I awoke feeling like there was a jack hammer pummeling its way through my head. I felt restrained in some way. Like I was held down. I suddenly realised what was holding me down were body parts. Hands, legs, and they weren’t mine. Holy Mother of God! I jumped out of bed, only to find I was as naked as a jaybird. I grabbed a cover from the bed wrapping it hastily around me. Dumbfounded I caught sight of Conall laying on the bed blinking at me with a smile, and naked, at least from the navel up.
“Are ye hale lass?” He asked grabbing his kilt and masterfully getting it around him, and out of bed without any exhibition of unacceptable skin bits.
“Wh…what are you doing in my bed?"
“Lass ye were verra sick. I dinnae ken if ye would make it through the night. Ye needed my body warmth before ye froze to death.”
“I was? but…” Freezing to death? That can’t be right. Holy crap we were naked in bed...together. I couldn’t look at him. I wanted to punch him, and scream but my mouth jammed shut and refused to utter a single word.
“Ach dinnae fash Morgan, nay happened.” He derided just as Ula and Sloane came through the door.
“Oh Morgan, you have recovered?” She quickly made her way to my side and wrapped me in a hug, as if she hadn’t seen me in a year. Her hand went to my head, and she looked into my eyes as a doctor would, then her fingers went to the side of my neck. Ula nodded saying I was lucky to be alive.
Feeling somewhat discomfited with only a thin cover wrapped around me, I was still stunned as to what had happened. The last thing I remembered was sitting out the back with Conall’s cup of scotch tea. Now I had woken naked, with a naked Conall. Oh, lord I was so embarrassed. I couldn’t look at him. I couldn’t look at anyone.
“Are ye well love?” Sloane asked
I looked down at my feet. I wanted to say I have a raging headache and my insides feel like they been raked with a hoe. “I guess I’m fine.”
“I think a cup of willow bark tea with extra honey is needed, it will help to get rid of any remaining infection in your body. I do think though that your body is doing most of the healing, and fair quick at that.” Ula covered me with the rest of the blankets.
“Infection? What infection? I asked punching the pillow into submission.
“You had an infection in your body. You scared the daylights out of us. We couldn’t get you warm enough, that’s…why Conall…er…shared his body heat with you. It was the only way love, and the tea that he fed you throughout the night.”
“Aye am glad Conall was ere, I no think that ye would have been too pleased if’n it was me wrapped around ye, in such a fashion” Sloane winked. Ula gave him a sour look. Sloane faked a cough and looked away.
My face, I was sure, had turned a bright shade of scarlet. I will never be able to look Conall in the face ever again. I did notice nonetheless that Conall had slipped from the room. For that I was grateful.
“Morgan love. When a Fae has internal damage, and receives the breath of a Brollachan it causes an infection that literally freezes the body. It’s miasmic.” she said fussing with the blankets.
“Really?” Miasmic? “Well that’s one way to exterminate a race. It is a wonder there are any Fae left at all.” I uttered.
Ula gave me an uneasy glance. “Yes love, one reason to be sure. We are indeed short in number.”
For the next hour Ula fed me sweetened willow bark tea, it tasted ugly but not as bad as the first tea she had made me. My headache had eased quite a bit. She returned to the main house so I could have a bath.
The bath was long and hot exactly what I needed at this moment. With a whole new array of herbs in it. Feeling better for having had a bath I dressed in black jeans and a blue denim shirt, tying my hair into a ponytail. I was tying my shoelaces when Conall knocked at the bedroom door. The door wasn’t shut but he knocked anyway. I couldn’t bring myself to look at him so I focused on re tying my shoelace.
He said. “If’n ye are hungry I will escort ye to the hoose.”
“Fine.” I answered curtly while I removed invisible fluff from the bottom of my shirt. How could he be so calm about what had happened? Not that I thought anything had happened, really. I was however hungry and the groans from my stomach as usual let everyone within a mile know. We walked to the house, my head down, arms folded, not speaking.
Ula and Sloane were sitting at the table with the usual cups of tea in front of them and a large plate of sandwiches in the middle. She remarked on how much better I looked, supported by Sloane’s recurring question ‘are ye well lass’. I still couldn’t look at Conall’s face.
Conall and Sloane discussed the fact that Conall thought it would be wise to take me back to 1735 as a safety precaution and to see the Cailleach. Ah there it was again, time travel. I wasn’t sure if I had heard him right the first time.
Ula’s voice interposed my thoughts. “Conall, did I not tell you that Morgan is a master in the use of a bow and arrow, and a crossbow nonetheless.” she smiled with approbation giving me a quick wink when I raised my head slightly to look at her.
“Aye what?” his look was incredulous while nearly choking on his sandwich. I dropped my eyes back down to my hands in my lap. I was sure that Conall was thinking if I had some skill with the weapons, why had I not used them against Joe. Conall made no mention of it. I had however, asked myself that question many times in the last few days.
Ula continued. “She is amazing, you should see her handle them, never missed a single bullseye. Just amazing.”
“Nay, ye can use the crossbow?” Conall asked still with a mouth full of food.
I just nodded still looking down.
“And ye are good with em?” He asked. “Lass will ye nay look at me?”
I took a deep breath before I lifted my head to glance at him. He was still wearing his kilt but now donning a white t-shirt as well.
“Ye can handle these weapons, and well?”
“Yes, I can use them.” His dark blue eyes fixed on me with intensity. I found it hard to read him, he was a multifarious man indeed.
A mouth full of sandwich he said. “Aye then ye will be useful when we travel.”
Righty oh then! That was charming, not.
“What is so important about the pendant that everyone wants it so badly?”
Ula poured tea into four cups. “Well that is the question, is it not. I am not too sure, your mother never did tell me why, if she knew, that is. I only caught a glimpse of it when I was a child. It was your mother that was given the pendant, so none of us were told anything about it.”
I had to think for a moment, surely there would be no danger showing it to the three people sitting at the table. They had all gone beyond the call of duty in caring and looking after me. Ula was after all my mother’s sister. I remembered her telling me not to show it to anyone. I was sure that didn’t include Ula. Decision made.
“Would you like to see it aunt?” I asked as I took the cup she offered me.
“Oh, I would love to see it…but only if you are comfortable with showing me…or us.” she looked from Conall still stuffing his face to Sloane.
I excused myself from the table and left swiftly to retrieve the pendant. Leaving my half-eaten sandwich on the plate. Conall raced behind me swooping another sandwich as he did so.
“Could ye no have waited till I finished me food?” He interjected with a mouthful of sandwich. I ignored him smiling to myself that it was causing him some minor angst. I was still embarrassed at the thought of him sleeping next to me, naked. Not something I needed to dwell on lest I stay in a state of discomfiture. I did however, after Ula had explained why we had been in bed together understand the reasoning of it. It did not though diminish my humiliation.
I went to my bag retrieved the pendant, returning briskly back to the main house. Conall trailing behind. I returned to my seat handing the pendant to Ula.
“Oh my, it is beautiful.” She took it from my hands. Sloane leaned towards her so he could see and touch it with gentle fingers.
Conall asked grabbing the last sandwich on the plate. “Do ye ken what the illustrations are lass?” Not waiting for my reply, he began. The “Z” configuration is a Pictish symbol.”
Now I remembered where I had seen something similar several years ago on a book about Pictish stones. Why it hadn’t clicked before was odd.
He went on to say. “The sun behind it is the symbol of the Tuatha de Danann. They arrived in Ireland from a world called Tir na Nog. They brought with them four magic items. Dagda’s Cauldron, the Spear of Lugh, the Sword of Light, and the Stone of Fal.”
“The same as the symbols around the edge of my pendant. “ I uttered, never knowing what they had actually meant.
Conall persisted, slightly irritated at my interruption. “The Tuatha de Danann, went to the highlands an met up with the Picts. Forming an alliance, they forged the pendant. Only one descendant per generation of the Daoine Sith can hold the pendant. The Sutherland clan are the guardians and protectors of the descendants of the Tuatha de Danann.”
Well one thing about the man, he could talk when he needed to. I sat listening to him, occasionally nodding my head.
Ula handed the pendant back to me with a request to put it on. I did as she asked. I had only ever worn it once when my mother gave it to me, and only for a few minutes.
“Morgan, it looks so right on you. Like it somehow belongs.”
“If you are my uncle” I said turning to Sloane. “Then Conall would be an uncle of sorts to me also?”
Sloane laughed. “Aye lass, you could say that, only by marriage though.”
“Aye.” said Conall giving Ula a quizzical look as if to say, where are the rest of the sandwiches. One thing about Conall was he had the appetite of whale.
I wasn’t sure if I was disappointed or happy with this information. Suddenly the pendant began heating, and the stones began lighting up like a Christmas tree. The light was going from one stone to the next and speeding up with some velocity, along with the intensity of heat.
“What the devil!” Ula exclaimed as a loud knock came at the front door down the hall. Ula, Sloane and Conall all stood at the same time.
The lights on the pendant were going wild. I took the pendant off due to the building of heat, but the lights continued. Conall was beside me in three steps. Ula whispered for Conall to get me down to the house with all due haste. Conall didn’t think about it, he grabbed my arm, and raced us out the back door, through the mud room and down the yard at a run. He pushed me through the door of the cottage.
“Do no leave this room until I get back. Do ye hear me lass?” He demanded.
“Yes, ok. It could just be a neighbor or someone they know.”
“Stay an dinna move.” Were the last words before he disappeared through the door, shutting it as he went. I sat on the window seat watching the wall close behind him. Fifteen minutes later the wall moved again. Ula came through alone shutting it behind her. As she entered the front door I jumped to my feet.
“Is everything ok?”
“Hey love, everything is fine. It was Joe and what looked like a few extras. Sloane and Conall will sort them out.” She sat on the lounge motioning for me to sit.
“What does he want? does he know I’m here?” I was worried, this was the second time Joe had come to the farm. This time he had come with backup. He must have suspected that Ula and Sloane where hiding something. Namely me.
“Morgan are the lights on your pendant still blinking?”
I pulled the pendant out of my pocket where I stashed it just as Conall had grabbed my arm in the kitchen. The lights had stopped, and the metal was once again cool in my hands. Confusion raked my brain as to why the change in the pendant. It seemed an enigmatic coincidence that the arrival of Joe, coincided with the sudden heat and lights.
Ula looked serious. “I think that the lights and the heating are warning when a Brollachan is around. It just seems strange that the lights suddenly appeared when they turned up.” She said touching the pendant still in my hands. “Have you ever seen the lights before love?”
“No, the night after mama gave it to me we put it in the box. We hid the box in the old seat in the mud room of our house. After mama died I added things to the box but I never took the pendant out again. Not until I retrieved it the morning I left.” I was stunned to have seen the lights. I had always thought they were just little stones.
“Do you know what this means if the pendant can detect a Brollachan? No wonder they want it” she said in a voice so low it was if she was talking to herself. “We can’t wait any longer. Morgan, you and Conall will have to leave tonight. Do you feel well enough to travel?”
“I’m fine, really. I feel so much better.” Well this should be an experience, or not. Why we had to time travel didn’t make a great deal of sense. Other than to find the so-called seer woman who would restore my abilities. Surely there would be seer people in this time. It would seem I had little choice. It was however, enough to make one’s head spin. I was troubled that my presence was creating added danger for Ula and Sloane. I knew Joe to be dangerous and I didn’t think I could live with the thought of something dreadful happening to them.