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Beltane

I've been working on my sequel for The King's Tale today, and the writing is going quite well. Better than usual actually. And now I've figured out why...today is Beltane :)

I don't remember why I chose Beltane as the day that Christopher and Dafydd would handfast originally. I think it had to do with what I perceived the flow of the story. They met in winter, and a year and a half later it felt like it was time to ignore homosexual history of the 1200s and allow these two lovers to make their love official.

I don't have a clean, "edited" version of The King's Tale that I can share excerpts from, so instead I've cut out the section from my original manuscript. Below the cut, Dafydd and King Christopher celebrate Beltane...the first time. This is a "G" rated excerpt ;)



It was still full dark as John nudged Dafydd's shoulder to wake him. Dafydd rolled from the bed, finally used to receiving John's assistance. He knew that today he would don the clothing that had been made special for the day. In the pit of his belly there was a knot of nerves and a measure of excitement.

"'Tis an honor Sir Dafydd," John said solemnly, "To assist you this morn."

"An honor you deserve," Dafydd responded. In truth, he would have wanted the time to settle his thoughts, yet he was soothed by John's deft assistance.

First came a shirt of snowy white cotton adorned at the neck and sleeves with seed pearls. It tucked into chausses of tawny velvet, which were tucked into new boots of rich brown leather that clung to his legs. Next came a tunic of rich crimson brocade. Around his hips was a belt that was hung with a leather purse, and his ceremonial sword. Over all he wore the furred surcoat.

John drew in his breath in wonder when Dafydd produced the circlet crown. "'Tis a wondrous thing," he breathed as he lowered it reverently onto Dafydd's head.

"Aye," Dafydd said, "From a wondrous king."

Before they departed, Dafydd walked over to the hearth. He took a moment to stand in quiet contemplation and gaze into the flames. Happy with what he saw, he smiled, and reached up to take the shell that Christopher had given him the first time they went to the beach. He dropped it into his purse, his own talisman to protect him through the coming day.

"I am ready," he said as he turned.

"You look magnificent," John said.

They met Alain standing with Christopher at the bottom of the stairs. Christopher was dressed in a similar fashion as Dafydd, yet his brocaded tunic was blue. He wore a large silver cross around his neck, and his own ceremonial crown. When he reached for Dafydd's hand, the ring gleamed upon his finger. They communicated with their eyes, then together they walked through the hall, and out into the yard.

It was clear that many had spent the night in revelry, yet the assembled mass managed a cheer as the king and his consort appeared. The bonfire had burned down, and soon would be embers only as they walked past it. They walked up the gentle incline toward where the sky was lighting with the dawn.
Gone was the boisterousness of the previous night. All stood in hushed silence to watch the sun rise. It was a sunrise like any other, yet it touched them all in a different way.

Once the sun was up and began to warm the air, the people turned and made their way back toward the castle. The cattle were herded from their winter pens, past the embers of the fire to bring them protection in the coming summer season, and out to pastures. A few of the younger shepherds followed them.

The castle servants had brought forth ale and bread. All ate together, nobility and peasant alike in hushed silence. Dafydd found he could not eat much, the ball of nerves in his stomach had grown as the time neared for the handfasting.

"We must needs make our way to the chapel," Father Geoffrey said loudly. Smiles broke out amongst the gathering, and all turned to walk back inside the castle courtyard.

When they reached the chapel Father Geoffrey walked up on to the porch. Leaning against the door was a broom made of birch. He laid the broom across the steps then rose to await Christopher and Dafydd.

Dafydd paused, and gasped softly when he saw the broom barring their way. Christopher moved closer to whisper in his ear.

"'Tis right?"

Dafydd swallowed, his voice husky when he spoke, "'Tis right." He was overcome that Christopher had included this Welsh custom as part of the ritual.

Christopher crossed over the broom first, and then Dafydd. The broom did not move, thus indicating a long and prosperous marriage.

Father Geoffrey nodded to his novice Andrew, and a silken cord was produced. A prayer was said over the cord, and then Christopher and Dafydd both presented their left hands. Father Geoffrey knotted the cord tightly around their wrists, bound them together.

"With this binding I tie thee, heart to heart, together as one. With this knot thou are joined in sacred union. May God smile upon thee, and bless thee with health and prosperity." He placed his hand over their bound wrists. "By the knot on this cord, thy love is united."

There was a small cheer from the gathered people, and Christopher and Dafydd turned to face them with smiles wreathing their faces. Christopher turned and kissed each of Dafydd's cheeks, and the crowd clapped with joy. With a gentle tug, the knot was released, and the cord and broom were set aside that they might be saved as a lasting memory of the day.

Only the nobility fit inside the chapel, the peasants stood outside the door to hear Father Geoffrey make the Beltane blessing and say the mass. Christopher and Dafydd sat on the king's bench alone, their hands clasped together.

When the service was over the nobility departed the chapel back out into the yard again. The rest of the morning was spent in revelry again as youths danced around the maypole. Many came to offer their words of congratulation to Christopher and Dafydd.

Sir Richard and Lady Mary accompanied them to the tables that were set out and covered with cloths and flowers. Before the feast would commence, Sir Richard stood and called for silence.

"My friends," he said as the people settled into their seats. "I have been a part of Lysnowydh for so long 'tis like a second home to me. It is with great joy that I bear witness to the joining of your king with the love of his heart." He turned, raised his goblet of wine high and smiled down at the two who sat beside him. "May your years be many, may you prosper as does your kingdom."

All cheered heartily and downed the first of many goblets of wine. Sir Richard continued.

"Accept this gift from my lady and I, may it grace your hall, yet pale in comparison to the love you share."

Servants from Sir Richard's household walked in, between them holding a large tapestry that depicted a golden lion stalking across the board moor, with a peregrine falcon swooping above. It was clear that the lion represented Christopher and the falcon represented Dafydd.

"Sir Richard, 'tis beautiful," Christopher said, he reached out to run his fingers over the beautifully wrought stitches. "'Tis my guess that Lady Mary had much to do with this beautiful work. Our thanks for this glowing testament to our love."

Lady Mary blushed, and dipped her head in acknowledgement. The tapestry was carried back inside the hall to be mounted on the wall behind the dais.

Before the meal started, pages arrived with bowls of water that the nobility might wash their hands. Patrick, as always, brought the bowl to Christopher and Dafydd. His face shone with merriment and excitement. As Christopher dipped his hands into the warm, scented water, Patrick burst forth,

"Your majesty, you shall never guess!"

Long used to the natural cheekiness his page displayed Christopher took the towel and let Dafydd dip his hands within the bowl. "Speak young Patrick."

"Sir Cuthbert says I'm to be a squire! 'Tis my last day to serve you in the meal, tomorrow I begin to learn the ways of battle!" He turned to allow Dafydd to take the other towel.

"Ah, 'tis well," Christopher said. He leaned back in his chair, "Yet you should not be so eager to learn battles, 'tis an honor to serve with my troops, yet battle is not all they must know."

"Oh I know, but 'tis so long I have waited," he turned to pass the bowl and towels to a passing servant. "I have a gift for you, and for Sir Dafydd," he said. "For your handfasting."

Dafydd arched a brow, used to Patrick's antics and expecting to find a toad deposited in their laps. He watched as Patrick turned, and put his fingers in his mouth to whistle.

A small puppy came skittering across the hall from the pack of dogs that lounged beside the fire. He scampered happily around Patrick's feet. "He's the pick of the litter, Sir Cuthbert says he'll make a find hunting hound one day."

"Ah young Patrick," Christopher said as he watched Dafydd pet the dog. "'Tis a fine gift, you have captured Dafydd's heart. How did you know he longed for a dog?"

Patrick's eyes grew round, "In truth I did not know."

Dafydd smiled, and Christopher said, "You must needs bring the bowl so that Dafydd might wash his hands again."

Patrick ran off to bring a fresh bowl of water, and the puppy scampered off behind him. Christopher leaned over, his forehead resting against Dafydd's.

"I know this feast is necessary, yet I long to be free of this garb, and tucked away with you alone." His lips touched Dafydd's nose. "I long to celebrate this union just the two of us."

"Aye," Dafydd said softly, "'Tis my wish as well, yet your people deserve this feast, and deserve to celebrate it with you."

"Our people," Christopher said, "Celebrate with us."

The feast was as grand as the preparations had suggested. There were fish, and meats, and vegetables, all accompanied with good wine. Each course lasted almost an hour, and it was nearly sunset by the time the sweets were brought. Many of the crowd had fallen asleep upon the tables after the rich feast hard on the heels of the festivities of the previous night.

Between them, Christopher and Dafydd had eaten and drunk sparingly. Christopher called Agnes from the kitchen and praised her greatly for the meal. Then he called upon Matilda and praised her as well. Finally he called Gaunt, and as the burly blacksmith blushed under his ruddy tan he was also praised.

Finally, Christopher rose, Dafydd beside him. "I bid you all a good night," he said. "This day nears an end for most of you, and yet the best part just begins for me."

There was a roar from the crowd, and together Christopher and Dafydd departed the hall. Alain and John stood waiting at the foot of the stairs that led to the king's tower. Christopher rewarded them both with coins, and told them they would not be needed that evening.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
darthanne
May. 2nd, 2011 06:10 am (UTC)
Lovely ceremony and very romantic. Love the descriptions.
rowenasudbury
May. 2nd, 2011 07:50 pm (UTC)
Thanks so much! :)
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )