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CIAN OF THE CHARIOTS

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Author Topic: CIAN OF THE CHARIOTS  (Read 658 times)
Victoria Liss
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« Reply #195 on: March 14, 2010, 01:14:43 am »

 all of a sudden, and kissed her face over and over; until--rallying but a little before searchers came--she made him, by word and gesture, set her free, and stood quivering, palpably insulted.
   Yet not so that others should see in that dimness. Nor, as they passed out through it, was her cold silence toward him observable, all being full of query and narration as to the losing of their way. In the sunlit outer air she was quite her daily self again; and he wondered at her containment, which allowed not so much as an angry flush or a meaning glance to appear. Yet he knew well that, whether for punishment or reward, the matter would not thus end between them, and that the memory would dwell through life with him, over stirringly, of those few moments in the mazes of Verulam.
   As soon as might be he sought--and found with no great effort--opportunity to make his mercy-beseeching plea. She heard him at first severely and with extreme offence, made obvious; but his passion was permitted to move her, above all by memory-awakening allusions to early days. She must grant, judicially, that he had fared ill with her, and that the fault was not all his own. She hinted of her uncle's pressure, and grave reasons of state and duty, and paused on the very verge of remorsefully hinting her feminine love of brilliancy, and the tempting attributes that begirt the station of the Emperor.

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« Reply #196 on: March 14, 2010, 01:14:59 am »

    The regret that she would not precisely utter he yet found in her half-sigh, when she announced, with positiveness of words--and almost of tone and mien--that her lot was now settled beyond all rightful disturbance. She displayed to him didactically and with elaboration how very censurable and distressful such disturbance would be; for though their earlier experience might this once excuse--as but brotherly--such tokens of kindly feeling, these were easily to be misunderstood by the world and by one above them.
   Moreover, if there were to be continuance thereof during her high betrothal, how could she trust him to leave her in perfect serenity even when uplifted to the Emperor's side? wherein might be a gulf of ruinous disaster beyond all foreseeing! True words, as the event proved very sadly, but with suggestion in them.
   When he had gone away, contrite externally, she bethought herself in idleness how long it would be ere such dangerous dallying would come to pass again. She had no regret so far, since nothing was as yet seen or known; and Maelgwn, the daring, fervent, beautiful, and forbidden--was he not tempting also? Yet wisdom might hold with abstinence until all was safe. There were moods when, regarding what she had in the balance, she wished him well away.

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« Reply #197 on: March 14, 2010, 01:15:17 am »

    Oddly, before long he felt likewise; although his heart had exulted as he left that adorable presence, and the half-admissions extorted seemingly from the grip of will and duty. Defiance ruled him too, of himself and of all others. A power bore him along unresisting, with only some dim inner question as to what should follow. Yet in a little time that questioning grew; and one word which he had heard used of them in the labyrinth abode with him still--the word "lost."
   How many other losses there were, and worse--of fidelity and honor and manhood and all that was princely! The soul, most of all her soul, counted for something likewise; and so did the words that she had said as to dark days in store for all the land. Now and again such thoughts leaped out upon him as real things, and he shivered in the saddle under the bright sun. He had never more than a faint hope of resistance, of holding aloof. A grasp was on him, at once loved and hated, until it seemed that interposition of any sort would be welcome. Yet he resented the word of command when it came, though it was almost a summons to battle.
   This was from Arthur, most kindly, with no mention of the watchful prompter Caradoc. At the second reading, the wholesomeness of a soldier's effort came home to Maelgwn; with awakening self-scorn for lingering softly and warmly about a woman soft

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« Reply #198 on: March 14, 2010, 01:15:33 am »

 and warm--and untrue. At the third, he was all abashed by the greater strength and manhood of his imperial leader, too great and kind to mistrust on the very brink of treachery.
   In the quick revulsion of his wayward soul, he was all passionate devotion to that injured comrade-king, all remorse and bitter eagerness to repair the wrong by fierce service and hot blood. Yet, courteously, he went first to Guinevere with tidings and farewells.
   She read them before he spoke, and forthwith perversely wished that he should stay. Also she was pleased to keep him in the wrong, with no mitigation, but rather exacerbation, of shame. Her resolute austerity of aspect, so foreign to her texture and outlines, and broken by quick waves of feeling that seemed to be beyond all government, was a nearly intolerable thing. At the last he broke away blindly, not knowing what would befall if he were to look and listen longer.
   When he had gone she was first angered and astounded; then mirthful, with some touch of scorn; but after a little not ill pleased that the risk of unwary demeanor was in any way removed from her. Yet Verulam soon grew a weariness; and the game in which she had so great a stake called her northward by easy stages to that bright border city where she knew the imperial encampment to be.

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« Reply #199 on: March 14, 2010, 01:16:03 am »

CHAPTER XIX.

ARTHUR AT LEGIOLUM.

The first thing to be aimed at                             
In every usage and action congenial to the brave
Is a pure life unto the day of judgment.             
                          --TYSSILIS.

MAELGWN had been called to withstand those North-folk and South-folk who were pressing through the fens and up along the streams to the assault of Caer Lerion. They menaced also the cities of the Cam, and that great Ermine road which was the main artery of Arthur's northern army.
   All along it, where the risk was great, troops had been left in clusters and nuclei; but these needed leadership. Meanwhile the enemy, though in scattered bands, grew daily thicker and more fierce, with concerted movement seemingly in aid of the vaster gathering under Ossa Cyllalaur.
   He felt the opportunity tinglingly, being quite in the mood for smiting out self-chastisement on some one else. All the better that this some one should be Saxon! His overflowing zeal and vigor reanimated all his following, who so maltreated their many scrambling assailants, by ambuscade, open rout,

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« Reply #200 on: March 14, 2010, 01:16:19 am »

 relentless chasing down, and whirlwind-like surprise in their own strongholds, that he was soon able to promise the Emperor immunity from further trouble.
   It was too brief and confused an experience to be called a campaign; a mere chance-medley in detail, fought out by detached parties in a dozen places at once, but withal co-acting rationally to one end. Arthur's best lieutenant began to feel in some measure rehabilitated in his own eyes.
   Arthur, too, was relieved; for he needed all watchfulness toward the front. Elsewhere everything went well. His appointment of Constantine, at once a pleasure and a tactful compromise expedient, had amply justified itself. Many threads of management were weaving through the fingers of the merchant who had been king so nearly. Never had Legiolum been more adequately provided, even in Roman times, with all that could comfort man, or make him formidable. Recruits came also with his provision trains from distant valleys. With the spreading of the news, there were adventurers riding in daily to volunteer.
   The brightness of the city was a magnet. The reckless, mirth-loving temper of a frontier garrison was enriched by the still remaining beauties of an elder time wherein lay its pride, and by the influence of that imperial court which blended Celtic picturesqueness with the lingering majesty of Rome.

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« Reply #201 on: March 14, 2010, 01:16:50 am »

 What more had earth to offer? Men rode into Legiolum to the tossing of light words and lances, high-hearted with the mead-cup and the zeal to display, eager for the beauty and the thrill awaiting them, and for battle in that realm of wild emprise and mystery that lay beyond.
   Arthur, knowing deeply his people and in full sympathy with all that lent glamour to their life, wisely gave rein to their romance, enlarging it in every way. Week in and out, there was jousting, with the clash of keen weapons on armor. The Emperor himself often came to look on, thoughtful; also the sunbright Guinevere; the presence of either lifting strife into frenzy.
   Only in such things could she comprehend and aid him, but there she was a power. Not queen of the revels only, but queen of all revelry. Furious it grew at times, yet never beyond her pace; and frivolous, yet never too light for her footing.
   There were some who shook their heads over this, but their uncertainties could not live on before her gracious tongue and eye. Mindful of what presence was near, and admonished by the near past of Verulam to be wary, Guinevere was a masterpiece now of giddiness adroitly shown to be in keeping with wise policy, of exuberant kindliness that never became unqueenly, of extravagance in genial merriment, wholly delightful.

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« Reply #202 on: March 14, 2010, 01:17:43 am »

 Yet at times what was most earnest in Arthur went back to a nobler queenliness beside the Thames, or forward to matters of hope and faith in which his sunbeam-goddess could have no share, or out toward his redoubtable enemy of Caer Ebrauc, with real longing for a trial of skill in something more manly than cajolement. He could only promise, in self-assurance, to be strong for both; and protest that she was the very bloom and sparkle of life to him, which he must not altogether forego.
   Yet in duty he must watch London and that stately maid whom his word had lifted into danger. It was a task made easy by the solicitude of Constantine. At first all went well. Disquieting rumors followed, which yet might be set aside. Then, suddenly as a cloud-burst, there fell on them all the tale of Eschwine's treachery, Aurelia's danger at the lake-village, the swift sequence of punishment and rescue, and the Saxon's flight to kinfolk beyond the river, with all that it presaged.
   Arthur sprang to his feet, and smote out his anathema. Constantine waited before him, watchful, reticent, and bitter; for he loved his daughter, and harbored unacknowledged hope. Now what dreadful things had nearly befallen her, while a lesser woman filled his Emperor's heart and eyes?
   "It was Prince Cian who saved her," he said.
   "God bless him!" cried Arthur. "He never de-

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« Reply #203 on: March 14, 2010, 01:18:21 am »

 served better of me; and that is saying much undoubtedly. As to Eschwine, let him wait. Other Saxons claim me now. Yet if there were a myriad, I would get at him yet for this,--and with the hand of death. Meanwhile, pray urge on her to keep within the walls."
   "Prince Cian has already done so."
   Arthur moved uneasily, but answered, "His are very safe hands. Worthy of any reward."
   After that, little came to them beside matters of preparation, until the sudden march of the Saxon kings on London, and their struggle with the chariots in the mire. Then Constantine and Vortimer, this once together, were for detaching a strong corps to relieve the city. All the northern men protested as strongly, Guinevere siding with her gay companions. Arthur stood in the strain of counsel, wavering beyond his wont, until fate spoke the final word for him by the mouth of Llywarch.

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« Reply #204 on: March 14, 2010, 01:18:59 am »

CHAPTER XX.

IN THE VALES OF ARGOED.

The men of Argoed have ever supported me.
                          --LLYWARCH.

THE absorption of the Prince of Argoed in his little realm had grown on him daily, as he went northward from London with Arthur's army. In his genial way he was a man of duty, nor could anything warm or brighten him more than his people's love. On the very eve of the entry into Legiolum he sought and obtained the Emperor's assent to be gone.
   "For surely," said Arthur, "no truer man ever went anywhere. Take Dynan, if you will, for company, and bring me word of whatever you may find that will be any aid."
   In the spirit of their time, that friendly pair, all alone, rode straight out into the outlaw-haunted and homeless land which lay next beyond them on the northwest, as though adventures were the especial gifts of heaven. Their voices went ringing in song through the hollow woodlands and the morning frost, or echoed among great rocks at the close of the short, still day.

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« Reply #205 on: March 14, 2010, 01:19:45 am »

Beside the night-fire on the hill-top they matched well in minstrelsy; although Llywarch touched the harp to his own lays, Dynan, as he said, to those of many others. But they were every way strange to his companion, and some had an elfin revelry to make one stare. Questioning drew only a laughing answer. Whatever the truth might be, such melody suited well the slender lance of fortune, his nimble wayward wit, his flitting unexpectedness, his unvanquishable gayety. Surely he might well be half akin to the wild wee people of the hollowed hills, driven from the sunlight to the moonlight, yet whirling their dances and pealing their elfish laughter in the face of an iron fate.
   One day these twain came suddenly upon three hostile men, who would have been called felon-knights in later days; very dirty, stout vagabonds, in armor which was green with verdigris, who lived mainly by robbing lone houses, and picking up what they might between town and town. They showed fight, being the stronger party as it seemed, and also hungry, but did little damage except to the harp-strings which were hanging from Llywarch's saddle-bow. After that there was voice-music only, but it answered; and this was their only adventure on the way to Argoed.
   It was a bright morning when they entered the head of one of its lesser branching valleys. From a

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« Reply #206 on: March 14, 2010, 01:20:08 am »

 spring at their feet a rill went downward to a slender waterfall, and a woodman's cabin, where children already were looking up from their play, ready to run or cry. Other such homes were visible every way among bare hillside boughs, or in dimpling hollows and glades. There was nothing squalid about them as far as could be seen. The unseasonable mildness of the melting air made the crude scene gracious after the desert they had left. Dynan uttered a low exclamation of pleasure.
   "Yes," said Llywarch, "there has ever been warmth in Argoed." He stooped, and tossed the water with his hand so that the drops fell in a shower. "How bright they are!" he said, "as, indeed, they ought to be. They go to make the Vale Royal. The least of them is on its way to the unconquered fortress-queen beside the Dee. Come, come!"
   He strode down the hillside, leading his horse. No boy returning home after weary exile was ever more blithe of heart.
   But this proved too much for the wavering covey below. They hurried into hiding with much outcry of terror.
   He called after them, in a mellow voice of reassurance, "It is only Llywarch! Your good friend, Prince Llywarch! I shall not hurt you."
   But evidently the name had no great nor sure

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« Reply #207 on: March 14, 2010, 01:20:28 am »

 meaning to them after his long absence. Not so with their mother, peering anxiously from the doorway. She stepped forth at once, calling it abroad as joyful tidings, for the ears of her husband and son at work not far away; then advanced to meet them, with a pleased, if ungraceful, welcome. Yet, almost before she spoke, "Llywarch, Llywarch!" resounded from every side, and hurrying figures were breaking the brittle undergrowth.
   "This is a better reception than any monarch could give you!" exclaimed Dynan, doubling the delight of his friend.
   "We are of one mind on that," answered Llywarch; and in a moment he was among the throng of them, with heart-greetings and eager inquiries. But presently the two must mount again and hurry on.
   As they rode, the valley wound about, and joined with others and widened, until they could see where it ended, as did many like it from every quarter, in a sunken, hill-rimmed space like a bowl. Neat hamlets enlivened many parts of it, with signs of thrift multiplying all about them. A walled circle near the outlet showed where Rome had left her mark through early imperfect imitations. Near the centre of the bowl, in the sunset, over the level land, his little capital, Loidis, lay smiling.
   "I don't see that you were distressfully needed here, after all," said Dynan, looking about him.

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« Reply #208 on: March 14, 2010, 01:21:21 am »

"With such stewardship, a man might safely go anywhere and stay forever."
   "I must tell them that," answered Llywarch; "here come the stewardesses."
   "Those ladies?" for a party of distinction, at a distance, were riding towards them.
   "My mother and my sister--Freur by name," explained Llywarch, bowing sedately; though, of course, it was well known already to his friend.
   In a few moments these were with them; the elder lady of a gracious comeliness, and showing all the vigor of that long-lived race; the daughter brightening out of habitual thoughtfulness, which yet had a gentle and sympathetic charm. She was darker than her brother and slighter, with all allowance for the difference of sex, yet indefinitely like him notwithstanding.
   Dynan rightly felt sure that these were very good people, not proud beyond what is well for mortals, but above all meanness, and alive to every call of love and duty. They gave him a very frank and ample welcome to Argoed.
   Freur rode back with him, chatting of many things,--her pretty toy-world so much more perfect in itself than she knew!--the outer wonders which had come to her only in reflected vision or echo, but of which none could know better than he.
   Then Dynan told her the glory of camp and court

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« Reply #209 on: March 14, 2010, 01:22:17 am »

 and lovely dream-like cities; the shattering of arms on armor in mimic battle; the riding two by two, day by day, on high and mysterious quest over bleak waste-land or through goblin forestry; the putting forth of ships adventurously westward, where any monstrous form or scene divine might yet be hidden; the century-long combat with the ever-raging sea-heathen, wherein spears were bowed like the bowing of thicketry, and came on with the rush of the wind. All this was an awakening to her indeed.
   Llywarch heard, with less enthusiasm, from his mother those secrets of statecraft which even princedom in a glove-box could not wholly dispense with. Here the village leader to be conciliated, there the trusty subject who had deserved every rewarding, and again the spirit of mischief that stood cryingly in need to be repressed. There was no disparaging smile on the face of the court-minstrel and widely ranging soldier. He well knew how real and great his mother found these things, and what witness to her methods there was around him.
   A few happy days followed, in and around Loidis. Llywarch brought the flutter of new life into the little state. Here and there men were sown over it who had fought for him and Arthur long ago; or households that missed a member now in camp under the walls of Legiolum, or, it may be, garrisoning the far southwest. He was the pride and hero of

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