Before you ask, I’m trying to get caught up on all the stories!
A week passed. Finn and Artur began to fuss about being left behind when the men went out and Megan began to worry. Mael became more and more sullen. When he wasn’t growling at the men, he was curled up next to the hearth with Sian’s kitten in his lap.
“Lew, come here.” Megan stepped outside as Lew came closer. They walked a short way off from the farmhouse.
“I want you to go see Sian’s aunt. No betting Sian’s no better than Mael. Ifin’ he keeps up like this, we’ll lose him to the Reeve and his men. Jon and Coel say he’s been careless.”
“Aye Megan, he has. I’ll be off. What you be wantin’ me to say?”
“Tell Aunt what be happenin’ and see what she says.”
Lew nodded and headed out to the stables. He was off before anyone could see him.
Lew didn’t find Aunt at her cottage. It didn’t look as if anyone had been there for a while and so he headed for Briar Rhos. When he showed up at the kitchen, the servant nearly pulled him off his feet, bringing him in the door.
“Let me get Lord Rhys.”
“I… I want to see Sian’s Aunt. I have a message from Megan.” Lew said trying to catch his breath from being startled near out of his wits.
“Oh aye. Nia and Lord Rhys. Drink this.” She handed him a tankard of ale. Lew took it and sat wondering what on earth was going on.
Lord Rhys, Tegyd, and Nia came down into the kitchen. They came over to where Lew sat drinking his ale.
“About time you lot showed up. Where is that mountain of leader?” asked Lord Rhys.
“It be just me.” Lew was very curious now.
“Mael told Sian he’d be back.” Nia stood with her hands on her hips.
Lew gulped. “Um, that be why I be here. Megan can’t get Mael to shift. Thinks Sian be too good for ’em. Grousin’ and growlin’ when we… um, when there be work and not talkin’ to nobody when we ain’t.”
“Rhys, I told you that boy was afraid.”
Lew smiled at the idea of Nia calling Mael a ‘boy’.
“How was I to know?” Rhys ran his fingers through his hair.
“Lew, what these two are too busy to tell you is that Sian is pining away for Mael. She doesn’t care if he’s a brigand or a farmer or a lord. She wants him. Just as I am sure that he wants her.” Tegyd sat down next to Lew as she spoke.
“Megan thinks the same. Only Mael won’t listen. ‘Fraid Sian don’ want ’em.”
“Tegyd, did you just say brigand?”
“Yes Rhys. They are. Most of them kicked off their land by idiots worse than Idris. I should know, I watched him do it often enough.” Tegyd watched her brother take in this information.
“Lew, can you get Mael to come here? Or, must we go to him?” Rhys asked.
“Wouldn’t be worth my life to take you there.” Lew went a little white in the face.
“Well, will Mael come here?” asked Nia.
“I can’t say.” Lew almost whined. “I… I could tell him Aunt needs him.”
Nia liked the sound of that. The four of them sat and made plans. Lew ate a bowl of stew and then was off back to the farm.
“Please Mael. She be all alone and…” Lew said for the third time. It had been hard explaining why he’d gone to see Aunt, but luckily, Megan mentioned that Sian still had things here and that she’d told Lew to go and see if Aunt would take them to her.
“Fine. We’ve cattle to take to market that way in a week.”
“Not a week. Now. I promised her. Don’ make me go back on me word Mael.”
Mael sighed. The last thing he wanted was to be reminded of Sian, but Aunt had been such a help that he couldn’t cross her. “Fine. We head out in the morning.”
Lew sighed with relief.
“I don’t want to go out.” Sian crossed her arms and turned towards the wall.
“Sian, you’ll go with your Aunt. I won’t have you spreading sorrow.” Lord Rhys pounded his fist into his other hand.
“If I must.” She dragged herself off of the bench and headed for her room to prepare to head out with Aunt Nia. As she left, it was Lord Rhys’ turn to sigh with relief.
Nia, Sian, Rhys and the servants arrived before noon and began to clean up the small cottage. Sian found a small corner and curled up with her sewing, trying to ignore everyone. Nia bustled about inside and then headed out to the garden. Rhys rode off to Clewth Hall to see how things were going there.
Mael, Lew, Jon and Artur rode up the lane. They were going slow as Artur was still healing. When they got close to the cottage, they could see Aunt out in the garden. They rode up and dismounted.
“Aunt. Lew said you had a problem.”
“Aye Mael. It’s inside.” Nia lead them inside. When she opened the door, in they came. As their eyes adjusted to the dimmer light, a small squeak was heard from a corner.
“Mael?” Sian stood up, dropping her sewing.
“Sian?” Mael looked from Sian to Aunt. “What be goin’ on?”
“Mael, Sian, the two of you are so pig headed, that the only way we could cope with you is to bring you back together.”
Sian hesitated, waiting for Mael to say something. Mael looked at Sian and could see that she was better and yet not. He stood there until Lew put both hands on his back and shoved him towards Sian.
“Mael? Don’t… Don’t you …” Sian hesitated.
“I didn’t think I was good enough for you.”
“Just take her in your arms you oaf!” called Artur from next to the door.
Mael blushed, stepped forward and wrapped his arms around Sian. “I do want you. Loved you from the first time I saw you,” he whispered in her ear.
“I didn’t realize how much I loved you until you didn’t come back.” She was crying softly in his arms.
“Nor I you.” Mael held her close, brushing the tears and hair off of her face.
Artur, Lew, Nia, Jon and Coel walked quietly out of the cottage and into the garden. They were standing there when Lord Rhys rode up. Artur twitched, looking to flee, when Lew grabbed him by the shoulder.
“It be alright Artur. He be on our side,” Lew said softly.
“A lord on the same side as the likes of us?”
“Afternoon,” Lord Rhys said as he walked over to where they stood. The men nodded a greeting.
“They’re inside,” Nia volunteered.
“Will they be alright?”
“Once they get over being stupid. How’s Idris?”
“Gone. The hall is empty except for a pig and a few chickens. Anything of value has been stripped.”
Nia nodded. “Shall we go in? See how things be?”
It was Lord Rhys’ turn to nod. Nia lead the way back into the cottage with the men following behind her.