Story for the Day: Fraternal Sentry - Part 2

While the strike had not been of a sort to damage, the action itself had been enough to stun Feidhlim into submission. The boy instantly bowed his head and said a most woeful, “…I’m sorry, Da,” before turning toward the rest of his siblings with downcast eyes and speaking an apology that was as mortifying to remark as it was to offer. Ossin and Irall, still under the dread of their father’s petrifying calm, softly refuted their brother’s apology, needing none for the few moments of enjoyment he had granted with his games, and Blinne said nothing, her hands lowering by trembling gradations, her lips quivering with each shuddering breath, her mind engrossed in the trepidation of the moment, uncertain as to whether she ought to give way to notions of compunction for not having stopped her brother sooner, or whether she ought to accept all the culpability in the question for having won at the game so early, compelling Feidhlim to steal their pieces that he might triumph over his siblings regardless of what the regulations of the game might authorize.
“Go to bed without dinner,” was their father’s final word in the business, said in a tone decided enough to make Feidhlim turn instantly toward the stairs.
The father went back to his chair and stirred the coals in the small furnace, Ossin and Irall picked up their Boghans and returned solemnly to the corner of the room, and as Feidhlim ascended the stairs with eyes low and shoulders wilted, Blinne at last recollected enough of her self-possession to move toward the kitchen, her eyes toward Feidhlim’s slow and reluctant steps, and her hands unconsciously outstretched toward Gaumhin, whom she felt was standing nearer to the door than her sight would have otherwise predicted.   
“Gaumhin?” she pleaded, bemused and frightened all at once.
Her fingers brushed her brother’s features as he knelt to welcome her into his arms, and his hands assisted hers in wrapping about his neck as she came toward him. The soothing sensations that his nose pressing against her nape afforded, complemented by his delicate whisper of “Ahm here, Blinne-hen,” evinced all the tears she had been so industriously restraining. She melted against his chest, his warmth supplying every tender feeling that his heart could furnish, and with an exhale of true ministration, she cried against his shoulder, divided between the sudden terror she had endured and the succor that Gaumhin’s being there to comfort her through every agonizing motion afforded.
“Ah ken,” Gaumhin murmured, oscillating on his knees with his sister in his arms. “Ye had a bit of a fright. It’s over now, aye? It’s done, and we woant thenk aboot it anymore.”
She nodded, though she felt no palliation from her fears at this speech, and dispersed her tears, wanting to recompose herself before Peig’s curiosity and anxious expression could lead her to betray all the aggrievement and dismay she felt. It was a miserable business; if only her brother had not dissented and disregarded-- but there was no reasoning away her father’s violence: her father had struck her brother, and though Feidhlim’s sturdy form seemed to incur no injury from the assault, she could be under no mistake that his mind must be in tumult of anguish. He had been sentenced to bed without dinner, a punishment never hitherto spoken in the house, the notion of which brought a pang of sudden despondence to her heart. “Feidhlim…” she began, but the revival of her tears suppressed her soft voice, and she could say nothing more at present.
“Doant ye worry, mah wee-hen,” said Gaumhin, brushing the hair from Blinne’s eyes, “Ahm gonnae go tae him. Aye?”
Gaumhin’s determined and kind countenance granted a something like assuagement from her many scruples, and she gloried in his benevolent solicitude with all the reprieve that her beleaguered heart could admit. She effected to smile, endeavouring to match her brother’s confidence, but the sudden solicitation from her grandmother saw the return of all previous agitations.    
“My darling Blinne,” cried Ms MacLachlann upon seeing her grandchild with red eyes. Instantly did she place the pot in her hands aside and come to the child’s aid. “What happened? Have you hurt yourself? Did something frighten you? Tell me what it was that upset you.”
Blinne would have told the whole, but her hand was being pressed, penetrating looks with Gaumhin were exchanged, and she found that she could say nothing that would pronounce her father as an evil. Another look entreated her to divulge her distress. She wished Gaumhin would speak first, that he might convey her father’s disciplinary measures as objectionable, but Gaumhin could say nothing to diminish the son of the woman who had accepted him as a son himself, and Blinne could not cultivate enough of her courage to speak against her father. She only insisted that she was very well and that whatever had disconcerted her had gone, though her partial smiles spoke a very different conviction.
A glance of vicious abhorrence at the father as he closed the grate to the furnace and took up his
book once more, and Gaumhin governed himself enough to say, “Ahm gonnae go upstairs for a moment.” He took up Peig from the ground and gave her over to Blinne, charging her to look after her for a few minutes, and standing and taking a prolonged inhale, he took the small bowl of oats that was left over from the afternoon from the counter, exhaled and walked into the front room. His gaze tapered in smoldering rage, his blue eyes simmering beneath his bent brow as he spied the father, who seemed inclined to forget the boys again now that he had done with scolding them; Ossin and Irall played together in the corner, glancing over their shoulders at their father as though afraid of his constant invigilation, and the father made no attempt to allay their fears or even to join them. They had dissented, he had made an example of the instigator, and this was enough to satsisfy the paternal proclivity. Desperately did Gaumhin want to decimate this man for so cruelly reproaching his child, a child which he knew to be the most generous and affable and obliging under any other circumstance and who was undeserving of the admonition he had received. A retaliation on the father could easily be done from his current position, partially screened, as he was, by the darkness of the room. An arm around the father’s neck and a few firm jolts should have easily done the business and rid them of the one responsible for ruining all their family peace. He was much larger than the father and in possession of immense might—a moment’s struggle would see the end of all their fears, but any repudiation against the father should have Gaumhin expelled from the house, and then he would neither be able to defend nor care for the children who so desperately needed his affection. Fancying, as he could, two hands crushing the father’s lithe neck was all the hostility that Gaumhin allowed himself, and without being detected by the boys or being descried by the father, Gaumhin slipped past the furnace and crept up the steps, to find Feidhlim sitting in the far corner of the upstairs room, his gaze distant as he looked out at the adjoining slope, his complexion crimsoned over, his eyes glistening and unblinking as fading tributaries lined his abysmal aspect.