Ula returned to the kitchen and found Sloane still sitting at the table with a fresh cup of tea, sharpening his hunting knife. Telling in an instance he was angry, taking it out on his whetting. She smelt the faint whiff of scotch.
“Sloane is that whisky I can smell?” she asked eyebrows raised.
“Aye lass, just a wee dram in the tea, ye ken just the way I like it.” he answered continuing to sharpen his knife.
Ula’s mouth broke into a wide grin. “I ken Sloane.” Ula sat down and poured herself a cup. “Well pass the whiskey then, I might as well join you.”
Sloane reached under the table and withdrew the bottle of whisky, pouring some into Ula’s cup, breaking from his anger to give her a cheeky wink as he did so. It had not mattered how long they had been together, one of Sloane’s winks always made Ula feel like a flushed sixteen-year-old.
“Sloane, I slipped up a wee bit with Morgan.” Sloane stopped, and looked at Ula with eyebrows raised. “I mentioned that Conall… had built the garden for her.” Ula took a sip of her tea waiting to hear what Sloane had to say about the matter.
“I’m sorry love…It just slipped out. I realize we have to tell her everything, and I knew you wanted to wait until Conall arrives.” she then looked up to a smile curving his lips.
“Lass dinnae fash yerself. She will ken everything soon enough when Conall git’s here. I see ye made one of ye special brews fer the lass.” he said pointing with his chin to the small teapot by the sink.
“That I did, I hope I didn’t make it too strong. She needed it though.”
“Och aye, lass that she did. How long do ye think she will sleep fer?”
“A day, maybe two. I added extra heather into the brew, though the valerian might have been enough.” Ula rubbed her neck. she was on the tired side herself.
“Ula love, why don’t ye take yerself upstairs for a wee sleep?”
“No, I will have a nap later, Mrs Crombie will have panic attacks if I don’t let her out soon. You know how she gets. If she starts her squawking we’ll never hear the end of it, and she’ll set the ladies off.” she drank the last of her tea.
“Aye Mrs Crombie may need to go in yon cooking pot sooner than later.”
“Sloane Bran Sutherland! You wouldn’t dare cook Mrs Crombie!”
Sloane grinned still sharpening his knife. He loved to see her fire up like a wee ball of flame. It set his own heart on fire as it had the first day he had met her.
A ray of sunlight shining brightly through a small window fell across my eyes and woke me. I hadn’t noticed the window last night, the fact that it was there at all suddenly struck me as odd considering the enormous hay stacks outside. I stretched my arms and yawned. How was the sun getting through all that? No matter... I froze mid arm stretch. Whoa, what the…No pain, no aches. I touched my head, no soreness and thank god, no loss of hair. The way Joe had dragged me by the hair I half expected to have a major bald spot. Toughing my face gingerly I felt my lips, no tear! I ran my fingers over my swollen eye, the swelling had disappeared too. Oh, Ula you have some explaining to do.
Rising from the bed I wrapped myself in the towel and went to put the kettle on. I needed a cup of tea, my mouth felt as if a caterpillar had made a home on my tongue. While the kettle heated I searched my bag for my bathroom necessities and clothing. I wondered how long I had slept for as I made my way towards the window.
I looked out of the window onto the garden, it was a delightful sight, filled with colour. The notion of why Sloane’s brother had made a garden for me again befuddled my thoughts. The kettle whistled and I went back to the cupboard discovering it did indeed have cups, teapot, tea, and sugar. Once the tea was made and I poured myself a cup and went to sit on the window seat. Sitting with tea in hand I pulled my legs up under myself.
Why had my body healed so quickly? I must have been asleep for days. No this can’t be right. I couldn’t have slept that long. Surely not. I got up and walked to the door and pushed the buzzer. I sat back down on the chair awaiting Ula. It seemed like an hour before I spied her coming through the entranceway. When she came into the room she strode towards me and sat beside me.
“I am so glad you are up Morgan. You look so much better. Did you sleep well?”
“I did, thank you, how long did I sleep?”
“Oh, about two days love. I have been coming in to check on you. Sloane urged me not to wake you, to let you sleep and by the look of you it did a world of good” she beamed.
“Two days- ”
“You needed the sleep love.” interrupted Ula leaning towards me placing her hand on my wrist. “Do you have any pain?”
“No, none. I was sure I had a broken nose. The tear in my lip and my swollen eye have gone as well.” I touched my lip furtively with a finger.
“My old ma always told me a cuppa, a hot bath and a good night’s rest t’was the best healing one could have.”
“Two days though.” I repeated. “Ula if I had slept for a whole week my cuts and bruises would not have healed so fast. Was it the herbs you put in the bath? You could make a fortune selling your herbal tinctures worldwide.”
Ula smiled. “Oh, just herbs.”
“And the bath herbs? What were they?”
“Aye well, the herbs do help. I am so glad they did their job though, you are your beautiful self again.”
“Still, I have healed way too fast.” Even I perceived that whilst Ula’s herbs were good they couldn’t have been capable of healing me so quickly.
Ula took a breath. ” Have you ever been sick or had the flu?”
“No, what does that have to do with anything?”
“Have you ever cut yourself or had a scraped knee?” queried Ula looking like she already knew the answer.
I had to wrack my brain, when was the last time I had a scratch or scrape, or even a cut? “Ha, I remember I cut myself on a broken mirror.” Relieved that I remembered at least one situation where I suffered an injury.
“And do you remember how long it took to heal?”
“Er…I don’t remember. Ula what are you trying to get at?”
“Love, the herbs helped you to sleep and they helped to ease your pain, but they didn’t heal you! You did that.”
“Oh, don’t be ridiculous. I can’t heal myself, and not that quick…can I?” now I was perplexed.
“Morgan, I need to tell you something. Joe came yesterday.”
“What did he say. He doesn’t know I am here?” panic streaked through my voice. I felt guilty for involving Ula and Sloane in my problems.
“No love he doesn’t. It will all be well. But I want you to stay in here for a wee bit longer. Conall will be here soon.”
Ula ignored my question. “Did your mother ever tell you how you came to be in the south of England, or where you came from?”
“No, nothing, she never spoke about it.”
“I thought as much.” Ula said with a drawn-out sigh.
“Ok, Ula out with it.” I stood putting my hands-on hips, giving her a stern look.
“Morgan let me get you something to eat first. Before the groans from your stomach wake the entire town. Then I’ll come back and talk.”
I nodded in agreement, my stomach was making its usual groans. I was however, still fixated on how fast I healed. Two days for my cuts, bruises and a broken nose? Impossible. Heal myself, nah. I paced the room waiting for Ula’s return. My mind in a tumble with everything going on. I couldn’t help feeling that if I had left Joe when he first declared we were married, my situation would have been different.
I felt ashamed that I had allowed the store to cloud my judgement. I should have devised a better solution than just hanging in there. My life had become a hamster wheel, trapped in a negative cycle. It wasn’t as if I didn’t have a lack of ideas or opportunity to leave. I just didn’t seek one.
Ula returned with a lid covered pot and Sloane tagging along behind her. I watched as she placed the pot on the sink. Heaping some of the contents from the pot to the bowl, steam swam about it as she took a spoon from the draw motioning for me to sit handing me the bowl. Sloane grabbed a chair from the table and set it down facing me. Ula sat next to me.
“Ye are looking well lass.” Sloane said taking a seat.
“I feel better, thank you Sloane.” I swept the spoon into my mouth. Porridge with honey and sultanas. It tasted wonderful. It seemed such a long time since I had porridge. My mother being the last one to make it for me.
Ula said, “While you eat we will try to answer some of your questions, but Conall will have to fill the blanks in.”
“Conall.” I muttered with a mouth full of honeyed oats.
“Morgan, I have things to tell you, but please let me speak first, and when I am finished then you can ask your questions and we’ll answer as best as we can. Ok?”
I nodded still spooning porridge into my mouth. I was hungrier than I thought.
Ula took a deep breath. “Your full name is Morgan Evalina Danu Monroe. Your mother was not Sandra Saunders, her name was Leosandra Paris Danu. Your father was Alexander Angus Monroe.”
I spluttered porridge down the front of me and Sloane quickly handed me a clean handkerchief from his pocket.
I stared at Ula with wide eyes, my mouth hanging open, she continued. “You are the direct descendant of the Daoine Sith. They were the descendants of the Tuatha de Danann, and through your father’s side, a descendant of the Fortriu what modern day call the Picts. Before you were born your father was brutally murdered by Nuckelavee’s minions. Nuckelavee controls the Brollachans. Your mother escaped. She came here to Castle Cary, changed her name and hid you from those that would do you both harm.”
Spoon held in midair, mouth still open I stared at the two people whom I had the greatest respect and love for. But now thoughts crossed my mind that maybe my affections for these two were misplaced. They had to be out of their minds to come up with such a delusional story.
“I don’t believe any of this. It can’t be, your making this up.” I laughed nervously. “I don’t understand. How can I be, I would have known, my mother would have told me?” I walked to the table put the bowl down and wrapped my arms around my body.
“Trust me love, what I speak is truth. You need to know your birthright.” Ula got up with a look of despair on her face, wringing her hands together. “I don’t know any other way to tell you.”
“Lass.” said Sloane as he got up from the chair and approached us. “Ula speaks truth lass. She would no be telling ye a lie. Lass we have awaited ye, but ye had to come of your own will. Would ye no trust us in what we are telling ye.”
“Why did my mother not tell me?” I wasn’t convinced that I wasn’t having some irrational nightmare, and that any minute I would wake up.
“Lass do ye no think she was protecting ye. She had a mind I believe, but died before she could.”
Moving away from them and sitting back in the sofa chair, I struggled to accept any of this. Covering my face with my hands I tried to gather my thoughts. Perhaps I was still unconscious on the lounge after the beating. I pinched my arm. No, this wasn’t a dream. I looked up to the faces of Sloane and Ula and could see the verity in their eyes. For some insane reason, I knew they were telling me the truth, regardless of how bizarre or illogical it sounded. In my heart, I knew it. It was just so tough to digest.
“Okay, so what has Conall to do with all of this”
Ula gave Sloane a look that suggested there was a lot more to come.
“Each generation, one descendant of the Tuatha de Danann has a protector. A guardian. Conall is your protector. It took quite a long time to find you love.”
“Aye lass were right happy to have found ye too.” Sloane added.
Ula persisted. “We suspect that Joe may be a Brollachan. The pendant that she left you was passed down the line from one generation to the next. The pendant is what the Brollachans, are after.”
I couldn’t believe Ula and Sloane knew about the pendant. I clamped my mouth shut trying to reason what she was telling me. They sat watching me, I knew they were waiting for me to process the information.
“What’s a Brollachan?” I asked. Not sure if I wanted to know.
“They are spirits of a sort that take over human bodies to do their leader, Nuckelavee’s bidding. Evil despicable creatures. Conall knows more about them. He will be here soon. He has a lot more answers for you than we do.”
“How did you know about the pendant?” I asked my head still roiling with the information. I had not told a living soul about it or the strange little box, stashed in my bag in the bedroom.
Ula worried her bottom lip and took a deep breath before she answered. Sloane patted her shoulder giving Ula a reassuring smile “Because your mother was my sister.”
“What! And you said nothing…all this time…you never once hinted, you let me believe...” I got to my feet once again, wringing my hands pacing the floor. This was too much. I felt angry, deceived somehow, that all this time I thought I was alone. “Why? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“Morgan, I love you more than you know. I’m sorry but it was for your own protection. If there had been any other way. I couldn’t tell you before, it could have put you in danger.”
Tears whelled in my eyes I couldn’t hold them back. They flowed like Niagara Falls. Ula put her arms around me and hugged me with a vengeance.
“I am so sorry love. I had to protect you. There were so many times I wanted to tell you but I couldn’t. Please forgive me.” she was crying as much as I was. I couldn’t pull away from her. I sunk into her embrace. Together we cried on each other’s shoulder. She pulled back to look at me. “How about I make a nice cup of tea for us, eh?” a wet smile on her face.
“Ok, but not the same as the last one you made,” I said with a sour look. Ula and Sloane broke into laughter. “It was awful you know.”
“I know love but you needed to sleep, and t’was the best thing for you.” Ula filled the kettle and turned it on.
“Ye ma would be proud of ye lass, and I ken she loved ye more than life itself.” said Sloane as he took me in one of his bear hugs.