Lys: News From Home

Cathair pulled a face at her, and as a peace offering she sat up and patted the cot. "Come sit. I want to know everything that's happened since I left. Before you left, I mean. Has Brother Parthalan made Da a priest yet?"

The laughter went out of his face. You've only just cheered up. Did you have to ask? Couldn't we have gone on without you having to know more sadness?

With a sigh, he heaved himself up and sat beside her, turned so that he could take her hands and look in her face. "Gra..."

He saw the happiness drain away from her. She knew what he was going to say. Her head moved in a slight shadow of a 'no'. But he had begun, and he could not turn back now. "Gra... Your father... he died. A few days after you were taken." He saw her eyes well with tears, but she did not cry out. It was as though she'd had so much death in the past few hours that she could not truly comprehend it. He thought perhaps it might be a blessing. "He was hit on the-"

"On the head. I know. I saw it done." she interrupted. "Somehow I knew..." She choked on her tears. "I knew he wouldn't... but I hoped I was wrong..."

He pulled her into his arms, and she clung to him like a child awakened from a nightmare. Only her nightmare is not yet over. "He held on for you. Waited for you to be recovered. It was hearing you'd been sold that brought the end more quickly. Somehow he managed to hold on long enough to settle his affairs, and then... he left. It was peaceful- your mother was there, as was Brother Parthalan."

She sniffed and wiped her eyes. He stroked her hair, wishing he could do more for her. "Is it too much? Perhaps I should leave the rest for later..."

Aithne shook her head. "No. I would rather have it all now than sit in uncertainty. Go on. My mother?"

He heaved a sigh. "She re-married within a few months. Not that she wanted to, but... you know her better than I. She needed the stability. She had to move on."
He could feel her wince, but she nodded. Poor girl- to lose her father and her mother... grown as she was, with an uncertain past, it was unlikely she'd be fully accepted in her stepfather's home. Especially since...

"You have a brother." The words were out before he could soften them. He felt her jerk of surprise. "I... I wasn't able to come after you right away. A horse managed to get the better of me and I was laid up for awhile. Then the winter came and it was impossible to travel beyond the rath. So I was there for a long time- long enough to see your mother bear a son. They named him Aed, by the way. After you."

She was awhile processing the news. It was a lot to take in at once. He guessed she wouldn't fully comprehend it all until much later.

"And did my father name a successor?"

He smiled at that. It was a question she'd ask. She, who had studied to be a bard herself. "He did. Nuada."

She nodded. "A good choice. Were the ceremonies-?"

"Yes. Mostly, that is. Your father... he had a few requests."

Releasing her, he reached for his bundle. "He wanted you to have these." Cathair placed it in her hands with reverence, watching her to judge whether it might be too much for her...


Aithne took the bundle, her brow knit with confusion. She pulled back the plain wool and gasped. Tears sprang to her eyes again. "My father's harp... and his brat. How...?"
She knew- he should have been buried with them. Why would he break tradition so drastically?

Cathair, ever helpful, explained. "It is his traveling harp, you know. He was buried with his large one. As for the cloak... your mother was making him a new one, remember?"

She nodded. "She'd almost finished it. He was going to wear it to our-" The tears came again. The memories were bittersweet. So much joy shattered in one night. She curled into Cathair's arms as she cried. She felt an ache in her heart and she knew if she wept it would burst. The scorching would tear open and she would be defenseless.
So she simply cried quietly for awhile, holding the harp to her chest. After awhile she pulled away, wiping her eyes and composing herself. "I must honor him."


He knew she would say that. It was the way of the bards. But he knew it would take every ounce of strength she had to get through it. It was not a thing for a daughter to do. But she held his harp and his brat, she was a bard, and she had not been at his funeral. She was bound to do it.

So he nodded and did not protest. "I'll help you- as much as I can, at least." He knew his warrior status kept him from most of the bardic ways- and he did not mind. Such things were best left to bards and priests. True, he had contact with the One God, but as for other such things... it was not for mere untrained men to explore.

"Evening. As the sun sets. That is the proper time." Her chin came up in a determined gesture he recognized from their earlier years. Reaching out, he cradled her chin in his hands, kissing her on the forehead. "My brave anmchara... I love you so much."

She gave him a wan, tired smile. There were tears still to come, but she had put them away for the time being, and would not let them out. He let it be. Instead, he stood and held out his hand to her. "Perhaps you could show me the way to the kitchen, so that we can get some food in you."


Jenny said...

"...a horse managed to get the better of me..."

"I was stabbed! Right here!"



Jenny said...

"Ah! Yes, I saw!"


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