The heads of all the people in the castle buzzed with Gaelic phrases though few held a notion as to what they meant. One was certain to all who knew Shannon: "Headar!" The King and Queen exchanged happy glances when they heard it as did also Rory and Clancy. Shannon could not hold in the bubbling which was characteristic of his soul when happy. Heather was coming' that was all one needed to know.
The days crept on and the jesters were even entertained by the childlike Irishman. One moment he was pensive, the next he bubbled; then he sang passionately the mused silently over some secret thought. The Queen could not help but mother him although he was quieter with her. Her relationship with Rory also shifted for now they shared parental relationships with Shannon. Needless to say, all were greatly relieved to hear one day in late January that Heather's arrival was imminent.
The young chieftain of the O'Neill clan woke early and bathed. Donning his finest parti-colored tunic he slung his lute over his shoulder and set himself down before a window.
He'd explained to Rory that he was not only glad at Heather's return but also fearful. He feared that the long separation and misunderstandings they'd had before he left Tyrone might have remained with the now tragic an brooding Heather. All he could was hope for the best.
When the moment of Heather's arrival was at hand, the snow began to fall and the world was white. The King and Queen watched out their window to see the ensuing reunion. Because of the cold only Shannon and Rory went out to greet Heather. Rory stood back from Shannon, there to support but not to interfere. The blowing wind and snow obscured their view as Heather approached on horseback and drew near. Rory stayed a few paces behind as Shannon ran to greet his love and with the keening wind and stomping horse he was unable to hear their words or hello. Shannon's bright face he could glowing with smiles as he lifted a pale and hesitant Heather from the horse. There was something strained, even frantic in Shannon's face as he prattled on, hardly giving his wife a chance to speak. He lifted her parcels from the cart and then his children who had ridden with her. Heather's face stirred from happiness to fatigue to irritation with Shannon's exuberance. As Rory watched he saw with horror as Heather's expression changed abruptly dark and she seemed to be sapping at her husband. Shannon's face fell into that all too familiar desperation and he stood still staring into her face. Rory caught the tone of Heather's voice on the wind, the familiar chastising tone she had come to use. Blankly Shannon turned and walked, then ran for the castle gate. In alarm, Rory began to follow him but stopped but Heather, to help her get out of the cold and to learn what had happened. He delivered her and the children into the King and Queen's hand, and seeing that Heather was not going to speak to him, ran to find Shannon.
Shannon had quite a head start on him, and was not within sight of the castle gate. In a panic, Rory though of the sea an ran toward the bayside ridge. The snow was falling fast in the footprints of someone who gone before him and in the tracks he found the cape that Shannon had been wearing. He dashed up the side of the ridge and stopped at the edge of the short cliff to peer down onto the rocky beach. Although the sea was high, ice grey and treacherous, he could make out the parti-colored tunic of the man who was trying to set to sea in small boat lift on the beach. Rory screamed to tear his lungs but Shannon could not hear him. Stepping forward to call out above the sound of the storm Rory slipped and fell several feet into a sheltered spot where he lay unconscious from the blow to his head on a rock.
When he awoke he had difficulty remembering. The grayness was everywhere - the sea, the beach, the melting snow, the rocks which sheltered him. A spot of color in the sand not far from him brought back memory of what must have happened sever hours before, even perhaps the night before he had set out to see. Pressing his hand to the cut on his head he knelt to pick up what he now recognized to be Shannon's lute. The calming sea must have washed it ashore, he though and the full significance struck him. He pressed the battered instrument to his heart and cried to the sky and sea, "Mavrone! Mavrone!"
He heard the sound of steps sliding down the ridge behind him and heard Clancy's voice, full of relief, calling to him that the castle would be soothed to know he was safe. The boy fell silent when Rory turned about with a vacant, lost look in his eyes. Dumbly Rory bowed his head over the lute and held it out to Clancy. He began to sob an Clancy backed away stupefied. He turned and fled up the ridge, tuning only to cast a tearful, defiant look back to the sea, tuning again almost instantly and running, stumbling back to the castle, the tears streaming mercilessly down his cheeks.
Before there was the novel, there were the stories...
by Nan Hawthorne, who also writes under Christopher Hawthorne Moss, Books and Stories b ChristopherHawthorne Moss at http://authorchristophermoss.vlogspot.com