W is for Work
Godwin sat, sharpening the blade of his sword, casually watching Barth teaching a handful of men how to use a dagger to defend themselves against men with swords. “We’ll be in tunnels and narrow passages,” Barth said. “The sword loses its advantage.”
A shout came up, echoing through the cavern system. Everyone fell silent as Barth rushed toward the noise. Godwin followed at a walk, keeping his sword at the ready. Vincent dashed past Godwin, and Godwin started to jog.
A man was dragged in, with a sack over his head, and forced to his knees. Kenrick was close behind, now talking vigorously with Vincent. He caught sight of Godwin.
“David!” shouted Kenrick. “Here.”
Godwin passed the kneeling man, who was weeping under the sack. “Who is this?”
“I pray I’ve found the right man.”
Godwin turned back the the sobbing man and whipped the sack off of his head.
Simon cowered back in the torchlight.
“Simon,” said Godwin.
Simon blinked up through his tears. Godwin squatted down in front of him. “Simon, my friend.”
“Godwin?” Simon stammered.
“My friend.” Godwin embraced Simon.
“Help me, Godwin.”
V is for Vincent
“Get up!” cried Godwin. “Get up, all of you!”
Warily, the gathered men and women stood.
“I don’t want this,” Godwin said. “I want to be David. David of Baronwyth. I have a wife. I have a child. I till the fields. I lived the royal life, and it was dull and meaningless.” He smiled at Barth. “Though not lonely, nor without its friends.” He raised his voice. “Aldred would destroy all that is good of this country. All that has meaning. My father knew nothing of his people. But I know these people. I know you. You are what is good in this world.”
Godwin coughed and cleared his throat. “I don’t want to be king. But it is more important that Aldred is defeated. That my family and yours can be safe. So I will do what I must.” He turned to the man who had so recently thrown him on the ground. “You lead these people, aye?”
The man nodded slowly.
“Then tell me what must be done.”
The man worked his mouth, but said nothing.
U is for Underground
The man straightened up, wide-eyed. He turned to Kenrick. “You believe this?”
“What proof have you?” the man demanded, glaring back at Godwin.
Godwin licked his lips. “Grant was careful to obscure any evidence of my parentage. Yet you can still make out my father’s crest on my arm.”
“My right forearm. On the inside. Grant tried to burn it off.”
The man came around behind Godwin and shoved him down flat. He gripped one wrist. “I see nothing.”
“The other one,” gasped Godwin. “The right.”
T is for Truth
“Who are you boy?” demanded the man again.
Kenrick stepped forward. “This is my son by marriage, David.”
“And you trust him?”
“I do,” said Kenrick.
“David, aye? And what can you offer us, David? What good to us are you?”
Godwin shuddered. “I can offer my skills as a swordsman. My life. My blood.”
“Swordsman are you? How long have you studied?”
“I held a sword before I could walk.”
The man laughed. “Oh well then. By all means.” He continued to laugh. Abruptly he stepped forward and pulled Godwin’s head back by the hair. The man scowled down at Godwin, sneering. “And what happened to your face then?”
S is for Secret
Godwin tapped his horse’s flank, encouraging the stallion to continue up the steep trail. He had been riding silently behind Kenrick for more than three hours, climbing higher and higher into the hills behind Baronwyth. The sun had dipped behind the peaks more than an hour earlier and twilight was falling.
The trail passed between some large stones and a nearly vertical cliff. The trail grew darker between the rocks. Kenrick slowed.
Godwin heard a noise behind him and looked back. Four men now occupied the trail where they had just been.
Kenrick’s horse snorted, bringing Godwin’s focus forward again. The trail was blocked by an additional group of men. The horses stopped.
R is for Reconciliation
Godwin walked home alone, troubled.
He had looked his best friend – the one person he’d known his entire life – and said he did not know him.
Godwin felt sick. This was a disaster.
He’d never considered that people from his past might suddenly reappear.
When he got back to the house, he stoked up the fire and sat, staring into the flames.
“What happened,” Joan said, startling Godwin. “That man said he knew you.”
“He did,” said Godwin. “It was unexpected.”
“But you didn’t know him?” Joan said, sitting on the bench beside him. “He seemed so certain.”
Godwin gazed at her in silence.
Q is for Questions
Godwin laughed. A solid laugh. He felt joy. Across the crowded room, Joan was holding Oriel in her arms and bouncing slightly to the festive music, drawing squeals of joy from the tiny child.
No one celebrated like the people of Baronwyth, the home of Joan and her father Kenrick, and now his own home. These people new the struggle of survival and they relished any opportunity to celebrate.
He was David of Baronwyth, husband to Joan, father to Oriel, and quite possibly the happiest man alive.
P is for Pastoral
Godwin wiped the sweat from his forehead, glancing toward the sun. He had been chopping wood all day and piling it near the house.
Kenrick had left early that morning and had not yet returned. It was getting late. Though Kenrick could care for himself, Godwin was nevertheless concerned.
Men under the command of Aldred had recently begun to cause problems near the tiny town of Hedengarde, which Godwin now called home. These men had burned a house two nights ago, enraging Kenrick. Joan’s father ranted about it all day yesterday, and left this morning saying he would do something about it.
O is for Oriel
Godwin stared down at the struggling tiny person. “So beautiful,” he whispered.
The baby gazed back at him with dark blue eyes, making tiny sounds as she worked her hands open and closed. Her face scrunched up and she began to cry.
“Oh no-no-no,” whispered Godwin. He started to walk, bouncing the baby gently. “Sleep my little Oriel.”
Joan padded slowly back into the room. “How’s our darling?”
N is for Nuptials
Godwin smiled at Joan, then buried his face into her neck. She giggled, stroking his sweaty head.
He marveled at how he felt in this moment. He was at peace, comfortable, satisfied.
Definitely not bored.
Oh how court was boring. If only he had realized that being no one of importance was the best thing that could ever have happened to him.
“David,” Joan whispered.
“Aye, my love.”
“I didn’t know I could be so happy.”
He raised his head and propped himself up on an elbow. “I didn’t know such happiness could exist, either.”