A short story from the Lost Century of the Dark Ages. In the year 571, Eldred - a Saxon - and his friend are in France, escaping from the world of slavery in Paris; they are accosted by an old woman claiming to be clairvoyant. Hastily, she gives him a glimpse of his future. When the prophecies fail to materialise, Eldred forgets all about it. Until one day, years later... More
In the year 571, Eldred - a Saxon - and his friend are in France, escaping from the world of slavery in Paris; they are accosted by an old woman claiming to be clairvoyant. Hastily, she gives him a glimpse of his future... a glorious destiny. He scorns her but, in parting, she gives him a warning which seems to give her prophecy some credence. But when the prophecy fails to materialise, Eldred forgets all about it. Until one day, years later....
This is a short story from the Lost Century of the Dark Ages: the first in a series set in England through the years 550 - 669, from the Second Foundation of the Great House at Glastonbury to the coming of Hadrian the African with Theodore of Tarsus.
His eyes were fixed on hers for a moment, before he sank back to reality. “You've had far too much to drink, old woman.”
She snarled back at him. “And the Lady Aldeberge paid you too generously for her frolic, young man. Spend it wisely. And make sure you never meet her again.” Her voice was sharp now, having escaped from her euphoric trance.
“Aldeberge?” He recognised the name. Her father had been no mere princeling: he was the high king of Paris. And her antics were well known. “Was she the girl that I had...?”
She smiled and nodded. “Her father Charibert is dead now, but his three brothers will come looking for you if they hear of this: the great Merovingian kings – Guntram, Sigebert and Chilperic – will put a price on your head. They will say you raped her, and you will suffer a horrible death if they lay hands on you. Make haste to get back across the Channel.” She looked aside to Guthlaf, standing some distance up the track. “But first I must speak to your friend.”
“Guthlaf! The old lady wants a word with you.”
His friend came forward and looked awkwardly at this strange woman.
“The voices are telling me about the Holy Abbot of Menevia. They say that you know Dewi, the man whom we Franks call David?”
“A very long time ago. My parents put me into his care when I was a boy. I helped him build the new assembly house for the Glestingas –”
“The Glestingas? At Glastonbury?” she gasped. “I have heard of that place. It has magic.”
He shrugged. “So they say. I was captured by Saxon marauders – the likes of my friend here – they took me away, I returned to the old gods and I became a rogue like Eldred.”
The two men laughed.
The old woman became impatient, and waved Eldred to be silent as she turned to Guthlaf. “Sir, has your hand ever touched the Holy David?” Her tone became one of profound respect towards him – almost reverential – and Eldred was perplexed. His old friend had seldom mentioned his earlier life.
“Yes,” Guthlaf replied. “He took my hand several times, I suppose. Whenever he laughed. It was a habit of his.”
The woman fell to her knees and reached for his hand. She kissed the open palm, then the back, and smiled up at him, before struggling to her feet once more and turned to Eldred. “The girl whom I described to you: the voices tell me of a curious coincidence. She has also kissed the hand of the Holy David. I think you will have much to say to each other when you meet.”