?’

Devlin shook his head. ‘Nay, we have ridden hard to be with you.’

‘Then follow me; I have cooked barley, oats, and special herbs to revive you and your henchman.’

Calling to the guard, Devlin followed her to the side of the hut, where a cauldron hung over a small fire banked with stones.

As they ate, Devlin found the breakfast food as tasty as the meal of the previous day. ‘I must say this is quite delicious.’

‘Tis plain, but wholesome food, my good sir.’ Forestyne’s smile dimpled, lifting the sadness in her beautiful eyes. Yet she did not share the food, just sipping some fresh water from a wooden goblet.

As he finished the meal, an aged man with wild grey hair emerged from the forest, his gnarled face as solemn as the occasion.  He held an old carved stick as he hobbled forward on bony bent legs; his dark brown tunic tattered around the hem. His elderly son followed, stronger in stature, with a barrelled chest, limping from malformed bones in his legs. His whole body leant perilously to one side with each step.

‘Welcome, Drustan and Bricius; come eat; there is plenty left.’

Bricius beamed, taking one of the bowls. ‘Eee … thankee girl, me belly fair growls with hunger. 

‘Now pray excuse me, I must tend to Moraig.’

As Forestyne approached the simple hut, she heard two ravens’ caws as they flew over her head. Alighting at the door, they talked to her in rasping voices.  ‘Tis time, the Eternal Shadow awaits our beloved Moraig, the Great Sorceress of the three worlds.’

 Forestyne bowed reverently, feeling her heart flip as the squirrel appeared, peeking around the sackcloth.  Chittering, it said, ‘fear not, for I gave the message to the Great Eagle at the top of the World Tree. Tis time for me to lead her to the Upper World.

Nodding, Forestyne wiped the tears from her cheek, feeling Devlin’s strong hand take hers and lead her into the hut. Looking up into his eyes, she managed a slight nod before walking to the still form of Moraig. Bending, she listened for her breath, but there was nothing, not even the softest sigh.  Going to the cupboard, she took out a brush, clearing a path for her dead mother’s spirit form, to walk through the rushes. The two ravens flew up to Moraig to stand either side of her, whilst the squirrel leapt upon her still bosom.

Bowing, Forestyne took Devlin’s hand and led him from the hut. Walking nine paces away, she stood before the doorway; she began chanting, urging her mother on her great journey. Drustan and Bricius joined in, their deep tones blending with her mellow notes.

Fairest mother, to you I sing,

I bring you news of those who will guide you through the muse of death.

Who will fly with you through the Eternal Shadow

Open the doors of time, leaving it behind you.

For now, you enter Eternity.

Listen closely to lord Squirrel.

Follow him through the mists of The World Tree, 

Fly with the ravens to the great Eagle,

Discover the glory of the Upper World

Eternity.

Your soul is free,

To meet your Destiny.

She turned to look at Devlin, then Drustan and Bricius, ‘Tis time to serve her.’

Drustan and Bricius nodded, but Devlin frowned. ‘What did she mean?’

Seeing his confusion, she said, ‘I must collect fresh rosemary to surround our humble home. It refreshes the soul on its final journey.’

As she stepped to the edge of the trees, she turned, her nose twitching. ‘I smell humans – evil – danger.’

Catching a glimpse of a naked painted body gliding stealthily through the trees, Devlin grabbed his sword from its scabbard and leapt forward, pushing her towards Drustan and Bricius. ‘‘Picts – Picts – take her, Run – run for your lives.’

Howling at the top of her voice, Forestyne thrust him away, then, moving in a blur, disappeared into the hut. Once inside, she mouthed an incantation, immediately feeling her body on fire, her skin bristling.

Hearing gasps and soft growls, Devlin stepped towards the sackcloth and pulled it aside. He bellowed in horror as he saw a naked Forestyne morphing before him, her skin stretching, melting, patches of silver-grey fur sprouting. He saw fire flaring in her eyes as her mouth stretched, cracking open to reveal crimson jaws, her teeth growing into vicious incisors. His heart almost burst from his chest as he lifted his sword, ready to slay this vision from hell when a pack of wolves appeared. One leapt, its jaws clamping on his arm, as the others encircled him, their black lips lifting in snarls, the vicious fangs jutting from slavering jaws. He swallowed hard; how many could he kill before those fangs ripped him apart?


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 23 & 24

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 23 & 24

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 23 & 24

Chapter 23

Blessed Daughter

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.

Desires.

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?


Chapter 24

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.’


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 21 & 22

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 21 & 22

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 21 & 22

Chapter 21

To Dream

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.’

‘Gone? Where?’

 ‘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—’

‘Escaped? Who?’

‘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?’

‘Thomas, Sir.’

‘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.


Chapter 22

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.


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 19 & 20

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 19 & 20

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 19 & 20

Chapter 19

The Chivalry of Knights

Hearing the thud of hooves behind her, Tania raised her head to see Devlin’s horse charge past, coming to a halt by the fire.  Immediately, the Picts were on their feet, raising their spears. Unperturbed, Devlin pointed to Clara and then Tania, shouting out in the old Briton tongue for them to release the women.

Tania held her breath. What was he saying? Would the blue-skinned brutes give in politely? Or would there be mock fighting? She wished the games to be over; her arms and shoulders ached unbearably, whilst her stomach rumbled with hunger.  Earlier, Clara attempted to bring her some roasted fowl, but the savages prevented her, angrily speaking and gesticulating.

Watching, she saw wolves leap past her and attack the Picts.  To her horror, one of them, a big grey, took a man to the ground, biting deep into his throat. Screaming and yelling, the Picts struggled to wrench their hatchets from their belts as more wolves fell on them, tearing flesh from bone. Amidst the screaming, Tania wept as she saw Ansgar charging toward her wielding his sword and, with one swipe, cut the ropes.  She dropped to the ground groaning with relief.  With a nod to her, he charged into the midst of the savages, instantly decapitating one. Tania shrieked, dear God, it was real, she couldn’t believe her eyes. The fighting was real, blood-red real. Running over to Lily, she untied her bringing her to safer ground. Clinging to her and Clara, she watched in horror as Devlin thundered forth his sword swinging aloft, butchering the Picts. ‘Clari, it’s real, oh God, what’s happening. Where are we? ‘

Clara sobbed, her head on Tania’s chest, trying to hide from the dreadful truth. This was no re-enactment; it was monstrous. ‘I  don’t know what’s happening, maybe we almost drowned, perhaps we didn’t come straight away, maybe we’ve been in a coma, maybe there’s been a war, but what the hell are soldiers doing dressed up as knights? Oh, God, what am I saying?  It’s insane. 

‘Both of us could not have been in a coma, Clari, and besides, we’ve got Lily here. I just hope Spectre’s okay.’

‘He’s most probably living wild in the forest by now. We’ve got to get away, let’s go – let’s go.’ Tania tugged on Clara’s arm.

Clara hung back.  ‘No, the knights are fighting for our lives. Don’t move, just stay right here. If we went into the woods, maybe one of those blue-skinned brutes would kill us.’ 

‘But we’ve got to escape Clari, now’s our chance.’

As Tania turned to watch the knights fighting, she saw more knights on horseback emerge from the forest, the moonlight glinting on their armour. Helmets down, they galloped into the fray, chopping down more Picts.  ‘Oh God, Clari, look, two of the knights are down.’

‘The other knights are hacking their way through to them. They are slaughtering the savages.’ Seeing a Pict scream, clutching a stump of one of his legs, Clara doubled up and vomited.

Tania gasped. ‘Oh my God, they’re slaughtering the savages.’

Wiping the vomit from her mouth, horrified, Clara could not avert her gaze; it was a battle to the death. If the Picts won, it would be their death as well. They may spare her, but they would kill Tania.

They watched as one of the knights cut a path through the Picts to Devlin and Ansgar fighting back to back. Their swords swung from side to side, cutting and killing, severed arms flying through the air, heads rolling on the ground as the wolves circled picking off the Picts.’

Devlin grunted, heading off yet another two brutes. ‘I have to get back to Forestyne. Damnit it to hell, there must be other groups destroying the villages.’ Yet as he spoke, a Pict leapt on his back, holding a dagger to his throat. Devlin felt the blade cut through the chain mail coif to his skin, felt the blade go deep as blood spurted. He saw Ansgar turn to fend him off, but it was too late. Was this how he was destined to meet his death? At that moment, a great silver wolf leapt on the Pict, seizing him by the throat, tearing off his head in its massive jaws. Howling, it turned to a shocked Devlin now lying on the ground and leapt to stand over him, its great head dipping towards the spouting blood. Horrified, Devlin saw the vicious fangs reach for the gaping wounds in his throat.  He was dying, but what the hell was it doing. Was the beast going to eat him alive? Petrified, he looked up into the eyes of the wolf, at red fires flaring deep in the dark brown pupils then sank into blackness.

Ansgar came charging over but stopped astonished, as he saw the wolf gently lick the edges of the wound. He watched stupefied as white vapour poured from its jaws, covering the ravaged flesh. Ansgar cried out to Cerrunos as he saw the vapour steam and sizzle on the deep wounds, saw the wolf’s head rise, saw the wounds close, and disappear, leaving pink flesh.

He almost cried with wonder and relief.  He’d witnessed great magic in the woods this night. Startled, he stepped back as the wolf nuzzled Devlin’s throat once more, then looked over to Ansgar growling softly.  Terrified, he looked at the fire deep within those dark eyes, at which point the beast bent its head to Devlin once more and licked his forehead and cheek before leaping away. 

Ansgar ran to Devlin to see him open his eyes as if awaking from the sweetest dreams. ‘Fiend’s teeth friend, never seen anything like that before. That bloody brute saved your life and then damn well licked your wound until it disappeared. God zounds, never heard of it before. You are bewitched Devlin; bewitched.’

Coughing now, Devlin croaked, ‘What are you talking about? That bloody wolf well nigh killed me.’

‘No, it didn’t; it saved your life man, I saw your torn flesh knit together under its tongue. It saved you, dear friend – saved you.’ He stopped as the aroma of roses, lavender, and a peculiar spice wafted up from Devlin’s neck. ‘I fain would not move you, but we must get away. Forestyne and her mother are unprotected. l fear the woods are crawling with Picts.’

‘Yes, let us pray to the gods she and her blessed mother are safe.’ Hearing feet running towards him, Ansgar turned wielding his axe, slicing a vicious Pict in two. ‘Huh, one less to hang.’

Tania gasped as two knights charged towards her. She turned to run, with Clara by her side, only to be scooped up in strong arms and flung across horses; they clung for dear life to the pommels of the saddles.

Seeing the savages run for the trees, half a dozen knights rode after them showing no mercy, as blue-dyed bodies fell under the horses’ hooves

Tania felt her rescuer lift her up into a sitting position as he rode back to the centre of the clearing. To her chagrin, she could not understand his words but was assured by his gentle tone and the soothing stroke of his chain mail mitts across her shoulders. She made no sound as he lowered her to the ground, allowing her to walk away. The knights now took command of the clearing, some alighting from their steeds and dragging tattooed bodies into the forest and then returning with more wood to feed the dying fire. 

Devlin, now feeling hale and hearty, mounted his horse looking around to see a knight raise his helmet and trot his horse forward, to clap him on the back in greeting. ‘Hail Black Knight. You did indeed put up a good fight against the alpha wolf; I am astounded it did not rip your throat out.  But the blessed Virgin put it to flight. We must be sure to give an account of it to the reverend bishop when we return to the fort. Other knights drew near all hailing the miracle of his escape and the wolf’s incredulous behaviour. A couple glowered, murmuring he was in league with the devil, yet most claimed it to be the protection of the Blessed Virgin. Embarrassed now, Devlin nodded and made quick his escape. Such adulation did not sit easily with him. Seeing Ansgar in the distance, he urged his horse forward.  To his relief, Tania appeared before him unscathed. ‘My lady, I hope you are not hurt?’

Tania looked up, her eyes showing her gratitude, stammering in Latin. ‘Gratis tibi.’ She wanted to apologize to explain, but she could only think of the words ‘to forgive.’ ‘Ignosce me,’

He smiled, patting her hand, wishing he could say more to comfort her. The blood and gore were not for a delicate lady’s eyes. He hoped that she did not take a fever after witnessing the horror of battle. He glanced over to see Ansgar help Clara down from the knight’s horse. The gnome bowed low before her, whereupon she bent forward, offering him her hand. Taking it, his chivalrous friend kissed it gently. The man was besotted. To Devlin’s surprise, the girl flung her arms around Ansgar, hugging him close to her bosom, as the knight gave a bashful smile.

Despite the gruesome horrors of the day, at the evening meal, the knights made merry. They cooked the meat left by the Picts and contributed fruits such as plums, pears, and dates. Many produced small leather bags filled with wine and mead.

Making gestures to Devlin, pointing to the meat, Tania managed to get some food for Lily.  Soon the air was filled with jokes and songs. One knight even produced a small harp playing various popular tunes whilst others of fine voice sang merrily.  Yet even with such levity, Tania felt her horror growing, watching the merry faces reddened by fire and wine. A couple even performed a courtly dance to the ribald remarks of the audience. One knight took the part of a mincing pouting lady. It didn’t seem possible these same knights decapitated their enemies. Either they were a load of psychopaths, or a war had started somewhere. But then no soldier would dress up in fancy dress. No, it was obvious it was two demented cults warring against each other.

Devlin turned to Ansgar, ‘The horses are too exhausted to ride back to Forestyne’s shack at this night, yet by God’s bones, we shall leave at first light.’

‘Worry not Devlin, she knows the forest and will have somewhere to hide if needs must.’

Devlin grimaced. ‘Ever the optimist Ansgar.  Come, let us take our rest, though I fear I shall not sleep a wink.’

Soon, the other knights began yawning and, with drunken mutterings, wrapped themselves in their voluminous capes. Resting their heads on the leather saddles, the men snored contentedly. Watching them covertly from the bank, Tania realized they had a perfect opportunity to slip away unnoticed.


Chapter 20

Ghouls and Goblins

Seeing Tania and Clara searching the grassy bank for somewhere to sleep, Devlin and Ansgar made their way towards them, carrying two blankets and Tania’s blue cape.   At first, Tania was wary and ready to fight off any advances, but she was touched to see the knights made them up a bed of moss and leaves covered with the blankets. 

Clara could tell from the look in Ansgar eyes’ that he wanted to hold her. She stepped forward and into his ready arms. Bending to him, she kissed him softly on the cheek. Grinning mischievously, he touched her chin and bowed again.

To her astonishment, his mere touch sent erotic feelings surging through her body.  There was something about this gentle knight that attracted her.  As they walked away, he turned, giving a wave and blowing a kiss.

Tania tutted, ‘Honestly, look at him, he’s like a big kid. He looks as if butter wouldn’t melt in his mouth but just think of what he did earlier. Decapitating heads, severing legs, running men through with that wicked sword of his. You should watch out, Clari.’

‘Come on, Tani, that guy saved your life and mine.  If it wasn’t for him and Devlin, they’d have hung you by now.’

Tania shuddered. ‘Honestly, Clari, you don’t mince your words. You’re right, they did save us, but that doesn’t mean we have to fall in love with them.  They’re murderers, vicious murderers.’

‘Well, I think Ansgar’s cute.’ To her astonishment on saying his name, feelings rippled to her stomach.

Seeing the knights settling down, many snoring, she whispered, ‘Now’s the chance to getaway.  We just have to let them all fall asleep, then we can slink off.’

Clara sighed. ‘Oh no, I feel guilty, they’ve tried to look after us, fought for us, made up our beds, and now we’re deserting them.’

‘Don’t lose sight of what’s really happening. Devlin and Ansgar kidnapped us, first, even thought of killing us. They forced us to go to that awful hut and then sleep with the pigs and the wolves. Don’t’ get into the Stockholm Syndrome.’

‘What’ d’you mean?’

‘Well, there was this group of Swedes who were held hostage during a bank robbery; they stayed in this bank vault for six days with them. The victims started feeling loyalty and sympathy for their abductors, even joined them. It’s quite common, it seems.’

Clara sniffed. ‘Well, I don’t know about that; it just seems so ungrateful; they did risk their lives to save us. And anyway I like Ansgar, he’s—

‘I can see you have a thing about him. But really Clari, we’ve got to get away; it’s all insane.’

‘Okay, okay. I do feel something for Ansgar, but I know what you mean.  I want to escape as much as you; I just wish I could take him with me or say goodbye even.’

‘Clari, for goodness sake, that’s not possible.’

‘I know, Tani, it’s stupid. But I can’t help it.  What about the wolves. Say we meet some in the forest. It seems there’s a lot of them in these woods, I’ve never heard of it before, but they are roaming wild, you know. Not all of them are friendly. I think those who led us were Forestyne’s. Back at the hut, I couldn’t understand what Ansgar and Devlin were talking about, but I guessed it was about magic, that she had some power over the wolves. But they disappeared, right after the battle, just slunk away; I think they’ve gone straight back to her. So if we do meet up with some wolves, we can’t count on them being very friendly.’ 

‘Well, they left Lily alone; the poor girl’s still tied up, though.’

‘At least the knights fed her a couple of them even took her for a short walk.’

 ‘Look, if we did meet up with the wolves, we could climb the nearest tree.’

 ‘You might, Tani, but I don’t think I could; you’re five feet eight inches, with super long legs and arms, but I’m four feet eleven. Besides, I’m terrified of heights.’

‘Oh, Clara, think about it. Something is so terribly wrong; I mean, look at these guys; they butchered the Picts and then sat around the fire singing and swigging it back. Something is terribly wrong.

‘I just don’t understand why we haven’t passed any houses or a farm even. But then I don’t know the district very well.’

‘There’s bound to be something soon, a pub even, or maybe we could be on the outskirts of a small town.’

‘We’ll knock up the first house or pub we find. We could phone the police from there.’  

‘Okay then, you’re on?’

‘Yes, I suppose so.’

Tania patted her shoulder. ‘Good girl.’

‘But we’ll have to wait for them to go to sleep as well.’

‘No, it’s best we go now. I see the guy who was guarding us has gone to talk to some guy on the other side of the fire.  Look, they’re chatting. This is our only chance.  We can untie Lily on the way without anyone noticing.’

‘Okay, but look, we’ll have to be as quiet as possible’ Clara pushed back the blanket.

‘I know, now don’t stand up, just slide away over this bank on your belly. Don’t attempt to stand until we’re past the trees. Plump the blanket up with the moss. I’ll count to ten, and then we move, okay?’

‘Yep, Okay,’

‘One more thing, if they do see us, just keep running, okay. Don’t stop or give up.  Keep running.’  Silently lifting off the blankets, they slid quietly away. 


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 17 & 18

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 17 & 18

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 17 & 18

Chapter 17

Farewell

Devlin watched Forestyne, her body wracked with sobs. Rising from the ledge, he walked to her and gazed down at the still figure on the pallet. He put an arm around her delicate shoulders. ‘I am so sorry – if there is anything I can do?’

She bent her head. ‘No, I have to wait for the Eternal Shadow to fade from our abode.’  She pointed to the shadows in the far corner.

He nodded; although he was now a Christian, he knew the old rites and rituals.  He looked over to Ansgar, still snoring heavily. His body tensed; where were the maidens? There was no sign of them.

‘My lady, forgive me, but pray, tell me, where are the prisoners?’

Shuddering, Forestyne shook her head.’ They had need of sleep; they are in the outhouse.’

Devlin growled, rushing to the sackcloth pulling it aside and peering out. ‘God’s bones, they have disappeared. We must go after them.’

‘But sir, I still have to tend to your wounds.’

‘Nay, they are of little consequence.’

‘But they could be infested.’

‘Nay, they are clean and are healing already.’ 

Forestyne knew he was lying but knew it was useless to argue he was intent on recapturing the women.’

‘Then allow me to cover them with some cleansing moss and bind them firmly.’

He frowned and tutted. ‘Oh very well, but first, I must awaken Prince Drunraig.’

Rushing over, he pulled on the snoring knight’s arm. ‘Drunraig, awake, awake.’

Snorting, the gnome grunted and opened an eye. ‘What is it?’

‘The maidens they have gone – run away.’

‘So?’

‘They are witches or sorceresses; we must go in pursuit. They must stand trial in court for their blasphemous acts.’

Drunraig scratched his unruly red hair. ‘Watch your tongue Sir Knight; you speak in front of a grieving sorceress, one whose mother was a revered and renowned sorceress and healer. They have both shown you such gracious hospitality, and you thank them thus?’ 

‘We have no time to argue, we must go after them, but I am loath to leave the lady Forestyne unprotected.’

‘Leave them be, Sir Knight. They have every right to practice sorcery.’ Devlin realized his companion addressed him formally. He was angered and ready for a row.

‘Have you no sense Ansgar, even if they are witches, they are still vulnerable women, and they could fall foul of vicious marauders. The devils would waste no time in ravishing them.

Ansgar almost fell off the ledge, reaching for his sword. ‘Sense? No sense? You accuse me of having no sense? How dare you, Sir Knight. Where are your manners? You will answer for that insult.’ As he went to draw his sword from the scabbard, Devlin gripped his arm.

‘Stay, Sir Knight. I—’

‘Unhand me, Sir, before I chop off yer bloody arm.’

‘Ansgar, my friend in arms, forgive me. I have a quick tongue. I meant no insult. Tis I who am senseless for upbraiding you thus.’

‘Hmm, so be it. Yet, you still insult my ways, Devlin. Sorcery is highly respected in my father’s kingdom. Begad, the wizards and sorcerers run the Lower World.’

‘I am mortified with my reckless tongue Ansgar.’ 

‘Hmm, I have a mind to cut it out, so – watch it. Just because you have gone off half-cocked after your soft son of God does not give you the right to insult my gods who are seen and heard when we need them. They do not remain silent, hiding up in some cloud, or locking their golden gates against us. Nay, they are right there with us, talking through our wizards and sorcerers, and even appearing, as needs must.’

Devlin raised his eyebrows but said nothing, his friend’s temper flamed fast and fierce, but then he always felt deep remorse afterward.

Forestyne lifted her head. ‘Aye, my beloved mother was and is still a sorceress journeying to the Upper World. How can you be so cold-hearted insulting her so?’

Devlin bit his lip; he was already smitten with Forestyne’s delicate beauty, with her intelligence and feisty ways. ‘Forgive me, gentle lady, t’was the last thing on my mind to hurt your precious heart in any way. I am sworn to protect and champion you, as is the way of a chivalrous knight. Forgive me.’

Seething, Forestyne glared at him. ‘I do not need your protection, my lord, besides you are scarcely older than myself.’

I will inform you I am two and twenty years and have travelled ocean, forest, and desert fighting for Albion’s safety.

‘You have everything to be proud of, but I too fought in tribal wars to protect the people of the Whispering Trees and survived to tell the tale. So please, do not presume to think you will become my protector. Besides, as you say, you constantly travel, and I, for one, will never leave this forest and my gods. It is my home.’

He swallowed his anger. ‘Tis time you cast aside your evil gods and bowed to the Christian God, who protects us all in His gracious. Love.’

Forestyne could scarce contain her anger. ‘Have you no respect? You may despise our gods, but pray, do not insult them in my presence lest I show my fangs.’ 

Devlin frowned; show her fangs, now that was weird. He answered drily, ‘Pagan talk indeed, I would soon chisel them down, so guard your words maiden, if you value your teeth.’

He did indeed despise the old gods and would seek to bring Forestyne to the arms of the Christian God and the Blessed Virgin. It would take time, but he would persevere.

Ansgar cut in. ‘Stop such driveling talk. Come, we must search for the maidens, tis getting dark already. The woods are crawling with savages.’ He turned to Forestyne, ‘Our king brought the Saxons over to fight the Picts, but the Picts are taking over; I fear the Saxons are also grabbing land for themselves.’ 

Ansgar growled, ‘Stupid King, has he no wits?’ He grunted, pulling on his chainmail coif. The fair-haired maid was a winsome little thing, and even though she had black paint running down her cheeks, she was quite lovely, her hair shining in the colours of the rainbow. Shrugging on his chainmail haubergeon, reaching almost to his knees, he sighed, ‘I miss my bloody squire, now I have to struggle with the chausses. I must acquire another boy when we reach the court.’

‘So you are intent on saving the lady Clara?’

Ansgar nodded. ‘Indeed, she must practice high magic to have such a beautiful Runic Cross on her tender forearm; mayhap she’s a druid princess.’ He intended to keep her for his own, take her back to the Lower Kingdom, his father would be well pleased with her magic.’ His brows furrowed, he was determined she would not attend some court on trial for sorcery; instead, he would take her to be his wife.

Devlin looked up to Forestyne, ‘Come let us not argue so bitterly. Forgive me if I angered you. Let us think of the maidens. We must go now, but I fear to leave you alone and unprotected.’

Mollified, with his apology, Forestyne waved her hands. ‘Fie sir, I have my wolves. Indeed I would suggest you take three of them with you, as I have the rest of the pack guarding me, my mother’s body, and myself.’

‘Tis very generous of you milady, but I fear we could not control them.’

‘Fear not, kind sir, for I will instruct them to serve and guard you both.’

Ansgar raised his eyebrows; she was indeed a powerful sorcerer if she could command the wolves.

Stomping off across the field, he saw the maidens’ tracks, but to his consternation, they led across the fields into dense woodland.

Forestyne turned to Devlin. ‘Sir, you must allow me to tend to those wounds. You do not want to lose an arm, do you?’

‘Lose my arm?’

‘Yes, sir, there are many insects in the forest that could infect your wounds; soon, they could be squirming with maggots if you do not tend to them.

‘Now you do have me afeared, so do your darnedest.’ 

To his surprise, Forestyne was swift in her purpose, both deft and tender in her administrations. Soon, he felt more at ease, and the pain much lessened. 

Ansgar returned, scowling. ‘Demon’s armpits, they have taken to the woods; t’will be difficult to track them through dense undergrowth and doubly difficult for our horses.’

Forestyne bit her lip and moved to where Tania and Clara sat earlier in the day. Peering into the corner, she espied Tania’s blue cloak. ‘Here, sir, the wolves will track them through the scent on this cape. Tis all they need.’

Ansgar took the cape. ‘Our gratitude, lady, but now come Devlin, we must make haste; the maidens are in grave danger.’

Devlin bowed to Forestyne before mounting his horse. He watched the wolves weave around her as she held the cape for them to sniff.  On her command, they whined, pawing the ground, before running off to the field on the edge of the forest. Forestyne then handed the cape to Devlin. ‘Here, good Sir, just in case the trace runs cold, this will freshen the scent.’  As the two knights sped after the wolves now streaking across the field, she prayed to the Spider Goddess Arianrhod, the knights would find the girls before they fell prey to the Picts.


Chapter 18

The Wolves

Thundering across the fields after the wolves, they spake not, their faces grim, it was nightfall; the maidens had a couple of hours start on them. Devlin grimaced as they reached the forest, ‘We shall have to dismount; these bushes are too dense for the horses. Ansgar’s horse reared as he attempted to ride through. Frustrated, he drew forth his sword, trying to hack his way through.

Devlin bit his lip, tis easier for us to lead the horses around them. There’s an opening further up.

Swearing and sweating in the heavy chain mail armour, they hacked and fought their way through thorny bushes, their horses protesting and kicking. They sighed with relief as reaching a less densely wooded area, they waded through ferns waist high, their verdant green leaves changing to winter bronze. The two knights saw the wolves sloping ahead. But for the fact Devlin knew they were in the lead, he would not have been aware of them, such was their stealth.

His thoughts sped to Forestyne, He’d only just met her, but already she haunted his thoughts, her image floating across his eyes.  They were so different in many aspects, yet she was like a magnet; he was drawn to her.  It did not matter that she chanted and danced to the pagan gods. Fascinated, he found her beautiful, intelligent, and wild, a true creature of the forest, and he had to admit, almost magical. She had an aura about her, an inner light that shone in her deep brown eyes and shimmered on her sun-kissed skin; skin he longed to touch, to stroke to feel beneath his. Yes, she was a true Celt, the pure Briton. He would not be surprised to learn she was a druid.

He smiled grimly; he would have to watch his step with her, for she would behead him in seconds if he crossed her. Such were the ways of ancient Celts. In fact, they considered it an honour for their victims. After beheading them, they would clean out the skull and use it for a drinking cup, thus imbibing the beheaded person’s spirit and knowledge. So maybe it was just as well he did not impress her too much either. Dangerous female, and yet he was utterly besotted with her.

His horse reared beneath him, almost throwing him to the ground. Snorting and neighing, Thunder danced away from the ferns; shocked, Devlin stopped to see five black adders nearly three feet in height rearing in front of him. ‘God’s bones, what—?

‘Nest of adders,’ shouted Ansgar. ‘Get away now; you have upset them.’

Devlin allowed the horse to take him to safety, as Ansgar bellowed. ‘Serve you right. You have angered the sorcerers, so they’ve put you in your place. Tis a sign, so be warned, my friend.

 ‘Nothing to do with it.’ Devlin scoffed but inwardly felt a current of fear ripple through his belly.

‘Hah, be mindful of your tongue in future, especially in the presence of sorcerers.’

Devlin frowned; surely, Forestyne did not put a pox on him? But, he knew if she was truly vexed, she would have told him outright, she did not have a vengeful fibre in her fair body

Following the lead, another hour sped by when Devlin saw the big grey furtively run up to him, flattening its ears, whining softly. His heart lurched as he caught up with Ansgar. ‘The grey has alerted me; we are methinks, very near.’

 ‘Pray God Cernunnos, our fair maidens are safe. I would hate to bury them here in this forest.’

As Devlin drew his horse to a halt, Ansgar came up to him, handing his reins to Devlin. ‘Do you hold my steed whilst I investigate?’

Devlin nodded, his heart pounding in his chest. Ansgar was by far the better spy, with his heightened senses, his hearing being as keen as a wolf’s, his sight in the night forest, that of an owl. He was also short of form and could move silently, his head not showing above the ferns and long grass.

Shocked, Devlin saw the shapes of at least half a dozen more wolves melting into the forest. Surely they’d only had three? But then he should not be surprised by the ways of the tree people. Forestyne most probably summoned other packs, such were her powers.  Again he realized he’d fallen prey to her pagan beliefs and spells. He chided himself; of course, she did not have that power; these were wolves familiar to this part of the forest, it had to be.

He frowned, t’was time he prayed to his own almighty God. He gently kissed the blood-red ruby embedded in the heart of the cross and prayed silently. Feeling reassured, he replaced it in the safety of his haubergeon,

He looked to see Ansgar return silently. ‘The Picts have them.’

‘Dear God, are they alive.’

 ‘Aye, but the tall, dark-haired one – Tania is hanging from a tree. I fear her shoulders are dislocated, for she moans in agony. Bloody savages.’

Devlin nodded. ‘What of the other one?’

‘Clara?’ Ansgar’s tone softened. ‘They are treating her like some goddess; they’d made her a throne of furs and put a crown of soft white feathers upon her head.’

‘Hmm, I wonder.’ Devlin mused; she is indeed different from any woman I have met.

‘Tis the tattoos, together with her strangeness. I see the black marks have disappeared from her fair cheeks. However, still, she has the glorious  colours of the rainbow in her hair, and she has the runic cross composed of runic letters, each ogham telling a tale.’

‘How many men?’

‘Hmm, I would guess thirty – not much more.’

Devlin fingered his sword.  ‘We are two, but with nine wolves.’

‘Nine?’

‘Yes, some more appeared just after you left.’

‘Huh, tis the sorceress’s doing, nine is the most powerful magic number. Tis the number used by the Sisters of the Wyrd, the spinners of our universe.’

 ‘Huh, so we’re back to those three crones, are we, the witches of the Celts?’

‘Watch your tongue, for they are governed by the Great Spider Goddess Arianrhod.’

‘Well, God bless all spiders and spinners, let us go hence.’ Snarling, Devlin pulled his mighty sword from the scabbard, guiding his horse forward with Ansgar bringing up the rear.

Quietly they reached the clearing to see the wolves almost invisible, shifting silently through the trees. Ansgar muttered, ‘Yes, I count nine of them here. They will be a force to be reckoned with; the Picts fear the wolves.’ 

Devlin muttered, ‘but I know not how to manage them.’

Ansgar chuckled softly.  ‘I think you have no fear there. Our fair sorceress is even now overlooking us.’

‘And how pray?’ Devlin scowled. ‘Now is not the time to play games, Ansgar.’

‘Nay, fear not, tis no game. She will have a scrying bowl filled with clear water, tis a mirror.’

‘So come now, Ansgar. A fair maiden cannot conduct a fight of knights.’

‘Nay? Then you do not know our sorcerers and witches.’

Devlin hissed. ‘We waste time on this fanciful nonsense.’

‘Agreed. I suspect the wolves will be in place, and we two must rush through those bushes.

Devlin snarled, ‘and how do you expect me to do that, mayhap my horse will sprout wings, and we shall fly over those bloody bushes.’

Ansgar grimaced, ‘We must fight from the horse; we will hold them off that way; they cannot surround us so easily.’

Devlin nodded, raising his sword, ‘First, we warn them. If they do not hand over the maidens, then we start killing.’

‘Struth, I cannot see them backing down. I say we snatch them and bolt.’

‘Hmm, sensible idea. So we must cut Tania down and rescue Clara, then ride for our lives.’

‘Hmm yes, in between killing Picts. May our Gods be with us.’

Devlin’s horse reared in excitement as he drew his mighty sword from the scabbard, raising it high.’

Galloping around the bushes, they came into the clearing, swords ready.


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 15 & 16

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 15 & 16

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 15 & 16

Chapter 15

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.


Chapter 16

The Clearing

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.


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 13 & 14

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 13 & 14

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 13 & 14

Chapter 13

The Wolves

Seeing the wolves raise their mighty heads, Lily growled and sprang forward, gnashing her teeth; huge as she was, it was two against one.  Petrified, Tania jumped from her horse and grabbed her, only to hear a tinkling laugh.

‘Forsooth people, be not afeared, tis my two faithful protectors.’ Forestyne grinned. ‘They are part of a pack that has a den near to here, yet they choose to live with me.’

Devlin turned to her, ‘Then you are truly a water sprite or a witch. ‘God zounds woman, why did you not warn me?’

‘Fie on you; they will do no harm. Do you tether your horse and come inside.’

‘Christ’s tree, how think you, I could leave him to a terrible death? The wolves would rip my horse to pieces in seconds.’

‘Nay Sir, see here.’

She walked up to Thunder and stroked his trembling body all over. In seconds, the horse became still, licking her face and softly nibbling her shoulder.  ‘See, he is not afraid, and the wolves will not harm him, for I have covered him with my scent.’ She stooped to Lily and Spectre, lightly stroking them. ‘See all is well.

Devlin stepped away, raising his eyebrows. ‘Hmm, not a sprite?’

‘Nay sir, at least not a water sprite.’

‘Hmm, you are truly a heathen, a witch.’

‘Nay my lord, as I told you, I am a shaman and a sorceress and proud of it.’

‘Hmm, well.’ He tethered Thunder and walked some paces away, his eyes on the wolves. Yet, they paid him no heed, tossing their heads they loped into the hut, whilst Ansgar tied Lily to a post.

‘You don’t mean to tell me I shall be bedding down with wolves?’

Despite her fear for her sick mother, Forestyne managed a smile. ‘Come meet my family.’

A cozy warmth welcomed him as he entered. Sweet-smelling rushes covered the floor, giving off a heady scent of lavender, thistle, and pungent herbs. In the middle of the room was a banked up fire of peat and logs, with pottage cooking in a blackened cauldron suspended on chains from the rafters. The most delicious aromas wafted across, causing his stomach to growl.  Along the walls were ledges with straw pallets covered with woolen blankets and furs. At one end stood a carved oak table with stools tucked beneath, with others scattered around the fire.

To Devlin’s curiosity, on one wall hung two cloaks; one looked like a huge raven made entirely from black feathers with a hood comprised of more black feathers and a large yellow beak. The other hanging beside it looked like a wolf’s hide,  the hood being an actual wolf’s head.

Seeing him look at them, Forestyne smiled. ‘They are very precious to us, part of our spirit. When we wear them, we become them.’ She beamed, speaking with pride. ‘I have the spirit of the wolf, and my dear mother, that of the raven.’

Devlin bowed his head, although his blood ran cold.

Ansgar, however, flung up his arms with delight. . ‘It is an honour to be with such powerful shamans.’

‘We are sorcerers first, my lord, but as I said, we also have the power of the shaman.’ Forestyne said seriously.  

Despite his new faith, Devlin was curious. ‘Hmm, so do you wear these?’

‘Oh yes, my mother uses her cloak to change to the spirit of the raven and flies through the spirit worlds.’

‘Oh, and you?’ his heart thudded. Was Forestyne really a wolf in spirit?

‘I use the wolf’s skin and become the spirit of the wolf.’ She gave a deep growl showing her teeth, suddenly looking lethal.  Seeing the intensity of her face and the subtle changes in her body, he felt more than uncomfortable.

She looked at him. ‘You have a bear engraved on your helmet Sir, do you not change to the spirit of the bear in battle?’

He raised his eyebrows. He was on stony ground here. ‘Err … I actually—’

‘Forestyne, sweetheart,’ her mother called from the pallet, saving him the embarrassment of answering.

She went to her mother lying on one of the pallets. ‘Mother, we have a guest,’ she turned and waved Devlin over. ‘Tis a gallant knight, Sir Devlin. He is recently returned from battle with the savages and is on his way to the court of King Vortigern. He took care of me on my way back here.  

Her mother looked up; her blue eyes faded and bleak with pain. ‘Oh my child, I pray the Goddess he may continue to protect you.’

‘I can protect myself, mother, but listen, I have good news, Carrawana, the goddess of healing, appeared to me and showed me some precious herbs. She told me they are for the wasting sickness.’

‘She spoke to you?’

Devlin watched in dismay as the maiden nodded to her mother. ‘Yea, she told me you will have a peaceful journey to the upper worlds. But now, dearest, let me introduce Sir Devlin.’

Devlin walked to the sick woman’s bedside, embarrassed and yet filled with compassion for the woman’s wasted body; the shadows, deep in her gaunt cheeks and sunken mouth. 

Moraig lifted her hand, ‘Kind sir, thank you for your gallantry to my daughter. I beg you to become her protector. She will soon be alone in this savage Middle Earth, as I am not long for this world; the Eternal Shadow hangs over me.’

‘Mother dearest, I pray you, Death is listening to your words; please refrain from uttering anything that will invite him nearer.’

Moraig rose on frail elbows to gaze earnestly into Devlin’s face. ‘You were led here, Sir; I cast a spell imploring the Goddess Carrawana to procure a champion for my beloved Forestyne; a Knight who would take her to the safety of Vortigern’s court.

Devlin frowned, ‘I will obey your wishes, madam, but King Vortigern is weak and greedy.’

Seeing the pallor deepen in the lady’s face, he paused. ‘Forgive me, my lady, I do not wish to upset you.  Suffice to say Forestyne is now under my protection.’

Forestyne gasped. ‘Mother, do not do this. I will not travel to any court. My home is here with our tree people; I have no wish to be confined in some fortified castle.  I will be trapped, subjected to other people’s wishes. Do not separate me from the whispers of the trees. This is not our way, mother. Please.’

‘My child, fear not, Stay for a few weeks and then return. You will have your duties as a sorceress to attend to.

Weeks? Tis far too long. Tears streamed down Forestyne’s face at the very thought of losing her freedom. Devlin looked at her, seeing the horror on her face. Was this indeed a child of the forest? Did she really prefer the woods to the rich life of the castle? Did she really wish to dress in rough woolen tunics and go barefoot when she could be clothed in the finest silks and satins?

Bemused, he turned back to the mother. ‘As much as I am able, I will care for your girl.’ But seeing Forestyne look at him with daggers in those amber-brown eyes, he knew it would be a challenging task.

Forestyne leant forward, taking her mother’s hand. ‘Come now, be still and rest, the sacred plants. Lord Mandrake and Lady Henbane await us. They have agreed to ease your pain, so I must now see to preparing the tisanes and unguents.’ 

Devlin looked at her aghast; Lord Mandrake? Lady Henbane? The girl lived a world of fantasy. Indeed he felt trapped in a world of witches, sorceresses, sprites, and wolves. T’was time, he repaired to the sanity of the court. He looked down at the two wolves, sitting with the bear-like dog and black cat, at the two witches or goddesses, and lastly, the sorceress lying before him. This was an insane world. Gathering his courage, he turned to Forestyne. ‘Go, you prepare the concoctions, whilst I stay with your mother.’

‘But what of your wounds, Sir?’

‘They can wait; they are not inflamed.’

‘Very well, but first, you must be hungering for food.  I added more vegetables and spices to the pottage pot before I left, so there will just be enough food for us all; tis wholesome, with barley, leeks, roots, nettles, and spices.  I also have some apple wine.’

 Hunger pains gnawed his innards. ‘It would be much appreciated. Thank you.’

Forestyne looked over to Tania and Clara. Knowing they did not understand her language, she went to a wooden chest and brought out some clothing. Pointing to their sodden garments, she offered them two simple woolen tunics. Tania smiled and nodded.

Forestyne then turned to Devlin.  ‘After you eat, you should try to rest.’ She pointed to the pallets on the wooden ledges. ‘Take some furs and blankets from the corner behind the curtain in the far corner. I will tend to your wounds after I tend to my mother. You will forgive me if I do not eat with you.’ 

Within minutes she served the food in wooden bowls, spoons, and trenchers of bread.


Chapter 14

Escape

The pottage was tasty, to Tania’s surprise, but the bread trencher proved gritty and almost inedible. She tried to eat as much as possible, knowing that they must escape soon. They could well be lost and be forced to spend the night in the forest. They retreated to the end of the hut and watched Forestyne prepare plants and herbs, which she steeped in the steaming water of two small cauldrons suspended over the fire. They remained quiet as Devlin and Ansgar settled down on the fresh straw piled on the sleeping ledges and pulled heavy furs over their weary bodies.  Within minutes the men were fast asleep, their snores resounding throughout the hut.

Tania nudged Clara. ‘Now we can make a break for it. They’ll sleep for hours.’ To their astonishment, Forestyne rose to her feet and began chanting softly whilst dancing lightly around the fire. Soon an acrid smell akin to stinking socks mixed with rotten eggs pervaded the air, causing Tania and Clara to retch. Hurriedly standing, they held their stomachs. Seeing the peasant girl hunch down to mix the herbs, Tania whispered to Clara, ‘let’s go outside – there’s a chance we can get away.’ Clara nodded and rose to her feet; biting her lip, she stepped by the two wolves slumbering by the fire.

Tip-toeing over to Forestyne, Tania patted her stomach to indicate she felt sick. Looking concerned, the girl rose to her feet. Tania shook her head, pointing to the plants immersed in the bubbling water. Understanding her, Florestyne smiled, then tiptoed over to the furs and handed two to Tania. Gently she took Clara by the hand and led the two girls outside to a small lean-to.  She pointed to bales of straw within the hut and then rested her head on her raised hands, signaling sleep. Understanding the message, Tania nodded eagerly to show she understood.  Giving Tania a light kiss on the cheek, Forestyne left them to return to her plants, bubbling away in the main hut. 

‘Quick, we’ve got to go now.’ Tania grabbed their clothes drying over a wooden railing, whilst Clara untied Lily and looked around for Spectre.

‘Come on, Clari, we haven’t got time. He’ll find us.’

‘Okay, but let’s go a different way; we will confound them.

Tania ploughed into the bushes with Clara and Lily close behind. Neither spoke as they grimly thrust through thorny bushes scratching their arms whilst tripping over roots.  Light was falling as they came to a halt. ‘The village must be up ahead. I thought we would have reached it by now, or at least one of the farms. That’s if we’re going in the right direction. We should have at least seen some cottages or houses.’

Clara stopped and caught her breath. ‘Maybe if we strike off to the left, it could get us onto the main road; or at least a track.’

Tania looked around, her brow creased worriedly. ‘I thought we were in between the town and the village. We haven’t come across one road or track; I think we’re completely lost.’

Clara slumped to her knees, ‘Dammit; I have no sense of direction; honestly, I had no idea of north or south, let alone east or west.’

‘Me neither.’ Tania sat down beside her friend. ‘We’ll just have a rest and then strike off to our left and keep on going.’

Clara stroked a bloody scratch on her calf. ‘Tell you what; we haven’t seen any more people from the re-enactment group.’

‘Maybe it was just those three nutters.’

‘I don’t know, there was that woman in the hut, and she looked as if she was dying, she was almost skeletal, and her skin was like wrinkled parchment.  The girl seemed nice, but she’s rather peculiar, isn’t she?’

‘Yes, talking in some, guttural language and then Latin.’ Tania pursed her lips. ‘They seemed very educated, though.’

‘Or insane. I just wonder if they’re part of the re-enactment group or maybe want to lead a hippy life. ‘

‘What about those bloody wolves?’

‘Hmm, yes, but if they reared them from pups, they would be tame.’ Clara muttered.

‘I suppose so, but I wouldn’t trust them. Just wish I remembered more of my Latin; never liked the subject anyway. They put me in the German class, but I did just as badly there. But why the hell should we have to speak in Latin or German? We’re in England, for God’s sake. ’

‘Oh, I rather liked French and German.’ Clara said

Tania plucked a twig from her ebony hair.  ‘Hmm, German or not, we’ve got to get going. Don’t want them catching us again.’

‘No, I honestly thought they were going to kill us, at one point. Those swords were real, you know, not silver-painted cardboard.’

‘Huh, men like their toys.’

Tania patted Lily, who lay with her head on her paws, quite content just to be with them. ‘There’s no sign of Spectre. I do feel awful leaving him behind.’

‘He’ll appear soon. He’ll pop up unexpectedly.’

‘I hope so, but anyway, we’d better get going again; it’s getting dark quickly.’

Struggling through a bush, Clara panted, ‘I just wish we had some knives or axes; it would make it a lot easier.’ 

‘Leather gloves would do.’ Tania gasped, breaking off some vicious looking thorny branches. ‘I thought we’d come to some heathland, but it’s all thick forest. I honestly don’t remember it being like this.’

‘Maybe you took one of the more popular areas. The gamekeepers do thin out certain areas of the forests for people to walk.’

Struggling through a copse of birch trees, Tania grunted. ‘I hope we find someone soon. We don’t want to be out all night.’

Picking up the pace with Lily running ahead, they branched off to the left, running through ferns almost waist high in a forest of oak, ash, and silver birch.’ Clara gasped, ‘I hope we don’t tread on any snakes; with these ferns and plants, you can’t see where you’re stepping.’

‘Oh, don’t Clari, I hate snakes. I know I’m a cock-eyed animal lover, but I’m petrified of snakes; I bet three are  loads of adders in the woods.’

‘Then don’t look for them, just keep going.’

‘Well, that’s not easy, seeing as you’ve just alerted me to them. Oh, bugger it. Keep going.’

As they tore through more dense bushes, Tania stopped short. ‘We’re coming to higher ground. I can hear running water.’

Clara stopped to listen. ‘Yes, come on, we can get a drink; I’m parched. But we might catch something awful drinking from a stream.’

‘No, it’s fresh spring water; these hills feed the villages and towns. ‘

‘Yes, but it’s purified before it reaches our kitchen taps. Here you’ve got all sorts of disgusting things in the streams, sludge, moss, fish, eels, dead rats.’

‘Honestly, Clari, stop it. We’ve got to survive; just think of clear running water. Come on, I’m parched.’

Running swiftly now, they stopped short. ‘Shit, Tani, we’re in a quarry.’

Dismayed, Tania looked over to see small overhanging granite and chalk cliffs. ‘We’ll have to be careful now; we could be standing on the edge of a cliff for all we know; they just drop away in the quarries.  One minute you’re standing on grass, the next there’s a twenty-foot drop or more.’

‘And it’s dark.’

‘Listen, I think the stream is over there.’ Tania pointed over to a raised bank underneath some sturdy oak trees. ‘Yes, over there.’

‘If it’s a stream, there could be a cottage or a house nearby.’

Seeing Lily dashing towards the bank, Tania cried out, ‘Oh God, it could be a cliff edge. ‘Lily stop – stop – dammit.’  

But as usual, her beautiful, headstrong dog took no notice and, leaping over the rocks, disappeared.


Copyright.

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



Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 11 & 12

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 11 & 12

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.

Other Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 11 & 12

Chapter 11

Enter the Panther

Ansgar stepped forward to stop Devlin from killing the white bear; it was a sacred animal to the Celts but paused as he heard a low growl. Frowning, he turned to see the cat morph into a black panther, its massive jaws open, ivory fangs glistening ready for the kill. Ansgar stopped, frozen to the spot. This was mighty magic. Who or what were these people?

Clara’s heart thudded; what the hell was that a panther?  Yet even as she jumped away, bewildered, and petrified, she realized this was a deadly situation. Were these people insane – killers? Would they really murder them here? If the dwarf killed the panther, they too could die. Her legs felt like nearly set jelly. Maybe she was dreaming; was this a nightmare? Yet, it was so real. ‘Please just let us go. Better still; take us to the nearest house so we can phone….’ Her voice trailed away as she plunged her hand in her pocket. The mobile, yes, why didn’t she think of it? She’d dial 999; the police would be here in minutes.

As she drew it out of her pocket, she bit her lip; the glass was cracked covered in dirty water. She swiped it, but to no avail. Looking back at the panther and then Ansgar, she muttered. ‘You bastard, touch me, and the panther will have you.’

Perplexed, Ansgar drew back slowly, his hand now on the axe.  Glaring at Devlin, he spat out the words.  ‘See the magic? She has silver in her pocket. This is a goddess.’

Clara glanced over to see Tania kneeling with Lily; the girl on the horse now sat still, wide-eyed, yet unafraid.

Forestyne caught the girl’s look. She was in earnest, if only Moraig was here to see this, such powerful magic. She was keenly aware time was slipping by, and Moraig needed her and needed the herbs to live. ‘Please, Sir Knights. Treat them with great respect; I believe them to be goddesses, who choose to test us.  Honour them for their familiars are lethal and will kill us if we do not yield.’

Ansgar growled. ‘Now, do you believe? We must treat these goddesses and their protectors with deference, or we will die here.’ He knelt to Clara. ‘We beseech you; pray, let us take you to safety.’

She did not understand but perceived the guy seemed quiet enough now but was still putting on a good act. ‘Tania, what do you think? This is tricky.’

Tania tightened her lips, ‘I think I’m dreaming, Clari, but we’d better go along with it. God knows what’s in these woods.’’ She looked at the panther. ‘What the hell happened to the cat?’ She realized she did not fear it, although she should be peeing in her pants, even standing near it.

Clara hunched her shoulders. ‘Just go with it, Tani.’ Pointing at the panther, she scowled at Devlin. ‘See, you bastard, he’ll eat your axe for breakfast, don’t even think of tying us up.

Tania sobbed, sinking to her knees. ‘You and your bloody Latin, I’m reporting you to the police, just you wait, you’ll pay for this, my dad will kill you.’

Astonished but unafraid at the shape-shifting of the cat, Devlin’s voice thundered over her screams. ‘As a Knight, I am loathe to harm defenseless women, but I fear my friend is right; you are demons.’

Terrified, Tania caught the gist of his words ‘Oh God Clari, he’s insane, he’s not even afraid of the panther. He’s insane.’

Ansgar, wary of the panther, held his axe aloft as he went to Devlin’s side, whispering. ‘Come, we must leave here; I fear the ground upon which we stand is an opening to hell.’

 Devlin scowled yet was more than ready to heed Ansgar’s advice. ‘I should kill the panther and the bear; they are unholy, an abomination in the eyes of our God. ‘

‘Your God, not mine. Have you no sense, these girls have immense powers, beware what else they conjure up. Perchance twill be a dragon next.’

Devlin lifted his eyes, exasperated. ‘By the breath of Jesus Christ, tis true devilment. What do you…?’ His words trailed away as he saw the panther morph back into a cat.

‘Tis you that conjure up devils,’ Forestyne seethed. ‘They have no place in our religion. Let us begone before they conjure up the god of fire and death.’

Huffing, Ansgar reeled on Devlin. ‘I mean to protect these sprites or goddesses, whatever they may be.’ The girl with the hair of many colours aroused not only protective feelings but also desire. Even in wet rags and black tears, she was a beauty.

Forestyne gulped; she had to calm the furious men down. Now was not the time for dueling; they were already in much danger. ‘Let us take them with us until we decide what to do with them. Mayhap they have companions, we should be wary.

Devlin scowled, not wishing to concede but knowing she was right.  ‘We will take them, prisoner, hold them hostage, tis our only leverage. If there are others, we are most certainly outnumbered. In which case, we threaten to behead them.’

Tania shrieked, not understanding his words but knowing they were in mortal danger, ‘Stop it – stop it now. This game has gone far enough. Someone could get hurt.’

Ansgar’s eyes narrowed. ‘Enough, come, let us begone.’

Tania trembled; they treated them like lowdown scum; she had to find a way to gain their respect.  Seeing the soaked blue cape lying on the bank, she bit her lip; maybe King Arthur’s insignia on the back would impress them. She cried out, ‘ Rex – Cape – Arthur?’ If they were maniacs, hallucinating, living out visions of the dark ages, maybe they believed in Arthur.

Devlin strode over to the sodden blue cape thrown on the banks of the pool. Picking it up, he stroked the circle of oak leaves embroidered in gold, at the initials AC and KA. ‘I have never heard of such a king, you lie.’

Ansgar grimaced. ‘Sir Knight, I insist these ladies are of high repute; their very demeanour, the cape, and their peculiar clothes mark them as such. Yea, they may even be goddesses.’

‘Well, they have no magic – otherwise, they would free themselves, dissolve in a puff of smoke or fly off.’

‘You presume too much; we cannot ignore the runes on the rainbow-haired one; only a goddess could have such coloured tresses. Only a shaman would tattoo those runes on her arm. There is also the royal cape of the dark-haired one. I now pledge my services to these two high beings.’

Devlin realized they were lost in dense woodland; every tree could harbour an assassin. He needed the stalwart gnome prince’s support; he was a highly skilled swordsman and mean fighter. ‘I fear we are beset on all sides and could be victims of attack at any moment. Let us cease our incessant quarreling. I give the prisoners into your safekeeping.’

Mollified, Ansgar alighted from his horse and approached Clara, affably, holding out a large hand. ‘Come; allow me to assist you onto my horse.’  I will walk beside you. ‘

Tania pointed to Lily. ‘My dog, my cat.’

The gnome was now over-acting, pretending he had no idea what she said. She realized the only way to protect Lily and Spectre was to enter into these people’s fantasy world. ‘My familiars?’

The gnome frowned and shook his head. Desperately, she searched for the Latin words. ‘My canis – my cat – magic – spiritus?’ Tania sighed with relief as he nodded; thank God she’d got through to him.

Devlin scowled. ‘Surely, we’re not bringing these animals with us, Christ’s teeth; we have enough on our hands.’

Ansgar bunched his fists, ‘They are spirits, part of their magic.’

Forestyne dismounted and ran to Devlin’s side. ‘Good knight. I pray you, I must leave now. I shall find my own way through the forest. I told you my mother is in dire need of these herbs; I must hasten back before the light goes.’

Devlin stopped short. ‘Hah, we are ready to embark on our journey. Pray, I insist on taking you back to the safety of your hut. I am bound to pro—’

‘Enough, Sir, I leave, right now.’

Devlin nodded. ‘So be it.’  He turned to Ansgar. ‘Do what you wish, with the devils. Tis time to leave.’

Ansgar turned to Clara. ‘Maiden or goddess, you are safe with us; I will protect you with my life. So come, both of you mount up, your animals or spirits will follow, will they not?’

Clara whispered, ‘I think we should go with them. They seem to have sorted out the playacting, and we need to get through these woods.

Seeing she could not mount, Ansgar bodily lifted her on and then lifted Tania up behind her. Beaming now, he said. ‘From here-on, no-one will touch you or your spirit animals.’


Chapter 12

Tied to Trees

The light was swiftly fading as they picked their way along a root strewn path to the hut deep in the woods. Seeking to lift the dire mood of the knights, Forestyne murmured.  ‘Sir Devlin, you ride alone, have you no squire to attend you?’

‘Nay, we started out as a merry group escorting some ladies of the court of King Vortigern. We were protected by my master of arms, my squire, my pages, and three warrior knights. Accompanying us was Prince Drunraig, with his retinue and three guards. So we were a large party.’

‘Oh, what happened?’

‘Ambush. Under nightfall, the Picts attacked – hundreds of them. It was a bloody battle that lasted for hours. We were overcome, but not before we killed many.

‘They spared you?’

‘Nay, both Prince Drunraig and I were left for dead. It took days for us to recover from our wounds, but we determined to track down the scoundrels and save our ladies from a fate worse than death.’

‘But they are lost to you?’

‘At present, yes.  We searched these woods for many days but found only a lady’s woolen underdress a ripped silk tunic and a female surcoat.’

Forestyne bit her lip. ‘So you think they are dead?’

‘Nay, there were no traces of blood, and we found no bodies.  But we will not give up. We are now on our way to the court to seek help in the search. I feel the ladies are still alive, for it is the way of the Picts to leave their female prisoners tied to the trees.’

‘Tied to trees,’ Forestyne groaned, ‘Oh those poor – poor women.’ She knew the savages would tie them to trees so that men could take their pleasure in them day or night.

Feeling her shudder, Devlin said, ‘they are alive, my lady.’

‘How do you know?’

‘The Picts usually leave their prisoners heads staked on branches. So far, we have found none.’

‘Dear Goddess, I hope we are not attacked.’

‘Fear not sweet maiden, for I will kill you before they could take you. As it is if we find these poor ladies, we will end their suffering swiftly and cleanly.’

‘And how will you achieve that?’

Decapitation, they will feel nothing, for my sword is keen.’

‘Pray, why would you do such an evil deed? You are nothing but a barbarian.’

‘Dear lady, their bodies are soiled by those devils hands being laid upon them, no man will take them now, and no convent will admit them. Their lives ended the day they were taken.’

Forestyne felt icicles of fear scrape her spine. ‘I knew not of such dealings with poor prisoners. Haven’t they suffered enough? Why do they deserve such cruelty? It seems demons live in courtly life.’

‘Nay lady, living here with the tree people, you are innocent of the ways of courtly culture.’ 

‘So why search for them if you mean to kill them?’

‘To save their souls, so they may receive the sacraments to prepare their sweet souls for heaven.’

 Forestyne felt anger rising. ‘Those wretched women. Not only will they suffer at the hands of savages, but they will also suffer torture and death by you or some other knight.’

Feeling her despair, Devlin drew her closer to him, his arm around her soft curves.

‘Forgive me, my lady, I meant not to frighten you with such savage words. However, such is the way of war now against these wretched Picts.’

Forestyne took a deep breath, trying to brush away the images rising in her mind, those poor women tied to trees, at the mercy of any vicious marauder. ‘Sir, I beg you if they are alive, spare them. I will take them in; they may dwell in the forest of the Whispering Trees. My people will care for them.’

‘Hmm, But what of their souls?’

‘Surely that is their choice?’

Devlin frowned; he’d never met such a bold maiden. Where was her decorum? None of the court ladies would dare question a knight’s decision. ‘I will reflect upon it. But, I am charged under oath, not only to protect a woman’s body, but also her soul.’

‘Hmm, so you would hound us unto death. Do women have to have a man’s permission to jump into her grave?’ Is a woman never free?’  

‘What is this freedom you talk of? Women are cherished and protected; they are free to eat, sleep, choose their clothes, and—’

‘So do courtly ladies ask your permission to die?’

‘Now you take this too far, my lady.’

‘Hmm, I am not your lady; I am a woman of the forest, wild and free, I will never change.’

‘If you profess to be a lowly maiden of the forest, how come you comport yourself so, using high Latin spoken only in the monasteries or by the royal courtiers? Mayhap you are some lady fleeing her lord?’

‘Sir, you mock me. Why do you think I should be of high birth and abide in a castle to speak in different languages? The language of the Whispering Trees is just as important and as beautiful as your high Latin. Indeed, I am proud to speak the ancient language, proud to speak with the trees, proud to be born from them, and to die at their feet.’

‘Speak and talk to them? I know you inform me you speak with the plants and now the trees, you are indeed a witch. Only a witch speaks in different tongues.’

‘Not so, my stepmother is a very learned lady besides being a sorceress.  She taught me to read and speak Latin as many ancient texts on medicine are in Latin or Greek.’

‘Hmm, next, you will tell me you read Greek.’

To his utter surprise, she nodded. ‘I do. You insult me, I repeat; one does not have to live in a fort to be learned.  You are as demeaning as Aristotle, proclaiming women to be deformed males; they are inferior to men but higher than slaves. Indeed he quoted women had smaller brains than men and fewer teeth. He said they were unfit for anything but to give birth and weave. Tis how the courtly women are treated today. You and your insulting remarks are typical of such ignorance.’

‘I’ve a mind to tip you over my knee—’ 

‘Beware, I have sharp teeth and will bite you somewhere that would cause you great agony.’

‘You little witch. I will—’

‘Hush Sir, we are almost there. We must needs turn into the undergrowth and venture deeper into the forest; the cabin is hidden in a copse some fifty rods from the track.’

Devlin grunted; never before had a woman talked Greek biology to him or told him to hush. Bite his private parts indeed.  Although angered, he was also titillated with her threats. He decided to resolve this worrisome situation later, but for now, he was on guard. 

Night fell swiftly o’er the vast forest, as they rode deeper into the bushes. Devlin, now more aware of her curvaceous body against him, desired nothing more than to taste of her delights. As his horse bucked over prickly roots, his hands jerked up to her soft breasts.

He could not resist taking advantage of the opportunity, pressing both delicious mounds in his mittened hands.

Gasping, Forestyne exclaimed. ‘Sir, pray, do not take liberties with me. Stop now, or I shall be forced to walk.’

Sighing, he lingered over one plump breast. ‘Forgive me, my lady, my horse stumbled.’

‘Hmm, and so did your hands. Thank goodness we are nigh unto the hut.’

‘I shall deposit you there and bid you adieu.’

Forestyne felt the heat rush through her body. ‘Sir, I may be affronted with your unchivalrous behaviour, but you are wounded and fatigued. As a shaman and sorceress, I am honour bound to heal you, if it be in my power, so I offer you the hospitality of our humble abode. Tis just a shack, but tis sturdy and affords us good shelter.’

‘So you would trust us vagrant knights, sweet maiden?’

‘Sir, I have no desire to be ravished by you and offer you a sweet warning. Cast your mind away from such thoughts, for they could surely be the cause of an early death for you.’

‘Now you do frighten my maiden. Fear not, your virginity is safe with me. Have I not pledged my troth? I am your protector and, therefore, will fight to the death for your sweet sake.’ Swallowing a groan, Devlin spoke between gritted teeth. ‘Prince Drunraig and I would be grateful for shelter this night, for l admit to fatigue, let alone being famished and in pain from my wounds. But pray have you room for the two heathens and their animals? I know Drunraig will insist. You know now how short-tempered he is if crossed?’

‘Aye, they may sleep with the animals as do we. We have boar, a pig, a cow, and some chickens. The doves and pigeons nestle in the rafters overhead.’

‘Tis necessary for me to cleanse these wounds, lest they fester.’

‘Fear not, Sir, I have many potions and unguents that will cleanse your wounds and relieve the pain.  Besides which, we have plenty of spiced fare for you and fodder for your horses. We, too, have horses, so there is plenty of feed. Also, I can only offer you and Prince Drunraig beds of fresh straw.’ 

At her words, Sir Devlin’s blood pulsed through his veins, to the thought of fresh straw and her tender body beside his, but then the Chivalric decrees forbade him harming a maiden in his care. Yet those rules applied only to the gentry and the ladies of the court, not to the peasants, even so, this virginal maid was so young, innocent, and in his care; there would be no bed play this night. He cleared his throat; at least he could rest before continuing on his long journey to Vortigern’s court. ‘Perhaps you would guide me through the woods, for I see no tracks.’

‘Fie, they are well hidden; pray to go now to the left.’

After weaving through trees and burgeoning bushes, they came upon the cabin. It was even smaller than Devlin supposed, a long narrow shack with sackcloth for a door.  As he dismounted, he reached up for her, and lifting her slender body by the waist, placed her gently on the ground. He heard a soft growl from behind him and, spinning round, looked down into a pair of eyes, brighter than flames.  God’s teeth, a wolf. As he watched the black lips curl up to reveal long yellow fangs, he heard a whine from behind him and, turning, looked down into another such pair. ‘Not one but two wolves,’ he whispered. Drawing his mighty sword from its scabbard, he whispered to Forestyne, ‘run – run now.’


Copyright.

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

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