Yes, all good stories must come to an end. 🙂
Mael smiled as he watched Sian walk around the garden he and the lads had put in where the old horse paddock had been. She smiled at him as she made her way to where he knelt.
“More flowers or herbs?”
“Herbs. Catmint, pennyroyal and spearmint here. Comfrey, borage and yarrow over there.” He pointed where the plants were beginning to spring back after being transplanted.
“Aunt Nia was very generous in letting you raid her garden.”
“And it is the only raiding we’ve done in nigh on eight months.” He dusted off his hands and stood up. Walking over to Sian, he wrapped his arms around her.
“Aye. Been too busy ‘tumpin’.” She smiled and moved his hands down to her belly where the baby kicked. Mael gasped and knelt again to put his head against her. He smiled as he felt the baby kick him.
“And what a sweet reward. Are the women still stitching to clothe the countryside? Or, have they settled down?”
Sian shook her head no. “You’d think no one had ever had a baby before. Aunt Rhoslyn is embroidering all these wee gowns and Megan has three goose down quilts made.”
Mael laughed. He’d wondered what Sam and Coel had been doing with all the geese. Now he understood. “Have you seen Artur and Finn’s present?”
“No. Is it wee bows and arrows?” Sian knew those two had the biggest adjustment to giving up raiding and still disappeared every so often. Even Lew had done well. He’d moved in with Aunt Nia and no one said a word about where he slept. He’d been one of the oldest of the raiders, having been turned off his farm.
“Nay. I’ll… I’ll leave ye to see it. They brought it in this morn.”
Sian looked at him as he stood up. “You, my lord are a tease.”
It was Mael’s turn to blush. He still wasn’t use to being a land owner. Lord Rhys had gifted not only Clewth Hall to them as a wedding present, but all the land, tenants and rents associated with the Hall. Mael had gone from raider to wealthy overnight. He hugged Sian again and then turned to pick up the tools and gathered the last of the plants. They moved down the walk a bit and he planted the last of the herbs.
“There. Now can we go have a bit of bread and butter?”
“Yes. And you will show me what our two redheaded twins have been up to.” Sian had been scared of Artur at first, but realized that deep down inside, he was as frightened of women as she was of him.
The two of them walked back to the manor. Most of the men had settled in or near the hall. Each took to what they liked best and tenants filled in where they were needed. Jon had taken stable work at Lord Rhys’ hall. It was a different life from what any of them had known even a year ago.
“Bout time you came in out o the sun!” Megan smiled at the two of them as they came in the kitchen. “Have some cool ale and food will be ready in a moment.” She bustled around the kitchen as if it had always been hers. After the wedding, she and Sam had spent the better part of a week scrubbing and tossing out things to make it fit to cook in. While Megan had dealt with the rough kitchen at Hoel farm, she was pleased to have a new one to make over. Now the fire irons gleamed. The stones were clean and the cold pantry storage was beginning to fill up to her satisfaction.
Megan grabbed bowls of soup, bread, butter and crabapple preserves. She placed them on the table as Mael helped Sian settle into the chair.
“Soon. Soon we’ll be cooin’ over a wee babe.” Megan smiled at Sian.
“Another month or two. Not before.” Sian sipped at the weak ale.
“Oh aye.” Megan set a small plate of sweet oat cakes down in front of Sian.
They ate in the cool kitchen and then after thanking Megan, they walked into the main hall of the manor.
“Your present is there. Go take a peek.” Mael let go of her hand. Sian walked over to the low shape under the cloth. Looking under it, she gasped.
“Mael, it’s beautiful. Where did they get it?” Suspicion crept into her voice.
Mael laughed. “The two of them made it.”
“Honestly? It’s… it is the most beautiful cradle I’ve ever seen.” She looked at it again, noting the fine carving and the way it rocked.
“Aye. Fine work when they think. Cover it up and remember to be surprised this evening.”
Sian nodded. They headed up to their room, where she intended to rest for a bit. In spite of what she told Megan, she was afraid that the baby was going to come sooner rather than later. She felt big as a horse and twice as clumsy.
At dinner that night, Artur and Finn presented the cradle to Sian. She clapped and thanked them for it. Aunt Nia said they should go into a furniture or woodworking business and stay off the road. While Finn looked as if he agreed, Artur still couldn’t commit to stay in one place.
“How about you shop for the fine wood and commissions?” Nia asked when Artur balked.
Artur stopped mid complaint. “Never thought about that.”
Finn looked at his twin and smiled. Nia had trapped him nicely.
Sian smiled at her wee daughter. She’d arrived in the middle of the night as all babies tend to do, and disturbed the whole household. Coel had fainted and banged his head. Sam and Lew kept Mael company while Nia, Tegyd, Rhoslyn and the rest of the women stayed with Sian. Megan ruled the roost as always, calling for firewood, hot water and quiet, all in the same moment. Once the baby had been born, everyone headed off to sleep except for Mael and Sian.
“So tiny.” Mael let the baby wrap his huge finger in hers.
“Lungs like yours though.” Sian smiled up at Mael. The birth had been hard, but no more so than Cadi’s had been for her mother. The baby had yelled long and loud about leaving her warm next.
“And what are we calling this wee girl?” Mael was totally smitten by his daughter.
“Ceinwen, for she is lovely and fair.”
“Aye.” Mael kissed the baby and whispered her name into her ear. The baby seemed to smile and he took it as a good sign. Then he curled around Sian and the three of them went to sleep.