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Authors: Robert Coleman

Forgotten Prophecies

 

 

FORGOTTEN
PROPHECIES

by Robert
Coleman

 

Copyright 2013 Robert Coleman

 

A short story
from the Lost Century of the Dark Ages

 

The first in a
series of stories of 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

 

set in Northern France and Southern
England,

571-589

 

This
next story
in this series,
Where the Guardian Rests
, is set in the years 589-608

 

 

This book is a work of fiction, although some
of the characters and events actually existed and are recorded in
works by Gregory of Tours and Bede of Jarrow. In certain instances,
the author has allowed himself freedom to speculate about the
activities of those persons which escaped the historical
record.

 

All rights are reserved. No part of this book
may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written
permission by the author, except for brief quotations for review
purposes.

 

 

Author’s
notes appear at
http://blog.robertcoleman.com/

 

The
author may be contacted at
[email protected]

 

 

Smashwords
Edition : Licence Notes

 

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of this author.

 

 

FORGOTTEN
PROPHECIES

A short story by Robert
Coleman

 

 

In the kingdom of the Franks that is called
Neustria (Northern France), c. 571

 

“You! Stranger! I want to talk to you! Yes,
I can see you! Come out of there!”

The two fugitives had been discovered. The
rasping voice sounded as if it belonged to an elderly Frankish
woman, but they were unable to see her from behind the bushes where
they had hidden. Exhausted, they crawled out of the ditch,
collected their bags and began to lurch on their way along the
uneven road again.

“Stop! Don’t go! I have something important
to tell you!”

For the last week, they had run, walked and
finally stumbled slowly along the neglected road from Paris towards
the north coast each night. The kind moon had been their only
guide; each day they had slept at any remote spot they could find,
avoiding the risk of having to answer questions. It was night again
now, and they had taken an hour’s rest to draw energy before
carrying on into the next dawn.

They had enjoyed an occasional adventure on
the way to lighten their spirits but – concerned that they might
betray themselves through their carelessness, brought on by their
extreme fatigue – fear had overcome them. And now it was the end:
they had been discovered. They collapsed on to the roadside again
as the old crone approached them. She seemed harmless, but who
could tell?

“Young man, I can see your past. And I can
see your future.”

Eldred was uncertain whether she was
addressing him or his companion Guthlaf. “Yes,
you
,” she
pointed to Eldred.

He looked up at her nervously. They had
escaped from Paris but now, drained and ready to surrender to their
fate, they had little care. “I know all about my past, thank you,”
he growled clumsily in his best attempt to reply in her language.
“I know where I am now – roughly – but I can't see much of a future
for me.”

She looked closer into his face, and her
eyes lit up. “Ha! Your accent! You are from the island in the
north? The old Roman
Britannia
? Then I have found the right
man, praised be God. I have learned some of the speech of the
Cantwara
. You can understand me better now?”

The
Cantwara
people, in the
south-east of the island where he had been born, had a dialect
similar to his own. And she switched to it almost effortlessly so
he could better grasp her wisdom.

“You
have
a future. And it is not
here. There are things you must know. The angels compel me to tell
you.”

He shrugged. “Go on, then. Tell me. But I
don't have much time.”

“I know. You have had a hard life; your kin
were brutally slain and now you’re running away from a cruel man in
Paris, who bought you in the slave market. And you are trying to
return home.”

“I have no home. But it’s true that I’m
going back to the land I came from.”

“You
shall
have a home: a
good
home. But I still need to tell you of your past. There is something
you may not know. But this is private, between you and me. Can you
tell your friend to step away while I tell you?”

He shrugged. “Guthlaf, can you keep watch
for a while?”

His friend got up slowly and wandered to a
position down the road, out of earshot. The old woman continued to
look deep into his face.

“You had a tumble in the hay with a farmer's
daughter last week. She called herself Clothilde. Do you
remember?”

“Yes. You're good! Or were you there? Were
you watching us?”

She ignored his flippancy. "This is serious.
She is no farmer's daughter. And her name is not Clothilde. I know
of her: she is the wayward daughter of a wayward king. And she will
one day become queen when she weds a powerful prince, so you must
be careful if you meet her. She may remember you.”

“But that girl was a slut. Not a pretty
slut, either.”

“She may not be beautiful, but she comes
from the most noble house.”

He laughed for a moment. So he had lain with
an obscure princess. The world was full of petty princes who called
themselves kings, heading families that were always out to cause
trouble. "Is that everything? Can we go now?”

“There is more:
much
more. When you
return to your homeland, you will return to your old wild ways,
wandering and grasping what you can. But, one day, everything will
change suddenly. I can see beyond the tall, high elm trees.
Remember the elm trees. You will meet a young woman who will give
you a child. And you will know her when you see her: she has a
strawberry birthmark on her thigh.” She pointed to her leg, and
continued in her animated fashion. “I see her carrying a great
sword in a grand procession before the highest king in the land.
She has immense honour placed upon her, for few women are allowed
to hold a sword – not even the wife of a king.

“You will come to settle in her home. And
her child... oh, the boy...! He will grow to manhood, and he will
be a mighty warlord in your land, the brother of a king and the
noble friend of many more kings and princes. More than that, he
will...” She paused. Her eyes had grown wild with excitement and
she could hardly contain herself.

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 robbers – 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.”

“How will I know her?”

“Remember the birthmark. And the tall elm
trees. Saxon men, I wish you peace and prosperity. Take a boat back
to your home. And hurry. May God keep you both.”

The woman disappeared into the night as
quickly as she had first emerged, and they continued on their
way.

At daybreak, they found a place to hide
until nightfall.

“What did that woman say to you?” asked
Eldred. “Who is this Dewi that she spoke about? An old friend of
yours?”

“Dewi is a teacher: an old Christian. And I
helped him build a house. A church, you could call it. But it seems
a very long time ago now. And if I hadn’t met you, I might still be
there.”

“With the Glestingas? At Glastonbury?”

“Yes. But what did the woman tell
you
? She wouldn’t say anything to you until I left you alone
with her.”

“It all seemed to tumble out of her mouth,
and there was so much. I’m still struggling to remember it all.” He
summarised the bare facts; he would meet a young girl with a
birthmark, they would have a son who would be a great leader and
have many friends in high places, and they would settle down
together and have a good life in her hall.

“That sounds a bit too good to be true,” his
companion grinned.

“Maybe. But she knew about your friend –
David, she called him? – and also she knew about my little
adventure with Clothilde the farmer’s girl. Except that wasn’t her
real name.”

Eldred stopped speaking when he called to
mind everything else the old woman had said. He began to reflect on
its import, and was astounded. He had lain with the lady Aldeberge,
daughter of Charibert of Paris, the dissolute king of Neustria who
had died some three years earlier.

Guthlaf, who had a gift for remembering
gossip, recalled that she had been married to the Lord Ansbert of
Moselle and lived in the city of Metz, but he died the previous
year. It was commonly held that she had inherited some of her
father’s ways, for Charibert had never been able to resist an
opportunity to take any woman he fancied. Thus, as soon as
Aldeberge’s husband was dead, she was in the care of her uncles,
together with her two children from the marriage. But the kings had
more pressing affairs to engage their attention in their own
territories, and there was nobody to control her behaviour...
especially in the company of men.

So the girl – a dissipated princess – would
marry a prince one day, the crone predicted. I pity that man,
Eldred thought. But Aldeberge had been charitable to him: she had
given him a few coins in thanks for the romp they had enjoyed. They
were three gold tremisses – tiny coins that were in circulation
among the wealthy – minted from the remains of Roman plunder left
behind after the collapse of the Empire. She had probably guessed
he was a fugitive. And she had a seemingly limitless source of
money, happy to bestow it upon anyone she pleased. He had been
astonished, but made no attempt to quarrel with her. The coins came
in useful when they reached the end of their long road; they could
afford to be generous to the boat captain who took them back across
the Channel to Bosham, ready to make their new start in the
homeland of Eldred’s original people, the
Suth Seaxne

South Saxons – or, as we say now, Sussex.

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