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.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Maid of the Forest – Forestyne: Chapters 33, 34 & 35
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.
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.’
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.
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: