Fiona sat with Fianna and Bradan in the midst of preparations for dinner. She explained what had happened, including Arditha’s warning and Ruari’s pigheadedness. While Fianna became upset, Bradan and the two priests were apt to place a hand on her shoulder and council patience.
“I still cannot believe that such a misunderstanding took place,” Fianna said.
“Nor I, but it happened. What I wish to understand is how you knew to send Desmond here in the first place, and why he wasn’t more forthcoming as to the reason for his journey,” Fiona asked.
“He began to dream of a voice calling to him,” said Brandan. “I remembered when I began to dream of Fianna. So, I spoke to Murtagh and Ogg here.” Bradan gestured to the two priests.
“And I was having dreams of a most unmaidenly sort,” said Fianna with a smile.
“Sorcha mentioned that she was having dreams, but we’ve never had anything like this happen in the family,” said Fiona.
“It is happening less and less my lady,” said Murtagh. “The old ways are being forgotten or fading away.”
“So, when we realized that Desmond was spiritually linked to someone, we sent him out to find her. We didn’t say ‘go down to Kerry and find a wife’, but instead told him to follow his heart,” explained Bradan.
“He was vague as to why he was here,” said Fiona remembering Desmond’s arrival.
“Poor lad probably didn’t know if he was looking for a chambermaid or the lady of the house,” said Ogg. The group of people nodded.
“How long will the two of them lay there like that?” asked Ruari as he walked up and stood next to Fiona.
“Well, they’re fair starved in both body and soul,” said Murtagh. “It may take a week for them to be strong enough to do more than eat and sleep.”
“Bloody bollox,” swore Ruari. “I’m sending Arditha packing. Fine mess she made.”
Bradan and Murtagh stood up. “I beg to differ. Your behavior is as much at fault as hers. Where is Arditha?” Bradan asked.
“Ruari, go find her and settle down as you do,” said Fiona in a tone that indicated Ruari would be sleeping in the cowshed if he didn’t settle down.
Ruari stalked off muttering under his breath.
“Is he always that volatile?” asked Fianna.
“On occasion. He’s upset and his pride is hurt,” said Fiona. “I believe dinner is ready. Shall we go to table?”
Kate looked up to see Sorcha move and raise up on an elbow. “What do you need my dear?”
“A drink of water,” Sorcha said in a raspy voice.
Kate got her a drink and helped her sit up. When she was finished, she sat next to Sorcha. “Are you feeling better?”
“Yes, but how? How did we get home? I don’t remember leaving Aoifa’s.”
“No, I’m not surprised. You were so ill we thought you’d die,” said Kate.
“I thought I was dead, until I felt my Chroí‘s hand in mine. I was scared, but the moment he touched my hand, I knew all was well,” said Sorcha. She turned to look at Desmond. “Was… was he here all the time? How did he get here?”
“Yes. He’s been here just a wee bit. Arrived just before you started having your dreams,” said Kate.
“Oh, but I’ve been dreaming about him for a long time. Since before the spring,” said Sorcha.
“Oh? Did you not say anything until they…” Kate paused.
“Oh yes! They didn’t make me feel embarrassed at first,” said Sorcha.
“Ah, I didn’t know that,” said Kate.
Desmond moaned on the bed behind Sorcha. She turned and touched his hand just as his eyes opened up. “Cara?”
“Yes, my Chroí. Are you thirsty?” asked Sorcha.
“Oh yes,” he answered.
Kate gave him a drink of water. “I need to tell them that you’re both awake,” said Kate as she stood up. “I’ll be right back.”
Sorcha watched Kate leave and then turned to Desmond. “You’ll not leave me again will you?”
“Never, my Cara. Never.”
Sorcha smiled and leaned towards Desmond. Their lips met and it was as if heat flowed between them and entwined around them. They kissed once more and then sat back as they heard the sound of footsteps coming up the stairs.
Fianna and Fiona came bursting into the room, each hugging their own child. Ruari and Bradan followed into the room trailed by Murtagh, Ogg, Kerr and Kate. The room was soon full of chatter. Arditha came into the room a few minutes later. The others in the room turned to see who’d come in.
“Ah, it’s good to see you two,” she said in a low whisper framed by the smile on her face.
Ruari started to say something and Fiona stepped on his foot, silencing him. They made room for Arditha to come closer to the two youngsters.
“Bless you,” she said to the two and gave them each a kiss on their cheek. Then she slowly left the room.
“That was Arditha?” asked Ogg after she had left.
“Yes. She was my nurse. So?” said Ruari wondering why the priest was being so deferential to Arditha.
“That ‘nurse’ is one of the priestesses of the old gods. I remember her when I took my training. She must be near 100 years old, and you dared to shame her for not explaining herself and blaming her for the young ones conditions?” asked Ogg.
“How was I to know? She’s always just been ‘nurse’,” groused Ruari who now felt truly confused.
Ogg just rolled his eyes and excused himself. Murtagh followed. Kerr and Kate soon departed as well, to bring food and drink to the two youngsters. Once that was delivered, the two families were left to talk about the events of the last few months.
Fianna woke the next morning to find Arditha at the door. “Yes?”
“I’ve come to greet you. Will there be a wedding?” asked Arditha.
“Yes, one held in the old manner,” said Fianna as she wrapped her cloak around her and stood next to the fire.
“Ah, good. Please give this to Desmond for his bride,” Arditha said as she held out a filigree circlet made of silver leaves and gold berries.
Fianna tried not to show her surprise at such a gift. “Thank you Arditha. You will be at the wedding won’t you?”
“Wouldn’t miss it for the world,” said Arditha as she left the room.
Fiona was checking the state of the great hall when she saw Arditha walking towards her. “Good morning, Arditha.”
“Good morning Fiona. I hear there is to be a wedding.”
“Yes. We hope to hold it in a week if they are up and ready,” explained Fiona.
“Ah good. Make sure that Sorcha has this to give to Desmond,” said Arditha. She held out a brooch the size of her palm. It was a gold stag with vines entwined around it in a circle with silver leaves. It was beautiful and heavy.
“I… oh Arditha. Thank you for such a gift. I will be sure to give it to Sorcha for Desmond. You’ll see it on the day,” said Fiona.
“Oh yes. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.” Arditha smiled and hobbled out of the hall leaving Fiona still turning the brooch over and over in her hands.