Below you’ll find my excerpts posted for Six Sentence Sunday. Each week the new one will be posted immediately below this paragraph.
Following on from last week’s six, Cynfal is walking some horses back to the picket lines and meets Gwion, the harper, whom he rather fancies. He suspects the feeling could be mutual so speaks to him and asks where he is going. Gwion is going Cynfal’s way but seems uncertain of his welcome:
Gwion shrugged and patted the bay again. “I could help?”
Even croaked the suggestion was tentative, as though too many offers of help, pleas for companionship, had been rejected.
Cynfal nodded. “I’ve been told to walk the horses so it’ll take longer but I’d be glad of some company.”
Gwion’s smile was dazzling as he took the reins of the bay and came to walk at Cynfal’s shoulder.
Extra long excerpt due to me forgetting to register.
“The Misbegotten” have been out for some training. It has been very hard, cold, miserable and annoying work.
Cynfal was riding beside Pup, leading the horse and keeping an eye on the rider. Pup had fallen down one of the cliffs. He was nursing a gashed leg and a broken arm, which they had set and splinted with firewood and left over bits of raw hide.
“I don’t think it was that bad,” Pup said, his voice weak. “I learned a lot.”
“Yes, to avoid anything that requires climbing.” Aeddan snorted. “And now it’s all ‘ride in pairs – knee to knee – try to look like proper cavalry’. As if thats what we’re here for.”
“Yes,” Cynfal said and winked at Pup. “It’s not like we know how, is it.”
“I’ve forgotten more about riding in close order than you’ll ever know,” Aeddan snapped, glaring along his shoulder. He saw Cynfal’s grin and scowled. “Oh, very funny.”
“Well go on, then,” Cynfal challenged. “Educate us.”
“Yes, show us how it’s done.” March leaned from the other side of Pup. “We’ll be all right, won’t we, Pup?”
“I would,” Aeddan said and cast a derisive glance at Cynfal’s mount. “But close order with a man riding a sheep is just too damned embarrassing.”
“Chicken,” Cynfal murmured and leaned back in his saddle to avoid a punch.
They sighted the smoke of the dun well before dark and the fires had only just begun to show in the early dusk as they rounded the loch and trotted the last few bowshots to the horselines. By then the teasing had paid off and Aeddan had formed up the dozen men who shared the bothy into a reasonable semblance of order. They jingled along in a tight block with Cynfal leading them in a scurrilous song casting doubt on the manhood of their leader. Cynon’s upright seat didn’t waver but Cynfal was delighted to see that the back of his neck was rather red.
“You were right,” Aeddan said as they stopped to unharness their horses. “We need a harper. This lot couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.”
Cynfal chuckled. “Especially you,” he said. “March, why not lead Pup up to the bothy and ride his horse back?”
“My horse,” Pup said, struggling to get out of the saddle. “My responsibility.”
“Good lad.” Cynon had approached. His voice was sharp though his smile when he looked Pup over was kind. “But stay in the saddle. I’m going to take you up to the dun to let the monks take a look at that arm. Cynfal – let Aeddan see to your horse – you come too and you can walk Pup’s back down.”
Aeddan bleated under his breath as he took Cynfal’s reins, But cynon was looking impatient so Cynfal put retaliation off ’til later. He took Pup’s reins and jogged between the two horses as Cynon set a fast pace up the muddy track to the dun.
“How are you coping?” Cynon asked the boy and Pup replied, trying to be brave but almost inaudible. That the lad was being tested was obvious to Cynfal, but he wondered if Pup saw it that way. Apart from his poor showing at climbing Pup was very competent, cheerful, and willing to follow orders, even if he didn’t understand their purpose. Cynfal would be inclined to nurture him, not break him, but maybe that was why Cynon was the leader of the troop and not Cynfal?
There had been no time to poke around the hall enclosure so the way around to the little church was new to Cynfal. The church had recently been expanded. Some of the adzed flat trunks making the walls were still golden brown, rather than the silver they would become in a year or two, and the thatch was as fresh as that of the hall. When the horses pulled up outside, Cynfal helped Pup down then stood trying to get his breath back as Cynon called for attention.
The monks seemed gentle enough as they clustered around Pup but he looked nervous at the thought of being left with them. “I’ll stay with you for a while,” Cynon promised. “Cynfal can walk my horse back too. You’ll enjoy that won’t you?” He grinned. “It will make such a nice change from your sheep and you probably won’t have the breath for singing.”
Cynfal chuckled as Cynon disappeared into the church. As a reprimand for his singing, it was both private and bearable. Especially since he did have breath and was prepared to prove it. With a bridle in each hand he turned the horses to lead them past the hall towards the track and he sang as he walked. He chose a nursery song that he had enjoyed singing to little Ox, good and loud at first but dropping to a croon when a few paces away. “And so he calls to his nimble hounds, Giff, Gaff, come by, fetch fetch.”
The last two words woke echoes of harp song and Cynfal pulled the two horses up and peered past the head of Cynon’s bay. Gwion was in the doorway of the hall, harp held loosely in his arms.
Troop three are on manoeuvres. Troop three are not happy.
The next morning Cynon led them on a long patrol, riding east to the sea then south along the coast, in filthy weather and an increasingly filthy mood. They followed Cynon through bogs and across rivers. They swam their horses from one bay to another, scaled cliffs and felled saplings to build a bridge from poles and raw leather taken from hinds they shot with their bows. They ate well, slept huddled together for warmth in what little shelter they could find and by the time they turned homeward it was with a new sense of purpose.
“I’ll kill him,” Aeddan snarled, glaring towards the head of the column, where Cynon’s bay horse was stepping out proudly.
“And I’ll hold him down while you do it,” Cynfal agreed.
As usual my excerpt is from A Fierce Reaping, my story set in Scotland and Northumbria in the 6th/7th century AD. Cynon has dismissed Cynfal, telling him to return to his friends while Cynon has a ‘word’ with his cousin, Gwion. Once back with Aeddan, Cynfal asks what’s going on.
Aeddan stretched a bit to look across to the dark corner where Cynon was standing over the harper, his hand on the thin shoulder, giving Gwion a little shake for emphasis as he spoke. Gwion seemed to be trying to distract himself from what Cynon was saying, looking firstly towards Aneurin and then along the hall.
“I’m not sure,” Aeddan admitted, “but, at a guess, Cynon is trying to get him to go back to Aeron and it would be better for all if he did – having someone like that in the hall can only be bad luck.”
As if sensing he was being discussed Gwion stared at Cynfal and again Cynfal felt the heat of lust arise, but gentler this time. The harper’s face was open and easily read. He wanted Cynfal, but there was a tension about his mouth that suggested he did not intend to give in to his desires.
Some of Troop three are in the King’s hall accompanying their leader, Cynon, Cynfal has been ‘vamped’ by an edgy individual called Moried, and has been dismissed by Cynon, who wants a ‘word’ with his cousin Gwion. Cynon is the speaker at the beginning of the excerpt.
“Oh, one thing – if I were you, I’d take care with Moried.” He nodded a farewell and left Cynfal wondering.
How much of what had been going on with Moried had Cynon seen? And just what was he so anxious to talk to Gwion about? Obviously there was one person who would be bound to know. Cynfal had often heard men complain of women’s gossip but in his experience nobody gossiped like soldiers in camp and of them all Aeddan was the one who made it his business to know everything.
Aeddan was sitting on Cynfal’s cloak, ‘to keep it warm’ he said, and greeted Cynfal with a grin.
As per usual – 6 from A Fierce Reaping, a story set in Yr Hen Gogledd – the Old North – during a period when something very like Welsh was spoken from the Firth of Forth to the Tamar. Cynfal’s conversation with Moried is broken up by their respective troop leaders.
Moried shot him a smug and knowing smile, eyes flicking past Cynfal’s shoulder, before returning to his lord. Cynfal blew his cheeks out in exasperation, as much at himself as Moried, then turned to find Cynon getting to his feet. He too was looking across the room to Gwlygad and Aneurin, who had just entered with the harper, Gwion, at their heels.
He was taller than Cynfal had expected, broad shouldered, with a considerable flush brightening his pale face.
“There you are, you little bastard,” Cynon growled. “Cynfal, you can go – I want a word with my cousin in private.”
As usual my six comes from A Fierce Reaping, a story set in Scotland and Northumbria in the Dark Ages. While serving as his troop leader’s cup bearer Cynfal has been approached by Moried, a companion of the Prince, and it becomes apparent that Moried has more on his mind than conversation:
Moried’s tongue lay against the narrow lower lip, pink and wet, as his eyes locked with Cynfal’s. “Perhaps we should meet and discuss this later?” Moried suggested.
Despite his unease, Cynfal felt a sudden shocking spike of lust. It had been too long, far too long, since he had been able to lose himself, shut out all his troubles and fears by concentrating on his and another’s pleasure. Moried might do – but ‘making do’ was not what Cynfal wanted. Fucking just for the sake of it was all right in its way, and with the right person, but even though his cock was very interested, his heart and mind thought otherwise.
[3rd June, 2012]
Again I’m using my WIP “A Fierce Reaping” based on the 6th century AD poem Y Gododdin. Introducing another character here who will become more important to Cynfal as time goes by:
The harper he had noticed earlier, crouched at Marro’s feet, was not a boy, as Cynfal had thought but a man grown, though the boniness of his wrists suggested that he was still young. Dark hair swung forward to shadow his face, a close cropped beard shadowed his jaw, but the clear grey eyes, rimmed with black, were on Aneurin, watching for cues, and the thin lips moved, shaping the words silently. It was an austere face, with prominent but beautiful bones – the face of a fanatic, or a saint, or of a young man who had been desperately ill.
“Who’s that?” Cynfal whispered, nudging Aeddan.
Aeddan leaned and looked then made white eyes like a frightened horse. “That’s Gwion, Cynon’s young cousin – a man to avoid.”
[27 May, 2012]
This weeks Sunday Six is from my WIP A Fierce Reaping, a story of the Gododdin, set in Scotland and Northumbria in the 7th century AD. A reminder of the premise – King Marro of Din Eidin is alarmed by the encroachment of Saxon forces lead by Aethelfrith upon the lands just south of his borders. With the help of Gwlygad, his steward, he devises a plan to drive the Saxons back to the south. He gathers a band of heroes, trains and feasts them for a year and unleashes them on the Saxons in the spring. But at this point in the story Marro has three hundred young men packed into a small space with energy to spare and nobody to fight apart from each other.
“And how goes the training?” Moried asked. “I hope that Cynon is providing instruction in baggage handling and camp fire cookery because we won’t be able to take non-combatants and one can’t expect real soldiers to sully themselves with domestic chores.”
“You mean you kill it and we’ll cook it?” Cynfal snorted. “Spit roast Saxon with horseradish might put some hair on your chest.”
Moried glanced at the front of Cynfal’s shirt, unlaced in the heat of the hall. “Speaking from experience, I see.”
[20 May, 2012]
6 sentences from A Fierce Reaping, my WIP set in 7th century Scotland and Northumbria . Just to make life easier it follows quite closely from last weeks. Cynfal and his friends have decided to provide an escort for their down to earth cavalry commander, Cynon. Cynon, while touched, can’t take the situation entirely seriously.
“Since you want me to be honoured I’ll need a cupbearer,” Cynon said. “March took a turn last time, Pup can’t do it until he learns not to giggle and Aeddan wouldn’t be able to resist dropping a good loud fart into a lull in conversation. Cynfal – what about you?”
“Why me?” Cynfal asked with a grin.
Cynon grinned too. “Apart from anything else, you’re about the cleanest.”
Cynon nodded. “Then come by all means but know this – I piss alone – I don’t want anyone to be disappointed.”
6 sentences from WIP, A Fierce Reaping, set in Scotland and Northumbria in the late 7th century AD. Cynfal’s troop leader has provided him with a mount that isn’t, upon closer inspection, a sheep.
Cynon hailed them with a cheery grin. “I said I’d find you something to ride,” he said as soon as Cynfal was close enough to hear. “I’m assured it’s a horse but you might have to dig down through the winter coat to find it.”
Cynfal accepted the halter rope and tried not to smile as the little white beast nuzzled his fingers. “If I ride with my knees drawn up …?”
“Or crosslegged?” Aeddan suggested.
[22 April, 2012 ]
6 sentences from WIP, A Fierce Reaping, set in Scotland and Northumbria in the late 7th century AD. Cynfal knows that his troop, The Misbegotten, will get all the dirtiest jobs but in the meantime he is pleased to catch up with old friends and see to the education of the promising youngsters:
“New girls – where?” Pup demanded.
The guard shrugged. “I dunno – it’s just what I heard.”
“And what do you think you’re going to do with girls, Pup?” Cynfal asked as they hurried on up the track.
Pup flushed, the pink showing clearly even through the wispy whiskers he was cultivating. “I’m not sure,” he admitted with a sheepish grin, “but I’d dearly love the chance to find out.”
[ 15 April, 2012]
6 sentences from WIP, A Fierce Reaping, set in Scotland and Northumbria in the late 7th century AD. Accepted into Troop Three, aka The Misbegotten, or Cynon’s Hounds, Cynfal is beginning to gather the equipment he needs.
“So it’s three years since we last got drunk together,” Aeddan said, finally. “Damn me, it feels like longer. Ah, there’s Cynon. Looks like he might have found you something to ride.”
“I’d be happier if it had been a pony,” Cynfal grunted. “What is that – a big sheep?”
[8th April, 2012]
6 sentences from WIP, A Fierce Reaping, set in Scotland and Northumbria in the late 7th century AD. Cynfal has joined a warband and is being given the induction course by an old friend.
Aeddan gave him a rough one armed hug and flicked his bowl so the mead spilled down his shirt. “We’ll have to cheer you up, then. Find you a girl so you don’t forget what it’s for, as long as you’re not too fussy, or a lad unless you’ve gone all Christian on us.”
“What do you mean?” Cynfal asked.
“We’ve got monks,” Aeddan growled. “They say we mustn’t curse, gamble or whore and we certainly mustn’t ‘make do’” he held his hands at hip level and pumped them, “with each other – on pain of ever lasting purgatory.”
[1st April 2012]
6 sentences from WIP, A Fierce Reaping, set in Scotland and Northumbria in the late 7th century AD. Cynfal wishes to join a war band but has been challenged to wrestle a champion for his place.
Cynfal met his eyes and they held each others gaze for a long minute before both leaped to grab and hold. Chest to chest they heaved and twisted, feet scrabbled in the rushes, hands slid across skin just beginning to sheen with sweat. Around them the men of the hall howled. Cynfal rammed a shoulder into Aeddan’s armpit and grabbed a handful of his breeks to lift. The fabric tore. There was a shriek of laughter.
[25th March, 2012]