Chapter Thirty Eight
Chapter Thirty Eight
As I got up from the table thinking to take myself upstairs I was caught off guard by Conall standing in the doorway. He no longer had the distant and remote look I had seen previously. Now his face was drawn, full of sorrow and regret. I froze as he walked slowly towards me then dropped to his knees where I stood.
“Morgan, I am sorry.” his voice was hoarse. I could see he was searching for words. He also looked dog tired not daring to look at me.
I wasn’t angry with him, if anything I felt that in some way I had let him down, but looking at him now I could only feel love overwhelm any other feelings I might have had. All I wanted to do was hold him and feel the love I knew he felt for me. I took his hands. “Come Conall let us just go to bed, eh love?”
He nodded getting to his feet. He led me by the hand up the stairs and into our room. He removed his clothes and climbed into the bed. Then he just laid there staring at me for a moment before bidding me to join him. I removed the dress and laid down beside him with my head on his shoulder, his arm around me.
“Conall last night I was in the cellar with Betty-“
Conall interrupted me. “Aye ye were and I brought ye up here. They hurt ye badly, the wolf and I kept watch over ye all night. I was feared ye may no have had the strength ta heal yerself.”
“Was Betty an ex-girlfriend of yours?”
“Nay she worked in the kitchen at Sutherland keep. I have ne’er spoken to her.”
“But…she said that she loved you and you loved her, why would she think that?”
“Lass.” Conall said as he placed a finger under my chin to turn my head up to him. “There is only one person I love, have loved and will only ever love and that is you. She will nay hurt ye agin, neither tha two Brollachan bodyguards.”
“Did you kill them?”
“Aye, well I got one the wolf got the other.”
“Did you kill the girl…Betty?”
“Nay. Maggie sent a missive to her bràthair. He came to collect her during the night.” Conall smiled remembering how he near choked on his ale when Maggie informed him why her bràthair had arrived at the inn with undue speed. Seeing the look of confusion on Morgan’s face he continued. “He came to collect his wife.”
I sat up looking at Conall. “She had a husband?”
Conall laughed. “She does now.”
I sat looking opened mouth at him, until he pulled me down slanting his mouth over mine. He kissed me thoroughly then pushed me down so my head was once again resting on his shoulder. I was still confused with what had happened to Betty, but then smiled when I heard the quiet snores of my husband. Feeling safe in his arms I drifted off to sleep.
I woke in the morning with Conall’s lips gently pressed to mine. It was a nice way to wake up. My mouth opened to his, putting my arms around his neck. The kiss became intense, more passionate as he rolled on top of me pinning me to the mattress.
No words had been spoken bar the crying out of our release. We lay side by side gasping. I turned onto my side towards him thinking of his reaction after the battle with the Brollachans. Scanning his face, searching from any remains of enmity or apathy. The intimacy we had just shared seemingly eradicating the partition of space between us.
Conall was a warrior, I understood that. I valued his devotion and loyalty to his code of honour. He was my protector, that was how he was raised, trained and fought. Now he was my husband and I loved him with every fibre of my body and soul.
His eyes met mine. Deep blue pools I could easily drown happily in. My eyes moved to the growth of a beard raising my fingers to touch it. the growth felt like the plush of a soft toy, then moved them to his full lips.
“Conall I love you.” I whispered as I gently touched my lips to his.
“So, do ye forgive me then lass?”
I was stunned for a moment, thinking did we not just make love. Would I have allowed him to take my body if I had not already forgiven him? “There is nothing to forgive. The moment I married you I forgave you for anything you may ever do or could do. Without you I am only half a soul, half a heart. You Conall Sutherland make me whole.”
“As you make me whole.” he uttered. “I am sorry lass for my behavior, although I believe I have said tha before. Sloane helped me ta see what I could not. Well that an threatening ta hang me upside doon, until the blood drained to my head, then beat me with a pigs leg.”
I burst out laughing. “He didn’t?”
“Aye he did” Conall smiled laying on his back and putting his hands behind his head. “Ye uncle can be verra convincing when he wants ta be.”
“Do you know anything about someone or something called Aoife?”
“Aye it’s an old Irish myth. In the first days, there were two men of the Tuatha that wanted to be king. Bodb Dearg and Lir. Bodb won but he felt sorry for Lir so he gave him one of his daughter to wed like, her name was Aebh. They had four bairns, a girl and three boys, two being twins. Aebh died when tha children were young, so Bodb gave him another daughter called Aoife.”
“Well that was very generous of him.”
Conall gave me a raised eyebrow for interrupting him. “Aoife was no happy that Lir spent his time with the children so she took the magic staff of a Druid and turned the children inta swans for nine hundred years. Aoife went to her da and confessed. Her da, he was no a happy man aboot it-“
“No, I wouldn’t be either.” I said smiling at Conall’s frustrated look for once again interrupting him.
“Are ye going ta let me finish tha story lass?”
I giggled. “Go ahead.”
“Well as I said her da was no happy, so he used the Druid’s staff and turned her into an evil air demon.”
I sat there looking at Conall.
“I’ve finished me story now, ye can speak. Why did ye want to ken anyway?”
“Betty said that the Nuckelavee worked for Aoife. She said that Aoife promised her if she delivered me and the box, she would give you to Betty.”
Conall’s eyebrows raised, a startled look on his face. “An how did Aoife plan ta do that?”
I shrugged my shoulders. “She never said.”
Conall’s brow knit together. I knew he was thinking. “What?”
“It makes sense. We knew that someone was helping tha Nuckelavee, but we didna ken who it was. The Nuckelavee has a death breath, if’n it breaths on things like crops or people it can kill em. But he can no leave his bounds. If he is getting help from Aoife, she be taking his breath and creating tha Brollachans fer him. The Nuckelavee only wants ta leave his bounds. Tis Aoife who wants ta get ta tha other world, she wants revenge on tha Tuatha fer what her da did to her.”
“Well I think her father should have turned her into a fish instead so the dear little swan children could eat her.”
“Ye ken lass ye have a dark side ta ye.” Conall said
“Do I now, well I will show you another side of me.” I moved onto my elbow running my hand slowly down his face and neck, over his slightly damp chest, and down to his abdomen. I slid down the bed following my hand. I glanced up to see a questioning look, and a slightly furrowed brow staring back at me. I continued to move downwards.
“Morgan.” he pleaded shutting his eyes and intaking a sudden breath.
His fingers came from where they had been behind his head to clench the sheet beside him.
“Holy máither of sons.” he gasped.
I looked up to see him watching me.
“Please.” he begged.
I let a small laugh escape but continued.
A short time later I heard the famous Conall phrase, God’s blood. I would say he was pleased and well sated.
A short time later Dougall came to the door to urge us to be ready to leave. Sloane had met the Mackenzie sailor from the ship. The ship needed to leave within the next couple of hours due to tides or we would have to wait another day. We dressed and packed items we had into the saddle bags. Conall caught me in his arms and kissed me hard and quick. Grinning like a Cheshire cat as he pulled away. I took it for what it was, he was a very pleased and satisfied man.
Once again, I donned the pants, shirt and jerkin. I also settled Abbey onto my back in her brace under my cloak, leaving the kirtle on the bed for Maggie to collect. Outside we met with Sloane and Ula. Ula still wearing the kirtle. She had spoken to Maggie to borrow it for a longer period. With only three horses, Sloane and Ula rode one, Conall and I took my horse and Dougall rode alone.
It didn’t take long to reach the ship moored at a small harbor. The ship Conall called a birlinn was a small wooden vessel. It had a single mast with a square sail, and eighteen oars, so it could be sailed or rowed contingent on the comportment of the weather.
The horses were skittish trying to get them up the gang plank aboard the ship. With soft cooing words from Conall and Dougall they managed without the horses kicking sailors running beside them with barrels and boxes to load.
Once we were all aboard I looked out to find the wolf, unsure if he was going to come with us or stay behind. I could see no sign of him. I was so hoping he would come. Two men began to pull the gang plank up. It was half way when a silver streak suddenly shot into view and launched itself onto the board. To the horror and consummate panic of the sailors. The wolf came to stand by my side.
“Jesus, Mary and Joseph!” Ula exclaimed wide eyed and mouth set to her usual o’. “This is the wolf you were talking about Morgan. He’s bloody big, isn’t he?” Sloane’s face was a replica of Ula’s.
“Aye this be him” Conall butted in eyeing the wolf with a silent “behave yourself.” As the ship set sail the waters were rough, setting my stomach to roiling. I didn’t like boats much and had only been on a small rowboat during my time in high school. Although it was only on a shallow river, I had taken an instant dislike to the rocking sensation. This was so much more than the small row boat.
Conall put his arm around me to steady me on the swaying deck, how he managed to keep steady was a wonder. Sloane and Ula took seats on two boxes lashed to the side. The horses were tied to the main mast. They too were not happy to be off land and neighed their contempt at the moving object they found themselves on. Dougall continued to coo to them in Gaelic trying to settle them.
The voyage seemed to go on for hours, the sky darkening the closer we came to shore. When we finally landed at Stornoway I was very happy to put my feet to soil. I believe the horses felt the same way and whinnied as soon as they too felt solid earth beneath their hooves.
We led the horses to a nearby tavern. A two-story stone building, the front looking more like a chapel than an inn. The stable was around the back, so we led the horses before being accosted by several young lads eager to take them from us. The inn was busy with most tables occupied but for one at the far right of the room. Some of the patrons who seemed to be well into their cups, were singing a Gaelic song loudly. As we sat Conall translated the words as they sang.
O Peggy Gordon, Ye are ma darlin”
Come sit ye doon upon ma knee
An’ tell to me tha verra reason
Why I’m a slighted so by thee
I leaned meself upon a cask o’ brandy
It was ma fancy, I do declare
For when I’m drinkin”, I’m always thinkin”
Wishin Peggy Gordon wi ere
“Well whomever this Peggy Gordon is, she’s far better off where she is than in this inn with this drunken lot” I whispered leaning forward. Causing Ula to splutter a laugh, a raise of an eyebrow from Sloane and a half grin from Conall.
The keeper a massive woman approached the table. Both Ula and I leaned back. She would have stood near on six feet. I could barely see her face above her more than bounteous bosom. She would have made an impressive Viking, requiring only a horned helmet on the top of her head. Her blonde hair streaked with grey fell in plaits down her front.
“Good e’en she shouted or maybe it was her natural voice, it was loud which ever it was. She could clearly be heard over the measure of din going on around us. “What be ye pleasure?”
Sloane’s face was a little too smiley as far as Ula was concerned as she jabbed him in the side with an elbow. He like Conall and Dougall discernibly transfixed by her size. Eyes fixated on her bosom though rather than her face. Ula shook her head at me.
“A good eve ta ye.” Dougall blurted getting up from his seat. He apparently wanted to see how he compared in height and width to the amazon woman standing at the table. When she raised a single eyebrow at him, he sat back down like a submissive child.
Conall ordered ales, wine for Ula and I and whatever the special of the day was. As she departed the table with her well-rounded bottom bouncing, she did so with the eyes of three men tracking every bounce.
“My God, she would have come in handy battling the braggarts at the farm.” Sloane said to another jab in the ribs from his wife.
“Aye, she could have sat on them squashing em like bugs.” Dougall added receiving a slap across the head from Conall.