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

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Rory and Ceridwem Series: The Hilltop

Laura and I actually wrote this one together, each taking a turn until the story was done.

They walked in silence always touching until they realized they were
standing atop the same rise where Rory had sung "Aignish" to her.
Ceri said, "Shall we sit a while? This is such a sweet spot."

Rory took off his cloak and draped it on the moss at the foot of a
tree. Once Ceri had seated herself, he lowered his long limbs down
beside her. She took her own cloak and spread it over them both. Rory
took her in his arms and she settled her head on his
shoulder. "Mmmm," he murmured. He looked down to where her head had
tilted back to look up at him, lit faintly by a crescent moon. He
leaned to kiss her. "Sure and could anythin' be so perfect as this?"
he sighed.

Putting his cheek on her head, he started to sing softly, something
in Gaelic with a sweet tune. Her eyes closed in pleasure. When he
stopped singing and said, "Ceri, darlin', I want to start me life
with ye as soon as possible."

His impatience thrilled her. She raised her head and sat up a
little. "Oh, I also wish it could be soon!"

He looked back at her delighted. "Ye do?! Oh, Ceri, me dear, dear
lass!" He smiled his sunlit smile and reached to touch her hair.

Thinking for a while, he went on, "Ye are a grown woman with
property. Do I ask your uncle for your hand? Then what must we do?
Och, I wish we dinnae have to go through a lot of fuss.." He added
looking at her earnestly. "But darlin', if ye want a grand weddin', I
want ye to have it.. just please, soon. Soon."

"My uncle will be paying for the feast, so it will be a courtesy to
him if you ask for my hand. But I'm sure he'll just tell you I know
my own mind," she said, picturing her uncle's reaction with a
smile. "I don't care about the celebration, but everyone will be
expecting it, they'd be ever so disappointed if we... But wait! What
if we did marry first and tell everyone afterwards! We could marry
later today if we liked, perhaps...that is, if we can find the way to
do it properly." She looked at him excitedly.

"Ye would want that? Just to be married?" Rory asked.

"Oh, we can celebrate later, there's no harm in celebrating, is

"And ye ask that of an Irishman, and a minstrel at that?" he jested.
He smiled and laughed with pleasure. "So that means I shall go to
your uncle and say, 'Dear Cedric, will ye give me this lady's hand I
already have?" Then he smiled to himself. "Och, 'twould be that grand
to be married and not wait to start our lives together." Thoughtful,
he suggested, "What if we were to go to Healing and wed before Father

"Go to Father Angus? Yes, perhaps he might help us. People in Healing
do sometimes just make a contract in front of others and become man
and wife the same day, when they cannot afford a big wedding..."

"That be the way in Ireland as well.. and oft when there is no priest
available -- and a fine way it is, says I. The good father may have
done some matchmakin' already, love, as he made sure I knew ye had a
suitor.. so I should not dally.." He gave her a mischievous
smile. "Sure and methinks he will make haste on our behalf!"

She stopped still and gave him a surprised look, "Father Angus told
you I had a suitor?...I guess he told you about Sighard, then?"

Rory's face took on a bemused look, eyebrows raised, a crooked smile
on his lips. "Och, lass, so 'tis true? Aye, he told me there was a
man who had told him he would be after postin' the bans with ye soon,
but the good father said he dinnae think ye agreed." He adopted a
mocking challenging look. "Sighard, eh? Probably a great strappin'
Saxon fellow... shall I have to fight him? I hope not, as he might
best me. Then I should have to kidnap ye and carry ye away illegal."
He pretended to grab for her.

"Fight Sighard? Oh, no. He is such a good-natured fellow, I can't
imagine... Still, it may be a little awkward, as he is my neighbor.."
She smiled a little. "Hmm, I do like the idea of being kidnapped by
you! But I wouldn't want you to be bested by Sighard, in order for me
to have that pleasure! He wouldn't anyway, best you that is." she
added with an admiring smile.

"But Rory, you know that you don't need to worry about me, don't
you?" she added.

He looked uncertain, "Och, ye mean of your love for me? Nay, darlin',
I am as sure of that as I am of me own heart." He reached a hand to
stroke her cheek. "And of me own heart I have ne'er been so sure. Our
two hearts exchanged promises already, ere we even spoke of love
between us." Then he asked, "We dinnae have to post bans do we?
That's a Sassenach custom, is that not right?" He looked anxious.

"Let's just go ask Father Angus. And if we can get married right
away, then we shall. But if we have to wait, come stay at Brewood
with me, anyway."

He looked at her carefully, "But, darlin' lass, will ye not fear that
tongues will wag.. e'en if I am after sleepin' in the byre with the

At this, she laid her head to the side and smiled at him. "Darling
Rory, I didn't mean you would be sleeping with the cows."

He stared for a few moments, trying to gauge her meaning. "My heart,"
he ventured, "of course I want to make love to ye.. I want that
greatly... but I willnae presume upon your virtue." He averted his
eyes. "It has been many, many years since I made love to a woman..
nay, in truth I have ne'er made love to one, but it has been more
than..." He counted. "Eight years since I lay with one... I can wait
longer.. until we are wed." He looked back into her smiling face,
uncertain but with something smoldering behind his eyes.

Her eyes were shining with gratitude for his thoughtfulness. She
clasped his hands in hers tightly. "I'm not worried what people will
say." she replied, "To anyone who cares to know, I shall say that I
have taken you as my husband and the wedding will come later..that's
how I think of it myself, anyway."

Then she added thoughtfully, "I think we should not come back to
Lawrencium until we are truly wed, though. Can you stay away for a
while, if need be?"

Rory's eyes had been full of love as she had spoken. He raised his
hands which she held so he could kiss hers. With her question though
he came back to earth. He thought. "I will need just to let the
castle know I will be gone for a while. Then when we are wed and come
back to let your people know, I will speak to the..." He hesitated,
preferring not to bring up the Queen just then. "To themselves at the
castle to say that I wish to release me obligation as minstrel to the
court." His voice was matter of fact.

Ceridwen gazed at him in astonishment, "Leave your position at the
court! Surely you don't wish to do that? It's not for me, is it? I
wouldn't want you to give up anything for me! I shall leave the farm
to Ewen's care and stay with you in Lawrencium, or follow you
wherever else that you may go."

Rory's face was filled with wonder. He gathered her up in his arms
and held her tight, murmuring her name. When he released her he was
smiling and his eyes were misty. "Saints, what did I e'er do to
deserve such happiness? Me dearest, dearest heart, I want to be with
ye in any way I can. I too would follow ye anywhere ye would go. I am
not givin' anything up for ye, although I would if it came to that. I
was a servant, then a soldier, then a minstrel, all because those
things came in their turn. But the only occupation that I want with
all me heart is to be your helpmeet and husband. And, Ceri, I grew up
on me uncle's farm. I love that life more than any other." He looked
hard at her. "If ye want to leave the farm, then I will go with ye.
But if 'twere just up to me, I would go to live at your farm with ye
in a heartbeat."

And now in turn, Ceridwen's face was lit with happiness. "To live
with you at Brewood would please me better than any thing on earth!"
she cried, flinging her arms about his neck and kissing him happily.

Rory laughed delightedly, hugging her and kissing her back. He rocked
her from side to side with playful emotion. "Sure and whatever ye do,
me love, dinnae pinch me. I dinnae want to wake up from this dream."

Next:  Clearing the Air

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About the author

Nan Hawthorne now writes under the name Christopher Hawthorne Moss. You can contact Christopher at .