A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Two men are sleeping and dreaming...


King Jasper was having a wretched time. His forces were melting away night after night and he now had barely a hundred left. The route from the castle was littered with the amputated heads of the unfaithful, but that wasn’t the worst thing that had happened.

His trusty sword was notched!

He hadn’t even noticed when it had happened, though he did seem to remember that there was a dull clang when he swiped off one head from its unworthy shoulders.

And now it was night again.

He thought he might have solved the melting-away of his army problem by selecting half of the remaining men and ordering them to watch the other half. That way none would dare to disappear because if they did their necks would be cloven even though his sword was notched.

Now he was trying to get some sleep. It was dark, a densely cloudy night which cut out every tiny glimmer of moon- or star-light so that he could see more when his eyes were closed than when they were open. The only trouble was the things his cloud-blinded eyes could see. His life-long obsession had to do with dynastic succession. His progression to the throne had been ordered in the father-to-son pattern favoured by families that had more than their fair share of the planet’s bounty, and he wanted to carry on that way. Just as he was sitting on his father’s throne and lord of all he could survey and good deal that he couldn’t, he wanted a son to sit on his and be equally blessed.

He was sure he knew how to go about achieving it, but had always failed. It was the female’s fault, of course. A few advisors had suggested that he was going about things the wrong way, but they had all lost their heads for their dirty cheek. To him it was clear as day what he should do to ensure progeny, and that didn’t involve pushing his sensitive and fragrant male part into where they said he should push it. Of all the cheek!

But he wanted a son. Damn them all! He’d get another queen when he returned, and delicately smear the stuff of life onto her navel like he always did. That should work. He knew it should. He’d dreamed it, once, and dreams were always right.

Slowly sleep came and the night frittered itself away to be replaced by the splendour of a laburnum bush in full cascades of flower. He could see it as clearly as his open eyes could see total blackness, but now his eyes were shut. Tightly shut.

And the dream, if dream it was, did what dreams can. The laburnum blossom turned into wisps of smoke and the wisps of smoke turned into sparks of flame and the sparks of flame turned into a conflagration, and it warmed him.

Then the laburnum spoke to him.

That’s right. You’ve not read this wrongly. It spoke to him in a hollow voice that sounded as though it might have originated at the far end of a long and echoey tunnel. But the sounds it made formed themselves into words those words became imprinted onto his brain, never to be erased until death erased everything.

“Hows about,” boomed the laburnum, “hows about you going to a tavern down yon road...” and somehow it pointed to where a road might have been, though how a burning bush can point anywhere was never made clear to him, “… and find a milkmaid with hair like spun gold and eyes of pure azure blue, and she will bring forth a son with your name in his bowels...”

“But what do I do?” he begged the laburnum, but it had nearly burned itself out and was getting hoarse when it replied,

“Ask her for guidance...” it boomed, and the bush fizzled into dusty smoke, “just go and find her, and the rest can be what it is.”

The night faded to its horrible black-covered gloom, and King Jasper snored, and slept, and maybe dreamed about girlie navels.



Far away in the forest, several miles if distances were measured in miles at that time and in that land, Jackiss, Mirelin, Queen Amyheart and Brumble, the Priest of Woden in his rather tatty robe, sought shelter in a tumble-down hunter’s shack for the night. It stank in there, foul and loathsome, but it was one step better than sleeping in the open in a forest populated by goodness-knew what beasts of the wild.

Jackiss found himself near what had once been some sort of door, next to Mirelin who suggested breathlessly that they might snuggle together for warmth on a cold night such as this, and Queen Amyheart allowed the Priest to virtually lie on top of her, for comfort, he said, though she detected something more than comfort when he wriggled closer to her.

And it was like this that they all passed into a surprisingly swift and refreshing sleep. But then, they were exhausted.

Until, that is, the Priest had his vision.

He knew it was a holy vision because Woden was centre to it and looming over him, more like a devil than a deity, and smelling of roses.

“Well, well, well, what have we here?” asked Woden, and he had more jollity in his voice than Brumble expected.

“Mmmm bmmm dmmm,” replied Brumble, a sentiment which translated as “I love you, dear god, and want to bear your children,” or words to that effect.

“I see you require celestial guidance,” intoned the deity, “and I’m here to give it. You may say thank-you and kiss the nape of my neck if you choose to. Some people do, you know, and it makes me all warm and cuddly with them.”

“Hey, Priest, you’re squashing me,” hissed Queen Amyheart, but Brumble was so deeply involved in his vision that he heard her words coming from Woden’s mouth and saying “when the sun rises, oh acolyte, take the Northern path...”

“Get off me, Priest!” gasped the queen disguised as a widow, “you’re still squashing me!”

But all the Priest heard was “fare thee well, follower of mine, and if you really want to bear my babies, think of this: a man should be careful of what he asks for or he might get it...

Mmmm Fffff Dmmmm,” replied Brumble, and he snored.

Next morning came only too soon, and Jackiss disentangled himself from Mirelin who insisted on calling him sweetheart, and looked about him. The fat priest was so close to Queen Amyheart that it was impossible to see her widow’s weeds because of the mass of Priestly robes that were almost falling off the man.

Jackiss frowned. Surely it wasn’t priestly for a servant of Woden to get so close to a woman in his sleep, especially when that woman was a queen on the run? But he said nothing.

It’ll be frosted berries from the bushes for breakfast, if there are any,” he said, and yawned. “Come on, fellow travellers. Which way do you think we should go?”

The question jostled something in the priest’s mind.

North,” he said, “we should go north.”

Ah,” sighed Jackiss, “but which way is north?”

That way,” the Priest pointed, “That’s North.”

I hope you’re right,” grunted Jackiss, waving his one arm. “Come on them fellow travellers, we go this way!”

And he set out, going to the east. Which wouldn’t matter because the tracks they were following were most undecided about straight lines and directions.

© Peter Rogerson 02.12.18

© 2018 Peter Rogerson

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Added on December 2, 2018
Last Updated on December 2, 2018
Tags: king, laburnum, burning, fertility, priest, Woden, North


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 76 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..