A few hours later the wolf returned to his spot at the opening of the cave and Conall disappeared. No doubt to see to his own ablutions. He was gone quite a long time. I walked the cave, petted the wolf, washed my face several times and napped for an hour. I thought about the journey so far and the journey to come. What I wanted was to get this blasted parasite out of my body.
Now that I knew it was there I was fully conscious of it and my imagination ran away with me as I thought I could feel it moving beneath the skin. I’m sure it wasn’t though or I would have felt it long before now.
I realized from Conall’s reaction to the fact that I was still a virgin caused him angst, but then again, he did assume I wasn’t a virgin, He might be beautiful to look at and built like Hercules but he could be a dick at times.
While rubbing the bolts against the stone I thought about the Nuckelavee, Ok so if I was captured by the Brollachans and taken to him or it, or whatever it was, with the sacred blade, my blood would allow him to travel to the other world. From what little I knew about him or it, nothing I knew was good. It was a monster, only a monster would create Brollachans that sucked the life out of humans.
Hopefully Dougall will find the Druid. Still my blood was an issue and I needed to do something about it. There was only one way to solve this problem. If I wasn’t a virgin then the dagger would be of no use. Regardless I wasn’t going to let Conall off so easily for making an assumption.
Conall checked the perimeter and walked to the top of a crag so he could see beyond the distance of the path. He had to think. He needed separation from Morgan to get his thoughts into perspective. If Nuckelavee made his way to Tir na Nog it would be devastating. He could destroy the ancient world within a sennight.
It was his mission to protect Morgan but in doing so he was also protecting the other world. If Nuckelavee managed to get hold of Morgan her blood would allow him passage, and nothing would stop him. Nuckelavee was not easy to kill. There were many stories of warriors taking battle against him, and none of them had managed to defeat him.
Nuckelavee was said to be able to turn himself into vapours of smoke, he could disappear and reappear at will. He was however bound by the water ring and the person who held the key to his release was Morgan.
He labored over the three problems, one Morgan’s blood, two getting the pendant home, and three removing the parasite from her back. If Dougall was successful in finding the Druid that would take care of one problem. It would also make their journey to the stones easier, as long as they could get there in time.
A question arose in his mind. Did Nuckelavee know where they were headed. If he did there would probably be Brollachans waiting for them at the stones. That obstacle he would have to deal with when they got there. That left one major challenge. Morgan would still be in danger because of her blood.
I was relieved to see the return of Conall with fish in hand, gutted and descaled. The wolf left when Conall returned. “You were gone a while. Is everything ok?”
“Aye lass, just checking the perimeter.” Conall set up the fish to cook above the fire.
“Must be a big perimeter then.” I retorted a little heated with being left for so long. I shook my blanket out for the hundredth time, re-laid it back on the floor and flopped on it with my back to Conall.
“Lass we need to talk.” Conall said as he crouched before the fire tending the fish.
“What do we need to talk about?”
“Let us eat then we shall sit an talk, ok”
“Ok.” Whatever it was that Conall wanted to talk about it would seem it was something very serious by the look on his face. If he was feeling guilty over his statement, he would probably want to apologise, why he needed to wait until after we ate, would be anyone’s guess. I was though hungry.
There were two bannocks left and a small amount of dry cheese and one apple. Conall cut the apple in half. While we ate the wolf returned to his spot, relieved and grateful for his guard. I had no doubt that Conall and I could defend ourselves, but having the wolf as well increased our chances. Meal finished I washed up in the waterfall basin. Conall did as well. Then we sat on our blankets facing each other ready for this talk he wanted.
“Lass when Dougall gits back with the Druid he will remove that parasite from ye back. This will make our journey a wee bit easier. I’m sorry that I upset ye last night. I did no mean anything bad about ye no having your...it’s…just…if Nuckelavee got hold of ye…”
I interrupted him, “I know, I would be in danger and so would the other world. I understand what you are saying Conall.”
“Ye are a smart lass. Well it would be a might easier if ye no…had…ye maidenhead.”
I looked at Conall surprised at his candid statement, I had thought of the same thing but, nevertheless, I wasn’t expecting him to blurt it out in such a way. “So, you think I should remedy that problem?”
Conall felt uncomfortable with the conversation, and twitched where he was sitting. Maybe he should have practiced the right words to say before coming back to the cave. “Tis a problem that needs a solution.” he said reluctantly.
“Oh, and just who do you have in mind to solve the problem…of my virginity? Your brother, a stranger, yourself?”
Conall looked at me as shock swept across his face.
“No! Not me bràthair, an no a stranger either.”
“Oh, so are you putting yourself forward for the job then? What will it be then Conall. Are you going to woo me first or are you just going to do a quick, wham, bam thank you maam affair to get it over with quickly?”
Conall was flustered at my boldness, his face turning a bright shade of red. My protector, blushing, and lost for words made me smile. I hadn’t meant to be so forthright with him. The thought though of there being any physical passion with Conall only heated my own body. I felt the heat every time he was close, especially when he touched me, not to mention those butterfly kisses.
I fell backwards onto the blanket and closed my eyes remembering his touch, the softness of his lips. My breath hitched as Conall moved over the top of me, resting on his elbows. The intensity of his face looked as if he was angry, my heart was pounding, my mouth suddenly dry. He stayed there motionless, waiting and watching as his eyes moved to my lips then back to my eyes.
“Morgan, when ye are near, my stomach knots and twists. I canna think clearly, ye muddle my thoughts. If ye truly don’t want me then so be it, I will nay touch ye again. But ye must ken I’ve wanted you from the first moment I laid my eyes on ye. The question is do ye feel the same? When I kissed ye at the inn and again…I thought…”
“Oh, Lord yes!” I gasped as I brought my hands up to his hair, grasped it pulling his lips down to mine.
He had more to say but the lass had reached up clutched his hair and pulled him down to her, the rest of his words lost against her mouth. He kissed her tenderly, cautiously, but it wasn’t tenderness she wanted. The tip of his tongue brushed her lips, she opened to him.
Conall groaned, low in his throat as he wrapped her with his arms, deepening the kiss plunging his tongue into her mouth. He couldn’t get enough, he was lost in her now.
I had never been kissed like this before, and I had certainly never had a tongue in my mouth. Oh, but the feeling hot and hungry, like it belonged. Welcoming his urgent thrusting sent a firestorm of scorching flames through my body. I emulated his movement hesitantly, he groaned. I pulled away enough to say don’t you dare stop this time.
“Not this time.” he groaned back sweeping his mouth over mine then across my face, down my neck and back to my lips. “Lass I can no take your maidenhead but I can kiss you all night.”
I couldn’t answer I was lost in what he was doing to me, to my body. I wanted more. The weight of his body over mine was, all consuming. He deftly undid the buckles of my jerkin, kissing my eyes, my cheek. Pulling my shirt from my pants he moved his hand over my waist and up cupping my breast.
Each touch of his hand sent searing charged sparks across my skin. Rubbing my nipple, he plunged his tongue once again into my mouth. I was shaking, grasping his shirt as if to drag him into my very being, any minute feeling I would shatter into a million shards of light.
We both stopped with a fright looking up to see Dougall standing there with a man dressed in brown robes. Dougall his arms folded in front of his chest. His eyes rolled skyward, a roguish smile on his face. The old man was looking nervously at the wolf still sitting at the cave entrance. Obviously trying to ignore Conall and I wrapped together in hot passion on the floor. Conall got up adjusting himself as he did. I hurriedly reattached the buckles on my jerkin. Before he hauled me to my feet.
“Bràthair.” Conall said eyebrows furrowed annoyed at the interruption.
A wide grin spread across Dougall’s face. “I hope we didnae disturb ye. Ye seemed ta be quite busy.”
“Is this the Druid then?” Conall asked ignoring his brother’s remarks. The Druid a small stature of a man didn’t quite reach Conall’s shoulders. He looked very old with wary worn eyes, thin wisps of white hair stuck out of his head like grass bending in the wind. When he turned and spoke his words were strange. Dougall it would seem was the only one that could understand what he was saying.
The Druid approached me. He stared up at me being shorter than I and rattled words at me, a frown to his face. I had no idea what he was saying so I simply smiled at him. I looked to Dougall for an interpretation.
“Milady he wants to see yer back, if’n ye will permit.”
“Yes of course.”
Conall took me by the arm and moved towards the back of the cave. He turned his back to the Druid and Dougall so he could shield me while I took my jerkin and shirt off. I dropped the jerkin but held the shirt up in front of me as I had done back at the hut.
“Okay I am ready” I was ready, for the second inspection of the tattoo between my shoulder blades. I could hear the Druid shuffling towards me.
“Seadán.” The Druid uttered as his finger traced with rough but gentle fingers the tattoo between my shoulder blades.
“It is as I thought, deamhan tatú.” Dougall sighed.
The Druid relaid to Dougall what he needed me to do.
“Milady the Druid needs you to sit. He will kill the beast ye have in yer back through incantation, but ye need to ken there will be heat and pain. When tis dead it will need ta be cut out an that will be verra painful too. I’m sorry milady there’s no other way.”
My only thought was that I didn’t want to go another day with it in there. If it meant a bit of pain then so be it. It had to be done. It did not however stop me from shaking. I still had my back turned, shirt scrunched to my chest.
Conall put his hands around me pulling me backwards into him.
“It’ll be alright lass I am here for you” he whispered into my hair. I hadn’t realised that he had removed his jerkin and shirt as well, until I felt his bare chest against my skin. Turning me to face him he lifted me up in his arms and walked to the slab of rock. He sat down and turned me so I was straddled across his lap. Holding me close he reached down and pulled my shirt out of my hands so that my chest pushed up against his chest. “Lass I need ye to put yer arms around me and hold tight.”
I did as he asked. He put his arms around me so that the tattoo was between them and pulled me closer to his body. Either he just wanted to continue where we left off or this was going to hurt like the devil. I think the latter was more of what was going to happen.,
“Dougall tell the Druid to do it now.” he said then he whispered to me. “I’m here lass, I’m right here, I will not let you go. Ever.”
The Druid shuffled over and stood behind me. He placed his small hand on my back centering over the tattoo.
Conall whispered again. “Lass take in a deep breath and hold it as long as you can.”
“Tá an phian go holc.” the Druid uttered.
Dougall translated but in Gaelic that the pain will be bad. Conall nodded. He felt nauseous and lightheaded knowing what was coming, what she was going to have to go through. Never seeing the ceremony before he wasn’t sure how long it would take, but he had been told that it was a painful experience. He wondered how it was possible to feel this connected to another soul, connected though he now was.
The Druid’s hand felt cold on my skin, almost comforting. I took a deep breath and held it. The comfort of the Druid’s touch did not last long though as a heat began to grow beneath his hand. It grew in intensity along with a pain, sharp below the surface of my skin. My breath hitched from the strength of it. Conall held his grip cooing to me, as I had so often heard him. I tightened my arms around his back and sunk my head into the crook of his neck.
“I love you Morgan. I will not let you go.” Conall whispered to me.
Pain exploded down my back causing a blinding whiteness in my head. I tried to focus on Conall, the feeling of his body pressed to mine, his scent. He loves me? I wanted to tell him I love him too but the pain was so intense I could only scream his name, his arms tightened around me.
I felt his gasp of breath matching my own as if he too felt the pain I was enduring. I could hear the Druid’s voice rising in pitch with his incantation. As his voice rose so did the force of pain. I screamed into Conall’s neck again. My head was spinning, the pain pulsating like the fervent hands on a drum. Conall continued to whisper to me and I tried hard not to shake.
Just when I thought I could stand no more it suddenly stopped as did the Druids voice. Once again, the hand of the Druid felt cool, the sharp pain had ceased. I slumped against Conall exhausted, panting and spent. Sweat poured down my face merging with tears. I expected Conall to release me but he remained rigid.
“Lass the beast is dead. Dougall is going to cut it out o’ you now.” He couldn’t explain it, he had felt her pain as if it where his body the Druid dealt with, his back between his shoulder blades had burnt like nothing he had felt before. He couldn’t take her pain away, but somehow sharing it, made him feel as if they had joined in body and soul. He had held her tight, as he was about to again for the cutting.