The second chapter to my novel Branwen Council
Branwen Council is a work-in-progress. I am looking for help in editing this chapter. Should more content be added in certain areas, more descriptions? Let me know what you think. Thanks in advance!
An amassing of farmers and gatherers working and harvesting their grains to feed their families were sprawled out in a plain of cabbages and wheat. Golden stalks were the staple of their meals and were prized among the folk of these lands. Any sight of aphids and the villagers would run amok for fear of their crops being lost.
A vision of serenity, all at peace. Children were playing hoop de’vas, a favorite game of sorts, where one child would try to ring a cedar hoop around the others stake in the ground without hitting the posts fashioned around it. Cheerful glees came from the youths as they celebrated another goal!
In the midst of all of the laughter and sweat, low rumblings came to pass through the little vale. On the cobblestone path, horse hooves clattered and kicked making way for a formation of horsemen and their steeds. No doubt they were on their way to the city, not a days ride from here. Workers turned to look at the group as they passed by in haste.
Past the huts they rode and over the countryside. They hilly grounds were no match for these hefty animals as they continued steadily through the way. Two of the men were carrying flags with white lions adorning silk on a red backdrop. Their knightly armor gleamed in the midday sun.
Deer fled skittishly as the troupe headed into a wooded area.
“Sir, take heed. These woods are filled with unusual creatures.” One of the horsemen stated to what appeared to be the leader of the pack.
A huge man of barbarian size sitting on a white horse nodded in response. He carried a large axe at his side and the reigns in his hands. “We press on, there is no time to lose.” He urged his group forward on the leafy path. “Keep together men!”
Gusty winds blew more leaves from the tall old trees and the day grew old. In these woods many stories had unfolded from the mouths of bards. Tales of men being lost in lust from beautiful women whom appeared from the bark of trees. Not many ventured through these paths for worry of these tales. Perhaps that’s all they were, silly stories told to mindless drunks for a shilling or two.
The men were groaning and trying to stay focused as rays of red-orange light beamed through branches, blinding them every few steps. They were weary, for they had been riding for days and time had been taking a toll.
Sparks of light floated upward to the darkening sky and a low mummer was heard. A voice, a song. Quiet and lovely, that of a woman. The horses slowed and stopped in their place. Something had calmed them to a stand-still.
“What’s the meaning of this, why have we stopped?” The leader kicked at the side of his horse to urge him to move on. It paid no mind to his request and stood, now grazing on grass tufts.
Like a choir of maidens dropping over the newly born night, voices all singing in harmony washed over the forest. A single light appeared floating before the great pack. Glowing, shimmering in the darkness, as a figure formed before their eyes.
Songs of light dance in my mind,
A drifting thought of divine sight,
Who trotted through my world and lost their hope,
Separate my heart from soul and find,
A glorious decent in the boughs below.
“Stand where you are!” The leader shouted at this glowing figure. “We have no quarrel with you this night.”
“Speak your purpose handsome man on your high steed.” Her mystical voice was of a thousand crystals chiming in the gusty wind.
His eyes closed and reopened to see a maiden dressed in a velvet gown. Her buxomness bosom heaved as she breathed in and stepped toward the group of men. Her dark hair, long down to her waist was swimming in the air as she walked.
“I say, speak your purpose. Or have you forgotten why you came?” By now she was standing next to his white horse. All of the men were in awe and seemingly in a trance, except their leader.
“I ... ere.” He stumbled over his words searching for his reason for being in the position he found himself in.
“You were on your way to help me, weren’t you?” Her eyes twinkled with light as he peered into them. “I was lost and you came to rescue me.”
“You were lost and I came to rescue you ...” He repeated to her as he lowered off of his horse. His men held strong in a trance said nothing.
“How fortunate for you to have found me. Perhaps you could let me see the man behind the helm?”
His armor clad arms lifted his helm off slowly showing her his bearded face. “You deserve to see me, you deserve much more. You are so beautiful.”
“Thank you, my warrior. Come with me.” She turned and walked into the woods as the leader followed her every move. They walked for a short time and she stopped and turned to him. “Here we can be alone, here I can thank you properly.”
A sly smile crossed the leaders face. He was lost in her eyes and her smile. How lovely she was to him. She put her hands into his and pulled him close to her body.
“I know what you want.” She whispered into his ear.
He closed his eyes and embraced her in a longing kiss holding her by her arms. A deep emotionally tied kiss. He felt weak, as though his life was draining from his body, yet he could not stop. Madly he kissed her in the heat of passion as more of his life was being withdrawn. He opened his eyes and looked into hers, they were no longer beautiful and glittering, they were dark like a black hole. Deep and endless. The trance was broken, he knew what was happening.
“Nymph! How dare you cast your tricks upon me!” He broke away from her and ran back to his horsemen. The nymph outstretched her arms and let out a bellowing screech.
The leader dropped to his knees grasping at his ears in pain. He knew he had to get back to his team and race to the city. He had a duty to fulfill.
Finally, he reached his party who had also been broken from their trance with the bellowing of the nymph. He mounted his horse and shouted to his men, “Make haste, we must ride!”
The men all urged their rides to move and hastily they did. Dirt and leaves were pushed to the side as they sped through the wood. The path was only lit by the moon. The light was scarce with rolling gray clouds crossing over the crescent.
Drops of rain speckled down on the dry dirt path changing it into mud. Hooves slouched into the mulch as the rain dropped a drapery of water making vision a difficult task.
“It won’t be long now. The city of Despoina is near.” The leader grasped at the reigns and pressed on.
They reached the gates of the great city drenched in rain and requesting to enter.
“What means have you, requesting to enter our city? The gates have been sealed to keep the goblin-folk from entering. There has been a change in the wind, one that has taken to them. They apparently feel the need to be aggressive more so than normal.” A guard dressed in royal blue spoke clearly and boldly to the leader.
“We were sent on a mission to speak with the Council. Private business.” The leader replied just as boldly.
“Odin? Is that you?”
“Aye, it is. Now are you going to let my men and me enter or are you going to stand there gawking while the rain continues to spoil our armor?”
“Of course! Why didn’t you just say so in the first place, you know you are welcome here. It’s been ages!” The guard opened the gate to a well lit path into the city.
The white stepping stones, laid hand-by-hand, proved to be a better foundation to ride on than the muddy grounds of the forest. There was no need to rush now that they had made their destination. Glorious Despoina and it’s towers of wisdom. Home to the Branwen Council, women of honor and respect. They were wise beyond their years.
Soon the storm subsided and the clouds moved on showing off the night sky filled with millions of stars. Each named after the great warriors of times past.
The group rode up to one of the stables in the city, keeping their horses fed and groomed for the night.
“You men get some rest in the inn. I won’t be requiring your services any longer. Ride back in the morning and tell the Queen that I arrived in Despoina safely.” Odin dismissed his men and made his way to the inn to change out of his armor, and then to the tavern for a late dinner and good taste of ale.
Tired he sat at one of the tables. A waitress spotted him and rushed over to take his requests.
“Good eve to ye sir, and what can I get to cure yer troubles and fill yer stomach?” Her smile and crooked teeth shone brightly in the dim lit room.
“Ah, I will have a bit of brew and chicken if you have any.” Odin replied.
“Right, on it’s way then sir.” She turned swiftly and her dress swooped over Odin’s arm waking him a little bit.
“Odin ...” A soft hand touched his shoulder lightly. “We are glad you have come on such short notice.”
Odin turned to look at the small hand that rested on him. He glanced up an arm and looked into a hooded face. “Council, please sit with me.”
She acknowledged and took a seat across from Odin. Odin focused on the face within the hood. A middle-aged woman stared back. Her face blurred for a moment, but soon became clear. Picture perfect she was, sharing a warm smile with him. The women of the Council were shape-shifters in their nature and could take on any form they choose.
“Odin, you know why we called you here?”
“I do Council. You have found the one.”
“Yes, Odin. We feel peace for our people will be restored. But we need you to help us get there.”
“I understand.” Odin was interrupted as the waitress returned with his meal and ale.
“Beggin yer pardon. Here you are sir, two shillings if ye will.” The waitress held out her hand waiting for payment. Odin reached into his pocket and pulled out three for good measure and motioned the waitress to move on.
The Council stood. “Odin, we will talk more in the morning when you have gotten some sleep.” She touched him on his head and walked out of the tavern.