Tuesday, October 16, 2012


Readers of my original series know that, often, there are scenes and/or characters that are cut out of early drafts. Sometimes these are removed because they are not working, sometimes because their sub-plot is slowing down the action and sometimes because I need to get back under my 180,000 word limit!

Now, when you buy a DVD, you get to see extra scenes that were left on the cutting room floor.

Here, you get the DVD extras from Bridge Of Swords. These scenes may give you some extra insight into characters, or you may well judge that it was a good thing I cut them out!


(This introduces a comical character called William of Winterbourne as well, who sadly had to be cut out)

Huw was finally getting used to the size of the palace, although it had taken him more than a month here to feel comfortable with its many twists and turns. Sometimes he had to pinch himself, to remind himself that he was actually here, he was really living the dream. He loved to wake up in the morning, just lie in the huge bed and watch the morning sun play on the stonework of the wall. Or sometimes the afternoon sun, if he had been performing late in the night. There was no need for him to be anywhere in the morning then, so he would stroll down to the kitchen and enjoy a leisurely breakfast, or lunch, or both at the same time. Every other day he was required to perform either during the afternoon or evening, although he was sometimes asked to make a special performance on his day off, which he was happy to do. The contract he had signed was outrageously generous - a gold piece per performance, on top of all his food and lodgings for free. He did not even need to buy clothes - he just went along to the Court Tailor, and he received new tunic and trousers each week. Luckily that was all he needed - he heard that the Court Dressmaker was working every turn of the hourglass she had just to come up with new outfits for Rhiannon to impress the King. But all this meant, by the end of the year, he would be one of the richest men in the Vales. He received his payment every week and while there was the strong desire to take the thick gold coins and start spending them in Crondon’s many markets, which were full of temptations from across the continent, he made sure they went into his leather pouch, which he kept hidden in the toe of an old boot, which he kept at the very back of his wardrobe.

He dressed swiftly and followed the path he knew best of all - to the kitchens. At first, when he had received an order to make his way to this room, or that room, to perform for some nobles, that he had run into trouble. Several times he had been late, and the Forlish nobles were swift to let their displeasure be known. Luckily there were so many of those red-coated officials wandering around, as well as guards, and they often pointed him in the right direction. But Huw did not like depending on others, so he used some of his free time to explore the castle, often enlisting a guard or two as a guide - and as insurance should he bump into an angry noble or, Aroaril forbid, the King.

He was getting to know the whole castle now, not just the rooms frequented by the nobility but the passages the slaves and servants used to get around the castle without being seen, and move food, clothes and the myriad other things needed to keep the King’s court functioning around such a huge building. Many of the servants and all of the slaves were terrified to see him, although he was careful to be polite to them, and reassure them that he meant no harm. They had good reason to be afraid. Even in his limited experience, he had seen many acts of cruelty and viciousness. Nobles would strike or even beat a servant who did not complete their orders exactly, while to be a slave was even worse. Everyone, from nobles to guards, to red-coated officials and even the servants treated them like scum. They were sworn at, hit, beaten and worse. To be an attractive slave girl or boy in the court of King Ward was to be in a living nightmare. Several times Huw saw things that made him turn away with disgust. Part of him wanted to rush in, to protect these poor slaves, whose only crime was to have been born in another country, and to be captured by Forlish soldiers. But the greater part of him shrank away. He might be a privileged performer, one of the favourites of the King, but he had no more power than the lowest servant. All he could console himself with was the thought that he could purchase the freedom of dozens of them with the gold coins he was earning, but he could only do that if he kept silent, and kept earning those coins.

He knew his father would not agree, would not stand back while rape and beatings went on in front of him but he managed to persuade himself that what he was doing was for the best, in the long run.

Besides, there was plenty to take his mind off such things. The castle was full of diversions - he could go and watch his fellow performers for one. Although he had to admit, he did seem to go along to see Rhiannon more than anyone else - combined.

William of Winterbourne was still there also. He had strode onto the stage, following both Rhiannon and Huw, surely knowing that he had next to no chance of being the third person in a row to be selected by the King. It seemed impossible and while Huw was overjoyed to have been successful, he still felt sorry for the older man, as this was his third and last chance to impress the King.

William gave no hint of what he must have been thinking and instead put his little dogs through their paces, making them not just walk on their hind legs, but dance for the King. The audience had warmed up to what they were doing, and the way they seemed to be fooling William by pretending not to do some tricks, and then repeating others. He was a brilliant performer and Huw could only admire his stage craft. By the end, all were laughing and cheering and to everyone’s surprise, not least William’s, he joined Huw and Rhiannon on the bench.

He made a fine companion and Huw often spent time with him, as well as the dogs, just talking or walking through the castle. He did not take William through the secret paths, but he had showed him some of the older rooms, as well as the magnificent castle library, said to contain books from every country on the continent, as well as some from across the sea.

In fact he planned to go exploring again with William this afternoon, as he had no performances booked for the day. The first few weeks had been busy, as all wanted to see the new performers in action but now it seemed to be settling into more of a pattern. He found that reassuring, as though he were truly accepted.

William was finishing up his regular breakfast, bacon, eggs, steak, bread, cheese and tomatoes, washed down with huge mugs of tea.

`Is that your first or your second meal?’ Huw asked with a smile as he slipped onto a chair opposite his friend.

`You are too quick to mock!’ William told him severely, then belched loudly. `A man like myself needs to eat to maintain his figure. It’s all right for you, bards are supposed to be so thin that they can disappear when they turn sideways. You want the women to melt when you sing to them. But when you want them to laugh, like I do, it is better to look like this. After all, what is funny about my dogs trying to jump over my stomach, and acting like they can’t do it, if my gut was as flat as yours?’

Huw acknowledged the point with a wink, as he ordered fresh bread and fruit, as well as juice and tea.

`Tell me, are we by chance going to see that friend of yours again this afternoon?’ William asked, wiping his mouth.

`Do you mean Frederick of Northfield?’ Huw said innocently.

`Of course! I know how you love to watch that man recite the world’s most tedious poetry as if it were words of spun gold. No, you dolt, Rhiannon of Hove!’

`I had thought to go down that way,’ Huw admitted.

`Thought so,’ William sighed. He paused for a moment. `Do you think you’ll talk to her today?’

Huw made a face at him. That was a particularly sore point. After the excitement of the auditions, where he had helped Rhiannon, played for her and sat next to her, he had been sure he could try and develop something of a relationship. But her father never left her side and, far from being grateful at everything Huw had done to help his daughter, acted as if Huw had tried to assault her. When she was not performing, or eating, Hector was making her rehearse, increasing her repertoire, honing her dance moves and making her practise singing.

Once, Huw had emerged from one of the castle’s many servant passages to see her singing in a room by herself, watched only by Hector. Neither knew he was there and he had spent a blissful time just watching her, listening to her and longing for her. He had heard what many of the court were saying, that she was no beauty but had the best legs they had ever seen in the castle for a decade. But he saw something in her face, shining out from inside her when she sung. There was a real beauty there, a true beauty that he wanted to see more of, get to know better. He was sure they could make some beautiful music together, if only they got the chance. He had confided as much to William, who had chuckled lewdly at Huw’s suggestion.

`I’ve never heard it called that before - but that’s as good a description as any!’

Huw had blushed, and said no more.

`I might get to talk to her - you never know. Her father can’t be with her all the time,’ Huw said.

William snorted. `Don’t be so quick to hope. That man knows what he is doing. He is making sure the King is infatuated with her - and the last thing he needs is for her to get involved with a penniless bard from a pissant village like Browns Brook! He wants her to catch the King’s eye, that way their fortune will be assured.’

`No!’ Huw exclaimed. `That cannot be!’

`Aroaril Hugh, how old are you? That sort of thing has been going on for years. The Queen is ancient - why she must be nearly 45 now! The King has been casting his eyes around the court for years now - and he always picks the pretty ones. They go to his bed, willing or unwilling, and their fathers get a large bag of gold coins in exchange for their daughter’s virtue. They say there’s a dozen little royal bastards running around court, that claim to be the son or daughter of a noble family - or a servant one,’ William said carefully, lowering his voice.

`I can understand the King’s lusts - I have seen him with a servant girl while I was performing one night. He wanted me to play the Battle March while he … you know.’

William guffawed at this.

`But how could a father actually set out to do that to his daughter?’ Huw continued.

William sighed. `My friend, I am afraid things here in the capital are not the same as they are in Browns Brook. For a poor family like theirs, to be courted by the King and rewarded handsomely - it would be very tempting.’

`I could never do such a thing!’

`Me either,’ William admitted. `But as my daughters are both married, and even fatter than their old man, I don’t think I ever had to worry about that!’

Huw smiled, as he was supposed to, but inside he could not stop thinking about Rhiannon with the King. And Hector’s fierce protection of his daughter seemed revolting in the light of William’s theory. The man was not protecting his daughter because he cared for her, but only to sell her to the highest bidder.

`So, are we going along to see Rhiannon again?’ William asked. `Or will you show me the back way out of this place that you use to slip down to the markets?’

`How do you know about that?’

`Well, I know the gate guards like a silver coin to let us in or out of the gate - and you seem to be able to avoid paying them.’

`Perhaps I sing for them?’ Huw suggested.

William winked. `Of course. I believe you!’

Huw was saved from replying when Thomas, the official from their audition day, hurried over.

`Hugh! Thank Aroaril I found you! The King requires you to play the lyre during a war meeting this afternoon,’ he gasped.

`Perhaps our revered monarch needs some romantic music, to get him in the right mood for his latest conquest,’ William said blandly, offering another wink to Huw.

`I shall be there,’ Huw promised.

Thomas smiled. `Excellent. Do you know where I can find Rhiannon of Hove? He also wants to have her there.’

`I‘m sorry,’ Huw shrugged, while William just shook his head.

Thomas nodded, then rushed away on his search.

`He wants to have Rhiannon there. Perhaps the King will let you have a turn after he has finished,’ William said with a leer.

`You have a disgusting mind!’ Huw told him but his mind was already turning to the chance of actually speaking to Rhiannon that day.

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