a surprise release: Playing Chicken

St Dwynwen, the Welsh St Valentine!

Since we’ve been locked down again, I’ve been going slowly bonkers…I’m sure many of you can relate! Instead of getting on with my planned out Dr Sylvia Marks 1920s paranormal trilogy, which involves thinking quite hard about timelines and chronology and brain-melting stuff, I distracted myself by writing a nine thousand word short story. It started off set at Christmas, but because I’ve joined the Cariad Chapter of the Romantic Novelist’s Association and we’ve been talking about ‘the Welsh St Valentine’, I ended up setting it at the end of January, on St Dwynwen’s Day.

For your delight, then, may I present…

Playing Chicken

Cover of Playing Chicken by A. L. Lester

Marc returns home from London to his isolated Welsh cottage for good, having found his ex boyfriend shagging someone else in their bed. Who’s the thin, freezing cold man with the bruised face he finds in his barn? Will the tenuous connection between them grow, or fade away?

A 9,000 word short story to mark St Dwynwen’s day, the 25th of January. With chickens!

Who is St Dwynwen?

St Dwynwen is sometimes called ‘the Welsh St Valentine’, which is a bit inaccurate, really. Her day is 25th January. There are various origin stories, but the one I like best has her as one of the twenty-four daughters of the fifth century King Brychan Brycheiniog, King of Brycheiniog or Brecknockshire/Breconshire.

Pencil drawing of two chickens.

Dwynwen fell in love with Maelon Dafodrill, but her father wanted her to marry someone else. She slept with Maelon, but when her father found out she was so scared of the potential consequences that she told him Maelon had raped her. She ran away to the woods, where she begged god to make her forget Maelon and when she fell asleep she was visited by an angel who gave her a potion to erase her memory of Maelon and turn him into a block of ice.

Somewhat generously, god also gave her three wishes:

  • Her first wish was that Maelon be thawed…which if she drank the potion to forget him seems a bit confusing.
  • Secondly she asked that god meet the hopes and dreams of true lovers.
  • And thirdly she wished that she would never marry.

All her wishes were granted and in thanks she devoted her life to god. She founded a church on the tiny island of Llanddwyn, off the coast of Anglesey. There is apparently also a well there dedicated to her, with sacred fish and eels. If the water boils whilst you’re visiting, then good luck and love will follow, although presumably not for the well’s inhabitants.

I have, obviously, taken extreme liberties with the legend, and any offence caused to St Dwynwen is mine alone to own.

Pencil drawing of two chickens.

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