The Hangman of Morgan's Land Part 18
Griffith caught up with de Bohun and tried to calm his mother as the powerful man leaned on her to hold her on the horse. His tears were spilling as he spoke.
‘We will go to the friars. You cannot take her far like that, she will kill herself by falling from the horse.’
De Bohun shouted back to Griffith as they rode at a pace,
‘Yes, you are right, Griffith. I do not know how long I can hold her.’
‘Follow me then, My Lord.’
Griffith took the lead and led them to the Grey Friars monastery, which he had visited with his grandfather many times. His grandfather had told him while they ate with the Abbot how the abbey’s lands had been given to him by his ancestors, before Griffith and his father even were born. They had lands to give then as this was all theirs, before the Normans came and built their stone castles and stole all that was good fertile land from them.
The Normans would not take the lands that the friars held back though, as they were afraid to do that. Griffith remembered of the death of his ancestors and how his mother and his father had believed that the fighting was over this time and that they were to return home, his fathers face before him as he cried, pained for the life that had been taken again.
I am the eldest son now, he thought, what will my fate be?
His mother’s screams and gurgling made him afraid. He did not want to lose her too. He could not bear it. Yet he was a man and he tried to think what his father would tell him, how he would talk to him, and into his mind came blood, a head on a pole, jutting out ignominiously, on view for anyone to look at, and he was powerless to stop it happening.
They turned into the gate of the monastery and made for the door of the church, where John and Meurig dismounted with Griffith and Humphrey de Bohun. They carried the screaming Luci in through the open door.
The friars came running at the screams and the sight of armed men entering their sacred place. They came to Luci as she lay in front of their alter with her sons trying to reach and talk to her.
They kneeled with her and took her hands in theirs. They called for calm and for all to leave the church and to leave Luci in their care. Meurig would not leave her as she stared blankly in between her ear-splitting screams.
A friar stood and gently lifted Meurig to his feet. He spoke calmingly to him and led him with John out into the air and to a seat in the cloisters. The monks brought water to them and mead came after, hot mead laced with calming herbs that they knew how to use so well.
They drank as their tears ran into the beaten goblets in their hands. They talked falteringly to the monks as their soothing voices and calm words helped them to grieve properly. They were sick as the realisation of the finality of the act and the barbarism hit their brains again and again like a battering ram at the door of a castle.
They were taken into the inner part of the abbey where they were not left alone, where their mother’s screams would not reach their ears for a while.
The Norman Lord Humphrey de Bohun came to them there with Griffith and drank of the friars’ cups gladly. The tears of Griffith and his brothers calmed slowly as de Bohun cried deep inside him for the murder that had been done that day to a man who would make a thousand of the men who had destroyed him.
Hatred grew in de Bohun then for his own blood, for the cold hearts that could do this to a man. He knew the wrong, yet he was a part of it. He had no escape ever from the blood that was born in him. But he would right this wrong. He was a man above all else and where wrong was done there had to be a right. He would find it and he swore to himself for his own sanity that when he did, the evil Despensers would see his wrath and fury as they died.
The men at arms were quartered by the monks and the sons of Llewelyn Bren were taken into the care of the friars as they questioned constantly their mother’s whereabouts and fate. They were taken and fed, although none would eat heartily on stomachs that wretched as their minds worked.
Humphrey de Bohun stayed with them through the long night as they prayed with the friars, as they held their healing hands and as they talked lucidly of what had happened as the monks drew it out of them.
The Abbot came to see them, to reassure them that their mother was calmer now and that they must not disturb her as she was being cared for. Their bodies calmed through that long black night lit only by candles and firelight. The prayers and the singing and chanting reached their ears and the herbs that the monks fed them worked to dull their senses and to make them rest.
They curled up on wooden pallets in cells, where they rested for hours until the morning light, when the bells of the early prayers woke them and the realisation of what was a new day hit them. They looked around, still numbed, and remembered the day that was gone like a bolt of lightening striking their hearts.
The friars came and made them all eat as they sat in silence, heartbroken and wondering about this life that they had held so dear. The Abbot came and talked to them of the wonderful man their father was and how their grief would be shared by so many.
The friars stayed with them, never leaving their sides, until one came and told them that they could go to see their mother, now that she was at peace.
All night long the friars had held her. They had talked to her and they had drugged her. They had nursed her until they reached her broken soul. They knew they would reach it. They knew they would reach her, but to make her whole again they felt was beyond the hope of anyone living on this earth.
They went silently into the little cell where their mother lay, the friars telling them that their grief would have to be subdued as she could not take her children’s grief as well as her own. They entered and saw her lying there in a rough gown that the monks had dressed her in. Her hair lay around her like a halo and her eyes looked vacantly at them as she turned her head. They saw the naked grief in her beautiful eyes and it took all the control of their minds and bodies not to fall at her feet and cry on her breast, as they had done as children.
‘Come,’ the friars said as they were led from the cell. ‘She must rest now.’
Humphrey de Bohun asked if he might see Luci and the friars agreed, but only very briefly, and he walked into the cell where she lay immobile and as he looked on her his heart shattered into a thousand pieces. He thought of the times he had coveted her.
He had never shown it, aside from what he could not hide.
He had been drawn to her since the first time he set eyes on her, and as she had come into his life he had learned to love her for her strength, for her fortitude and for the love that she showed to Llewelyn Bren. De Bohun knew in that instant that she could never be his, for if there was one thing that he wanted above all else it would be to give her back to her husband, Llewelyn Bren, and to never look on her face again.
He touched her hand as she turned her head towards him, and he begged her to forgive the people that had done this terrible thing.
The friar whispered to him, ‘It is best that you go, My Lord.’
He looked into Luci’s eyes and swore to her that if it was in his power, he would bring the body of Llewelyn Bren to her, where he could be buried and made at peace. He would hunt for the cowards that had done this deed and he would follow Luci to the ends of the earth, if she would only get up and be strong again.
She squeezed his hand before he left, and as she turned her head from him his tears dripped onto her hand, making her turn her head again and look into his eyes.
‘Do not ever forget, My Lady Luci,’ he murmured as he left the cell, ‘you have so much of what Llewelyn gave you left to live for. He left his family in your care and no one else’s. Be strong, My Lady, and survive for them.’
De Bohun was led out then and marched quickly to the stables and he called his men at arms to join him and to saddle their horses, for they had a task to fulfil before they left this evil place.
Humphrey de Bohun rode to Cardiff Castle with his men at arms and demanded entry. The Despensers had fled and the steward left in their place was accommodating to de Bohun. He knew that he could be beheaded for anything less.
De Bohun demanded the body of Llewelyn Bren, only to be told that it had been burnt. He seized the man before him as his men surrounded him and he drew his knife and put it to the trembling steward’s throat.
‘My Lord,’ the man stammered, ‘I was to give no one entry. Those were my orders. But I chose to speak with you!’
‘Then tell me the truth, you gibbering fool!’ de Bohun spat. ‘And you may escape with your life yet!’
The men of de Bohun held off the men of Despenser with threats of further violence to the man in their clutches.
‘You bring me the body of Llewelyn Bren and you shall live!’ de Bohun shouted. ‘Without that body you shall all die within the day. Mortimer is on his way and the foul deed that was committed here will secure the death of everyone involved, so use your heads and let me have him! You may then go where you please and we will leave for now. If we do not leave then others will come. Your Lord has left you here and fled himself. Was he thinking of you then?’
Humphrey de Bohun took down the head of Llewelyn Bren from the ramparts of Cardiff Castle and his man placed it in a bag.
The rest of his body was collected from the dungeon and a wooden box was built by the carpenters within the walled town of the castle as quickly as possible. A cart was taken and the body was ridden out of the castle behind the horse of de Bohun, with his standard bearer in front carrying his Norman colours through the town of Cardiff.
They made for the abbey of the Grey Friars and when de Bohun slid from his horse in the late afternoon his legs were weak and his stomach churned for what they had brought back to Luci.
Griffith, John and Meurig thanked de Bohun and looked at the casket and cried.
‘It is best that the burial be soon,’ the Abbot spoke as Griffith faced him across the table. ‘We will do it at first light within the sacred ground. That is the fitting place for your father.’
So it was set that two days after his brutal murder, the body of Llewelyn Bren would be laid to rest in the Grey Friars’ graveyard in Cardiff, on his grandfather’s land, and on land that should have been his by right and was his in truth.
It rained all through the night and Luci listened to the raindrops fall. At her side sat a friar at all times. Her head would turn to him and her eyes would well up with tears as he reached out with a piece of soft cloth, wiping her face silently and smiling to her. He did not speak and Luci tried to talk but words would not come. He soothed her brow and hummed lilting little melodies that soothed her as she moved her arms to him when he was not touching her, drawing his hand back into hers.
Her body was warming but still it hurt her to move. She took her hair in her heavy hand and drew it across her face to hide herself from her life. He parted her hair and smiled down to her so gently that she wanted to reach out and hold him. She wanted to bury herself in his robes and kneel at his feet. The melodies went around in her head and her lips moved as he ran his hands through her hair to bring it away from her face. She moved her head up as he pressed her back down softly to the wooden pallet on which she lay.
He soothed her heart, he made her cry, he put warmth into her body where there was ice, as the raindrops fell and as her tears came quietly now, and she started to sing the songs that he hummed to her haltingly.
She watched his eyes light up at the sounds she made and he stood above her and quietly told her to stay for just a moment. He walked from the room, she craning her neck to watch the doorway from where he left.
He returned with the Abbot who walked to Luci and looked down at her as she tried to rise. The Abbot held her head up as she rose, cradling her neck and holding her back as she found the strength to sit and let her legs fall over the edge of the pallet.
Between the two of them they held her. Her mouth moved and the sounds of her own voice startled her ears. She cried out to them to keep her safe always.
‘I am at peace now,’ she cried. ‘Do not send me away. Here I can cope with life, here I can stay and be close to you and your quiet souls, that will keep me and not let me hurt anymore.’
The Abbott spoke to her as she looked down at her hands in those of her friend. He told her that she would get stronger but he would not keep her from her family, who were grieving for her.
‘My Lady Luci, they thought they had lost you also. You have them to think of now, for you are all that they have.’
‘They have others who will care for them,’ she cried as the friar held her hands tighter at the sound of her voice rising.
‘My Lady, look at me,’ he said softly. ‘I shall not hide you. You are not to be hidden from your people or your children. You have a life to live, albeit without your beloved husband, but, My Lady Luci, he has given you children. He would expect you to care for them.’
‘They have Eleri,’ Luci spoke softly as they watched her, as she looked up into their eyes with despair. ‘She will look to them.’
‘My Lady,’ the Abbot spoke then, ‘you are their mother and it is your place to rear them. They need you while you need them to get your strength back, for you have to protect them now.’
Luci looked down, resigned as she asked the Abbott, ‘And what of my husband? Who will look to him now?’
‘He is with God,’ the friar spoke. ‘You will join him one day, My Lady.’
‘I wish that God had taken me, not him, for to be dead is better than to live without him, and how he must have suffered!’ she cried as she buried her face in her hands, and the sobs racked her body.
‘Cry, My Lady,’ the Abbot spoke, ‘for your tears are well founded and will help to bring normality back to you.’
So Luci cried and she cried as the warmth came back to her limbs, and her back strengthened and she felt life in her where there had been nothing. She thought of her sons and daughters who needed her now above anything. She thought of her home that Llewelyn went to reclaim but had been denied.
‘It cost him his life,’ she said quietly now to the Abbot and the friar. ‘Just stones, and it cost him his life.’
‘My lady,’ the Abbot spoke, ‘your husband did not fight for stones, he fought for your lives, he fought for that which was yours and in the eyes of God he was right to fight. He was a protector, My Lady, as you must now become, for where he protected you, you must now protect those who are weaker, for that is your place.’
Luci tried to stand on legs that would not hold her, and she fell back. She tried again and again with the two holy men supporting her, and on the fourth attempt she stood and faced them, and they let her go to stand alone.
‘I will go to my sons now, for I know that they are still here,’ she said slowly.
The Abbot looked straight into Luci’s eyes as he told her that they had the body of her husband here and that her sons were standing vigil over it in the chapel. Luci fell back down to the pallet and looked at them stricken again.
‘Take me to them, for it is my duty to be with him.’
‘My Lady, you have not the strength yet,’ the friar spoke.
‘My strength will come to me when I see my husband.’
The Abbot looked deep into her as he said, ‘No, My Lady, you will not look on the body of your husband, for you will remember him as he was, and in the new dawn he is to be buried in the grounds of this sacred place, as is a fitting burial for him.’
Luci’s eyes overflowed as her tears spilled onto her rough gown.
‘I will bury him. I will dig the grave and I will lie in it with him if you do not take me to him.’
‘My Lady, you will go to him as he is buried and not before. You need to gain strength through the rest of this night and then you will see the dawn as your husband is laid to rest. There is so little we can do for you, but this is one thing that I know your husband would approve of.’
Luci accepted the words. She lay back down on her pallet to curl up into a ball on her side, to shut out the world as she sobbed and sobbed. The friar sat back down to stay with her through the rest of the night and to take her just before the dawn to her sons and to the burial of her husband, Llewelyn Bren.