Oath Of A Warrior
I glanced at Ula her eyes saddening as she watched her husband talking. When she realised I was looking at her she gave me a small sympathetic smile. Whatever Sloane had said to his brother had made Conall as mad as hades. Conall glanced with slanted eyes from Sloane to me.
What happened next, I did not expect. I was taken by complete surprise. Conall stood from his seat walked around the table, knelt down on one knee in front of me placing his right fist on his chest where his heart was.
“Lass, never again will anyone hurt ye. I will protect ye with my body, my soul an my life. I swear this to ye afore Sloane and Ula, and the sacred laws of the Picts and Tuatha de Danann” The look on Conall’s face was unreserved truth and sincerity.
I was speechless. Sloane reached over and squeezed my shoulder. I looked back at Conall. He was staring at me with dark blue ocean eyes, fist still over his heart.
“Err…thank you…Conall. I…er appreciate that.” What was I to say, was there specific words I needed to use? I had no idea, except that this man was knelt before me giving me an oath of protection with his life. I sat staring at him. I had been angry with him but how could I be so now, I was shocked to say the least by his oath to me.
Conall gave me a short nod, rose and resumed his seat. He began stuffing his face once again, but this time with more dander.
“Eat Morgan.” beseeched Ula, placing food on her own plate.
Sloane added. “Aye lass ye need to keep yer strength up for the journey yet to come.”
Journey? What journey? Something else that I had not been told. The three of them continued with their breakfast as if nothing was out of the ordinary, and Conall had not just professed himself to my absolute protection. Ula chatted on about going to an auction to buy a goat.
What on earth was I to make of all of this. Things had taken a turn, for bad or good I was yet to discover. I helped myself to a slice of toast and a spoonful of mushrooms. I wasn’t angry at what had just happened, I wasn’t happy, I was just mystified., and maybe a little embarrassed.
A week ago, I was happily working in the store minding my own business. Well happily in the store not happily at home, not with Joe. Now my life had been turned upside down had gone from an antiques seller to a Fae, with a Scottish protector built like Hercules along with a temper and attitude to match a nine on the Richter scale of an earthquake. If I was to relate what had happened over the past three days to anyone, they would surely think I was insane.
Eating my toast through lowered lashes I chanced to steal a look at Conall only to find he was doing the same. I could feel a red blush ebbing up my neck, hoping that it wouldn’t reach my face for all to see. Ula give Sloane a quick lift of the eyebrow and roguish smile before it disappeared under a slice of toast heaped with bacon. Well if this isn’t awkward.
After breakfast, I helped to clear the table and wash the dishes while Sloane and Conall disappeared into the sitting room. The room Conall called a solar much to the raised eyebrows, and shake of Sloane’s head.
“Conall’s speech was a little over the top, do you not think so aunt?”
Ula cocked her head to one side and smiled at me. “Morgan, he has spent most of his life training to become your guardian and protector. He takes his duty and mission very seriously.”
“Really, he trained to protect me? Well I could have done with him thirteen months ago.”
Ula was saddened by Morgan’s comment. She knew that it wasn’t meant to be spiteful. She wished he could have been there too. He would have been if they had found her earlier than nine months ago.
“Aunt I’m curious, why it was ok for me to come to the kitchen for breakfast. Aren’t you worried that Joe might show up?”
“No Morgan, not with Conall and Sloane both here.”
“I know Conall’s a big guy, uncle too, but if Joe should…”
Ula interrupted me. “Conall is a warrior. I have seen him take down a dozen bigger and more formidable warriors than that piece of shite. You have nothing to worry about. Did you know that Sloane can wield a sword almost as good as Conall?” Ula smiled thinking of a time when she had watched Sloane take down five warriors. Not a hint of being out of breath when he had finished. He had been magnificent.
“Sword? what sword? They fight with swords…Oh My Lord. This is 2016 no one fights with swords.” Well I did but that was only in my training room. People didn’t just go around with a sword under their belt.
Ula laughed. “They are grand warriors both.” She hung the dish towel up. “Conall will explain all to you. Now I would like you to return to the cottage and rest for a wee bit. You may be recovered on the outside but we have to make sure any internal injuries are also fully recovered.”
I nodded. It sounded a good idea. A nice quiet lie down and some thinking about Joe, Fae, Conall, the oath, Brollachans, my mother…swords. It was all rather overwhelming. Warrior?
“Right then, be off with you.” said Ula as she shuffled me towards the back door.
When I returned to the bedroom I removed the box stashed in the bag. Taking it to sit on the window seat. Running my hand over the box, I couldn’t help but think of my mother. How I missed her. I opened the box and retrieved the pendant. So, this is what everyone wants.
The pendant, a carved metal rectangle attached to a belcher chain. A ‘Z’ symbol engraved into the centre. A bud and leaves at the top point of the Z, and a bulb at the bottom point. Behind the design a sun was fashioned. Around the outside of the Z and sun was a cauldron, sword, spear, and stone. I etched the lines with my finger tip, the pendant was beautifully engraved.
With a sigh, I placed it back in the box and took out the smaller box. I had tried to open the box when it was first given to me. No hinges or lock. I had sought to move sections of it in case it was one of those Chinese puzzle boxes, to no avail. I couldn’t see any way it would open. I returned the box dejected.
I took out the other items. A string of black pearls, black pearl earrings, a wedding ring with words “Beidh Mé Grá Agat Go Deo” inscribed on the inside. Being a wedding ring, I’m sure that the words were something romantic and treasured. My mother always wore the ring. At least until she died. There was also a tortoise shell comb and a lemon and lavender silk scarf. The colours of the scarf gave me pause as my gaze swept around the room. Coincidence? I wondered.
My mother loved the scarf. I never knew where she had gotten it from but it was her favourite. Replacing the items, I put the box back in the travel bag and zipped it up. Changing into a pair of pyjamas, being more comfortable than sleeping in jeans I laid down on the bed. Even though it was only late morning, I felt shattered, it was perhaps just down to everything that had happened over the last few days. My head ached, it had started at breakfast when it was, but a faint throbbing, now it felt as if I was being hammered by something inside my head. I closed my eyes thinking I would not be able to sleep with my head aching but I did, drifting off to sleep in no time.
When I awoke my eyes opened to darkness. I hadn’t meant to sleep so long. Fumbling with the covers I stumbled out of bed. I still had a headache and my mouth felt dry. A hot cup of tea would deal with that. Maybe I should ask Ula if she had some pain killers in case the headache became worse? I floundered towards the door catching my toe on the bed leg. Oof! That hurt.
Opening the door and taking a step forward I pitched headlong with a panicked cry landing on the floor in a heap.
“What the bloody hell? yelled Conall.
Gathering myself from the floor it would seem I had fallen over a sleeping Conall.
“What are you doing there?” I demanded getting up.
He flew up and turned the light on. “I was trying to sleep yer wee clumsy keely.”
“And just who do you think you are! Don’t call me names you…you oversized bear!”
“Ack bear is it now? Ye seem to forget that ye jumped on me while I was sleeping.”
“What are you doing sleeping on the floor right outside of my door, if you please, and I didn’t jump on you!”
“Aye ye did, a man canna sleep without a lass jumping on him and frightening him half to death.”
“Frighten you. I hardly think that is possible” I admonished eyeing him from head to foot. He was no longer in jeans and t-shirt, he was wearing a kilt, and only a kilt. My breath hitched. His muscled chest was bare. His dishevelled dark hair unbound flowing over square, strong shoulders. I was never one for the muscle bound men in gym magazines displayed in the local newsagency. Swooned over by young school girls, making oohs, ahhs, and ga ga noises. Confrontation of one, was another matter.
“Aye ye did and what do ye think ye are looking at?” he demanded crossing his arms in front of him. A half smile curving his lips. Conall was amused at the way Morgan had scanned his body, and the time that she took to do so. Not to mention what he discerned was a coveted look in her eyes. His smile though was for the redness creeping up her face, and a look as though she had been caught swiping candy from a sweet shop.
Of all the egotistical, arrogant men I had ever met, this one had to be the worst. “I wasn’t looking at anything. Anything of value that is! I stormed out the door slamming it shut, head up, chin out. He shouldn’t have been sleeping outside my door for goodness sakes. I grumbled to myself.
The night had a frost to it, and my yellow furry penguins pyjamas weren’t exactly warm. Oh God no! I’m dressed in yellow furry penguin pyjamas. Damn! How embarrassing. I’m sure he was no doubt laughing his head off. I couldn’t have been any more mortified.
There was no way I would go back in now, not at least until the blush of embarrassment had dispersed. I walked around to the stone bench at the back of the house. Sitting down, the coldness of the seat seeped into my bottom. I shook from the cold. I rubbed my temples, the headache was intensifying. The air was frosty and I was barefoot. I sat rubbing my feet together and rapped my arms around me. What a fool I am. A fool in fluffy yellow penguin pyjamas.
I heard a noise around the corner. Conall appeared with two steaming cups in his hands. I turned away from him, unsure if my blush had dissipated.
“I brought ye a wee cup of tea to warm ye. Ye look mighty cold sitting out ere.” he said as he handed me a cup. Over one arm he had a tartan plaid. He put his cup down on the seat, and draped the plaid over my shoulders. “This will help.” He picked up his cup and sat next to me on the bench.
Good grief the man was sitting next me in just a kilt. Here was I sitting in fluffy penguin pyjamas freezing my tush off. “Aren’t you cold with just your…er…kilt on?” I stammered, welcoming the warmth of the cup in my hands, and the plaid.
“Nay I dinnae feel the cold.”
I took a sip of my tea and spluttered it over the front of me. “What’s in it?”
“Ah, that be a wee bit of scotch, just to warm ye up. Drink now tis good for ye.”
“Scotch, are you trying to get me drunk?” Conall laughed
“Nay lass there’s no much in it, at least no enough to get ye drunk.”
Could I not feel anymore foolish? “So why were you sleeping outside my door?”
Conall gave me a look as if I was cracked in the head.
“I am ye protector, that is my mission, to look out for ye. Did ye no hear me give ye my pledge when we broke our fast?”
“Oh, couldn’t you have sought a bed out in the main house or slept on the couch?” I asked as I pointed behind me.
“Lass do ye no see the size of me, and do ye no ken how big yer couch is?”
Oh, I knew the size he was. I choked on the tea thinking how he would have looked sprawled on the sofa. It was significantly smaller than Conall. Think girl before you open your damned mouth. He must think I am a total dimwit. I did nonetheless see the glimmer of a smile on his face.
“Erm…Ula said that you are a warrior?”
“And you fight with swords?”
“Aye, at times.”
“You’re not very talkative, are you?”
“Nay.” he answered still sipping on his tea.
I mumbled into my cup. “Well this is going well”
Conall turned to me. A puzzled look on his face.
“Ye seem to like prattling yerself though.”
“Prattling? I am just trying to make conversation. It’s bad enough that I am embarrassed by my pyjamas, and falling over you. You could at least have a little compassion.”
“Compassion is it ye want then? I like ye garments, an them wee creatures on them.” he smiled looking at the penguins on my legs. “An ye jumped on me.” he shrugged turning back to his tea.
I stared open mouthed at him.