Poor Lochan still making his case for his new friend. He sees a life-long companion, and Martje sees a pie filler.
Lochan held the goose away from his sister. “You gotta have pity on her, Martje,” he pleaded. “How would you feel if you lost your family and had to stay with a stranger till your flock came back?”
“I wouldn’t feel nothin’ ‘cause I’d be baked in a pie,” Martje humphed.
Rautu grumbled something about how Martje should liked being wrapped up in a buteraceous crust, and Alasdair hemmed and pretended not to have heard though the small smile wreathing his lips betrayed his acknowledgement and amusement.
“You don’t want to take that bird out, then it’s goin’ in the oven.”
A pout, a fierce look, and Lochan refused to relinquish his friend, tucking her into the bend of his arm and covering her head with his hand. “I don’t gotta do anythin’ the king doesn’t say.”
“I’m not getting in the middle of this,” Alasdair insisted, hiding behind his wife. “Lochan, don’t mention me. I’m not foolish enough to pass judgement on a cook’s dominion. She reigns over this kitchen, and I’m a mere guest in it.”
“You just don’t want to be involved in a sibling rivalry, sire,” Carrigh laughed.
“And if I don’t, it is very well done of me. I would rather do anything than get between a fighting brother and sister, especially when one is holding a goose and the other something to fustigate me with.”
“Majesty,” said Martje, turning and looking for Alasdair in the crowd, “you’ll pardon me and all, but if you don’t tell Lochan to take that bird outta my kitchen, I’ll kill him right along with it.”
There was a dreadful pause, Alasdair crouching behind his wife, afraid and unwilling to refute either of the Donnegals, and everyone else exchanging chary looks.
“Shise shin,” said Martje presently. “I’m gettin’ the cleaver.”
There was an exsibilation at this, the shuffle of feet and fremescence of voices, no body wanting the goose to be harmed but no one eager to defend Lochan while Martje had a cleaver in her hand.
“Ma!” Lochan called out, looking to Calleen, who was just emerging from the crowd. “Tell Martje she can’t have Jannidhe.”
“Ma,” Martje huffed, “if you don’t tell Lochan to take the bird outta my kitchen, your gonna have one less son.”
Calleen, the quiet good old lady, with her kindly aspect and upright figure, came forward and quieted her children with a consoling gesture. “All right now,” said she, all maternal solicitude that her good nature could warrant, “Let’s settle ourselves down. Martje, there’ll be no cleavers against Lochan’s goose.”
Martje gasped and looked offended, and Lochan gave a firm and defiant nod as she turned away, folded her arms, and makde an audible humph.
“Loch, darlin’,” Calleen continued, nearing her son as closely as the goose would admit. “You know the rule in the family: no animals at the table or in the kitchen. I know you’re keepin’ that ol’ gal safe and clean, but we still don’t know where she came from and it ain’t sanitary to keep an animal what’s been outside near our plates.”
“But where am I gonna put her, Ma?” said Lochan, breaking off a piece of Beryn’s scone, crumbling it in his hand, and giving it to the goose. “She don’t like anyone else, and she won’t go no where without me.”
“Why don’t we ask Roriegh and Deias to keep her in the stables for the evening? They sure got plenty o’ space now that most o’ the stables are cleared out for the holiday.”
“They got an empty slot next to Moraig,” said Beryn. “Sure your goose’d like that, Loch. You can stay with her there, playin’ with her in the hay, and she can bother Moraig all she wants.”
“Aye, and that’s Ma’s word on it,” Martje declared. “Put that bird in the stables, Loch, before I make a soup outta it.”
The goose gave a strident honk and nibbled Lochan’s chin.
“Aye, all right, girl,” he sighed. “C’mon, then. Let’s go visit Moraig before Martje plucks you clean.”
“Can we come, Uncle Lochan?” ask Little Adaoire.
“Aye, we wanna feed the goose,” said Little Aiden.
“Sure, you can come.”
The children cheered, and Lochan stood from the table, scowling at Martje and holding the goose away from her. He moved toward the hallway, the children following in his train, when Jaicobh returned with his grandson, the former all subrisive affability, and latter hiding his face in his grandfather’s shoulder.
“Oh, now, c’mon, cub,” said Jaicobh, patting the child’s back. “It wasn’t so bad.”
“What happened?” said Sheamas, with all the concern of an anxious father.
“He made me drink the gorse tonic!” Little Jaicobh wailed, frowning and wiping his mouth with his sleeve. “Its tastes like I put my mouth in the bog!”
A fulmination of mirth broke out, and Little Jaicobh grimaced and made a long, “Blehhh.”
“Bog’s not so bad,” said Beryn, refilling his cup. “Coulda been worse. Coulda been forced to lick the frogs how the old tales go.”
“I think I woulda liked that better, Uncle Beryn.” Little Jaicobh slottered and frowned. “The bog taste won’t go away.”
“Go on with Lochan to the stables. Deias’ll give you a bit o’ scrumpy. He keeps some for the horses. That’ll take the taste from your mouth and put hair on your chest.”
“But I don’t want a hairy chest, Uncle Beryn.”
“It’s either the hairy chest or the bog-gob, cub.”
“Aye,” the child sighed. “I’ll take the hairy chest. At least I can’t taste that.”
He leapt down from his grandfather’s embrace and hastened out of the kitchen, to follow the children and his uncle to the stables, but in passing Rautu as he scrambled to the threshold, he suddenly stopped, lurched backward, and gave a great sneeze, the force of which cause him to tumble forward and spray his nasal expactoratant against the giant’s leg.
“Excuse me!” Little Jaicobh chimed, beaming up at the giant.
He hurried away, and Rautu was left to scowl at his leg in vehement disdain, caught between the desire to visit the warm baths in the Haanta quarter of the capital to burn away any lingering infection, or to save himself the trouble of leaving the keep and have Tomas solder off his leg entirely.
“The rapture of maintaining so many nephews, Iimon Ghaala,” Boudicca laughed. “Scolding them is as impossible as is being immune to their diseases. I daresay you will get a cold now.”
“I will not, woman,” the giant demanded. “His infection has already manifested. His disease is no longer contagious,” but a sudden itch began to plague him, the irritation attacking his senses, compelling him to wiggle his nose and sniff, and the giant turned away, determind to get the better of whatever it was that had decided to invade his hale and hardy form. A cat hair must have wandered in, or some of the flour dust whirling about Martje’s kitchen floor must have found its way into his nasal passages. However the discomfort might have got there, it was gone as quickly as it came, and a touch of the nose, an indiscernible sniff, and the giant was well again, turning back to his mate as though nothing at all had happened.