Self Portrait Pardoe, Thomas. Adrien van. Princess Anna of Thurn and Taxis d. John Griffith M. Quiringh van. Beatrice Bouvet born c. Wound drawing no.
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Miranda :. Patch box : Allgood family. Puccini Artist: Woodman, Betty - She recanted her initial decision. Take the house, he said, backing away as though she was poisonous. The man she had considered and rejected in one breath lifted a tankard to his mouth and gulped the liquor down his throat. As she entered the house, her heart clenched in her chest.
Rotting food sat in bowls and on platters from one end of the table to the other. Dogs gnawed on the half-eaten joints they stole from the cold spit.
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There was no square of the stone-covered floor that was not littered with their leavings. A boy lay sprawled in the alcove. Oswin Elgan opened an eye to look at her when the dogs stirred, turned away and grumbled. I will not complain, Gwennan declared under her breath as she climbed the stone staircase to the sleeping area built below the rafters of the house. I may regret, but I will not complain. She found two girls sleeping near the pantry and directed one to wash the crockery and the other to burn everything in the lower hall that was not useful. Taking a straw broom, she swept the rushes and vermin into the hearth and set it alight.
My father will not let you drive his dogs from the house, Oswin laughed. He will chase you out and bring them back. There are clean clothes for you on that chest. Take a bath and come back to have your supper. You will need help, Gwennan Pendyffryn, a fair-haired woman said from the doorway. I am Siriol Pendryw. And I am Aine Tudwal, a shorter, older woman said. There are four other women here who will choose to be in your household, but you will have to command all but one of them to come.
I am grateful, Gwennan said, inclining her head toward the two, neither of whom needed to be told their duties. Daran Pendyffryn congratulates you on your choice of husband and regrets he could not attend the celebrations. He avoided her gaze. Thank you, she answered, laying her hand on his arm. But Elgan is not—. Derwyn looked down at her hand. As you have chosen Elgan Maergwn, I will serve him faithfully, Gwennan. Derwyn, she sighed, will you—? Before she finished her offer of friendship, Derwyn gave her a sharp bow and left her.
The wedding tunic remained folded in her chest of linens. She had not discovered the one quality that her father claimed made Elgan Maergwn less unworthy than other men. Despite her disappointment in her judgment, Gwennan enjoyed the work of the farm. She cherished the camaraderie and friendship of the other women as they gleaned and spun, milked and embroidered.
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While the warriors remaining to guard the Gaer prepared themselves for battle, the women gathered in the house above them and prepared for their war. Only the youngest of them, Menna, had no experience of war. They will not spare any of us.
Better that we are all dead before they reach the gates. There is no reason for you to stay here, Gwennan said to her friends and companions. Take everything you can carry and go to the caverns. You will be safe there for weeks. There is plenty of food. I will stay with you, Siriol said, wrapping her arm around her daughter while her six year old son slept with his head in her lap.
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There will be wounded and the warriors will need our help. Iago is with Elgan and I do not know what has happened to him. If you are needed, I will send for you. You and Aine will also go. Until we know. When she climbed to her room, Siriol followed. I know what you are going to say, Siriol. You and Aine must go with them, Gwennan murmured, or they will eat all that we have worked so hard to preserve. Take Oswin as well. You should not be here alone. And Galar cannot defend you if—. When all of the women of her household were safely away, Gwennan gazed into the small hearth, a smoke-stained gap in the stone wall, resting her hands on the mantle.
For months, she had worked to restore the house and the Gaer to good repair and order. There was no man or woman who was without clean clothing. There were no dogs or rats in the house. Elgan Maergwn had gone to war in a clean shirt and fine tunic. Through her thoughts ran the words that she had held in her heart watching Elgan lead his war band out of the Gaer. I am responsible. If Elgan is killed, I am responsible.
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We have no other option for now, Gwennan Pendyffryn agreed. There are too many of us to escape to the gorge. Our harvest will be stolen. The household guard, while I live, will never open the gates. Gwennan covered her eyes for a moment, feeling the exhaustion of the past days surge through her and pushed herself again to take command. We must attack this army from below, out-flanked them.
The timber walls of the Gaer were no stronger barrier than parchment. The gates were as formidable as linen. The two watchtowers tottered and the food she had ordered stored in the caverns below the house was not enough to see them through the next weeks, never through the winter. Without access to the hunting grounds, a siege would end in annihilation. All she had been able to accomplish was not enough.