The castle was in chaos. Servants running errands while Kerr and Fiona shouted orders. Windows flew open and bedding was aired. Rushes were replaced in the main hall and the smell of food being cooked wafted through the air. In the midst of the chaos, Wee Jack came running to find Kerr.
“Kerr, Kerr, they’re coming,” he gasped as he tried to catch his breath.
“Desmond’s family?” Kerr asked.
“Aye. I ran ahead. They’ll be here by supper. Twenty of them. Eight family, two priests and ten servants.”
“Thank you Wee Jack,” said Kerr. “Get something to eat and drink, and then help where you can.” Kerr went looking for Fiona. He found her yelling at Ruari and backed away.
“Oh no you don’t!” yelled Ruari at Kerr. “Get over here. This is your fault!”
Kerr bristled. “No, it is your fault M’lord, for not listening to Arditha and nearly killing two innocents,” he shouted, wondering if he’d live through the day.
“He’s right,” said Fiona. “You never listen. For an Ard Tigerna, you’re a sorry excuse for a man!” Fiona had been shouting for some time and was red in the face.
“I’ll not have the two of you judging me!” Ruari hissed.
Kerr was about to say something when he saw someone coming up behind Ruari. It was Arditha. He wanted to warn her to go back, but it was too late. She thumped the Ard Tigerna on the back with her walking stick.
“Ruari, you’re a fine mess of a man! Fi is right. You don’t listen. You’re as pigheaded as your father, who burst his own heart with anger. If you were younger, I’d take you over my knee,” she said punctuating every third word with a smack of her stick.
“Ow! Arditha, stop it!” Ruari cried as one swipe caught him up side the ear.
“I’ll keep hittin’ ya until you listen. Not that you’re good at it, and my arm’s tired,” she said giving him one final hit. “You’ve company coming. That boy’s father and family. They’re old religion. Best shine up, because you nearly killed those two.” With that, she turned and headed back to the kitchen.
Fiona took Arditha’s place in Ruari’s discomfort. “You need to come with me now. Before they get here and you had better be ready to explain yourself!” She turned and realized that Kerr was still there. “What did you need Kerr?”
“Wee Jack has just returned. Desmond’s family will be here by supper. Twenty of them, mostly servants,” he said.
“Fine. Do what you can and I’ll be back in a few minutes after my husband sees what he’s done,” she said. The two of them left Kerr standing in the hall.
Kate looked up to see Fiona and the Ard Tigerna walk into the tower room. She held up her finger across her lips. Fiona nodded and thumped Ruari, who was just about to speak to the situation of the unlocked door. Kate stood up and the three of them moved into the main room of the tower. On the bed, still wrapped in her cloak was Sorcha. It was obvious that she had lost weight and nearly died. The young man on the bed next to her looked scarcely better. Both of them were still clasping hands. Then Kate ushered everyone back to the doorway of the tower.
“They look better,” said Fiona.
“Better? I’ve seen livelier corpses,” said Ruari, shocked by his daughter’s appearance.
“Exactly, M’lord. They nearly died, and I wouldn’t separate them until they wake and know what’s going on,” said Kate.
“Oh Kate, the boy’s family will be here by nightfall. What if they haven’t woken?” asked Fiona.
“Well then, we hope they do. Otherwise, some of us will have lots of explaining to do,” Kate said looking straight at Ruari.
“How on Earth was I suppose to know that this would happen?” exclaimed Ruari.
“Shush!” said both women.
“Here I am, Arditha whispering in my ear and I’m suppose to know that I made the wrong choice?” he asked.
“Perhaps you need to ask more questions in future,” said Fiona. “In the meantime, I suggest you help and get your words in order.” She hugged Kate and then pulled Ruari along with her downstairs.
Desmond turned a corner and there through the fog was his Cara. “Cara? Is that really you?” he asked in a whisper.
“Yes.” She held out her hands and the two of them pulled together in an embrace. “I never thought I’d find you.”
“Nor I you. I never want to lose you again,” he said as he buried his face in her hair.
“No, never again.”
The fog swirled around them.
“Where is my son,” a small dark woman asked as a group of people entered the castle.
Fiona was nearest the entry hall and turned towards the group. “I’m Fiona Feldem, and your son is up in the tower recovering,” she said.
“Why is he recovering,” the woman asked.
“Please come in and after you’ve had time to refresh yourself, we can explain what has happened,” said Fiona.
“No, I’ll see him now.”
“Alright, may I know your name?” asked Fiona, amazed by the woman’s rudeness.
The woman took a deep breath. “I apologize for forgetting civility. I am Fianna O’Ceirin, and this is my husband, Bradan,” she said turning towards a gentleman. “Our son Desmond came to court your daughter some months ago and we heard nothing until an odd servant named Wee Jack showed up at our home and begged us to come as quickly as possible.”
“Fianna, Bradan, come with me,” Fiona said and led them to the stairs that wound their way up to the tower. “Through a series of misunderstandings that I will go into further, Desmond and Sorcha never met in reality until just a few hours ago,” Fiona started to explain. When they reached the door of Desmond’s chamber, Kate stood, curtsied and then stood aside.
“They’re still sleeping,” she said to Fiona.
Fiona nodded, and the three people walked into the room. On the bed, the two young people were still asleep, hands clasped. Fianna started forward towards her son and Bradan grasped her shoulder.
“Let them sleep Cara,” he said softly. “You were right to worry, but all is safe.”
Fianna took one last look and then turned to leave the room. Fiona and Bradan followed.
Desmond led Cara into a hall, and two small dark adults were there to greet them. The four of them embraced.
“It is so good to meet you at last,” the woman said. The man next to her nodded. “We told our son that his soul was out there, he just needed to find you.”
“Thank you,” said Cara. “He is my Chroí. I didn’t know that I missed him until I realized that I had no heart to love.”
“That is how it always happens,” said the man. “Just as with my Cara and I.”
The woman next to him nodded, wrapping her arm around him. “Come with us, there is a feast awaiting us.”
The four of them walked through the fog shrouded hall towards the sounds of celebration.