Sleigh Ride: Chapters 7 & 8

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 7 & 8

Please enjoy my festive romance novel, Sleigh Ride . Set in Regency England, and including some authentic language of the times, the reader is taken on a truly magical Christmas journey. Miss Sophia Vale faces poverty. Enter the Earl of Breconbridge, renowned as a rake hell with a conscience. New chapters will be posted every Monday and Thursday.

In Memory of my Mother, Dylis Walker, who sadly passed away on the 20th December 2020. With traditional Welsh tenacity and vigour she lived a rich and full 99 years.
Bye Mum… I shall miss you.

Other Chapters

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

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 7 & 8

Chapter 7

If You Say a Word …

Lady Vale took a deep breath, yet her voice was thready.  ‘Well, I screamed and tried to pull my skirts down, but the Baron just ripped them from me until I stood before him in my – my chemise. And then he put his hands on my person; I knew he intended to … so I gathered my courage and punched him in the face. I heard his nose crack, and a spurt of blood landed on my chest.’

 The girls gasped almost in unison, their eyes wide.

Lady Vale paused, placing a trembling hand across her bosom.  ‘He wiped off the blood from his face and swore such filthy words, words I’d never heard before. Then the scoundrel leapt at me, dragging me into the forest. I yelled and screamed, but he paid no heed and threw me to the ground. He tried to stifle my screams by putting his hands over my mouth; I thought then I was undone; he would have his rotten way with me, to this day I shudder; I could have borne a bastard child of his. As he lowered his odious body upon me, I saw him lifted up in the air like a struggling turtle. Twas Old Tobias, the woodsman. He was certainly an elderly man, but he was so tall and strong; indeed, he had the Baron dangling, his toes barely touching the ground.’

She stopped and wiped her forehead. ‘Patience, please get my vinaigrette.’

Hastening to the sideboard, Patience pulled open the top drawer, took out the vinaigrette, and hurrying to her mother’s side, waved it under her nose.

Lady Vale sniffed and sat for some moments quite still. To their relief, she took a breath. ‘Hah, that’s better.’

In hushed tones, Augusta said, ‘What – what happened, mama?’

‘Tobias gave the Baron a beating. I rose to my feet to stop him, for I thought he would kill him, and then the poor man would be hung from the nearest tree because he saved me. Anyway, he dropped the Baron, who lay panting in the ferns.  Hawsley cursed Tobias threatening to have him hung for attacking him. I then interrupted, saying I would reveal all to papa. He stopped, for he knew papa would call him out; being the third son of an Earl, he was highly trained in fencing and such.  He turned to me and leered, saying he would execute Tobias if I uttered a word of it.

Tobias was furious and shouted, he would tell the Reverend. However, I hushed him, saying, for all our sakes, twas better left. I knew it would be difficult for papa to secure a living, and so it was settled.’ Tears fell as she lowered her eyes. ‘So you see why I am afeared for you all.’

As the three girls rose to comfort her, there was a knock on the door. Startled, they turned as one, fearing it was the Baron.  Sophia went softly to the window and looked out to see a tall man of maybe seventy years, with a long solemn face beneath a top-hat. He appeared composed as he saw her looking at him.   He kept his solemn expression, bowing to her and raising his hand politely.

Reassured, she went to the door, but after her mother’s revelation thought it fit to ask who he was. She did so, and he answered promptly in an elderly and kind voice. ‘Mr. William Thorn, butler to the Earl of Breckonbridge. She looked out to see the Earl leaning nonchalantly against his carriage, the coat of arms embossed in gold on the carriage door. 

‘Mama, tis the butler to the Earl.’

Lady Vale’s face tensed, her eyes lighting up. ‘Well, open it, child – open it.’

Sophia threw the door open to the genteel smile of the butler. He bowed and handed her a small silver tray upon which lay a card headed with a coat of arms.

Taking the tray to her mother, she said excitedly, ‘Why mama, tis a request, I believe.’

Reading the card, Lady Vale flushed. ‘Oh my goodness, I thought the man was lying last night; I thought he was an imposter.’

‘Anyway, dear girls, he requests a private audience with me, so I wish you to leave and don’t listen at the doors.’

‘But why would he wish to speak with you alone?’ Sophia asked.

Her mother’s mouth tightened. ‘You will know soon enough.’ She clapped her hands.  ‘Sophia, I bid you open the door and allow him entrance, but then you must leave immediately.’

She breathed deeply. What did the Earl wish to say?  She would at least listen to him, but nothing would induce her to leave him alone with Sophia. The man mixed in the most demoralized company, engaging in evenings of sinful behaviour.  What horrors lay in wait for her virtuous Sophia if she became his wife? Twas quite unwise to give him any leverage.

As he entered, Jake felt the lady’s unease. She would, of course, be suspicious of him, and quite rightly so, who wouldn’t, after finding him in the company of a salacious baron, rakehell’s, and ladies of the night? He was fortunate; she even conceded to see him.

Crossing over the small withdrawing room, he bowed and bussed the air above her proffered knuckles, her gloved hand stiff beneath his touch.

He backed away, murmuring.  ‘I am honoured to be granted an audience, my lady.’

Lady Vale waved him to the settee on the other side of the fire. ‘Please, my lord, I cannot say I am without misgivings.’

He realized he had a tough interview ahead. Clearing his throat, he said, ‘first, my lady, I wish to apologize profusely for the lewd behavior you were subjected to last eve. Had I known you and your daughters were to be present, I would have made it my business to ensure we did not come near the Manor. However, as it was, we had no prior warning.’

He looked up at her, at the narrowed emerald eyes. She was indeed extremely wary of him. It would be hard to convince her of his sincerity.

Chapter 8

Sworn to Secrecy

‘We’ll ma’am, I know not how to proceed; I beg your sensitivity and charitable indulgence in this matter.’  He felt his heart beat rapidly. This startled him, as he was not one to suffer fear or trepidation. However, at the moment, this dainty lady was the most important person in his life. She held the key to his future. It was all important he impressed her with his honesty, and good standing, without revealing his true profession. He was sworn to secrecy, an oath of allegiance as a spy, to His Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. ‘My lady, I fear I cannot reveal the truth of my true status. Notwithstanding, I swear I have only the greatest respect and highest regards for your daughter Miss Sophia.’

‘My lord, you confuse me; why the mystery? I take it; you are indeed the Earl of Breckonbridge?

‘Of course, my lady, but I am sworn to secrecy. Let us say I serve my King and country.  I cannot give you even the slightest hint of my profession, save you are aware of my family and the title’s good name. I have three vast estates and some more in Jamaica.’ He was not about to state that he was also in significant debt.  

‘My lord, I am not aware of the standing of your family; I was proud to be the wife of a vicar, the Reverend Stuart Vale, or may I say The Right Honourable Stuart Vale. Sophia’s father was the third son of the Earl of Spaldingshire, and I am the daughter of Viscount Maidstock.  We led a quiet life here in the country and did not frequent the ton’s social gatherings. Indeed, my husband ministered to the yeomen on this estate and three villages belonging thereto.  When my dear husband passed away, my daughters and I led a tranquil and simple life. So no, I do not know you.’

Jake gritted his teeth. This was going to be doubly difficult.  However, it did not surprise him that Sophia was the granddaughter of an Earl and a Viscount; she had that fine bearing, the delicacy of limbs. ‘Perhaps I may call upon a relative, who will vouch for my good name.’

Lady Vale sighed. How could he plead for his morals after last night? Why she’d seen him pick up the lady in the voile drapes? Indeed, the memory put her to the blush.

‘My lord, how can you expect me to condone your behaviour? Surely you don’t think that I am overcome with your title or your estates?’ she said stiffly. ‘The safety of my daughter is paramount in my understanding.  How can you expect me to trust you with her safety, indeed her life? Would you wed her, and then desert for one of those women who appeal to your lower….? How can you even come here and seek my permission to court her, for that is your wish, is it not?’

‘Indeed, madam. All I can say is that what you witnessed last night was part of my work. I have to move in circles that I …. I find distasteful, but I am sworn to uphold….’ He stopped as he raked long elegant fingers through ebony waves.

Watching him, Lady Vale felt some pity; indeed, it seemed he was battling with his soul, but could not reveal the truth to save his honour.

He looked up, the sapphire blue eyes sincere; to her surprise, he rose from his chair and knelt on his knees before her. Taking her hand, he said, ‘my lady, I beg you to give me some hope; I have sworn fealty to our country and its welfare. My work takes me into areas where I am beholden to act the part of a loathsome character.  I fear I can say no more than that without going against my oath. Can you just reflect upon what I have revealed?’

Startled, she swallowed. She wanted to believe him. The man looked sincere; she tried to see honesty in his eyes, hear it in his deep baritone voice, feel it in the grip of his strong hands.

‘Madam, I am heir to the Marquess of Brindlehurst, who is my beloved uncle. I can have him see you so he may reassure you of my sincerity without revealing my mission.

Lady Vale shook, the Marquess of Brindlehurst? Good lord, she almost choked, had her baby, her Sophia, captured the heart of the nephew of a marquess no less? Nay, it could not be he was trying to dupe her.

Feeling a withdrawal, he did not blame her, but his heart dropped. It seemed he’d have to gain his uncle’s assistance here. He’d only see the girl once, held her in his arms once, looked into the pale jade eyes once, and he was enraptured.  He’d heard of falling in love at first glance, well it wasn’t exactly that, but it was damn well near it.

‘Madam, would you be prepared to meet with my uncle? I shall contact him immediately.’ He paused, ‘Better still, being a favourite nephew of his; I may call upon him at any time without notice. So, we could travel up to his estate this very day.

Lady Vale’s blood raced to her head. Good Lord, the man was sincere. However, even then, he could be playing a canny game.  She decided to call his bluff.

‘Very well, but I cannot go just yet; my youngest Emily is recovering from a severe cold.’

‘Then, with your permission, I shall have a Physicker and a nurse to attend her. Do you know of a good Physicker near?

‘Why yes, Dr. Moreton, and I am sure he will know of a nurse to care for her. However, my Lord, you need not go now; we can leave it a few days.’

‘Nay. I would rather have it settled now. So please write a direction to your Physicker, and my rider can deliver it.’

Rising to her feet, feeling somewhat agitated, Lady Vale looked at him. ‘But he may be seeing another patient, he may be—‘

‘Then, I shall wait.’

‘But he may not wish to—

‘He will come when he knows who’s summoned him.’

Goodness, he showed his iron confidence in his imperious tone and the set of his chin.  He was not one to be refused. She felt a megrim coming on; the man appeared sincere; she’d put him through the strictest testing. It seemed Sophia attracted an admirer of high standing in the ton. Pray God he was genuine and observed the rules of propriety. ‘I shall see to it straight away, my lord.’

He rose to his feet, kissing her hand. ‘Upon seeing my uncle, I hope the way will be cleared for me to court Sophia.’

Lady Vale looked at him, and then at the butler standing at the door, also the coachman and the postilion. She should trust him but fear still pulsed in her heart. She’d been attacked herself and would not allow Sophia to experience such terror. Why, even now, she had nightmares of the attack, awaking screaming, her sheets, and nightrail soaking. No, first, she had to see if this was some façade for darker intentions.


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!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 5 & 6

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 5 & 6

Please enjoy my festive romance novel, Sleigh Ride . Set in Regency England, and including some authentic language of the times, the reader is taken on a truly magical Christmas journey. Miss Sophia Vale faces poverty. Enter the Earl of Breconbridge, renowned as a rake hell with a conscience. New chapters will be posted every Monday and Thursday.

In Memory of my Mother, Dylis Walker, who sadly passed away on the 20th December 2020. With traditional Welsh tenacity and vigour she lived a rich and full 99 years.
Bye Mum… I shall miss you.

Other Chapters

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

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 5 & 6

Chapter 5

A Despoiler of Maidens

As he turned away, her yearning mounted to desire, she suddenly had the longing to feel those strong arms clasped around her, her head nestling on the broad chest, his lips on her hair. She gulped; she had to attract his attention. ‘My lord, we are indebted to you. You saved us from such a mortifying situation.’

He turned his head to look at her, his dark sapphire blue eyes holding hers. ‘Dear girl, I would entreat you to stay well away from Baron Hawsley, be not beguiled by his sly ways.’

She nodded, her breath coming in short bursts, her mouth opening, but with nothing to say, as he looked at her mother and sister. ‘We’re off now, ladies. If you need me, just tap on the roof, and we will stop immediately. Have a good journey now.’ He slammed the door shut.

Climbing aloft with the coachman, he frowned, for all her dull attire, the girl was a beauty, more so close up. Indeed, her hair dragged back in a tight bun actually served to accentuate her fine features, the pearlite skin with a hint of rose, the delicacy of high cheekbones. He was mesmerized, the huge eyes and arched eyebrows and a pert retroussé nose. Those full lips that begged to be kissed.  Her ebony hair shimmered a shade of silvery blue in the moonlight, her eyes glimmering a pale jade, not unlike the carved statuettes in the East. Intrigued, he pursed his lips and turned to the coachman. ‘Do you know these ladies well, John?’

‘Err … I know as their father was the vicar, but he passed away some six years ago now.  They have had it, hard milord, living on a stipend as the Baron says.  He has his eye on Miss Sophia now; he did have a thing for Lady Vale, but she fobbed him off. However, he has summat up his sleeve for Miss Sophia.’

Jake frowned. Dammit it all, he knew instantly what it would be. He gritted his teeth; there was no way, the brute would get his hands on that sweet young girl, not whilst he was around anyway.’

‘Do they frequent the Manor often?’

Nah, I’ve never seen ‘em attend a dinner afore. But, what surprised me was the way they dressed, tis not like em. They don’t have much blunt as I said, but they do wear a decent dress, not bawdy, but sweet and pretty like. So it got me thinking, maybe they woz tryin’ to put him off like, but I don’t think it would have worked. He was out to ruin them.’

‘You are sharp-witted John.’

‘I’ve been told that afore milord. Talkin’ like this, I know the Baron would throw me out on me arse if I was ter go against him, as far as the young lady is concerned, but I would have summat ter say if he tried to ruin young Sophia. Out on my arse or not.’  

‘Aye, I can understand your situation John, and I admire your principles.’ 

The coachman straightened up, puffing out his chest. ‘I would not allow him to touch a hair on that young lady’s head milord.’

‘Really.’ The Earl turned to him. ‘So you would ruin your life for her sake?’

‘Aye milord, one thing I can’t abide is a young lady molested by an evil rake.’

The Earl fell silent for some moments, as he reflected over the man’s brave words. ‘Then I have a job for you, my man. In fact, I shall make it permanent. But for the present, if the Baron manages to lure these ladies again to the Manor, I want you to drive the carriage straight to my estate and tell me.’

‘Your estate milord?’

‘Yes, I open Breckonbridge Castle in the winter months, tis only half an hour’s ride from here. That cur has designs on Miss. Sophia and her sister, and I must safeguard their virtue.’

‘Then I shall do that milord. As I said, I do think that he has lewd designs for Miss Patience as well, that is, once he’s finished with Miss. Sophia.’

‘Damn villain. It’s time he visited Newgate.’

‘Botany Bay more like milord.’

As the carriage trundled along the earthen track, he mused on a young woman with eyes the colour of pale jade. Dressed in fine clothes with an expert hairdresser, she would grace any grand ball; indeed, the bucks and dandies would queue up to fill her card. In fact, the more he mused on those lovely features, the more morose he became. Dammit it all, he felt the urge to pluck this rose within seconds of seeing her. No other man would get his hands on her; he’d never been so aroused, so eager to lay claim to a woman. God’s teeth he would even offer for her now, twas not often one had the chance to capture a diamond of the first water.  But, he could not forsake his family, five sisters and three brothers, and an estate that came with massive debts. His bloody pater was one selfish bugger with no thought of his offspring or of his loyal wife. No, upon rising, from a stupendous hangover, his afternoon would begin at White’s. As the day progresses, it would fast sink to the meanest of gaming hells. He gritted his teeth; in one night, the bastard lost fifty thousand pounds. He could even beat the Duchess of Devonshire’s gambling with his enormous debts. Faro was the gaming man’s executioner, which broke up many families, started countless duels, and precipitated suicides. On his demise, his pater left Jake with a title, castle, and enormous debts, besides his sisters and brothers and a mama, delicate through years of abuse.  He was also heir to millions of pounds and the estates of the Marquess of Brindlehurst. His uncle, entering his eighty-fifth year, was in failing health and no longer the renowned Corinthian.

He recognized the puzzlement, the awakening in those innocent eyes, as Miss Sophia met his gaze, the tip of her pink tongue moistening those rosebud lips. She was for the taking, but he would not stoop to harm her; she was too pure, too precious, rather he would become her benefactor. However, lustful thoughts raced through his mind. As his mistress, he could have this lovely girl, keep her and her family in comfort, but these were wild pointless reckonings. No, as a spy for HM Revenue and Customs, his record must perforce be spotless, above suspicion, as it was his only source of income. At such lustful thoughts, guilt swept over him/ He was no better than those scurrilous rakehells scouring the balls and assembly rooms.

It was the duty of every gentleman, lo; all men to care for the weaker sex, and in this light, although he may not have her, he would make damn sure she met a suitable suitor. He smiled wryly; at least he’d saved her from the licentious Baron. Soon he would reel the lecher in, now he had proof of the enormity of his smuggling; port, cognac, tea, coffee, cigars, and fabrics. Of course, Jake turned a blind eye to a lot of smuggling, for it was the only way the poorer classes could afford tea, coffee, chocolate, or wine. However, the Baron was an evil personage who despoiled innocent girls, corrupted wives, and destroyed families. For this, he would pay. Oh yes, Baron Hawsley would do well to enjoy these last few days, for soon he would be bound for Botany Bay.

On reaching the Manse, he escorted the ladies to the door, bowing and kissing the hand of each. On bussing the air above Sophia’s gloved knuckles, he smiled, a twinkle in his eye. ‘Mayhap, I will have the pleasure of seeing you again? I pray you will permit me to accompany you on your morning stroll in the woods?’

She lowered her eyelids, murmuring, ‘I have not told you of that, my lord, how come you know my habits. ‘Well, tis there you saw our scheming baron.’ He winked. ‘But you will be quite safe with me; I can assure you.’ 

He turned to Lady Vale, ‘If it is not an intrusion, may I call upon you and Miss Vale tomorrow afternoon?’

She bit her lip; although he had rescued them from such bizarre dinner companions, he too was of their ilk. Her tone was even, polite with a tinge of coolness.’

My lord, I am grateful for your chivalrous assistance, but we are rather busy at this time of the year. However, I thank you again for your kindness.’

He bowed. ‘My apologies for being so bold as to ask my dear lady. I should have sent my card, but as the Manse is such a distance, I thought to take this opportunity, to ask personally. My profuse apologies.’

‘Pray, do not take it to heart, kind sir, it is just there is much to do; the winter is upon us, and we must prepare.  Now I bid you good night.’

Bowing once more, he glanced over to Sophia and gave a surreptitious wink. She started back in surprise but could not resist a smile and a delighted shiver. Turning abruptly, he made his way to the gate, closing it gently behind him.

Sophia glared at her mama, a pout on her full lips. ‘Mama, how could you?  You did not even consult me. Now I have lost the most handsome of men. And he showed an interest; how could you?’

Lady Vale hugged her. ‘My dear girl, he will be here tomorrow, begging to see you. Jump not at his first approach; you must needs lure him with your diffidence.’

‘He won’t come; you’ve sent him off with cold words.’

Dearest, he will be here; he is a strong natured man and will not be thwarted by a protective mama. Come now; be happy, for like the eagle, he will pursue his mate.’

‘That’s rather brown, mama.’ Watching the carriage depart, she saw his lordship turn and blow a kiss. Blushing, Sophia grinned, too shy to return the gesture.

Lady Vale opened the front door to be greeted by Freddie, who bounced off his feet with joy, his tail wagging furiously. Sophia laughed and bent to stroke him. ‘Dear Freddie, the things we do for you.’

Lady Vale smiled, fondly patting him. ‘He’s worth it, but I do not wish to undergo such trials again, Sophia. You must keep him close to heel in future.’

‘I know, mama, but he has such winsome tricks. If I try to put him on the lead, he just throws himself on the ground and pants, his tongue lolling, his eyes so doleful. It fair touches my heart.’ 

‘I know he is such a sweet dog and a brave protector.’

‘Oh mama, I am so sorry you had to go through this evening’s monkeyshines.’

‘Sophia – language – language.’

‘Mama, that was quite discreet.’

‘Not in this house; we do not suffer slang here. Pray, I wonder where you hear such abhorrent language.’  Lady Vale took off her cloak, hanging it on the hall tree; she entered the small withdrawing-room and poked the embers of the fire. ‘Brr; tis such a cold room, we really must chop up more logs.’

Sophia smarting from her mother’s reproach, said tartly, ‘I will see to it in the morning.’

The lady sank gratefully into her chair. ‘Dear Lord, what an experience, thank goodness tis all over now.’

‘Mama, twas dreadful, and those awful women.’ Patience said, taking off her cloak.  Twas not that they were ladybirds; it was—’

‘Patience, never – never again say such a vile word in my presence d’you hear me?’

 Patience nodded, ‘Oh mama; you must get up with the times, tis a decorous term for ladies who—‘

‘Enough, I say.  Why, would you have spoken thus, if your dear papa was alive? Pray, answer me.’

Patience lowered her eyes. ‘No, mama, I apologize.’

‘Hmm, it seems everyone’s apologizing this evening. What a night, vile company, unspeakable people thrust upon us, that I should be even in their company. Dear Lord, I feel faint.’

Sophia rushed to the chest of drawers, pulling out vinaigrette. ‘Come Mama, breathe it in.’ She waved the hartshorn under the poor woman’s nose. ‘Tis much too much for you, mama.’

Patience nodded, ‘Yes, did you see those golden leaves on that woman’s—’

Lady Vale shrieked, ‘Patience – don’t speak of it. Leave the room – leave the room, I say, go see how Emily is.’

Patience raised her eyebrows at Sophia and bit back a giggle as she left.

After seeing her mother revive somewhat, Sophia pushed down the vial’s crystal cap and replaced it in the drawer. ‘I am so sorry; I should never have put you through all this. Just because Freddie—’

‘Twas not our dear dog’s fault Sophia, he was just protecting you, and thank God he was there. Heaven knows what would have happened. After seeing those odious creatures this evening, my heart almost fails for the worry of it all.’

‘Mama, it won’t happen again; I will keep Freddie close to heel.’

Patience said tersely, ‘their manners, and their dresses were quite bawdy, if I may use the word.’ She turned to Sophia, ‘Did you see those golden leaves covering that woman’s —’

‘That’s enough, Patience; I do not wish you to refer to such people in this house. Please go and see how Emily and Augusta are.’

Patience turned but then said, ‘their behaviour and manners were so lewd. I know that many women are forced into prostitution. Still, those ladies were beyond the bounds of even the lowest morals. Why did you see—?’

 ‘No – no Patience, do not refer to that obscene behaviour in this Manse.’

‘Now we will have to make one rule from now on. None of your girls can leave this house alone. You must go in pairs.’

‘Oh Mama,’ Sophia wailed. ‘Patience and Augusta hate going for walks, and they just refuse. I can’t just stay in. You never allow us to attend the Assemblies or go to the country balls; I’ll never meet a beau – never.’

‘Come now, Sophia, don’t get hysterical.’  Lady Vale sighed in exasperation. ‘Now you must sort it out amongst yourselves, but on no account will any of you go abroad alone. The Baron is an evil man, and we have been warned of his wickedness by the Earl.’

Amidst the groans of the girls, she turned back to Sophia. ‘Remember, Sophia, no solitary walks.’

‘But Mama—‘

‘No, I do not want to hear anymore. I forbid you to go out alone, is that clear?’

Sophia gritted her teeth. She’d planned to walk in the forest in the morning, for she hoped to see him there. Although he hadn’t exactly said he’d be there, perhaps he would look out for her. He suggested a stroll in the forest, so he may well be waiting.

Chapter 6

A Proposal

After breaking their fast early, Sophia said, ‘Mama, I’m just going out to chop up some more logs.’ Sophia tied her heavy duty apron around her waist. It was at times like this, she missed Benjamin. His particular duty was to gather fallen branches from the forest and chop them up for logs and kindling. Now he was away at University, it fell to her. Patience was only eighteen months younger than her. Still, she was very slight of frame with delicate wrists, so her domain was the kitchen and the hearth in the withdrawing room. This was much dirtier but lighter work and entailed cleaning and blacking two grates, besides scrubbing the oven and the kitchen floor.

Sophia threw on a light Spencer, as although there was a frost, she would soon be perspiring with the heavy labour.  Later, she planned to take her younger sister Jennet with her for a stroll, as mayhap, she would chance upon the handsome Earl in the woods. He hinted he would see her, but maybe it was just her romantic yearnings. Nevertheless, she was determined to find out. Lady Vale put down her teacup and looked at her third eldest daughter. ‘Augusta, would you nurse Emily? She needs cheering up. Play Fox and Geese with her; she does love it so.’

‘Oh, mama, I hate board games; they are so boring.’

‘Yes, dear, but it’s not about you, is it? So go along now, Goodness knows the child has suffered.’

‘But mama, you know she doesn’t put all the pegs in the lattices; they’ll get lost in the bed as usual; Patience said, pulling a face. ‘No, I shall go with Sophia; Jennet and Lark love the game, so she shall play with one of them. ’

Sophia nodded, ‘Yes truly; I must gather some more lungwort for Emily’s chest; it is still crackling. I wish we could afford a Physicker; I am very worried about her.’

Lady Vale arched her eyebrows. ‘The Baron may be prowling the woods even as we speak. He is well aware you take a morning walk. For want of repeating myself, I must say you should both stay very near the Manse; he may have one of those rakes with him.’

‘Oh mama, please, we can’t remain prisoners for the rest of our lives, just because of one odious man. Besides, Emily needs more healing herbs.’

‘But, he is not to be trusted, however persuasive he may be.’

‘Persuasive?  Mama, he’s an ogre; his jowls hang over his three chins, and he’s quite odious in his speech, let alone his body odour.’

‘Well, you may go, as long as you take Augusta with you as well. Now, do not stray far from the Manse, and stay within calling distance.’

‘You are making too much of this; after all, he did not harm us or in any way suggest any—’

‘Sophia, please, he … he … oh dear I have to say it, he is a dirty-dish.’

Sophia raised her eyebrows and tried not to giggle. Twas the first time she’d heard her mama talk slang, and with such venom.

Lady Vale continued. ‘He exposed you and Patience to those … those lightskirts; to my gently born girls of tender years; he is an odious nincompoop, a bacon-brained twit. There, you have me cursing, Sophia. Why I have never in my life experienced anything like his guests, as you may call them.’

 Augusta said with some bravado, ‘Papa would have landed him a facer.’

‘Augusta – watch your tongue. No, as I was saying, if your dear papa were alive, he would have used his cane against them, or more so—’

‘Mama, he was a Reverend, a man of the cloth; he would never—’

‘Sophia, don’t be high in the instep with me. You know your papa had a hot temper, and you take after him. He would have been horrified, indeed, if he….’ She paused, ‘But then, it would never have happened with papa here; the baron would not have dared behave so. I know for a fact your papa would have set about him with his cane, or as I said, called him out.’

‘Really mama, we’re only some minutes away from the Manse and—’

  ‘Yes, and it was Lord Jacob, who saved us; he knows the baron is capable of exposing you girls to unspeakable horrors. Indeed, he is capable of absconding with you.’

‘Mama, now you’re making him out to be a villain in one of the penny dreadfuls.  But he—’

‘He is a villain, caught up in all sorts of havey-cavy behaviour. If you girls do meet him, do not allow him to engage you in speech. Be polite and demure in your demeanour, but give an excuse to slip away.’

Patience went to her mother and hugged her. ‘Mama, we will be very careful and will not give the detestable creature a chance to speak to us; we will make an excuse.’

‘Hmm, still I loathe letting you out alone. Oh, if only Benjamin were here.’ She took a lacy handkerchief out of her skirt pocket and wiped her brow. ‘I know you children think I am fussing, but I have something to tell you, and then you will understand my huffing and puffing.’

She moved in her chair, straightening her back, and beckoned them to her side. ‘Now, dearest girls, do not interrupt, for I only wish to tell you this once.’ Seeing the girls settle at her feet, she took a deep breath. ‘Some years ago, when your dear papa was alive, I used to love to stroll in the forest, especially as the wildflowers appeared. I would always pick enough for a posy for the drawing-room windowsill.  One day … I … was bending to pluck some, when the Baron came upon me.  He slapped me on my bottom, and then … and then … he lifted my skirts and threw them over my head.’

Sophia looked at her. ‘Oh my God, what happened?’

‘He wished to have his evil way with me.  I was too far away from the Manse to call for help, and unlike you, Sophia, I did not have a dog with me.’

The girls waited with bated breath for her to continue.


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!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 3 & 4

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 3 & 4

Please enjoy my festive romance novel, Sleigh Ride . Set in Regency England, and including some authentic language of the times, the reader is taken on a truly magical Christmas journey. Miss Sophia Vale faces poverty. Enter the Earl of Breconbridge, renowned as a rake hell with a conscience. New chapters will be posted every Monday and Thursday.

In Memory of my Mother, Dylis Walker, who sadly passed away on the 20th December 2020. With traditional Welsh tenacity and vigour she lived a rich and full 99 years.
Bye Mum… I shall miss you.

Other Chapters

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

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 3 & 4

Chapter 3

To Outwit a Brute

The butler ushered them through to the long withdrawing room decorated with gaudy red velvet drapes with gold tassel trims. The Hepplewhite chairs were also upholstered in a vivid red with gold paint. Some minutes later, a footman opened the mahogany doors to admit the Baron.  Entering, he wore a lascivious beam, which promptly fell to one of disgust as he saw not two but three ladies walk towards him, like a funeral cortege.  ‘Lady Vale?’

Sophia’s mother rose, gave a deep curtsey, and held out her hand upon which he was forced by etiquette to bow and kiss the air half an inch above her knuckles.

‘My lady, I am honoured – honoured to have you and your lovely daughters.’ He turned to the door, ‘let me introduce my worthy friend, the Viscount Treaditch.

A fop, tall of stature with a dissipated face and rake thin body ravaged by loose living and drink tottered into the room, his bright pink waistcoat quarreling with his yellow satin breeches.  A footman rushed to his side as he bowed, teetering dangerously to one side, his left foot crossing over his right foot, causing him to twist into a fall.

The baron guffawed and beckoned for two footmen to lift him to his feet. ‘Silas old chap, come meet the ladies.’ Grinning, he showed a mouth of missing front teeth, and others browned with the stains of life. 

The fop made his way over to Sophia. Holding out his hand, he waved a grimy lace-edged handkerchief.’

No – no, you cockle head, Lady Vale – here.’ The Baron shouted, spittle shooting out.

‘Pon rep, forgive me, you are such a lovely woman; I am overcome, my heart bursting with joy at such a vision of beauty. You rise like Venus from the waves; your bosoms riding high o’er—’

‘You bacon brained twit, tis a lady you are addressing.’

The fop nodded, pointing his toe forward and bowed, his nose almost touching the floor upon which he sprawled at her feet, squirming like an upturned turtle. The Baron barked at a footman to help him up, who leapt toward the lecher straightening and brushing down his clothes, as he helped him upright. 

Grinning, the profligate turned to Sophia, not at all fazed by his drunken behaviour. He leered his nose almost in her covered bosom.  ‘Pon rep Jude, where are we? Didn’t know this was a funeral party; where’s the corpse?’

The Baron seethed, trying to control his temper. He walked over to Lady Vale and ignored the scathing glare of her narrowed eyes, and proffered his arm. ‘Dear lady, may I escort you to the dining room?’ He turned, snarling at Silas, who’d flopped onto a chair now almost comatose. ‘Damn it all, Silas.’ He beckoned to a footman. ‘Tom – Albert, escort the two young ladies into the dining room.

The footmen bowed, and each proffered an elbow to Patience and Sophia. Trying not to laugh, they allowed the footman to lead them into what proved to be a sumptuous dining room.  The room was brightly lit with beeswax candles in brass wall scones. Three-tiered crystal chandeliers hung suspended from an ornate ceiling whilst the cornices boasted plaster cherubs.  A table large enough to seat forty people was laid out with silver and gold placements with vases of fresh flowers and sugar-coated roses. The exquisite crystal glass epergne held sugar angels with icing sugared wings.

The Baron seethed as Silas half ran with stooped legs after him. ‘You’re dicked in the nob – pull yourself together.’

Silas bobbed assent and fell onto a chair before the ladies were seated.

The Baron bared his teeth to Lady Vale. ‘Forgive us, my dear lady; the fellow’s as drunk as a wheelbarrow.’

She bit her lip; she could not possibly leave so soon; it may throw him into a fierce temper, a temper she knew only too well. No,, that would not do.  It was fortuitous she was present; goodness knows what would have happened to the girls without her here. The rascal had obviously invited his friend to what they planned to be a cosy foursome; their intent was patently clear. Sophia and Patience were both highly intelligent and sensible girls. Still, goodness knows to what torments the Baron would have subjected them. She shuddered at the thought of it.

Looking down the long table, Lord Hawsley bellowed. ‘Where are the vittles? That bloody chef; don’t I pay him enough?’

The butler with a stony expression and tight lips appeared, followed by six footmen carrying steaming dishes. As he carved a large rack of roast lamb, the servants laid out the venison, with plates of roasted hare and a whole pheasant. There were at least eight partridge and pigeon pies with vegetable dishes covered in a butter sauce.  The footmen rushed to and fro with so many dishes for so few guests. She bit her lip when she thought of the near starving tenants and their dear children.  Would they had a quarter of this sumptuous meal on their almost bare tables. She watched ruefully as the footmen with inscrutable expressions laid out even more dishes of roast turkey, snipes, two ducks, and lastly, at the far end of the table, a small roasted pig with a crab apple in its mouth.

Once seated, the footmen poured the wine and served slices of the roast lamb with a blackberry sauce.  It appeared the guests were to help themselves to the rest of the victuals.

As the Baron handed Lady Vale a plate of pigeon pies, there was raucous laughter and a kerfuffle outside the door. To her horror, at least half a dozen men exquisitely dressed sauntered in. As the leader came forward, Sophia gasped, his stature and broad shoulders announcing him to be a Corinthian of the first order. The candlelight accentuated the planes and angles of his face. , His toned muscles filled out a superfine corbeau coat of dark blue with a velvet collar and gilt buttons. His collar points reached a strong jaw and his cravat, a waterfall of starched linen, decorated his barrelled chest. ‘Ahah more beauties.’ He paused, frowning, ‘Rather drab are they not. Is this a masquerade? Are they ghosts or what?’

Chapter 4

A Kitten Fight

The Baron laughed. ‘Nay, my lord, these are my neighbours who have honoured me with their genteel presence.’

He turned to Lady Vale.  ‘My apologies may I introduce Lord Jacob Wells, Earl of Breckonbridge.’

The man leant forward, taking her hand. ‘Charmed ma’am, charmed.’ As he brushed the air above her knuckles, three ladies appeared laughing and chattering. They were indeed beautiful and obviously Cyprians of the highest class. 

Shocked to be in the presence of the demi-monde, Lady Vale looked at him suspiciously. She could not concede any titled gentleman would be found here in this den of iniquity. She gave Sophia and Patience warning glances. Lady Vale was unaware of the look in the Earl’s eyes as he gazed upon Sophia. 

The Baron cleared his throat and patted Lady Vale’s hand. ‘Forgive me, ma’am, I did not anticipate having any other guests, but I do keep an open house here; my doors always open to my friends. I know not who will turn up or even at what hour.’ He guffawed, then straightened his back preening. ‘Oh, to be such a popular host, eh what, Jake?’

The Earl nodded to Sophia, mesmerized with her beauty, the blue-black hair, and jade eyes. He was determined to know her. She was well-mannered with an ample bosom, tiny waist, and flaring hips or what he could make out in that hideous gown; a curvaceous young woman, yes, delectable.

As the Earl went to answer the Baron’s retort, the Cyprians glided forward, elegant in stance and haughty of expression. The footmen immediately ran to the table, pulling out chairs for them. They were apparently well used to the lack of etiquette in this room.

A tall, beautiful young woman with painted red cheeks and a scarlet satin dress fit for a bawdy house sat down. She immediately reached for the wine glass and beckoning the footman to fill it.  As the woman fussed over her skirts, Sophia tried not to stare at the bright butterflies painted on the heavy breasts. Biting her lip, trying not to giggle, she looked across at her mama, who gave her a warning glance. But,  it was Patience, who almost choked, as another young woman appeared opposite to her in an emerald green skirt, her top half naked except for two delicate gold leaves pasted on her nipples. 

The Baron cleared his throat, for once discomforted, but then gave a strangled laugh, ‘Hah Letitia, beautiful as ever, you are the delight of the Gods.’

He gasped as the third woman appeared at his side and bent to kiss him, her gown consisting of narrow drapes of translucent voile stuck to the skin in places, the sides open to view the curve of her breasts and buttocks.  He stuttered, ‘Maisie, you – you are divine.’

The lady in the scarlet dress tittered.  ‘Hmm, too bad, I see you copy Lord Byron’s mistress, but Lady Caroline Lamb had the figure for it, whereas your scrawny bosom hardly—’

The woman in voile snarled, and leaping over to her, pulled the woman’s chestnut ringlets. 

The Earl wore a grim expression as he walked over, lifting the lady in the voile drapes easily under his arm and setting her aside. ‘Ladies – ladies – enough. You are behaving like naughty kittens.’  He looked over to the Baron. ‘Methinks I should escort your guests to their home, tis not a fit place for ladies in mourning.’

The Cyprian with the gold leaves stuck to her nipples jumped to her feet, her full breasts bouncing. ‘You dare to insult us, my lord.’ She picked up a plate and hurled it at him, whereupon the Earl ducked and held out his hands in placation. He was rather taken with the little tigress and would have enjoyed her feisty charms later. Still, the virginal Sophia captured his heart, even if she took on the stance of a little grey mouse. 

Lady Vale nearly choked as she watched him lift the woman, whose legs kicked open. Dearest Lord, the woman, did not wear a chemise– in fact, nothing. Her heart gurgled in her bosom, as she espied neat brown curls between flailing thighs, and they? Oh no – no, those curls in such an intimate place had ribbons on them, ribbons! Oh, God – where was she?’

Astonished, Sophia looked at her mother, who raised eyes to the heavens. She waved a delicate hand at Sophia, whispering, ‘Don’t – don’t look just – look at – oh – oh – don’t look.’ 

Lady Vale nearly fainted as she saw one of the gentlemen clap his hands, whilst the other gentlemen laughed as he quaffed back the wine, between choosing plates of victuals. It seemed the most normal thing for ladies to behave like she-cats. 

Going over to Lady Vale, the Earl bowed. ‘Come, my lady, this is no place for you and your daughters.  He glared at the Baron, raising his voice.  ‘God’s teeth Hawsley, you have brought these gentle ladies into a den of iniquity. Shame on you, man.’  Turning to Lady Vale, he murmured, ‘Gather your daughters and wait for me in the hall; I will arrange for a carriage.’

Sophia ran to her mother’s side; it had undoubtedly been a momentous experience, one that bested Mrs. Radcliffe’s ‘Udolpho.’

Baron Hawsley rose to his feet and walked with him to the hall.  ‘Please use my carriage, my lord. Even better, I shall escort the ladies home.’

The Earl cocked an eyebrow; already the Baron was in his cups, and a crowded carriage of three ladies, however drab of dress, was not a sensible idea.

‘Nay, I feel it is incumbent upon me to see to the ladies’ safety; besides, you have a full house to entertain.’ His mouth wrenched in a grimace. ‘Your duty is to your guests here. Don’t want to spoil the party. Do we?’

The Baron’s gaze swept over the Cyprians now chatting amicably, their light voices tinkling through crystal chandeliers. ‘Hmm. Yes, tis best I oversee things here. Don’t be long now; I have some games arranged for later.’

The Earl laughed, clapping the portly man on the shoulder. ‘Then, I shall make haste, my lord.’ As he strode toward the hall, his expression tightened. Damn the man, what the hell did he think he was doing exposing gently bred ladies to this debacle?

Overseeing the footman ushering the ladies into the carriage, he looked in to see them safely settled against the satin squabs. 

Sophia leant forward, her heart hammering as she tried to speak to him. He was the most handsome man she had ever seen, not that she’d met many in her cloistered life at the Manse.  She was determined to speak to him, to have him notice her. He was the epitome of her dream hero, tall, handsome, with blue-black hair waving to his neck. As he reached to shut the door, the desire to be clasped in those strong arms flushed through her body. She was startled with the intensity of the feelings, feelings she’d never experienced before, not even when she read Les Liaisons Dangereuses.

The Earl’s handsome face was within inches of hers; those sculpted lips so dangerously near. She was utterly under his spell; indeed, if he did kiss her, she wouldn’t turn away, silly girl; she would have to with Mama seated only two feet away. Yet, she was puzzled, why should she be so enthralled with a man’s beauty, why in heaven’s name would she wish so ardently to kiss those chiselled lips?  She realized there was no time for initiatory approaches, and she could not think of any way to gain his interest. Now she knew why Mrs. Radcliffe’s heroines panted and fainted in the presence of such divine men. She wished she’d paid more attention to how these bashful heroines, emblazoned men’s passions, with a single modest glance and lowering of their eyelashes.

How should she look at him?  Should she adopt the flirtatious moves of the heroines and lower her eyelashes? Flutter them? Bite her lip? No, she was too shy for that. Anyway, he was so powerful; he wouldn’t keep his eyes upon her; he would be too eager to return to those sirens in the banquet hall. All he desired was to see these little grey mice home.  She blushed, remembering the gold leaves on that woman’s nipples, the curve of a breast, and the roundness of her bottom. Were all women so prettily curved? She’d only seen her or her sister’s bodies whilst dressing, and they were moderately blessed with pert breasts and slender waists, not like these buxom harlots. Her cheeks warmed as she recalled how easily he lifted that woman in the voile drapes, lifted her with just one powerful arm. She remembered his strong, elegant hand placed firmly under her breasts.  Her heart hammered, as an exquisite feeling rippled to her groin. What was that? Why were her thighs so hot? Dear Lord, she was so confused; what were those exciting feelings, and why was she feeling them?

 Her heart sank; she would never see him again. He moved in such different circles. He was a gentleman in the way he rescued them from that odious man, yet she’d been introduced to his other side, a rake of the first order. She blushed, visualizing the ladies’ near nudity, their gaudy dresses, and low cut bodices or none at all. It was hardly surprising he had no eyes for her; she was featureless in her dark grey dress and dowdy hair.  However, she now knew the other side to this stranger, his saving grace being, yes; he was a rake, but a rake with scruples. Yet, he showed not the slightest bit of interest in her.   Fortune did not shine upon her, t’was the only night, she’d worn a drab grey dress and fashioned her hair like a spinster aunt.


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!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 1 & 2

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 1 & 2

Please enjoy my festive romance novel, Sleigh Ride . Set in Regency England, and including some authentic language of the times, the reader is taken on a truly magical Christmas journey. Miss Sophia Vale faces poverty. Enter the Earl of Breconbridge, renowned as a rake hell with a conscience. New chapters will be posted every Monday and Thursday.

In Memory of my Mother, Dylis Walker, who sadly passed away on the 20th December 2020. With traditional Welsh tenacity and vigour she lived a rich and full 99 years.
Bye Mum… I shall miss you.

Other Chapters

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

All Available Chapters!

Sleigh Ride: Chapters 1 & 2

Chapter 1

A Sly Baron

Shafts of light shone through the last leaves of the silver birch tree, tracing lacy patterns across the path. Sophia Vale lifted her head to the sweet trebles of birds high among the branches above her. It was an idyllic morning for mid-winter, and more so as Lord Jude Hawsley would be still abed. That dratted monster would not rouse until early afternoon, giving her the freedom to enjoy the vestiges of winter sun. Now she was free from the fear of his unwelcome advances.  However, wary of the sly ways of the Baron, she’d taken Freddie, her loyal sheepdog, with her. 

Picking her way through a mound of gold-brown leaves, Sophia espied a patch of medicinal herbs.  Lungwort was the most beneficial for her little sister’s congestion. Relieved, she plucked them from ferns, fast disappearing as winter advanced. With icy winds now sweeping the countryside, she was lucky to find them. The herbs would make tisanes to alleviate the crackling congestion on Emily’s chest and ease the rasping cough. She wished she could afford the services of a Physicker, but his fees were well above their modest means. The stipend they did have, covered only their food and shelter of a dilapidated manse.

The scent of the wild herbs wafted through the forest bereft of foliage to a silent watcher. Hiding behind the thick trunk of a horse chestnut tree, Lord Jude Hawsley grinned, caught the chit; she was well away from the manse, well away from her noisome siblings. She was indeed a picture, in her velvet pelisse, those ebony waves flowing down her back to her waist. His heart rippled with her nearness, his fists clenching. How he yearned to take that slender body in his arms, tear off that coat, fondle her curves, kiss those full lips. Oh, what he wouldn’t do if he had the chance.  As she neared, he pounced. ‘Miss Vale—’

‘Oh – oh my Lord, you frightened me.’ She jumped back, turning in desperation to search for Freddie; where was he? However, the dog picked up her fright and emerged from the ferns, rushing to her side to her relief. 

Seeing the blasted animal, the Baron waved his hands in placation. ‘My dear girl, you should not walk unescorted through these lonely paths. Some scoundrel could be waiting behind the bushes ready to ravish you.’

Sophia’s heart sank, now he’d changed his tactics, but at least she had Freddie with her. ‘Such talk, sir, how indiscreet. Have you no sense of propriety?’ she asked with asperity.

‘Hmm, I think only for your safety, my sweet girl.’

‘Truly, my lord.’ She smiled, lifting those beautiful eyes to his. ‘I am quite safe here with only the birds and the deer as my companions. She looked pointedly down at her dog, now sniffing the man’s feet. ‘And of course, Freddie, I do not venture far without him.’

‘Quite – quite so.’ he spluttered, wishing he could kick the cur away. ‘Such a loyal animal. However, now I am here to—’

‘But my lord, you should repair to the Manor; you will begrime those exquisite clothes.’

Not picking up her veiled sarcasm, he preened, struggling to lift his treble chin above the immaculately folded cravat. Hurriedly, he smoothed down the blue superfine frock coat, as he endeavoured to tug down the high cut over his barrel of a belly. Simpering, he squawked, ‘I am fit to swoon with your sweet praise. Praise from an angel alighted on my unworthy path.’  Foppishly, he flourished a silk handkerchief near her face as he posed, pointing his foot away from the damn cur’s nose. ‘So my apparel pleases you?’

Sophia took a deep breath. He reminded her of a fat old wood pigeon bowing and bending his tail feathers to his female victim. Well, he would not be jumping on her back. ‘Tis clear your valet spent hours fixing your cravat.’

‘Hmm, I follow Gronow and Beau Brummel to the tee, y’know.  However, be that as it may, my angel, I risk all for one sweet word from that delectable mouth. Now I am here, pray to let me escort you to your door.’ He felt Freddie’s teeth on the back of his leg, nibbling gently.  Dammit it to hell, the bugger was herding him. He jerked his head back, ‘Hah; I see yer dog is up to his tricks.’

‘Hmm, yes, it looks like it. However, those fine kid leather boots are not fitted for such rough terrain, my lord. You should turn back before these twisted roots mark them.’ 

Trying not to laugh, Sophia beckoned to the sheepdog. ‘Oh, my apologies, kind sir, it is his way of showing his affection. Freddie – Freddie sweetheart, come here.’

The Baron’s nose crinkled up, his smile, not quite a grimace, then opened his arms. ‘My dear girl; I cannot help it; I must just give you a hug; you are so precious, so—’

Freddie bit him on the buttock as the odious Baron bore down on her. 

Aghast, Sophia ran forward and grabbed the dog whilst the Baron hopped around, clasping his buttocks in pain. His red cheeks now crimson, he spluttered, ‘My breeches – my fine buckskin breeches. Really Miss Sophia, I … I … I really do think you….’ He twisted his head to see if Freddie had drawn blood, whilst Sophia, alarmed, stood aside wide-eyed.

‘Miss Sophia, pardon me, but would – would you see if he has drawn … blood?’

‘Oh my goodness, of course – of course.’ Sophia, not wishing to go too near his unmentionables, stuttered, ‘I … I can see from here; his teeth have torn through the buckskin. However, there is no blood. I fear, my lord, you moved too fast toward me.  I sincerely hope you can ignore this – this unfortunate occurrence.’

The Baron bared his teeth, now was his chance; the damn dog played right into his hands. ‘Only, my dear, if you do me the honour of dining with me this evening.’

Seeing her draw back, he said slyly, ‘of course, I am willing to overlook this incident if you afford me the pleasure of your company. If not, if not, then I’m afraid I ….’ He paused, his tone ominous. ‘My man regularly hunts in these woods. He is an excellent shot, but you should be on your guard.’ He grimaced, looking down at Freddie. Sophia felt her heart leap to her throat. He would kill him if she didn’t accept. ‘I … my lord you know tis not appropriate. I do not have recourse to a chaperone.’

‘Well – well bring your … your delightful sister, Patience, is it not?’

‘Why, of course.’ Knowing she was trapped and alarmed that he could harm her dog, she nodded. Just this once, she would have to oblige him, if only to save her beloved Freddie. ‘Tis I who am honoured, my lord. Patience and I will be happy to accept your most kind invitation.’

Huffing with pleasure, he took her hand, ‘I will send my carriage at seven of the hour this evening.’ He beamed; sister or not, it would be easy to separate them. Once in the Manor House, she was his for the taking.

Chapter 2

The Plans of Mice and Women

Rushing through the door, Sophia ran across the stone-walled hall and, flinging the door open, burst into the withdrawing room.

‘Why, Sophia, my dear, what is wrong?’ Her mother, Lady Beatrice Vale, rose from her chair. ‘You look troubled.’

Patience, at ten and nine years, her younger sister, came to her side, taking her hand. ‘Why you are trembling dearest, what’s happened?’

‘Freddie bit the Baron.’

‘Oh-oh, dear. Where?’ Her mother clasped her hands together.

‘Err … on his … err … unmentionables.’

Patience’s face crinkled up with laughter as her mother giggled. ‘Where?’

‘His unmentionables?’ Her sister chortled. ‘He didn’t really bite him?’

‘Yes, he did, but he didn’t draw blood.’

Her mother shrieked with laughter, ‘Don’t Sophia, don’t. Oh, dear God.’  She wiped the tears from her face. ‘Tis very unseemly to talk so; don’t say anymore.’ She gripped her waist, laughing.

Patience looked down at Freddie wagging his tail, his bright brown eyes wide and innocent. ‘Oh Freddie, you dear – dear boy.’

Sophia plumped down in the chair. ‘This is no laughing matter, mama; he threatened to have him shot.’

Lady Vale bit her lip. ‘I’m sorry, Sophia. It’s just – you caught us unawares.’

‘But why did he bite the man.’ Patience asked.

‘He came too near, and Freddie leapt to my rescue. He’s never bitten anyone’s unmentionables before.’

Lady Vale stroked the dog. ‘Oh, my brave – brave boy. Now you deserve a special treat.’

At the word ‘treat,’ Freddie pricked up his ears, jumping up in joy, then dashed to the door leading to the kitchen.’

Patience rose and followed him; after all, he wouldn’t rest until he had his reward on hearing the word.

‘But mama, he could have him shot, maybe I should—’

‘No, my dear, then he would have to reveal he made lewd advances to a gently bred young lady. The ton would spurn him. Oh no, he would have to hold off on that.’

‘But, he could shoot him when we are not around.’

‘No, my dearest, we know about the incident now, and I shall make it my purpose to ensure I make him fully aware of that.’

Patience returned. ‘Freddie’s enjoying his treat.  But, Sophia, what is it?’

Sophia turned to her. ‘He blackmailed me. He insisted I go to dinner at the Manor House, this very evening.’

Lady Vale frowned. ‘Oh no, it is impossible; you do not have a chaperone, tis quite inappropriate. No, you cannot go.’

‘But mama he did threaten me, if I didn’t attend, he inferred Freddie would meet with an accident.’

Patience frowned. ‘Mama, I don’t think we should chance it; I don’t want anything to happen to Freddie.’

‘Then there is nothing else for it; I will accompany you both. We will have to leave Emily, Jennet, and Lark with Augusta.

‘But he may not allow you entry.’

‘I don’t think he can refuse; he would be the talk of the village. Besides, I am the wife of the third son of an Earl and the daughter of a Viscount. No dear, never fear, I will be with you. Why he may scheme to get you alone and then ruin you.’

‘Yes, I am afraid of that.’

‘That’s decided, come let us prepare ourselves. At least, we may look forward to some good food this evening; t’will be a pleasant change from our frugal fare.’ Lady Vale’s eyes gleamed; she knew and hated the devil. For that was what he was, a devil which sought to debauch women – any woman, titled lady, servant. Even before her dear husband’s demise, he’d evil designs upon her, and now it seems he’d cast his eye on her daughters. She sighed; this would never have happened if her beloved Stuart was alive; he would have called the brute out. As it was, she knew she should refuse the dinner invitation outright, but she could not bear to think poor Freddie could die for trying to protect Sophia.  Now it was up to her; she was a force to contend with when it came to her daughters’ welfare. 

She looked at the small fire in the huge hearth of the cold, draughty room.  They’d lived through hard times since her husband’s death. Being the third son of an Earl, he was destined for the Church to earn a living and had done well with the Baron’s father. On the worthy gentleman’s demise, his son, a rakehell of the first order, embarked on a life of debauchery, spending his fortune on the horses, gaming, dinners. The guests were not mentioned in Polite Society, or the riotous balls filled with Cyprians and their masters. Her husband struggled through this disastrous time, but tragedy hit the family. When the Reverend Thomas Vale succumbed to the fever and two of his three sons, only Benjamin survived.

Due to the charity of the Reverend Vale’s father, the Earl, Benjamin could attend Oxford. Woefully, his charity did not extend to the girls, although she quite understood, as there were six daughters. However, he was gracious enough to bequest a modest stipend that allowed them to live in some comfort. Lady Vale was an intelligent and educated lady who tutored the girls as befitted any gentle born daughter. Not wishing to pay for another minister, the Baron allowed her and her family to stay for a high rent that enabled them to continue living with friendly and lifelong neighbours. 

Late that afternoon, as they prepared for the dinner, Lady Vale gathered her daughters around her. ‘I know that the Baron is a treacherous man, and therefore, we must make plans to avert his dastardly designs upon us. I have come up with a list to ensure we stay only an hour at the most. So listen carefully. Firstly, his usual female companions wear lewd and gaudy attire, so we shall dress in the most sombre mode, which will be sure to dampen his mood. Now for the next items on my list.’

As she finished her list, the girls clapped their hands in glee. They were well aware of the danger they faced. However, he would be hard done by to ravage three ladies. Yet, there was some danger, as his staff was renowned in giving a deaf ear to the rousting of their master, heeding no cries for help or pleas for mercy. T’was more than their jobs were worth, the very least they could expect was a flogging.

Sophia picked out a plain grey dress with a high neck and violet trimmings. She dressed her hair in a chignon primly caught at the base of her neck. Her only adornment was a chain of jet beads usually worn in the mourning period.

Her mother and sister were similarly attired. Patience wore a dusky mauve whilst her mama favoured her black bombazine widow’s dress. Some ladies took to widows’ weeds for the rest of their lives on losing their husbands, but her mother discarded hers within three years. It was only last year, she laid the gloves aside, but Sophia noted, she wore them tonight. Seeing each other’s appearance, they grinned. Beatrice’s eyes glittered; she was prepared for battle; he was a demon of the first order.

Hearing the carriage halt outside, they donned their black and grey capes, putting the finishing touch to their gloomy garb.


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 33, 34, & 35

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 33, 34, & 35

Here are the final three chapters of my enthralling fantasy romance novel, Maid of the Forest . 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 33, 34 & 35

Chapter 33

The Banquet

The main hall was already filled as Devlin and his knights entered.  Forestyne stared in awe at the bunches of flaming rushes held in iron wrought sconces on the walls.  The central fire was built on a bed of stone, upon which huge logs flamed and hissed. The aroma of roasted meat filled the air as a wild boar rolled on an iron spit.  Forestyne looked up to the high table to see Adreva sitting on the right-hand side of King Vortigern, whilst his mistress, the lady Althea sat on the left. 

Their table was directly below that of the King and Queen and the advisors’ council with their wives. As Devlin explained that it was the Queen’s pleasure to choose her guests for the second table, he noticed food for the two top tables arrived on silver plates, whilst the people on the rest of the tables ate from carved wooden boards

Seated beside Gary, Tania leant over to look at the food, whispering, ‘I can’t believe anyone would eat all that. Thankfully Lily was allowed entrance to the dining hall along with the king’s hounds. Looking over, Tania saw the ladies share their silver plates, with their tiny pet dogs on their laps, who yapped excitedly, eating and licking voraciously. 

Forestyne cringed as she saw a beautiful Swan carried aloft on a sturdy frame; the delicate white feathers reinserted into roasted skin. But, her mouth watered at the sight of roast chickens, partridges, and whole hogs roasting on a massive spit in the centre of the hall. Numerous plates of fish and prawns were also displayed on a vast side table. The only birds missing were ravens, revered as the psychopomps leading the departed soul to the Upper Worlds. Also missing from the bounteous tables were the squirrels, the lords, and messengers for the Eternal Shadow of Death. It seemed that the royalty observed Christianity but clung to the old ways.

‘Come, my love, you must eat; you have survived on crusts and dried fish, so you must fortify yourself.’

Further down the table, Clara sat next to the mighty gnome, Prince Ansgar. Although this should be an evening of company, luscious food, and merriment, Tania caught the deep sadness in her friend’s face. She should be so happy; Ansgar loved her and had already proposed.  She tried to catch her attention, but on failing, resolved to speak with her after supper.

Whilst they ate, a harpist played the most vibrant tunes, interspersed with a lyre accompanied by drums.  Forestyne could scarcely speak over the music, let alone the hubbub of chatter and raucous laughter.

As servants cleared the plates to make way for dessert, a troupe of female dancers emerged from the side door. Tania gulped, trying to look composed as the ladies trooped to the centre floor, each wearing only a voile sheath draped around naked hips. Seeing her shocked look, Gary laughed, ‘Darling, it’s quite normal you’ll get used to it. They are superb dancers. She bit her lip as the drums started up a slow beat. ‘I don’t think so Gary, they’re topless, and they’re not wearing any knickers, not even a thong.’

Gary chortled. ‘Honestly, dearest, this is nothing to the orgies that take place later.’

‘Well, count me out. I don’t think Clara will be too pleased.’

Gary beamed. ‘Just kidding, sweetheart.’

Tania narrowed her eyes, from the sounds of it; he’d obviously been party to at least one of them.  His grin was too broad to believe otherwise.

As she took up her goblet, there was an almighty crash; people cried out and jumped to their feet as the massive doors to the hall burst open. Knights rode into the centre of the hall. The leading rider wearing a coronet addressed the King. ‘The Earl of Hunstead is besieged by the Picts.  The devils are at the front entrance. Some could possibly be on their way here.’

The King rose to his feet, his face grim. Looking around the hall, he raised his hand, bunching his fist. ‘To arms – to arms. We ride this very hour. Gather round, we must set out our plans. There is no time to waste..’

Guards hurried the ladies down a corridor to the secured Assembly Room. In the flurry of anxious chatter, Forestyne slipped into an archway; she had to be free to summon the wolves.

Only as the soldiers closed the massive wooden doors did Tania realize Forestyne was not with them. She turned worriedly to a guard. ‘A lady is missing; we must go back for her.’

The guard shook his head, pushing her back to the other women. Furious, she turned to Clara. ‘She’s not here, oh God, we must try to find her. I’ve told the guard, but the bloody man won’t listen. I don’t think he understands my rotten Latin anyway.’

With the vast doors now under heavy guard, Tania looked around the room at the narrow arrow slits for windows. ‘There’s no way we can get out of here. Let’s hope she’s with Devlin.’

Within half an hour, the King and his commanders planned their attack. A thousand soldiers would remain to guard the fort, the Black Warrior would lead in a frontal attack on the Earl’s besieged fortress, whilst the knights attacked on both sides.

Devlin’s first missive was to inform Forestyne and the other two women of the coming onslaught. He grimaced as Tania hurriedly told him of Forestyne’s disappearance. As he left them securely locked in and heavily guarded, he made his way back to the main hall and the king, his heart heavy, where was she? He swung round as he felt a slight touch on his sleeve.

‘Forestyne – oh my love, thank god, I was so worried.’

As he enfolded her in his arms, he said, ‘Why are you not with the ladies?’

‘My lord, I am with you.  I will summon my wolves and join you at the fort.’  Devlin grimaced.  ‘I forbid it – you will remain here at the castle.’ Forestyne beetled her brows, ‘My lord, you have no say in what I do. I go now to join my wolves at Lord Hunstead’s fort. We will rally the other packs throughout the forests. You cannot win this by arms alone. There are thousands of picts roaming the woods, and you have only a thousand or more soldiers under command.

Devlin gritted his teeth, trying to remain calm. ‘Forestyne, obey me; I am now your lord and master, you protector.’

‘Like hell you are, go now, we waste time and lives.’

‘I will keep you here, even if I have to tie you up.’

‘You have no power over me, my lord; I can dissolve right now before your eyes. Push me not to that, for I promise I will do so.’ She growled softly, lifting her lips enough for him to see the canine teeth lengthening.

Choking down his anger, he lifted her chin to gaze down into the dark depths of her eyes.

I love you more than life itself, Forestyne. Don’t do this to me. How can I go fight when I know you are in danger?’

‘Fear not Devlin, tis what I must do.  There is no way you can persuade me otherwise. I love you too, but I also have my own purposes and duties, the main one being to defend humans.’

He hung his head, his skin whitening. ‘So be it, then kiss me first.’

She went on tiptoe, putting her slender arms around his strong muscled neck, kissing him hard on the mouth. He drank in her fierce passion, feeling her canines lightly nip his lip.

Brushing away the blood with his finger, he looked down at her, ‘Come back to me, my love, come back.’

She looked at him for a long moment, then reaching up, touched his cheek.

Chapter 34

The Midnight Raid

Hearing the onslaught may well consist of thousands of Picts, Devlin listened carefully to Gary’s plans of attack, knowing him to be a brilliant strategist in warfare. Having been caught by surprise, amid their revels no less, they had no time to haul their catapults through the narrow roads. Instead, they must resort to hand combat.

Gary laid out a strategy of two ambushes to segregate the leading group. This would utterly confuse the Picts. They had little time, as the Picts were already fighting to gain entrance to Lord Hunstead’s fort. Devlin’s master at arms was to take three hundred foot soldiers to march at speed along the besieged fort’s main track. Seeing such a small army, the Picts would not use the full force or send runners messages to send for more men. Meanwhile, at the front entrances, the approaching soldiers would pretend fear and scatter.

Unbeknownst to them, Devlin’s troops’ main body would approach the fort from the back, creeping in stealth through the forest, and scale the fortified earthen levels to gain entry. When the Picts broke in the front entrance, they would be confronted with over a thousand of Vortigern’s troops waiting for them. 

As they advanced, Gary lifted his hand. ‘Did you hear that?’

Devlin looked around, ‘Nay, it’s the trees whispering to us.’

‘Oh, come on, you’re kidding.’ Gary looked at Devlin aghast.

‘Nay, tis true, the trees do protect humans; it’s just that we’ve forgotten how to listen. I only know of this since meeting my wife, who is one of the tree people. If you concentrate, you will hear the whispers. They are trying to warn us.’

Devlin lunged his horse to the edge of the track, ready to attack, when he saw flashes of silver fur streaking the trees. His heart leapt to his throat. Forestyne? He swallowed, turning back to Gary.

‘Seems the wolves have joined us.’

Gary hissed. ‘Damn it all, that’s all we need. The critters can attack, damn lethal.’

Devlin did not wish to disclose Forestyne’s secret or that some of those wolves were the tree people. He’d sworn an oath of secrecy to her and could not divulge even a hint of it. ‘‘Well, you never know, they may be on our side.’

Gary grimaced. ‘Well, let’s hope to God, it’s our lucky night. All we need now is an attack by wolves, the Picts outnumber us, we’d be done for man, done for.’

Devlin nodded grimly, hoping to God it was Forestyne and her magic at work. Still, even then, he prayed for her safety. He’d fallen deeply in love with her; she was not only his love, but she was also part of his soul. As Devlin urged his horse forward, he had a striking thought, one that took him by force. If they won this night, then he would disappear to the woods with her, for the first time, begin to lead a life of peace; find some sanctity for his soul, not the constant battle of courtly life.

But now the battle was before him; the flames roared from the top of crenelated towers as soldiers fought hand in hand with the Picts. He looked over to Gary. ‘Remember; we pull the soldiers out on your signal. May God be with you, my friend.’

Gary nodded, pulling down his visor.’ 

As he galloped forward with the foot soldiers running behind them, spears and hatchets raised, a group of wolves howled and raced in front of them towards the savages. The troops roared in relief as they saw their silver furred allies fighting by their side. Gary could hardly believe his eyes as he fought alongside the wolves who despatched the Picts in a fury of fangs and howls. At this moment, he truly believed in magic, believed in the oneness of nature, the inseparable unity of man, beast, and tree.

Devlin, Gary, and the troops whooped with furious joy as the Picts fled the scene, terrified of the wolves and the savagery of the soldiers. 

Seeing the main gates open before him, Devlin rode into the cheers of the knights and soldiers within.  Yet, he immediately realized something was terribly wrong. One of the knights rode up to him.’ ‘We were too late to save the Earl; they cut him to pieces. Bloody savages.’

Devlin swallowed hard, saddened. They did not get there in time to save the good Earl’s life. He also knew he had a grim task ahead of him, t’was he who would break the news to the Earl’s motherless young son. Yet even as he shook hands and clapped armoured mitts on shoulders, he looked at the groups of wolves now sitting panting on the side, some already slinking away to the trees. Which one was Forestyne?

Gary rode up to him. ‘You know that was breath-taking, never did I think to see wolves and man fighting to together. Come, my friend, you know more than you say. Share this magic with me.’

Devlin shook his head, I am sworn to secrecy, but yes, I will agree there is magic; it’s real. But now I must hie back to court and report to the King. He did not add he was anxious about Forestyne. As far as Gary was concerned, she was safe at the castle.

Entering the great hall of Vortigern’s castle fort, Devlin waved the sign of victory to the tense groups of servants and some of the guards waiting anxiously for news. With a heavy heart, he thumped on the door of the Earl of Hunstead’s young son’s bedroom.  The lad appeared immediately, his eyes puffy, as if from weeping. ‘My father?’

Devlin nodded grimly. Entering, he bade the boy take a chair and sat beside him. ‘Your father died bravely, Darine; I am now your protector until you are of age to rule your lands.’

Darine hung his head, tears tumbling down his young cheeks. Devlin allowed him to weep and then, pouring some wine into a goblet, bade him drink. ‘Come, this will fortify you; we will discuss more in the morning. But never fear lad, I will protect you and your estate.’

The boy rose to his feet and, going to Devlin, hugged him putting his head on his chest.  ‘I don’t want to talk about anything; I just want my father.’

Devlin held him, stroking the tousled curls. ‘I know lad, it hurts, but you have me; you are not alone.’

Opening the door to their apartment, he gasped as Forestyne rushed naked into his arms, the chain mail almost scraping her tender skin. Her dripping body from the bath smelt of roses.

‘My dearest girl. I need you.’  Grunting in between her fervid kisses, he took off his helmet and coif, he rasped, ‘help me with this damned hauberk.  Willingly she leapt up and pulled off the heavy chainmail and the padded undershirt beneath. As he ripped off the linen shirt, his desire rose to a fever pitch as she widened her naked thighs to pull off his leather boots, her bobbing breasts, sending him crazy, as she pulled down the heavy mail chausses.

Stroking the rippling sweat off the hard-packed muscles of his magnificent body, she giggled, ‘You stink like one of my wolves, come, a splash in the tub is needed.’

He scowled, the need of his iron rod far more significant than a bit of sweat, but to please her, he submitted.  He leapt in one jump into the bathing tub, the water splashing over the floor and on her. Laughing, she bent to pick up; the bathing cloth only to shriek as he lifted her onto his lap. ‘Well, my maiden, you may have your pleasure washing off my sweat. Whilst I find pleasure in your superb body.’

Chapter 35

Fare You Well

There was an air of gaiety as the friends sat down to a private banquet, the apartments festooned with greenery, bright ribbons, and aromatic rushes. It was a bittersweet moment as the friends would go their separate ways. 

Banging his golden spoon on the table for silence, Prince Ansgar rose to his feet. Clara gazed up at him with adoring eyes as he spake. ‘My dear friends, let us congratulate our Black Warrior, Sir Devlin. Not only is the heir to the Northern lands of Conterry, but our king has also awarded him the title of Duke of Winsmoor for his outstanding bravery.’

Devlin stood and bowed to the cheers of his friends, who thumped the table with their appreciation.

He held up his hand. ‘Thank you, but I say now I would not have won this battle without Gary’s brilliant strategy. This did not go unnoticed by our King; in gratitude, Gary now bears the title of Lord Geraint, Earl of Trenton, our noble Blue Warrior.

As they clapped and lifted their goblets, Tania slipped a chicken breast to Lily, who lay slavering under the bench. Leaning over to Clara, she whispered. ‘So are you going to live in the lower World?’

Clara shook her head. ‘Oh, its wonderful news Tani’ he said. He didn’t think I would be happy in the Lower World, a dark place of mountain ridges and live volcanoes. He said he prefers living here, so it suits both of us.’

‘Yes, but one day he will be King.’

‘He said they have a vast estate here in the Middle World. His brother will most probably inherit the Kingship whilst Ansgar sees to the estates here.’

‘Oh, that’s wonderful news; I’m so pleased for you.’

‘So we shall still see a lot of each other.’

Tania nodded. ‘But, Gary and I are still determined to find our way back to our own time. King Vortigern has given him a wonderful estate, and it’s so near to where the cottage will be in the future. Lily will love it there, with fields and the forests to run in. She loves the mud as well. I bet she’ll find the pond, from which we all emerged from the well.  Forestyne is well aware of it. Gary feels sure we will find the time portal.’

Clara frowned. ‘Oh, I shall miss you, Tani.’

‘And I will miss you terribly Tani, I have to make sure I keep Lily tied to me when we try to slip through the portal. Don’t you have any yearnings to go forward to our time?’

Clara shook her head. ‘No, I could never leave Ansgar, and I do love it here. I just feel I fit in.’

Leaning over, Gary said, ‘you never know, if we find the portal, we could visit each other.’

Devlin seeing the friends chatting, turned to Forestyne. ‘So my love, what think you of living on the Winsmoor Estate?’

‘It’s all I could wish for. It was such a surprise. I can see Moraig whenever I wish.’

Devlin grinned; he’d shown her the fortified castle and then, with a mischievous sparkle in his eye, said softly, ‘dearest, come I would like to ride with you.’

‘Now? Where? Forestyne looked at him, somewhat surprised.’

‘Hah, a mystery. Come, trust me.’

‘Devlin, don’t tease, tell me.’

He beamed. ‘Be patient, my love; you shall see very shortly.’

‘Well, I will bid the others goodbye.’

‘Yes, tell them we will meet them later.  Now let us ride.’

Coming to a narrow path through the forest, he said, ‘We shall have to go in a single file here, watch out the horses do not stumble on the twisted roots of the trees, this is the most ancient part of the forest. Following him carefully, Forestyne gazed in wonder at the scarlet bark of the Yew trees. ‘This is a place of wizardry, my lord, you tempt fate to come here.

‘Hah not with the most mighty sorceress of our time.’

She laughed. ‘Now you mock me, I am still training and will be for many years yet. Indeed, I have yet to visit the Great Hall Under the Moon.’

‘’Hmm, magic indeed. Look yonder’

He pointed to a clearing where the yew trees gave way to the slender birch.

Forestyne gasped. ‘Oh, upon my heart, I have never beheld such a magical abode. Pray, who lives here?’

‘Us, my love.’

Forestyne gazed at the cottage, at the sturdy oak beams, with the thatched roof sloping on one side almost to the ground.  The structure appeared to nestle in a display of tumbling roses and wildflowers. It even had apertures covered in the finest heavy velvet, framed in wooden doors that could be closed if necessary.

He grinned at her silence, at the look of longing on her beautiful face. He urged his horse across to her. ‘Tis yours, my love. I want nothing more than to reside here with you as my beloved wife, the woman of my heart.’

She gazed at him with wide eyes, the tears brimming like crystals about to tumble over her satin skin. ‘Oh Devlin, This is a dream, a dream brought to your dear heart by the Goddess of love, Ambrosia herself.’

‘Don’t let’s forget the Blessed Virgin Mary as well. This is your hideaway, my love, a place where you can spend time with the people of the trees, and your beloved pack, your wolves. Gathering her in his strong arms, he held her close, whispering in her ear. ‘So much privacy, so much space for love. What say you?’

Her eyes sparkled as she pulled back to look up into his beloved eyes. ‘My love, my heart, my life is yours.’

 He gazed down earnestly. ‘Darling, I must warn you there are dangerous times ahead. I have not forgotten my vow to your mother. I will win back the Kingdom of Llanmadoc, and you will take your rightful place on the throne as Queen Rhoslyn. She gazed at him, tears in her eyes. ‘Oh Devlin, my dear lord, I only want the forest; I have no need for castles. I—’

‘Darling, the castle at Llanmadoc is surrounded by a forest that goes down to the sea. You will be in your element.’ He hugged her, you may be as wild as you wish and still be Queen.’

‘And you shall be my king.’

‘Nay, I shall be your consort.  For you alone will be Queen.’

‘Nay, I insist you will be king, I will not agree to anything less.’

Devlin grinned kissing her hand. ‘So be it my forest sprite. I am forever bewitched by you.’

Delighted, she threw her arms around him, her love so great she burst into tears.


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 31 & 32

Maid of the Forest: Chapters 31 & 32

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 31 & 32

Chapter 31

Love of a Mother

‘My lady, I am at your service. Devlin bowed and walked over to Moraig, snatched from the Eternal Shadow of Death. Amazed at her recovery, he helped her rise from the ledge.  She now stood straight and tall, her body plump, her cheeks glowing, her dark hair a mass of waves and curls.

Smiling, she said, ‘I am aware you’re pledged to each other, t’was your destiny.’

Walking over to a carved wooden chest, she took out a velvet bag. Opening it, she handed Forestyne a chain of gold from which hung a faceted ruby. ‘Wear this always, next to your skin. Whenever you need me, dearest, just touch this stone; tis my link with you. I will come to you if you are in need. Remember, the bracelet of runes is embedded in your flesh. Through them, you are linked to the power of the Gods and goddesses. Call them if you have need.’ 

Forestyne bowed her head, the tears tumbling down her cheeks. ’But I don’t wish to leave here. I am a girl of the forest, I could not live anywhere else, I need the forest, the trees, the grass, the birds, the—’

‘Worry not, dearest, you will have the forest, Sir Devlin will see to that, be patient. Go join the Knights on their journey to the court of Vortigern. There this good knight will take you to your mother, the Princess Adreva. You are the image of her sweetheart. She will recognize you immediately, especially as she sees the ruby your wear around your neck and the bracelet embedded in your wrist.

Now to clothes, you cannot go wearing your course woolen tunics. Pray, go you to the chest, and bring forth the clothes.

Forestyne’s eyes widened as she saw the costly linen robes and surcoats of delicate wool. ‘These are too fine for me to wear. I would be frightened of tearing them; they are so delicate.

Moraig smiled, ‘Nay, they are strong enough.’ Turning to Devlin and the men, she said, ‘Do you go now and wait outside whilst Florestyne dons her new apparel.’

Devlin’s heart swelled with pride as Forestyne emerged from the hut. Her beauty was enhanced in a pale leaf green gown and gold surcoat, whilst a wimple of white voile, with a circlet of golden leaves, covered her head.  Over her arm, she carried a woven wool cloak edged with fur.

She dimpled, twirling around for him to see her in such finery, then handed him the cloak to put around her shoulders. He grinned as he closed the beautiful gold clasp. ‘Methinks, you will be a singular jewel at the court, my lady.’

Re-entering the hut, he found Moraig wearing a modest linen gown with a white wimple caught in a silver cord around her head. She beckoned for him to come forward. ‘Dear Sir Knight, I beg you, take care of my beloved child; she is now under your protection.’

‘Madame, methinks tis Forestyne who will be my protector.’

Moraig laughed, a rosy flush in her cheeks. ‘Aye, the wolves will never be far away. Now go both of you and take care.’

Forestyne kissed her on her forehead and then each cheek. ‘I go knowing that dear Drustan and Bricius will watch over you.  But never fear I’ll return soon.’

Moraig smiled, hiding the fear within her heart. There were dangerous times ahead.

Shadows gathered over the path, dimming the scarlet blood of the leaves as they set out. Devlin turned to her, ‘Dearest wife, we should not loiter on this path; I am sure the Picts will attack again if they see us. So let us ride hard and join our friends; only then are we safe.

Within hours, Devlin and Forestyne joined the cavalcade of knights, ladies, squires, soldiers, henchmen, monks, and cooks on the long trek to the fort.

Forestyne’s mouth dried. ‘Oh Devlin, there are so many; I am not used to large groups; I feel fear rising.’

‘Be calm; these are my friends and seek only to protect you.’

‘You say that, but have the two women told them I am a sorceress? Surely the good Christian knights would slay me?’

 ‘Nay, the two women, can barely speak our tongue; besides, they spent their time running away, twice no less.’

‘Yes, but you can only surmise.’

‘My love, there are those amongst us who only a few short years ago bowed to sorcery. I would not be surprised if some of them, ladies as well, still pray to the pagan gods, so never fear; besides, I would kill the first one to threaten you.’

‘Strong talk Sir, but you will not be with me all the time; an enemy would bide his time and strike when you are away from me. I could easily kill any attacker, but then I would have to flee to the depths of the forests; if I stayed, they would burn me as a witch for having such strength.’ ’

‘Darling, quell your fears. I will spread the word on pain of death no-one will touch or threaten you. Suffice to say no-one crosses the Black Knight, lest they wish to suffer a torturous death. I am sure the two women would not give you away.

Forestyne espied Tania with a knight at her side, his hair flickering with gold metallic lights under the gibbous moon, but the girl frowned and turned away.

Unaware of Forestyne’s friendly intent, Tania looked up at Gary, whispering, ‘that’s the girl from the forest. She’s done some strange things; honestly, I’m terrified of her.’

‘Like what?’

‘Oh well, she was mixing noxious herbs and singing to them. Treating them like they were alive, then dancing around a fire whilst her mother lay dying.’

Gary smiled. ‘She was most likely casting spells to bring her mother back from the dead. These people believe that nature is alive, even the soil beneath our feet has consciousness, as it is made up of dead leaves, rotting trees, and all that.’

‘Well, they are mad, she’s mad. Honestly, at one point, I thought she was changing into a wolf. She has a pack of them lying around the hut, and she was—’

‘Talking to them?’

‘Yeah, how do you know?’

‘Really Tani, be careful, if she was doing that, then she really is a witch or a sorceress – one powerful lady. Tread carefully, ‘

‘Oh, come on, Gary. Now you’re talking rubbish.’

Believe me, Tani; I’ve seen some strange things since I’ve been here. Once, I could have sworn, I saw a woman change into a wolf, but I was drunk at the time.’ His eyes narrowed.  ‘What else did you see?’

‘Nothing much; we were too busy planning our escape.’

‘Well, be careful. I see she’s with the Black Knight, and they seem mighty friendly. So don’t cross him; he may look harmless but believe me, he’ll behead you as soon as look at you.’

‘Oh, that’s gross, Gary. He’s a knight. I read knights championed women, protected them.’

‘Yes, as knights, they were lovers to the wives of the king or Chieftain. But even so, if the woman took another lover as well as him, then it was ….’ He drew his hand across his throat.

Tani laughed. ‘You’re kidding.’

‘I am not; look, I’ve already told you, they kill a woman if they think she’d been unfaithful. She may be only his lover, but to him, that is an immense duty. He will die to protect her, fight duels over her, give up his life for her, so he demands absolute faithfulness. Lover, he may be, but he has tremendous powers over her. I told you how the kings behave. The other week, the king of Somerset kidnapped the wife of the King of Thanet. As he was taking her back to his fort, the King sent his knights to bring her back. ‘Well, they found her, but she refused to go back him, so one of the knights calmly stepped forward and beheaded her.’

‘Oh my God, that poor woman. Didn’t anyone try to stop him?’

‘Of course not, they wouldn’t want their own heads chopped off, would they?’

‘What about the King, wouldn’t he want to kill the man who beheaded his wife?’

‘No, she’d shamed him by refusing to go back to him. He would have been seen as a coward if he took her back.’   

‘This is a strange savage world, Gary. I can’t see how a girl like her would want to be friends with us. We are too different. ‘

‘‘Darling, she’s a maiden of the forest. She is most probably afraid of you. Don’t forget the people of the Whispering Trees live in another world to us.

Tani looked over. ‘You see, she’s turned her back on me. Besides, we don’t speak the same language even. Look, I’ll be friendly, okay, but it’s going to take time.’


They would stop of an evening and make camp. The tents were of heavy canvas supported by poles for the knights and their ladies, whilst the rest of the caravan made do with tarpaulin hefted over branches. Soon fires were lit, and the hunted prey of the day roasting on spits over open fires. As the men jostled, played chess, or cleaned their weapons, Tania and Clara grew closer to the maid of the forest. Eventually, of an evening, she instructed them in the ancient Brythonic tongue and Latin.

On reaching the sturdily constructed wooden forts on the way, Forestyne would follow Devlin through surrounding hamlets to markets crowded with peasants, soldiers, and the occasional Knight.  Stallholders called out their wares, whilst people bartered, shouting even louder. The air was rich with the aromas of roasted game, meat pies, and freshly baked bread, some with added exotic spices.’

‘My love, those pies smell delicious. Would you care for something?’ he knew she would not eat meat, but he may tempt her with some bread for fruit. 

‘Oh yes, some of that fresh bread with herbs.  I’m starving.’ Her stomach rumbled; the food on the journey consisted of any game the soldiers hunted, dried salted fish, or stale bread.

Seated in front of Gary on his huge destrier, Tania exclaimed, ‘Honestly, it smells heavenly, my mouth is watering. Look over there. I didn’t realize they sold pies and cooked meats. Gosh, they look like sausages on that tray.’

‘Oh yes, they’re called Lucanian. The Romans loved them. The soldiers refused to travel without their bottles of fish sauce and those sausages. ’

‘So what’s in them?’

‘Umm – blood, meat, berries, herbs, spices.’

‘Wow, they smell delicious. Honestly, they’re like our takeaways but even tastier.’

‘Yes, the Romans are renowned for buying fresh bread, ready-made meat pies, and roasted meats. I’m really surprised.  Seems we haven’t changed much, have we? Sausages – takeaways.’ She turned beaming at Forestyne riding behind them. They were now fast becoming good friends.  On the long trek to the fort, the train of knights and their parties would stop of an evening and make camp. 

Forestyne’s eyes closed in ecstasy as she crunched down on the aromatic bread. It tasted heavenly even though it was brown and coarse, with poorly ground wheat and barley grains. 

Wiping his chin free of gravy, Devlin looked up at the huge fort towering above them. ‘I hope they provide fresh straw for our beds.’

‘I’ve heard that most beds in forts are infested, full of people’s leavings, mice, and even rats. Ugh, I shall sleep on my cloak on the floor. Forestyne shivered at the very thought of the filthy piles of straw and pallets.

‘Nay.’ Devlin laughed. ‘I will ensure you sleep on fresh straw and fur rugs, my sweet, never fear.’

After weaving through a milieu of peasant huts and tents for knights and soldiers, Forestyne exclaimed, ‘By the goddess, I never thought the fort to be so splendid.’ Even Devlin’s description did not prepare her for such grandeur. The horses had to climb up three levels of palisade fencing. Every few yards, two sentries wearing iron helmets, chainmail coifs, and thigh length haubergeons stood on guard holding spears, with a large bow and quiver full of arrows slung across their shoulders.

She murmured to Devlin, riding by her side. ‘They seemed prepared to do battle.’

‘Yea, they are always on guard; the Picts didn’t waste any time after the last Roman outpost to leave our land. They’ve come in their thousands to conquer and rule, but never fear, we now have four thousand knights and foot soldiers in the garrison.

Entering the fort itself, some ladies appeared beautifully apparelled.  On seeing Clara’s rainbow-coloured hair, they gave little shrieks of horror, hissing the word ‘maleficus,’ which Tania understood as ‘witch.’ But, a mature lady, spoke loudly, ‘attendite ad me.’ Immediately, they hushed, lowering their eyes, as she stepped forward, gracefully curtseyed, and introduced herself as the Lady Althea. ‘I am here to help you ladies befit the gaze of our king.’

Tania spoke hurriedly to Gary. ‘Lily, will you take care of her?’

He nodded, taking the long rein of the dog. ‘Fear not, Lily is safe with me. Many of the ladies of the court have pets, some even exotic.’

Biting her lip, Forestyne turned to Devlin, who gave an encouraging wave. ‘Go, my sweet; they will tend to your needs.’

The ladies showed them into a long narrow room heated by a central fire of logs, the smoke escaping through a small aperture in the roof. The windows were non-existent except for narrow arrow slits.

Forestyne was thrilled with the luxury of a hot tub lined with coarse linen. At the other end of the room, she heard Tania protesting but was too far away to hear her words. If it continued, she would have to get out of the tub and go and translate, but luckily, Tania grudgingly joined her and Clara.  Forestyne felt her body tense as the ladies, on seeing Clara’s tattoos on her forearm, stepped back crying out, ‘magicae – magicae.’

This time the Lady Althea frowned and crossed herself, ordering one of the ladies to send for Devlin.

Before his arrival, the ladies threw large linen towels over the three girls to protect their modesty.

Within minutes Devlin appeared, listening carefully to the Lady Althea’s fears. Nodding, he pursed his lips, ‘My lady, I apologize if this has upset you. These words are not for a lady’s eyes or delicate nature. Sadly, this young girl was captured by the Picts and held down by force whilst they destroyed her soul, tattooing those maleficent words on her tender flesh.’

‘Hah, Sir Knight, we must save the girl.’ She leant forward, her full breasts pushing against the low neck of her gown; indeed, he caught a glimpse of the violet aureoles and rosy tips of the nipples. Such was the way of the Court. Her jade eyes roamed over his lips, down to his groin. He straightened up, hoping his wilful rod did not respond. It appeared the lady had other ideas than saving Clara’s soul. The pink tip of her tongue appeared moistening her full bottom lip. With her back to the ladies, she fluttered graceful fingers down the low bodice, as if to tickle her nipple, her lips curled in an enticing smile.  Now deeply in love with Forestyne, he cursed inwardly; his rod was misbehaving.  He shifted in his chair and placed his chainmail mitts in his lap while fully aware of his discomfort. Lady Althea gazed at him, a whimsical look in her jade eyes. 

 ‘Err … yes, my lady tis my earnest desire to save her, for my new young wife loves her dearly.

Taunting him, she pushed her hips back, her bosoms almost falling out.  ‘Hah, but Sir, I do have need of your advice in the privacy of my chamber, tis not for the tender ears of the ladies.’

‘My apologies, dear lady, but the King and his Council await me. There is an erstwhile lord threatening battle.’ He wanted to turn away, to cut her flirtation short. She was both irritating and too seductive for any red-blooded man, not to be affected with her sexual wiles. But, she was the King’s favourite mistress; he dare not cross her now he had Forestyne to protect.

She bowed her graceful head, not at all disconcerted. ‘Your lance is strong, your thrust to the point Sir Knight., I am sure you will be swift to serve.’

 ‘Err – yes, my lady.’ This woman was trouble, a man-trap.

She arched her delicate eyebrows.  ‘Perhaps another time. But now, we must save the girl’s eternal soul. I shall call our healer monk; he will cut the offensive images from her tender flesh.’

Chapter 32

The Amorous Lady

Forestyne cringed hearing the sultry tones in Lady Althea’s voice.  Of course, Devlin was a great warrior, strong with the lance, his powerful thrust and accurate aim unerring. He never failed to score. Fortunately, she did not understand the true meaning of Lady Althea’s words. Yet the lady’s flirtatious manner was enough to raise the wolf in her. Breathing deeply, she battled down the urge.  T’was clear Lady Althea had a passion for Devlin. But she saw, he did not succumb to her charms, freely offered. The lady was truly blatant in her desire for her handsome young husband. To quell her anger, she cast her thoughts on Clara’s dilemma. Although a strange girl in her manner and appearance, she’d warmed to her innocent heart and sweet nature.

Yet, Forestyne feared for Clara, for there was no way to obliterate the runes; besides, they were revered in her own pagan world. Yet if Clara chose to remain with the Christian world, she would take action. Moraig and the Tree people would dissolve the runes, as only a powerful Sorcerer or Shaman could achieve that and then be at great danger to Clara’s body and soul. 

Devlin was glad to leave and also startled that he felt such fierce loyalty to his new wife. There was only one woman for him, and that was his sweet girl of the forest, well sweet enough until she turned wolf.   He winked at Forestyne, messaging not to worry; all would be well. She felt his strength pour through her, for she relied on his prowess in the Christian world.  Sighing, wishing she were with him, she lay back relaxing fully, inhaling the steam scented with rosemary and lavender, taking delight in the ladies gently washing and massaging her scalp and long locks.  She looked over to see a group of other courtly ladies fussing over a chest full of clothes arguing as to what would suit their guests. Although Tania tried to keep her own clothes, they would not hear of it, looking at her scandalized. As they didn’t understand her, they glared, putting their fists on their hips to show their disfavour until Tania was obliged to concede. ‘

Clara spoke up again when they showed her the wimple she would wear.   She refused, shaking her head furiously, but Lady Althea hissed. ‘Rex – eratus.’ She then drew her fingers over her neck, mimicking her throat being cut, speaking savagely, ‘occidere – sanguinem.’

Forestyne did not have to translate, for Clara understood the first two words, ‘King – angry.’ The other two words were explained in the lady’s example of her throat being slit. Gritting her teeth, she gave in.

Brimming with impatience, Forestyne wondered when Devlin would introduce her to her birth mother. Her heart pounded at the very thought of meeting the Lady Adreva. Would she recognize her, would she accept her as her daughter?  Pray God the gem would help identify her.

Forestyne found Devlin waiting for her outside the dressing room. His eyes lit up as he appraised her slender form, the pale blue silk of her gown edged with semiprecious gems, clinging to her slender curves, the rise and fall of her plump breasts. A silk wimple covered her glorious hair, but that was court dress, so they had to abide by it. Reaching into his pocket, he pulled out a long narrow case. ‘Here, my love. I wish for you to wear these, they will enhance your dazzling beauty.

Forestyne opened the case to see a heavy chain necklace of gold with glittering cabochons on either side of a dazzling sapphire. ‘Oh Devlin, I can’t, I might break it – lose it.’

‘Come now tis a sturdy clasp and most befitting my adorable wife. Tis, an heirloom from my blessed mother. She will be thrilled if you wear it. As I am away from my homeland for years, I carry it with me, waiting until I find the most precious girl to be my wife.’

She looked up to him; he rarely spoke of his family, except to say he adored his mother and loved and respected his father, a powerful chieftain from the North. He also had five siblings, three sisters and one brother. Forestyne slipped the ruby from Moraig into her bodice, keeping her promise to wear the powerful amulet next to her skin, never to take it off.

‘Brace yourself, my darling, I have arranged for you to meet your birth mother, it will be in private, only the three of us will be present. We are to meet in the chapel, which is some distance from the main hall and will be very private. ‘

Forestyne smiled, ‘There are always ears, my love.’

‘Huh, not here, for the walls are guarded with her hounds. They accept no bribes.’

Forestyne’s heart thumped in her chest, the blood rising to her head as Devlin ushered her into the small building. There were no windows, the only light being from the arrow slits in the walls. Straining her eyes in the dim light, she made out a figure seated on a high-backed carved chair. Her knees trembled as she walked nearer. Stopping as the lady rose to her feet, her arms outstretched.

‘Rhoslyn, my darling girl, my baby.’ The gentle voice broke. Running up to Forestyne, she held her tightly. Gulping, Forestyne stood almost paralyzed with fear and longing. Her slender mother was virtually the same height, with a wisp of golden hair escaping from her wimple. 

Devlin stood to one side, astonished; except for the difference in their ages, they could have been twins.

Holding her hand, Adreva let her to a chair. ‘Come sit with me, let us talk,’

Seated, still lost for words, Forestyne sat and took out the ruby. 


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

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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.’


‘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


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.’


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.


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?’


‘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


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


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?


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.


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.’


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!