Wednesday, November 26, 2014

#NaNoWriMo 2014: Giving Thanks - Part 1

There are many holidays which ask us to remember all the reasons why we should be thankful. For Jaicobh MacDaede, merely being alive is a reason to give thanks:



Soledhan and Little Jaicobh were the first of the children to attack their grandfather with the fullness of their affection. They leapt at his legs, claiming one for each of them, hugging him and chiming out how glad they were to see him, though they had only been parted for one day, leaving
Dorrin to embrace Jaicobh about the neck, all three children flailing their legs as he swung them about. The conclamant cry of “Den Utaa!” “Grandda!” and “Great Uncle Jaicobh!” rang out as he bent to gather all the children into his arms, Jaicobh’s salutation lost under a fit of giggles tinkling over the sounds of the party drawing near the house.
“Here are my wee-uns,” Jaicobh declared with exertion, lifting the children up high and then putting them down again. “Ready for the holiday?”
“Yes!” the children sang.
“We got everythin’ waitin’ inside for you: supper, warmed chocolate, got come baked apples and cake, we got the whole house in decoration, got all the storybooks lined up next to the fire, and,” kneeling down and whispering rather audibly behind a raised hand, “…we got presents.”
The children gasped and then cried out in exultation, holding one another and leaping up and down as they hallooed and hollered and dance in a circle.
“Guess yer excited,” Jaicobh laughed. “Mon inside and warm yerselves by the fire.”
“Wait, Great Uncle Jaicobh,” said Dorrin.“We have something for you.”
Dorrin gave Soledhan a conscious look and nodded eagerly in the direction of the party.
Soledhan scurried to the cart and came back again, holding out a small wrapped parcel for his grandfather to take. “For you, Den Utaa,” said he, with musical inflection.
Jaicobh stared at the parcel, astonished at the gesture being forced on him by three smiling children. “What’s this here?”
“Present for you, Grandda,” Little Jaicobh insisted, pushing the parcel at his grandfather.
“Present? What’s all this about a present? We granddas are supposed to be givin’ the presents.”
“Open it!” Little Jaicobh sweetly demanded.
Jaicobh accepted the gift and glanced at his son and daughter, who were standing behind the children and eyeing him with sagacious glee, and when he was about to remind them of his insisting on their not bringing any presents,  Sheamas said, “Don’t even try it, Da. We had nothin’ to do with this one.”
Jaicobh raised a brow and looked unconvinced.
“He is being truthful with you, father,” Boudicca persisted. “When the children were making gifts for each other, they decided on their own that their parents and grandparents should have giftsa notion probably glean from Baronous and Hathanta after they had stressed the ideas of charity and gift-giving. The idea of giving you a gift often crossed my mind when I was their age, and when carried out, you always accepted after a short struggle. Never in my life have I seen someone fuss more over wrapping paper and ribbon. If I had just given you something without wrapping it or telling you it was a gift, I should hare fared far better.”
“You were designin’ about it, darlin’,” said Jaicobh. “You’d figure out ways to make somethin’ not seem like a gift, and then put it in my hand before knew what it was. Can’t give a gift back what’s already in my hand.”
“Which is precisely why you cannot give that one back.”
Jaicobh glanced at the gift in his hand and pined that he had accepted it without being given a chance at refusal. He appreciated the warmhearted gesture of being thought of and liked receiving any token of affection from his children, but being poor for much of his life, being used to meager means and living on little, he could not but understand the tribulations of what it was to work hard for anything supernumerary. He delighted in being able to give gifts to his children, small trinkets and crafted items that bore the mark of someone else’s exertion, and while he gloried in receiving anything from his children, he would rather something made by them than something bought. He understood privation, knew what it was to accumulate his wages and secret away every copper extraordinary, and though he was the epitome of generosity and openhandedness, and taught his children to be the same, he wished they might save their earnings and allow him to squander his instead. Such was the right of a farmer and a father—Jaicobh thought so, at least—and while he had presents for all his children and grandchildren in the house, he could not think it right that three young boys were meant to give up the few coppers they had for his sake, nor did he think it just that their parents should offer money for a gift when their being there was more than gift enough for himself.  
“Den Utaa, open it,” Soledhan pined.
 Jaicobh glanced at the gift and sighed. “Will you let me to open it later when we open all the other gifts?”
The children shook their heads, their motions moving their whole bodies from side to side, and made mischievous smiles.
“Now, please,” Little Jaicobh chimed.
The children widened their eyes and looked insistent, and Jaicobh exhaled and resigned with an, “Aye, o’ right. I’m openin’ it, I’m openin’ it.”
 He examined the parcel and turned it every which way, and the children gathered close, spying Jaicobh with unabated anticipation.
“Really want to see me open it, aye?” said he laughingly.
They nodded, their eyes sparkling with high glee.
“Is it a pair o’ socks?”
“No!”
“You had better open it father before they attack you,” the commander laughed. “And we brought you a pair of socks, so you need not look for them there.”
“Everyone’s gotta have socks on Ailineighdaeth,” said Sheamas impressively. “It’s tradition, Da,” and then, with a serious look, “Besides, Mrs Cuineill made socks for all of us.”
“Aye, well,” said Jaicobh, “we all need socks in Frewyn.”
With a glowing heart did Jaicobh carefully undo the ties and peel back the packing paper, but what was his surprise upon finding a stone slat, carved and painted with scenes of the holiday in his hands? Astonishment was his first sensation to feel, but once the thrill of revelation was over with him, elation prevailed, his heart grew full, the lurks about his mouth widened and curled, and all the sanguine reverie of receiving the first gift from his grandchildren assailed him. He paused and examined the slat: it was a likeness of their farmhouse, carved and painted into the stone, its exterior trimmed and fitted up for the holiday, with trees festooned in fine dress, stars coruscating motionless into a carved sky, symptoms of gaiety and affection everywhere, an indistinct family gathered round a small bonfire, embracing one another and gazing up at the constellations, the words Maith Ailineighdaeth etched along the bottom. Jaicobh’s lips pursed, his hand lift unconsciously, covering his mouth, and every feeling of affection and appreciation succeeded. His eyes glistened, the trials of a full heart reigned over him, and he had all the pleasure of struggling against too much happiness.
“What’s all this now?” said he, in a faltering voice, trying for composure while his heart was under the power of so much joy. He inhaled, looked up momentarily to call back his tears, and endeavoured not to cry in front of the children who were eagerly crowding him. “Is this the farmhouse?” said Jaicobh, encouraging the children to look at the slat whilst he wiped away a tear with his arm.
“Aye!” Little Jaicobh cried.
“And that’s us, Great Uncle Jaicobh,” said Dorrin, pointing to the silhouette of the family round the bonfire.
Jaicobh sniffed. “Aye, so it is. Well, guess we’ll have to make a fire outside later too so we can be warm while waitin’ for the stars.”
The children hallooed and hopped up and down in place, and Jaicobh was all smiling approbation. He drew the children against him and gave them a warm embrace.  
Mho Bheannacht, mho grathi,” said he, with doting gratulation. He kissed their heads, and then handing them the slat, he urged them to go in the house with, “Go on in and show your grandmother and great aunt Calleen what you brought us.”
They scampered in, calling out for grandma and Den Imaa Calleen to come and look at the gift they brought her, and Jaicobh smiled to himself, his heart sincerely oppressed, his sensibilities longing to express what civility told him to restrain. Family would not have minded the tearful musing of an old man, but a farmer so used to solitary inundations of emotion would not relinquish his ideas of decency now. He averted his eyes, gave a few hardy sniffs, and exhaled, his hand pressed against his heart.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

#NaNoWriMo Professional Jealousy

Eadmhaird, Frewyn's greatest hunter, is not without his admirers. Being the champion of the hunts at the Westren lodge for many years running, there are those who enjoy the idea of his winning them every season, and those who don't.



The bustle in the hall rose and fell, men and women talked and laughed in conclamant clamour, and before Dirrald had brought Rosamound into the main area of the lodge, Eadmhaird had quitted his
room. A few minutes spent lighting a small fire, pacing the length of the hearth, going over all his trophies and awards was all he needed to replenish his spirits and support his confidence. He enjoyed a few moments alone before a hunt, but once the fire was started and everything in his room gone over, the bed warmed, the sheets freshened with springs of dried lavender, the small stained-glass windows let open to revive the atmosphere and give a change of air, there was nothing to do but return to the hall and receive his acquaintances. There was the gentle nod, the easy salutation, a bow, a conscious look, a half a smile, but everyone who recommended their acknowledgement of him was offered the same courteous genuflection. A few of his lesser rivals passed him by, many of them with a few young woman in their grasp, being croodled and spoken to before being led off, and there were a few hunters who secretly skulked about the lower rooms with each other for company, which Eadmhaird noted with an arch smile, but whilst there were many otherwise engaged with their own affairs of conversation or congress, those who recognized Eadmhaird as Frewyn’s premiere hunter stopped to tell him how much they were honoured to see him.
                “I hope you don’t win this hunt,” said one, bowing low and removing his hat. “I have ten silverweight running against you.
                Eadmhaird bowed but did not stop. “I’ll try to make your horse’s loss entertaining, Deaules.”
                The man humphed. “You said that last time and didn’t lose like you were supposed to do.”
                “Aye, a shame I didn’t take your advice. I would have lost the hart and the three silver I had bet on myself.”
                The man grumbled as he walked away, and Eadmhaird fleered to himself, thinking of how he had better place another wager on his own win for the coming event as well as place a few copperweight for Dirrald and Bhaunbher, when another of his ardent admirers sought to gratulate him.
                “Ach, tis Cinmarragh,” a large man approaching spat, bowing and failing miserably, swaying back and forth with insobrietous steps.
                Eadmhaird nodded and continued on, grinning to himself, counting down the seconds to some anticipated event.
                “There y’are, waulkin’ awae an’ o’ like!” the man shouted, stabbing a finger at Eadmhaird’s back. “Ye thenk yer gonnae win again’ meh thess time, Cinmarragh, aye? Well, ye’ve got another theng comin’ if ye thenk Ahm gonnae let ye!”
                “Eight…seven…six,” Eadmhaird counted in a whisper.
                “Keepin’ yer back tae meh like! Is tha’ hou et is, aye, Cinmarragh? Ye thenk yer gonna win again’ meh? No’ thess time, Cinmarragh, ye bishtra houleigh--”
                There was a hiccup and a loud thumping sound. Something slumped and scraped against the wall, the grating of metal on stone, the sprawl of heavy flesh fallen, the klink of pauldrons hitting the ground. There was silence and then a prolonged groan, and Eadmhaird laughed to himself.
                “You can never hope to win against me, Connta, if you celebrate your victory before having gone through the effort of trying to conquer me,” Eadmhaird announed, turning onto the stairs.
A long and bellow snore reboated throughout the hall in reply. Someone demanded that Connta get up, another insisted that he be left there in a druken slumber, for with the hunt so near, he might sleep through the whole and allow everyone else who would otherwise be hindered by him during the hunt the chance at performing better. Connta must be left there, and the exsibilation of his guttural symphony, his tonituous reverberation rang tonitruous the halls, gathering the crosing sympathy of passing hunters who knew what it was to perpetually lose to Eadmhaird Cinmharrragh.
                “May no one fault you for you lying there without a woman under you,” Eadmhaird smiled to himself, standing at the top of the steps. “Sleep is only deserved after a long day of venery, be it the hunt of animal or mate. To be unconscious from drunkenness becomes no man and betrays a poor sportsman.”
                “Ach, ye sound liek a poem gone wrong, lad,” said a voice from behind.
Eadmhaird stopped and turned to find Eian, standing in the far corner. The old hunter, with his torn pelts, fur-lined boots, long grey hair, and sometimes toothless smile peeled himself from the wall and approached Eadmhaird as he was coming toward him with all the alacrity that seeing him again could warrant. “Good huntin’ at ye, lad,” said Eian, his grating voice abrading a bed of smooth tones.   
“I’m glad someone is here to be an example,” giving Eian’s hand a hardy shake. “Connta will need someone to take his place on the line.”
Eian gave a firm pout and shook his head. “They’ll be no takin’ in it, lad. Ahm here as a spectator. Cannae be interferin’ when Ah’ve gone an’ retired from o’ thess.”
“A hunter never retires, old friend,” said Eadmhaird, in a glow of fondness. “He only turns to more challenging prey.” He watched as Eian’s eyes, obscured by a niveous mirk, study a woman as she walked by. “And there my point is made.”
“Ach,” Eian scoffed, “awae ye go wi’ yer taukin’ an’ yer funnae Glaoustre accent. Go oan soundin’ like yer voice was polished with a millin’ stone.”  
Eadmhaird raised his brows and canted his head, and Eian turned aside, seeming half ashamed that his intentions had been descried without any effort at all on Eadmhaird’s part.
“Aye,” said Eian, after a pause, sighing and languishing, “Ah’ve got a bheann what Ahm lookin’ after th’ nou.”
“Do you, old man? It was only last hunt a few months ago you were chasing one in the village.”
“Aye, Ah was tha’, but tha’ didnae end well.” Eian averted his eyes and rubbed the back of his neck. “Ah maed a daftae o mahsel’ when Ah had tae much o’ the house ale at the Harper’s Thrum. Ah mighta said sumthin’ tae her tha’ was no’ appropriate. She right thumped meh o’er the heid with the blunt bit o’ a tankard and thundered aff tae a man bigger than mahsel’. Ah put mah fut innit, lad, an she’s gone.”
“Ah, Eian,” Eadmhaird lamented, with a smile and a shake of the head, “always letting one escape your traps to hunt for another.”
“Aye, plentae tha’, lad,” Eian moped. “Ye jus’ hush up yer laughin’ whilst Ahm greivin’ o’er it.”
“You do not grieve long, old man, if you already have another who mends your heart.”
 “Aye, she’s a rare yin, Ah teld ye,” said Eain, in a sudden thrill of wonder. “She’s the bheann tae end meh.”
“I wish you joy, old friend,” Eadmhaird laughed, “and I wish you luck. You will need it if you are prone to have women make love to you with violence.”
He raised his hand by way of a valediction and turned toward the stairs, but as he began to descend, Eian called him back again with, “An’ ye, lad? Yer Fremhin’s best hunter an’ yer no’ wantin’ a bheann?”
Eadmhaird smirked and looked sly, and turning back, he replied. “You do better than I could ever hope to do with women, my friend. Have all the women who would have you, and never mind my interests. If there is one whom I would give chase to, I should enjoy the hunt as I would any other, but I my quarries are never small.”
Eian grumbled something about folk from Glaoustre always being so enigmatic, being from the other side of the kingdom and knowing nothing beyond how to manage a dairy farm and run a church, and Eadmhaird simpered to himself, descending the stairs with two-fold complacence, one for having caught his mentor in the midst of his chase, and the other for cherishing his confidentiality, that high opinion of privacy which kept Eadmhaird safely out of many a woman’s thoughts.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#NaNoWriMo 2014: To be a Bhean


Bhean is the word for young woman in Frewyn, but in Westren it's used as an affectionate and respectful term reserved for wives or close female friends. There aren't many who would use it in odd company, but it's always nice to hear it wherever and whenever it might be said.

Marseidh leaned over the counter, and said, in an audible whisper, “The man bets again’ ye
this time.”
Eadmharid raised his brows. “Does he?”
“Heard ye were bringin’ the brigadesmen wit’yas,” said the groundskeeper, his attenuated fingers browsing a drawer of old letters. “Figured if they were trained by Tearlaidh, they oughtta give ye a good run for it.”
“I believe they will.” Here was a glance at Bhaunbher and Dirrald. “If they allow me to win and the hunt is over this evening, they have to return to the mountains.”
“Ah liek bein’ up there, “ said Bhaunbher, “but it’s good tae be in town again, even if onlae for a little while. And Ah’d liek tae see mah brother, if he’ll come. Eadmhaird, anybodae can come here tae visit, aye?”
“Aye, anyone is welcome at anytime.”
“Ah’d like to invite mah brother here for the hunt. Ah promised Ah’d see hem when Ah came doun. Is it o’ right if Ah have pen and paper from ye and ask ye tae send out a letter for meh? I’d pay for the sendin’ an’ everythin’.
“Never ye mind it, son, “ said Marseidh, her two eyes focusing on Bhaunbher for a moment before baltering off in opposing directions. “Ye just take pen and paper from yer room in the dresser, and when yer finished, ye bring the letter here and we’ll have it out by the Scoaleigh whenever yer wantin’, so we will.”
Bhaunbher bowed his thanks.
 “Well, then, I outta give yis one o’ the larger rooms if yer havin’ a guest.” She wrote on the ledger before her, miffling and tootling to herself over their names and the number room they should be receiving, her better eye following the hand that was scribbling furiously away, but presently she stopped to ask, “And will yis lads be wantin’ a tent for outside or have ye brought one with ye?”
“Ah thenk we’ll be o’ right without a-yin,” said Bhaunbher. “We’re used tae sleepin’ without it.”
“Aye, like Eadmhaird, who likes to freeze himelf to death, sleepin’ under rock and snow just to set those traps o’ his.”
“It is well worth the effort,” Eadmhaird asserted. “The feast in the dining hall makes up for whatever trials I endure to provide for it.”
“And yerself proud, and so you should be. Yis lads are in for it, if yer stayin’ for the dinner. Ye’ll never eat again like ye do here, I’m tellin’ yis that.”
“Never,” said Gearrog, shaking his head with affected sincerity. “Marsiedh sure is tellin’ yous lad how it is: eat here, and ye walk out ten  pound heavier. Ye never ate like ye do here, all ‘em vegetables piled up with salted butter and garlic, all ‘em meats, sliced and roasted just how ye like, all ‘em fruit tarts and pies—“ He sighed and looked pleasantly pained. “Borras, I’m starvin’ mesel’ just thinkin’ about it.”
 “And it isn’t merely the fare, lads,” said Eadmhaird. “The ale here, and indeed everything on tap, are the finest brews in all of Westren.
“So the two oo’ yis’ll be stayin’ for dinner in the hall then?” said Marseidh, already writing their names on the dining registry.
“Aye, bhean.”
Aimiably and honourbly it was said, but Marseidh felt the appellation in a more tender style; an address she had always been used to hear in her youth was being offered her again, flattering the slender vanity she still secreted away, and while her features remained crumbling and decrepit, and her eyes roved about at random, she could not but help a slight blush at hearing Bhaunbher address her so reverentially. Her eyes drew round to the middle, her jowels tinged with a muted erubescent glow, she grew coy, her shoulders curling demurely as much as the confines of her taut attire could allow. “Go ‘long with ye now, son,” said she, trying not to giggle. “I ain’t a bhean. Haven’t been one since I was a pretty thing many years ago now.” She gave an amorous sigh and clapped her hands together, causing her roaming eye to twirl. “Ye make an’ oljin feel young again, son.”
“Yer on yer way to a free room, I says,” said Gearrog, in a half whisper.
“Nonsense, son. He has a free room by bein’ in the brigade. He don’t need to make no compliment to me for that.”
“Perhaps you should have saved your flattery for when it would have counted,” said Eadmhaird, smiling.
Marseidh chuffed. “Go along wit’ ye now, sure’n it always counts, ‘specially to an oljin like me who hasn’t been called anythin’ half so nice in years.”
“Called ye that to ye the other day,” said the groundskeeper, in a quiet and wounded voice.
“And ye should so. Ye married me a bhean, and that’s what I am to ye, so I am.”
The groundskeeper stopped rustling his papers, righted momentarily, and exhaled before straightening his fine black doublet and returning to his work, rifling through a list of menus for those staying in the state rooms whilst trying to resist murmuring to himself of his having called her his bheanrin not ten minutes ago. It was useless, however, to beg a remonstrance here; he knew he was being provoked into professions, and he would make them later, once all their business for the day be over and the last insorbietious hunter succumb to a drunken sloom. It was the game they played for the better part of thirty years: he would love her, she would pretend not to hear his declarations, he would show his affection by why of private reminiscences , she would surrender her contrived injury and affront, and the game would begin again. To the observer, it seemed as though they were any cantankerous couple, one a haggard old gammer and the other a dry old stick, but to one another, they were the most unexceptionable person in the world. They teased, they taunted, but never in a bitter style or with an angry character; they were all for old wedded love, and their devotion to one another as business partners and collaborators betrayed a conjugal felicity and concordance that only those who are perfectly easy and loving with one another possess. Their playing at being an old disagreeable couple only served to strengthen the relationship they had cultivated and coveted over the better part of forty years, and though each did the chief of their duties with their backs facing one another, one managing about the grounds and settling the accounts in his white gloves and tapered suit, and the other arranging  the matters of the house with indefatigable good wit and sensibility, their hearts were collocated in all the cares and minutiae of the day. A look was exchanged, one imperceptible to those who watched and thought they saw an accusatory glance, for in its feigned air of allegation was the indelible and unmitigated affection of forty years spent in joyous matrimony.   
“A bhean so I am now,” said Marsiedh, trying to hide her flushing cheeks and failing miserably.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

#NaNoWriMo 2014: Marseidh the Matron

ALAS! Nanowrimo is upon us! At the keep, we're 7000 words toward our goal! If you're participating in NaNo this year, put your word count in the comments and enjoy the story:

Dirrald’s courage was beginning to fail him, and all doubt and anxiety, which he had been forgetful of for the last few minutes, here revived.      
“Fear not, lad,” said Eadmhaird quietly. “We can always ask the keeper when we register if he might not look up her name in the registry, just to be sure she is here. That will ease your heart.”
“Aye,” said Dirrald, beholden to Eadmhaid’s considerate attention, “it will.”
“How’d ye know Diarchaidhe’s daughter?” asked Gearrog.
“Grew up taegether in the orphanage. She was adopted and had tae move awae when her Ma passed on.”
“Shame it is, lad, when family and friends leave us. Ach, if anyone knows where she is, it’ll be Marseidh, the old matron. Good lass as they come, but mind her, lad, she’s got a matron’s face on her.”
Thought Dirrald wondered what Gearrog could have meant by ‘a matron’s face’, he soon found out, for the scowl and suspicious glare cast over the counter as they came to the registration desk acquainted Dirrald and Bhaunbher with Marseidh, the resident proprietor of the lodge. Her neat dress and clean appearance recommended her as the matron of so organized and well-managed an establishment, but her grey hair, smoothed back and twisted tight into two braids, her wandering eye which perpetually alternated between floating indolently in its socket and concurrently effecting to escape her head, her gnarled hands, the wikes round her mouth gullied and wrined, the lirks radiating outward from the corners of ther eyes, her forehead etched with profound furrows granted a something like senescence to the otherwise kindly and composed old woman. Her arms moved about in spite of her sclerotic and depreciating form, but her high-necked gown, pulled tight and secured with ribbon and lace at the back, kept together what nature would otherwise have seen disjoint. Whilst one eye went in quest of some secret mission, her stationary eye, which also tended to dirft at the peril of her face, amidst the wreck of her misshapen aspect betrayed whom amongst the crowd she was speaking to, and when Eadmhaird approached the counter, her eye swirled clockwise a few times before fixing on the hunter.
“Ah, Eadmhaird,” said she, in a musical lilt, “and what would ye be doin’ here so early now? Sure’n it’s not like you to be comin’ before the hunt starts. Yerself always showin’ up at the last moment, neither prepared or nothin’, just to take the win from ‘em all and make ‘em come back here sore-footed and sore-hearted. And yerself, Gearrog!” her better eye instantly turning toward the brickmaker, “Sure’n we haven’t seen you here this long while.” And then, in a more accusatory tone, she added, “And yerself stayin’ away so long. I should say malacht on ye fer not comin’ home to mind yer house. Sure’n don’t I look in on it when we go back to the cottage for the holiday? Hmph!” Her vagrant eye jostled about. “And who’re these two strappin’ lads?” narrowing her gaze at Dirrald and Bhaunbher as she leaned over the counter. Her better eye moved slowly up and down as she inspected the two brigadesmen whilst her other joggled off after a child leaping by. “Brigade lads,” said she, with firm decision, giving them a salute by way of a nod and a fervent pout. “Good we see yis now. None of yis have come to the hunts in the last while, busy with all yer business up there in the mountains. Haven’t seen Tearlaidh down here since his last brother was yet alive, Gods rest him. Well, yer work is impartant, so it is, so I won’t say nothin’.”
“But there ye have said somethin’,” said the groundskeeper, whose back was turned to them as he counted the keys hanging from the far wall.
“Aye, I’ve said somethin’,” Marseidh admitted, “and I’ll say more, I will so. Yer brave commander’s never come back when he promised us a visit. And us keepin’ his room ready for him all the while.”
“I’ve been keeping Commander Tearlaidh’s room for him,” Eadmhaird contended, with smiling interest. “Didn’t you tell me that my room was once his when you gave it to me?”
“Aye, I did so,” said Marseidh, snurling and turning aside, staring at Eadmhaird from he corner of her better eye, “but we kept another for him, thinkin’ he would visit, and sure he’s never come back. Well,” she sniffed, her divagating eye bobbing, “yis lads come here tae take his place now? Sure’n ye did, and the room’s all ready for ye how ye like—and don’t be shy about havin’ the garls up there wit’chas. We make no argument over the like here. Just yis keep yer hands to yerselves till she says, that’s all I’m tellin’ ye.”
She stabbed a finger at them, Dirrald and Bhaunbher flushed and hemmed, thinking it advisable to say nothing and allow the good lady to conjecture as she would, and Gearrog and Eadmhaird laughed to themselves.
 “What’s all this laughin’, lads? Why ye lookin’ so blank on me?”  Marseidh closed her wandering eye and stared at them with the stationary one. “Yer not foolin’ this old gran, so yer not. All the young garls be walkin’ around here for a bit o’ craic before the huntin’, and sure’n ye give it to ‘em, takin’ ‘em up there and havin’ yerselves a laugh. I don’t see the difference when comp’ny is comp’ny: yer gonna have it, or yer not, and that’s it so. Eadmhaird, yer room’s cleaned and ready for ye, son. Gearrog, yer fire’s been started—and don’t be tellin’ me nothin’ about not puttin’ the fire on till first snow,” stabbing a finger at his nose. “I know a snow when I smell it, and there may be none on the ground yet, but the air’s got that scent, and this ol’ nose is tellin’ no lies, lads. Yer hearin’ it from me now, so y’are, that by th’morra, Gods be praised, there’ll be snow on that ground.”
“I hope you’re wrong, Marseidh,” said Eadmhaird amiably. “The hunt will probably go on for a few days at least.”
“Ha!” Marseidh rasped. “Not if yer in it, son. This hunt’ll be done by the afternoon, that’s my wager.”