The stories that fall under the collective title of "Refuge in Wales" are the last stories I wrote for decades. I categorize these as "alternate endings" because they were never really part of the original vision. The epilogue in the novel is the "official ending". This series ends with no resolution. That resolution finally came with the new stories, which will come next on this blog, and the novel, which you are most welcome to purchase at Amazon or elsewhere. Just see Shield-wall Books for more information.
Flight from Christenlande
The weather turned to rain and grey and miserable nearly the very moment the Christenlande party reached its frontiers. It was often difficult to tell the difference between the weather and the people along the way. On every turn there were people who were despairing -nearer to the seacoast and the banks of the great rivers people lived in fear of the Vikings; inland where they could not fear these invaders, they found all the security of these last few years cut off with no hope of restoration. For those who recognized the king in flight the defeat was all the more acute.
At first Lawrence tried to stop and give some advice or reassurance to these people but there were too many and their grief was too great.
The party overtook the Queen's retinue many miles to the west, along a great road. When first Josephine had heard the hurried hoof-beats behind, she had feared that outlaws or unfriendly knights were coming, who might molest her party" When she saw it was Lawrence and four of his friends, tears of relief sprung to her eyes. As he rode up to her, she rode to meet him. They greeted with an embrace and she turned her horse to ride up to the head of the retinue.
"Oh, my lord, I feared so for your life!"
They all rode on away until there was a sheltered part of the woods where they could dismount. Lawrence told his wife all that had happened and she grieved with him for all his lost dreams. Once or twice he glanced over at the others. Larissa wept on Loin's shoulder -even he, who had ridden silent and seemingly unperturbed, now showed emotion as he comforted his wife. Samir had gone over to a tree where he sat on the marshy ground and hid his face.
The decision was made to go to Wales. Josephine showed distress at the idea until Lawrence assured her she would never see Lanimere's home. Many of the retinue would go north, some south to seek refuge. All of Lawrence's closest friends, Lorin, Sean, Tramtrist, Rory and their families, and Ricca would go to Wales. Samir would be taken with them. One priest who was Lawrence's confessor, Pr. Priedrich Hyperion, would accompany them. Lachrimae would have to be sent back to Prance to her uncle, le Charles. Lawrence hoped to find sanctuary in the castle of a friend from his Welsh days, Prince Llewellyn a Gador of Radnor.
The rain never let up while they were traveling their southwest journey. Some great relief was to be felt when the stronghold of the prince came into sight. The porter of the gate was confronted, when he answered Clancy's knock, by over twenty sopping, dirty and bedraggled people. He was at first unwilling to let them in.
Despite all Saxon hospitality freeloaders were scrupulously selectively treated. Clancy announced the King of Christenlande, though, and the porter, who cared not to mess with royalty, hurried off to tell his master.
After their rejoicing at the thought of shelter, the tedious moments of waiting seemed to accentuate every ache and pain the riding had brought on. The women fretted about the welfare of their children and, when finally the porter returned, they were, by and large, very happy just to stand in the entrance where they were bidden.
When Owen, the porter, requested Lawrence enter to speak with the prince, Lorin unquestioningly stepped to his side, as Rory stepped to the Queen's side to attend her while the King was absent. They were escorted a short distance in the building, a wood and stone building probably left over from the Romans, It was set up in the wild mountains of Radnor, on the side of a mountain overlooking a valley full of huts and fields. It was a very productive and peaceful looking area, though in truth it was only the latter., The Welsh frontier would never be an agriculturally productive area. But there were herds of sheep all over in clumps of white.
The room they were shown to was a smallish one, though they were to learn it was one of the largest in the building. Its furniture consisted of oaken chests, Roman leather chairs, a table and skins on the floor and walls. At the table sat a tall, sharp-eyed man whose head sported curly red-brown hair. He had a smiling Welsh face and dressed in a blue to match his eyes. He did not stand to greet Lawrence and Lorin but motioned them to chairs.
"Ah, Lawrence, oh days of your stay at Trelane!"
Lawrence smiled and Lorin strained to understand the provincial Welsh.. Llewellyn continued, "ah, what disaster has befallen you and why do you travel so unarmed?" His voice was deep, loud and musical - his whole manner was that of a man in love with life and ready to face anything with courage and a laugh. Lawrence explained the terrible occurrences of the last several weeks.
Llewellyn's smile ceased, but only for a moment, to shine, showing his sympathy. "Ach, that despair of your country can never happen to us here - we are too far from the sea to fear the Danes, and if we weren't, there is nothing we could offer them to steal. We are clanny, we depend not on great kings or dukes but only our prince who knows all the chieftains in our valley" Here, if you will accept my invitation to stay, you will find a sheltered life you have never enjoyed.
Next: Arrival in Wales