Wednesday, 10 February 2010


All that complaining I did last time must have shifted something in my mind because, since then, I have made a great deal of progress on The Forest Dwellers. I am at last done with Alys, who has been a real trial to me, it was so difficult to understand her and make her do the things I needed her to do. Obviously a girl with her own mind. I have moved on to the next narrator, Thurrold, the squire of Sir Walter Tyrell. I was going to let Leo have his say next but Thurrold wouldnt have it and interrupted, so I went along with him.

Thurrold is a bit of a ladies man, has put most of the hearth wenches on their backs at some point during his time at the castle. Then, he meets Alys and Aelf. At first he is captivated with Alys' etheral beauty but, when she tells him she is the concubine of Henry Morante and he learns the secret of AElf's real gender, he switches allegiance to AElf. It is not long before his interest becomes more than sexual. Lots of intrigue, plotting and misunderstandings follow as the story builds up to a visit to the castle by King William Rufus.
A short excerpt, remember that Aelf is a girl living as a boy.

I groaned inwardly, The Song of Roland, a favoured poem of the Normans, was interminably long. Beside me, Ælf rested her chin on her hands and prepared to listen, it was new to her. The torchlight gleamed in her eyes and her cheeks were rosy from the surfeit of food. Opposite I saw a hearth wench smile at her invitingly and Ælf sent her one in return, thinking she had found a friend. The girl leaned over, her bosom spilling from her bodice and placed a foaming cup of ale before her. Ælf took it, nodded her thanks and dipped her face to it. I watched with narrowed eyes as the wench worked her way slowly along the row of seats, every so often casting her eye back to smile.
I nudged Ælf sharply in the ribs.
‘What are you doing?’ I hissed. She slammed down her ale.
‘What?’ Her mouth was half open in surprise; I saw the moistness of her inner lip and longed to suck it. I put my mouth close to her ear.
‘That wench will have you wedged tight between her knees if you smile at her again. Are you really such an innocent?’
The colour drained and I saw her flash a glance up the table to where the girl dimpled at her still. Ælf looked sharply down at her ale cup.
‘For the love of God,’ she growled, ‘is the whole world corrupt. It seems I cannot move for suitors.’
A sigh escaped me. Sometimes she annoyed more than charmed me. I’d like to spank her. I dwelled for a while on that happy thought before pulling myself back to offer an answer.
‘The fault is with you, Ælf. You would make a fine looking woman if only you’d allow it but, as a fellow, you are far prettier than a man has the right to be.’
I saw her flush, her chin on her chest. I shifted in my seat as she took up her cup again.
‘Ælf, you know tis more than lust with me, don’t you? You know you have my heart?’
She choked on her ale, her eyes watering. I thumped her on the back until she held up a hand begging me stop. After a moment, she looked up at me, tears on her cheek from the coughing, I thought.
‘Tis said, among the stable boys, that half the women in the castle have had their share of your love. Now it is my turn don’t expect me to fall at your feet.’
Oh, that stung. I had not looked at another woman in months. I put back my shoulders, offended in the extreme.
‘That is unjust, Ælf, and you know it. You have had my heart since the moment …’
‘…since the moment Alys refused you,’ she finished for me, ‘then your allegiance changed like the wind.’
She got up and stepped over the bench.
‘I’m to the privy,’ she tossed over her shoulder as she stalked across the hall in the direction of the outer door.

I waited for her, just inside the keep, where I knew she must pass by. I heard her gentle footstep and, as she moved into the light of the cresset, grabbed her wrist and pulled her into a niche. She gasped, wrestling until she realised it was me.
‘What are you doing?’
She was annoyed, exasperated at my irritating ways but I was beyond caring, barely knew what I was doing or considering what the result would be.
Gripping her shoulders I dragged her to me and clamped my mouth over hers. She struggled for a bit and then relaxed and let me continue but her lips did not move.
At last I stopped and hugged her to me, my mouth next to her ear.
‘I love you, Ælf. I want us to be wed. Please listen and believe what I say.’
Then I looked at her, hoping to see love-light shining from her eyes, longing for my kiss to have been a revelation, a release from blindness.
A squire returning from the privy looked at us oddly; we must have made a pretty sight, squire and stableboy in a clinch within the shadows. I blinked at the bleak horror in her face and let her go. She ran from me.
‘Ælf’ I called but she ignored me and pattered away into the dark.

No comments:

Post a Comment