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http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/welshisms/1.shtml

Attending a church service

An English visitor to a small Welsh village was approached by one of the deacons of the local chapel who asked him whether he would like to attend their chapel on the following Sunday.

“Wouldn’t that be a little pointless?” replied the Englishman.

“After all, your services are held in Welsh and I don’t understand the language.”

“Ah yes,” said the deacon, “but the collection is in English.”

Another view from the courtyard of Castle Mantovar (Castell Coch)

Another view from the courtyard of Castle Mantovar (Castell Coch)Eight

 

Eight

‘This is the easiest task of all,’ she explained, losing patience. ‘If you cannot make a bed, how will you do the rest of the chores? Lord Tragen will definitely speak with your father when we get home.’

The following morning started badly with Beatrix teaching Augusta the rudiments of bed-making. Augusta, of course, didn’t want to know and attempted rebellion. Beatrix, though, was having none of it.

That argument seemed to settle it and Augusta set to with a will for about two minutes before complaining.

‘How am I to survive without having breakfast first? You know I can never wake up unless I have a cup of tea before I rise!’

The boys arrived in the middle of the heated exchange the shouting audible from one end of the dark passageway to the other.

The storm had noticeably decreased in intensity, the motion of the ship not as violent. Augusta and Beatrix were now finding it easier to keep their feet on a deck not jumping about so much. The waves, though, were still running high and the ship continued to dip and climb, very alarmingly on times. The crew spent most of their time controlling the level of flooding by manning the pumps every hour of the day and night and the replacing and repair of sprung boards was never ending.

As soon as they had awoken, Anders from his bed on the floor – he had been cajoled mercilessly into giving up his berth again – had questioned his friend.

‘What were you dreaming about, Aidan?’ he asked, pretending nonchalance.

‘Oh…what? I don’t know, why?’

‘You were talking in your sleep again, something about wizards going somewhere. You sounded very strange, as if you were threatening someone.’

‘Was I? Don’t know what you’re on about, come on I’m starving let’s go to the galley.’

‘I’ve got to tidy the Bear’s cabin first, you can help.’

Five minutes of frantic activity, resulting in charts and clothes deposited in some very unusual locations, and the two boys were racing each other down companionways and ladders to “Dolly’s” kingdom—the galley, one deck below the passengers, and forward of the mainmast.

Anders, not happy with his friend’s answer, still fretted, this was his second sleepless night and fatigue was telling on him, increasing his anxiety. He couldn’t recall Aidan ever having nightmares before. Standing in a line behind Bertram, pots in hand, Anders’ thoughts were elsewhere. Aidan’s dreams were not normal, something untoward was happening, something that was likely to have nasty consequences. Anders could feel it in his guts.

The ship’s cook, Dolphin, had been named by his mother, a very dominant wife of a very quiet fisherman. She had loved the big mammals of the sea and had nearly called her son Walrus. Dolly’s father would have preferred him called that, after all Wally was a lot better than Dolly. But he was one of those strange men who loved a violent woman and he had acquiesced, for when his wife was drunk she was usually aggressive with both her fists and her tongue.

Dolly was short and bald, with an enormous belly. He was also a very hard man, growing up on the docks with the attendant blessings of that name he had to be. Nevertheless he was famous throughout the fleet for two things—his knife-fighting skills and being the only ships’ cook who hated fish.

Dolly came from a small fishing community in southern Mantovar, one of many villages that supplied the large inland towns with the harvest of the sea…and Mantovar with sailors for its navy. His father dearly loved his son and had not wanted him to leave home, but Dolly found he could not remain after the tragic death of his mother.

He brought with him to the Grim a culinary skill not often seen in ships’ cooks, and he prided himself on supplying hot food and drink in almost any weather. The Grim, being the largest vessel afloat, had the area around the stove protected by magic, no coals could fall on nearby decking to cause a fire. But in this storm, Dolly had not wanted to tempt fate. Spells did fail on times, especially the ones that needed renewing each year as this one did. So, over the last two days he had only been able to supply cold meats and hard ships’ biscuit, a miserable fare to sustain life in atrocious conditions. This morning, though, he made up for it with a hot burgoo, a porridge made of oatmeal, sugar, butter and salted water. This, along with very sweet tea, was heaven on earth to men who had survived unspeakable strain.

Having eaten to bursting point in the galley, the boys gathered caddies of piping hot tea and pots of the burgoo and toted them through dark passageways up to the girls and Lady Cornelia.

While Augusta/Mabel and Beatrix carried breakfast in to Lady Cornelia, the boys made themselves at home in Beattie’s cabin. Aidan stretched out in what had become his usual place on the bottom bunk after pulling the blankets straight, Augusta had again failed to carry out the task properly. And Anders picked his favourite spot on the floor, stretching out his long legs before him, his back against an old wooden chest, his shoulders in contact with a woollen blanket folded on its lid.

‘I can’t understand it Anders, this is no punishment, and nothing’s changed. We were watching over the girls already and …’ the girls returned with a clatter that stopped him in mid-sentence. ‘All right, Mabel, why so noisy?’ Aidan baited, mischievously.

‘I am going to throw a boot at you if you call me that horrible name again, little wizard.’

Anders joined in. ‘Well, we must call you something. Hey! How about a boy’s name then, she could pass as one dressed like that, couldn’t she?’

‘Aye, come to think of it she looks like Bertie Smallpen…you know, Anders, the kitchen hand back at the castle, hey, that name suits her! All we need shout then is “Beattie and Bertie behave yourselves or you’ll get a battered bottom”!’ The two boys collapsed in hysterics.

‘Very funny…ha, ha…remind us to laugh won’t you. For your information you are to call me Nellie, Cornelia allowed me to choose another.’ Sitting down on the end of the bunk pushing Aidan’s bare feet out of the way, none of them wore any footwear, she tucked into her burgoo.

‘I have a cousin Mabel,’ Augusta grimaced between mouthfuls, ‘a short, skinny, spotty, horrible girl. There are things I could tell you about her that would make your hair curl,’ she shuddered.

‘Oh, go on then, I’m all ears,’ said Aidan.

‘I can’t in mixed company.’

‘Why not?’ Aidan asked, his ears flapping.

‘It would not be genteel and proper,’ replied Augusta, flummoxed.

‘Oh, come on…since when do maids have to be genteel and proper? Beattie isn’t,’ Aidan winked at Anders.

‘You say that again and I’ll throw more than a boot at you,’ said Beatrix, nearly choking on her food.

‘You were saying, when we came in, that you didn’t understand Tragen. What was that all about?’ Augusta asked, changing the subject rapidly she accidentally slurped her food as the ship rapidly dropped down a sharp incline.

‘If I made a noise like that, you’d call me a pig,’ complained Aidan.

‘Shut up and tell us,’ said Beatrix, exasperated. And then, realizing what she had said, added. ‘And don’t dare tell me you can’t shut up and speak the same time.’

‘I wasn’t going to. You’re getting as bad as Nellie.’ Aidan settled himself more comfortably on the bed as they carried on eating. ‘No, he’s up to something is Tragen and if I know my master, he’ll leave it too late to tell me.’

‘What do you mean by that?’ Beatrix asked. ‘Why should he tell you, anyway?’

‘Because whatever he’s hiding affects us, and he thinks we’re kids. I’m fifteen not five…well at least I think I am.’

Augusta looked at him quizzically. ‘Don’t you know your age?’

Aidan glared at her and refused to answer.

‘What makes you think he’s hiding anything?’ Anders asked, breaking the icy silence.

‘Yeah, come on little wizard…tell us,’ enjoined Augusta, sarcastically, ‘I’m sure we’d all benefit from your inside knowledge.’

Aidan, ignoring her sarcasm, put his arms behind his head and nodded to himself. ‘Do any of you call what he gave us last night, a punishment?’ He looked around waiting for an answer, and as none was forthcoming, he went on. ‘Because I don’t, he gave us what we wanted and pretended to lecture us. Now why is that?’

‘You may not call it a punishment, you won’t have to teach Augusta how to be a maid,’ disgruntled, Beatrix answered.

‘Hey, I won’t be that bad,’ said Augusta, indignantly. ‘The hardest part will be answering to Nellie.’

‘Oh yes, Highness, and when it comes to the laundry, are you prepared to get wet to your elbows?’ Beatrix retorted.

‘I am, and don’t call me Highness!’ Augusta said, accepting the fact that the task of protecting her from her father’s anger would mostly fall on her companion. But at the same time, she was appalled at the thought of scrubbing smelly clothes.

‘Whoa ladies, no more quarrelling, we’re all in the same boat here. I agree with Aidan, I don’t feel I’ve been punished. It’s very strange, it seems as if Tragen seeing us together, means to keep us together, and I for one would like to know why.’ For Anders, normally reticent, this was quite a speech and Aidan was so surprised he rose on one elbow and stared at his friend. ‘Don’t stare at me so, I’m agreeing with you.’

‘All right, don’t you two start. Arguing will get us nowhere. What we need is a strategy to find out what he and Cornelia are up to,’ said Augusta, pursing her lips. ‘All of you…think!’

‘Hey, that’s a good joke, Anders,’ Aidan chortled.

‘What is?’ Anders asked.

‘We are all in the same boat!’

‘Oh…yeah, I didn’t realize,’ he laughed and turned to Augusta. ‘Why include Lady Cornelia?’

‘Because last night we left her and Tragen talking, and they were together a long time, which means they were not just passing the time of day. No,’ she finished eating and, placed her bowl on the floor. ‘I know my lady-in-waiting…they were plotting.’

‘Perhaps he was romancing her,’ Aidan said, impishly.

‘Don’t be silly, Lord Tragen’s not her type,’ said Beatrix dismissing his suggestion as absurd. ‘I agree with Nellie.’

‘OK then, boys and girls, how do we find out?’ Aidan asked, lying back on the pillow.

‘Simple! You work on them. You question your master, Aidan and you Hig…oh heck, Au…Nellie, you interrogate Lady Cornelia. You two know them best, you know their little ways.’ Beatrix rose from the floor as she said this and started gathering their dirty breakfast dishes. And at the same time trying to get her mouth around what she should be calling her mistress.

‘I see a small problem there.’ Aidan got up from the bed and swung his feet to the floor. ‘Unfortunately, Tragen knows me as well. He’ll be expecting me to try and worm it out of him and he’s going to clam up.’

‘The same with Cornelia,’ said Augusta. ‘I will never get her to reveal anything; she can be quite a cow on times.’

‘Augusta!’ Beatrix, scandalized at her mistress’ swearing, nearly dropped the dishes.

Aidan, though, glanced at Anders and smiled—he liked her choice of words.

‘But we have to try. We’ll all work on them, starting now,’ and Augusta pulled Beatrix with her as she moved to the door. ‘We have to clean her cabin, do we not, my friend? Cornelia here we come,’ and they marched out, Augusta grinning and Beatrix slightly bemused at her mistress acknowledging her a friend at last.

‘Aidan, shift yourself, you can help me in the Bear’s cabin again…it’s still a mess, and if it stays that way much longer the Bear will skin me alive,’ and Anders dragged Aidan from the bed.

‘That’s a contradiction in terms, if you don’t mind me saying so, Anders. We’ll see you later,’ shouted Aidan to the girls disappearing into Cornelia’s cabin.

‘What’s a contradiction in terms?’

‘Well, you implied, “the Bear will skin us” whereas it’s usually us skinning…’

Lady Cornelia called from inside her cabin, interrupting Aidan’s explanation. ‘Is that the young wizard? Come here young man, I wish to see you.’

Aidan, apprehensive after the debacle the day before, stepped through the door followed by Anders equally nervous. But Aidan did not walk forward into the body of the cabin. He unexpectedly stepped to one side immediately he crossed the threshold, and this movement took Anders completely by surprise. The cabin boy found himself manoeuvred into the forefront in the prime position to bear the brunt of whatever followed. The young wizard had learned over the years that aristocratic ladies were not to be trifled with—they usually ended up shouting at him or cracking him over the knuckles with a switch. So, just in case, he was determined to remain nearest the door to enable a quick escape.

Anders, taking his first good look at the pale woman, was struck by the fact that she appeared to be no older than thirty or thirty-five – he’d expected her to be older – but oh boy, was she fat! Then, when she uttered her next words, he suddenly knew what was about to happen and he prepared to cover Aidan’s exit.

Lady Cornelia, sitting up in her cot wrapped in a brightly coloured shawl, beckoned Aidan closer. She wanted an uninterrupted look at the boy who had just turned her life around.

‘So, you are the lad that healed my ankle, are you?’

‘I’ve started the healing process, Milady, that’s all I do…it will still take time to heal fully,’ Aidan nervously answered, his stomach churning as he waited for it.

‘Yes, so Lord Tragen informed me. Is it…is it true you have also commenced the healing of the “old” sickness in my bones?’ Cornelia stared at him, holding her breath, not daring to believe it, yet desperately not wanting to hear a denial.

Aidan nodded, feeling more uncomfortable—he’d completely forgotten about the gratitude, until now.

‘My God, boy, do you realize how I have suffered with that illness?’

‘Yes, Milady, I’ve come across it before.’

She stared at him, her eyes brimming. ‘Oh, my boy…thank you…thank you, M…’

‘Please, Milady, there’s no need to thank me, I couldn’t leave you in pain,’ Aidan, frantic, shuffled to the door all his thoughts bent on escape, ‘excuse me, I’m needed in the captain’s cabin.’ Aidan barged past Anders and ran quickly and noisily up the corridor.

Augusta and Beatrix stared after the fleeing boy, shocked, not knowing what to make of his unexpected exit.

Lady Cornelia sat with her hands to her face weeping with both gratitude for his healing and guilt for thanking him—her acknowledgement so obviously causing him distress.

Anders, finding his voice, spoke to them quietly and forcefully. ‘He can’t abide being thanked, ladies, he hates it and I won’t say sorry for him running away. I’ll tell you though that healing is as normal to him as breathing…he heals without a second thought. He could never stand by and see anyone suffer, Milady.’

Cornelia, drying her eyes, sighed and gazed at Anders. ‘Lord Tragen told me much the same last night, I should have heeded him. Please tell Aidan I will not mention it again and that I hope he’ll forgive me. Tell him…no…ask him for me, ask him to come and see me later.’

Anders nodded and bowed, leaving the cabin he chased after Aidan.

‘Well!’ Augusta said, looking at Beatrix and Cornelia. ‘How very puzzling…that boy…I don’t know, he never fails to surprise me!’

‘Yes, Nellie,’ and with that name Cornelia regained the upper hand. ‘This cabin is a mess with all your comings and goings,’ her eyes swollen with suppressed tears, ‘I suggest you tidy it, right away.’

And the lady-in-waiting, having a lot on her mind, lay back comfortably in Augusta’s cot and supervised both girls while she daydreamed of walking in the forest at home without fear of stumbling and breaking bones. She so loved the Great Forest and all it succoured.

 

Anders caught up with Aidan. The apprentice was slamming around the captain’s cabin replacing papers and pens that had fallen to the floor, picking up chairs that had tipped over and generally putting things to right…but doing it very noisily.

Anders had always known to leave him well alone when he was in this mood, he’d come out of it by himself and not before. It still perplexed Anders though…why should Aidan take on so every time someone wanted to thank him, it was natural to show gratitude, wasn’t it? After all, the woman had suffered a terrible illness for most of her life. And now that Aidan had healed her, she could, perhaps for the first time be hopeful of her future. He peeked out of the corner of his eye at his friend wandering the room messing desultorily with things that no longer needed tidying.

Aidan eventually ceased his pacing and aimless rummaging around. He stood in the stern gallery staring out through the small panes in the window, his thumbs hooked in his belt.

He brooded. He had encountered the same old problem again and still didn’t know how to deal with it. He knew he was at fault reacting as he had, but he just couldn’t help it. Being thanked brought on guilt—a gut wrenching shame. He didn’t deserve gratitude, if people realized how he felt they’d shun him. It would devastate him if he lost the love of Tragen and Anders as he surely would if they discovered his secret. He sighed and rubbed his face, staring through the window with sightless eyes. The simple fact was he took an inordinate amount of pleasure in the act of healing. Too much pleasure, he thought. It was almost as if he enjoyed seeing people hurting. The sheer enjoyment that gripped him when he destroyed the disease or watched the broken bone knitting together was overwhelming. There was no other word to describe the aftermath of any act of healing—guilt. He needed to hide the knowledge that sick people made him happy.

He turned from the window, and waited for his best friend to finish checking the Bear’s clothing. Anders was meticulous in ensuring his captain was clad appropriately.

‘Let’s go up top, Anders…I could do with some air.’

Anders replaced the last of Locklear’s clothes, bowing his head a moment he realized that this time he couldn’t leave it alone, not yet. Circumstances had changed over the last couple of days; their circle of friendship had now doubled in size, for one thing. An increase that Anders welcomed with open arms and given time to think on it so would Aidan. They were all at a loss to understand the young wizard’s attitude and this could only lead to unrest and doubt amongst the four of them. He couldn’t allow this unpleasant feeling to remain, it would grow and fester—the newly formed friendship of the four would not survive the strain.

‘Aidan, we have to talk and I said talk, not shout at each other.’

Aidan waited, shoulders slumped. ‘Go on then, say what you have to say.’

‘The lady meant well. In your heart, you know it. I don’t understand why you take on so at people thanking you, it’s a natural reaction after all.’

‘Have you finished,’ he said, moving towards the quarterdeck door.

‘No, I haven’t,’ he continued even more strongly and his friend stopped, his hand on the door latch. ‘People are always going to be beholden to you. You’re going to have to get used to their thanks or you’ll make your own life a living hell. People need to show gratitude, need to thank you it’s…it’s part of the healing process for God’s sake. Either accept that as a fact or cease healing.’

Aidan glanced up, his eyes glistening. ‘I can’t stop healing, you know that.’

‘Aye, I know,’ he said exasperated, ‘then why do you feel as you do?’

And Aidan nearly told him. But he knew he could never divulge his shameful secret, not to him, he thought too much of Anders to burden him with it. He didn’t want to lose his best friend, but he also accepted the truth in his friend’s words. His life was already hell because of the guilt.

‘I can’t tell you why,’ he sighed deeply, tears glistening, almost falling from his eyes. He blinked. ‘I’ll make you a promise, though,’ and he looked up at the concern in his big friend’s face. ‘I’ll try to change…I’ll do my damnedest to cope when they thank me, I won’t succeed all the time, but I will try.’

‘Come on, let’s wheedle the truth out of Tragen,’ Anders said, understanding his friend more than Aidan would ever know.

 

On the quarterdeck the storm was still raging, not as intense as at its height but the rain still fell in sheets stinging their faces. The wind continued to blow ferociously, its sound deafening. The seas though were not so rough, visibility had improved and the horizon had moved farther away from the ship. And if Aidan was not deceived, the air seemed a lot warmer.

Tragen was at the rear standing on a box and staring over the poop deck, past the after-jigger mast and out over the stern at the storm blowing now from the northeast, a pensive look on his face as he scratched his beard. Leash was at the wheel accompanied by Nkosi, it was still taking two men to hold the vessel on a good heading. The small stormsail stretched taut above and behind them, the wind singing through the lines. Trumper, the sword scar below his left eye livid in the rain, was reporting to the captain. And behind him, just climbing the steps up from the waist was Hopper, a very worried frown on his face.

As Aidan and Anders reached the larboard rail, they overheard the last of the bo’sun’s report.

‘Aye, if this temperature increases much more the humidity will sprout the weevils. I must spread it before long for the air to get at it.’

‘What’s he talking about, Anders?’ Aidan whispered.

‘He’s on about the mainsail. At present it’s bundled up, soaking wet on the deck. You’ve noticed the heat?’ Aidan nodded. ‘Well the warm air and stagnant water in its folds will breed worms that will eat the canvas. It must be spread out, even in this wet weather, to stop the weevil growing.’

‘Very well, Bo’sun, do your best,’ ordered Locklear. ‘You and the men fought hard enough to salvage it…it would be outrageous to lose it now.’ The bo’sun touched his forelock and departed the quarterdeck.

‘Hopper, how goes it?’ Locklear grasped his mate’s arm to drag him beneath the overhang of the poop deck, not that it provided much shelter.

‘I’ve checked the holds and talked it over with Dolly; we have enough provisions to last possibly a week if we ration. It will be basic provender and the passengers will have to manage the same as us,’ he sighed. ‘What really worries us is the fresh-water, many barrels have been spoiled. We estimate we have enough drinking water to last four, perhaps five days. We need provisioning desperately.’

Locklear ran his fingers through his heavy, black beard. ‘If I’m correct, Hopper, this change in temperature signifies we are being driven south into the tropics. That fact, coupled with the storm blowing from the east means, at this speed, we are leaving home far behind. Undoubtedly we are well into the Deep.’ He paused and looked up at the darkened sky. ‘If we have been pushed south and west from the coast of Drakka we should raise the Griffin Islands eventually, do you agree?’

‘Aye…or the Siren, if we’ve been blown too far south!’

Locklear glanced at him sharply. ‘We don’t want to come too close to that. I saw it once on the horizon—that was too near, the noise was appalling, that beneath it was worse. Wait a minute…between us and that is Blackfire Island. There are plenty of trees there!’ and he smiled.

‘Aye, and fresh water, but no food worth mentioning.’ Hopper grimaced; talk of the Siren always knotted his guts he’d once seen a ship disappear in its depths. That vessel had just left Blackfire. Anxious, he stared out over the dark ocean, silent for a moment. ‘You’ve visited Griffin haven’t you, Cap’n? What did you make of them? I was there only a short time.’

‘I never made landfall, I was chasing pirates at the time,’ he pulled at his beard. ‘We will need to be vigilant, Hopper. Some of those islands are extremely dangerous, in more ways than one.’

Locklear glanced at Anders and Aidan. ‘I do not want you spreading false stories amongst the crew, some of the islands are perilous, aye…but then again, from what I’ve seen, a lot are not.’

He turned back to Hopper. ‘I’ll make a decision on our destination later, when we know our position. Drakka may be nearer. But if I decide Griffin is our destination and the first island we reach appears safe we’ll take the chance and send ashore a provisioning party.’ He stared up at the rainclouds, disgruntled, ‘It will be useless setting tarpaulins to catch some of this rainwater, the waves are still too high, the spume will only contaminate it. As for food, well, if this storm ever ceases we can live on fish, just don’t tell Dolly yet. I just hope Tragen is right and we have reached the limit of their range. Thank you, Hopper,’ and Hugo tapped his arm in gratitude. ‘See to it please, and I’d be obliged if you will take command for an hour, I need to go below.’ He turned to leave.

At that moment there was a harsher gust of wind and a sharp crack from above their heads. Looking up, a tear appeared in the stormsail and immediately the bows swung to leeward as headway was lost. Tragen reacted instinctively; raising his staff he pointed the knuckle at the gash. Uttering a very loud and strident incantation a light shot from the staff and travelled along the rip, sealing the canvas as good as new.

‘Thank you, my friend,’ said Hugo, vastly relieved.

Tragen resumed his examination astern as Hugo went below.

Aidan looked at Anders and nodded him away out of earshot of the mate. ‘Did you hear that Anders? Locklear said “reached the limit of their range”, who are they? That’s what their hiding,’ he whispered.

‘Oh, come off it, he meant out of range of the storm…nothing else.’ Anders was busy speculating on what the consequences would have been if Tragen hadn’t been on the quarterdeck as the sail tore. Could Aidan have repaired it? Would Aidan have even thought of it?

‘Then why would he need Tragen’s advice? The Bear’s the sailor, not Tragen, so why had he spoken to him about it.’

‘Oh boy, you really are clutching at straws.’

Aidan grabbed his arm. ‘What’s the Siren?’

‘It’s a giant whirlpool—come too near it and we’ll get dragged in. I’ve heard it wanders.’

Aidan swallowed and looked around nervously.

 

Leash watched the boys from beneath hooded eyes. As soon as Aidan had arrived on deck, Leash’s mind had gone into overdrive. He would have to be careful; he couldn’t attempt the same attack as last time. The boy was not an idiot he would be bound to cotton on that his near fatal scrapes were deliberate. It wouldn’t take him long to realize that the second helmsman was always around when he had a brush with death. Leash watched and he waited.

Because of his infection Leash’s hearing was enhanced to a greater degree than was normal and, despite the phenomenal noise of the storm, he had heard everything that Hopper had reported. And the news worried him.

He’d not wanted to sail on this voyage or on any other; he’d been quite content on land. But, having slipped up the last time on shore and nearly been caught, he’d had no choice; going to sea had been the safest option although it carried its own risks. The sea had been a refuge many times in his life and strangely enough he’d discovered a hidden talent. He found he was a very good helmsman and had taken to the work like a duck to water.

But to satiate his infection’s need with immunity required solid earth beneath his feet—it was so much easier to hide afterwards. Nonetheless, he had been forced to flee to sea again to escape the consequences of his last episode. Too many people were after his blood and a nice soft voyage to Drakka had seemed a godsend. So he had signed up with alacrity knowing that a few weeks away from Mantovar would cool the chase.

But one of the first people he had bumped into on board was the instigator of his isolation, his acute loneliness, the reason his infection was getting the upper hand—the one man he hated above all others, Tragen. The wizard was the one person in the world who scared him senseless, the man who had interrupted him and spoiled their pleasure many years ago—him and his damned staff. But Leash’s luck had held.

The wizard had not recognized him.

Not surprising really, it had been very dark at the time of their last encounter. God, he had been fortunate to get away. If the wizard had not stumbled, the full blast from his staff would have killed him. As it was the trip had upset Tragen’s aim. Some of the power had collided with a nearby wall punching a large hole in it through which he’d fled; the rest of the staff’s energy had ended up elsewhere doing all the damage. He didn’t want to think about where it had finally landed. He had run for his life.

He loathed the wizard and all those connected with him, his hatred consuming him. He wanted to hurt the wizard, kill him if it was feasible, but he was very afraid to be anywhere near the old man. Tragen was far too powerful a mystic. And the infection within Leash knew that if it was possible to die, then the wizard would be the one to kill him. The apprentice though was a different matter. All right, he thought, the sod had eluded him twice; he would not a third time.

But above all, Leash wanted to survive this voyage and the thought of going without water and food unnerved him. He could get hold of drinking water easily enough today, but where to hide it was the problem. He watched Aidan as the boy went across to the wizard. Then he smiled. Two birds with one stone, and Leash almost laughed aloud.

 

‘Master, excuse me but I must ask you something,’ said Aidan, politely.

His voice immediately placed Tragen on his guard, the boy would never learn, he thought. ‘Well, what is it?’

Anders stood alongside them both listening to every word.

‘I was wondering how much longer you expected this storm to last now that we’re at the limit of their range.’

Anders stared at Aidan dumbfounded. He had not expected his friend to be quite so blatant.

‘This storm will run its course, my boy,’ Tragen answered, pausing only slightly, choosing to ignore most of the question.

‘Yes, but we’ve now reached their limit. Can’t you give us any idea of how far we’ll have to sail to get completely away from them… whoever they are?’

‘Limit, Aidan?’ and the wizard gave him a very puzzled look, again ignoring the second question. ‘I do not understand what you mean. I have no yardstick to measure the storm. Now may I ask you a question in return?’

‘Of course, but…’

‘No buts, Aidan. Tell me, I gave you a task last evening and that task included watching over the two young ladies, did it not?’

‘Yes we know that, but…’

‘No buts…get to it. Obey me, now…or else!’

Anders grabbed Aidan before he could say anything else and pushed him into the companionway.

Below in the passageway Aidan was exultant. ‘I knew it! He’s definitely hiding something. Did you see the way he reacted?’

‘Reacted? He went nuts!’

‘Yes, and that’s the proof there’s something going on! He very rarely loses his temper with me. He knows I’m not afraid of him when he shouts at me. He only scares me when he bollocks me quietly. Come on, let’s see if the girls have any news,’ and whistling a sea shanty he proceeded to the girl’s cabin, bouncing off the bulkheads as he hurried along in the dark.

 

 

http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/welshisms/1.shtml

Disestablishment of the Church of Wales

During the controversy over the disestablishment of the Church of Wales the two chief protagonists were David Lloyd George and the Bishop of St. Asaph.

On one occasion Lloyd George addressed a meeting in a small Welsh village where he was introduced by one of the deacons of the local chapel as follows

“We all know the remarks made on this subject last week by the Bishop of St. Asaph who, in my opinion, is the biggest liar in creation.

Fortunately we have here tonight Mr. David Lloyd George who will be more than a match for him.”

 

Have a nice day!

http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/aboutwales/9.shtml

The answering machine

Have you heard about the latest machine on the pier at Llandudno?

You put ten pence in and ask it any question and it gives you a true answer.

One holiday maker from Cardiff tried it last week.

He asked the machine “Where is my father?” The machine replied:

“Your father is fishing in South Wales.”

Well, he thought, that’s daft for a start because my father is dead.

“Where is my mother’s husband?”

Back came the reply, “Your mother’s husband is buried in Cardiff but your father is still fishing in South Wales.”

 

A view from the courtyard of Castle Mantovar (as seen in Castell Coch)

A view from the courtyard of Castle Mantovar (as seen in Castell Coch)

 

Seven

‘My God, Tragen, when I saw you fall my heart stopped. What happened?’ Locklear asked worry over the last hours had etched deep lines in his face. Both men were taking their ease in the captain’s cabin sharing a bottle of his best Gilian brandy, a present off Tragen. The wizard, exhausted, and pulling at his beard, needed his bed more but he could not go to sleep without sharing the ominous knowledge he alone had discovered.

‘Ah, Hugo, again I heard it and this time I nearly succumbed. If not for Aidan and his healing of my mind, I…I would have been lost.’

He leaned his back against the hard, brown leather of the chair, crossed his long legs at his ankles and propped his elbows on the ornate arms. With a mug in one hand and the other holding his staff to his body as if afraid he’d lose it, he continued, knowing he had no answers yet.

‘Laughter, Hugo…the same manic laughter and this time like a fool I forgot everything and went searching for it.’

‘And did you find it?’ Locklear alarmed, leant forward across his desk.

Tragen was again looking his centuries-old age. ‘I confirmed my fears,’ and he stared into his mug, gently swirling the deep amber liquid. Distracted momentarily by the light reflecting off its richness, he understood why Aidan and Anders had yielded to its potency. ‘Oh Hugo, I touched its mind, and the horror I sensed there seemed to steal my wits. It drew me to it.’

‘So, whatever it is, now knows of you?’

‘That’s the strangest thing I do not believe it does. I felt no change as I perceived its mind, if a mind it was…it may just have been its emotions. The laughter altered not even one iota, which it would have if it had known I was there. No, it continued its insane merriment.’ Tragen swallowed another mouthful of the Gilian and allowed the warmth to sustain him as it found its way to his stomach. The fleeting silence his remarks brought to the cabin, making him anxious, he gulped the rest of his brandy and clutched the empty mug in his tired hand.

Locklear sat up straight, staring at the wizard. ‘Did you glean any more of its purpose?’ He stretched across and replenished the wizard’s empty mug.

Tragen shook his head. ‘All I sense is its single-minded malevolence with us as the object of its hate.’

Locklear turned sideways in his chair and peered out the gallery window at the storm, the huge waves towering above the stern obliterating what little light there was. He stroked his full black beard and sighed.

‘Well, with luck, my friend, we will soon be free of this tempest. Whoever, or whatever, is behind this cannot keep it going for much longer. And the greater the distance between us and this evil thing the better we’ll feel.’ Looking again at the wizard, he said. ‘But just in case there are other unforeseen events, I think it best if we continue to keep the young lady hidden.’

Tragen nodded. ‘It would be ideal if she remained masquerading as a member of the crew, as she is now.’

‘Should we tell her of our fears?’

‘I do not believe there is need to, Hugo…at least not yet, there is no need to frighten her. There is a friendship developing between her and the others, one I never expected. I say we leave it progress normally for now. And besides,’ lifting his mug to be refilled for a third time and taking another larger swallow of brandy, he continued, ‘she seems quite taken with wearing britches.’ He chuckled, lifting the sombre mood briefly. ‘But Lady Cornelia should be informed of the whole situation, I know her personally and her reputation for protecting the princess is formidable. She is a very determined lady and has the full support of Augusta’s mother in whatever action she deems necessary for the safety and upbringing of her charge. Cornelia will not be very happy at seeing Augusta improperly dressed and running around with servants. She will have grave doubts for the girl’s welfare and will order her to resume her normal attire, and her proper station in life…unless we can persuade her otherwise, of course.’

‘But, Highness, it is not seemly. He is nothing but a young scoundrel…you, yourself have always said so! We don’t even know anything of his family, if he has any. How can you possibly allow him to be so familiar? Not even I call you by your name and I’ve grown up with you! Lady Cornelia will never approve, neither will your father, and your mother will be shamed.’

‘You are nagging me, Beattie, desist. I have made my decision. Aidan will use my name and if it makes you feel better I give you permission as well. No…I order you to use my name, which will help you get used to hearing it from Aidan. Cornelia will not criticize me for long,’ and she smiled, conceit written all over her face. ‘You know I can twist her around my little finger.’

‘You think so,’ Beatrix said looking sidelong at her, could she dare use her name?

‘And talking of being familiar, what is going on between you and Anders?’

‘I don’t know what you mean,’ said Beatrix, flummoxed and blushing like mad.

‘No? I’ve seen you holding hands and you couldn’t get much closer to him if you tried. But never mind that, Cornelia will have to realize that when Aidan comes to the end of his training he will gain his peerage, then he’ll be deemed a suitable friend by everyone…so why wait! Besides, he did heal her and she’ll be very grateful for that, won’t she?’

‘But the completion of his schooling is a long time off yet and…and what will she say of these clothes?’ Trying another tack, Beatrix was becoming truly desperate, whatever she said her mistress appeared to be heading for trouble. ‘You can’t tell me she will approve of us wearing britches and going barefoot. And these clothes are not even clean now,’ she wrinkled her nose in disgust.

‘Then we must ensure that nothing else is available,’ Augusta countered firmly, and saying this, a wicked grin stretched her mouth wide.

‘Oh no! What are you thinking of now?’ Beattie’s stomach lurched; she had plenty of experience of this particular look.

She and Augusta had known each other since birth; both had been born on the same day, fifteen years before in the huge Castle of Mantovar. Beattie’s mother, Lady Dotrice, besides being the princess’ favourite lady-in-waiting along with Lady Cornelia, was also her closest confidante and friend. And the two girls had literally grown up together, usually sleeping in the same nursery. It had always been an accepted fact that when Augusta went south into Drakka to further her education at the emperor’s court, Beatrix would accompany her as her companion and share her lessons. But this look on Augusta’s face always boded ill for them both; she had a knack for instigating wild schemes which usually had an outcome quite unexpected.

There had been one remarkable experience a while back and the outcome of that was still a mystery. She and Beatrix lived under strict orders never to leave the confines of the castle unless accompanied by an armed escort, but the year before leaving for Drakka a carnival had arrived in the town. Excitement had gripped everyone and the whole town and castle erupted with delight. Augusta and Beatrix couldn’t wait to experience the sights and sounds of the shows and, dressed as peasant girls, had for the first time sneaked past the castle guards. Relishing the freedom from bodyguards, the two young girls dawdled in the marketplace of the town sampling the wares from several of the local trades’ people.

But as the morning progressed eventually they arrived at the meadow where the troubadours had set up camp. They were utterly captivated. The travellers had pitched their myriad stalls and tents in a haphazard fashion throughout the large field. A kaleidoscope of colours greeted them reds, yellows, greens, browns, you name it there was a splash of the colour somewhere in the meadow. The two girls spent hours wandering through, tasting the goods on a variety of stalls, staring wide-eyed at the performers inside and outside of brightly striped tents.

In due course, they had found themselves outside a small white tent, on the edge of the encampment. A very pretty, middle-aged woman was sitting alone in its doorway, but everyone was walking past her, ignoring her as if she was invisible. It was her dazzling smile more than anything that intrigued them. It was very unusual in a peasant to have pure white teeth for they usually had mouths full of broken, black or yellow teeth, very often none at all. The lovely smile, along with her long black tresses and the lingering smell of lavender attracted the two girls and they went over to talk to her and discovered she was a seer. But what she told the girls was such a lot of nonsense that they soon left her and returned home to find the castle in an uproar. Their absence at luncheon had been noticed and a search had been mounted for them, Prince Cedric and his wife frantic, worrying for their safety. Their punishment had lasted a month.

But when the troubadours performed at the castle in front of Augusta’s parents later that week, the girls questioned the travellers about the woman, but not one knew of her. In fact, they denied all knowledge of travelling with a seer. One even smiled indulgently, explaining that a white tent would never be used by any member of the carnival—the colour never attracted customers. The girls were mystified and despite searching amongst the crowds they failed to find any sign of her.

They had wanted to ask her to explain further about what she meant when she said they would aid a son to find his father. Her disappearance had been very puzzling.

‘You will be carrying wash-water to Cornelia in a moment,’ Augusta said, interrupting Beattie’s thoughts. ‘When we are attending her you will have an accident and tip the water over the clothes in my wardrobe that are not already ruined by the sea.’

‘There will not be sufficient in that bowl to soil all those, that’s not going to work.’

‘Then let’s see if the boys can help. Kindly go and fetch them, and hurry, I do believe I hear Cornelia stirring,’ she said, imperiously waving her companion out the door.

Beatrix obeyed reluctantly, muttering beneath her breath.

Anders, who was nearer, opened the door when she knocked and was unceremoniously pushed into the room when she rushed in, the door rebounding loudly against the bulkhead.

‘What the hell…’ he asked, falling promptly onto the burned bed. Aidan startled, looked round, a wet shirt in his hands.

‘You must help me…now! My mistress is demanding your aid for a mischief that will only succeed in causing terrible trouble. I can feel it! You have to stop her, come quickly and DO NOT DO as she asks!’

The two boys stared at each other in amazement. Beatrix ran out and down the passage, Anders raced after her. Aidan flung his shirt on the floor and promptly fell over it. Cursing, he rose, and rubbing his knee he followed, catching up with the two of them as they arrived in Beattie’s cabin.

Augusta, only just managing to avoid the swinging overhead lantern, was pacing the short distance within, her eyes almost closed and her index finger in the corner of her mouth. Beatrix watched as the plot developed in her mistress’ mind. The plan almost visible behind her flashing eyes when she opened them wide to stare at the new arrivals.

‘Highness, what is it now?’ Aidan asked, worried.

‘Right, Aidan…yes!’ She stopped her pacing and stared at the apprentice wizard. ‘I want you to ruin the rest of my clothes,’ and seeing the shock on his face, added. ‘I don’t mean for good, just for a few days, until Cornelia gets used to me wearing britches.

‘Why? I mean, why on earth do you still want to wear our clothes?’ Anders asked.

‘You obviously don’t know what it’s like to wear a gown on board a ship, do you?’

‘Of course I don’t,’ replied Anders, very indignant.

‘Mind you, he wouldn’t tell you if he did,’ smirked Aidan.

‘Shut it! You’re the one who wears a robe, not me.’ Anders retorted.

‘Quiet, the pair of you! Take it from me…it is very uncomfortable in this weather. And climbing ladders is an abomination.’

‘Well, as a temporary measure we could soak them again, I suppose. We can use this bowl of water, it might help for a little while,’ Aidan said dubiously, stirring the contents of the large washbowl rather vigorously with his hand.

‘No, we’ve thought of that. Beattie says there’s not enough and she’s probably correct. No, you’ll have to think of something else,’ Augusta said, smacking Aidan’s hand to stop his splashing.

The relief on Anders’ face was short-lived when he realized that Aidan was contemplating the use of magic. Aidan’s face, on the other hand, was gleaming at the prospect.

‘And I gave you permission to call me Augusta, didn’t I?’

‘You did, yes Highn…Augusta.’

‘Good! Now then, little wizard…how will you do it?’

Perplexed, Aidan paused, scratching his head. ‘Hang about; I have to think it through, first. I can’t just conjure any old spell for a job like this; it takes a lot of thinking about.’

‘You haven’t got long, Cornelia is waking up. I’m sure this will only need a little spell,’ she said impatiently, standing over Aidan who was now stretched out on the bottom bunk, his hands behind his head.

Anders burst in desperately. ‘Highness, he has express orders from Lord Tragen that he isn’t to cast spells in confined spaces.’

‘He only means warming spells!’ And at Augusta’s enquiring look, and ignoring the yelp of fear from Beatrix, Aidan went on. ‘Tragen has the stupid idea I have accidents with spells involving heat. Anders will tell you that it was his fault last time when I burned the bunk. Now where are your clothes, Highness…sorry…Augusta?’

Just then, there was an anxious cry from the cabin over the way. Lady Cornelia had awoken to find herself ensconced in her mistress’s cot, with her ankle swathed in linen.

‘Augusta,’ she shouted, ‘Augusta where are you? What am I doing here?’

‘Quickly Beattie, go and calm her. Tell her I’ll be right along.’ As she ran out, shaking her head and muttering that all hell was about to break loose, Augusta turned to Anders.

‘You, grab that bowl, pretend it has water in it for washing Lady Cornelia and take it in to Beattie. Aidan have you had any more thoughts? He shook his head. ‘Come on hurry up I have to go in and see her she’s not going to wait much longer.’

‘Well, she can hardly get out of bed to come and get you!’

‘Aha! I know that,’ she said sarcastically. ‘But she’s going to smell a rat if I don’t get in there before long.’

‘That’s it!’

‘What?’

‘A spell of fragrance should do it,’ he pondered. ‘Yes, I can cast an enchantment to make your gowns smell,’ and he grinned evilly at her, ‘smell absolutely foul.’

‘Yes!’ she laughed. ‘Yes that should do it. That’s a wonderful idea. I should have thought of that myself.’

Aidan preened, rubbing his fingernails on his chest. ‘You need a smart mind like mine for that.’

‘Huh,’ she said disparagingly, ‘don’t push it. Wait, nothing can go wrong, can it?’ She gave him a worried look remembering the wizard’s restrictions on heat spells.

‘Don’t panic, of course nothing will go wrong. Now where did you say these clothes were?’

‘They’re hanging in the chest next to my cot.’

‘Awkward, I’ll have to create the spell alongside her. You’ll have to distract her.’ He looked at her confidently. ‘But first things first, you have to get me in there.’

‘That’s easy, I’ll tell her you are there to help remove my wardrobe to this cabin. And once I inform Cornelia how you healed her, she’ll want to convey her gratitude personally and will not suspect a thing.’ Grinning, she pulled him by the hand from the bottom bunk and into the passage.

‘Whoa!’ he shouted bumping the doorjamb as he went through. At the door of Cornelia’s cabin Aidan stopped, abruptly jerking Augusta to a halt he held her hand tight. ‘You are not to tell her that I healed her.’

‘Why ever not?’ Augusta asked puzzled, brushing her black hair out of her eyes.

‘Never mind why…I don’t want you to, Okay? Promise me, now, or I won’t help you…I mean it.’ Aidan was adamant, a tremor in his voice.

‘All right, if that is what you wish,’ she said frowning, not understanding his strange attitude. ‘But she’ll find out anyway.’

‘Aye, but not when I’m around…okay?’ and he released her hand.

When Augusta and Aidan entered, Beatrix was washing Cornelia’s face using a facecloth dipped into the bowl held steady in Anders’ strong hands. She was that flustered, she hadn’t noticed the water was dirty. Beatrix and Anders glanced at each other nervously wondering what madcap scheme had been dreamed up.

Cornelia looked up when Augusta appeared in the cabin. ‘I’m sorry, Augusta, for being in your bed. I…I don’t know what has happened to me. Please, if you can obtain assistance for me, I will remove myself immediately.’

‘Nonsense, Cornelia, it is me who is moving out. Aidan here has kindly consented to help me in moving my wardrobe into Beattie’s cabin. I will use your bed until you are fully healed.’

Without warning the purple-faced lady-in-waiting screamed. ‘Augusta…Augusta, what are you wearing? Oh, my God, your father will flay me alive!’ And the large lady made as if to rise and then, as the cot swung wildly and she grabbed hold of its sides to avoid falling out, she noticed that she was not wearing any outer garments. ‘Agh!’ she said with a strangled shout. ‘Get these boys out of here, I cannot be seen like this,’ and she drew the blankets up to her neck.

‘Come, come, Cornelia,’ she said comfortingly, patting the lady’s podgy hand. ‘Please, do not fret, you will make yourself ill. My own clothes have been ruined by the storm. These are the only suitable clothes we could find and as you see Beatrix refused to allow me to wear such clothing alone.’

Beatrix stared at Augusta, disbelief playing on her face, biting her bottom lip to stop herself blaring out the truth.

‘Suitable?’ Cornelia said, noticing Beattie’s clothes for the first time, the further shock making her tremble. ‘Oh Augusta, can we not find other raiment for you?’

Aidan, taking advantage of the lady’s distraction opened the chest door and peered inside. ‘Oh boy,’ he muttered, ‘this is going to be simple.’ Excited, he glanced around, caught Anders’ eye, and winked.

Anders knew the wink, and he mouthed desperately, ‘No, don’t,’ and grabbed Beattie’s hand.

Aidan ignored him and once again turned to the open wardrobe.

Beatrix returning Anders’ frantic grip, followed his gaze, both of them forced to watch as Aidan commenced his incantation. The song was very low and quiet, hardly discernible half a foot away. They watched his hands, his fingers describing intricate patterns inside the doors. And in less than a moment he had finished. He looked around at the others a look of pure innocence on his face and awaited gleefully the result of his spell-casting.

Cornelia continued imploring her charge. ‘Perhaps there is more dignified wear in my own wardrobe or in Beattie’s. Please, Augusta, you must search.’

‘We both have and if these boys had not come to our rescue we may have had to remain in wet clothes for days. I might well have caught a chill.’

‘Yes, my dear Cornelia in that she is correct.’ Tragen interjected at the door, seeming to appear from nowhere to give his totally unexpected support. ‘Forgive me, Highness, but I need a word with your lady-in-waiting and…’ his voice trailed away as he looked around the cabin sniffing, the pimple on the end of his long nose quivering.

‘Agh! What is that smell?’ Lady Cornelia exclaimed, holding her blankets tightly over her small nose, her face ashen. ‘I am going to be ill!’

A stench had gradually arisen in the room, a smell like no other. Aidan looked around, his hands to his face. ‘God, it smells like rotten meat, like something’s died. It’s coming from this chest. What on earth is in here?’

Augusta screamed convincingly. ‘Quickly, my gowns are in there, they’ll be ruined.’

Aidan grabbed a few. ‘Too late, Augusta,’ he said, not thinking, ‘they already are.’

‘Agh!’ for the third time Lady Cornelia nearly strangled. ‘He called her by her name! Punish him, Lord Tragen…punish him severely. Get out of here you evil boy!’

Aidan, not realizing his mistake, made to apologize even though he was only following orders…anything for a quiet life. Then an even worse odour overwhelmed the stench of rotting meat. Beatrix, Augusta and Anders, along with Lady Cornelia, started gagging.

Augusta, her hands up to her mouth, stared at Aidan and unmistakeably her look said enough was enough.

Aidan was in a quandary, he couldn’t tell her that he had finished the spell without divulging her part in the deceit, besides he didn’t know what had gone wrong, although this new sickly aroma seemed familiar.

Panicking, Aidan grabbed Anders and pulled him towards the door, flight appearing the appropriate action. Unfortunately, being so close to the appallingly sweet and obnoxious tang on Aidan caused Anders’ stomach to rebel. He vomited into the bowl he was holding. Aidan, taken completely by surprise, accidentally jogged the bowl and spilled its contents over Cornelia’s bedclothes.

Lady Cornelia screamed somewhat hoarsely, she was now losing her voice. Luckily, the contents landed on her abdomen and not on her injured ankle.

Augusta jumping clear of the spray collided with Beatrix who, rushing to help Anders crashed into Tragen at the door.

Utter pandemonium reigned for minutes before the wizard shouted and restored a modicum of peace and order.

‘Aidan, you are reeking,’ stated Tragen, again wrinkling his nose in disgust.

And before his mentor could continue, the irate apprentice interrupted. ‘I know, I know,’ he shouted, ‘it’s this bloody balm on my neck and legs! I didn’t know that would be affected as well, did I?’ and then he cringed as Tragen, raising an eyebrow, stared at him.

Aidan wilted.

‘I am going to teach you, my boy, if it’s the last thing I do!’ He raised his hand in the air and made small rippling movements with his fingers, enunciating at the same time a countering spell. The stench of rotting cadaver and foul balm vanished from the cabin and a cool refreshing breeze blew through, clearing the heads of both Cornelia and Tragen.

Augusta, her plan a dismal failure, made an unconscious decision that was to have far reaching consequences for her, resulting in a cementing of a friendship began the day before. Instinctively, she knew that Aidan could not be allowed to shoulder the blame alone, but before she could utter a word, her lady-in-waiting spoke.

‘My Lord Tragen, I do not know what is going on here, but I would appreciate it if you could relieve me of this…vileness on my bed.’

‘Of course,’ and his fingers glided through the air and the obnoxious mess rolled up into a ball and disappeared. ‘If I may take up some of your time in a moment, I hope to alleviate a little of your ignorance of these past few hours.’

He stared at all four culprits, for he knew that to a greater or lesser degree they were all at fault. ‘I should leave now if I was you…and Aidan,’ he grabbed his apprentice’s shoulder as he rushed past, ‘you will all wait for me in the ladies’ cabin.’ And glaring at her severely, he bowed to Augusta as she scurried after them.

‘Thank you, Tragen,’ vastly relieved at now having clean bedding again, Cornelia smiled weakly. ‘Please, be seated and tell me all, since I opened my eyes I have been subjected to bewildering behaviour. Start with my ankle if you will, I recall falling, but nothing else.’

He sat in the vacant chair, his exhaustion cherishing the brief silence, and went through the events of the last twenty-four hours. As he did, the lady, from reclining comfortably as he commenced his tale, at the end was sitting bolt upright, even more agitated and bemused. He began with her accidental trip on Aidan’s robe, and the subsequent healing of her fractured ankle.

Here she stopped him. ‘You mean that boy has the gift, Tragen? And there was me thinking he was trouble through and through.’

‘Far from it, Cornelia,’ Tragen’s pride in his boy, obvious in his tone, ‘he has a truly wondrous power of healing—his is an extraordinary gift. He can actually see a malady within a body and, whereas I heal from the outside in, he heals from the inside out. A method that is far superior to mine,’ he paused, regarding her for a moment, wondering if further comment was needed.

‘As for his mischief-making, his causing of trouble, you would say. I believe it to derive from the goodness in his heart.’ He held up his hands before she could speak. ‘I know it may seem malicious, but I assure you it is not. He just happens to be very accident prone, and it is he who usually ends up being the injured party.’ Tragen stroked his beard, thinking back over the years, and the loneliness in his life before Aidan had come along. He continued with a little of the boy’s background.

‘He is a young boy whose life used to consist of surviving in the gutters for that is where he was when I met him first. Now, he is an honest young man learning a different form of survival, a way to live amongst decent people.’ He rubbed his weary eyes. ‘I do not mean to excuse his bad behaviour but I am convinced his purpose in spell-casting here had a sound reason…at least to those four it would seem sound. He is growing up and like all adolescents he makes mistakes. I ask you to forgive every one of them for I suspect the involvement of Augusta as the primary force in this latest prank.’

Lady Cornelia closed her eyes, considering the wizard’s words for a moment. ‘Very well, but I have no choice anyway I have to forgive him, do I not? After all, I would be in a great deal of pain right now,’ she sighed and lay back against her pillows. ‘You know I have the sickness of the old in my bones, Tragen, and I am prone to fractures.’ She looked up, tears in her eyes, despair in her quiet voice, meeting his sympathetic gaze. ‘This…’ and she pointed at her bound ankle, ‘could have happened at any time, and will occur, unfortunately many times in the future.’

Tragen smiled, knowing his next words were going to utterly astound her. ‘You did have the sickness of the old, Cornelia. My Aidan has set the healing process in place for that illness as well as for your fractured ankle.’

She stared at him, stunned, the truth of his words taking her breath. ‘You are telling me that I no longer need fear breaking my bones? I need no longer be afraid of trips and falls and…and open doors?’

He nodded his assent.

Loud sobs bubbled from the very depths of her being, her body shaking violently, her face in her hands. Tragen leant over and grasped her hands, bringing them from her tear wracked face, comforting her with his presence.

‘My God, I have lived with the fear of it most of my life. No other healer has been able to help me, even you tried once.’ She paused, thinking back over the pain filled, ever so careful, years.

‘My mother died quite young, you know; she accidentally banged her head in a doorway.’ Using the blanket, she dried the tears rolling down her face and, breathing deeply, she composed herself before continuing. ‘It was only a small tap, nothing really, but because she had the malady the bang fractured her skull. We could not find a healer in time. It was then my father told me of the “old” sickness and that I was expected to come down with it. He was right!’

She leant forward to emphasize her next words. ‘You will not punish that boy…I mean it. You are not to even think of it. To heal me of that horrible, terrible illness,’ she shuddered. ‘I must reward him.’

‘He would not accept one. In fact he would be seriously offended if you were to offer him anything. Be advised by me…never speak your gratitude, he hates being thanked.’

‘He hates it? Well…he needs money, does he not? He is not from a rich family, is he? Is there any way I can endow him without his knowledge?’

Tragen shook his weary head and managed to stifle the yawn that had been coming on him in the last few moments. ‘I do not know his family but he has all he needs from me. If he wishes more, he knows to ask and he will get it. There is no need to provide anything.’ He smiled his thoughts fully on his boy…his love for his adopted son. ‘He is a very unusual young man, Cornelia.’

‘Yes,’ she nodded, tears again glistening in her eyes. ‘You are fond of him, I see.’

‘Yes, very much so, he is the son I never had, and I am enormously proud of him.’

‘So you should be. Tell me, the boy could be famous and command untold influence. Why have I never heard of him?’

‘He demands secrecy from all those he heals. I expect him to extract that promise from you, ere long. You see, he sees his power of healing as a bounden duty. It is his nature to heal—anyone or anything; he also heals the maladies in animals. Even the ability he has for creating magic is based on healing, not as mine…on the mind. But there are two conditions when he cannot, or will not, heal.’

‘What are those?’ Intrigued, she wanted to know everything about the young wizard, the young man, who had given her hope for a normal future.

‘The first are those maladies affecting people whose time is at an end.’

‘What does that mean? I don’t understand.’

Tragen peered at her, he was very tired now, the energy expended creating the shield wall had been phenomenal, and the alcohol he had just consumed with Locklear was not helping him to stay awake. His eyes were drooping and he still hadn’t broached the subject that was his purpose in coming to her.

‘He can see and communicate with the dead, just as easily as you or I speak with each other. He knows when a person’s allotted time in this world is at an end because he can see the aura of death surrounding them. If he meets someone whose time is coming to a close – when they are near death – but are in pain, you know what he does? He eases their passing by removing that pain and he does not leave them to die alone…he remains with them, comforting them, until they have passed over safely. Is that not remarkable?’

‘I…I can hardly believe it,’ she said astounded. ‘The second condition you mentioned, what is that?’

‘Ah! To me it is the strangest thing of all about him, even stranger than when I actually witness him in contact with the ghosts of those who have gone on. He will not heal himself or allow another healer to use magic to cure his maladies. Although he will use nature’s remedies.’ Tragen, a puzzled look on his face, shrugged his weary shoulders. ‘He believes it to be improper and grossly selfish. The gift is for others he says, not for himself. That is why he uses that balm you smelled earlier. He has burns on his body and will not let me heal him with magic.’

‘My God, Tragen, that boy is truly special!’

‘He is also very modest and would never acknowledge that he is different to his peers. That is why there is such a close friendship between him and Anders. Anders, bless him, accepts Aidan as an ordinary boy and yet respects his abilities. As I said earlier, Aidan actually gets very upset if anyone expresses their gratitude. And if you persisted he would probably never talk to you again, he would be highly embarrassed.’ He grimaced. ‘I do not pretend to understand his reasoning; his outlook on life and death unnerves me quite often. But like I said, he truly does have a heart of gold and the mistakes he makes in growing up are the same as those of any other young man his age.’

This time Tragen could not withhold the yawn. ‘I’m sorry, Cornelia, but now I must talk of another matter…the reason I came to see you this evening.’

‘What is it, my friend? I apologize I see that you are weary, be quick then and tell me.’

‘We need to hide Augusta,’ he said, more abruptly than he intended, extreme exhaustion his excuse.

‘What!’ Cornelia lost all colour and gasped. ‘Why?’ she said, clasping her hands across her chest.

‘It seems that we have been found by someone whose intent is malicious,’ Tragen paused again. ‘This tempest is not normal; it appears to have been created by a force that has been searching for us.’ As he examined her face, he wondered if she would be able to understand. ‘I do not know the identity of the hunter, or why he is hunting us. As for where he is at this time, I have no idea. I can only assume he is now far behind us as the gale now blows from the stern. How far, we should have an idea in the morning. If the storm lessens by then, I believe we can safely assume that we have succeeded in escaping.’

‘And if the weather does not improve?’

He scratched his beard. ‘We will cross that bridge when we come to it.’

‘You believe whoever it is, is after Augusta?’

‘If she is taken it will have untold consequences for Mantovar. And I honestly cannot see a power as mighty as this being used just to steal your jewellery.’

‘I agree, but how can we possibly hide her on this vessel…it may be a huge ship, but for this purpose it’s far too small?’

He smiled at her. ‘I think she is already doing it for us. Who would dream of finding Mantovar’s female heir dressed as a common sailor? She is running around the ship in company with three other youths of the same age. If, God forbid, we are taken, she will blend in quite nicely as part of the crew.’

Lady Cornelia lay back on her pillow, her lips pursed, silent for a moment thinking of the consequences. ‘The rest of the crew will they not know who she is? After all, everyone knows that your purpose for being on this voyage was to bring the heir home. How will you deal with that?’

Tragen breathed a sigh of relief, this woman was no fool. ‘I have thought of a plan Cornelia. What say you, if you assume her place? I know,’ and he raised his hands again to halt her interjection, ‘what you are about to say. You are a lot older; you could not possibly be mistaken for her. But think a moment. We have only been at sea for five days and for two of those we have suffered this storm. The first three days Augusta spent in her cabin suffering seasickness, am I correct?’ Cornelia nodded. ‘So, very few on board have actually seen her. If you stay in here, in this cabin, everyone else will assume that she is still ill and no-one will be surprised, this storm has made even seasoned sailors sick to their stomach. Stay here until we deem it safe, and we swear all who have seen her, to secrecy. Then there should be no problem, and Augusta can masquerade as your companion along with Beatrix.

‘Waited on…by my charge! Now that would be a novelty,’ Cornelia chuckled. ‘She must change her name; we cannot have her called Augusta if the Princess Augusta is ill in bed,’ she said as Tragen rose to leave.

‘I am sincerely relieved to have your cooperation in this Cornelia. Let us hope these precautions are a waste of time.’

 

The wizard stepped across the narrow passageway and found all four youths waiting silently in Beattie’s cabin. The lantern, still swinging overhead, shone light on four very agitated countenances.

‘It was not Aidan’s fault, it was mine,’ said Augusta, jumping to her feet immediately he came through the door. ‘If anyone is to be punished it should be me, it was my idea.’

Aidan hunching his shoulders even more knew it was pointless her taking the blame; he was the one who had conjured the spell. How could he have been such an idiot not to realize that everything nearby would be affected. His unguent was still emitting a sickly sweet odour but nowhere near as bad as it was, at least Anders was no longer gagging.

Anders, staring at his hands in his lap, was sitting on the floor at Beattie’s feet; she sat bedraggled on the bed biting her bottom lip. She was feeling decidedly nervous as she peered up at the wizard and she unconsciously shifted closer to Anders, her leg now pressed against his arm.

‘Very well, Highness, I can well believe it was your idea.’ Tragen appeared to consider his next move although he knew that Aidan would be next to open his mouth.

‘Come off it, you know full well it’s my fault. There’s no need to punish these others. The blame is mine; none of them were actively involved.’ Aidan said utterly dejected, he was about to receive his worst punishment to date and was dreading it.

‘No, we knew you were going to do something, so if one is punished all should be punished.’ Beatrix said surprising herself. She was now emulating her mistress in being protective of him and not understanding why, instinctively knowing though that it was right.

Anders nodded his blond head, agreeing with her, as far as he was concerned Beatrix could never be wrong.

‘Don’t listen to them, I ordered them to aid me in this and now I am ordering you to exact punishment only on me,’ said Augusta.

‘My dear lady, your father gave me this mission to bring you home. At the same time he ordered me to do as I thought best to keep you safe from harm. I consider your orders to these three in that context. Ordering an invocation in a confined space is dangerous—you were therefore in peril. Aidan knows this as does Anders. Beatrix as your companion should have known it; she’s been around magic long enough. Therefore you will all be disciplined, whether you dispute it or not. Highness, from this moment Lady Cornelia and I have decided that she will assume your identity until we reach home.’

‘What! How dare you, wizard?’ She spluttered, aghast at his words, the others staring at her, mouths agape. Aidan had never before heard anyone use that tone of voice to his master.

‘I dare, madam, as the person with overall responsibility for your welfare.’ He continued before she could catch her breath. ‘Lady Cornelia will remain in your cabin until such time as we deem fit. You will take up the task of her companion and will fetch and carry for her.’

‘I will not!’ Augusta shouted, her green eyes blazing, hands on hips.

‘You will, Your Royal Highness,’ the wizard using her formal title to stress the seriousness of his threat, ‘or I will inform your father on our return that not only did you disobey my instructions, you actively put yourself in danger. Do you understand?’

Augusta quailed; the thought of news of this escapade reaching the Prince of Mantovar terrified her, he was a very loving father, but also a very strict disciplinarian. It wouldn’t be the first time he had punished her for disobeying the orders of his people. Her shoulders slumped, and nodding, she acquiesced grudgingly.

‘You, Beatrix, will have to teach her the duties of a companion and, as you haven’t got one, those of a maid as well.’ A horrified feeling came over Beatrix at the thought of instructing her mistress on how to scrub the cabin floor. ‘And I am warning the pair of you,’ he looked from one to the other of the silent girls, ‘you are to put your heart and soul into the deception. You are to be convincing at all times, whether it be in public or privately here in your cabin. Beatrix, do not be afraid to quarrel with your mistress over this, it is very important that the deception is believed. As for your attire, ladies, you will continue as you are in these clothes.’

‘But, Milord, I have proper clothes she can wear,’ said Beatrix, interrupting.

Tragen pretended not to see the well-aimed kick from Augusta. ‘Ah, yes! Your name, Highness,’ he said, as Beatrix grimaced.

‘What about it,’ confused, Augusta could not now take her eyes from his face, dreading his next words, although the strange order to continue wearing Aidan’s clothing came as a pleasant surprise.

‘You must have another name. Yes…we’ll call you Mabel, I think,’ Tragen now had a twinkle in his eye which Aidan, not quite believing these strange orders, was the only one to see.

Aidan and Anders both burst out laughing at the horror on Augusta’s face.

‘You cannot be serious, Milord! Please, I absolutely abhor that name,’ Augusta said, her consternation bringing her very close to tears.

‘Beatrix,’ he asked, ignoring the desperation in his princess, ‘how many servants in the castle do you know with the name Mabel?’

Meekly, Beatrix replied. ‘Quite a few, Milord.’

‘Very good, then I am correct, it is a very apt name. From this moment, all of us will address you as Mabel. Do you agree?’

Augusta glared at her friends, daring them to laugh. Aidan, of course, could not help himself and he did again, uproariously. The thought of calling this sometimes very snooty girl by the common name of Mabel, was hilarious.

‘You may find it amusing, Aidan, but I have not yet come to your punishment,’ said Tragen, instantly silencing the young wizard.

‘Now, Anders, what am I to do with you. Not only did you know beforehand that Aidan was going to cast a spell, when that spell went wrong you vomited all over the poor lady ill in bed!’

‘Milord, it was an accident I couldn’t help it.’ The cabin boy, incensed at the injustice of the complaint, for the first time in his life voiced an objection to a statement made by the wizard.

‘If the spell had not been cast, you would not have had an accident and Lady Cornelia would not have had a lap full of the contents of your stomach. You, from this day, besides having your present duties for the captain, will also have the duty of care of both Beatrix and Mabel,’ Augusta winced but said nothing. ‘You are to accompany them whenever they leave this cabin and are to aid them if required, but you are not to replace Mabel in her duties.’

Anders was utterly confused it occurred to him that he was already doing just that. He sat mute, staring at the wizard and again he couldn’t help noticing the pimple on the end of Tragen’s nose. It was getting larger.

‘And now, Aidan,’ Tragen pulled at his beard. ‘You seem not to understand that spells must not be cast in small rooms. You are obviously competent at casting the spells of flame, fragrance and light. But think about it, the only spell you cast that did not have grave consequences was that of light which took place out of doors. The other two resulted in accidents. Do you agree?’

‘Yes, I understand, but I’m going to have to create spells indoors sometimes.’

‘Not for practical jokes, my boy! Now it will be your task, along with Anders, to keep Mabel safe from harm. You will carry on teaching her rudimentary magic and report to me each week on her progress.’ Augusta perked up at this. ‘You are not to instruct her in high magic but you may reveal as much of the history of the art as you think appropriate. You understand?’

Aidan nodded waiting for the axe to fall.

‘It is late now, you are all to partake of your supper and retire. Aidan, you will again sleep in Anders’ berth but this time you will have the floor and he the bed.’ As he reached the door, he wished them a goodnight and left four very perplexed teenagers to mull over his punishments.

That same night Anders was again woken by Aidan talking in his sleep.

 

The man continued to scream long after the spear entered his eye. It took its time, eking out the man’s agony for as long as possible.

 ‘Master,’ a voice uttered from behind, ‘you sent for me.’

It withdrew the spear and turned to look on its minion. ‘We have a wizard in our net!’

‘You are sure? The storm has ensnared an enchanted one?’ the servile one asked excitedly, wringing his hands.

 ‘Yes! I have espied him in the scry using his staff. The stave holds immense power. It may even be enough!’ It hissed its sibilant jubilation. ‘Our time is near at hand…O Lord,’ he intoned raising his arms in supplication. ‘O Lord, a wizard comes! You will be free!’

‘What do you mean “a wizard”? There is more than one coming for you,’ Aidan said, threateningly, before falling quiet for the rest of the night.

Anders lay awake for hours afterward—confused and a little frightened.

 

http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/aboutwales/9.shtml

Record breaker

“I hear Evan Morgan broke the world 100 metre record wearing mining boots.”

“How did he manage that?”

“He fell down the shaft.”

 

Have a nice day!

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/15-welsh-jokes-make-you-6799233

No hard feelings…

A Welshman, Scot and Englishman are walking when they come across a lantern and a genie pops out and grants them one wish each.

The Scot says: “I am a sheep herder, like my dad before me. I want my country to be full of lovely sheep farms.” Whoosh, and so it was.

The Englishman was amazed and says: “I want a wall around England to keep those damned Scots and Welsh out.” Bang, there was a wall around England.

The Welshman says: “Tell me more about this wall.”

The genie says: “It’s 200 feet high, 100 feet thick, it goes all around England, and nothing can get in or out.”

The Welshman says: “Fill it with water.”

Could this be Aidan in a confused state?

Could this be Aidan in a confused state?

Six

Tragen – his long white hair and beard brushed immaculately – woke Aidan the next morning, the second morning of the storm. Stepping over Anders in the narrow berth, a very small room hidden behind a heavy curtain in the captain’s cabin, he accidentally disturbed the cabin boy.

Anders, despite lack of sleep, awoke highly animated. He never missed Aidan creating magic whether it was with or without permission. Tragen, having given up years before in his attempts to separate the boys – the two could never understand that they could not do everything together – assented to Anders accompanying them to his cabin to hear Aidan’s instructions.

Augusta, bleary-eyed, opened the door into the dark passageway and bumped into them on her way to check the condition of her lady-in-waiting. Augusta was once again wearing the same shirt and britches from the night before, although soiled and crumpled they were, nevertheless, very comfortable if a little smelly. With her shoulder length, black hair brushed and tied back at the nape in nautical fashion and barefoot, she was the very epitome of a young sailor.

‘Where are you going, Milord?’ she asked pompously.

‘Just along to my cabin, Highness.’

‘Oh, you’re going to give Aidan his instructions, aren’t you?’ Augusta asked excitedly, her pomposity vanishing instantly.

‘I am, Highness.’ Tragen sighed. He had managed to creep past her cabin without disturbing her on his way to fetch the boys, but he would have had to be very lucky indeed to evade her on the return.

‘Can you wait just a moment while I see if Lady Cornelia requires anything? I would love to see at first-hand how wizards work.’ She added as an afterthought, just to please the wizard . ‘I promise not to interfere in any way, Milord.’

The wizard raised one eyebrow disbelievingly. ‘You will have to hurry, the captain is to join us and he cannot be away from his quarterdeck for too long.’

Her incapacitated lady in waiting was still sleeping fast, her vast bosom rising and falling rhythmically as she lay on her back snoring, the high sides of the violently swinging cot keeping her safe from falling to the deck. As Aidan followed his mentor into their shared accommodation, Augusta ran from her cabin and grabbed Beatrix, who was trying to extricate Augusta’s blankets from beneath the bunk, how they had ended up under there was a mystery that Beatrix would never comprehend.

‘Come on, quickly, they are deciding on what magic they will use,’ Augusta ordered.

Beatrix, electrified, seized their still damp tunics from the previous night; donning them they reached the doorway of Aidan’s cabin, just ahead of the burly figure of Locklear.

‘If you will excuse me, Highness, I believe, in this case, that I should enter before you,’ Hugo said, rather brusquely.

Augusta turned and her eyes widened at the obvious fatigue in the man’s face. He was wet from top to toe and looked as if he had been up all night, which he had. Hugo Locklear never slept in bad weather. She immediately moved to allow the stressed man access to the small room and crowded after him into the little space left at the door.

Tragen looked up from his chair below the porthole. ‘I’m sorry, Hugo, but there will be no privacy to discuss these matters.’

‘They will know soon enough, my friend. So…you have rested?’

‘Aye, little enough I fear, I have been thrown about on my bed most of the night, I hate the top bunk, but it will have to suffice. The storm, is it any worse?’

‘Wizard, can you not feel it beneath your feet?’ his weariness making him irascible. ‘The wind has increased enormously; we are no longer hove-to we are being driven astern, it is only the sea-anchors that are holding us steady. If we do not turn about soon it will be too late—the Grim will have turned turtle.’ He rubbed the exhaustion from his eyes with his huge knuckles. ‘Whatever action you have to take, do it now. I have every available man, sailor and marine, bailing and pumping and repairing sprung boards constantly. We have to ease the strain on the hull immediately and the only possible way is to run before this wind.’

‘Very well, Hugo, as you say we have no other option,’ he turned to his apprentice. Aidan was standing there feeling very guilty; it was his accident that had deprived his master of a good night’s sleep.

‘We do not have much time to accomplish the deed, my boy, so listen carefully. I will attempt a shield enchantment to calm the seas forward of the ship and curtail the worst of the wind. The spell will of necessity be one of the most powerful I have ever conjured and it will sorely tax me.’
He paused and studied his apprentice worriedly, Aidan still seemed traumatized. The actions of the day before had exacted their toll on his slight body, and sleep had not restored his vigour. His face was drawn and his dark eyes sunk deeply beneath his eyebrows. His body, though, was a lot stronger than its lack of weight implied. Tragen sighed; he needed his apprentice’s strength this morning, for if they failed the penalties would be dire for all.

Tragen resumed, ‘I, of course, will use my staff, but great concentration and power will be required to form the shield. As such I will not be able to create the light needed for the captain to know when to turn the ship. You will have to stand with me and cast that particular spell. You must ensure the light is of sufficient strength, not only to show him the shield in front of us, he must also see the surface of the ocean. Do you understand, Aidan?’

‘I do,’ and he inhaled deeply. ‘But where will we stand so that he’ll see us? I know the obvious place is in the bows, but standing there will be too dangerous, won’t it?’

‘Alas, Aidan, we must place ourselves in grave peril—it has to be in the bows we stand. However,’ and he turned to the ship’s master, ‘we will need ropes to tether ourselves to the foremast and sailors to aid us in this. Hugo, how many men can you spare?’

Locklear stared at his friend, his face more drained than ever. ‘I am afraid, Tragen, I can spare no-one to help you. If I remove even one from their present duties the ship will founder.’

‘By the Gods, Hugo, you have four hundred men aboard this ship—we must have help! We have to be fully engrossed on the enchantments…we may need to be physically held in place.’

‘I know the Grim’s complement, Tragen; I don’t need you to tell me.’ He tugged at his beard angrily and sighed. ‘I’m sorry; I know what you are going to say. If you are unable to cast the spells necessary for us to turn, the ship will come to grief anyway. I say this, my old friend; if I take any men from pumping, bailing and patching the hull, we will sink as we turn. Tragen, you and Aidan must manage on your own.’

‘We can help,’ Anders interrupted, shocked at hearing his uncle quarrel with the wizard.

Tragen and Hugo gazed in consternation.

Anders continued. ‘I know it will be dangerous, Milord, I have been at sea long enough to know what can happen to us there. But none of us can stand to one side while Aidan and you risk your lives for us,’ he licked lips that had suddenly dried. ‘We’re all in danger, Milord, and we’re the only ones who are free to help you although you may think we’re too young. I promise you we’ll obey you in whatever way you…’

‘Please, Milord,’ urged Augusta, as Anders ran out of words. ‘We are the only help you can get. I assure you, we will follow your orders without question.’

It was Beattie’s quiet remarks though, that swung Tragen, helping him make the decision. ‘We have the right to help save the ship, Milord. We cannot stand aside and do nothing…you do not have the right to deny our aid.’

‘What say you, Hugo? I believe the young lady is correct, hey! And Aidan and I will be in desperate need; can you supply us with the necessary ropes?’

‘Aye, man,’ he said, reluctantly agreeing. ‘The bo’sun is working at the sail locker beneath the foc’s’le he’ll pass them to you. But beware Tragen, if the prince ever discovers that we intentionally placed his daughter in grave peril…’

‘Don’t worry on that score, Captain Locklear. I am in grave danger anyway,’ interrupted Augusta, ‘and that is what I will tell him if needs be. He will agree that it is my duty to help in any way I can.’

‘Very well, I will return to my post on the quarterdeck now. I wish you good fortune; you carry the prayers of us all. Aidan,’ he turned to the boy standing silently by, ‘please keep in mind—I will need the light to be as bright as possible for as long as it takes us to turn about.’ Saying that, he departed with one long and intense look at them all, it was as if he was trying to implant their images on his memory.

Before Locklear had reached his companionway, Tragen addressed the four youths in no uncertain terms. ‘I must emphasize this point although you have already promised. You have no option but to obey me instantly whatever the command, all our lives may depend on it. Do you understand?’

He put his hand on Aidan’s shoulder to reassure the haggard apprentice wizard. ‘We will tether ourselves on long lines to the foremast. Once the bows are safe you and I will move as far forward as possible. That is where the main power of the conjuration will be created. There you will stand to one side of me and conjure your light. Remember—raise the illumination high enough to enable those on the quarterdeck to see as much as possible. While you are at that endeavour, I will invoke the shield with my staff. Beware my movements, for as the ship turns I will turn the opposite way and increase the strength of the spell to cover the increasing aspect of the ship facing the storm. The greatest danger will arise when the Grim is beam on to the wind, should we fail at that point then the ship will broach.’

He smiled encouragingly at his young apprentice, whilst the others, beginning to understand now what they had let themselves in for, grew more apprehensive.

‘I do not expect to fail; we know each other too well for there to be any misunderstanding between us. But if events do not go as planned, do not attempt to mindmeld with me. It may prove fatal to distract me at that moment. Do you understand, Aidan?’

‘Aye,’ he nodded.

Tragen turned and spoke to the others. ‘It will be your tasks to ensure our safety as best you can. As there are three of you, Anders being the biggest will ward me on his own, you two ladies together, will protect Aidan. But I must stress, you are to take great care of your own safety as well. Do not under any circumstances place yourselves in a position of extreme risk just to rescue us. And in this you will obey me,’ he ordered.
They nodded silently. Augusta made to question Tragen, but seeing the steely glint in his eyes she recalled what Beatrix had said the day before. Unexpectedly afraid of him, she changed her mind and stilled her tongue.

Tragen and Aidan led the way from the cabin turning for’ard in the passage. The old wizard tucked his staff into his belt, the knuckle against his neck, and quickly climbed the ladder up to the hatch, Aidan already on the bottom rungs before he reached the top. Tragen removed the bolt and recalling that the last time he’d lifted the cover he’d nearly lost it, took especial care this time. But even then the wind caught it and almost dragged it out of his hands.

The fury of the tempest assailed them immediately. The wind no longer howled but screamed its rage and the rain stung bitingly. The waves swooped by horrendously high and frighteningly fast, a wall of iron-grey hard water. White spume formed an almost continual sheet as it was blown from crest to crest way above their heads. And the crackling of the lightning distorted their sight, the horizon, when they could see it, just feet away.

Aidan and Anders closed the hatch and then, clinging to the lifeline that stretched fore and aft, they all moved forward passing the mainsail still piled at the foot of the mainmast. Resting a moment to catch their breath they continued on past the redundant galley pipe to the foc’s’le steps either side of the foremast. They clutched desperately at the slippery line, expecting at any moment to be blown, or washed, overboard.

Trumper looked round at their arrival his face expressing his surprise at seeing the youngsters; nevertheless he reached inside the sail locker doors and retrieved ropes for them all. The bo’sun, his normally ruddy face now ashen, stared apprehensively at the party struggling slowly up the steps on to the forecastle.

Tragen, bareheaded, his beard blowing back over his shoulders, tied one end of his rope around his waist and, gauging the length as best he could, he secured the other end to the foremast, leaving enough play for him to reach the bowsprit. He waited for the others to do the same.

They were battered in mind and body when they reached the small bow deck and found the conditions there absolutely appalling. Standing in waist-high water on occasions, the bows almost continually underwater, the incessant clamour beating at their ears, they found it impossible to rest even for a moment. The wizard stood with his back pressed against the foremast his eyes closed, his legs braced on the heaving deck, and he raised his staff vertically in front of him and faced directly into the wind. Beatrix and Augusta hugged the foc’s’le rail squinting through eyes impossible to open wide while Aidan joined Anders in holding Tragen steady.

They all watched the old wizard, only his lips moving in the gloom and it was a long time before any change was detected…an easing of the pressure on their ears followed by a lessening of the wind tugging at them. Then a low rhythmic cadence rose above the gale, and as the mantra increased in strength, the beat of the rain and the wash of the waves across the bows gradually declined and amazingly ceased altogether.

The youngsters stared about them at the dream world in which they all of a sudden found themselves. All around the ship the tempest raged as before, the crests of the waves too high to see, the rain sweeping past in sheets, but none of it had any impact in the bows. They stood as if in a dry hole in the ocean, the deck at their feet, clear of waves for the first time in two days. They waited; preparing to carry out the tasks allotted them, the vista unbelievable, their senses dumbfounded.

Tragen walked forwards toward the bowsprit as Anders carefully paid out the rope tied to the wizard’s waist. Aidan accompanied his master and both stepped into the bows of the beleaguered ship. All was black before them, the enchanted shield, invisible to the naked eye, also hid the lightning flashes ahead of the ship. And then Aidan conjured his light.

The wizard’s apprentice sang out loud and clear and full of confidence. At once, a brilliant white light formed and grew ever larger in the boy’s outstretched hands. An incandescent ball of light, blindingly beautiful in its brilliance, smelling powerfully of lavender, and the bow of the ship was lit up as if it was noon in August.

Tragen glanced at his apprentice and again wondered fleetingly, as he had done many times in the past, why Aidan’s spells always gave off the aroma of the bluish-purple flowers.

Augusta gasped and blinked, blinded by the brightness of the light. Recovering quickly she and Beatrix watched with astonishment as Aidan seemingly grew larger and they gripped his line even firmer.

Anders though did not take his eyes from Tragen when the magician’s voice grew louder and deeper in tone, as Aidan’s softer tones gelled with his.
Locklear, high up on his quarterdeck, sighed when he saw the light come up, the sight of the bows and the sea just ahead, an enormous relief. Hopper immediately ordered the sea-anchors raised and as men readied a stormsail, needed to steer the ship, the Grim appeared to breathe its appreciation, its happiness, at being relieved of the tremendous pressure of the storm at the bows.

Locklear shouted to the four men now on the helm. ‘Prepare yourselves my beauties, we are about to find out if you are seamen or landlubbers.’
Talbot smiled grimly and grasped the wheel even tighter as did Nkosi and Bertram. The fourth man, Leash, his mind full of schemes to ensure the demise of the apprentice wizard, wished ill on them all, though he was very careful to hide his thoughts from his fellows. It did not seem to register with him that if Tragen and Aidan failed then his own death was assured—or maybe it wasn’t, he wasn’t sure if he’d be allowed to die.
In the bow the light increased, its brilliance reflecting off the air forward of them. Tragen’s shield became visible, a haze similar to that of a current of warm air, shimmering before them.

The wizard raised his staff and held the pointed base in his fists. Holding the stave aloft on outstretched arms, Tragen quickly glanced at Aidan alongside him and winked.

Aidan laughed, thoroughly enjoying himself; he was at ease performing magic with his “father” and he couldn’t be happier.

The wizard resumed his chant, his total concentration ensuring the growth of the shield. Gripping his staff even tighter, he sang louder still and lowered the knuckle at the top of the rod until he was pointing it directly ahead of him. The knuckle glowed a deep carmine, and the shield advanced further forward and grew ever more until it formed a barrier, dense and unyielding, across the expanse of ocean and sky before them.

The ship commenced its turn slowly as if waking from a daze, nearly toppling Anders, Augusta and Beatrix, all struggling to maintain their foothold on the sloping deck. They watched the unearthly spectacle taking place in front of the wizard, a sight so implausible that their brains refused to take it in. But they knew they’d never forget the sight – if they lived long enough.

Tragen, stood rigidly in the bow, as if he was an extension of the boards of the foc’s’le, a part of the substance of the ship. His single-minded attention focused on the enchantment, the energy he was using in holding the staff at arm’s length seeming not to worry him at all.

Aidan, in creating a spell of a vastly lower class, was far more relaxed and he took the time to look around the ship. He studied the seas below the bows, felt the lightness of the breeze, witnessed the small ripples playing on the surface of the ocean and scanned the anxious faces of his friends. He smiled at them all before returning to attend his master. Aidan’s strength was only needed to hold the light aloft and to ensure the illumination was sufficient for the captain’s needs. But, on examining his master closely, he became concerned at the exhaustion he could see building in the wizard, a fatigue that was not apparent to anyone else. This was the most powerful spell Tragen had ever conjured and, however much the wizard had prepared, there was bound to be a serious depletion in his stamina and repercussions on his health.

The ship came about slowly to larboard, and Tragen turned the other way to continue facing east directly into the wind. At the same time, he held his staff level and began waving it from side to side so that the edges of the shield widened to conceal the body of the Grim.

It seemed forever before the turn reached its most critical stage, the point at which the vessel lay broadside to the wind. Tragen was now staring directly over the starboard side of the ship, the storm gnashing at the borders of the spell. Tragen’s face was a bath of sweat although his voice remained strong and Aidan’s light remained steady and bright in the palms of his hands, his feet like his master’s, seemingly stuck to the deck.
Augusta, Beatrix and Anders were beginning to relax, their attention waning, when Tragen all of a sudden cried out and staggered back. He fell to his knees releasing the staff to fall alongside him. Immediately the shield shook and began to fade.

Aidan, although every bone in his body had warned him to expect something to go wrong, stared in disbelief for moments. He turned quickly for his helpers, and knowing his instincts to be correct, beckoned to Augusta.

‘Quick, come here.’

And Augusta accustomed now to obeying his orders walked forward and stood alongside him not knowing what to expect as she stared at Tragen on his knees.

‘Don’t be afraid, Augusta,’ using her name for the first time without either realizing it. ‘Hold up your hands like me.’

And she raised her hands in front of her. He stared deeply into her green eyes, his own conveying his trust and placed the ball of enchanted light into her hands.

‘There is no need for fear, Augusta; you have magic, just hold the light. Hold it high for the captain; it will not harm you. Tragen needs me he is in great danger.’

Augusta, shaking like a leaf, raised the light with no second thoughts all her previous misgivings about him forgotten forever. She lifted the light high and wondered—what magic? And what was the strange feeling in her chest, was it the magic or was it Aidan?

Aidan shouted at Anders and Beatrix. ‘Protect Augusta! Keep well away from Tragen and me.’

The cabin boy and the lady’s companion stared at each other, bewildered and fearful. They did not know what had happened to the wizard, or how Augusta could have the magic to hold the light, but both remembered Tragen’s admonishment not to distract him if there was trouble. They watched their friend approach the wizard, and then Aidan’s last words registered with Beatrix. She was appalled; how did he have the gall to call her mistress by her chosen name, not even she did that?

Aidan reached the old man, kneeling, holding his head in his hands his staff forgotten for the moment lying on the deck against his foot, its runes pulsating brightly. He stood behind his mentor; staring down at him intently he placed his hands over Tragen’s.

‘Master, what’s wrong?’ and receiving no answer he continued even more forcefully. ‘Come back, Master.’ Again there was no response, Aidan put his forehead to the top of the wizard’s head and repeated the mindmeld. ‘Master, come back, please’ he begged.

Ignoring the express instructions given him earlier, he searched frantically for his master’s consciousness and unintentionally spoke aloud. ‘I have to find you, Master, forgive me for my disobedience…I…I don’t know how else to help you.’

Anders started forward acutely worried, he’d never seen his friend in this much of a panic before. But Beatrix held him back, her faith in Aidan beyond question.

‘Leave him be Anders, he knows what he’s doing—trust him,’ she using similar words to those used by Anders the day before.

They stood at the rail afraid to take their eyes from the two wizards. But the storm began encroaching on the ship again as the shield weakened, small waves appearing, the wind rising blowing straight into their faces.

‘Quickly, Aidan,’ shouted Augusta, in alarm, taking her eyes from the ball of light in her hands. ‘We’re going to broach.’

Aidan glanced up at her and ceased his mindmeld. With a heavy sickness deep in the pit of his stomach, he stared around, at a complete loss; despairing, he had no idea how to contact his master.

‘Heal him, Aidan,’ shouted Beatrix intuitively.

At his wits’ end he latched on to her suggestion; he again turned to the wizard and gripped his master’s hands even tighter. Shutting out all outside influences, totally engrossed in his task, he achieved success almost immediately. Tragen, waking from the trance shook Aidan’s hands from his head.

‘What happened?’ Aidan asked shaking with relief. ‘We lost each other and I…I was so scared.’

Tragen felt the wind in his hair and swiftly realizing their predicament, grabbed his staff. ‘Later! I need your energy my boy mine is all but spent. Assist me, hold my staff with me.’

Shock pierced Aidan. He had never even touched the staff before. In fact, it had been hammered into him over the years that it was sacrosanct; he was never to as much as place a fingernail on it. He looked at his mentor, frightened witless.

‘You want me,’ and he swallowed audibly, ‘to actually touch your staff?’

Tragen stared at Aidan quickly comprehending his fear. ‘Aye, my boy, you have incredible power…you have the strength to wield this staff with me. Haven’t I just felt the immense energy in your hands? Your healing power is more than enough to sustain you; my staff cannot hurt you now.’

Tragen, with Aidan standing close, held the base of the staff horizontally in their hands and the knuckle once again faced the tempest. The shield strengthened instantly, the ocean calmed and the shimmering of the enchantment was again lit up at the bows as Augusta once more held the light aloft.

Locklear who had nearly given up hope when he saw Tragen fall, gazed on the ocean once more, a gentle swell on its surface. He at once renewed his efforts and those of his crew at the helm. The long ship came about slowly but surely, and with its stern facing the wind at last, the stormsail bellying full, the great vessel flew from its tormentor. The crew fell to the deck wherever they were stationed, gasping for breath, the tension of the last hours leaving them trembling. They had no strength for cheering.

Tragen held the shield in place until the ship was safely on its way…to where was debatable. He eventually lowered the staff and Aidan reluctantly relinquished his hold. Gradually the shield dissipated, the tempest resuming its attack on the ship, but this time at its stern. The occupants of the bows, now sheltered a little by the upper structure of the ship, collapsed exhausted to the deck, all that is except Augusta. Tragen, his head down inhaling deeply and hoarsely was drained beyond measure. Aidan, his bones trembling to their core because of the magic he’d encountered in the staff, now understood how much he didn’t know of the art. Anders and Beatrix, glad it was all over, sitting shoulder to shoulder, holding hands their backs against the rail, sodden to the skin taking comfort from each other’s nearness, neither daring to acknowledge it.

And Augusta, her long black hair sticking wildly to her face and neck, standing with the light in her hands, mesmerized by the magic and wanting more.

Aidan lifted his head and smiled up at her. His prince’s daughter, much his age and much his height…slim and very attractive, her emerald eyes reflecting the wonder he often felt when conjuring spells.

‘Augusta,’ he said quietly, disturbing her reverie. ‘I had better extinguish the light now.’

She looked down at him. ‘How come you passed this to me? I have always thought only those with magic could sustain a spell,’ she was completely enthralled. ‘I have never made magic in my whole life!’

Aidan rose to stand in front of her. ‘You are right. But then I remembered when I fell on the quarterdeck yesterday, you caught me by my belt and held me. Your strength was far greater than it should have been, no girl should have been able to halt my slide into the sea. And then I saw it in your eyes—magic! That’s why I passed the spell to you,’ he smiled wearily. ‘How you have magic now I don’t know, but I suppose we’ll find out…in time.’

‘I really have magic?’

At his nod she gave a great beaming grin and stared at the ball of light in her hands. ‘I adore magic, Aidan!’

He laughed. ‘So do I…so do I,’ and Aidan, making small intricate finger movements, extinguished the light, but only in her hands.

Her eyes continued to shine brilliantly.

‘You will show me more?’ She asked eagerly, grasping his hands and ignoring everyone else, ‘please, Aidan.’

Tragen interrupted. ‘Be careful, my boy, magic in a woman has ensnared many a wizard.’ He paused to catch his breath, raking his long white hair from his face. ‘I am confident though, that you will discover how she comes to the ability.’

He turned his head to include Augusta. ‘Wizards and Adepts are always born with their skills—always! I have never known magic precipitously appear in someone who has never been able to display such ability previously.’

Hesitating, he again spoke, solely to his apprentice. ‘When you come to teach her make sure you start with the small conjurations, and remember—no showing off! Be vigilant, and above all, show her infinite care. I do not know if her father would wish her to know our craft. No wizard has ever gained a throne so this may have untold consequences for Mantovar. Your training of her may have to cease when we return home. Until her father decides, her skill must be kept secret and yet she must be taught to control it. But the ability to pass on knowledge is another lesson an apprentice has to learn…it may as well start here.’

‘Yes! And you can carry on calling me by my chosen name,’ said Augusta, beaming at him, grinning simply for the reason that she felt absurdly happy, even though they and the Grim were still in grave danger, battered and threatened by an unearthly tempest from hell.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/15-welsh-jokes-make-you-6799233

Say it slowly…

On a beautiful summer’s day, two English tourists were driving through Wales.

At Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwyllllantysiliogogogoch they stopped for lunch and one of the tourists asked the waitress: “Before we order, I wonder if you could settle an argument for us. Can you pronounce where we are, very, very, very slowly?”

The girl leaned over and said:

“Burrr… gurrr… King.”

Have a nice day!

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/15-welsh-jokes-make-you-6799233

Don’t come between a Welshman and his ale

An Englishman, Scotsman and Welshman walk into a bar. Each orders a pint of Brain’s but, as they’re served, a fly lands in each pint.

The Englishman immediately pushes his beer away in disgust.

The Scotsman thinks for a few seconds, shrugs, and also pushes the pint away.

The Welshman turns bright red, picks the fly out of the beer and holds it over his glass shouting: “SPIT IT OUT! SPIT IT OUT!”

The entrance to Castle Mantovar (although it's really Castell Coch)

The entrance to Castle Mantovar (although it’s really Castell Coch)

Five

But instead of hearing a roar of disapproval, Aidan heard a loud howl of laughter.

Puzzled, he turned round very tense, and was startled to see that it was Locklear bellowing with laughter and what’s more Tragen was grinning broadly, his white teeth shining brilliantly in the gloom.

Locklear looked at Tragen through his tears. ‘What on the Gods’ ocean have we here, my friend? Was this your idea?’

‘Nay, Hugo, not me. I would never have thought of hiding her like this.’

‘Neither would I and damn me if it isn’t perfect for this weather as well.’ Locklear, with his back to the wind looked at Augusta and dried his eyes with his hands. ‘Why are you dressed thus?’

‘As you say, Captain, it’s perfect for this weather.’ She was taken aback at being laughed at, but knew if she objected it would probably add to their merriment. Her father never allowed her to put on airs and graces with his closest confidantes and these two were his oldest friends.

‘This boy gave me the idea,’ she indicated Aidan who was trying to make himself invisible behind her. ‘I couldn’t help but notice earlier that he was struggling to get around wearing a robe. He was experiencing the same problems that Beatrix and I were having wearing a dress. But why mention hid…’ and she ran for the rail and vomited over the side.

Moaning, she wiped her mouth clean on her sleeve. When she finished retching, she blinked the tears from her eyes and continued staring over the rail, holding her stomach. She had completely forgotten what she was about to ask.

Tragen and Hugo stared in astonishment as Anders and Beatrix immediately groped and slid their way to her side and helped support her as she retched again.

‘Oh, I don’t feel well,’ moaned Augusta, one hand on her belly the other holding her head ignoring the dribbles from the corner of her mouth. ‘I thought the sickness had left me…ooh!’

Aidan scowled, thinking it was justice after what she had put him through all day. He was feeling pretty bloody-minded where she was concerned. But pity for her condition gradually seeped to the surface. He was a healer. He wouldn’t allow an animal to suffer the malady of the sea let alone a human being—if you could call the arrogant prig a human, he mused. Mind you, he should be used to her manner; she’d always treated him with the “holier than thou” attitude. But he, himself, was prone to suffer the sickness of the sea at the beginning of each voyage and it sometimes took days for him to get used to the motion of the ship. He glanced at Beatrix and Anders standing either side of her, making sympathetic noises, which were being ignored, and he made up his mind.

Aidan put his hand on Augusta’s arm and uttered the worst words he possibly could have in his attempt to comfort her. ‘You shouldn’t look up at the masts, they’ll always make you dizzy if you’re not used to the sea.’

‘You stupid, stupid boy,’ she spat venomously. ‘How can I not see them when I look along the deck? They’re waving around in front of me!’ She waved her arm around in front of his face in mock imitation of the masts. ‘Beattie, remove me from here before I really lose my temper with him,’ she turned to her companion for solace.

‘Do something, Aidan,’ Anders enjoined. ‘You can stop the sickness.’

‘No, he’s not touching me,’ Augusta broke in. ‘He’s nothing but a loathsome brute, I’d rather…’ and she leant over the rail and vomited again, or at least tried to; there was nothing in her stomach to come up.

Beatrix looked at Aidan with equal abhorrence. ‘Let Anders and me help you below to our cabin, Highness, you’ll feel better there.’

Augusta moaned again as she hung on to the rail in the gloom, ‘I just want to die…I want to die! I’ll never come up here ever again. Why did the sickness leave me and then return?’

Tragen came across. ‘Highness, I am not in a position to help you at present, healing uses a great deal of energy and I must conserve my strength for the morning. But if you allow him, Aidan can relieve you of this malady immediately.’

Tragen stared at his apprentice as Augusta lay groaning in her companion’s arms. ‘Well, Aidan, are you going to turn your back on her?’
‘Master, you know I’d never do that! I’d already decided to help her despite her insults.’

‘Of course, my boy, and I sincerely apologize for suggesting it.’ Tragen accepted his rebuke knowing that it was deserved this time. ‘I have other things on my mind, at the moment; it was thoughtless of me, I’m sorry. But please heal her quickly, it is unsafe here.’

‘All right, I will, but I’m not happy about it. I am not stupid…or a loathsome brute.’

‘Well, let us hope that one day, and may it be soon for all our sakes, she will come to understand your virtues,’ Tragen said as he turned away.

It then struck Aidan what Tragen had given as a reason for not healing her himself. ‘Why have you got to save your strength for the morning? What are you up to?’

‘Later, Aidan,’ and he smiled to take the sting out of his words, ‘your master does not have to be “up to” anything that you need know of.’ He pointed at the stricken girl. ‘Well?’

‘All right,’ he said, not satisfied with the answer. ‘Highness, whether you like it or not, this stupid boy is going to heal you. Now, stand up straight and shut up!’

For the second time that day, she hearkened instinctively to the authority in his voice, greatly surprising herself that she allowed him, again, to speak to her in such a manner. Looking up at him, he was a little taller than she, Augusta found her face just inches from his and found herself unavoidably staring into his dark eyes as he placed his hands either side of her head.

‘Why my head when I am sick to my stomach?’ she asked sarcastically, at the same time not understanding her reaction to both his order and his eyes.

‘Leave her be, it is obvious you know nothing of this sickness.’ Beatrix ordered, at the same time attempting to pull his hands from her mistress’ head.

‘No, Beattie, stop. I don’t understand it either but I’ve seen him heal many times. He does know what he’s doing, honestly,’ said Anders, taking full advantage of the situation he put his arms around the girl to restrain her, and smiled. ‘Just watch, it is truly amazing what he does.’

Beatrix stared up into Anders’ face and was persuaded, against her better judgement, by his encouraging smile and the comfort of his arms around her. She stepped back a little from Aidan and Augusta, Anders supporting her on the heaving deck, and followed the proceedings nervously. Anders breathed deeply of her scent and discovered he was in seventh heaven.

‘It’s motion sickness that’s making you ill, girl; and motion sickness is an imbalance in your brain, very easy to fix,’ said Aidan, staring into her eyes.

Augusta had no option but to return his gaze, and she had the strangest feeling she was losing herself in his eyes, the sparkles in his brown irises very alluring. Then she noticed that his hands were becoming warm, almost hot at her temples, and her head and belly were responding to that warmth. How long she stood in front of him she didn’t know, all she wanted was the comfort of his hands, and to fall into his eyes. The sickness and dizziness left her gradually, as if by magic and then, of course, she realized Aidan’s form of healing was magic.

‘Are you well now, Highness?’ Beatrix asked eventually, studying Augusta very closely, still not trusting Aidan, but somewhat confused at the look on her mistress’ face.

Augusta smiled as she stared at the young wizard’s face less than mere inches from her own now. And she suddenly realized that everyone was staring at them.

Aidan reluctantly lowered his hands, for some reason he didn’t want to release her—something more than the healing of her malady had just occurred. He turned to leave.

Augusta grabbed his arm before he moved too far and, with her feelings in disarray, she knew she had to say something. Swallowing, she waited a moment plucking up courage.

‘Will you please forgive me, Aidan; I will never call you a stupid boy again.’ It seemed that the animosity between them, nurtured over immature years, had also disappeared, at least for a while. She waited with bated breath for his answer, knowing that his acceptance of her apology meant a great deal to her.

It was now his turn to feel guilty. He had been around the aristocracy long enough to realize a little of what it cost her to utter those words in front of everyone, and he found himself admiring her courage.

‘Don’t mention it, Highness,’ and he smiled broadly, his eyes twinkling.

Tragen went to ruffle his hair but at once thought better of it. That is one thing a young man growing up does not require in front of his friends – especially lady friends – he thought. Instead, his eyes glowed again with enormous pride in his boy.

Beatrix, her arm around her mistress, was nonplussed. Her loyalty to Augusta was in no doubt, but she was sorely tempted to distrust her mistress’ sanity. Noblewomen did not apologize to those of a lower class, they had no need to. In her surprise at Augusta’s words she’d completely forgotten her own mother’s teaching and would have been severely castigated for thinking such a thing.

Anders stood by slightly bemused his arms still around Beatrix; he did not understand what had happened between his best friend and the princess. But something good had arisen from the encounter. He wondered if it was the beginning of friendship. He hoped so; he so much wanted to keep close to Beatrix.

Meanwhile the storm still beat at them, the wind howling as Tragen and Locklear resumed their conversation. At the helm was Talbot, accompanied by Leash looking very unhappy.

Leash had seen that the boy had accomplished something out of the ordinary and wondered if the young wizard could help him. But he knew he could never allow a wizard into his mind—it would be the end. So he watched, he waited and he schemed knowing another chance to get at the boy was inevitable. Harming the apprentice was the only way to hurt Tragen.

And Leash wanted revenge for all the years of torment and loneliness.

Augusta, Beatrix, Aidan and Anders stared at the towering grey waves threatening the Grim, their thoughts elsewhere.

The princess more cognizant now that she no longer suffered seasickness was still confused, her emotions in turmoil. Aidan had affected her in ways she could not understand. His eyes, the touch of his hands and his smile at the end accompanying his forgiveness—she wanted more. This time she wanted to be near him because she understood at last that she liked him – she didn’t want to bait him anymore.

Anders thoughts drifted away from Beattie although his arms were still around her. He was not going to release her unless he had to. There was a great majesty about the huge waves washing along the Grim, its spume lifting in the wind to form an unimaginable array of shapes. Despite having been born in a castle far inland, the cabin boy had always wanted to go to sea, ever since he’d been taken down to the estuary of the River Mantovar as a very young child to meet Hugo Locklear, his father’s oldest brother. The ocean held an almost supernatural fascination for him—he could see things below the surface of the moving water that no other could. He didn’t know why. He and Aidan had discussed it on more than one occasion, and it had been mooted that perhaps it was because he was the seventh son of a seventh son. But whatever it was it seemed that Anders had a gift for perceiving the obscure that not even the young wizard had.

Beatrix, though, was becoming more scared by the minute even though Anders was holding her safe. The violence of the storm was overwhelming her, she liked order, craved it. But this disorder was beating at her sensibilities, its chaos and its gloom frightening her; she had never liked the dark.
‘Highness, should we not return to our cabin now? Lord Tragen says it’s not very safe up here and…and I’m inclined to agree with him,’ she said with fervour.

‘You’ll be all right with us,’ interposed Anders, laughing. ‘We won’t allow the sea to take you, at least not yet,’ and he removed his arm from around her waist. Turning her slightly so that he could see her face he put his arm around her shoulders, ostensibly to comfort her, the real reason because he needed to be near her.

‘Don’t make jokes like that, the sea nearly did have me this morning,’ said Aidan morosely, shuddering at the remembrance.

Augusta looked at Aidan, startled at his words. She was baffled by him, bewitched by his rapidly changing moods. ‘You cannot leave it in the air like that,’ she said ‘Tell us. What happened, did you nearly fall overboard?’

So he told them of his errand to the bo’sun at the mainmast, of his precarious journey clinging to the rails and the finding of the rope within his reach. He recounted how he had felt when he realized the line was not secure and that it had run free as he swung across the void. And then he told them of the bo’sun saving his life in the nick of time.

Beattie’s hands were at her mouth, tales of danger and of heroes overcoming impossible odds, captivated her. But Anders was subdued; he had not heard the full story of his friend’s experiences that morning. Was it only this morning? So much had happened in the meantime.

Augusta looked for’ard along the ship to the mainmast, and found the salvaged sail at its foot. Looking at its immensity she wished that she’d had the power to pull it from the ocean without Aidan having to place himself in danger.

‘I’m glad you survived, Aidan.’ She looked at him, willing him to believe her, and then determined to extirpate the serious turn in the conversation added. ‘If you had drowned who would I shout at?’

‘Hey, hang about, what was it that Tragen said earlier…he had to conserve his strength for the morning?’ Aidan looked at his soaking wet companions. ‘Does anyone know what he was on about?’

‘Ask him,’ said Anders when no-one spoke up. ‘Go on,’ he urged when the young wizard hesitated.

‘Hey, Master, what were you on about just now?’ Aidan called out. ‘What did you mean when you said…hey, wait a minute,’ and without warning he stopped and looked Tragen up and down. ‘Your robe isn’t wet, are you using a water-repellent spell?’

‘I am,’ and before Aidan could ask, he said. ‘No, you’re not using the spell in this storm, I conjured this earlier. I would not have if I’d known that I needed to save my strength. But it’s too late to go back and undo what has been done; it would take even more energy.’

Tragen said this in such a serious tone that his apprentice became very apprehensive and thought better of mentioning that he’d used that particular spell to help Trumper salvage the sail.

‘That’s what I wanted to ask. Why do you need to save your strength?’

‘The captain and I have been discussing the affect the weather has on the Grim,’ he paused and grasped the larboard rail, steadying himself as the Grim slid down the back of a huge wave. ‘We have concluded that the longer we endure this tempest at its present ferocity, the more serious will be the damage the ship will suffer. The only option left to us is to turn away, remove ourselves from this vicinity.’

‘But shouldn’t we continue on this heading to get home?’ Anders asked.

Beatrix interrupted, squeezing his hand. ‘Haven’t you noticed, Anders? The ship has no wake, we are not moving forward at all.’

‘You’re right; we do have to turn the ship, don’t we?’ Anders asked.

‘Aye lad, we do, and I will need Aidan’s help.’ He squeezed the rain from his beard with his long fingers and continued. ‘It is late now, so we have made the decision to wait until morning before attempting the manoeuvre. You realize, of course, that turning about in these seas could very likely lead to us capsizing, and that will happen if we fail.’

He turned to his young apprentice. ‘It will require an extraordinary spell to suffice and consequently an extraordinary amount of energy. I will have to be fully rested and that is why I will be retiring to my bunk before long, or rather, to your bunk,’ he said, smiling gravely. ‘I will need your support, my boy, but you need only conjure small magic. Nevertheless, after today’s trauma you are exhausted and are equally in need of sleep. As your bunk is damaged, the captain has agreed that Anders will give up his berth to you for tonight. He will sleep on the floor alongside you.’

‘What spell will you cast?’ Aidan asked, puzzled.

‘We will discuss our actions in the morning. For now, as I said, it is late. Find nourishment as best you can all four of you. I am sorry, Highness,’ Tragen turned to Augusta, ‘but in this crisis you must inevitably help yourself. I am afraid that your companion will not be able to fulfil her usual duties. We must not forget that Lady Cornelia needs your care as well. Now, if you will all leave the quarterdeck to the captain…’ and he raised an arm to usher them away.

It was as they were passing the helm that it happened. They were following in line, Aidan bringing up the rear, Anders leading and already at the companionway beneath the poop. With their heads bowed against the wind, eyes squinting against the rain and groping their way across the deck, Leash saw his chance. As Aidan drew abreast of him, Leash gave a quick, surreptitious look around, saw no eyes on him and stepped back, colliding hard with the young apprentice.

Aidan, losing his balance, went skidding across the deck. Reflex made him grab Augusta in front of him. Taking her with him, he slammed against the starboard rail—releasing her, he toppled over.

All there was below him was certain death.

He screamed, so did Beatrix on seeing him go over. Augusta, coming up against the rail, was winded. Seeing him slide down the outside of the hull she instinctively lunged for his belt and somehow found enough strength to hold him long enough for Aidan to scrabble for a hold and take some of his own weight. Anders flew at the both of them and tried to drag him back up whilst Beatrix clung on to Aidan’s belt with Augusta.

Hugo reached them just in front of Tragen and, grasping the boy, he hauled him like a sack of feathers, to safety.

Aidan was trembling so much that he held Tragen in a vice. ‘How did that happen, my boy? By the Gods I thought we’d lost you then.’ He stroked Aidan’s head as he returned the hug, his eyes glistening.

‘I…I don’t know, one minute I’m…’

‘All right, calm yourself, take your time you’re safe now.’ And Tragen continued to hold him tight until Aidan recovered his composure.
Augusta, Beatrix and Anders gathered around, all in various degrees of shock. They looked at each other, the aftermath giving them a sickness in the stomach nothing at all to do with the motion of the sea. They gradually relaxed, the tension leaving them, not quite understanding or realizing yet, that all four had acted intuitively as a team.

Leash seethed, his face thunder as he looked on from his station at the wheel. Livid at failing for the second time that day, the boy’s death became an obsession. He made up his mind there and then that a means would be found to end the boy’s life. The wizard must suffer—he had to! Leash, frustrated, was almost in tears.

The Princess of the Empire of Drakka and her girlhood companion, the ship’s cabin boy and the apprentice wizard; two pairs of friends when they awoke that morning, were now fast becoming a foursome, left the quarterdeck on Tragen’s orders. Not that Aidan needed much telling. They groped their way along the dark passage stumbling on the jumping deck until, reaching Beattie’s cabin, they all collapsed in silence savouring the safety of the four timber walls, even if they were creaking and moving up and down.

Aidan did not feel very well at all. His was not the physique to withstand prolonged physical trauma. He had suffered almost continuous strain since awakening that morning, trapped in his blankets on the deck of his cabin. He sat on the bottom bunk with his head in his hands, looking very haggard, his shoulder-length black hair plastered to his skull and face.

Augusta gazed at him with mixed feelings. She just did not know what to make of him. For years she had seen him running around the castle, in her opinion causing disruption, being insolent and not caring one jot that she was a princess. The first time today that she had spoken with him seemed to confirm her earlier held beliefs—he had been making fun of her. Then, although being reprimanded by her for his insolence, he had healed her beloved lady in waiting, exhibiting a caring skill beyond anything she had ever encountered in her life. Ready to forgive his impudence because of that, he had again irritated her with his effrontery; an attitude that no-one else ever subjected her to. And because of that, she had taken great pleasure in seeing him sweat, afraid to meet his master. And how does he repay her for her reprehensible behaviour? He heals her of seasickness. He completely exasperated her and she liked it.

And then he had frightened her. Her heart in her mouth she had seen him fall towards his death and, in that moment, knew his dying would have devastated her. She had grabbed him wondering now how she had found the strength to hold him. Gazing at him he reminded her of a lost and forlorn orphan begging for comfort. A soaking wet orphan sitting on her bed.

‘Get off!’ she shouted before she could stop herself. ‘You’re ringing wet…soaking my bed, Aidan!’

He jumped at the sound of her querulous voice. ‘What? Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize.’

He slid to the floor and rested his back against the bunk instead. He looked up at Augusta and noticed her sopping tunic and britches, her black hair a tangled mess, strands straying across her face. And all of a sudden matters became too much for him and he laughed uncontrollably, his mirth turning quickly to hysteria. He had nearly been killed twice today, had been battered black and blue, nearly drowned on numerous occasions, and this girl was worrying about him soaking her bedclothes!

Beatrix, her sympathetic nature closer to the surface than the others and unable to hold a grudge for longer than five minutes, was the first to his aid. Anders was too surprised to move, and Augusta too confused at the abruptness of the shocking change in him. The royal companion sat beside him on the floor and put her arm around him, cradling his head on her shoulder.

‘Ssh…Aidan…you’re safe now…you’re with friends.’

And Aidan sobbed copiously; he couldn’t help it, he was a boy whose emotions were akin to the girl’s holding him. Like Beatrix he couldn’t hide his feelings. His distress brought tears to the eyes of both the girls and nearly to those of Anders standing over them.

Augusta felt the overwhelming need to offer her share of comfort but wasn’t sure how. She knelt on the floor the other side of Aidan and hesitantly squeezed his shoulder.

Being consoled by female friends was a new experience for Aidan. He had never had close companions before, other than Anders…never girls. Eventually his tears ceased and he lifted his head and wiped his red eyes.

‘I’m sorry,’ he sniffed, ‘I’m being stupid.’

‘No you’re not, Aidan,’ said Augusta quietly, ‘you’re being very sensible, getting it out of your system will make you feel better. God knows, I would have broken long before now and I’ve been trained not to show my emotions.’

Beatrix looked askance at this.

Augusta had never cared enough to hide her feelings before and she had never seen a boy weep and hadn’t even been sure if they could. But seeing Aidan cry, and showing him her concern, had somehow removed the last vestiges of any ill-feeling between them.

‘Hey, now who’s calling who stupid?’ Augusta asked.

Aidan sighed, and looked up at them all. ‘I’m absolutely bloody starving. Have you any food?’ he asked, and then he grinned sheepishly.

Beatrix laughed as she gave him a quick hug. ‘You’re not supposed to swear in front of ladies, but as it happens we do have bread, cheese and the last of the red apples,’ and she rose to get them.

‘Oh hell, I think we need to change our clothes again,’ said Anders, wringing water from his tunic.

‘After we eat, Anders, we’ll hang them up overnight to dry. No…I don’t mean to use magic so take that look off your face!’ The expression on his friend’s face had been enough to put spells right out of Aidan’s mind.

‘Yes,’ interposed Augusta, ‘we’ll do the same after we’ve checked on poor Cornelia. How long will she sleep Aidan?’

‘Until the afternoon tomorrow and hopefully longer; the more she sleeps the shorter the healing process. And before we go to sleep, my big friend,’ he turned to look at Anders, ‘I’ll need you to spread more unguent on my burns.’

Later that night, Tragen slept in Aidan’s bunk and Aidan slept in Anders’ berth; Lady Cornelia in Augusta’s cot and Augusta in Cornelia’s bunk bed; Beatrix slept in her own.

It did not sleep, it liked the dark hours and it watched the filthy, bound man being hauled across the cold, stone-flagged floor towards it. The two holding the prisoner upright with their arms in his armpits, his feet dragging behind, walked with bowed heads and white cowls raised. All was silence until they thrust the captive into the cage and slammed it closed. The mesh banged hard against his nose, breaking it and this stirred his consciousness, the prisoner opened his eyes…and screamed in its face.

It hissed its laughter.

Aidan, fast asleep, heard him—and saw him. ‘Please, why are you laughing? Please stop laughing he is in great pain!’

Only Anders had the most uncomfortable rest, not just because he slept on the hard floor alongside his friend—he heard Aidan talking in his sleep.

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/15-welsh-jokes-make-you-6799233

Don’t mess with a Welsh woman

Three friends married women from different parts of the world. The first married a Greek girl and told her that she was to do the dishes and cleaning. It took a couple of days, but on the third day he came home to see a clean house.

The second man married a Thai girl and gave her the same orders, to do all the cleaning and cooking. The first day he didn’t see any results but by the third his house was clean and dinner was on the table.

The third man married a Welsh girl. He ordered her to keep the house clean, dishes washed, lawn mowed and dinner ready for 6pm.

For the first two days he didn’t see anything, but by the third day, some of the swelling had gone down and he could see a little out of his left eye.

Have a nice day!

http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/aboutwales/12.shtml

Having your photo taken

Two old ladies from Liverpool on holiday in Colwyn Bay decided to have their photograph taken by a beach photographer.

Having posed them suitably he disappeared under his old-fashioned black hood behind the camera.

“What’s he doing now?” asked one of the old ladies, timidly.

“Oh, he’s going to focus”, replied the other.

“What, both of us?”

c/o dreamstime.com Castle of Mantovar

c/o dreamstime.com
Castle of Mantovar

Four

On the quarterdeck it was so dark Locklear could barely see the ocean skimming aft down both sides of the ship. The storm raged as the Grim creaked and groaned, riding the turbulence with ever increasing difficulty.

‘What do you think are the chances of setting a stormsail in this wind, Bo’sun?’ Locklear asked, peering up at the black sky looking for non-existent stars. A stormsail was a small stretch of canvas hoisted on the after jigger and used to steer the ship.

‘It would last precisely as long as the men climbing the mast to set it, Cap’n, and besides, I don’t believe we’d be able to manoeuvre using it.’ The bo’sun, another veteran of Locklear’s command, was allowed a certain liberty in his manner and never shirked in voicing criticism of what he thought of as inept seamanship. He did not look a happy man as the rain poured down his face.

‘In other words you do not recommend it?’ Locklear was an unusual captain he often asked for advice, sometimes taking it.

‘I do not, sir, at least not until morning when we can see a bit better.’

‘Do you honestly believe visibility will be restored to us at daybreak?’ He sighed and braced himself against the quarterdeck rail. ‘We will wait, Mr Trumper. If, as I suspect, we are being driven astern, then it will be safer to remain with bare poles.’

Locklear strode to his chair and lifted himself into the high, wet seat, his home in bad weather and rested wearily, again stroking his beard worriedly. If Tragen was correct then this storm was the least of their worries.

Tragen stood in the passage at his cabin door looking in at Aidan futilely attempting to hide the wreckage of the bottom bunk.

‘There has been a fire here, what do you know of it?’

‘Only a small fire, we put it out straight away.’ Aidan replied hurriedly, his voice trembling.

The wizard stared icily and repeated the question in a tone that brooked no nonsense. ‘What do you know of this fire?’

‘It was an accident, Master, honest! When the ship turned I fell and dropped the flame.’

Aidan always ended up saying the truth if he knew it was inevitable. Lying would only result in a more severe punishment. And punished he would be unless he could talk his way out of this. Tragen could read him like a book.

‘It’s all right, Milord, I’ll sleep on the floor and you can have my bunk until I get it repaired.’

And Aidan knew instantly that his mouth had got him in trouble again; he only ever called Tragen “Milord” when he had done something he knew beforehand he should not have.

Tragen stared at the dark boy standing in front of him, a boy seeming to grow faster now he’d reached his middle teens—a boy full of immense power but so often lacking in common sense, anger deepened his voice. ‘I thank you for giving up your bed, boy; in that you have no choice. Now tell me of this naked flame.’

Aidan bowed his head even further, desperately searching for an answer that would, at the very least, call down a more lenient punishment than seemed likely at present.

‘I’m sorry, but we had to light a lantern somehow,’ he glanced up at his mentor, failing to detect clemency in the young/old eyes. ‘I know I’m not supposed to use that particular spell in an enclosed space. I know you’ve always told me it is highly dangerous in a small room. I’m sorry,’ he repeated.

His battered body aching, weary to his bones, his spirit hiding somewhere near his feet, he knew of no way to persuade the wizard. Tragen’s retribution could be terrible if anyone’s life was ever put at risk by thoughtless use of magic—and he had just endangered the whole ship’s company.

Anders’ heart bled at seeing his friend in so much trouble. ‘My Lord it was my fault. I stumbled and fell against him that’s why he dropped the flame. I was holding the lantern…I couldn’t…I…’ scared, his voice trailed away, he also had experience of being at the wrong end of Tragen’s temper.

The irate wizard glared at him. ‘So, you are both at fault, as if I hadn’t guessed!’ his voice rising, he continued. ‘Aidan has strict orders never to use that spell on board this ship,’ he shouted, shaking his finger in Anders’ face, ‘and you are well aware of it. Do you both realize how lucky you were at being able to extinguish the flame? A fire on a ship at sea usually means a burned out ship and its passengers and crew, if not dead, at the very least adrift in small boats. Would you like to be in a small boat on these seas?’ He glowered at the culprits, his grey eyes narrowing. ‘Now, whilst both of you are cleaning this cabin and later, when you undertake your punishment, think about those consequences, think deeply because this is the last time that I will suffer your stupidity.’

He gazed heavily at Aidan as he moved to leave and unexpectedly noticed the burn mark on the boy’s bowed neck. Disconcerted, he entered the cabin and bent his head to take a closer look.

‘What is this on your neck, my boy?’

Aidan looked up quickly, surprised at the enquiry and seeing the concern in Tragen’s face he again lowered his head and stared at his feet, hope flaring as a glimmer of a plan came to him. For all his rhetoric Tragen could be merciful on occasion, so much so that he could be inveigled into forgoing painful outcomes. He’d been in serious trouble before and got away with it, all it needed was a bit of cunning.

He raised his hand to his neck and gently touched the burn. ‘I have burns on my legs as well…and I think I’ve grazed my back because I was sliding all over the deck when I was sent to the bo’sun,’ he whimpered quietly and sniffed. ‘It’s the reason we needed light, we couldn’t see a thing. The burns were hurting me so much I desperately needed to dry myself and…and Mr Trumper had ordered me to change into britches.’ He sniffled again. ‘Anders came to help me, Master, when he found me weeping at the foot of the hatchway because I’d fallen off the ladder.’ He peeked out of the corner of his eye at Anders standing to one side, his jaw dropping to his feet. ‘I fell because I was dizzy and I…I don’t know, I had a sudden weakness in my arms.’

‘Oh, Aidan, Aidan, why did you not say earlier, come, do you wish my help?’ Tragen led him to one end of the burned bed and made the boy sit while he examined the wound in the light of the lantern that Anders was holding.

‘I’ll be all right,’ Aidan groaned meaningfully. ‘If you could just find me the salve, Anders will help me get my clothes. But if you could hold off your punishment until the balm takes effect…please,’ he sighed.

Scrutinizing the charred flesh on his apprentice he retrieved the jar of unguent from his store. ‘I think these burns, accompanied by the cleaning you have to do, will be enough punishment for now.’ He frowned, and as he stood to leave, he added, showing that he had not been completely taken in.

‘My rules may seem silly on times, Aidan, but they do have a sensible purpose. Learn to follow them or you will encounter more severe hurts than mere friction burns.’ At the door, he turned to both boys. ‘If you need me I will be with the captain.’

Anders stared incredulously at Aidan. ‘Weeping! It was me nearly weeping when you fell on top of me!’

Aidan stood up, looked at his friend mournfully for a moment and then said slyly, a twinkle in his eyes. ‘Worked didn’t it? No punishment.’

‘You little…’ and then Anders laughed. ‘Get a move on, look for your britches,’ and he added out of the blue when he heard something fall to the floor in the girls’ cabin. ‘I wonder if we should go and see if those two need our help before we tidy up?’

‘For God’s sake, Anders, after we’ve cleaned the cabin,’ he said desperately. ‘I can get away with flummoxing Tragen once but I’ll never do it twice in the same day.’ He proceeded to disrobe. ‘My britches and braes are in that trunk, pass them over and you can apply this balm to my neck, it’s hurting me something awful,’ he complained with some fervour.

In Beattie’s cabin not all was happy. They had struggled to undress a very heavy Lady Cornelia, so that she could rest easier and she was now swaddled in Augusta’s bedclothes, sleeping fast. It was then they had discovered that Augusta had no dry clothing to change into, the water pouring through the porthole had doused Augusta’s wardrobe.

‘Come Beattie, we must search for something to wear in your cabin.’

‘Highness, I have nothing that you could possibly wear.’

‘Nonsense, haven’t you any of my cast-offs?’ Augusta spoke very pompously when she thought obstacles were being placed in her way.

‘Only a couple yes, but I was told that baggage space was at a premium and very little would be allocated to me. Most of the storage room has been taken up by Lady Cornelia.’

‘Umph! I can’t see me donning her clothes, can you?’ Augusta smiled broadly at the thought of even attempting to wear her lady-in-waiting’s capacious garments.

Crossing from Augusta’s cabin, they espied Tragen at the end of the passage making for the captain’s companionway. ‘What do you make of our wizard?

‘What do you mean?’

‘Do you like him?’

‘To be honest I find him frightening sometimes. When he gazes at me with that faraway look I get goose pimples up my arms.’ And with that Beattie automatically rubbed her hands up and down her forearms.

‘What! Even that time my father had him teaching us to lip-read, which was a complete waste of time I could never get the hang of it.’

‘You couldn’t, no, I found it easy enough,’ Beatrix smirked, she did like having one up on her mistress, it didn’t happen often. ‘Strangely enough, though, I like him as well—he makes me feel safe.’

‘Yes, I agree,’ Augusta said ignoring the jibe. ‘He’s also a very attractive man, is he not?’

‘Highness!’ said Beatrix shocked, and then recovering her composure, she smiled. ‘I have never given the idea much thought. He is very old, after all, like a kindly grandfather.’

‘Mm…I suppose you’re right. Come on, we’ll search your baggage.’ And as she entered her companion’s domain she stumbled over a trunk that had been placed to one side of the door.

‘Damn, my ankle!’ she moaned, sitting on the bottom bunk rubbing its soreness away.

‘Shall I get Aidan, Highness?’ Beatrix asked impishly. ‘I’m sure he wouldn’t mind healing that.’ She dodged when Augusta threw a pillow at her.

For a time they fruitlessly searched Beattie’s clothing. Augusta refused point blank to appear in her old clothes, or in Beattie’s, and they subsequently turned their attention to Lady Cornelia’s wardrobe with the same result, everything too large, an impossibility to wear.

It was thne Anders arrived at the door with Aidan following. The apprentice wizard, smelling of sweet unguent, was now wearing a thigh length shirt outside his calf length britches, both tied at the waist with a rope belt, he was barefoot as usual.

‘Do you need any help, Highness?’ Aidan enquired, his tousled head poking around the bulk of his friend, not really expecting an answer. They were utterly perplexed at the garments dumped everywhere.

Beatrix looked up in a thoroughly bad mood, she hated doing a job that was pointless and finding suitable clothes for Augusta in Cornelia’s wardrobe was the height of futility. For a pretty girl she now had a bright red face under her long blonde hair and she was sweating profusely, this cabin being smaller than her mistress’ was also hotter.

‘Go away! We are trying to find dry clothes for Princess Augusta. How can you possibly assist us?’

‘Well, we could always lend you some of ours if you’re desperate, you know.’ Aidan said laughing, and Beatrix snorted in disgust.

Augusta straightened and dropping a huge bodice on the bed, looked at him thoughtfully. ‘Now, that’s an idea, Beattie!’

All three gazed at her in sudden consternation.

‘What do you mean? You can’t possibly wear boys’ clothes! I mean, the only lady on board this ship wearing britches!’ Beatrix admonished and then seeing the look on Augusta’s face she added as an afterthought. ‘You’ll be showing your ankles, it would be scandalous.’ Very agitated she’d often found herself in trouble when her mistress ignored convention, which Augusta did when it suited her.

‘If we wish to go on deck though, britches are far more suitable than a gown!’

‘Who wants to go up there in this weather?’ Beatrix, thoroughly appalled at the idea, continued. ‘Highness, you cannot be serious, please,’ and she should have left it there, said not another word, but she was panicking. ‘It would appear very strange you in britches and me in a dress. You would seem my servant!’

‘Yes, I suppose you’re right; we could not possibly have people thinking that.’

Vastly relieved, Beatrix, her shyness with Anders all but forgotten in her anxiety, once more turned to the boys and shooed them away.

‘You may now leave; we do not require your presence any longer.’

‘Wait,’ interrupted Augusta. ‘I said it would look strange if I was wearing boy’s clothes…alone!’

‘What do you mean?’ and then she realized. ‘Oh no! Highness, please I beg you; you cannot do this to me—to us,’ Beatrix put her hands to her mouth in desperation, all blood draining from her face as she recognized the determination on her mistress’ face.

‘She can’t do what to you?’ Anders said, very concerned at the mad panic in Beattie. And then he comprehended and his expression mirrored hers. Aidan’s big mouth was about to get them in trouble, again.

Beatrix dropped to the floor still with her hands to her mouth, moaning and shaking her head.

Augusta standing over her turned to Aidan. ‘Do you think that the two of us match you in size? I do, so I will take up your suggestion. Please bring me some of your clothing, Beatrix and I will be delighted to wear the same as you.’

Aidan stared, his mouth agape. ‘I wasn’t being serious! You can’t be seen wearing britches and…and shirts, either of you, it…it would not be decent and…besides, Tragen would kill me!’

‘I will handle the wizard, boy, do not argue with me,’ Augusta, speaking imperiously, was getting impatient with Aidan again. Forgetting the healing he had just performed on her lady-in-waiting, she was reverting to the opinion she had held for ten years that he was an insolent layabout. ‘Now hurry before I catch a chill…or would you have your master blame you for that as well?’

Aidan departed his brain in a fog as he made his way back to his cabin. That bloody girl, he thought, he’d had enough of her she was getting right up his nose all over again. Just because she was a princess didn’t give her the right to drop him in it. Retrieving spare britches and shirts from his baggage, he stopped short…would they need braes? He grabbed two of the male undergarments.

Muttering under his breath he returned to find a soundly distraught Beatrix still sitting on the floor her head in her hands. so shocked she couldn’t even weep. He handed everything to Augusta.

‘Wait outside for us, both of you; we may need your advice,’ she ordered. Beatrix wailed.

‘Be quiet Beattie, think of it as an adventure,’ she admonished, slamming the door, leaving the boys in darkness in the corridor.

Aidan was mortified; all he could see in the mists before his eyes was Tragen’s livid face. There was no way out of it, the blame was all his. He must have lost his senses. To actually suggest that the prince’s daughter dress as he did, after all he knew what she was like! She’s probably doing it to get back at me for some imagined slight, he thought. But where was her sense? It was a joke, for God’s sake! A joke! Not only would she look ludicrous, she would also be indecent. Showing her ankles was very unseemly for a young royal, not that he cared about that, but Tragen would. The wizard was a stickler for correct protocol and often berated Aidan when he didn’t follow it.

And he would have to shoulder the responsibility. His unguarded humour had set the whole idea in motion. What was wrong with the girl? She’d always been pig-headed, but how could she possibly think he’d been serious? Was she stupid? Didn’t she have any perception of how she’d appear to the crew? He knew he shouldn’t have come on this voyage; he’d had plenty of work to do at home. But he’d needed a rest, recuperation after breaking his arm. So when Tragen had mentioned that he was to escort Augusta home from Drakka where she’d spent time being educated at the emperor’s court, he’d jumped at it. But they had obviously never taught the girl common sense, he mused.

That was one of the two reasons for this voyage—to bring her home, even though her schooling was not quite finished.

The other, to ascertain the rumour of a new-fangled weapon, a bombard, a cannon, a strange device that used something called “villainous saltpetre”, had yet to be fulfilled. Apparently, the thing was deep in the south somewhere in the Dark Continent, or maybe in the east, no-one was quite sure. Nkosi thought he knew where it could be found but they had no time to go searching.

The Prince and Princess of Mantovar needed their daughter at home as soon as possible, and no-one on the Grim knew the reason for the haste, except possibly Tragen who was Prince Cedric’s chief advisor.

Oh, my God, he thought, if Tragen doesn’t murder me, the prince surely will. Aidan was mortally afraid of his liege lord after their last run in. It had happened when one of Aidan’s conjurations had gone “slightly” awry; at least that’s what the apprentice had claimed at the time. The resultant flight of the prince across the courtyard in front of all and sundry, a very humiliating experience for the monarch, had been the result of a growth spell created by the young wizard practising on an insect. The chrysalis had matured into a very beautiful butterfly. Unfortunately, it had not stopped growing until it had reached a monstrous size and had taken a fancy to the prince. Cedric, understandably, wanted to lynch the culprit. Aidan had hidden for a week while his liege lord calmed down.

His morose thoughts were interrupted when Augusta called them back in to the cabin. She and Beatrix were now wearing britches and shirts and she dumped the braes on Aidan, stating, with a disapproving frown, that females had their own underwear, thank you! Blushing, he thrust them out of sight behind the water barrel standing outside the door.

Beatrix mesmerized, not believing what was happening, was picking at her shirt in an unconscious effort to straighten it as she would tidy a loose bodice.

Anders, grinning all over his face despite his concern for Beattie, couldn’t help offering his opinion. ‘Very fetching!’ and he added tongue in cheek. ‘You appear on deck in this weather dressed in those shirts and no-one will possibly mistake you for young men.’

Augusta rounded on him, furious. ‘And what is the purpose of that remark, churl. I do not want to be mistaken for a man, thank you. And why are you laughing?’

‘You mistake me,’ his grin growing even wider. ‘It’s just that girls are a bit different to us and wet shirts not only cling where they touch, they also become transparent! I think I’d better get you tunics to wear over the top of those.’ He laughed uproariously and went off to his sleeping quarters in the captain’s cabin to find suitable modesty enhancing garments.

Augusta and Beatrix screeched, their arms coming across their chests instantly, and for the second time that day, Augusta was speechless whilst Beattie’s face again turned red, this time in concert with her mistress.

Anders’ words had not registered with Aidan; he was too worried about the consequences to him personally to care about anything else. He tried once more to dissuade Augusta.

‘Please, can’t you see the problems this decision will make? Can’t you make other arrangements? It shouldn’t take long for me to dry your clothes, or…perhaps I could search the baggage in the holds?’

‘Don’t be silly boy,’ she persisted, her mind made up. ‘It’s pointless drying our clothes they’ll be encrusted with salt from the seawater. Anyway, how are you going to dry our clothes in this weather or retrieve anything from the hold? No, these will be fine, I’m getting used to them already,’ she tugged at her britches and looked down at them admiringly. ‘I understand now how you males seem so easy in your movements around the ship. This raiment is very comfortable and is eminently suitable for sailing. When the boy returns with the tunics you will take us to the quarterdeck, I wish to see the situation there for myself.’

Aidan paced the small cabin, wringing his hands, desperately thinking of other arguments to use, the two girls having to move out of his way constantly to avoid being knocked over.

‘Sit down, will you,’ Augusta ordered, exasperated, ‘there is no way I am going to change my mind, whatever you say.’

He ceased his pacing and stretched out on the bottom bunk. A moment later he jumped up banging his head on the bed above. ‘Ow! I know! I could create a cleaning spell, they’ll be all right then,’ he said, rubbing his forehead.

Anders returned at that moment carrying the tunics; he had also taken the opportunity to change into dry clothes. ‘No way, Aidan, you can’t cast those spells down here…Tragen will string us up, this time!’

Aidan gave in, not gracefully though, muttering constantly under his breath his fear grew as he desperately searched for a means to make Augusta reconsider.

While Anders was remonstrating with Aidan the girls took the opportunity to don their tunics. They were overly large; Anders was a lot bigger than his three companions but the garments more than sufficed. Beatrix felt a little easier with the brown tunic draped to her knees. But Augusta, a natural extrovert, felt far more devil-may-care and danced a little jig around the cabin.

‘Aidan, lead the way,’ she ordered cheerfully, relishing her new-found freedom, giggling she grasped Beattie’s hand to follow the boys along the passageway aft.

When they arrived at the foot of the captain’s companionway Aidan desperately attempted to assert the authority, whatever he thought that was, of an apprentice wizard. ‘I’ll climb first and see what’s happening on deck. If the captain is too busy we’ll go away and come back another time.’

‘Since when were you given the right to make my decisions, churl?’ Augusta sneered at him over the sound of the wind outside. ‘I will see Captain Locklear this instant; now either get out of my way or move ahead forthwith,’ she could never allow a scruffy young tearaway to dictate her actions!

Aidan bit his tongue, there were so many things he wanted to call this horrible girl and they were all guaranteed to get him life imprisonment or worse. His temper was rising, she was really playing on his nerves. I know she’s a noblewoman and all that, he thought, but she’s no need to talk to me like a…a slave. I’ve even gone out of my way to help the stupid girl! Nevertheless, muttering under his breath, he opened the door on to the quarterdeck and peered through.

At first, he could see nothing in the darkness, but then in a flash of lightning he saw his master talking to the captain. He carefully groped his way to the larboard rail, and bowing his head against the rain…and his retribution, he awaited his downfall.

http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/aboutwales/12.shtml

Family problems

A West Glamorgan councillor was recently accused of providing council jobs for no fewer than eighty-three of his relatives.

He hotly denied this and pointed out that only eighty-two of his kinsmen were employed by the council.

His relatives have now moved a motion of censure against him for his carelessness in missing one of them out.

Have a nice day!

http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/political/2.shtml

A Welsh headmaster had died and there were many applicants for the post.

While the dead man was awaiting burial one of the applicants buttonholed the chairman of the education committee and asked “Would you have any objection to my taking the place of the headmaster?”

“No,” replied the chairman, “not at all. Go and see the undertaker about it.”

Nothing to do with the story I just like the picture. The middle one is an ex-sailor, sunk every ship he was on! Nothing to do with the story I just like the picture. The middle one is an ex-sailor, sunk every ship he was on!

Three

Tragen was in the captain’s cabin with Hugo Locklear. Ignoring the disarray caused by the storm and, walking either side of the after-jigger mast, the fifth mast, which pierced the centre of the cabin, they stood facing each other across the large desk overlooked by the sloping window in the stern gallery. A window that now showed in the lightning flashes, a very angry sea as waves tore away aft and disappeared leaving the ship to ride the violence.

Locklear, who looked even larger in the confines of his own cabin, studied his friend for a moment before breaking the silence. ‘I cannot leave the quarterdeck for long, my friend. Now speak of what you know. Who is trying to take the Grim?’ He leaned towards the wizard, his huge hands on the desk before him.

Tragen wondered if he’d be believed, in the relative peace of the cabin he almost doubted it himself. He sighed, and stumbling as the ship abruptly keeled over and just as swiftly righted itself again, he upended a chair that had fallen nearby.

‘You are not going to like this, Hugo…we have been found,’ he said sitting down.

‘Found? I didn’t know we were hiding,’ as Tragen looked fixedly at his hands, Locklear went on. ‘Come man. What ails you that you trouble to tell me? I must return to my quarterdeck, no responsible captain leaves his command in rough weather.’

‘This storm is not a normal storm…’

‘I am aware of that,’ he interrupted, perplexed, not understanding the wizard’s reticence. ‘I have been at sea a long time now and have never encountered one such as this. This storm seems to have a mind of its own, as if it’s deliberately attacking us. Your statement implies I am correct’

‘Yes, Hugo, I am convinced we are under attack.’

‘Then tell me who threatens us. What do you know, man?’

‘Did you see me looking to mindmeld with Aidan? It went nowhere at my first attempt; the storm’s ferocity ensured my failure,’ he rubbed his eyes. ‘But on the second attempt I utilized more power in my staff and…and I seemed to meld with the storm, an occurrence I have never heard of before.’ He stared at his friend, helplessly. ‘In the storm I discovered someone else.’ He looked down at his hands in his lap; they were trembling ever so slightly, another unique occurrence.

‘Who…who did you discover?’

‘I do not know who, but I know what I felt. I heard laughter, Hugo, terrible laughter. I felt his malevolence, his malign glee and I do not know whence it came. All I know is that he was delighted he had found us and I knew that the storm, and I mean the whole purpose of the storm, was to ensnare us.’

The captain stared at the wizard for a moment and then looked around for his own chair, replacing it behind his desk he sat down. ‘Do you know why he wants us?’

‘No, I was afraid to keep in contact for long in case he, or they, discovered me listening.’

‘Is that a good thing? That they do not know you’re here.’

‘My instincts told me then, as they tell me now, whoever they are should not become aware of my presence.’

Locklear, who always combed his beard with his fingers when he was seriously worried, did so now and water dripped onto his desk to be ignored. He stared at his friend.

‘How powerful are they? It has to be someone who can wield an extremely potent force, if what you fear is true. Have you any idea who may be looking for us?’

‘Oh, by all the Gods, Hugo,’ and he rubbed his weary eyes again, ‘ideas? I have several…all of them frightening. ‘You are correct, the power needed to create this storm rule out a great many. But of those that remain the first that springs to mind is the Magus, Brenin of the Guild of the Brethren of Wisdom and his deputy, Drudwynn. If it’s they then the storm will become even more powerful the closer we get to shore. The magus is the most formidable sorcerer in the world I could never beat him alone. But, as in all magic, the more potent the spell the more energy it takes to cast and consequently the more exhausted will the conjurors become. And for this tempest, I cannot for the life of me imagine that they can possibly maintain the barrage for long.’

‘How long is long?’

‘How long is a piece of twine, Hugo? I don’t know. It must be taking tremendous resources to cast the spell this far from shore, which is why I suspect more than one behind it. We are at the edge of the storm so we must almost be at the limit of their range. But even ten…twenty spell-casters must rest eventually.’

‘I suppose so. But what is their purpose? Unless of course…’ and Hugo’s eyes opened wide, ‘it is Princess Augusta they’re after.’

‘It’s the only possible reason that comes to mind Hugo. Her father’s many enemies may very well recruit the Guild, and the Guild has its own reasons for not wanting her at home.’

‘Do you know what they are?’

‘I have an idea but it could only be conjecture at this time, nothing is certain as yet. But her father’s and my suspicions are enough to warrant her return.’

‘You mentioned other possibilities?’

‘Those scare me even more, Hugo.’

‘Go on…enlighten me.’

‘There are always the dwellers in the Ringwold.’

‘Dear God, from the stories I’ve heard of those we do not want to get entangled with them,’ Hugo shuddered. ‘But I thought they were demons not spell-casters? And they are well over a thousand…maybe two thousand leagues away, surely too far to affect us here?’

‘True, the Ringwold is way up in the frozen north. But whatever or whoever resides in that bleak spot is powerful beyond measure. I have not heard of them being active in the outside world for a thousand years and more, yet…whether they can influence events after all this time I’m not sure. But it’s inconceivable they can reach us here and I know of no reason that they would want Augusta. No…only the Gods are omnipotent, Hugo.’

‘Could it be them?’ he asked, his voice trembling just at the thought of those fickle beings hunting them.

‘The Gods you mean? I do not believe they would bother themselves with the politics of mere mortals they are too busy fighting amongst themselves. At least I do not want to believe it.’

‘Do you rule them out? You seem unsure.’

‘I rule out no-one in this. That dreadful laughter I heard really was inhuman.’

Both men silently took refuge in their own thoughts as they examined the consequences of each scenario, any of which would mean the end of the Grim and its occupants. If it was the infernal Ringwold, it meant the end of civilization as they knew it—demons would run amok once again in the world. If it was the Gods, then their souls were forfeit as well. Terrible though it was, it seemed the least evil were the very powerful black sorcerers of the Guild of Brethren.

‘What do you suggest we do? If I understand you correctly, moving towards home will bring us closer to the Guild and the nearer we get the more severe the storm will become. I was hoping to keep to schedule and have Augusta at home within the week. However, if what you suspect comes to pass then I can forget that. Augusta will be late getting home I’m afraid. Looking at the situation logically and not as I would wish it to be then I must change my plan,’ he sighed. ‘It must be obvious we cannot sustain much more damage. Damn it! Heaving-to in this weather will be very dangerous but not impossible perhaps; and if we do stay here it cannot be for long, we all have to rest.’ Hugo stroked his beard and again tapped his chin. ‘Hopper tells me the holds have been partially flooded, we have sustained sprung boards and the wells are filling. We desperately need to pump the bilges. Can you help us in this?’

‘Whatever magic I use now to repair the ship will result in extreme fatigue for me, Hugo. I will need to rest often and for longer periods each time. And I am afraid that I may be incapacitated at the very moment need of my help would be critical. No, my friend, I had better hold off until there is dire need—I must remain the last resort.’

Locklear stared at the wizard, acknowledging the sense of his argument. ‘We can perhaps run before the storm, I suppose, but that will take us farther from home and into uncharted waters; not taking into account, of course, that turning the ship in weather such as this will be an absolute nightmare.’

Tragen gazing at his friend went through the options in his mind. ‘Let us go for the easiest until we know more. Let us wait them out until the morning. Whoever has created this storm may well be exhausted by then and if there is a lull we can take appropriate action at that time.’
‘All right, we’ll heave-to, I’ll…’ Hugo halted at the sound of hammering on the door. ‘Enter,’ he shouted.

Anders, distinctly dishevelled, opened the door and peered around the jamb. ‘Excuse me sir, I have an urgent message for Lord Tragen.’

Screwing his eyes in puzzlement at the state of the usually clean Anders, he nodded. ‘Then by all means, deliver it.’

The cabin boy, breathing deeply to steady his nerves, entered and stood before the old wizard and couldn’t help but notice a small cyst on the end of Tragen’s nose. For a moment Anders thought it looked like a nose growing on a nose and he nearly burst out laughing, recovering quickly he delivered Aidan’s request for help.

‘I’m sorry, Milord, but Aidan needs…needs you,’ all at once he stuttered to a halt. Tragen always got very irritated when Aidan was involved in an accident, even if it wasn’t his fault. And what’s more he, Anders, usually got dragged into it, suffering the same penalty as his friend.

‘Aidan is all right, isn’t he?’ The wizard asked jumping up from his chair and grasping the cabin boy’s shoulders, concern etching deep lines in his brow.

‘Yes, he’s fine, Milord, but he wants you to attend on the Lady Cornelia in Princess Augusta’s cabin.’ Panicking at having Tragen stare at him so closely, he went on, a tremor in his voice. ‘He said to tell you it is definitely her ankle and he is keeping her…sedated, I think is the word he used, sir.’

‘What is definitely her ankle young man? What has happened?’

‘Oh, I’m sorry, Milord, she…’ and he gulped, ‘she tripped over Aidan and fell down and broke it, sir.’

‘My God, that boy is going to be the death of me yet,’ he said to no-one in particular, as he moved to leave. ‘Why, on the God’s earth, did I choose an apprentice so very accident prone?’

Halting at the door, Anders following behind nearly bumping into him, Tragen turned to the ship’s master. ‘You will take the necessary action, as we agreed?

‘Aye man, it seems to be the most sensible option at present.’

Still agitated, Anders followed the tall, thin wizard as he made his way to Augusta’s cabin. The companionway down to the main passenger cabins was very dark but Tragen didn’t seem to have any trouble negotiating the passage. Anders glimpsed the captain behind them making his way to the quarterdeck. His uncle was not a very happy man, the Bear was weary and definitely out of sorts, as if he had something on his mind other than the storm.

When Locklear reached the quarterdeck, Talbot was back on duty at the wheel accompanied this time by Nkosi, a huge black seaman from the Dark Continent way to the south of Drakka. Hopper was at the forward quarterdeck rail peering at the bows through the gale, trying to make out the details there with the aid of the intermittent lightning strikes.

Hugo strode over and shouted over the top of the screaming wind. ‘How goes it Hopper, are we coping?’

‘Aye, aye sir, we are for now.’

‘Are we making any sort of headway?’

‘A little perhaps, but my instincts tell me the storm is about to get worse.’’

‘All right, we’ll heave-to until the morning, maybe the storm will ease. Set sea anchors, Hopper, and then get some rest, I’ll remain here now.’
Hopper touched his forelock and set off to find Trumper.

Hugo looked about him. Had the wind increased? His first mate was positive it was going to. Locklear trusted his first mate, had learned to over the years they’d served together, Hopper’s feelings were rarely wrong. But now he had other things preying on his mind. He sighed, those problems had to be put to the back of his mind for now, there were far more pressing matters to deal with first. He stared into the clouds through the teeming rain concentrating on the nuances of the storm. It was getting even darker, but was that because it was getting on for nightfall, or was there some other dark reason?

He had to be careful now; they had been battling this storm since before dawn. Exhaustion was setting in. This was the time when trivial errors had a habit of turning into major setbacks, especially when the only means of communication was by touch or signing. He was going to have to send men to rest, which meant that those remaining on duty would need to exert themselves even more. Hugo well knew the effect that the constant buffeting would have—confusion would set in, minds stupefy and minor injuries become major. In the following days and nights movement would become instinctual. And survival would depend on whatever nourishment could be doled out by Dolly, the ship’s cook, hopefully something hot during lulls in the storm. But hot food was going to be nothing more than a fantasy in this weather.

Hugo’s thoughts returned to Tragen’s tidings. How were they to discover the identity of the creator of this storm? Confronting someone who could command nature’s violence was not a prospect that instilled much confidence of success. No, they’d have to flee, find a safer haven before they even thought of retaliating. He shuddered at the thought of turning about in this weather; it would be a diabolical task.

The Grim was Locklear’s life, the only ship in the world able to bear five masts. Veterans of the sea maintained that a ship bearing more than four was intrinsically unsafe, but Locklear had proved them all wrong. His skills had brought the Grim through ferocious seas many times in the past. From the very first day plans of the ship had been proposed, he had been involved in the design. His experience had been invaluable and he had overseen the building of her from the hour the massive keel had first been laid. The Grim was his baby; he knew her moods and her capabilities. If the storm’s intensity remained at this level, the ship would be fine, but if the weather deteriorated even more?

But if the worst came to the worst, the safety of Augusta was paramount; boats would need to be prepared with extra provisions stowed. Locklear combed his beard again as he strode his quarterdeck staring up at the topgallants, the spars at the top of the masts, bare now of their sails. The thought of his princess in a small boat on these seas terrified him.

Meanwhile, Tragen had reached his destination with a distinctly worried Anders in tow. The nearer they came to Augusta’s cabin, the closer they were to that of Aidan’s. And in the passageway there was a distinct smell and bitter taste of old smoke, which had not yet dispersed because of the tightly closed hatch. Tragen sniffed ominously as he hurried.

The old wizard peered into the gloomy cabin and studied the almost silent scene. Beatrix was sitting on the floor against the bulkhead at the head of Augusta’s cot, one hand in her lap the other keeping the cot – suspended from the deckhead, the ceiling, by ropes in each corner – from nudging Aidan’s back. Tragen smiled quickly at the young girl, he noticing her blonde wavy hair had kept its bounce despite being wet. Augusta was sitting in the only chair at the other end, nearest the door. She was also using one hand to fend off the swinging bed, her index finger on her other hand stuck in the corner of her mouth. Both girls looked the worse for wear, soaking wet from their earlier fight with the porthole, their gowns a mess. They were both staring at Aidan, wonderment on their faces, concern for the lady-in-waiting clouding their eyes.

Aidan was still sitting on the deck, his head bent over the recumbent body of Lady Cornelia, her foot protruding from beneath the blanket. The boy was stroking her forehead rhythmically and gently and his brown eyes were closed. He was chanting the lullaby of sleep, quietly and melodiously, his whole attention centred on the unconscious woman.

Tragen stared intently at the wound. Blood was seeping slowly from a break in the white skin where the ragged edge of a bone could just be seen poking through the surface of her fleshy limb. Aidan continued his chant without a break even though he sensed the presence of his master.
Ignoring everyone else, including Anders standing just inside the doorway watching avidly, Tragen spoke gently. ‘You are doing well, my boy, she is not suffering.’

Aidan opened his eyes and, staring at his mentor, he slowly ceased his singing. ‘The fractures are bad, very bad,’ he continued his tender stroking of Cornelia’s forehead.

‘Can you see all the injury?’

‘Yes, there’s more than one splinter, she…’

Augusta, shaken out of her torpor by Aidan’s answer, interrupted. ‘What do you mean, Lord Tragen? How can he possibly see more than one?’ She swallowed quickly as she looked at the foot. ‘I can see but one bone protruding.’

‘Highness, my young apprentice has a unique talent,’ and he smiled at Aidan. ‘He is a most extraordinary healer. He can sense the impairment beneath the flesh of a maimed body and detect its maladies, not only by touch and smell, but also with sight. I, on the other hand, am but an ordinary mender of bodies. It’s the gift of common sense he lacks!’

‘Master!’ Aidan replied taking umbrage.

‘I’m sorry, my boy, my great age does make me flippant on times. Haven’t you noticed?’ he grinned.

‘You mean to say that he can see the bones inside her leg?’ Augusta asked, astonished, not understanding their banter she was becoming more anxious.

The wizard gazed at Augusta. ‘I do, and if you will forgive us, Highness, we must now decide on a course of action,’ he turned once more to Aidan. ‘What do you suggest?’

‘Well, she also has the sickness of the old in her bones to complicate matters.’

‘And her weight will not help, hey?’

‘No. It is difficult to see the actual breaks through so much flesh.’

‘You wish us to change places, I sing the song of sleep and you repair the fractures?’

They did not speak as they changed ends. Tragen knelt at Cornelia’s head as Aidan slid out and replaced his master at her feet.

‘The “old” sickness is very deep-seated; I will need to deal with that as I repair the bones.’ Meeting Tragen’s smiling eyes he grinned in response. ‘I’ll need someone to help while I manipulate the bones.’ He looked around at his audience. ‘You’ll do, Anders. Sit beside me and do as I say.’

Anders nodded, very nervous and it showed.

‘Don’t worry; you won’t hurt her as long as you listen to me.’

‘Beatrix take that blanket off the cot and fold it, please,’ Aidan looked at the jittery girl and smiled. ‘Now place it under her leg as we raise it.’

And while Tragen chanted the song of sleep in a somewhat deeper voice than his pupil, Aidan set to work. He took his time. All his movements slow and well considered before actually being carried out, contending with the lurching floor as he did so. There was silence from all except Tragen chanting, Anders obeying his every command, Augusta and Beatrix totally absorbed in his every action. As Aidan worked, the bone disappeared below the surface and back into place, the ruptured tissue closing.

Time seemed to pass very slowly as Tragen continued to sing, taking great pride in his apprentice. Even after ten years of watching Aidan at work, he was still astounded at the boy’s power.

Aidan glanced up at the girl sitting on the chair beside him. ‘I need strips for binding and something to use as splints.’

Augusta jumped up with alacrity and searched the room taking care not to stumble near those on the floor. She tore a cotton sheet into long lengths for him as Beatrix came back from her cabin with slats of wood. Aidan gently wrapped the bindings and the splints in place.

‘Done, now we lay her in bed for the healing to continue,’ Aidan sighed with relief.

‘It will be very difficult to carry her to her cabin; we’ll never get her through the door. You had best place her in my cot here,’ Augusta ordered, immediately standing to rearrange the bedding.

‘But where will you sleep?’ Beatrix, immediately alarmed, enquired.

‘I will take Cornelia’s bed and share the cabin with you while she recovers.’

Beatrix paled; the thought of her mistress in the same cabin unnerved her more than she was comfy with. Augusta was a lot like Aidan…a veritable affliction.

Tragen, using magic, helped the two boys lift the heavy woman and they settled her into Augusta’s cot, the ropes in each corner creaking audibly as they took the strain.

‘Well done, my boy,’ said Tragen, beaming. But all of a sudden his face lost its look of pride and he peered closely at both boys, a very stern expression now on his face.

‘Well, Highness, we will leave you and your companion to disrobe Lady Cornelia and make her comfortable while I and these two repair to my own cabin for a long discussion on the whys and wherefores of accidents.’

With a bow, he departed through the door and the boys followed very reluctantly, remembering what Tragen would find at his destination.

‘One of you bring the lantern,’ the wizard called over his shoulder.

Augusta wondered where her seasickness had gone. And if she but knew it, Aidan and Anders did not wonder why all of a sudden they felt sick.

http://www.welshjokes.com/jokes/political/2.shtml

The Chairman of a Welsh education committee called one of his junior officials into his office at County Hall.

“How are you getting on now?” he asked him kindly. “Is everybody treating you well in the office and are you fitting yourself for better things?”

“Oh, I think so,” said the young official modestly.

“Well,” said the great man, “I’m going to make you Director of Education. What do you think of that?”

“I’m quite overwhelmed”, said the youngster. “It really is good of you Dad.”

The eagerly awaited second chapter follows – well, one or two have been waiting! However, I thought I’d make it two jokes this week, one in front and one following!

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/15-welsh-jokes-make-you-6799233

    We’re not saying the Welsh are tight, but…
    Jones the farmer and his son Berwyn sign up for a sight-seeing tour in a small aircraft. As always, Jones angles for the best deal possible.

    “Very well, Mr Jones,” says the pilot. “If you can go through the entire flight without making a sound, you and Berwyn can have your tickets for free.”

    So the plane takes off and the pilot makes sure it’s a rough one, launching almost straight up, flying under the Severn Bridge, using every single bit of acrobatics in his repertoire and doing a loop at the end. Jones says nothing. After they land, the pilot turns to Jones in disbelief.

    “Mr Jones, I’ve been doing this for 20 years and no-one’s ever been able to hold back from screaming. Tell me, was there ever a point in the flight where you wanted to say something?”

    “Aye,” Jones replies. “When Berwyn fell out.

    Two

    c/o dreamstime.com Imagine this with 5 masts

    c/o dreamstime.com
    Imagine this with 5 masts


    Aidan was fed up to the back teeth. He was cold, drenched to the skin, exhausted and he ached from head to toe. He had spent all morning in darkness being hammered by the storm, with occasional sightings of a horrendous sea below him trying its damnedest to drown him. And, although his errand had been completed, he was still very frightened.

    He missed the reassuring presence of Tragen and yearned to get back to him, he’d always felt safe when the old wizard was near. When danger threatened, or insecurity and depression set in, Aidan always made a bee-line for his mentor and stuck to him like glue. He needed Tragen. He knew in his bones that nothing bad would happen to him with the wizard close by.

    The relentless, brutal motion of the ship continued to cause him harm. Besides the knocks bruising every bone in his body, the sound of the wind moaning through the rigging inflicted a very odd light-headedness and his soaking wet, woollen robe chafed his legs and neck. Though the ship was no longer leaning right over, there was still a corkscrewing of the vessel and he felt sick every time he looked up at the mastheads swaying across the sky. The ship had not yet been turned into the wind and he prayed for it fervently.

    ‘Come on, Master, turn this bloody thing quick or I’m going to throw up everywhere.’ He often talked to himself when he was scared and he was always anxious when alone. ‘I know, I know, I’m not a baby, I shouldn’t whine like this, but if you had my stomach you’d feel the same.’

    He rested in the lee of casks that had somehow not broken free of their lashings. And, as he stared out over the rail at the high grey water racing along the hull, his earliest memories came flooding back. He’d heard that drowning men saw their life rushing past their eyes just before they succumbed and crossed over. Did this mean he was about to die? He smiled determinedly—there was no way he was going to die yet, not without knowing that Tragen was safe.

    A sudden dousing by a heavy wave recalled him to the Grim and his immediate danger, forcing him to put his recollections to the back of his mind. He struggled to his feet again and reached the after hatchway, waiting for another very menacing gust of wind and heavy rain to disperse before raising the cover. Crouching, he flung his leg over the coaming, and stepping onto the top rung of the ladder he brought in his other leg quickly. He lowered his hunched body into shelter, slamming closed the hatch above him, shutting out much of the noise and the little light that remained behind the ever-darkening clouds.

    He started down the ladder rapidly in the blackness and abruptly halted as he stepped on something soft. The hand, jerked from beneath his foot, was accompanied by one almighty yell. Aidan panicked and, because his hands were cold, wet and blistered and he was feeling very alone, he lost his grip. He fell, landing on the body of the owner of the hand who bawled for a second time.

    Aidan banged his head once again. ‘Ow! No more, I’ve had enough,’ he exclaimed, holding his head in his hands. ‘Who in hell are you!’ he shouted into the darkness. ‘You’ve no right to be on that bloody ladder when I’m coming down. Didn’t you see me opening the hatch?’

    ‘No, I didn’t, all right! Not until it was too late! You clumsy idiot, how was I to know you’d come down as I’m climbing up? It’s dark down here I can’t see a thing! The first I know the wind is trying to blow me off the ladder and then some fool standing on my fingers. You came down too fast for me to do anything! Couldn’t you have looked first…get off me?’ He pushed Aidan roughly to one side, resulting in another bashed elbow for the wizard’s apprentice.

    ‘Okay, Anders, okay. Calm down, I can’t see anything either.’ Aidan said, relieved at recognizing the voice of his best friend, Hugo Locklear’s cabin boy and nephew.

    He and Anders had become virtually inseparable since their first meeting, ten years before, when they had played with a model boat. The only time that they were apart now was when the voyages of the Grim interfered with their lives. This was one of the few cruises they’d ever shared.

    Anders was big with long blond hair. A lot taller and broader than Aidan, he was also more cautious. Aidan was impetuous and a risk taker, although Tragen called his behaviour crass stupidity. Nevertheless, the young wizard was a natural leader, daring, with a sense of humour that was sometimes beyond his friend’s reckoning. But his status as a wizard’s apprentice accorded him a certain respect in Anders’ eyes, though this deference did not stretch to being landed on, in the pitch dark, on a ship rolling like mad on the seas.

    ‘Aidan? Where’ve you been, I’ve been looking everywhere for you?’

    ‘Didn’t you think to look up top? Ooh! I’m hurting all over,’ he moaned.

    ‘Where the hell do you think I was going when you so kindly trod on me?’ Anders snapped, clutching his own fingers tightly to try and stop the pain.

    ‘All right…all right, forget it! I’m sorry, let’s get to my cabin I have to change out of this robe before going back up on the quarterdeck.’ Aidan rose gingerly from the floor and leaning against the bulkhead waited for Anders to regain his feet.

    ‘Where’s your lantern, Anders?’

    ‘Are you mad? How the hell could I carry a lantern with the ship dancing about like this? It’s safer without one; you want me responsible for starting a fire in this weather? Don’t forget these timbers are impregnated with tar.

    ‘Okay…okay! Let’s go,’ Aidan said, more cheerful now that he had company, ‘we’ll find a lantern in my cabin somewhere.’

    ‘What were you doing coming in that way if you were on the quarterdeck, that’s the wrong end of the ship?’

    ‘I was at the helm with Tragen when the Bear ordered me to the bo’sun at the mainmast. I had to leave Tragen up there. I hope he’s all right, I haven’t seen him for ages.’

    ‘Who, the Bear or Tragen?’ asked Anders, knowing who Aidan meant but unable to resist teasing him. Aidan only ever worried about Tragen.

    Aidan chose to ignore him and as they arrived at the door of his cabin they heard loud female voices from farther along the passage. And Aidan recalled the other passengers.

    ‘Hell, I forgot about them and I wouldn’t mind betting Tragen has as well. Come on, hurry up, when I’ve changed we’d better see if they need us.’

    ‘They’re all right, I’ve just left them. They’re the ones who sent me to the Bear…they wanted to know what was happening. I was hoping to find you first’

    ‘Oh yeah! And what were you doing down here with them?’ asked Aidan, smirking in the darkness. ‘Which young lady were you more concerned about?’

    ‘It wasn’t like that,’ said Anders blushing, thankful he couldn’t be seen. ‘I have strict orders, if anything seems untoward and the captain isn’t around, I am to place myself at their disposal. You know that, so stop messing about!’

    Laughing, Aidan pushed his door open and they both entered an even blacker hole. ‘Help me search for the lantern, I want to get my britches on instead of this robe, it’s rubbing me raw. We’ll go along anyway and see what all that noise is about.’

    Anders eventually found the lantern tipped on its side on the bottom bunk. He lifted it and shook the well. ‘There’s only a drop of oil left in it, the rest has leaked into the blankets. Oh well, all we need now is a flame to light the thing.’

    ‘Hang on I can light it,’ Aidan said as he put all thoughts of the girls to the back of his mind.

    ‘Whoa, are you sure? We can’t afford an accident in here,’ Anders, all of a sudden, was very anxious.

    ‘Hey, show a bit of faith, I’ve made fire hundreds of times, haven’t I? You’ve seen me. Now, hold it still man, I don’t want to burn you.’

    ‘How can I hold it still with this ship jumping around?’

    Nevertheless, Anders held the lantern chest high between them. Only the groaning of ship’s timbers undergoing enormous stress, and the muted howling of the storm was audible at first. Then a moment later a low murmur grew which shut out all external noise. Aidan gently sang the chant.

    Anders liked this spell; it always gave him a pleasantly warm feeling starting in the pit of his stomach. It made him think of summers spent in the meadows along the river bank outside the castle of Mantovar. He pictured his family and without warning homesickness was a heavy lump in his chest. He loved being the cabin boy on the Grim and was very fond of his uncle, Hugo Locklear, but he did miss his father and mother and even missed quarrelling with his brothers.

    The ship lurched and threw his shoulder against the top bunk, jarring him.

    ‘Keep still, Anders,’ warned Aidan, biting his bottom lip.

    ‘Sorry!’ Anders broke into a cold sweat, he’d seen too many of the young wizard’s spells go awry.

    Gradually the darkness lightened and as visibility increased so Anders breathed again. Fascinated, he saw Aidan standing in front of him with his left arm outstretched, in the palm of his hand a small flame flickered. Anders glanced at his friend’s face and watched his lips moving. Witnessing Aidan make magic always gave Anders goose pimples, and such was the case now.

    ‘Come on, open the glass, I can’t hold this forever.’

    Anders complied and the wick ignited, giving a bright white light. Aidan withdrew his hand preparing to extinguish the small flame. They were both completely unready for what happened next.

    It was this very moment the four men on the quarterdeck turned the ship into the wind. It couldn’t have come at a worse time for the boys. Aidan stumbled forwards and Anders instinctively pushed him away from the lantern to keep it safe.

    The wizard’s apprentice scrabbled frantically to grab hold of the top bunk, missed and, falling after it, he dropped the flame on the bed beneath. The spilled oil ignited. Aidan rolled from the flames and landed on the floor. Anders, moving abnormally fast for him, dropped the lantern on the deck, and grabbed Aidan’s blankets from where they had fallen earlier that morning in the corner of the cabin. He threw them onto the blaze and, dropping on top of them, he smothered the flames. Luckily, the lantern remained upright, but it slid rather inconveniently against Aidan’s leg and he gave another agonizing moan as the hot glass burnt his shin—and there was another scream from along the passage.

    ‘What the hell’s happening to me today? Why did I get out of bed?’ Aidan groaned as he handed the lantern up to Anders. ‘Oh aye, that’s right I had no choice did I? I fell out of bed because this bloody ship decided to fall over. And what’s that racket all about?’

    Aidan stood up and surveyed the carnage around him. The bottom bunk now had a dirty great hole burned in it; wisps of smoke were floating about in the air, acrid and stinging. There was a pile of smouldering blankets alongside Anders who was striving to control his shattered nerves. He was sitting on the edge of the bunk with his eyebrows and hair singed and his face and clothes covered in smuts. Aidan laughed and looked down at himself and saw the self-same smuts covering his own drenched and torn robe.

    ‘I might as well throw this away,’ he said, pulling bits of soot off his chest. And then the full significance of what he was seeing hit him fair and square between the eyes. ‘Oh, my God, when Tragen sees his bed I’m dead!’

    There was another scream, an angry female voice complaining, her words at this distance indistinct. They stared at each other a moment and then scrambled up and rushed for the door, colliding in the doorway, they made for the cabins aft and all the noise. Anders held his lantern aloft at the entrance to Princess Augusta’s cabin.

    You could tell at a glance this was a rich person’s berth. The room was relatively spacious, had only one cot and something unheard of in the lesser cabins, its own bathing facilities on a dresser in the far corner. On normal days, the berth would catch the daylight and cooling sea-breezes through the open porthole. Now, though, the cabin was dark and very wet.

    Two girls in their middle teens were struggling to close the porthole, and at the same time trying to avoid the foaming water washing through it.
    Aidan burst out laughing at the black-haired girl, her arms at full stretch, groping to find the clips that secured the shutter closed, and at the same time bending her head away in a vain attempt to avoid the inundation.

    ‘Pull it harder will you? We’ve nearly done it.’ Augusta shouted in temper.

    ‘I’m pulling as hard as I can, it’s your clip…you’ve jammed it. Why you opened it I’ll never know,’ Beatrix retorted, blowing her blonde hair out of her mouth.

    ‘I didn’t know half the ocean would pour in when they turned the ship, did I? Release yours a bit for me to move mine, you silly girl, how can I shift the damned clip if you’re holding it tight?’ It was then she heard Aidan laughing behind her and turning, Princess Augusta glared at the two scruffy boys standing in her doorway.

    Anders caught the baleful glint in her eye and gave Aidan a hefty nudge in his side to silence him.

    ‘Not you again?’ Augusta said icily. The mutual animosity of the heir to the principality of Mantovar and the apprentice wizard reared its ugly head once again. ‘Well churl? What are you finding so amusing?’

    Aidan, kneading the ache from his side, ceased laughing. His prince’s daughter usually vented her spleen in his direction with the result that nine times out of ten he ended up being reprimanded for upsetting her. But seeing water dripping from the end of her nose reminded him of the nosebleed he’d once inflicted on her and he had a twinge of conscience.

    ‘I apologize, Highness; I’ve had a bad day. Here let us shut it for you.’

    He and Anders strode into the cabin and Beatrix moved away from the open porthole, glad to be out of the direct line of the water slurping through. The two boys managed the clips easily although Aidan got another soaking; not that it mattered, he’d had the sea thrown at him all day. Aidan turned to Augusta wondering if she’d thank him this time, not that she ever had in the past when he’d helped her. He stood just in from the doorway staring at her, waiting for any sign of gratitude.

    ‘Well churl! Why are you standing there? You may go now,’ her eyes flashed angrily.

    Anders’ lantern, held up by Beatrix, illumined not only the cabin, but also the scowl on Aidan’s face.

    ‘All right, Anders, thank you for helping me to close the lady’s porthole, very kind of you,’ he said sarcastically. ‘I think we should go now.’

    ‘Thank you, Miss,’ Anders said, taking the lantern from Beattie’s hand, accidentally touching her fingers as he did so.

    Beatrix replied softly, her eyes lowered as her face reddened. ‘Thank you for your help, Master Anders.’

    Anders paused, her unusual reaction startling him. He didn’t know that over the years Beatrix’s thoughts had turned many times to the handsome, tall, blond boy who hung around with the young wizard. He nodded and touched his forelock and wondered why the object of his daydreams was blushing. He glanced at Aidan and pulled him away, turning they made to leave the room.

    As they did, a short, fat lady came bursting through exclaiming at the top of her voice. ‘What is amiss? What is all this noise? Why is this boat never still? I’ve had the devil of a time getting here. Ah! What are these boys doing in here?’ The scandalized lady, not stopping for breath went on shouting. ‘Get out, get out, you should not…’

    And saying this, she caught her toes in the torn hem of Aidan’s robe and fell forward, taking the apprentice down with her. All heard a mighty crack as the lady’s ankle snapped. Screaming in Aidan’s ear, she promptly fainted.

    Everyone stopped breathing; time stood still, no-one made a sound; they looked at each other, stunned. Aidan was the first to recover and he gently removed himself from beneath the heavy woman whilst almost spitting invectives.

    ‘I have now had enough! Don’t look at me like that, Anders, it was not my fault. She was the one who came barging in not looking where she was going. She fell on me, remember?’

    Augusta shouted her hands akimbo. ‘Lady Cornelia, my lady-in-waiting, has more right in here than either of you two!’

    ‘We were helping you close your bloody porthole, or have you forgotten?’ Aidan barked thoroughly incensed, not caring a damn that the girl was his liege lord’s daughter.

    ‘Please, everyone, let us see to her hurt and argue later, can we?’ Beatrix pleaded as she knelt beside the unconscious woman.

    ‘I think I heard a bone break,’ Anders said, going down on his knees beside his princess’ companion. ‘Can you lift her gown for Aidan to check, Miss?’

    ‘Lift her gown!’ Augusta exclaimed her sensibilities shocked. ‘Most certainly not; indeed not, that is an outrageous suggestion!’

    ‘Highness, we will not need to lift it high. Look you can see her foot is at a very odd angle,’ beseeched Anders.

    Augusta paused; her mouth closed, lips stretched thin her eyes travelling to the lady’s ankle. Reluctantly agreeing with the cabin boy’s diagnosis, she glared at Aidan.

    ‘You…look away. It is enough for one male to see her ankle and as you’re the one that broke it I don’t…’

    Aidan curled his lip, sneering. ‘Look…you…’ but before he could continue with a remark that would have definitely resulted in serious punishment, Lady Cornelia groaned as Beatrix slid the hem of the big woman’s gown partway up her shin to expose the wound.

    Aidan turned his back on his princess thereby showing his utter contempt for her and knelt to examine the fracture.

    ‘Do not touch her boy, do you wish to do her more damage?’ Augusta ordered.

    Aidan, his temper at boiling point, for once had the sense to bite off the earthy retort he had in mind. He looked up at her.

    ‘I am a wizard’s apprentice, and I am skilled in healing. I may not have the airs and graces that you deem so important, but I can begin the restorative process in all injuries. That I deem far more important! I need to keep her sedated now until my master gets here to help me, asleep she will at least be unaware of her pain. So please, for once in your life…SHUT UP!’

    Augusta, utterly shocked at being spoken to in that manner, complied without thinking twice.

    Aidan turned to his friend who was equally dumbstruck. ‘Anders, find Lord Tragen and tell him I need his help right away, he’s probably still on the quarterdeck. Tell him I’m keeping her sedated until he gets here.’

    Anders ran, bouncing off the walls along the very dark passage to the captain’s companionway.

    The undoubted authority in Aidan’s voice, lingering in the cabin, coerced Augusta into remaining silent. She watched him sitting on the floor cradling the injured woman’s head in his arms. Aidan put his hand on Cornelia’s forehead and closed his eyes. Singing his chant and stroking with his fingers above her eyes, the lady slipped into a deep, painless sleep.

    Augusta and Beatrix looked at each other both unable to comprehend the transformation in the boy who had plagued them for so long. In all the years of their childhood they had never actually seen the apprentice heal. Though they’d heard stories of his talent bandied about the castle they’d never really believed any of them. Augusta had always thought him a perishing nuisance, a thumping headache. But if she was honest with herself, she never avoided his company and on times actually sought it—usually to bait him.

    ‘If you’ll excuse me, Highness, I’ll get something to keep her warm, she’s lying on wet boards.’ Beatrix moved across and retrieved the thick blanket folded at the foot of Augusta’s cot.

    Augusta, her feelings in turmoil, all at once recognized that she was feeling guilty, a sentiment that she never usually acknowledged. Her thoughts tumbled through her head confusing her even more. Her impatience, her anger, always so near the surface ready to erupt at the slightest provocation, she knew there was no need half the time for her to be so irritable and arrogant. Her manner was deplorable. And yet she couldn’t stop, so she bit her lip looking for excuses, thoughts running wild in her head.

    ‘It has to be this seasickness, I…I can’t help it. And now…oh God, poor Cornelia! I do hope this boy knows what he is doing,’ she said, but not loud enough for anyone to hear her.

    http://www.walesonline.co.uk/lifestyle/fun-stuff/15-welsh-jokes-make-you-6799233

    Don’t mess with a Welsh mam

    Young Dylan comes home from school and tells his mother he’s been given a part in the school play.

    “Wonderful,“ says his mam. “What part is it?”

    The boy says: “I play the part of the Welsh husband.”

    The mother scowls and says: “Go back and tell them you want a speaking part.

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