For a big man Sloane could give a hug that was comforting, solid and loving, without crushing bones. I did think though, if he was hugging someone he didn’t like he could crush every bone without too much effort. Ula made tea for the three of us and we sat back down.
“Ula, you had better explain what the Tua-”
Ula interrupted. “Tuatha de Danann.”
“Yes, the Tuatha de Danann, who are they?”
“Well, they were one of the first peoples of Ireland, some say they were descendants of Noah, and some that they were the Gods of Goidelic Irish. Their descendants are the Daoine Sith. They are Fae, as you are love.” Ula answered. “The story goes that the Tuatha had many battles with the Fomorians, they eventually joined forces. Hundreds of years later the Milesians came and defeated the Tuatha, it was agreed the Milesians would take the land, and the Tuatha would retire to the underground. Though they didn’t exactly live underground.”
I laughed. “Fae, but the Fae are faeries out of fairytales. They are little creatures that flit about making wishes. I don’t have wings or pointed ears.”
Ula chuckled at my comment. “Yes, those faeries with wings and pointed ears are fairy tales. We have special abilities we don’t go around giving wishes, we are not…er…magical. I am Fae too and my ability is healing, amongst other things”
“Sloane are you Fae too?”
“Nay lass.” laughed Sloane
“Ula you have magic?”
“No love, not magic – abilities are what we have.”
“What other things can you do?”
“Oh, I can summon a wee bit of rain, and wind”
Sloane waggled his eyebrows towards his wife. “A wee bit! Ha! I have seen ye call up a tornado when your ire has a mind to rise. I ken a few mountains of stone that where no there before.”
“You can? St Lucifer’s ghost! You mean you can make a tornado or a hurricane?”
“Weeel….maybe.” Ula said coyly. “Your mother now she could whip up flames and control water like none I have ever seen. That is how she escaped. She couldn’t save your father. She was helping another birth her bairn a few miles away when Nuckelavee’s Brollachans attacked. I am so sorry.”
“Do I…er…have these abilities?”
“Morgan, you do, but your mother thought it best to hide them, so she repressed yours.”
“Really? Do you know what my powers are, how am I going to get them unrepressed as you say?” A minute ago, I was in tears and thinking that these two people could have been insane with what they had told me. Not just by name but by blood. I’m not sure why I accepted all the information so ungrudgingly. It just felt right.
“Seeing as it was your mother who repressed them, she is the only one that can reverse them. This is one of the reasons why you need Conall love.”
Once again Conall had the answers, when he turns up he would have a great deal to explain.
“Oh, should I call you aunt Ula now? and Sloane you are my uncle, are you not?”
“Aye lass and proud to be, that I am.”
Ula laughed. “Well it makes no matter, you call me whatever you like. I’m sure it will take you a while to absorb all that we have told you.” Ula felt a sense of relief that Morgan was accepting the information, better than she had expected. She had had many sleepless nights over the past few months of how she was going to tell Morgan. Now she felt she had really nothing to worry about.
“So, let me get this straight. I’m a Fae, I have abilities but they are hidden. I have a Pict protector. I have just discovered my mother has a sister, and my husband is possibly an evil Brollachan. Does that about cover it?”
Ula smiled. “I would say so. For the time being.”
“Ula…er aunt tell me about Conall, what is he like?” I already had it in my mind that he would be like Sloane. Tall, red headed, grey streaks perhaps.
Ula thought for a moment. How was she going to explain Conall? If Morgan was expecting someone like her Sloane, she would be mighty disappointed. Sloane and Conall were as different as a bear and a wolf.
“Don’t burden yourself about that for the moment. You will meet him soon enough. Meet him first and then decide what he is like.”
She was avoiding answering the question. Sloane pulled both of us up for a group hug. It was amazing how a hug seemed to heal so much. Now I knew I was related to these to bizarre people it felt some much more. What they had told me seemed so far fetched that they could only be but believed. I thought that since my mother had died and I lost Duffy, only now did I realise how starved I was.
“Are ye well lass” Sloane asked, still in the hug.
“Aye, uncle I am” Sloane’s smile widened, lightening his entire face.
“If you stay here much longer, you will be speaking the burr like your uncle quick enough.”
Even though I had been outraged at them for not telling me they were my aunt and uncle, I couldn’t help the feeling that I was truly home, and belonged with these people.
The afternoon was spent with the three of us talking. I knew very little of my father, so I was enthused to know more of him. My mother only shared minuscule scraps of information. It always angered her to do so. I had often thought that perhaps their relationship had been a difficult one. I imparted these thoughts to Ula and Sloane. According to Ula my parents loved each other with reverence.
Sloane was quick to acknowledge my father had a stubborn streak, and oft took unnecessary risks. That he could be brash, headstrong but he was also loyal, and brave. He did however, according to Sloane love my mother with abundance. I just wish I had been able to know him, he sounded like an amazing man.
Ula suggested that perhaps my mother resented the fact that my father had put himself in harm’s way and paid for it with his life. Leaving my mother to escape and fend for herself with a child on the way. Perhaps she was right, I still though would have given anything to have met him.
Ula came back later with a bowl of stew that she called pottage and fresh baked bread. Whatever it was called it was delicious. Chicken, vegetables and oats in a mushroom sauce. We sat and talked for an hour. More about what life had been like since my mother had died, the nosey Mrs McTabbot and how I nearly sent a poor cat to heaven, in my hasty departure. When Sloane popped his head in to say goodnight Ula left with him.
Tiredness overwhelmed me once again. It had been a most illuminating and emotional day. Even though my body had healed I was exhausted. I slipped into bed. Morgan Evalina Danu Monroe I repeated to myself. I liked the name. I felt sad though at how different my life could have been if my mother had not died. I know she had intended to tell me something on my eighteenth birthday. She had told me she had secrets to share. I did not understand the profundity of those secrets before today.
I awoke in a cold sweat from a nightmare. That being the insane ranting and aggression Joe had imparted upon me. Dripping in sweat and trembling from the incursion into my dreams, I bathed and dressed in a pair of faded blue jeans and a soft cream pullover. Leaving my wet hair down after combing. Making a cup of tea I shook off thoughts of Joe. I didn’t want to think about him at all. Feeling safe in this little hideaway I just wanted to relax and think about all the things Ula and Sloane had told me. It still all felt unreal. I took my tea outside.
The path that led to the door also continued around the side of the house to the back. With tea in hand I followed the path. The garden also wrapped around the house. At the back sat a white stone bench up against the back wall. The air was a little cool even though it was nearing the middle of spring. But oh, it felt so nice to sit on the bench amid the sweet scent of flowers. Breathing in the early morning air. A small robin landed on the ground in front of me hopping around with its little tail waggling.
It was peaceful here, quiet, and isolated. I could stay here forever and not see anyone except for Ula and Sloane. It was perfect. I sat for some time watching one bird after another flitting in and out of the garden. Thoughts about the pendant prodded my mind, and the locked box still in my bag. It was about time I had another look at the box to see if I could get it open. That had been one secret I was yet to resolve. The box had no lock, hinges or openings. I walked back around the path to the front door. As I headed on in I stopped dead in my tracks.
There in the middle of the room stood a man. Slightly shorter than Sloane’s six foot six. Built like a refugee from a bodybuilding magazine. Blue jeans hugged his thighs. Black t-shirt clung to every taut muscle on his body. I must have look like a stunned mullet standing in front of him, tea cup in hand, mouth hanging open, unblinking eyes. The first thought that came to mind was ‘sexy’. He was so gorgeous it smacked you in the face.
He on the other hand looked slightly annoyed. His brow furrowed standing feet astride with arms folded in front of him.
“Where have ye been?” he demanded in a deep husky voice. Conall knew the words that came out of his mouth were harsher than he had expected. The lass standing before him had taken his breath away. He had seen her once from afar when Sloane had shown him the antique shop. What he saw of her at that time was hidden behind a heavy winter coat, hat and scarf.
Well that took me back a notch or two. “And who might you be?” I demanded. “You are standing in my cottage, and might I add, uninvited.”
His head reared back and he guffawed. “Your hoose is it now?”
“Yes…this is my hoose, as you put it.” I spat back taking my cup to the sink and rinsing it under cold water. I wanted to rinse myself under cold water. I knew it was Conall, he was not however what I had anticipated.
“Oh, you have met Conall” came Ula’s voice, coming through the door with a beaming smile on her face.
“Indeed! she has!” answered Conall, before I could open my mouth.
I gave this intruder an irritated side glance folding my arms in front of me in emulation of his stance.
“Wonderful, would you like to come up to the house to break your fast with Sloane and I?” she asked. “Did…I…interrupt anything?” she cast apprehensive glances between Conall and I.
“We were just discussing our hoose” Conall answered.
I glared at him, my mouth hanging open. “What on earth!” Our house! “There is no our house at all Mr Hercules, there is no our anything.” The audacity of him. I closed my mouth and shot him an incredulous look through slanted eyes. “Breakfast would be lovely, thank you, aunt” I said harrumphing past her out the door. I knew it wasn’t my house but I let my anger get the better of me.
Ula stood in the doorway scowling at Conall. Conall was surprised by the ire the lass had shown him. She was not the submissive maiden that he was used to. This was the lass he was sent to protect? A slow smile crept over his face as he thought this mission would indeed be interesting.
I reached the kitchen first and sat down at the table, arms still folded, my lips compacted forcefully together. Sloane looked at me with raised eyebrows and a startled look.
“Are ye well lass?”
“Yes, uncle quite well thank you” I said through gritted teeth as Conall and Ula entered the room.
I shot the intruder another sneering look. The table was laid out with bacon, eggs, porridge, a mound of buttered toast, a large plate of fried tomatoes, mushrooms, and honey. I caught Sloane giving Conall an interrogatory look. One that Conall dismissed.
“Well tuck in then.” said Ula a little nervous that things had not started as she expected between Conall and Morgan.
Conall grinned. “Aye lass I’m starving” He began piling his plate with food.
“Conall Douglas Aeron Sutherland, where are your manners?” snapped Ula shaking her finger at him.
“Ock am starving lass. I’ve been on the road fer days” retorted Conall as he shoved a piece of bacon into his mouth.
Sloane turned and learned towards me. “Lass ye will have to forgive me bràthair he dinnae ken his manners at times.
“Pòg mo thòin.” Conall snorted at Sloane still shoving food into his mouth.
Sloane snapped at him. “Bite your own ass bràthair an haud yer wheesht, yer gallus, before ye get skelped.”
“No ah umnae, can ye no let me break me fast in peace ye crabbit ejit.”
I half expected Sloane to lose his temper but instead he roared with laughter. Conall smiled still stuffing his face. Ula winked at me as if to say just let them go at it, it’s a brother thing. When the laughter died down Sloan leaned across the table towards Conall speaking in Gaelic.
“Chaidh ionnsaigh a thoirt air a “chaileag. Chaidh an nighean a bhualadh agus gu brùideil. Le Joe” (The lass was attacked. She was beaten, and brutally, by Joe)
I had no idea what Sloane was saying to Conall, however it caught my attention when I heard the word Joe. What I did see was a surge of anger in the way the muscles in Conall’s jaw suddenly flexed and tensed. His lips a thin white line, and his hands turned into white knuckled fists. He looked as if he was about to explode with sheer and utter anger.