Lys: The Blood-Price

How long they stood like that, Cathair wasn't certain. He didn't want to break the peace that had settled on her- didn't want to interrupt it to tell her what he had to say. But it had to be done eventually, and preferrably before evening came.

"Aithne..." Slowly, she looked up at him, faintly reproachful, he thought. "I need your help with something" When her gaze turned curious, he led her down the path a little, to a bit of low stone wall where they could sit. He took both her hands and turned to face her as they sat there, and asked quietly, "Do you remember the boy who was with you in the battle?"


Aithne recoiled. Suddenly she remembered what she had forgotten for so long- it seemed so long, at least- Cathair had killed Aidan. Her heart began to tear again, and she was thankful she was sitting as she nodded. "I remember."


She shrunk in on herself. Cathair saw it happen and wondered, if this was how she took it, what would the boy's mother say? And the father? Somehow Cathair doubted there was a father. He was not sure why. But there had been something in the boy's manner... indefinable but there. A grown-up-ness of a sort that did not come from a boy whose father still lived. Strange how one could see a person for only a few seconds and glean so much about them before they died.

He gripped her hands a little tighter, willing her to stay with him and listen. "I need to talk to his parents. I must pay them an eric if nothing else. He... he should not have died. I wish to God I had not loosed that arrow!"

He bent down in hopes of catching her eye again. "I need to speak to them, but my Latin is horrible. I know I'll make some mistake- make things worse. I was hoping..." What was he doing? She was near tears and he was asking her this! "Would you translate for me?"


Translate? Recount the horror of it all, from his point of view? Re-live it? But even as part of her rebelled, another part knew she could not say no. He was her Cathair. How could she do anything but stand by him?

It would be hard. Oh, it would be hard. But she would do it. Steeling herself, raising her head and holding his hands tight, she nodded, biting back the hurt that was in her. "Of course I will."


It was not long after that they sat before Aidan's mother- Cathair had been right in assuming she was a widow- slowly, gently, and painstakingly telling her what had happened. Cathair listened to Aithne's translation with some awe. She managed to take his matter-of-fact words and turn them into something gentle, even soothing.

Even so, the poor woman took it all in without movement. Cathair recognized the signs of shock, and after awhile stood to go. Eventually the woman would come to herself. And in the meantime... he drew his purse and took out the lion's share of the gold found there. It was enough to buy a female slave- that was the price of an eric, and he added more out of conviction to do so. But suddenly the woman flew up into his face, knocking his hand aside. "Do you think I want your money?" she hissed. "Do you think you can pay for the privilage of killing my son?He was my son! Mine! And you stole him from me!" She dissolved into tears before his eyes, and two women entered, easing her back to the chair and soothing her as best they could.

Another turned to him. "You have done as best you can do, sir. Do not be distressed. She is out of her mind with grief now, but it will pass eventually. No one counts it as you do- 'twas a stray shot in battle, and the man who sent him out is as much to blame as the man who shot him."
She looked over his shoulder and towards the villa. "And I can promise you no one will be going after him."

Cathair listened, and nodded, but even paying the blood debt did not take the sting out of it. Not for him, not for the boy's mother, nor for Aithne either, he thought. The woman was still right. He had done the best he could. For the moment, at least. It was in his mind to look after the woman in any way in which she was lacking, in the future- when she could look at him and not see only the blood on his hands.

He turned to go, his steps heavy. Then, out of nowhere, Aithne came and slipped in under his arm, walking with him, bearing his heart up on her own and pushing on without complaint. The gesture encouraged him like nothing else could have.

"Come," she said, "I will show you the cloister now."

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