Rory and Ceridwen were hard at work in the vegetable garden when Ewen's sons Oswin and Wilfrid came to the dooryard gate. Rory, who had been singing quietly to himself and Ceri and any of the livestock who cared to listen, stopped hoeing and looked up with a broad smile. "Och, lads, good to see ye!"
Ceri, who was stooped over her weeding, straightened up and stretched a sore back. She greeted the boys as well. "What brings you, neighbors?" she asked.
Rory leaned the hoe against the fence around the garden and went over to his wife. He came around behind her and started to massage her lower back with his large strong hands. She closed her eyes and smiled.
Oswin opened the gate and he and his quiet brother came in. "Rory, I think I have a horse for you!" Oswin called cheerfully. Wilfrid confirmed Oswin's news with a nod.
Rory looked up from his work on Ceri's back and cried, "Ye have, lad? Tell me all about it. Ceri, ye go sit a while with the boys.. I wil get us some refreshment." Rory opened the gate in the garden fence and waited while Ceri went out and over to the table, then went out and closed the gate behind himself. With a wave he dashed into the cottage. When he came out with a pitcher and cups the other three were already sitting.
Oswin started, "You remember Godric, the fellow I brought to weapons training?"
Rory put the pitcher and cups down, then swung one long leg and then the other over the bench and sat by Ceri. He pured cups of ale for all. "Aue, of course. " He lifted his cup. "Here's to us!" he toasted and took a drink.
Oswin continued, once he and the others had all lifted their cups in toast. "He works as an ostler oftimes for the manor on the other side of Healing, Lord Pandra's manor. M'lord's daughter is marrying in the next month or two and one of the maids says they are looking for someone to make her gown and also to entertain at the wedding. I know the stable has more than enough horses.. and I was thinking the two of you might make a trade?"
Ceri smiled, "Gidrun is getting married? Aye, I think I heard that. I shall have to go see her and give her my best wishes." She looked at Rory. "Dearest, we could go see her and talk to her and her father about a trade."
Rory looked ready for the adventure. "When shall we go?"
The next day the two from Brewood Farm dressed in their better clothes, which in Rory's case was his usual kilt and the beautiful embroidered shirt Ceri had made for him. She was dressed as she had been at Beltane, in a skirt and a beautifully embroidered bodice. At the manor they were welcomed warmly, and when Girdrun came out to take Ceri's hands and kiss her cheek, she eyed Ceri's companion.
"Ceridwen, is this who you married, Rory McGuinness?! When I heard I did not believe it.. such a catch, Ceri!" Gidrun was a flighty young woman, but all heart. She whispered in Ceri's ear, "How did you manage it? I heard he was unconquerable!" Ceri just smiled.
"Gidrun, I hear you have nuptials yourself. Who is the lucky fellow?" she asked.
"I shall tell you all about it. Now Rory, you stay here. I have some things I want to talk to Ceridwen about. I shall send Father down to entertain you." Gidrun took Ceri's arm and steered her to a doorway, Ceri and Rory looked at each other ungappily, not wishing to be separated. But Gidrun was adamant.
Rory stood in the entry hall with his hands clasped behind his back, whistling. At length he saw Lord Pandra come in. Rory had seen the man many times at the Great Hall at the castle in Lawrencium. He was short, stocky, adn had pale Saxon coloring. His eyebrows were almost as bushy as his long trailing moustache. "McGuinness," he barked. "My daughter tells me 'tis true, you have married our Ceridwen."
Rory smiled and bowed. "Aye, I am that glad to say, 'tis true. The happiest thing that has e'er befallen me."
Pandra directed Rory to sit with him on some Roman chairs. "Aye, well, you could have knocked me over with a goose feather. I thought you would never marry.. the rumors, you know.. a nd that song.."
Rory grimaced slightly. "Aye, I know. Surprised as everyone else i was, if not more so. But me lord, I hear ye have a weddin' in your own household soon..."
Pandra puffed up considerably and smiled. "Aye, my Gidrun has made a fine, fine match with a young kinsmen of the King of Northumbria. I shall miss her, but she will be the mother of a royal line... I am very happy for her."
Rory nodded, "That is fine news, me lord. Is the wedding to be held here, I am wonderin'?"
Pandra directed a servant to pour wine. "Aye, and at great expense to me, I can tell you.. but only the nest for my little lass."
Rory took a proffered goblet and sipped, smiling and nodding approvingly. "Me lord, I am also wonderin'.. should ye need a singer at the wedding?"
Pandra's eyes lit up. "Aye, are ye free to take such work? If we could have you.. Gods, my daughter would be in heaven. It would have been nice to have Shannon, but.."
Rory did not flinch. He was well used to being Shannon's stand-in. "Aye, I am leavin' the service of the King and Queen now that I shall be with Ceridwen at Brewood."
Pandra looked worried, "But, lad, I do not think I can pay your price.."
Rory sipped more wine. "Sir, if I may suggest a trade..." He sat forward. "Me neighbor Oswin tells me ye may have a horse I may trade for. Also Ceri is with your lovely daughter talking about adding to the trade some fine garments for the wedding."
Pandra jumped up from the chair and went over and gathered Rory in a bear hug. "A trade!" ge crowed. "A fine trade! Aye, I should be full of joy to trade thus! Come, come with me to the stable and we shall see the horse." He grabbed Rory by the arm and pulled him along to the stable.
Rory was having a great deal of trouble hiding his excitement as Godric the ostler came out from the stable leading a beautiful roan horse. Fortunately Ceridwen came out with Gidrun at that very momen or he should have taken it that very moment. Rory saw her coming and almost danced over to her. "Ceri, Ceri, me lord Pandra agrees!"
Ceridwen, a shrewder businesswoman than her husband, went over to the horse. Pandra l ooked on approvingly and Rory admiringly as she inspected the animal. She looked at its teeth, its legs and hooves, led it in a circle to watch it walk, then prolmounced, "She's a fine mare, my lord. And is she for sale?"
Pandra looked concerned. "But I thought we were trading for your husnand's and your services.."
Ceri said calmly, feeling Rory almost jumping up and down next to her. "Is that agreeable? Rory sings and tells stories at Gidrun's wedding, and I make her embroidered adornments to set off her mother's gown and also some other garments for after the wedding.. GIdrun and I have already agreed on what."
Gidrun looked pleadingly at her father. He neamed and nodded enthusiastically. "Done!"
Rory said, "Done? Does that mean the horse is mine?"
Ceri looked at the lord again. "Will you trust us to fulfill the bargain if we take the horse now?"
Lord Pandra beamed again. "Of course, I know you both well.. you are as hood as your word and better."
On the walk home, for Ceri had told Rory it was best to walk the h orse home, Rory said, "Och. I forgot to ask what the creature's" (he promounced the word "cray-chere's") "name is..."
"I do not think it matters much. She is young enough I think to learn a new name. Have you one in mind, my darling?" she inquired.
Rory walked along leading his horse and thinking. He looked at his feet for a while, then at the sky, then at Ceri, until his face lit up. "Och, I know just the one.. 'tis Irish. 'Oran de Sionnaine'." He promouced it "oh RON di Shannon".
Ceri clapped her hands. "'Shannon's Song'? That is wonderful, Rory. And a bit clever. Do you mean his singing in general o his ballad about you?"
Rory smiled at her. "Both. 'Tis for the song he sang to us in the vision you gave me.. and 'tis for that dreadful song that nevertheless dinnae keep ye from me or me from ye after all."
Ceri went over to Rory's horse and stood on tiptoe to whisper in its ear, "Oran de Sionnaine'."
Rory stroked the horse's neck. "Ye dinnae mind if we just call ye Oran, me dear?"
The horse snorted and dipped her head.
Ceri laughed, "I think that was 'aye'!"
Next: The Kittens
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