Story for the Day: Aoidhe and Chune -- Part 2
Cgnita’s letter arrived first, being only come from Barrellynn and the Haven, but it was the letter
“I am being made chief of the expedition!” Eilen cried, tumbling into the infirmary, her arms flailing. “I’m being made chief of the expedition!”
She waved the letter about in a panic, and Cgnita nearly dropped the arm he was examining as he stood to greet her.
“That is excellent news,” Cgnita proclaimed, resisting the urge to embrace her while a patient was by. “I am absolutely delighted that the society is going to be allowing you to—Mrs Whittaker, really, if you don’t stop moving, I will never get this bandage on.”
“Fah!” the old woman grunted. “Didn’t even look at my arm!”
“Oh, I am sorry,” said Eilen, stepping back. “I didn’t mean to interrupt.”
“Not at all—I did look at your arm, Mrs Whittaker, very thoroughly, and as I told you before, it was only a bruise. I am bandaging you for your own comfort, because you will not accept any other treatment. There is nothing else the matter with you.”
The old woman glanced at Eilen and then at Cgnita. “Never had a girl in here before,” she grumbled. “This your lady friend?”
“Yes,” said Cgnita impatiently, “she is my lady friend,” though, when he said it, he instantly began to smile. “Yes,” with fond inflection, “this is indeed my lady friend. Mrs Whittaker, this is Eilen,” gesturing her to come forward. “She is a prehistorian and an archaeologist for the Frewyn Archaeological Society—so whatever designs you had on my marrying your granddaughter, you can leave off this moment. And you may tell your friends the same.”
“Heh,” the old woman huffed, standing and spying Eilen with a tapered gaze. “Got yerself a smart-un. And I don’t got no granddaughter I’m schemein’ for you to marry.” She pouted and looked offended. “It was for Gita’s girl.”
Eilen laughed behind a raised hand, and Cgnita looked wholly unimpressed.
“Well, be that as it may, Mrs Whittaker,” said Cgnita firmly, “you are very well, and I do not need anymore matchmaking. Your arm has been healed, and I am spoken for. And so is Eilen, just to be clear, so there wil be no matchmaking to be done for her either.”
“Alright, alright,” the old woman waved him away, clointering out of the infirmary. “Gita won’t be happy though.”
“Well, I suppose she will just have to brook being disappointed, an ailment that has only time as its cure, so do not come here to me with your sobs. When you are ill, Mrs Whittaker, that is when you may come back. Good evening to you, madam,” and when she was gone, he called out, “And do not send you friends here to spy on Eilen!”
There was a faint grumbling sound, and Eilen smiled and laughed.
“Are they really so terrible to you?”
Cgnita rubbed his brow. “My dear, you can have no idea. Trying to throw me together with whatever dabchick they can pluck out of school as though we were utensils to be matched in a set—I have never seen such officious marriagemerchants in all my life. I do love my profession, and I do all that is within my power to do all is asked of me, but market myself as saleable goods I will not do, not even for the sake of every granddaughter and every gubbertushed old woman in the kingdom. Anyway, I am sorry, my dear. You were telling me of your letter.”
“Here, look,” said she, producing the letter. “From Mr Pryor himself. He says I am to lead the expedition and they shall be sending a few senior members to help me. I must say I am rather surprised that he should let me lead it when there are so many others who have years of experience--”
“Do not work yourself into a pet, my dear. If you work yourself into a fever, I shall have to keep you here and let others do the digging.”
“I do admit,” said she hesitantly, “your ministration was not unpleasant to me.”
Cgnita raised a brow. “If you should like to become a maladimaginist, like Mrs Whittaker, I will not tease you for it. I should be happy to save you from hysterics at anytime, be they real or fashioned.”
They exchanged a doting look, and Cgnita quickly read over the letter, while Eilen relished the new sensation of requited romance she was suffering under.
“Well,” said Cgnita, returning the letter, “makes my letter from Master Beldynn look rather plain.”
“Master Beldynn wrote to you? What did he say?”
“Only that he is coming, and that is all. I’m afraid Master Beldynn is rather terse when it comes to correspondence. His having something to say consists of a few lines, though those lines are certainly important. He will be here tomorrow, and that he should be delighted to make your acquaintance.”
“Oh, Cgnita!” Eilen cried, in a thrill of ecstacy. She knew her arms around his neck and embraced him, but then, recollecting herself and pulling away, “I cannot thank you enough for all you efforts. And to think, this morning I had no idea about any of it. How happy an accident—and yet, I do not think it could be called so by anyone.”
“No, indeed,” was Cgnita’s smiling answer. “What a day it has been-- for both of us, surely. You must be getting tired. Brudha has had a room made up for you. I hope you do not mind sharing quarters with a few of the sisters by.”
“Not in the least. Do let me know how much I owe him for his charity. He will not tell me, I know, but I hope you will find out what he expects as payment.”
“I believe that charity is precisely what he means with regard to payment,” said Cgnita, with a meaningful look. “He will take nothing from you-- nor will I, so you might as well not try. Simply conduct your expedition and add to the monstary’s visitors. That will be compensation enough.” He paused here, examining her delightful features. “Will you allow me to take you to dinner—rather, will you have dinner with me? I must stay close to the monestary in case I am needed, and I never venture to town unless it can be helped—but I would go for you,-- rather, if you asked me to—only it is very late now and--”
“I would love to,” was Eilen’s joyous approbation. “We can have dinner here—that is, may I eat here in the monestary? I am staying here, I know, but that is out of Brother Brudha’s goodwill, and I dare not take liberties with his kindness.“
“Oh, no, my dear. Do not be so shamefaced. It is expected that you should be eating here, certainly if you are staying here. I thought we might have something cook has done up and take up to the hill fort. No one but you would venture up the slope, especially at this time.” Cgnita looked down and smiled. “It is rather fitting for us to have dinner there, I think, considering the day we have had. Should you like that?”
She should prefer it to anything; no dinner at the best tavern in the kingdom could compare, and taking her hand, the cleric led her to the door, leaving behind all notion of scheming patients and officious grandmothers in favour of the delightful aspect of one whose company he should prefer to anyone. They stood on the threshold and looked out at the last intimation of gloaming, the dying ocher of evening dimishing, the inundation of moonlight spilling over the adjascent hills, and they prepared to remove to the kitchen, when a familiar sensation prevailed his consciousness and called him back again. He turned back and parused the infirmary, inspecting his desk, his chair, his files, when something at the far end of the patient’s are caught his eye. A moment’s fear assailed him, thinking he was going to find Aoidhe, sitting in the patient’s chair and smoking his wretched ethereal pipe, but there was nothing there, not even the lingering curls of pipe smoke to recommend his having been there a second before.
“What is it, Cgnita?” said Eilen, following the cleric’s gaze. “Is there something there?”
The cleric’s eyes tapered. “I’m not entirely sure. I thought I—“
He glanced toward the infirmary bed, and an image suddenly flickered through his mind, projecting itself onto the wall at the far end. It was a familiar image, one of a certain God bent over in the libidinous rage, body enageged in barbarous venery, the ferity of his aggressive undulations wracking Cgnita’s heart.
“By the—“ Cgnita gasped, gaping at the pultrous and violent exhibition.
He yelped and turned away in panic, and as quickly as his terror would allow, he grabbed Eilen’s hand and fled with her to the church. They stopped when they reached the entrance to the apse, and Eilen hung onto the door to catch her breath, while Cgnita stared back at his infirmary with unmitigated horror.
“Cgnita? What happened?” Eilen panted. “Did you see something in the infirmary?”
Cgnita stared at the wall and said nothing, his chest heaving, his mind in a torment. Aoidhe! You were goring her!
Familiar risibility simmered and filled the cleric’s awareness. Givin’ my bheann a right good hashiff, lad. Still givin’ what to her now.
Cgnita shuddered. Then why are you talking to me?! And why would you show me?! Gods!
Thought you oughtta see, lad, so’s you know what to do and all. Ain’t never done it before.
No, I have not done it before! How does that warrant such blatant and unasked for vulgarity?
Well, there’s knowin’ what somethin’ is and then knowin’ how to use it. This here’s application, showin’ you to teach you and such.
“By Ogham, why?” Cgnita wailed, melting against the nearby wall. “Why! Now I will never be able to erase that image from my mind!”
He grimaced and pulled on the ends of his hair, staring into the blameless oblivion of brick and mortar before him, suffering under the agony of violent affliction.
“Cgnita,” said Eilen cautiously, approaching Cgnita’s crumpled form with chary step. “Are you well?”
No answer was given her beyond a strangled whimper.
“Were you speaking to me just now? There is no one else here, but I don’t believe I know what you meant.”
The cleric shook his head and brought himself to standing once more. He would have to tell her, would have to explain the whole business to her, of Aoidhe’s visitation, of his unpleasant japes, of his wretched blessings. She might not stay if the truth should be told her; feeling defrauded and displeased, she might look elsewhere for companionship, knowing that Aoidhe had brought them together and was now taking liberties with his consciousness. He must tell her; it was wrong to keep her under a mistake, and taking her hand, he stood close with her, expecting her to run away at the first mention of Aoidhe’s name, and in a dreadful voice, he said, “Eilen, there is something I should tell you.”