Luci rose early that day to ride from the castle down into the valley below. She liked to be alone while the children slept, watched well by the nurses and people that surrounded the family that were a part of her daily life. She smiled as she peeked into the bedchambers before leaving to watch them sleep that sleep of the innocent. The castle was starting to awaken. She could hear noises from the bustle that was the start of each day and she told Eleri, who was already up and about, that she would be back shortly.
‘My Lady,’ Eleri spoke, ‘will you not wait a little and take some men with you for your safety?’
‘No, Eleri, I shall be safe enough, and I need to go now.’
‘Don’t be troubled, Lady Luci,’ Eleri answered, smiling. ‘They will return soon. I would know, as you do about Llewelyn, if anything had happened to my Rhys.’
Luci looked at this Welshgirl who was as faithful to them as was her husband, Rhys. She reached and put her arms around her, hugging her, thanking her for the reassurance that her calmness gave to her at this minute.
‘I shall be back soon, Eleri, to wait with you. Never fear, my faithful friend,’ Luci spoke as she made for the steps out of the castle.
Luci sat above the waterfall, where she watched the finches and tits bathe in the spray and then dry and preen themselves in the early morning sun. They chattered away and looked like little fairies in the myriad rainbow colours of the water as the sun hit it and turned it magical.
The sound of the water trickled into Luci’s heart with the noise of the birds, here in the deeply forested valley. So many beautiful places, Luci thought, enough for all to love and watch, but never to fight over.
As she sat there, knees up under her chin, her horse grazing contentedly, munching the lush green grass on the banks of the river, her mind teemed as she tried to sort out reason into the terrible times that they were living in. Why are they making beggars of our people? My husband cannot do more than he has.
She thought of her father then, and her sons’ grandfather, the mighty Llewelyn ap Griffith, father of her husband, who had fought twenty years before when Luci and Llewelyn were sweethearts. She had watched him leave as he mounted his horse with the band of gold on his head to ride into battle. His father spoke before they rode that day of his father before him, who had fought the Norman Lord, Gilbert de Clare, to stop him building his mighty castle at Caerphilly but had to retreat to this side of the River Caiach and cede the land and watch the castle grow mighty upon lands that were theirs. The loss of life was not warranted for the sake of land and at least the brave Gilbert de Clare would talk to them, answer them, build bridges with them, which was all that they had asked. He had not made them into beggars.
It was a sad day for their people when de Clare had been killed at Bannockburn, fighting for his King, leaving no sons to take over his lands. Luci remembered the Lords that had replaced de Clare. This King had a lot to answer for.
Firstly came Ingelram Berengar, who did not stay long before running back to London. He was replaced by Bartholomew de Badlesmere, who also ran after a short sojourn in Wales. And now, now they had the treacherous Pagan de Turberville, the sneering Norman whose hatred of her people led him to commit atrocities against them and make them fight again.
They were not allowed to collect firewood from their own forests. He seized the livestock of those who could not pay his taxes, then when they had no livestock left he took their land and he laughed when they begged for mercy from him.
They had nothing left, these people, whose land fed them and made them proud. They were reduced to beggars at their Lord’s table and their grief struck arrows into the hearts of their Lord Llewelyn, who gave them what he could but could not help them all and suffered for it.
Why has this weak King done this to us? Luci asked herself silently amid the humming and chattering of the early morning forest, awakening with her and around her. The baby that was raised aloft at Caernarfon Castle and given to the people as the first Prince of Wales, Edward II, was destroying the very people he should be protecting. This minion of his, this Pagan de Turberville, another of his favourites, no doubt. He hates us and I wish to God he would follow his fellow countrymen back to England and leave us alone to survive here on our own lands, lands that are ours by right, lands that we do not covet but need to survive!
Luci struggled with her thoughts, trying to find a peaceful solution that would save her husband and people from destruction again. Her tears flowed. We cannot take any more bloodshed!
Her father spoke of the blinding of her grandfather by the Normans, of the children that the Norman kings had sent home without their eyes so they could not look on the beauty of their lands again, of her people who had been maimed and tortured beyond endurance, and for what?
‘Why oh why do they not leave us in peace?’ she cried to the tinkling water as her words echoed against the rocks, coming back to mock her again and again like the laughter of the sneering de Turberville, reverberating around her head until she wanted to scream.
Luci needed to wash the thoughts from her mind and the only way she knew how at this moment in this valley of bliss was to bury her thoughts deep into the tinkling cool water of the pool below the waterfall. She stood on the sweet green moss and turf under a mighty sycamore, whose branches spread out over the water with oak and willow and beech intermingling their branches to form a canopy over her head. She laid her dress on the low branch of the sycamore that was always used for their clothes and lifted off her undergarments.
The tinkling water enticed her in and the cool air on her naked breasts made her want to hurry in to the pure cleansing water that she knew would wash her thoughts with its power. She ran her hands softly down the sides of her body to release the small buttons at the waist of her petticoats, and then untied the band that wrapped her. Her garments fell to the floor and she bent in her nakedness to retrieve them and lay them on the branch with her other clothes, safe from the spray and water of the river.
She ran her hands over her body, closed her eyes and saw her husband’s face before her, missing him like her blood should it drain from her body, missing him beyond endurance, for his smile, his warmth and his loving that he had never failed to shower her with. I am spoilt to have such a good man, for many do not.
Luci sat on the rock at the opposite side of the pool to her clothes. She threw back her head to feel the weight of her wet hair on her back as the water slid down her body, forming little pools on the rock where she sat. She smiled as she felt her body absorb the coldness of the stone. She raised herself up and with the grace of the natural swimmer, dived back into the pool, down and down and down to its depths, turning and bobbing back up into the centre in a whirl of water that ejected her from its depths.
Luci dived again and again in the centre of the deep pool, feeling the water cleanse her, becoming a child again, a child-woman, cleansing her mind of the thoughts that invaded her very soul and just experiencing the sheer bliss of sensation without any thought, freeing her mind and her body, to be apart from one another as the water cleansed her very soul.
He had watched her from the trees, his horse tethered at the other side of the little valley. His eyes bored into her, this woman of the Lord of Senghenydd. She had no humility as a woman should have, and her husband, that so called Lord of the vagrant Welsh, looking to her for his strength. That disgusted him to his very core. She who was nothing but a chattel looked at him like a man would, and a man of his own ilk too. Her bearing was not as it should be; no shyness, no coyness, no subservience to her superiors. Damn! What was it that made her like that? He did not know. Only that a woman should not be like that.
As she floated in the little pool, as she dived in to its very depths again and again, Luci fell into that time gap that strikes when least expected. She lost all track of it and relished the cleansing of her solitude, the purity of the water entering her body as she drank from the water of the river.
She made one last dive into the pool, time clawing back at her now, telling her that she must get home, and as her body was forced up from the depths by the power of the water and her kicking legs, she felt a thud on her head and was being dragged from the water by her hair.
She screamed with all her might as hands seized her. A foot pressed into her back and she was thrown face first onto the big flat rocks surrounding her haven. She struggled to see as the foot crushed her ribs. Her hair lay across her face and she could see nothing. She was being pressed into the rock with such a force that every breath was laboured and she thought her last. Her hands were held behind her. She tried to move her legs, she tried to kick but was only doing her legs damage as they crashed back down to the rock face.
Luci screamed as a piece of cloth was rammed into her mouth, making her struggle for breath even harder. Still she thought, still her mind worked. What is happening to me? Who is doing this to me? Why in Gods name, why? Llewelyn, help me! For pities sake, help me! Her soul cried as her hands were tied with a rope behind her back and the foot pressed into her ribcage threatened to end her life there and then.
She was blindfolded over her hair and then roughly turned over. The pain in her arms made her scream silently through the gag. The moans were guttural from deep in her very being. She would not have needed the blindfold for she could not open her eyes. The pain would blind her; the pain of this invasion of her body as her soul screamed for mercy.
Her legs, the only part of her not tied, were spread apart by two feet now as she lay there. She felt hands on her cold breasts, warm hands manipulating her, and then a warm mouth descend to them. She wanted to vomit. She knew in her mind that she had to keep her stomach under control, for to vomit now would kill her, and she was not going to die, no she was not! She would fight for control over her body, even now.
His heathen hands ravaged her breasts, squeezed them, savaged them, and she lay there and moaned, her body reacting to the hurt inflicted. Then came the voice as it shattered into her brain, as she drank in every word for future reference, as she forced her mind into crystal clear perception for her use, if there was one. Think logically! Think logically! He would not have gone to these pains to conceal himself if he meant to kill me! Hold on! The voice from within her screamed to her as her moans escaped her body again and again.
‘Let us see how this woman who acts like a man loves, then. I would have sworn you were a man in woman’s clothing with your manners. Ah, now I know it is not!’
His sneering contempt pierced through his words as would a sword pushed through his heart. He ran his hands down her torso, shivering soft warm hands. He spread her legs wide as a sacrifice on the rocks, where nothing stirred, no birds chattered, no finches flew in the spray, where a deathly silence and the eternal roar of the waterfall invaded her mind.
He forced his hardness between her legs and into her very soul. Her body heaved at him and her thoughts turned inwards for her strength. She felt nothing but the invasion of her body, the body that one man had loved so passionately, had adored, had loved and made whole. These thoughts were being shattered into millions of tiny shards as he raped her body, her heart and her soul, in her beautiful valley, in her kingdom.
As the gag was pulled from her mouth, the blindfold released from her, and her hands untied, she lay there on her belly where she had been brutally turned after he had expelled himself into her. Alone now as the finches returned, as the noises of the valley returned. She lost track of time again and again. She forced her conscious mind back again and again, only to feel it slip away. She was so cold. She could not move. Her face scraped against the rocks as she forced her mind to work her body again.
She hauled herself up physically to her knees, her hair falling to the rocks in front of her as she lifted herself tortuously. The birds sang as she screamed in animal anguish, with all the might she could summon from the depths of her very being: ‘Llewelyn! Help me now if you can! My mammy, my daddy, help me please! For pities sake, help me now!’ She sunk to a crouched position and sobbed until her heart could sob no more.
Then, when the sobs abated, her mind started to help her again. She was alive, she was still here, and she dragged her body over the rocks and into the pool again. She would never be warm again, she would never be able to lose herself in time in her little pool, she would never be the same. As she washed the filth from her defiled body she swore vengeance on the Norman Lord who had defiled her soul. She knew who he was. Did he think that she would not recognize his voice? Did he think her stupid like their women? Oh, no, you demon! Vengeance will be mine! But I shall wait for it, I shall bide my time, for you have the power now, but that will not always be so!
Her mind worked again as she thought, as she wanted to broadcast to the nation that he had defiled the wife of the Lord of Senghenydd and Miskin, grandson of the last true Prince of Wales. But her husband was not even here. He was within the clutches of the Norman King himself, fighting for their people. Luci knew that their people needed Llewelyn, and her also. They needed guidance now and she knew she would stand beside her husband and bury thoughts of this rape in her mind. But they would not die. She would never let them die, for her revenge was hers alone. She could not share her anguish, she could not share her pain. She must bear this rod alone until she could wreak her revenge on the Norman demons. And on one especially.
She dressed herself tortuously. She reached for her horse and swung her body onto his back from the fallen tree trunk, where she stood to climb onto his back. She felt her bones hurt with every step up the side of the valley, her body hurting beyond anything she had ever felt, her mind crystal clear, her soul buried so deep in her that she doubted its resurrection ever.
No tears now. No nothing. For her tears must not come. Her strength she called on now in her hour of need, to help her to overcome the thoughts that welled up in her, so she could face her children, face her husband, face the world. To let her body and mind collapse now would destroy so many. It would wreak havoc on so many lives already tainted with the Norman broom.
She would not let it happen. She would wait for her time. It would come, she knew, and she would take back that which had been taken from her and defile that which had defiled her. Luci knew she was alone in this battle, but she would have the might of her nation behind her to fight it. Head up, proud as always, she clip-clopped into the castle, cleansed, refreshed, screaming inside, hurting physically as she smiled to the stable boy who came to take her horse. She walked up the stone steps to the kitchens and entered. Her children ran to her. It took all the strength in her body to hold them in her arms and smile at all around her.
‘I am starving too,’ she spoke. ‘I need food now.’
She sat at the table, holding the nausea down in her belly, and laughed and chatted with the people. She sat down to eat in the kitchens, knowing her vengeance had already begun. She had made the first hurdle and she would make every one after until the time was right, but at a cost to none of her people, for she was a protector, not a destroyer. She was a lover, not a hater. But deep in her very being she buried the hate she would need one day to wreak vengeance, and she knew exactly where she had buried it and for whom.