The men met in Sighard's paddock where Rory was now directing the making of some wooden "swords" they could use for practice. Several of the men had brought what weapons they had: a couple short swords, a bow, a coupple axes, one scythe.
Ceridwen had come with Rory, not surprising since the two were clearly going to be inseparabble. She sat on the fence of the paddock and watched him as he moved among the men. He spoke easily and respectfully to each man and boy. She thought to herself, "He is a leader. That light hid under Shannon's bushel for too long."
Ewen's son Oswin commented, "We will have to figure out how we can get some real weapons once we know how to use these toys." His tone was, as it always was, cheerful and humorous. His brother Wilfrid just nodded from behind him.
Rory looked over at Ceri, his eyes speculating on something. he came over to her and said in a confidential oice, "I am after thinkin' that if the King adn Queen want to give us a wedding gift, this it could be.."
Ceri was surprised. "Rory, that is a rather generous gift even from a King."
Rory looked thoughtfully over the dozen adn a half or so would be warriors in his charge. "Aye, but I am thinkin' that particularly fond of me they are." He flashed a grin at Ceri. She laughed and smiled.
As Rory was lining the men and boys up and getting set to face them where he could demonstrate some of the basics of each weapon, Ceri on impulse got up and walked over to get into the line. Sighard was the one who looked at her surprised. "Ceri, you want to fight?"
Ceri raised her chin. "Aye, 'tis not in my nature to do so, but if the time came that my loved ones were threatened, I should want to know how."
Rory had come over to her with a wooden sword. He smiled admiringly at her. He kissed her on the cheek as he handed her the sword.
One of the village men laughed, "Do we all get a kiss if we do well?"
Rory flashed his famous sunlit smile. "Only those of ye who are as beautiful as she is." The men all laughed, even Wilfrid.
He started his small company on wooden swords. He had each stand and learn to hold it as if he or she was holding a very heavy iron sword. He demonstrated the proper two handed grip. "Later I will show ye how to fight one handed, but two handed gives ye more striking ppower. One handed is for fancy fighting."
For the first session Rory showed them proper stances for different ways the sword could be wielded, swung from above, from the side, or jabbed forward. "This is all offense, fellows. It is that important in fightin', but more important is defense. So when ye are practicin' with wour sword, think about each way ye might attack and how best the opponent might block ye."
He noticed that Oswin and one of the other boys had started to do a mock sword fight. He went over to them. "Men, 'tis important ye stick to what I teach ye for now.. get into good habits and they will save your life some day." His manner was such that the boys fell into respectful attention rather than feeling chastised.
After about two hours of practe repeating moves, Rory called a halt to the practice. He had already asked Sighard if the extra weapons could be stored in hsi shed. "Take these home with ye," he said, indicating the wooden swords each carried. "Spend what time ye can practicin'." Wilfrid stuck to Rory's side as they packed up the weapons and put them away.
"Ye are all dedicated learners," Rory told the group. "Ye shall do well."
The townsman who had spoken earlier called, "Time for that kiss now, Rory?"
Rory laughed and made as if to kiss the man, who laughingly stepped back.
As they walked back to Brewood Rory smiled at Ceri who was proudly looking at her wooden sword from time to time. She saw his smile. "You are not just indulging me, are you? I can learn."
Rory looked surprised. "Och, indeed ye can. Your form and stance are a natural fighter's. Ye may not e'er be as strong as the men, but ye will very likely outfight them one handed. Irish women are fierce fighters. Women have better balance and also can last longer in a fight if they can fight one handed."
Ceri smiled appreciatively. "Have you known women fighters?"
Rory nodded. "Indeed, several. I wish me mother had known how to fight. She would possibly be alive today if she had."
At their dooryard Ceri asked Rory, who was sitting next to her at the table. "Tell me about your mother, my darling," she urged.
Rory smiled softly. "Ye remind me in so many ways of what I remember of her. She was strong and srerious like you. Watchin' ye wash and lay out the cloth for your sewin' reminded me of something I had completely forgotten. Me mother, her name was Grania, took in the washin' of the chieftain's household. She would also stretchout the linens as ye do the cloth on the ground." He looked in the direction of where she did this and stretched out an arm to convey the cloth extended flat.
Ceri looked in the same direction as if she would see Grania there stretching out bedsheets. She looked back at Rory. "What do you remember best of her, dearest?"
He smiled happily. "Her stories. Och, the woman could spin a yarn. She knew all the tales of the ancient heroes, and them before them who were gods and went to live underground when the people came to Ireland. Every tale started the same."
"A long, long time ago. If I were there then, I would not be there now. If I were there now and at that time, I would have a new story...or an old story...or I might have no story at all..."
Ceri smiled broadly. "That is wonderful! And you remember that all these years later?" Then her eyes grew serious. "What hapened to her, Rory?" She reached a hand to touch his.
Rory nodded thoughtfully. "She was attacked on the path. We came home from a long day in the fields. She twister ger ankle and sent me on to get hellp. While she was there alone some armed men came along intent on attacking a little town at that crossroads. They say she looked as if she was trying to run to warn the people. I dinnae really know. I was only six. All I know is that the next time I saw her she was lyin' on our table with a shroud over her. She was so beautiful, even with the bruises."
Ceri squeezed his hand. he smiled somberly at h er. "And that is why you became a soldier."
He put his arm around her shoulder. "Aye, for just the reason ye said today, so if anyone attacked your loved ones, ye could defend them. For me 'twas a desire to defend all who are unable to defend themselves." He paused. "Trainin' these men in some ways seems to fulfill that desire more than bein' a soldier meself. I am givin' them the means to be unable to help themselves no longer."
Ceri breathed "Aye" into his shoulder. "Rory, I do not think I have e'er men a man so good as you are."
There was nothing he could say to confirm or deny her statement, so he just kissed her.
Next: Rory's Horse
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