Saturday, January 19, 2008

Angelina of Glastonbury: the Headman s Axe

Angelina of Glastonbury: the Headman s Axe II [A.D. 1215] [End Chapter] Mom said: “I don’t know what happened, but I do know he is done with drink.” And she added I remember, ‘there are worse things than killing men,’ and I asked: what? And mom said: “Being killed, or loving something fine, and doing nothing about it, yet knowing you could have.” Mom had looked at meâ€"in a way she never had beforeâ€"I didn’t know back then what it meant, now I do I supposeâ€"she looked to meâ€"to be at that given moment, likened to a symbol of the ancient and eternal snakeâ€"and I realized between those who can, should, do, for those who cannot, or will not, suffer otherwise, endlessly. Then we both seemed to be free; I didn’t understand but I knew by that look, someday I’d understand. In the boat I saw her glance at me with that inscrutable look, looking at me. I was young back then, strong, a hard body for a boy of my age, like my father. Richard, my brother was a ting more discernible, he didn’t lack courage, and he was just unsure of it he had any, or so that is how I perceived it. At that time, my mother had changed little, in a decade, still slender from what everyone in the town said of her. The soldier who was killed, he had an implacable pointed head, with savagely chopped hair, and crazed eyes; he did know what happened, he just died. I know my mother is not safe when in that day-dreaming mode of hers, so history has told me so. She was like a loaded cross-bow, with a hair-trigger. She told me: “He was a drunkard, and it was too late for him to stop what he had set his mind to do; a drunkard reaches a point where it is too late for him to stop, he may believe he will, but experience has taught me he will not (they both had reached this stage and conclusion), and that is what I figured trigger me, and I did what you said I’d had done.” Advance: it was a time before Beowulf was written but after Sherborn Abbey in Dorset Roman book of Catholic prayer was written. With a green and black waxed seal attached to a vellum strip at the bottom a charter was written (A.D. 1215)â€"King John enthroned now holding his scepter. It was written this year of 1215 with gall-based ink. It was called the Magna Charta, perhaps the first of its kind, a ‘Charter of Liberties,’ many copies were made, and one sent to Glastonbury, badly damaged by fire, yet it was displayed in the village nonetheless, to the populace; amongst them, Angelina and her husband, known a decade before as the Green Knight. The eloquence of those historic sentences, the nobility and idealism, they expressed warmed the hearts of Glastonbury, especially Angelina’s, saying: “No free man shall be taken or imprisoned or deprived or outlawed or exiled or in any way ruined…” Need I say moreâ€" it was revered as the founding stone of modern freedom, and in time the world over would recognize this; and to Angelina now with two sons and two daughters, regarded this as a romantic and formative piece of British legislation. This was also the time when the Crusades were a part of the fabric of the day, and much talk of it in the village of Glastonbury; for that matter, all of Europe. It was a time when Jerusalem had been conquered by the Muslim leader, Saladinâ€"in fact, it was a bloody struggle, for all three faiths, that looked upon Jerusalem as sacred ground. It was the time period St. Francis of Assisi formed an order of monks; when Pope Innocent III, was in Rome, an ablest pope indeed. And let it not be said too loud, King John of England and Pope Innocent quarreled like two attacking Grendel’s. If we were to go beyond Europe at this particular time in history we’d see Genghis Khan capture Peking, and break through the Great Wall of China, and conquer with his Mongols all in sight, much like the Vikings of their era. And although Angelina was a good mother and wife, she kept abreast of current events, as they drifted into Glastonbury, as well she could. For the most part, her little township was quiet, and their little business, sedate. â€"But these were trying times for King John, to say the least; and it would only get worse. He would die a year later, in A.D. 1216, after the loss of the French dominions, along with his disputes with Rome, his over taxation of the nobility, which would prove to have a hand in the civil warâ€"I reiterate: ending up in John’s death. To be frank, Angelina, liked King Richard I, more than John, who had been captured during the Crusading; even thought England scarcely saw him for ten-years, the extent of his reign of England; she saw him likened to King Arthur, of times past. Chapter One The Baron’s of war (A.D. 1215, John meets in Runnymede, agrees to the declarations set down in the Magna Carta) In the heart of Glastonbury, Summerset England, if one is to look up, from the village, almost at any point they will see the Great Tor, it is a manmade mound, and on its summit is an abbey (now only a tower remains, burnt down years ago). It was this year King John came looking for soldiers to recruit to fight his war with the Baron’s of England, who had gotten support form France, in particular, Prince Louis (who would on one year’s time capture the Tower of London; A.D. 1216; but of course I am jumping ahead of our story, for we are still in 1215). This year for Angelina would be a most trying year, actually it will consume eighteen-months, and the rest of this story must be extracted from her diary. (Diary of Angelina) “King John came with many soldiers into Glastonbury today. He knew of my husband’s reputation, of his fighting in the Crusades, everyone knew of course, and he asked my husband, personally asked him: too kindly join his army against the rich-barons of England, who were trying to dethrone him. Evidently, he did not wish to go according to the Magna Carta, the very one he signed. He even quoted the man he so hated, the Pope, who had decreed John did not, or was not bound by this decree, and now it is of course history. Thus, John took my husbandâ€"as if he was a criminalâ€"and tied him to a rope, held by one of the soldiers on horseback. “He tried to explain to the King, I was with child, and he’d join his army right after the child was born, but would not be of much use, being gone, and thinking about his wife and child. The king took this as an insult, and there was no more to say. He begged the king to let him stay; I had never seen my husband in such a distraught form. “It was a sad day indeed, for I knew they’d take him to London, perhaps the Tower, and torture him. But let me tell you what I did, and perhaps it was stupid, I ran to my husband, told him I’d find him, wherever he was, and the soldier kicked me, kicked me right in my belly, I had tears, I tried not to cry, to show them, but I couldn’t, my belly hurt so much, I was on the ground holding my belly, I think it was…how sad a knight can do such a thing, King John’s knights are like him; and my grandfather used to say: ‘…give a dog a new name and you don’t need to hang him.’ I wish King Richard was here, he had the name before John took the good name after his death. Now he thinks he is untouchable. “As I laid there in the dirt by our little shop, I watched the king dragging my husband out of the city as he grabbed several potential young men to become soldiers in his army (the civil war was started and Angelina knew this was a small part of it, but resistance breeds resistance, and her mind shifted back to King Arthur, her hero of heroes, and King Richard the Lion Heart: and what laid dormant in her heart was awakened: a little lion with big teeth.)” Chapter Two Tower of London It was a shame for Angelina’s husband, he being a knight, being dragged out of Glastonbury like a thief, a dishonor indeed. For in many cases knights were appointed as sheriffs and representatives of the people in shires in parliament. Angelina had felt helpless, and now she had lost her child a most horrid time for her, as she puts it in her diary: “It has been three months now, since I lost my child; and my husband is someplace in the Tower of London, so I’ve been told by Prince Louis, who has sent word to me on this matter. “I know now the Tames runs along side of the Tower, I’ve never been in London so it’s all new for me, but this map is a good one, the Prince sent me, although over a hundred years old, but he has modified it to how it looked fifteen-years ago, I doubt thinks have changed that much in those years. “There seems to be a number of towers on this map: let me describe it: an odd looking square bigger at one corner than the other, and there I see the River, it goes by the Bell Tower, and inside this odd square is the Outer word, and to the back of the main tower is the Inner word, and there are three towers, one called the wardrobe tower; inside this odd square is the main area they call the Tower of London, and it has three towers to it also, a torture chamber. I have to make it to the Bell Tower: I think. And there is gateway also. Map reading is not my specialty, so I hope I do not get this wrong, but I must now develop a plan.” Chapter Three The Tower, Wolf and Axe “I must get my husband out of the tower before he is tortured to death. I’m sure King John will not live though another year of his madness, to rule England like a tyrant, like a slave camp, but that helps me little, should I wait for his death, it will not come soon enough to save my husband. I have gone over the map a hundred times now.” She went down the Thames River, it was dark, and it was the beginning of wither; the air was chilled, a wind almost freezing, you could see your breath. She could see the Tower now: her wolf by her side in the boat, her two sons, Phillip, the elder, and Richard, the younger (eleven and twelve). She had her plan, her gold and silver to bribe, and hoping it would be enough to get through the gateway, and escorted to the Bell Tower: she had sold everything she could, business, house, everything: and had fourteen gold pieces, and several silver coins: she was penniless, if this didn’t work, then it was certain death. They had docked the boat, walked up to the gateway entrance: (Diary) “With my gold in hand I bribed the first two guard’s to let me in and try to talk with the authorities to see my husband, if only for a minute. And they saw no harm in it, and figured I’d get turned back before I got to the Bell Tower anyway, so they had nothing to lose. Phillip was with me, and my wolf (she had the old wolf for fifteen years now, it was one she had purchased and, well one today it came back to here after it had run off someplace; most of the wolfs teeth were missing but he had a mean growl, was faithful, and still had several teeth in place, if need for whatever teeth are used for), was already by the Bell Tower waiting, and Richard was in the boat, guarding it. “Thus, I had everything in place, but I knew something would go wrong, doesn’t it always, and if so, I would have to resort to another plan, but to be honest, I had no other one. But my son tells me I created one quickly. Anyhow, we walked slowly down the Great Hall, quietly pat the Royal Residence, up high to the Gallery level. I think they were running me around in circles, because the Bell Tower was outside on the other end of the Inner Ward. I was paying every guard a piece of gold, everyone wanted to be bribed. Then one guard pointed to the Bell Tower, saying: ‘…that is the Bell Tower, that your husband is in, save, if he is still alive, he was tortured pretty bad.’ “I had given him my last silver coin and now I was standing below the Bell Tower steps, and huge fat old guard came down, the old man knew what I wanted, but I had no coins left, and I told him so. He was half drunk, slobbering allover the young guard next to me, and my son, and myself. “I was hoping the young guard, who was kind enough to stop the charade back inside the main tower, would convince his comrade I had paid dearly to get to these steps, but he was silent. “I could see the door, it was slightly opened, this man must have been kicking my husband, and his footwear was bloody. ‘How much silver do you have left,’ he asked me, bluntly, this old solider who could hardly stand, his liquor had gotten the best of him. ‘I have none left,’ I told him, none whatsoever. And he didn’t like that one bit. “Then with the force of a bear, I felt like a twig in his grip, he pulled me over to him, thrust his hand down my to my breast and had his pleasure with me for that moment. I was taken by surprise, and when he pulled out his hand….” [Phillip] That is all my mother can remember, so I will have to fill in the spaces. When he pulled his hand out, of the upper part of my mothers robe, she was froze, I had noticedâ€"perhaps with terror, or perhaps with anger, I don’t know. When we had passed the torture room at the main tower, I remember my mother picking up something, an axe, I didn’t see much, and I was horrified to see the man on the rack being stretched out of his joints. But the Headsman’s block axe was there when I first seen it, and I noticed my mother touching it, and when I looked aback to see how sharp it was, it was gone. Again I must say, that guy on the rack, whose limbs were being pulled to god-knows were, blocked all other things out of my mind, but here is what followed, what I remember: When the huge and heavy soldier pulled his hand out of my mothers robe, out came the axe, she had hidden it under her cloths, thus his hand dropped like a mug of ale on the floor; then off came his head, his eyes still in shock looking at his hand, now his head was at collapsing body, and next looking into a cavity called a neck, he even blinked his eyes, couldn’t believe he was headless. Funny, how long you can live neck-less. The young soldier was in shock, he was frozen to where he stood, stone-still like the Pillars of Hercules. I suppose, now that I look back, it was most appropriate for this to take place, especially in the tower area, for is it not the place of executions. Mom simply took the plan B, into action, the plan she didn’t have until the guards tried to scare her by bringing her around in circles, and by the torture room. Aye, yes, the young soldier was still in shock, piss running down his leg onto the floor. Chapter Four Escape All my mother had on was a robe, and there was reason for this: coiled around her was a rope, where she had tucked in that headsman’s axe, and so carefully and swiftly, pulled it out to save the day. She had brought a tunic and left it in the boat, I wasn’t sure why, she never said, but now I knew. We were in the Bell Tower, father was on the floor, weak, and beaten pretty bad, but once he saw mother, he got up, then said, “Angelina! Angelina! …is it really you.” And they kissed. With no adue (or time to waste), she undressed, and unwound the rope around her body, and tied it to a bare in the window: the bars were separated wide enough that we did not have to dig out, thank goodness. As we climbed down the rope, mom’s wolf was faithfully waiting, but we also saw that young guard now running around, out the gateway to us, he had gotten his composure back. When he had caught up to us, but twenty feet in front of mom, the old wolf, with half its teeth gone, jumped like a hawk onto that soldier, and mauled his face up bad, a tooth imprint here and there: he will never again I fear, find favor with young maidens. Next we had all run to the boat, and Richard quickly pushed us all out into the river. More guards were now running out of the gate entrance, and mom’s wolf jumped into the boat as we were now clear of the bank. [Diary Entry: Phillip] King John is dead, and my the has returned to Glastonbury, after hiding in the Abbey on the Tor. Mom stopped writing in the Diary on this matter, so I took it upon myself to fill in the spaces of time. King Henry III came into power, which was in October of 1216. He would out live my father and die in 1272, which was two years ago. Now I am old, and Edward I, will out live me. But who cares, let him be a crowned crusader, like my Great Grandfather. Mom would have lived him though, he’s kind of a warrior, like dad was, and Arthur, and King Richard. The wolf died in 1217, she had her adventures with mom I suppose. That’s all I got to say. The End Note: Dedicated to Benjamin Szumskyj; written 1/15/06, at the BN-café, Roseville, Minnesota See Dennis web site: See Dennis books at or

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