I had hoped to be able to finish this fic, or at the very least, put down 50,000 words, however, between the stomach virus, my current, on-going battle with bronchitis for over a week, my principal passing away, 5 days away from everything, it was not meant to be.
I’m not abandoning it, in fact, I will be able to develop my characters now and give it the attention it deserves. Sadly, it also means it will be added to my growing pile of on-going fics. At least, this one will be original and all mine.
This is all I have for this chapter. At 4,444 words, I think I’ll consider the chapter complete.
When the Ribbons Dance
The good father was taken to the nearest dwelling and put on the table. Glenys rushed off to fetch Aelhaearn and someone else was sent to retrieve the village wise woman. The fires in the fireplaces were stirred to roaring, heating up the dwelling. The man was breathing, painful, racking breaths that rattled his chest. Aelhaearn arrived first, Glenys behind clutching a large satchel. Much to the priest’s ire, his robes were cut from him, laying bare his pale, concave chest and abdomen. Glenys paid no attention to the man’s protestations that she should not be there and continued pulling small bottles and sacks from the bigger bag.
“Please tell me,” Ioseph grimaced and wheezed as Aelhaearn pressed lightly on his ribs, “you did not send for that witch to attend me!” He let out another whimper of pain as the Druid pressed on another part of his chest.
“Who, Efa?” Aelhaearn stepped back and motioned for water to wash his hands with. “She is no more a witch than you! Or me, for that matter!”
“The Church does not approve of her ways.”
“The Church approves of little! They would not approve your friendship with me. A bunch of cranky old men who begrudge all of us a moment’s enjoyment! Ah!” Aelhaearn looked up with a smile, towel in hand. “Efa! So glad you could make it!”
Physically, the old woman was the exact opposite of the Druid. Where he was tall, slender, and neat, she was short, grizzled and looked as if bathing was an option. She had a bulbous nose and was missing more teeth than she had in her mouth. “Make it? Is this a party?” The village wise woman was cantankerous and argumentative and her bed-side manner was nonexistent, but she knew her herbs and remedies. She pushed past everyone in the room and stood next to the Catholic Priest. “Ho! Lookit yer skinny arse! What happened to you? You look as if a horse ran you over!”
She turned to the druid with a grin. “Ah! It is a party!” Much to the consternation of the patient, she began to prod in the same places Aelhaearn had just pressed on and not as gently. She asked him to inhale, exhale, cough. “You’ve got a few cracked ribs,” she finally spat, “and some bruised ones as well.” She squinted at him in the dim light. “Who ran over you?”
“Dafydd’s Master at Arms, Cewydd.” She pressed again, causing the man to howl. “Woman! Do you mind?”
She ignored the priest and continued questioning the druid. “That miserable toe rag?” She turned to her own bag of herbs and medicines and set Glenys to boil water. She pulled a bolt of linen from her bag and began to tear them into strips. “Why was he here making people miserable? Aelhaearn, do you have any turmeric?”
“Do I have turmeric? You never have turmeric, so of course, I have turmeric!” The Druid made a quick perusal of the jars spread out on the counter and grabbed one.”That miserable toe rag, as you so adroitly call him, was here looking for Prince Madoc!”
Efa almost dropped her linen strips. “No! Please tell me, you didn’t-”
“No!” Aelhaearn shook his head. “Of course not!”
“Good! I don’t like any of Christiant’s brats, but I especially do not like Dafydd!” She wet the strips in the hot water, apparently immune to the heat. She wrung them out and generously sprinkled the cloth with the pungent herb and turned to the priest. “You’re going to hurt for a while and there is scant little I can do about it! If I could, I still would do even more scant less about it!” She flung her hand out at the men in the room. “Sit him up. I’m going to wrap his ribs!”
It was not pretty, and obviously painful, but Efa had Iospeh’s chest and ribs wrapped as tight as any modern day doctor, in Bronwyn’s esteemed opinion! The man fussed and came as close to cursing as he could get, but the old wise woman hushed him quickly.
“Those strips will have to be changed daily. I don’t trust you with my granddaughter or anyone’s granddaughter-” she waved away his protestations, “much less any of the boys! So you will just have to put up with my chicken-ass face!” She stepped back to admire her handiwork. “Aye, yer gonna hurt, but I’ll get you healed!”
“Efa,” Aelhaearn touched her elbow. “I can make the teas-”
She nodded to Aelhaearn to step in a quiet corner. “Aye, you can and I know he’ll prefer your company, but I just want to pester the old coot for a while.” This made the old man snort. “It will be hard for him to declare me a witch, if the day comes, when I’m the one who healed him!” She turned back into the crowd. “Someone find me a few eggs and boil them for him to eat.” She began to rummage through her bag and pulled out an evil looking root. “Ah. Devil’s Claw.” She smiled wickedly at the priest. Much to his horror, she laid it down and pulling out a small knife, proceeded to peel and cut it. “You and I, are going to become such good friends!”
Father Iospeh was wrapped in a blanket and helped back to the small hut that he lived in behind the church. Aelhaearn left him griping and grumbling and in the very capable hands of the village wise woman and healer.
“Aelhaearn!” the man hissed, once he was helped into his bed and covered, “you cannot leave me here with that-”
“If you say ‘witch’, I will tell her your bowels need cleansing!” Aelhaearn hissed. Truth be told, the old wise man was fed up to the teeth with the priest’s moaning and complaining! “You are in the best hands besides mine in Cymru, you’d best be appreciative!” And with that, he left the priest’s dwelling, promising before he left that if he’d shown improvement in a few days, he would bring some medicinal wine.
Meaurig was snickering at the gate as the Druid exited from the door. “Medicinal wine?”
“Apple vinegar, so don’t tell!” Aelhaearn moved ahead, calling down Glenys. “Did you get the roast? Has it been prepared for the pot?”
Of course, it hadn’t and grandfather and granddaughter, ambled down the road, through town, amiably arguing to and fro. Bronwyn followed behind, watching the obvious love and care between the two, despite the noise they caused.
“Before she was born, her father died, fighting the English.” Bronwyn was startled. She wasn’t aware the knight…no, the lord, was walking with her. “She spends most of her time with her grandfather, but she spends her nights with her great aunt, although she will probably be alone in the cottage for the majority of tonight.”
Bronwyn pulled her shawl closer. It was cold and she was used to warmer climes. “Why will she be alone?”
Meaurig was smiling. He nodded towards the ale house and ushered her inside. It was warm and he steered her towards the back, where the fireplace blazed merrily. Soon, he had Bronwyn sipping a warmed, spiced cider and he himself was hoisting a pint. He drained it and raised for another. “Her great aunt is Efa. Efa is Aelhaearn’s sister. And Efa intends to drive the old priest crazy!”
“I’m sure,” the archaeologist murmured. “So Efa will be staying with Father Ioseph this evening?”
“Most likely.” They sipped their drinks before Meaurig spoke again. “You are quiet, which I am discovering is not like you. Is something on your mind?”
He was direct and to the point, a characteristic Bronwyn appreciated. He seemed to want to talk and for a change, wasn’t pestering her for information, yet. “The man who ran over Father Iospeh, Cewydd?”
“Yes.” The ale must have been excellent because when he raised his tankard again, the barmaid brought a pitcher. She took Bronwyn’s mug and refilled it.
“He called you ‘lord’.”
Meaurig’s smile was full of irony. “You caught that.”
“Yes. Was he being cruel?”
Meaurig shook his head. “No, wish that he were. I am lord over a small property and estate down on the coast on the banks of the Afon Lliedi. The keep is small, but the people are hardy.” He smiled in fond memory. “There is a family there who brew an ale so fine, that if I stayed in residence, I would be a drunk.”
Bronwyn breathed in. “Llanelli? You are Lord of Llanelli?”
The man shrugged. He seemed to be relaxing. ”Some call me that.”
Bronwyn found a brick just behind Meaurig’s left ear to focus on. Llanelli had been Royce’s dig; a bustling town on an estuary on the Atlantic coast. It was a possible launch point for Madoc; Madoc who was not a legend, but real and alive, even if she hadn’t met him yet. Madoc, a prince who the town was desperate to keep hidden, for obvious reasons. “It didn’t sound as if he said it out of respect.”
“He didn’t.” Meaurig face turned dark. “Cewydd is jealous. He is jealous of me and everything I have, even if it is not much.” He was slowing down, his goblet not emptying as fast. “King Owain awarded me the estate for what he claims were heroic deeds in battle against Henry II of England. You are familiar with him?”
“Yes. I’m familiar with Henry II.”
And Henry the Seventh and Eighth…
“Cewydd has been Prince Dafydd’s Master at Arms for many years. And yet, despite his crawling and mewling and fawning, he has nothing, save a pair of rooms at one of Dafydd’s smaller castles, to call his own. He is short, ill-tempered, bow-legged and is a coward. The one woman he asked to marry him, turned him down flat.”
Bronwyn didn’t know the man well enough to realize that he was becoming morose. “Really? Good for her!” She looked back down into her emptying cup. “What happened to her? Do you know?”
The grin was ironic. “Aye. She married me.”
“Her name was Adaryn.” Glenys sprinkled more herbs on the roast, added some water and covered it. “She was not much taller than you, dark haired and green-eyed. Everyone loved her.” She sat down next to Bronwyn and picked up a potato and began to peel it. “She sang. All the time. Meaurig called her his little bird.”
Bronwyn felt as if she contributed nothing so she picked up a carrot and began to peel it as well. “You said Northmen abducted her.”
“Aye. Her family is from Llanelli, where Meaurig has a keep, but he has a house here in Ceredigion. Meaurig received word that he was needed on the Marches and he took a group of bowmen with him. He sent Adaryn to her family in Llanelli, but she never made it. Somewhere between Ceredigion and Llanelli, her party was ambushed. She was taken but never seen again.” Glenys picked up the bowl of potatoes and carrots and began to chop them.” For a moment, Glenys stopped preparing the meal, staring off into space. “Everyone was killed, but they never found Adaryn’s body. Meaurig was devastated when he found out.”
“He’s held out hope she’s still alive.”
Glenys shrugged. “It’s been five years. It looked as if Northmen raided down on the coast, but…” her voice trailed off. “but, why would Northmen come to the west side of the island?” She shook her head and dropped the rest of the vegetables into the pot with the roast and adding more water, swung the arm the pot was on further over the fire. “We’ve had no trouble from them in many years. It’s most strange.”
Dinner was a grand affair, with the over-large roast and vegetables. There was fresh bread that made the archaeologist cry for her hips. Bronwyn asked several times who was expected, only to be ignored, or given a generic answer. She helped Glenys clean up and put things away. It was obvious Aelhaearn was expecting company; he kept checking the door and looking out, even after the sun went down.
“Where you this nervous when I came?”
The Druid looked at her sharply. “Aye, but there was no one here to witness it.” He drew out a long pipe. “You should be a-bed.” He tapped something in the bowl from his pouch and lit it, a sweet smoke rising. “Tomorrow will be a busy day.”
She went to bed, determined to stay up. Glenys was rolled up on her pallet at the foot of Bronwyn’s bed. Bronwyn grumbled as she changed into a night shift and blew out the candle.
“Bronwyn! Psst!” There was a tugging at her toe.
“I’ll wake you when he comes. Get sleep while you can!”
And with that, Glenys lay down and Bronwyn closed her eyes.
She barely felt the first nudge as Glenys rose. In fact, Bronwyn turned back over and fell back asleep. It didn’t last long, due to the noisy whispering and banging going on in the main room.
And Glenys poking her hard. “Wake up!” she hissed. “He is here!”
It felt like an ungodly hour, middle of the night. Bronwyn rolled, heard talking beyond her door, which was left slightly ajar. Light from the fireplace crept through the crack, throwing wild, scrawny shadows on the far wall.
“Keep your voice down.” Bronwyn’s ears pricked. It was Meaurig. “You’ll wake Aelhaearn’s guest.”
“You’ve a guest?” This was a voice she didn’t recognize. “Perhaps, I should go elsewhere.”
“Elsewhere, where?” Ah. Aelhaearn. “You’ve no where to go and I fear, my Prince, for your life! She would not harm you.”
Prince? Bronwyn, now wide awake, rose quietly from the bed and grabbed the day kirtle hanging from the post. She threw it over her head and tied the sides, best she could. She tiptoed to the door.
Meaurig was there, as was Aelhaearn. A third man sat next to Meaurig, Glenys serving warmed up stew to all three. She caught Bronwyn’s eye, standing in the door, and dropped her head.
“Hywel is in Ireland,” the man with his back to Bronwyn spoke up. He raised his bowl to Glenys. “This is good. Thank you.” He took a sip. “He has recruited an army of mercenaries in Ireland and has sent for Norse mercenaries .”
“A mixed group of Hiberno-Norse, would be a difficult group of warriors to beat.” Meaurig waved the offered bottle away and picked up a piece of bread. He began to pluck it apart and after dipping them into a bowl of broth and meat, eat the small bits. “Is there any word of Iorweth or Maelgwn?”
“Oh, there is much word of Iorweth, however I am more interested in the young lady hiding behind the door. Unless I am mistaken and ’tis a lad?” The man had turned around and was staring straight at Bronwyn. While she was quite certain who the man was, she was shocked when she looked at him. “Little brother, have you found a new songbird?”
Meaurig rolled his eyes and stood up. He held his hand out. “She will not sing, all that I wish she would. Bronwyn. Come and meet my brother and prince.”
It was an order, something that under normal conditions, the woman would balk at, however, this felt natural.
And… and… you know… Madoc!
Opening the door wider, Bronwyn stepped through, watching as Prince Madoc ab Owain Gwynedd stood up. “Meaurig. This is your… brother?”
“Half-brother.” Madoc took her hand and brushed the back with his lips. “Our mother learned quickly that the King of Cymru loves nothing but land and left him to pursue someone she would not have to share, which she found.”
“She also found a man who would argue with her, just for the sport of arguing.”
“Ah!” Bronwyn blurted. “That’s where you get it from!”
Madoc laughed, a joyous, open sound. “So, you have noticed that characteristic in my little brother!” He turned her loose and smiled. “Although, I dare say, she rejoices that she only has one son to worry about now that the king is dead, rather than several.”
Madoc the Explorer was not as tall as his brother and was broader, however they had similar coloring and features. Madoc, however, smiled more than his younger brother and had a definite twinkle in his eye.
“I suspect she worries about us both equally.” Meaurig sat back down and returned to his chunk of bread and cheese. “I will be at your side always.”
Bronwyn found herself sitting on the bench between the two men, another bowl of stew thrust in front of her. “Where have you been hiding her, Meaurig?”
“I’m new here.”
“She appeared on the old man’s doorstep.”
“She’s grandfather’s grandmother’s brother’s cousin’s great granddaughter’s sister, visiting from Rome.”
“I conjured her.”
All four spoke at the same time, causing Madoc to smirk and return to the dregs of his bowl. “This should be interesting.” He pointed at Glenys. “That is too funny to be believable. I have never heard you speak so many words.” He made the circle around the table, following his finger. “I am aware you are new here and I rather doubt, brother, that she magically appeared on Aelhaearn’s doorstep. I do believe,” he stopped at the Druid, “you conjured her. But from where did you conjure her? She came from somewhere, for a reason.”
“I’m not from Rome.” Bronwyn was shaking her head.
“You speak our tongue well, but with a strange accent. Not a Roman one, however.” He was smiling, but she could sense the steel in his backbone and behind his grey eyes. “Aelhaearn, where is our guest from and how did she manage to get here beneath the very nose of my brothers?”
Aelhaearn shrugged. “I told you, I conjured her.” Madoc twirled his fingers. “According to her, she is from 850 years in our future. She a historian and quite knowledgeable of the past, which would be us.”
“She desecrated Aelhaearn’s grave.” Meaurig spoke to his brother, leaning behind Bronwyn’s back.
“What?” Madoc looked at her in shock.
“I am an archaeologist!” Bronwyn huffed. “I preserve and learn from history! I do not desecrate graves!”
Meaurig was nodding. “She dug up Aelhaearn’s grave and told him all about what was buried with him.” He leaned into Bronwyn and hissed. “He told me so! That sounds like desecration to me!”
Aelhaearn was now standing and pacing. “I asked the Powers of the Moon to send us a great warrior with much knowledge-”
“But the Powers sent us her, she who will not tell us anything about the coming months and tribulations.” Meaurig sat down with a loud plop. “And she is too weak to wield a weapon.”
“Now, wait a minute, Meaurig,” the Druid interrupted, “she told me that Owain will be remembered for having too many sons and Hywel will be remembered as a great poet.”
The only sound for several long seconds, came from the hissing and crackling of the burning logs in the fireplace.
“A great poet, but not a great king.” Madoc murmured “That says much. Tell me, Bronwyn, the Conjured, why is it you will not tell my brother what he needs to do to put Hywel back on his rightful throne?”
Bronwyn look at Madoc, then to Meaurig, and then at Aelhaearn. Her sigh was audible. She was dancing a delicate dance. “I wish to watch history play itself out, without any meddling from me.”
One side of Madoc’s mouth lifted, the twinkle back in his eye. “I believe brother, you are wrong.”
“What?” This came from all four.
Madoc set his empty goblet down and strode around the table. “Aelhaearn asked for a warrior with great knowledge. She is a great warrior indeed. She wields words with great care but swift, dangerous purpose. As she is so far from the future, I would think she has great knowledge, indeed.” Now, his countenance grew dark. “She would be very dangerous in the hands of Dafydd or Rhodri.”
Bronwyn watched in indignation as Madoc and Meaurig eyed each other, imagining the two had some sort of secret, brotherly eyeball language.
“Well!” Aelhaearn huffed before she could get any more irate. “I suppose we should do our best to keep her out of the hands of those two heathens!”
“Yes! Let’s!” Bronwyn quickly agreed.
That sardonic, half-grin was back. “History does not look back well on my two brothers?”
She didn’t feel like she was giving much away. “No. History does not look favorably on either one of them.”
The man cracked his knuckles. “Well then. That is a good thing. See?” He motioned to Meaurig. “She has just told us something very important.” He now stretched from obvious exhaustion. “Which means, we do not fight for aught.”
The fire had grown low in the hearth. Glenys moved her pallet close to it, while Madoc took Bronwyn’s bed. Bronwyn sat at the table, the closest to the fire, with her notebook and Royce’s Cross pen. Carefully, she jotted notes, updating her diary. One of the most important things her mother taught her growing up, was shorthand. “Quick, easy notes, in almost a dead language,” she would tell her only daughter. Royce thought it insane, but lucky for her, much of her discoveries and ideas were jotted down in this indescribable style that he nor his new wife could read.
“What are you writing?”
Bronwyn jumped, startled. Madoc was sitting across from her, bleary eyed, but smiling.
Madoc shook his head.
“What do you wish for me to call you?”
“Madoc.” He tapped the table just at the top of the notebook. “I do not recognize the writing.” He took in her look of confusion. “My father sired many sons, but he made sure all of us who wished it could read and write Norman French, as we fight with them so frequently. I also speak Italian and ***the northern French*** “ He leaned forward and whispered. “My Latin is horrible!”
This caused Bronwyn to laugh. “I had problems with French. German came much easier.”
It was interesting and heady to sit in low firelight, speaking to a historical figure that history said may or may not exist, a legend she had been enamored with since she was a girl. If it was a dream, it was a glorious dream, one she hoped didn’t end for a long time. It was a fantasy she never would believe would come true. “Holy Roman Empire. East of the French States.”
He tapped again.
Bronwyn’s laugh turned into a grin. “I don’t want to forget, so I am writing of my adventures while I am here and so I will have it when I am returned to my own time.”
Madoc leaned back, arms spread wide. “Go back? You wish to leave this auspicious company?” He leaned back forward, propping one elbow on the table, the bench creaking. “What could you possible be missing there?”
Bronwyn’s smirk was contagious. “Hot water and plumbing for starters.” She looked into the rafters, apparently lost in fond memory. “Trains, planes, and automobiles. Central air and heat…”
Madoc was beaming from ear to ear. “Sounds like witchcraft to me.”
She shook her head. Conversing with this man was exhilarating. “No. Simply modern day technology.”
“All these new words.” He picked up the pitcher and poured more ale into his goblet.
“So, no husband or lover to return to? No one who would miss you?”
Flashes of Royce flitted through her mind. “No. No one.”
“Ah, there was someone,” he wagged his finger. “I saw him flit through your eyes.”
Lying to Madoc was difficult, so Bronwyn didn’t try. “My husband left and divorced me for a much younger girl.” She tapped the pen on her notebook. “I am no longer hurt and I do not miss him.” Bronwyn’s eye reflected the fire in the hearth and it gave her an evil look. “She is welcome to him.”
Madoc smiled boyishly. “I am glad to hear that, for if you missed that stupid man, my brother would be heart-broken.”
Now, her smile fell. “I don’t know why. He finds me a troublesome burden most days.”
“You would be surprised at how highly my brother thinks of you.”
“I find that hard to believe.”
Madoc’s looked aback. “Why?”
Bronwyn picked up the pitcher and found it to be near empty. Setting it down, she chose her words carefully. “I will not tell him what he wants to know, therefore, I am useless.”
“Ah, yes.” He drained the last of his ale. “And you wish to watch history play itself out.”
She had been honest with Aelhaearn, she wanted to be honest with Madoc. “I’ll not alter history.”
The man set the goblet down with a well-worn smile. “Ah, that is a much different statement than ‘I wish to watch history play itself out.” His eyes rose. “I now fear Hywel will never sit the throne again.”
Bronwyn was tired, but her curiosity was a well ingrained part of her personality. “Do you wish to be King of Cymru?”
The very thought seemed to terrify the man. “No!” His finger raised, in part, pointing at her. “You know! Does history say I am king?”
Bronwyn’s exhaustion was getting the best of her, so she rose from the table. She touched his shoulder as she went around him, heading towards the bedroom. “You are legend. You are myth.”
She didn’t see him blink rapidly in thought. “Myth is a story that cannot be proven.”
She had reached the doorway when he spoke again. “Who do they say I am?”
Bronwyn put her hand on the doorway, staring into the darkness. “You are Madoc.” And with that she entered the room and crawled into the bed, fully clothed.
She had forgotten and didn’t realize that Meaurig was rolled in his cloak on the pallet at the foot of the bed.
Awake and listening to every word.