Adaoir and Aiden: The Donnegals
Here is a small piece from the Donnegal's wake. I wanted you to meet two of Sheamas' brothers: Adaoir and Aiden.
When they entered, there was an uproar of cheers. Glasses and tankards were lifted and the commander and Den Asaan were hailed with hearty exultation. The whole of the Donnegal family crowded the house: all eight children and their spouses, excepting Margilesse, were present and any subsequent offspring and distant relatives from the Mister’s side were at the feet of their respective mothers. The men congregated in the kitchen and sat around the table with their ales and pipes while the chief of the women were in the main room tending to their children and whispering their secret sorrows of how much Mr Donnegal must have suffered with his failing memory and rapidly ailing health. Mrs Donnegal was in the bedchamber tending to the last of her husband’s business and asked to be left alone until she called for one of her children expressly.
As the commander was hardly one for children or the gentle and gossiping of whispering women despite their happy Tyferrim humour, she remained in the kitchen beside the table while room was made for her mate to sit beside Shayne who had come with Martje a few hours previous. The Donnegal boys remembered to stand near the open windows when the Den Asaan was near and were generous in giving him much to eat and nothing to drink. The commander was given the same but she declined the food in favour of asking how they all were given the circumstances. It was told to her by many of the Donnegal boys that she should not be sorry for their loss, for even though their father exhibited only happiness despite his forgetfulness, his last few weeks were intolerable to both him and their mother as to make all of children uneasy and disheartened. Their father had mentioned he was tired and more importantly tired of forgetting. He believed himself to be a great burden to his family and though he did not know them, he wished to be an encumbrance no longer. The following morning, he had died and it was the two eldest, the twins Adaoir and Aiden, who had found him in his bed at peace with the world when he was called down to breakfast.
“Don’t worry yourself,” Adaoir said when he told the commander the history of the past few days. “Me and Aiden were lucky enough to remember when our Da when he was a well man. I’ll tell you, girl, he wouldn’t have wanted us to worry a second about his passin’. When our uncle died, our Da drank so much you would’ve thought that wake was a weddin’.”
The commander simpered along with Sheamas who was standing at her side and thanked Aiden as he approached with some mulled cider to adorn her empty hand. She could not help but remark how perfectly alike the two eldest were, not only in the obvious means of appearance but also in person and temper. They made the same gesticulations, spoke with the same Tyferrim lilting intonation, had the same tall figure and thick build, the same red hair and brown eyes, the same ineffable and cheerful smiles, the same work-worn hands, and they even wore the same overalls and overlarge shirts rolled up at the sleeve as most of the Tyferrim farmers had done. They were large men, their arms and backs filled with the brawn that comes with years of hard land labour, but their stomachs were heavy with the weight that comes from years of good eating. Although they were tall, they were not as soaring as Sheamas and though they were pleasant, their features were not as handsome as those of their youngest brother were. They were affable and kindly, and it was only halfway into the commander’s conversation with them that Adaoir and Aiden were the ones she was to thank for the reconstruction of her father’s house.
“Hush that now, girl,” Aiden firmly said when receiving the commander’s words of appreciation. “We owed Jaicobh that much and then some. When we were sixteen, your Da sent us to Sethshire to help on some of the farms there. With the apprecitin’ money we were makin’, we were able to survive when Allande nearly killed our land with his tithes. He kept us away from the worst of it even when his own lands he was lettin’ were taken from him. We all owe him somethin’. We know you can take care of yourself but since he ain’t around no more, we gotta do somethin’ for his girl. You understand?”
The commander was compelled to sigh at such thankfulness and resolution and nodded in supplication for their forceful kindness.
“Besides,” said Adaoir said with an arch smile, “I had a time rilin’ my brother. He’s forgot half his carpentin’ skills.”
Aiden swore at his brother in Old Frewyn and shouts from the main room came in from their wives, roaring at them to guard their mouths while their children were about. Aiden grumbled and made a few softer swears and he paused, waiting for another reproof to attack him before he continued.
“I rebuilt that attic, Adaoir,” Aiden flouted his brother, pointing at him while holding his tankard in the same hand. “Don’t you tell me I don’t know how to build nothin’.”
The commander suddenly observed that there was a slight difference in the twins in the amount of fingers each of them had. Aiden was missing his smallest finger on his right hand. It was cut from just above the knuckle and when Adaoir noticed the commander’s regard for his brother’s omission, he gave her a fiendish grin.
“See that? That’s what happens when you forget how to chop wood right,” he said, pointing to Aiden’s missing phalange.
Aiden rolled his eyes and took a disgruntled sip of his mead.
“May I ask how that happened?” the commander said, attempting to stifle her laughter.
Adaoir smirked at his brother’s flat look. “He was out in the back one day. Ma asks him to bring some firewood in the house. This one takes Da’s hatchet from the shed,” he said, affirming his indication of his brother with a thumb in his direction, “and instead of placing the wood on the choppin’ block, he holds in on the ground in place with his hand.”
“By the gods,” the commander said, blushing and snickering into her hand. “I daresay, Aiden, you are fortunate a finger is all you lost.”
Aiden remained in a brooding silence, scowling as he sipped from his cup.
“Did you at least endeavor to reclaim your finger?” the commander said, recollecting herself.
Adaoir’s round cheeks reddened as he was caught in a fit of laughter at his brother’s expense. “Naw, girl. He was too busy bleedin’ to search for it in the grass. Ma went to look for it after he come back in the house.” Adaoir was forced to pause to breathe through his rasping mirth. “One of the huntsman’s hounds came through the field and carried it off.”
The commander and Sheamas, who was attempting with all due civility to be respectful, could be silent no longer. They howled in laughter and though Sheamas had heard the story numerous times, it was a history that never got old. The commander wiped her tears from her eyes and inhaled to maintain some form of composure but Aiden’s glowering countenance conveyed that he hated this story more every time it was repeated and therefore making it even more amusing to her.
Adaoir made a curt motion toward his brother with his tankard and raised his fine brows. “Even after Ma cauterizes the wound,” he added, “Da looks at him and asks what happened to the firewood.”
“What a horror,” the commander sighed smilingly. “You lose your finger to a hound and all your father’s concern is how cold the house shall be.”
“Aye,” Aiden grumped. “I lose my finger and no one gives a toss but the dog who took it.”
Adaoir leaned against the wall and nodded at his brother. “And your carpentin’ skills haven’t improved since.”
The commander half-smiled as the two men continued with their stories and general aspersions. She listened in a wistful calmness. She postulated that the Donnegals were pleasanter than any other family she had ever had the pleasure of being intimate with and their stories of lost fingers and disparaging accounts of failings in one another made her recall a time in her youth when she longed to have a brother. A sister would not have done for her, as she had little idea of how to be feminine herself, but a brother with a protective nature and compassionate manner much like her father’s was a relation he was desirous of having.