Mists of Time

As the mists swirled around them they joined hands and staggered forwards....or was it backwards?

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29. Meeting John

Watching from the safety of the forest, Mai made a decision. She didn’t want to upset Will. She started to walk towards the clearing. Tom tried to stop her by clutching hold of her arm. But she shook it off 

I can’t leave him like this, we must show his dad that we’re real’ she said. 

She walked out of the cover towards Will and his dad. 

Will’s dad saw the figure walking towards him. His jaw dropped as he saw the girl before him. Her features were totally alien to him. He slowly stood starring all the time at the girl. She wasn’t wearing clothes he’d seen before. Princess wore long flowing dresses didn’t they? This one was wearing trews like a man, however they weren’t like any he’d seen before. Maybe in their country this was how they dressed, the clothes certainly seemed to be comfortable. Then slowly three more people followed this girl into the open. One was a tall youth closely followed by a tall girl and a small boy, no that was a girl

He looked back at Mai. She had the look of royalty about her, her hair was shining in the sunrays that pierced the tree canopy. 

‘So Will, this is your Princess is it ?’  

‘ Pleased to meet you sir,’ Mai said extending her hand. 

Will’s father looked at her, her voice sounded strange; obviously she wasn’t from around these parts he thought. He hesitated and then reached out and took her hand. 

‘Good morning princess’, he said bowing his head in deference, ‘I am John’ 

Mai was embarrassed by his actions. She wasn’t a princess but she reasoned it might be better to go on with the pretence. 

‘I am Mai, John, please don’t bow, where I come from we do we no longer do those sort of things’ 

John raised his head and looked again at Mai. It was never very clever to meet strangers in these parts. Usually they were snatch squads sent from over the hills who wanted to take away the young to work in their lands. However these four didn’t look like this. He wondered why they were in these parts. Their clothes were really strange. The other three were however different. Their faces were the same as his, not like Mai.  

There was an awkward silence broken by Tom. 

‘Hello Sir, I’m Tom and this is Sinead and Sarah’ 

John gazed at the other three.  

‘Hello’ he said, ‘Have you all come far?’ 

‘We have come a very long way to get here’ Mai answered., ‘our country is many miles away across the sea. We call it Malaysia.’ 

‘Ah I thought you were not from around here, lady’ John said, ‘where are you making for’ 

‘We’re travelling to Stockby’, Mai answered, ‘do you know far it is away’ 

John stroked his beard as if thought.  

‘There’s no place called that round here’ he said. 

‘Then we still have far to go’, she said sadly. 

‘Strangers aren’t welcome around here. There’s much tension between the Duke and the Earl. Do you know either of them’ John said. He looked at their faces to detect any hint they Mai be spies for either side. 

‘We only know what your son Will has told us’ Mai answered. Hearing his name Will smiled. 

A girl’s voice could be heard from the shack behind John and Will. 

Dad, do I hear voices with you. Who’s Will brought home . Is it his princess?’ 

A girl appeared out of the shack. Will ran up to her. 

Look Catherine, I really have brought a princess. She’s called Princess Mai and she comes from Ma.. mal... over the sea’ 

Catherine looked at the strangers who were stood by her father. They were about her age she thought, a little young to be travelling far without adults. Their clothes intrigued her. She’d never seen anything like this in her life. They looked like gentry. 

Hello mi lady’ she said curtseying to Mai. 

Hello Catherine, I’m Mai. Please don’t do that’ 

‘Come in and share a drink with us’ John said. It’s nearly time for our midday meal. We don’t have much, but you’re welcome to what we have. Are you going down into Boulderstone?’ 

‘We may’ Tom replied, ‘or we will head for Sandel 

Sandel, eh, well that’s a couple of days walk from here. He looked at them. They weren’t carrying any bags apart from the youth, Tom who had some type of around his shoulders. Mai be they were spies after all, sent to spy on the Earl. He’d keep them talking for a while. Then he’d work out if they knew anything. There may be a reward in all this he thought. 

He pulled back the curtain leading into the shack and held it open so they could enter. The smell assaulted their nose as they stepped in through the door opening. It was a cross between, human body odour and cooked cabbage.  The stench didn’t appear to affect Will’s family at all.  

Sarah looked around. She hated to admit it but she was quite enjoying her time in the 12th Century. One of her passions was history and she was actually seeing it come to life in front of her eyes. Her eyes lit up when she saw how ordinary people lived. A fire place was in the centre with a cauldron hung above it. Straw covered the floor. John was obviously a skilled craftsman because there were two well carved benches. These were virtually the only items of furniture in the room. An intricately carved box stood in the corner. On top were a few wooden plates and spoons.  

‘Please sit down, you are our guests’ John said waving his arm in the direction of the benches. 

They all sat on one of them.  

Catherine poured some liquid into a wood mug from a large jug. She passed it over to Will who took a drink before passing it to Mai. 

Mai looked in the cup and put her nose down to the rim to smell the contents. She looked at Will quizzically as if to ask him what it was. 

It’s beer princess’ he said. Mai took a small sip and her face wrinkled up in horror.  

Will looked in alarm. Was there something wrong with it. Had he offended her ? 

Mai saw his alarm’ it’s OK Will, in my country we don’t drink such liquids’ 

Sarah looked on in amusement. However she realised that drink and food were going to be a problem. Their stomachs weren’t used to the tastes of their hosts. She looked at Tom. He too appeared to be thinking about the same problem. 

Catherine passed them all some berries and nuts to eat.  They ate them hungrily. It was a long time since their supper last night. Tom, Sarah and Sinead drank from the mug. The beer didn’t taste very strong. Sarah knew that they made different strengths of beer. The young would only drink the weaker beer and the stronger beers would be given to the older members of the family. However at this time of the day they all would drink this weak beer. Sarah knew this was because the water couldn’t be trusted to be clean.  

You got any food or drink in your bag?’ she asked Tom 

Think so’ he replied lifting the flap of the bag. 

Tom looked inside his bag. There was a pack of Mars bars, a couple of bottles of water and a can of Coke.  

 

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