Wednesday, July 8, 2020

"Love Eternal" by Lisa Forget - Chapters 11 & 12


Check the blog archive on the right for previous chapters....

Chapter Eleven

Talgarth Castle, Wales
5th century

“The sacred Three to save, to shield, to surround, the hearth, the house, the household, this eve, this night, O this eve, this night, and every night, each single night. Amen."
The prayer echoed throughout the castle as the fire was ceremoniously dampened in the hearth of the great hall.
Outside, the bonfire burned brightly, and according to tradition, come morning, its embers would be used to relight the fire of the great hall, symbolizing rebirth.
Dwynwen watched as the anticipation and the merriment grew among the guests encircling the impressive glowing tower of fire. Her own pulse quickened when Prince Maelon wended through the crowd, making his way toward her.
As he approached his eyes shifted to Dwynwen’s oldest brother Nectan standing beside her. He nodded to him then stood before Dwynwen and took her hand in his.
“Princess.” He bowed, kissing the back of her hand, brushing his moist lips against her soft skin.
Dwynwen breathed in his intoxicating musky scent as he lifted his head and their eyes met. An exhilarating sensation coursed through her body.
She bowed to him and then he turned, continuing to round the great fire, determination in his step. Dwynwen stood trembling as she watched the man she loved approach her father standing twenty paces before him.
After witnessing his fond regard for Maelon, Dwynwen was certain her father would consider the prince a worthy match for her.
Prince Maelon bowed before her father. He inclined his head and Dwynwen saw him request a private audience. Her father looked over at her. Dwynwen was startled when she saw the flash of anger cross his face.
 “What have you done?” Nectan whispered when he noticed his father’s reaction.
“I did nothing,” she replied. “Is there fault in finding true love, brother?”
“There is when one is already promised, sister,” he hissed. “You are not at liberty to avail yourself to another. Do not think your actions over these past days have gone unnoticed. Father reigns over this land. Do you not understand he sees and knows everything?”
Speaking with Nectan was like hearing her father’s voice. The heir to the throne shared the same mind as their father. Surely if he knew of Prince Maelon’s intentions, so did her father. King Brychan was just and honourable. Although good-natured and loving, making him angry could be deadly.
“I must go to them!”  Dwynwen fled from the feast fires to join Maelon where she would defend their love and intentions.
As she entered the hall, the sound of raised voices came from her father’s council room. Both men were adamantly making their point.
“Father,” Dwynwen stood in the doorway. “Please forgive us.”
The shouting ceased when she entered the room. Her father whirled around, his face flushed,  a sure sign he was furious. Her heart was heavy at the sight of him looking so upset.
“What is betwixt us, our love for each other, although sudden, is a gift from above.” She tried to be strong while she defended their love, but as she traveled across the room, tears streamed down her face.
 “Please father… Allow me to tell you what is in my heart.” She reached out for him but he didn’t take her hand.
“In this matter, what is in your heart is of no importance. You are promised to a man who is, at this moment, sailing the oceans securing your future kingdom.” Her father could not look at her, his disappointment too great.
“Father, I beg you, please listen to me. I do not love the man of whom you speak. He is a stranger to me, someone who could very well be dead.”
Dwynwen tried to picture the man she had met the day her father announced her betrothal. The very day he had set sail for a voyage on the stormy seas eighteen moons ago. Gone so long, surely she was the furthest thing from his mind.
Their betrothal was the furthest thing from her heart.
  “I love the man who stands before you.” Dwynwen kneeled before her father pleading with him.
The Prince could not believe his ears. The thought he would not win the hand of this young woman made something dark surface in his consciousness. Accustomed to taking what he wanted, none dared refuse him.
“Your majesty, although the man you speak of may be great,” he growled, controlling the rage building in his chest. “I assure you there is none greater than the wealth of my family and the prestige attached to our name.” His silky voice held venom in its tone.
In two steps the King stood nose to nose with Maelon.
“You may be representing your father here among us, but you by no means are the same man.” He glared at the young prince.
 “Based on his honour, I extended leniency when you were bestowing attentions upon my daughter. I trusted no harm would come from them. A passing fancy. How you have proved me wrong.” He spat. “You do not know your place. Your arrogance astounds me.”
The King swung around and addressed his daughter. “You are promised to Liam apRhys.” He saw the anguish in her eyes.
It almost broke him.
“I have given him my word upon his arrival, you will be wed.” His tone assured Dwynwen these were his final words on the matter.
He turned his attention to the Prince. “A betrothal has previously been made, you understand my situation.” Diplomacy rang clear in the room.  “It would be greatly appreciated if you would leave the festivities, immediately.”
All things considered, the Prince was extremely fortunate—graced by God and by the king’s love for his favourite daughter—the verbal exchange with the King had ended as it had.
Although arrogant, the Prince was not daft, so with a bow to both Dwynwen and the King, he left the council chamber.
Unlike his entrance upon his arrival that first day in the great hall, his exit went unnoticed as he disappeared into the night.
Overcome by sadness and with a heart wrenching cry of despair, Dwynwen crumbled to the floor. The King could not console his beloved daughter and so he sent for a servant to aide her in retiring to her private chamber.
“Anwylyd, my darling child…” he uttered the endearment as he gathered her in his arms. “Liam is a good man and he will care for you. Yours will be a most joyous marriage, this I promise you.”
He helped Dwynwen to her feet when the servant arrived, then he returned to the festivities, his expression void of any happiness. The laughter and music rising from the castle grounds ensured him the guests were oblivious to what had taken place within his council chamber.
He exchanged a knowing look with his eldest son as he took his place at the fire. Nectan nodded, trusting his father had everything well in hand.
The king stared into the feast fires and prayed what he promised to his daughter was the truth.

#                                  #                                  #
Dwynwen obediently went to her chamber accompanied by the servant. A kind and gentle woman, she had tended to her and her sisters, since they were young girls.
“All will be well in the morning.” Idelle promised as Dwynwen wrapped herself in the woollen cover she gave her upon entering the room.
She lay down on her bed and willed herself to stop crying. Idelle sat beside her on a stool by the bed. Dwynwen settled and her breathing calmed.
“I thank you Idelle for staying with me,” she said, laying a hand on the woman’s knee. “I wish to rest now,”
“I will stay until you have fallen asleep,” she replied, stroking Dwynwen’s hair, the sensation causing her to close her eyes and lay still.
After a time, Idelle, convinced Dwynwen was asleep, finally left the chamber.
With the door closed and the sound of Idelle’s steps fading, Dwynwen ran to the window overlooking the garden, longing to be in her prince’s arms once again.
She listened for footsteps outside her door and peered out into the corridor. Confident, the festivities had lured everyone outside, she left her chamber, slipping out of the castle by the rear entrance leading into the garden. It had grown quite dark and with no light to guide her way, she carefully searched the paths she and Maelon had walked earlier this afternoon.
Behind the wall surrounding the garden a dense forest loomed. It was the one which Maelon had told her he had crossed to arrive at the castle. Knowing she must find him and convince him she would change her father’s mind she entered the dark woods, spurred by her fear of losing Maelon forever.
Successfully averting the guards’ attention, Dwynwen slipped out into the garden. Moving as quickly and as far from the castle as she could, she called out Maelon’s name.
Deeper into the forest she ran, no longer aware of the shadows around her, only desperate to find her love.
As the moments raced by, she began to feel a pain in her breast and slowed her pace to catch her breath. The snap of a twig coming from behind her spun her around. Someone stood amid the dark shapes looming through the trees. It moved closer and Maelon came into view. Dwynwen’s heart fluttered and she darted toward him.
“Did you not think to tell me of the arrangement you had with this, this, Liam apRhys?” he spat the name as though it left a foul taste in his mouth.
His angry voice halted her steps. “I could think only of you,” she replied.
“Do you play games at the expense of my honour?”  Maelon circled Dwynwen. A streak of moonlight across his face, his eyes flashed furious.
“I do not love Prince Liam. I swear to you. I love you Maelon, from the moment I saw you.  I wish to be yours.” Dwynwen reached out but the prince did not take her into his arms as she had hoped. He grimaced at her as though she was scarred by disease.
Confused by his hostility, Dwynwen began to back away. No longer the gentle, charming man she had given her heart to, a dark and dangerous man stood before her. Fear crept into her heart.
“I will not be made a fool, Dwynwen,” he spat, his words like venom.
An innocent soul, Dwynwen could not know how well her handsome prince hid the demons deep inside his black heart. She would soon find out as she met them face-to-face.
Determined no other would have her, Maelon lunged at Dwynwen, first shredding her garments, and then ripping the innocence from her body. Repeatedly he thrust into her, pounding her tiny body into the damp forest floor as he crushed her will, her heart, and finally charring her soul.
On the long-awaited night of rebirth, love turned to hate, joyous beginnings turned to violent endings, and hope turned to despair. Denying her the tenderness of his promised true love, he committed a violent and savage act upon her.
Her cries went unheard, her prayers unanswered. Prince Maelon left Dwynwen Brycheiniog broken, her virtue lost in the dark forest of giant oaks. Alone, under the stars in the darkness of the ancient woodlands, she hung on to life by a tiny silver thread.



Chapter Twelve

Angel’s Cove
Newfoundland
1935


Gwen didn’t know what to say. Staring into Liam’s eyes, afraid her feelings might be written all over her face, she turned away.
Should she tell him of the dream where he reached for her? Where they reached for each other?
“What’s wrong, Gwen?”  Liam’s voice sent a shiver though her.
“Nothing,” she replied, stepping away from the tree. She cast her eyes over the brook, watching the water trickle over the smooth pebbles at the bottom of its bed.
“Gwen, I have to go and see the chapel,” he said.  “I need to know why it’s been haunting my dreams.”
“So, you think it exists?”
“I know it does.” He bent down, picking up a dark grey stone out of the water.
“How can you be so sure?”
“Sometimes, we just have to have faith.” He studied the stone, rubbing his thumb against a white vein running down the middle of its smooth surface.
“My mother used to say the same thing,” Gwen mused.
“What about you?” He threw the stone back into the brook. It left a ripple in the water. “Do you have faith, Gwen?” 
“I’d like to think I do.”
 “Then come with me.”   
‘You must follow your heart…’ Her mother’s voice resounded, the words from her letter echoing in her head. Could this be what her mother meant?  Was it possible she could have known she’d need a little push somewhere down the road?
Gwen looked into Liam’s warm brown eyes, searching for reasons to doubt.
Follow your heart.
“When do we leave?”
* * * *
The next few hours passed in a flurry of activity. When she awoke this morning, she never would have believed how the events of the previous day would so drastically change her life.
A knock sounded at the front door.
“You’re back already?” she said, opening the door. “Lia-”
“Where have you been?  I’ve been worried sick!” Anne flew into the house, her fair skin flushed as she brushed past Gwen. She whirled around, her hands fisted on her hips with her toes tapping an angry rhythm on the hallway floor. Her temper reared its dark Irish head, staring out at her from deep emerald eyes.
“I’m so sorry Anne. I meant to call you. I had to go out this morning. I took a ride to Placentia and stopped in for a tea at Mrs. Barter’s.” In all the excitement, Gwen hadn’t given thought to how she was going to explain a trip to Wales to her over-protective best friend.
Placentia! Why…oh, never mind. I thought I’d give you some breathing room. I understood your going to see Reverend Matthews yesterday without me, but when I didn’t hear from you this morning I dropped by to see if you were okay.”
“I’m sorry. You have every reason to be upset with me. I should have called.” Gwen followed her into the kitchen.
“Yes, you should have.”
“I had some things to take care of, is all.”
“What things?”  Anne filled the kettle and set it on the stove. “I would have gone with you.”
“I’ve got some of Mrs. McNally’s soda bread in the pantry.” Gwen said, trying to avoid having to explain. She placed the soda bread on the cutting board and began cutting thick slices for each of them.
“Hmm. Distracting me with food.” A hint of a smile sat on her lips.  “All right. I’m just happy you got some fresh air.”
Gwen wondered how long Anne’s smile was going to last, once she found out about Wales. “Yes, the fresh air was good.”
Gwen felt Anne’s eyes on her.
“What?” she asked.
 “You look nice,” Anne replied. “There’s something, I don’t know, different about you.”
“No there isn’t,” Gwen turned and placed the soda bread on the table, avoided Anne’s inquisitive regard. 
“Ah…yes.” Anne placed her hand on Gwen’s shoulder. “There is.”
“All right. I have something to tell you,” Gwen said, breathing in a breath of courage.. “First, I want to say I’m not crazy…”
Anne turned to look at Gwen, whose brow had narrowed.
“All right, I’m listening”
“Let’s sit down.” Gwen pulled Anne toward the table. “Should we wait for the tea?”
“It must be bad news if you’re stalling.”
“No, it’s not bad news. It’s rather good, actually.” Her mother always said there was nothing better than the truth. “I’m taking a trip.”
“Really?” Anne’s eyes widened. “Where to?” 
“Well… this is going to come as a surprise but I’m going to Wales.” She braced herself for the impending barrage of questions.
Wales?”  Anne shifted to the edge of her seat. Her eyes as round as saucers. “What’s in Wales?”
“There are some friends, well no, more like relatives there.”
“Well, which is it?” 
“Both.” This was going to be harder than she thought. Anne didn’t like wishy-washy answers. The protective side of her wouldn’t like the idea of Gwen traveling with a stranger, not one bit.
“I had a visit from a friend of my mother’s family yesterday who invited me to visit. Seeing as somebody told me to take some time off to put my affairs in order.” She cocked her head in Anne’s direction. “I thought it could be a great time to reconnect with my family.”
She’d rehearsed her speech several times last night, knowing she’d have to.
 “So, when are you going on this trip?”
            “I leave tomorrow morning.”
“That’s sudden.”  Anne’s protective radar was on alert. “What’s the rush?”
“Well Mr. Pryce had his plans already booked and I decided to join him.”
Mr. Pryce?” Anne jumped up out of her chair, hands on her hips. “Who is he?” 
“Liam Pryce. He’s very nice. I think you’d approve of him; he’s a very sensible sort.” Anne was making her nervous, her words sputtered out of her mouth with lightning speed. “He’s Welsh. You’d like his accent.”
“So… let me get this straight. A Welsh man with an accent came to visit you yesterday, invited you to go back home to Wales with him and you’re going?” 
“When you say it like that, it sounds ridiculous.”
“Well this is rather impulsive of you, isn’t it?”
“I know this isn’t like me, Anne. I don’t usually do things on a whim.”
“No you don’t. Although in the past I have encouraged you to.”
“Well right now I can’t tell if you approve of my spontaneity or not, but it's leaning toward…not. Can you please sit down?”
 Anne blew out a breath and shook her head as she plopped down in the chair. “Is he good looking at least?”
Her question surprised them both, making them snort out a laugh.
“Come to think of it, he is good looking.” Gwen admitted. “Does it make you feel better about it?”
“Well, it helps” Anne squeezed Gwen’s hand. “It sounds exciting, taking off and seeing a bit of the world. You and your mother talked about travelling all the time.”
Gwen flinched a little at the mention of her mother. “We did.”
 “You know I’m overprotective. I can’t help myself. I am like your older sister.”
“You’re only a few months older.”
“True but I learned a lot in those few months.” Anne chuckled as she lifted the whistling kettle from the stove. “Gwen, you deserve to do something wonderful, something to take your mind off things. What can I do to help?” 
“I was about to dig Mom’s suitcase out of her closet.”
“You go get started and I’ll make us a tea,” she said. “I’m having strawberry jam on these gorgeous slices of soda bread. How about you?
“Yes, please!”
* * * *
Gwen found the suitcase on the floor of her mother’s closet. A little dusty, it had been left unused for a long while. It was in good condition and would do just fine.
A wave of grief overcame her as she looked around her mother’s quiet room.
“I’m taking your advice mum,” she whispered. “I just hope I’m doing the right thing.”
Gwen picked up the leather-trimmed Eveleigh by the handle, swept her gaze around the room one last time as she stood in the doorway, and then shut the door.
 “Why don’t you bring the mugs up here?” Gwen called down the stairway.
“Good idea, you’ll need my help accessorizing.” Ann quipped from the kitchen.
After packing Gwen’s bag, Anne agreed to a sleep-over, just like when they were little girls. Their giggles drifted off a while later, both falling into a deep sleep.
The pendant glinted in the moonlight atop Gwen’s jewellery box and she didn’t dream.




Wednesday, July 1, 2020

"Love Eternal" by Lisa Forget - Chapters 9 & 10


Chapter Nine

Talgarth Castle, Wales

5th century 


The days of the May celebrations were coming to a close. The guests made their way onto the castle grounds as the time for the lighting of the bonfires approached. Servants milled about the castle preparing to dampen the fires in the hearths that would be relit, come morning, using the feast fires from the night’s celebrations. The time-honoured ritual celebrated new life and the hope for a prosperous year.
Dwynwen’s thoughts, however, were consumed by Maelon’s plan to ask for her hand. She could not contain her excitement, her movements restless and rife with anticipation.
Not only would the traditions be honoured symbolically but if all went well with Maelon and her father the King, they would also be a true celebration of new beginnings.
Anxious to see her prince before the lighting of the fires, she parted from the company of her sisters to seek him out from among the guests.
After searching for some time through halls and chambers, and being unsuccessful, she made her way back toward her group of young companions, her step slow with disappointment.
She wended through the castle corridor, her eyes on the stone floor when large hands slipped about her waist, pulling her into a small dark alcove.
Dwynwen gasped, but the hand clamped over her mouth stifled her cries.
“Hush Dwynwen,” Maelon growled, his voice deep and seductive. She felt his breath on her neck, melting her back into his embrace.
“I count the moments until we are together, my love,” he whispered into her ear, his kisses trailing down the side of her neck, “my Dwynwen.”
“My heart beats for you, my prince,” she said, trembling and breathless.
“Look for me across the glow of the feast fires. I will be admiring your beauty from there,”  Maelon turned her around in his arms, and even in the dark his gem-like blue eyes pierced through her. “And imagining your lips on... mine.”
The prince leased Dwynwen and she fell to her knees. She looked up, only to see that he had disappeared from the dark corridor. Righting herself against the wall, she steadied her breath before she crossed the great hall and joined the crowd forming outside, around the great wooden structure, set to burn throughout the night.

Chapter Ten


Gwen awoke the next morning exhausted from a restless night. Tossing and turning into the wee hours of the morning, she’d dreamt about people and places she’d never seen before. A jumble of images, she couldn’t remember much of what she’d dreamt except for the chapel. When she closed her eyes she could still see every detail.
Shoving the journal into her satchel on the way out the door, she raced to the side of the house, pulling her bicycle from the garden shed. To reach the inn she’d have to ride clear across Angel’s Cove and into the neighbouring town but it would be worth the time and effort.
She wasn’t through with Mr. Pryce, not just yet.
Slinging her satchel over her shoulder she mounted her bicycle and headed to Placentia.
* * * *
The rich aroma of chocolate wafted from the kitchen window greeting Gwen when she arrived at the Traveller’s Inn. Her mouth watered as she stood by the gate and realized, in her haste, she hadn't eaten breakfast.
Surrounded by budding bushes and a little white fence, the two-storied, red-bricked inn boasted a wishing well on the front lawn where a hand-painted sign informed passers-by of the Breakfast Nook’s business hours. Picturesque, the property was just the sort of place you’d expect to find when visiting the Cape Shore of Newfoundland.
Although lovely, Mr. Pryce seemed a little above this quaint type of inn. Then again, perhaps he appreciated simplicity.
Gwen leaned her bicycle by the gate, walked up the paved path, and entered the inn. Her stomach grumbled as she neared the source of the delicious aroma. She tapped the silver bell sitting on the desk in the empty foyer and a moment later, a woman poked her head out from behind the kitchen door.
“Miss Evans!” Mrs. Barter pushed back the kerchief slipping from her hair and stepped out into the foyer. “What a pleasure it is to see you. What brings you all this way this fine morning?”
The friendly Mrs. Barter along with her husband owned and operated the Traveller’s Inn. They recently celebrated their fortieth wedding anniversary. Gwen remembered seeing the announcement in the church bulletin.
“It’s so nice to see you again, Mrs. Barter.” Gwen said. “I came by to see one of your guests. Mr. Pryce.”
“Mr. Pryce?”  Mrs. Barter looked surprised. “I’m sorry but he’s not in at the moment. He went out early this morning.”
“Oh, I see.” Gwen replied, unable to hide her disappointment.
“Well now, he did say he’d be back, only he didn’t say when.”
“Perhaps I could leave him a note?”
“You could. But I have a wonderful idea.” she said, untying her white apron from her waist. “I was just taking out muffins from the oven. It’s a new recipe. Why don’t you sample one with me. Maybe he’ll return by the time we’re done having a cup of tea. If not, you can leave that note.”
“It does smell wonderful, Mrs. Barter,” Gwen noticed a smear of flour on the woman’s rosy cheek. She couldn’t help but smile. It reminded her of her own mother covered from head to toe in flour and batter when she lost herself to a baking spree.
The woman smiled back. “Lots of chunks of chocolate, with bananas and walnuts.” She laughed. “I love anything with nuts!”
“And I love anything with chocolate. It sounds delicious.” She thought better of seeing Mr. Pryce on an empty stomach. She’d need all the energy she could muster. “I’d love to.”
“Come and join me in the Nook.” Mrs. Barter said leading the way into the room off the entrance. She turned in the doorway, taking Gwen’s hands, “Such sad news about your dear mum. My condolences, dear.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Barter.”  Gwen smiled,  imagining the grey-haired woman cuddling her grandchildren, of which she had many, giving every single one of them the softest caresses.
 “Oh, for Heaven’s sake, you’re all grown up now. I insist you call me Bea. Have a seat. I’ll be right back.” Mrs. Barter disappeared into the kitchen.
 Gwen took a seat by the window overlooking the little brook flowing behind the inn. Mr. Barter didn’t see her sitting by the window as he tending some Boxwood bushes.
She’d been here before with her grandmother. The room was as cozy and warm as she remembered with upholstered chairs in a deep burgundy fabric and small wooden tables set under the windows. A fireplace graced the middle of the main wall, where a fire burned.
Bea returned carrying a large wooden tray.
“Oh, it looks so good.” Gwen’s eyes lit up at the sight of the plate of warm muffins on the tray.
“I think you’ve worked up an appetite peddling from such a distance on that fine bicycle of yours,” Bea winked.
“I have.” Gwen smiled as she spread a little butter on her muffin. “You know, I haven’t been here in such a long time, Mrs., er… Bea. I’m happy my business brought me by the Inn.”
“So am I. Now, is Mr. Pryce a friend of yours, dear?”  Bea asked sipping her tea, with what Gwen though was a twinkle in her eye. “Definitely a handsome lad with a good head on his shoulders.”
 “He’s a friend of my mother’s family,” she replied matter-of-factly, trying not to react to Bea’s observation of Mr. Pryce. She continued to drink her tea, hoping there’d be no more questions about him.
“Really?  I wondered if he knew anyone in Angel’s Cove, he sure was curious about the place. Well-mannered and pleasant, though, despite the sadness in him. I gather he came in for the funeral?” 
Bea’s innocent question rekindled Gwen’s fragile emotions. “Yes,” she said, swallowing her tea while she tried to stop the tears from forming.  
“Oh my, Gwen, I’m so sorry for prying. I really do have to learn to control my curiosity.” She reached over and put her hand on Gwen’s. “Why don’t you take a little walk around the gardens out back?  It’s lovely out there. I’m sure it’ll help you change your mind a little while you wait for Mr. Pryce. I’m sure he won’t be very long; he’s checking out this afternoon. You’d probably like to say goodbye before he leaves.”
Bea began clearing up their plates, stacking them on the tray.
 “He’s leaving today?” This news was unexpected. Didn’t they have things to talk about?  Didn’t he say she was the only one who could help him? 
“It’s what he said yesterday.” Bea took the tray back into the kitchen, returning a moment later. “When he gets back, I’ll let him know you’re here.”
 “Are you sure you don’t mind?”  An anxious feeling came over her at the thought of his leaving without having a chance to clear things up.
“Not at all.” Bea nodded toward her husband still out in the garden. “You can see if old Mr. Barter is doing a good job cleaning up the brush out there.”
Gwen chuckled. “He seems to be doing a fine job.”
“That’s what he’d like us to believe.” Her eyes softened as she looked at her husband. “He’ll be in soon enough, on the hunt for something to fill his belly.”
“Well, he’s in for a treat.” Gwen stood up and took out her change purse from her satchel. “Thank you very much for the delicious breakfast.”
“Oh, no you don’t!” Bea clasped her hand around Gwen’s wrist. “You were my official taste tester, and such wonderful company. Breakfast’s on me.”
“How kind of you, thank you.”
“Now, go and enjoy the sunshine. It’s a beautiful day.”
 Gwen picked up her bag and slipped out into the garden as Mr. Barter lumbered up the path, making his way back into the inn.
 “Good morning Mr. Barter.” Gwen held the door open for him.
“Oh, Miss Evans, what a lovely surprise.” He smiled, lifting his nose in the air. “My, it smells good in here.”
“Tastes good, too.” Gwen smiled.
“I’m sure it does.” He patted his belly, a big grin stretched across his face. “Didn’t get this manly figure from eating lettuce.”
Gwen laughed.
Mr. Barter paused in the doorway.
“We’re so sorry to hear about your mother. You let us know if there’s anything we can do for you.”
Gwen nodded.
* * * *
She wandered from the inn to the garden.  The pea-gravelled path was lined with bushes ready to flower and show off their colours. A birdbath stood in the center of a circle of red tulips, where a few sparrows splashed about without a care in the world.
Gwen breathed in the fresh spring air. She loved this time of year.
Walking along the path she followed the brook trickling over multicoloured rocks scattered along its banks. A perfect spot awaited her by a large Maple tree where the morning sun warmed a patch of soft grass at its base. Gwen sat down, drawing her knees to her chest.
She slipped the pendant from around her neck and laid it in the palm of her hand. Turning it over, she brushed the pad of her thumb across the inscription, lingering on the name.
Liam.
Reaching into her satchel she took out the journal and pulled out the condolence card marking her page. She stared at the bold elegant signature.
Liam Pryce.
She leaned back against the tree, looking up at the cloudless sky. Holding the condolence card in one hand and the pendant in the other she listened to the peaceful sound of the brook babbling a stone’s throw away and closed her eyes.

The screech of a crow in the branches of the oak tree jolted her.
She looked around knowing there was only one place to go.
Following the dirt path under her feet, she ran toward the safe haven awaiting her in the clearing.
No one followed her but somehow it didn’t make a difference in the dense forest—a place where you didn’t want to linger.
As she pushed aside a heavy branch blocking her way at the forest’s edge, the clearing appeared like salvation before her. The chapel’s soft warm glow sent a wave of relief through her, as though she was returning home from a long journey.
She ran to the chapel and opened the door. A single candle flickered in the dark where a man kneeled by the wooden altar in prayer.
Without warning, a gust of wind blew the door open with such force it knocked over the vigil light as it carried her inside the chapel.
Startled, the man turned toward the door looking past her into the night. The expression on his shadowed face made her look behind her. Outside, a dark and ominous storm loomed, completely enveloping the chapel. From out of the storm’s center, a large, black hole opened and a deafening, thunderous roar shook the walls.
The force of it threw Gwen to the floor, holding her down against the stone, making it impossible for her to move. The storm raged as crosses, candles and benches flew through the air crashing against all four walls. She was certain she would be buried alive under the rubble sure to crumble at any moment.
She summoned all of her strength, turning her head as she remembered the man at the altar. The sound of his laboured breathing came from somewhere to the right of her.
Pinned to the floor, he lay face down with an arm outstretched, reaching for her. 
She forced her arm to move up from her side. It scraped along the cold damp stone floor. The man did the same. Both were determined to defeat the invisible force holding them against their will.
They were strangers seeking the reassurance of one another’s presence in the face of danger. As their hands touched a thunderous crash resounded and the storm began to diminish.
Their fingers entwined and the rage died completely. The darkness lifted and the force no longer crushed them, freed from its hold.
 The man lifted his head and turned his gaze toward her. Gwen met the stranger’s eyes and was taken aback by the pain filling them. Only, she’d seen the man before, his name was Liam Pryce!
“Good morning, Miss Evans.” Gwen’s eyes flew open as she heard his voice. Mr. Pryce stood by the brook, a few feet away from her.
“Where am I?”  she asked, startled.
“You’re in the garden of the Traveller’s Inn, and I must admit, I am a little surprised to see you.” He closed the distance between them.
“How long have you been standing there?”  She felt uncomfortable knowing that in her dream only a moment ago, their hands had been entwined.
“A few minutes,” he said. “Are you all right? You seem upset.”
            “Yes, I…I’m fine now,” she stammered, avoiding his eyes while hoping he didn’t possess the ability to read her mind.
            “May I ask why you’re here?”
“I came to show you something.” She stood up, brushing off bits of grass from her skirt. “It’s my mother’s journal. I found it while I was looking through some of her things.”
The condolence card fluttered out of Gwen’s hand and as she handed Mr. Pryce the leather-bound journal, he bent down to retrieve the card from where it had landed at his feet. He rose, examined the card, and handed it back to her.
 “And obviously, I also found your condolence card. That’s how I knew where you were staying,” she said. “Thank you for the flowers. They’re our favourite.”
“I know,” he replied, opening the journal.
 “How—” Gwen didn’t even want to ask how he knew. She was baffled enough as it was. “Never mind. I think I came across one of the names you mentioned yesterday.” She stepped closer to Mr. Pryce, pointing to the page where she’d found the origin her family’s surname.
“Brycheiniog. Yes,” he said, thumbing through the pages of the book. “But it’s of royal origin and not commonly used today. Brecon is the popular version of the surname.”
His voice seemed to be coming from far away. “That’s what is says in the journal.”  Gwen shook her head trying to clear the foggy feeling overcoming her.
“I thought you said you didn’t know anything about your family?”
“I don’t. It belonged to my mother. I didn’t even know she kept a journal.” She stepped back to lean against the tree, then took a deep breath. “You were right.”
“Right about what?”
She held out the pendant letting it dangle from her hand. “My mother left this to me. It belonged to my grandmother.”
“I knew it.” Liam slowly moved toward Gwen who placed the pendant into his trembling hand. He took out his pendant from beneath his shirt. “Do you realize, Miss Evans, these two pendants have not been together since the fifth century?”
“The Fifth century? How is that even possible?”
“Liam Rhys had them commissioned as a gift to Dwynwen in the fifth century.”
“How do you know this?” 
“We know that Liam Rhys loved Dwynwen Brycheiniog.” Mr. Pryce was as white as a ghost, gasping for air, he could barely speak. “The twin pendants…were a token…of his love for her.”
 “Mr. Pryce, you should sit down. You don’t look well.”
“I don’t understand…” He steadied himself against the tree. “Do you hear?”
“Hear what?” 
“That sound. It’s like music…” He held his head in his hands.
“I thought I was the only one who heard it.”
He looked up and his eyes met hers. “The sound has been with me for as long as I’ve worn the pendant, but right now it’s stronger…louder.”
 “Please.” He thrust out his arm. “Take it.”
Gwen took her pendant from him.
“Were you wearing the pendant yesterday when we spoke?”  His heart raced as he watched her fastened the pendant around her neck.
“Yes.” She admitted “I should have told you…”
Leaning against the tree, the colour returned to his face.
“When you fainted I thought it was because I had upset you. Now, after what I just experienced, I’m not sure that’s the only reason.”
“What do you think happened?” 
“I don’t know, but perhaps holding both pendants causes some kind of… reaction.” He stared out pensively into the garden. “Maybe they  hold some kind of a power.”
Her hand went to the burn mark on her chest. “Have you ever felt anything… strange aside from the humming noise?”
"Why, have you?”  He pushed away from the tree, no longer needing it for support.
“I’m having more dreams than ever before,” she said. “Last night, when I awoke from one, the pendant was glowing.”
Mr. Pryce didn’t respond.
“You think I’m crazy.”
 “No, I don’t,” he replied. “I’ve felt some very strange things myself. It’s the reason I’m here”
“What do you mean?”
“I came to find you because of my dreams. They’ve haunted me and finally, led me to you.”
“What dreams?”
His gaze locked on Gwen. “A young woman runs from out of a dark forest. Her clothes are bloodied and torn and she’s crying. She enters a chapel in a clearing.”

“A chapel?” Gwen whispered.
“ Yes, but each time I attempt to follow her in, the doors are barred shut. I can hear her but I can’t get to her. She doesn’t answer when I call out offering my help. I know she’s in danger and my only thought is to save her.”
“You’re trying to save her?” 
“Yes, the woman’s running from something and she’s trying to get to it. In the dark  of the forest, the chapel seems to—”
“Glow?” Gwen finished Mr. Pryce’s sentence, a chill running through her.
“Yes.” He looked astounded. “How did you know?”
 “I’ve seen it.” She shook with disbelief. “I saw the chapel, the woman, the blood, all in a dream. We dreamt the same dream?”
“I don’t-” Mr. Pryce let out a slow laboured breath and grimaced, rubbing his chest. “I had no idea it could be possible.” 
“Are you all right?”  At the sight of the pain in his face Gwen’s instincts sparked, making her reach out to him.
“I’m fine. It’s nothing.” He straightened up and continued. “I’m convinced everything is connected to these pendants.”
            “Why?”  Gwen asked.
            “I have my theories,” he replied, looking away. “How many times have you had these dreams Gwen?” 
“Every day since I put the pendant on.” 
Mr. Pryce’s eyes narrowed. “Are you-”
“Is it true, you’re leaving today?”  Gwen asked.
 His jaw clenched. “I am.”
“Why?
“I shouldn’t have come.”
“You said we needed each other, it was a matter of life and death. Now, you’re just leaving?”
“You don’t understand. Yesterday, I doubted everything those messages led me to believe. I’m not sure what I expected to find, but I didn’t feel you…”
“I was an ass.” She interrupted. “I didn’t know how to react. I was scared, confused.” 
“You were right to be wary. You are grieving. And, you don’t even know me.”
“I could have handled things differently.” Gwen said.
Mr. Pryce shook his head. “I should have.”
“Well, things are different today.” Gwen smiled.
Mr. Pryce studied Gwen’s face, and his expression softened. “It would appear so.” He returned the smile as he handed the journal back to her.
A warm rush of relief flooded Gwen’s body as she slipped the journal into her satchel.
“To be clear, I can’t pretend to understand all of this.”
“God knows I can’t either Gwen, but you are the woman in those dreams. You are the one.”
When Mr. Pryce spoke those words, something stirred in her soul.


Thursday, June 25, 2020

"Love Eternal" by Lisa Forget - Chapters 7 & 8


Chapter Seven
Talgarth Castle, Wales

5th century 

Maelon’s kiss left Dwynwen breathless. When the Prince released Dwynwen from his arms he whispered, “You’ve bewitched me.”
Dwynwen felt the heat rise in her cheek, and lowered her eyes.
“Look at me, princess.”
Dwynwen met the prince’s stare. "I am bound by your beauty,” he said, his eyes drinking in every detail of her face.
 Maelon gathered her into his arms and Dwynwen lost herself in his touch, his kisses, so ardent they made her light-headed and giddy. Undeniably irresistible, this handsome man with his sweet words and strong embrace made her feel special. How could she not succumb to his magic?  
Was this love? Could it happen so fast?
To be the object of such passionate desire never knowing how she had longed for it. Dwynwen nestled her head against Maelon’s chest, listening to his steady, quick breath. “I have never been happier than at this very moment.”
 “Fate has shone her bright light upon the earth so I may follow it and find you.” Maelon’s grip tightening about her shoulders. “On the last evening of the celebration, once the feast fires have been lit, I shall speak with your father to ask for your hand.”
Dwynwen gasped.
Maelon brought her delicate fingers to his lips. “If you will have me.”
Torn by her feelings for Maelon and her obligations, which she tried to push from her mind, Dwynwen stood speechless.
“You are silent. Have I mistaken…?”
She leaned forward, silencing the prince with a kiss.
“You have not mistaken my feelings for you,” she whispered against his lips. In that moment, Dwynwen could do nothing but give Maelon her heart. “Speak with my father.”
Maelon’s eyes widened and a smile lit up his face. “You are beautiful.”
He caressed Dwynwen’s cheek. “I would like nothing more than to stay here in this garden and admire you until the sun rises, alas, I think it is time to return to your father’s celebration.”
“We have been gone for some time,”  Dwynwen replied. “My sister must be looking for me.”
“Ah yes, your sister.  We would not want to worry her.”
The prince led the princess to the entrance and they re-entered the castle, one after the other.
Once Dwynwen slipped back into the great hall she quickly met her youngest brother who was seeking her advice on how best to approach the daughter of one of the visiting noblemen.
A moment later,  the prince entered with confidence, holding a cup of wine in his hand. Leaning against the far wall, he sipped his drink in an unhurried manner.
Maelon and Dwynwen’s yes met from across the room. His gaze caressed her slender figure. Dwynwen’s cheeks flushed as her brother tirelessly chatted beside her unaware that she was mesmerized by the regal figure staring at her from across the room, and did not hear a word he saying to her.
Maelon Daffrodil appeared to Dwynwen to be as calm as the seas of summer, while her own heart beat as wild as an unexpected winter storm.   



Chapter Eight

After shelving the items she’d purchased from Mr. McNally, Gwen wandered up to her room slipped into a flannel nightgown and curled up on her bed. Pulling her knees close to her chest, she took out the condolence card from Mr. Pryce, studying it as she hummed a melody to herself, a wordless tune her mother sang to her when she was a little girl. Although, she didn’t know the name of the haunting melody, it always comforted her.

On the night table beside the bed lay her mother’s journal.  She never would have dreamed of reading her mother’s private musings, but now she felt it might hold some information that could be important. She tucked the card into the journal and tentatively opened the book to the first page dated September 1, 1915.
Flipping through the pages, Gwen was surprised to find that the journal contained not only personal thoughts and ideas,  but accounts and details about her ancestors, he Brecons. She noted their arrival to Canada in 1842, and listed several births and deaths. Her mother had a talent for drawing and in the middle of the journal she had sketched a beautiful oak tree. On each of the branches, names were scripted in her fine hand. However, the sketch seemed unfinished as there were many branches with no name or information. In that moment, Gwen promised herself that one day she would complete the work her mother had begun so many years ago, once she’d done some of her own research.
 “Brecon,” she read aloud from the explanation in the journal’s pages which cited the name originated from the fifth century Welsh king, known as Brychan of Brycheiniog.
“Bra-hi-nee-ock.” When she said it aloud, the unusual name tripped over her tongue, and she realised it was the same name Mr. Pryce mentioned earlier.
According to notes in the journal, it was also the origins of her mother’s maiden name.
She turned the gold pendant in her fingers, her brain wrapping itself around the discovery.  Was it a coincidence, or was it possible he was telling the truth and the two families were connected, as far back as the firth century?
Gwen wondered that if it were true, what could be so urgent that after all these years Mr. Pryce should come all the way from Wales to make his claim. What could be so important?
She closed the journal, returning it to the night table, pondering the question as she glanced out the window.
It had grown dark, the sun, only a memory now, had given its place to the light of the moon.  The weight of the events of the day, and the questions conjured up from reading through the journal, had suddenly made her feel drained of energy and she fought back a yawn. She settled herself under the covers of her bed.
“I miss you mum,” she said, and then drifted off to sleep.

Running through the trees, fleeing from a dark and unseen force, she desperately tried to keep her feet from tangling with the linen fabric of the shift that whipped and stung her bare legs.
The moment she thought she could go no further, the trees opened upon a small clearing.
Time itself ceased ticking and everything stilled around her.
She slowed her pace, walking tentatively into the clearing, before her, an ancient stone chapel glowed a bright light, its warmth emanated from within, beckoning her to come near. With each step she took,  the air began to vibrate until the night was filled with a resonance both eerie and beautiful.
The music encircled her as she stood frozen on the steps of the stone building, unable to move, unable to breathe.
Images flooded her mind, bringing her to her knees. The feeling that she unworthy of  experiencing such beauty and holiness overcame her. Then suddenly, the thought of others finding out the truth made her gasp for breath. Her mind reeled with fear and confusion.
What truth? she whispered.
She attempted to form a comprehensible explanation from the barrage of images, but none came.
She lifted her eyes to the sky and filled her lungs with a cleansing breath. The images faded and her thoughts became clearer.
 This was a place of refuge; she could feel it in her soul. But where was she and why was she here?
Shaking off the feeling of unworthiness, she regained her courage and moved closer to the chapel, drawn to it like a cold body to a warm fire. An overwhelming sense of peace washed over her as she touched the aged wood of the chapel door.  The need to anchor herself, to surrender and become one with this holy place was greater than she could understand. As her fingers reached for the latch, the peaceful feeling that had enveloped her was obliterated by the violence of hands appearing from out of the dark, tearing her away from the warm light.
A scream escaped her throat as she fought the hands that gripped her. She begged to stay in the light. She struggled against the force holding her back from her holy refuge, vehemently denouncing the evil dragging her back into darkness of the forest.
The rustling of leaves and the snap of branches ceased.  All was quiet for a brief moment, and then her cries rose as the sound of linen being ripped to shreds echoed in the dense air.

“No!” Gwen awoke with a cry that mirrored the one she’d heard in her nightmare.
Gasping for breath, she looked down to where a scorching heat seared through her chest.
The pendant glowed orange.