Neve rubbed at her cricked neck now that her numbed arm had recovered sufficient to move. She ignored the pins-and-needles, now diminishing. It was her fault if she suffered. Grandma Phoebe’s settee wasn’t suited to sleeping. So it had arms that dropped down to convert to a daybed but in Neve’s house there wasn’t the room. She ought to have used the recliner. But Raesan had made that his own. Her eyes followed him as he paced round the room.
“So tell me,” she asked him, “why did King William want Gunnhild dead?”
“Not Gunnhild; he wanted her dead, she’d be dead. Na, it was the child, if a boy. And he was, yeh. Edmund.” He looked at her as if willing her to understand. But understand what? And how could she think when he always was pacing.
“Can’t you ever be still?”
“Wind Fold, yeh, and when is the wind ever still?”
“Yea, I know, a still wind is no wind. But you might take a bath.” Rich Essence of Raesan wafted around him.
He waved aside her complaint. “Listen, you with your books – you who’s ‘read the story’ – you must know this. There was a big faction, yeh, who wanted the Normans out of their country. English lords who had survived Hastings – though they were mostly English from the Danelaw. This was only twenty years on; you think their wounds had yet healed? Na, hard grudges hard-held. So this faction, yeh, would support anyone with even a hint of a claim to the throne. And Gunnhild’s little Edmund had much more than some. He was the legitimate heir. King Harold’s own grandson, yeh?”
“No, Raesan, he was not! He wasn’t legitimate anything. For a start, Gunnhild was not Harold Godwinsson’s daughter. Begotten by Amblushe’s son Luin, you said. And neither was Gunnhild married.”
But by the way Raesan looked her full-in-the-face-obvious Neve still was missing something.
“And when did I say young Edmund was heir because of your Harold? Did Gunnhild have no mother?”
“Eadgyth Swannhals, connections unknown. What of her?”
Raesan laughed. “You think yourself clever, yeh, cos you passed an exam. But you’re still sitting on the baby-benches. Think, Lady, think. How are sons named?”
She stared at him. She couldn’t answer. His question made no sense.
“Come on, Lady, I know that you know. I found it in your memory when you were saying of Rosemary and the music. What, you need a clue? So try ‘Rosemary’s brother’.”
Her brother, what relevance had he? But Raesan had prompted and the memories welled. As Neve recalled, her old schoolfriend had had two brothers, Robert and Roddy. And two days before Rosemary’s fifteenth birthday the elder brother, Robert, had made her an aunt. Neve remembered Rosemary fussing: “Wilbert, they’re going to call the poor wee babeling Wilbert. That’s just Goth-beyond-Goth. Just because it’s my father’s name. Robert and Wilbert alternating down through the centuries; isn’t it time they changed?”
“But, Raesan, that doesn’t work for Edmund. If Count Alan was the father then the name ought to be Odo.” She’d found that on the internet. Odo, or Eudes, had been Count of Penthievre, wherever that was, somewhere in Brittany. Odo, alias Eudes, had been duke of Brittany during his nephew’s minority, 1040 to 1056.
Raesan laughed. Neve shot him an unfriendly look. Meanwhile the church-clock struck the hour, sounding loud in the pre-dawn hush. Morning again. But at least it was Sunday.
“And again you have forgotten Eadgyth,” Raesan said.
“I have not. If Edmund’s the first son then he’d be named for his father’s father. That is what you’re saying.”
Raesan shook his head at her. “Odo, Eudes, Eade, all the same name. Except in the English way, you stitch a bit onto it—”
“It’s called a suffixed.”
“It’s called a definer, and it was an Anglin-thing.”
“Anglin? Oh, you mean Anglo-Saxon.”
“I mean Anglin. So in Gaul and in Brittany they’re happy with Eudes or Eade, all clipped. But in Anglun-English they have to define it with Eadwig, Eadward, Eadgar, Eadred, Eadgyth. And Eadmund.”
“Fine.” Neve nodded acceptance. “But what are you saying? And will you please stand still! How am I to think with you constantly moving.”
“If I sat heron-stalk-still it wouldn’t help you. You’re a train, that’s your problem, and articulated vehicles have taken over from them. And you know why? Cos a train can’t move off the tracks. That’s your head, that is. So answer me this. Who was Gunnhild’s mother?”
“I don’t see the relevance.”
“Precisely. So I’m having to walk you around the corner. Who was Gunnhild’s mother?”
“Eadgyth, I’ve already said. And more than that nobody knows.” How dare he speak to her like that. Who did he think he . . . her annoyance diffused. Probably him tampering with her head. “Okay, so who was she?”
“Na, you work it out. The first son is named for the father’s father, yeh, and the second is named for the mother’s father. So what are the names of Harold’s two oldest sons? Oh, and she has to look in a book.”
She ignored the jibe. She wasn’t super-brain of Britain, able to hold an encyclopaedia of information. And who needed to anyway with the internet just a click away.
“Here we are.” She read out the names. “Godwine—”
“Named for Harold’s father.”
“And . . . oh, Edmund. I didn’t know that. Then Magnus and Ulf. So what are you saying, that Eadgyth’s father was also named Edmund?”
“Eade and a bit added on.”
“And Gunnhild named her child Edmund for her grandfather? But why not for her father? Oh, yea, I see. By then she knew who her father was.”
“Wow! The train might eventually reach the station. Gunnhild’s grandpa was a certain Eadmund. Eadmund son of Eadwig, son of Ethelred. Ever heard of him?”
“But . . .” Yea, she knew that name well enough though she flicked back through the book just to check. “Eadwig atheling, died 1017. King Cnut had him killed when he first took the throne. Historians suspect he was involved in a rebellion.”
“Oh he was, yeh. Cnut had Eadwig’s father-in-law killed alongside him. Your book tell you that? Northmann, yeh, son of Leofwine, earl of Mercia. The bells ringing yet? The station announcing the train’s arrival?
“Count Alan was given land from the Mercian earldom, around the time of the Northern Uprising.” She’d found that on the internet too. “That’s why he used the Mercian knot as his badge. The Mercian Earl Edwin had been involved in the uprising.”
“I’ll save you the trouble, yeh, of checking it all. Edwin and Morcar were sons of Earl Alfgar, and Earl Alfgar’s grandpa was Earl Leofwine.”
“Harold married into the Mercian dynasty?” Though they hadn’t been married, Neve remembered reading of that. She remembered, too, the discussion in class. Handfasted, it was said of them, and the Church didn’t recognise that as legal and binding. Yet only princes and kings were married in church in those days. And how convenient not to be legally wed when wanting to marry another, as Harold had upon being crowned king. He had married, this time all cosy in church, the Lady Ealdgyth, widow of the Welsh Gruffydd ap Llewellyn. She too had been of the Mercian dynasty, sister of Edwin and Morcar. “But, Raesan, are you sure you’re not muddling Eadgyth for Ealdgyth?”
“They were cousins.”
“Oh, that must have hurt.” But Ethelred, Eadwig, Eadmund, Eadgyth . . . “Harold’s son was heir to the throne. Though through his mother, not through him. No close descent, admitted, yet legal. And a better claim than was William’s. What was it? His great-aunt Emma had been King Ethelred’s wife. He wasn’t even blood related. And if Harold’s son was heir, then also Gunnhild and Gunnhild’s son. But did William know that Gunnhild was not Harold’s child?”
‘William thought as everyone thought. But that only strengthened young Edmund’s claim. Why else do you think William had Gunnhild sealed into that convent? The Bastard knew he wasn’t liked, he feared another rebellion. And any son of hers would serve as the focus. At all costs she must remain chaste.”
“Raesan . . . ?” Neve didn’t want to ask this but while they’d been talking the thought had grown stronger. Edmund. But that wasn’t her grandpa’s name. He was Rawn. Rawn Edmunds. Yet Raesan had said of Amblushe being her source – the same source as Gunnhild. And he had said that maybe Grandpa Eddy hadn’t known of the Oath because he’d been born after the Atonement and raised in seclusion – because he’d been begotten upon a nun.
~ ~ ~
“Miss Carpory, two visits in, what, three weeks? It must be the coffee. Please do come in. I have anticipated.”
He left her in his study. She hoped he wouldn’t misinterpret her reasons for making this call. Though what were her reasons? She needed help to untangle a skein, Raesan and grimmen and nightmares and dragons.
All his efforts just so she would join the two ends of the thread: Gunnhild’s child and her grandpa. He could have just said. And now instead of saying fine, let’s go find him – which was the purpose of these downloaded memories – he dainty-footed around like a child reluctant for school. “Not wise to jump, yeh . . . First answer’s not always right . . . We ought to look deeper . . . There could be other candidates, other explanations.” She’d been willing to accept that, for it was a crazy notion that she could be kin to a Breton count and an English king.
She found on the internet translations of two letters written to Gunnhild by Anselm in the year he’d become archbishop of Canterbury. Those letters laid it out plain. Anselm did not approve of what Count Alan had done. He had stolen Gunnhild out of Wilton abbey and taken her as his concubine – which probably meant they were handfasted but of course the Church wouldn’t recognise that. It was thought the ‘abduction’ had been earlier in that same year, 1093, when William Rufus, six years into his reign, was ill and expecting to die and was busily forgiving everyone their trespass against him. What better time to go against the king’s wishes. But if left till as late as that then they’d have had barely a few short months together. For, while the king recovered, Count Alan died a few months later. His brother, Nihel, the younger Alan, had offered to marry Gunnhild, to save her from returning to the cloisters which she clearly didn’t want. But Anselm, archbishop, wasn’t going to allow her that. He poured the scorn of hell upon her and her lover.
But she’d found no mention of any child. No Edmund to serve as her grandfather. He certainly wasn’t there in Anselm’s letters. And Count Alan’s honour of Richmond was inherited by first one brother, then another. He had no sons, not as far as any verifiable document could tell.
So when Raesan had said of more downloaded memories Neve agreed. Her curiosity had been whetted. If this Edmund wasn’t her Grandpa Rawn then she wanted to know who was. Besides, there were the fabrics to see, and the embrioderies, the colours and cuts and the fashions. But Raesan showed her the same scene over and over. She objected. He denied. She rolled her eyes, an exasperated plea unto heaven.
“Okay, so now I’m seeing it through your eyes instead of through Guy’s. But it’s still Guy’s arrival at Regin-yorl’s hall.” She wouldn’t have minded if only he’d show her that saga-band that so resembled the Bayeux tapestry. Instead his eyes were taken by the curves that swelled beneath the flower-like silks. His leering stare was bad enough but after the taunts, when the music resumed, he then got in personally-close with a hugging and rubbing female Bellinn. It was downright embarrassing.
And he was contrary, like nothing of him made any sense. He’d said of the grimmen, giving her that horror-tale. Yet thereafter, whenever she tried to talk of it, he sidestepped it. Was the Watcher a grimmen, she asked. Was it afraid of Raesan, was that why it hadn’t yet struck? Was it any wonder that she woke sweating from nightmares nigh every night.
She almost shot from the chair when Filbert kneed the door open, his hands full with the tray.
“I do hope this isn’t professional,” he said once he’d settled himself opposite her in the creaky-leather armchair. “Not seeking religion? I know how that sounds, but I’d not wish it for you. You look puzzled, Miss Carpory.”
She thought that an understatement. And she was in no mood for unravelling his tangling tongue.
“I meant that we’re not all like Saul, to have the scales falling away willy-nilly. For us lesser mortals it tends to be trauma that turns us to God. Indeed, I once wrote a paper to that effect. ‘Internecine Wars and Their Role in Saint Augustine’s Mission to England.’ You might think it the missionaries who converted the English to Christianity but my thesis held that wars and dragons played a significant part. And now we have peace, we again are pagans. You’re looking pale, Miss Carpory. Have I . . . feet an’ all?”
Neve shook her head. “No. It’s just that you’ve echoed something I recently heard, and I didn’t expect a . . .”
“A doctor of divinity. But should truth be denied because it’s unpalatable? What is a doctor of medicine without a disease? Nought be a barber. But if it’s not that, then what can I do for you? More local history?”
“I promised you these.” She laid a large jiffy-bag on the table between them.
He eyed it without moving.
“My grandma always said, when visiting always remember a gift. I ought to have brought them before. You were so helpful.”
“How well brought-up. Unusual these days. But . . . speechless, what.” By his face she’d say he was caught between pleasure and worry. Did he think it a bomb?
He opened the envelop and peeped inside. “Oh my word!” He shook the contents onto the table.
“I thought they would be apt. Though no one needs twenty-two bookmarks, so I thought you might like to use them for fund-raising.”
She could see the sparkle in his eyes as he spread out the bookmarks the better to see them. Worked in satin-stitch on black linen, twenty-two heraldic cross on twenty-two heraldic shields. Embroidering them had kept her hands and mind busy after Phoebe died, until she’d decided to move to Yalesham. The designs were taken from a book she’d found on heraldry. All but one which had been inspired by the design on her grandpa’s ivory seal. She had added a plain wooden cross so it would match the others.
Filbert singled it out.
“These others I’ll distribute according to sense. But, would you mind if I kept this for myself? Christ as the Winged Serpent, rising up from the cross, the burden of life. Do I take it you’ve read Jung, Carl Gustave?”
“Hardly. He’d be far too heavy for me.”
“Then may I tender a guess, my dear? You have recently experienced a loss?”
“Hmm,” she said and couldn’t say more. How annoying.
“I know how it is, my dear. I do. Five cats but they are not her. So, the reason for your visit? Do you need a tissue?”
She had not expected this, not this long after Phoebe’s death. She shook her head and sniffed it back. “I’m fine.”
He nodded. “Grief – our tears – are creative you know and ought not be denied. I need hardly tell you what the underlying impetus of the creative act. The collision of opposing forces.” He brought his hands together with a loud smack. Then held them as in prayer. “It’s that collision creates the new. So what in your life is colliding?”
“I . . .” She faltered. The answer was Raesan. He was a ping-pong ball colliding with everything. But how could she tell this minister that? Oh, it’s the fallen angel I have residing with me. No, that wouldn’t do.
“A trouble shared . . .” Filbert prompted.
“It’s, er . . . a friend. Of the family. He’s staying with me and, um . . . Look, I know this sounds crazy but, well, I think he could be possessed.” Though more likely it was her possessed. And whatever had possessed her to tell him that?
“Not crazy, my dear. Crazy is merely a frame of reality. Have you heard of Richard Bandler and John Grinder, the originators of the NLP system of presuppositions? I could lend you a book. I think you’d find it . . . interesting. I saw Bandler on video once. Oh, an incredible man. He successfully treated schizophrenia patients just by accepting their odd reality. You have to ‘get where the chap is coming from’, to give it a colloquial you might understand. Do you understand?”
“You mean I should accept that my friend’s odd beliefs to him are real?”
“Absolutely – as for him they are. Do you not accept the child’s tea-plate of imaginary biscuits? Her empty cup of lemonade? So if he says the sky is splitting and God’s guts are spilling, you find him some elastoplasts that he might mend it. Then if he can’t reach, you find him a stepladder. Ditto, ditto. Then, having got into his reality, you can start making changes. Changes that he then will accept. Though you’ve not said why you think him possessed. His head doesn’t spin, or he vomits frogs?”
“He thinks he’s an angel.”
“Would that be a fallen angel?”
Neve didn’t answer.
Filbert nodded. “You could tell him that God has relented; that there has been an Atonement.”
Filbert’s full bush of an eyebrow rose. “Then perhaps the approach might be to ask him why. I mean, why he alone of the fallen has not atoned.”
Neve nodded. That question was never out of her thoughts.
“But, my dear, you must get into his reality first. You could escalate a crisis and you don’t want that. Is he violent?”
Neve shook her head, aware of how crazy this conversation. She was talking as if her given story were real. But it was real – except that Raesan didn’t merely believe he was a fallen angel, but truly was one. Ought she to mention to Filbert the grimmen as well? No, perhaps not. He might start doubting her own sanity. And anyway, it was too late, Filbert was already at the bookshelf, selecting a book.
“Here, my dear. ‘The Map Is Not The Reality.’ Read it, digest it, and understand it before you apply it. Yes?”
Though she nodded, and thanked him, she wasn’t sure what the good doctor was saying. That the way to be rid of Raesan was to enter fully into his game? But wasn’t that what she was doing? But no, she was not. She could not. For that she must know what his game. And could this NLP thing be applied to the Watcher as well? If she spoke to it as if she could see someone there, would it then up and disappear? And if it were a grimmen after her Bellinn blood? Its own reality might trip her and kill her.
. _____ .
Next episode, 23rd April: Cesar’s Well