“Not you as well!” yelled Ruari. “Fiona is angry with me and now I hear that we have visitors arriving soon.”
“My lord, the boy needs to know what he’s done wrong. He’s wasting away. If he dies, it will be on your hands,” said Kerr. “At least ask Arditha what she meant.”
“Enough! I’ll not have my men telling me what to do!” yelled Ruari as he stormed out of the room.
Kerr took a deep breath and went to find Arditha. If the Ard Tigerna wouldn’t bend to ask, he would. He gave orders to the servants in the main hall and then headed to the kitchens. He found Arditha next to the fire.
“Hello Kerr,” she said smiling.
“Good day to you Arditha. I was hoping you might explain why you said that the young man whom the Ard Tigerna has locked in the tower would be the ruin of our Sorcha if we weren’t careful.
She looked away from him for a moment and then blinked a few times. “I saw that if Ruari didn’t watch how he handled things, that all would go terrible wrong for Sorcha.”
“Did you tell him to lock the boy in the tower?” asked Kerr.
“No! I just told him to be careful. Guess he hasn’t done it. The mistress and her daughters are heading home now.”
“When did you hear that?” asked Kerr.
“I didn’t. Just saw it now,” she said looking out the window.
Kerr felt the skin crawl on his neck. He knew that Alditha was of the old Druidic religion. She must have seen something. He took a breath. “Is everything alright with the women?”
“Oh no. Sorcha’s dying.” she said.
Kerr ran from the kitchen. He looked for Ruari and didn’t find him. He asked some of the men and was told that he’d gone out hunting. Kerr swore under his breath and found Archie and Lem. He sent them to find the Ard Tigerna. Then Kerr found Mari and got the women straightening the house and the women’s chambers. Then he ran up the tower to check on Desmond, who’d been getting weaker every day.
Desmond was running through the fog. Branches snagged on his clothes and tore his skin. He felt feverish and hungry, but water tasted foul and food felt like dust in his mouth. His voice was hoarse from calling for his Cara. He stumbled on a root sticking out of the ground and fell. The ground hitting his chest took his breath. Desmond tried to rise, but could barely move. He got to his knees and used a tree to pull himself back to his feet. He stood there for a moment, trying to hear Cara. There was nothing but the harsh sound of his own ragged breath. The world went black and he was falling once more.
Kerr shook Desmond. He’d come in to find the young man still in bed, and barely breathing. He’d touched Desmond’s hand to find it cold. That was when he grabbed Desmond by the shirt and shook him. “Desmond lad! Don’t you dare die on me!”
Desmond moaned. “Cara…” he croaked through lips dry from lack of water.
“Come back lad!” yelled Kerr. He pulled Desmond over to the window and sat him in the chair hoping that the sunlight would warm him.
Desmond felt the warmth. He tried to open his eyes. Kerr was staring at him. He blinked and tried to focus.
“Take this,” said Kerr as he handed Desmond a cup. Desmond sipped and then coughed.
“Whiskey?” Desmond coughed.
“Yes. Had to bring some fire back into you,” said Kerr. “Drink it. I’ll not have you die on me.”
“Why not. The Ard Tigerna will never let me out,” he said weakly.
“I think things may change. We’ve visitors coming and I hope it’s your family.”
“I… I just want Cara,” Desmond said looking out the window at the empty courtyard.
Desmond pointed to the table. Kerr walked over and for the first time saw the drawings tucked under a book. He pulled on out and looked at it. He recognized Sorcha. He picked up one which he brought back to Desmond.
“Is this Cara?”
Desmond looked and smiled weakly. “Yes. My Cara. She is my soul, and I am her heart.” He closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Kerr checked to see that he still breathed and tucked the drawing back into the book. Then he ran to find Mari. He gave orders for two of the servants to go up to Desmond and put him back to bed. They were to touch nothing in the room. Once he’d given them orders, he ran to the kitchen. Arditha was still in the rocker by the fire.
“Arditha, can… can a man be soul sick and die because he isn’t with the one he loves even if he has never met her?”
She looked at him and then into the fire. “Oh yes. You’d best hurry,” she said and then turned away.
Kerr ran. For the first time in weeks, he understood part of what was happening. He hurried through the house and saw that all was ready for visitors. Then he ran to the stables and grabbed a horse. He mounted it and began to gallop down the road that the women had taken to Aoifa’s house. He hadn’t gone a mile before he saw them in the distance. They were moving so slowly. He kicked the horse into a gallop and met up with them a few minutes later.
“Kerr! What are you doing here?” asked Kate, surprised to see her husband.
“Sorcha! Is she still alive?” he asked, trying to catch his breath.
“Barely. We’ve been going slowly to try and make it home.”
“Is she too fragile to ride?” asked Kerr.
“Of course! She’s been ill in bed this past week. Of course she can’t ride. Where is your brain Kerr?” Kate asked.
“I know what’s wrong, but we don’t have much time. Can you make these horses move faster?”
“Kerr, what are you doing here?” said Fiona.
“M’lady, we need to move back to the castle as fast as possible. I… I think I understand what is wrong with Sorcha,” said Kerr.
“We can’t move any faster. It will kill her,” said Fiona.
“No, waiting will M’lady,” said Kerr. He was getting more and more agitated at the slow pace of the animals. “What Sorcha needs is at the castle.”
“No, we simply can’t go faster,” said Fiona.
“What is it at the castle?” asked Kate.
“Desmond.” said Kerr.
“What?” said both women at once.
“I’m not waiting,” Kerr said as he grabbed the headstall of the near horse pulling the wagon and began to urge his horse faster. This in turn caused the wagon horses to increase their speed. Kate and Fiona squealed as the wagon jolted and bounced. Kerr soon had the horses up to a slow gallop as they headed to the castle. He ignored the shouts and curses of the women.
When they came into the courtyard, Kerr dismounted and then pulled Sorcha from the wagon. He carried her upstairs in spite of the protests of Fiona and Kate. He headed as fast as he could up the tower steps and into Desmond’s room.
Once there, he found Desmond in bed, looking pale and waxen. He placed Sorcha still wrapped in her traveling cloak next to Desmond. He took Sorcha’s hand and placed it in Desmond’s. “Desmond, Here is your Cara,” he said.
Desmond moaned softly and tried to shake off Kerr’s hand. Then he realized that there was a second smaller hand in his. “Ca…cara?” he said in a whisper.
“Yes! She’s here. Open your eyes!” cried Kerr. He could hear people coming up the stairs and hoped that this worked. It had to work. He shook Desmond by the shoulder and faced him towards Sorcha. “Look!”
Desmond blinked and saw a blurry face across from his on the pillows. “Cara? Is that really you?”
Sorcha didn’t move.
Desmond was too weak to move any closer. Kerr moved around to Sorcha’s side and shook the girl. “Sorcha! Your heart, your Chroí is here,” he said.
She opened her eyes and looked at Kerr. “Kerr?” she said so softly it sounded more like a sigh.
“Yes. Look!” Kerr said turning her to see Desmond.
She looked and saw her Chroí next to her and began to cry. She reached out her hand to touch Desmond’s face.
Tears rolled down three faces as Fiona and Kate burst into the room. She was about to yell at Kerr when he turned to her and put a finger over his lips to shush her. That’s when she saw her daughter and the young man holding each other’s hands and crying. Kate just stood there, her mouth hanging open.
Kerr looked at the young lovers, and then stood up and walked over to Fiona and Kate. He motioned for them to follow him. Once outside the door, he started to explain what he’d figured out just hours before. Kate and Fiona both interrupted him more than once.
“And that is why I came racing to you. Alditha said that Sorcha was dying and that you were coming home. I knew that Desmond had become sicker and sicker. Today when I checked on him, he kept asking for his Cara. His soul. I asked him who it was and he told me to look at his drawings. I did and it was Sorcha. That’s why I came to find you. I don’t understand it, but the two of them are meant to be together,” he said.
Fiona thought about what he said and then went to check on the two young people. They were sound asleep with their hands entwined. Fiona smiled for the first time in weeks. She motioned for Kate to stay in the room while she and Kerr went downstairs to deal with the household.