20. A PROMISE FOR THE FUTURE

20. A PROMISE FOR THE FUTURE

A Chapter by Peter Rogerson
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The time for war draws near

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It was two weeks since King Jasper had set out with his diminishing forces for the lands up North, where he hoped to find the one-armed Jackiss and dispatch him to the land of his ancestors for stealing off with she he saw as a barren queen. It shouldn’t have taken so long but a mixture of misdirection, getting plain lost and relocating some of his men who had tried to escape, found themselves miles from anywhere and starving, and eventually staggered back to the king if they were fortunate enough to find him and in full expectation of having their heads summarily removed. To them, anything would be better than being hungry and lost in the wild and virtually impenetrable forest.

So after two weeks his forces had risen from little more than a dozen to about a hundred and he hadn’t lopped off a single head. In a way he was pleased to see them and decided to postpone summary executions until they returned to his castle and he had no further use for them.

And with roughly a hundred men he was growing near to his destination. He’d never been there before, but he could feel it in his waters. The occasional widely-spaced milestones with runes on them helped, of course. The trouble was, they were widely spaced and there were no roads of any kind in the wild woods, just animal tracks which led where animals liked to go, which was never where he and his forces wanted to go.

Then he came upon the Priest.

The fat man in his tatty robes was leaning against a tree, facing it in a posture of supplication, and gibbering. If there were any words in what the man was saying they were lost somewhere in the crinkled bark of the tree, because King Jasper could make no sense at all of them.

It was, of course, Brumble, who was suffering the twin agonies of starvation and bewilderment. And it was a combination of those agonies that seemed to have converted his brains into mush.

“What are you doing, fat man?” asked King Jasper, still on his horse (he was the only one who was mounted, possibly the only man with such a luxury in the entire forest, though in all truth the beast did him little good in such terrain).

“I am praying to Woden,” replied the Priest, “for by my reckoning it is his day: Wodensday.”

“It could be any day in this damned forest, and no man would be the wiser,” replied the King. “Tell me, prayer to trees, have you seen a man with but the one arm in the company of a camp wizard and an ugly queen?”

“Aye, I have sir, but several days back.”

“Well? Tell me more?” barked the King.

“They were as lost as I am, and getting more lost as the days passed,” replied Brumble, “but by my word the Queen that you say was ugly was most assuredly not! She was fair as the day and bright as the night, sir,” he added, not aware of the king’s fondness for removing the heads of those who contradicted him.

“She is my queen, and if I say she is ugly then ugly she is, and by my troth what is worse by far is that she has not the skill to fatten herself and produce a future king!” barked Jasper, still totally unaware of the male input when it comes to conception.

It was then that faint noises came to them in the air, voices maybe raised in distant song or the clatter of feet in dance.

“Well, that must be that,” grinned the King, and he turned at once to his sloppy, wayward and pinched group of near-corpses that he looked on as an army.

“Do you hear that, lads!” he bellowed, “do you detect our enemy in the air, men and women in joy and revelry when soon, so soon now we are here, they will be minus their heads and lying bleeding into the ground, still as only the dead can be?”

“Because they actually will be dead!” grunted one of his men, words that were fortunately lost in the murmur of what King Jasper took to be enthusiasm for the battle ahead, but which, in actual fact, was anything but that.

But he was the King, and what do Kings know of mortal men?

oo0oo

“Ahoy men and women, ahoy I say! The battle will be on us!” bellowed Gymboy as the women were engaged in a fancy dance under the old oak tree. It was a celebration in memory of Dodson of the line of Tomass, for he had been the last true born man from blood-line that had come to these lands and claimed them at the far reaches of time. His strength was being celebrated at the whim of his woman, the still lovely Maggida, and her daughter Tilda in whom it was said the old blood still ran true. It was her eyes that gave it away, their pure blue, and the tousled blonde length of her lustrous hair.

“What’s afoot?” asked a lad, not yet old enough to be in the hunt.

“There are forces on the way!” bellowed Gymboy. “I have received word that they are but an hour or two away, and when they arrive here they will either slaughter or be slaughtered. Call the men! They must man their stations, and until they come from the gathering of meat for their tables the women must pick up the bows and be ready to shoot!”

“Women!” shouted Maggida, “It is your time! Go now to your hides and take your best bows with you and as many arrows as a quiver can hold! We must be prepared! The King is coming forth, and he is coming for his throne!”

“Your throne,” said Gymboy quietly, “it is your throne. You were told that much by Angel.”

“You know her?” whispered Maggida.

“I travel and make enquiries far and wide,” Gymboy told her, “and I know the truth, that the blood of kings no longer flows pure in the castle of kings but can be found where few think of looking.”

“And that is?” asked Maggida, guessing the answer.

Gymboy nodded towards Tilda, who was at play and laughing with another child.

“You know, don’t you?” he said, not wanting to be overheard. “She must be defended with our every strength!”

Then he turned to the village where folks were scurrying hither and thither.

“To your stations!” he bellowed, “and then be stilled, for the false king is coming!”

Nobody paused to ask what he meant when he used the term false king, but Maggida knew.

She quietly picked Tilda up and the two of them returned to her cottage where she sat in sudden majesty on the polished throne with its silver and gemstones, and held her child upon her knee as a strength beyond the knowledge of men flowed into her.

“For victory,” she whispered, and Tilda looked at her, and giggled.

©Peter Rogerson 06.12.18




© 2018 Peter Rogerson


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Added on December 6, 2018
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Tags: king, blood-lines, priest, preparations for war, villagers, women


Author

Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom



About
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..

Writing