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Tilly's Tale

By Pen Avey

19th century engraving of Norwich Castle

Ever since I were a titch, Mother imagined great things for me. I were her fourth and only surviving child, as them what went afore me all perished. Jacob got poisoned from a sickness known by 'Holy Fire'. Anne sprang silent from Mother's womb. Prayers were offered up to Saint Margaret, but nary a breath did that babby take. Next came brother Robert, and a year hence I popped out.

My first recollection is Robert herding me to Church ahead of him like I were a sheep. He prodded me with a switch and cried "Faster, Tilly!" 'til I sobbed and Father scolded him. Despite his teasing, I missed him something dreadful when he succumbed to a fever.

Mother were never blessed with any more little 'uns. Father said ’twere the shock of losing so many in a short while what sent her barren. Being an only child I were the apple of her eye, so when they sought a scullery maid up at the Castle, she put me forward. I couldn't believe my luck when I got it—me barely twelve, and Father nought but a lowly Gong Farmer what always stinks of piss!

The Castle Cook telt Mother I were nimble on my feet, which is vital if you're wanting chores done in a timely manner. Mother did swell so prideful that day, I thought her cheeks may burst! Since then I've grafted hard and used my wit to become Cup Bearer. My job is to taste wine and ale for the Lord and his court, and make sure 'tis not tainted. 

First time I entered Main Hall my nerves jangled, 'specially when I waited on comely Sir James. He winked at me—to ease my plight—and patted my rump in a fond manner. In the months what followed I durst say Sir James became enamoured with me. I know what you're thinking—surely a Knight would want nought to do with a serving girl? Truly, it came as a shock to myself when he expressed his passion in such a forthright manner.

We've kept our trysts secret, but he swears we'll wed soon enough—'specially now I'm bearing fruit.
I can hardly hold my excitement in, as his Steward just sent word that Sir James wants to meet me atop the Keep... Mayhap he's to propose?

By God's nails, I ought to tidy myself up—I look a right daggle-tail!



Excerpt from Eastern Daily Press - June 14th, 1990

Work halted on the construction of a new underground shopping mall in Norwich last week, when human remains were discovered. 

The skeleton of a young woman was unearthed close to Norwich Castle, and archaeologists have determined that she died around the 12th Century AD. Numerous bone fractures point to the cause of death as falling from a great height. 

The perfectly preserved skeleton of a six-month-old foetus was found within her pelvic cavity.

About the Author

Pen Avey writes and illustrates for children from her home in Norfolk, UK. She is quite a nosy person, but uses the cover story 'RESEARCH' to hide it. When not being unduly curious about the affairs of others, Pen enjoys hanging out with her family and playing with her pet cats, Crumble and Mortimer. For more information, visit or follow Pen on Facebook and Twitter.

What Our Readers Are Saying

"Pen Avey does a quite remarkable job here with only a couple of hundred words. Is her language 'olde country?' Yes, distinctly so. Are the sentiments described in this Flash Fiction piece also "Olde World?" No question about it. That said, even those of us in the New World won't fail to be moved by this piece—and perhaps additionally thankful that we live in the New World." - Russell B.


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