As I was posting all the stories in the "Shannon in Norway" series I ran across some of the remaining Rory and Ceridwen stories, which I will post now and in the next few days. Then it will be time to decide that it is time to bring on.. Juliana.
With both Gringolets and Orán to ride Rory and Ceridwen were able to relax and enjoy the eighteen mile journey back to Lawrencium from their farm. Rory was uncommonly pleased to have a horse of his own. Ceri was almost jealous of the time he spent currying, caring for and talking to the horse. But as nothing delighted her more than staring at such a happy Rory, she was more than willing to share.
The two rode easily, not feeling the need to rush, but also a little nervous about the reaction they would get from friends and family after having simply disappeared that early June night. Ceri thought her people had probably guessed what had happened, since their servant Kate had seen her leave with Rory in the morning and had had the message that Ceri was heading home to pass along. But that she married the man.. that would be news!
The castle only knew that Rory would be gone for sometime. Unless rumors had reached them, they knew nothing else.
“Ceri, macushla, if ‘tis all the same to ye, I would be after likin’ to see your people first… “ Rory said as they approached the outskirts of the capital city. “That way I can find out if the King and Queen are back and any other gossip that might help me know what to say.”
Ceri looked over from her mount on Gringolets and smiled. “Well, of course, that is fine, and I am anxious to see my aunt and uncle.“
Rory smiled ruefully, “I am just that nervous about askin’ for leave from me post.. mayhap I am takin’ meself too seriously…”
Ceri reached and put her hand on his. “It will be all right.. I'm certain they only want your happiness.”
Rory nodded uncertainly.
As they rode up to the gate of the mews at Ceri’s family’s house in the late afternoon the kitchen door burst open and her Aunt Gitta rushed out to greet them. “Ceri, my dear niece! And Rory! What a pleasure to see you here!”
Ceri flashed a smile at her husband, who was slipping off Orán to get the gate open and to greet Gitta shyly.
Ceri’s cousins and several servants had followed Gitta out into the mews. The stableman took Ceri’s reins as she slid off Gringolets, and then took Rory’s from him and gave Orán an approving up and down and end to end look. He took the animals into the stables to feed them and bed them down.
While Gitta and all the rest circled about Ceri and Rory, hugging, kissing, Cedric came out of the kitchen as well. He had been about to ask where everyone had gone when he saw his niece and Rory. He beamed with pleasure to see them. He joined the embracing crowd around them.
Rory was smiling happily. He caught Cedric’s hand and leaned to say into his ear, “I should be after askin’ ye for your niece’s hand in marriage, but I am that afraid I already have it!”
Cedric looked at Rory and laughed. “What is this? What do you mean.. you already have her hand..?”
Gitta put her palms to her cheeks and gasped. “Ceri, does that mean? Are you? How did that happen?”
Ceri went to Rory and took his arm, smiling up into his face. “Aye, we are married. We did not see any point in a long courtship.” Rory leaned and kissed her quickly on the lips.
Several of the girls squealed with pleasure. One sighed, “That is so romantic!”
“Married! My heavens!” Gitta cried. She threw her arms around Ceri again. “We knew you had left together, but my Lord, I had no idea.. that is the most wonderful news!”
Cedric had taken it all in. “Rory, Rory, Rory, to have you as my nephew is one of the greatest joys I have ever known! Of course you can have her hand.. it was always yours anyway, I think.” He leaned to kiss his niece who smiled gratefully. He then reached up to slap Rory on the shoulder, beaming.
Inside the house Gitta had servants running this way and that to prepare a feast for the newlyweds. She leaned confidentially to her niece. “Ceri, will you both stay here while you are in Lawrencium, or must you stay at the castle.. you are here just for a while, aye? You are not giving up the farm?”
Ceri reassured her aunt. “Aye, we shall stay here at your house, and nay, I.. that is.. we have not given up Brewood. Rory wants to be a farmer!”
Gitta cried out with pleasure and hugged and kissed Ceri and Rory once again. Then she turned to order servants to move her own daughter out of her and Ceri’s chamber so Rory and she could have it.
In the early evening, the time being so close to the Solstice, the sky was still very light. While Gitta had dashed about the house making preparations, Cedric himself had hit the streets to let all the Celts in the town and beyond know that Ceri and Rory were back.
Up in her old chamber, Rory and Ceri were building the courage to face the onslaught of the usual Celtic gathering in the evening, from cheerful congratulations to merciless teasing and innuendo. They lay on Ceri’s bed just holding each other and listening to the cacophony from downstairs as it built.
“Well, methinks I should have been after bringin’ me sword…” Rory jested.
“Mine as well,” Ceri smiled. “Shall we go down?”
Rory and she stood and took turns smoothing each other’s clothing and hair. “Och, they will say we were makin’ love up here anyway, so why do we bother to try to look like we were not?” Rory grinned.
As they came down the stairs a general cry of greeting welcomed them. Their friends crowded around, asking questions about why they had gone off together, making lewd remarks, slapping them on the back and hugging them all at once.
Cedric hushed the group and drew his niece and her husband away from the rest of the people and over to where Gitta was standing smiling broadly. “Friends and countrymen,” he called out. “I am so pleased and proud to present to you Rory McGuinness and his new bride, my niece Ceridwen!”
The exclamations burst from every person.
“Already married or going to be?”
“When’s the feast?”
“I don’t believe it!”
“Does the castle know?”
“You rascals.. no one would have guessed!”
“I thought I would never see the day!”
“Och, grand it is, grand!”
Not to mention exclamations in Scots, Irish, Welsh, Cornish and Breton, and a few happy tears.
The women advanced on them, kissing Rory and Ceri, and starting to draw her away. Rory towered over the fray and so was able to keep informed of where Ceri was being herded. He saw her ushered into the kitchen by several women while he himself was propelled to the huge table by the men. He and she looked at each other regretfully just as the door closed between them.
“Now, McGuinness, ye have had her all to yourself, you devil, for weeks now.. can ye not do without for just some minutes?” MacConnell the Scotsman jested.
“Nay, I cannae, “Rory stated emphatically. “I wasted all those years, I shallnae waste another minute.”
One Welshman called over to him, “Rory, what about the Queen? Does the lady know ye have been untrue to her?”
Rory grinned sardonically. “At least,” he thought, “that is out of the way.” He just shook his head dismissively.
Connor, an old friend of Rory’s and Shannon’s, said the other thing on everyone’s mind… “Och, ‘tis a sad, sad thing that Shan dinnae live to see this..” His eyes then twinkled. “Sure and I think he would have died from shock.”
MacConnell for once was discreet. He leaned to Rory who was now sitting next to him at the table, just like that other night, and asked in a whisper, “Is it true? Were ye really celibate all that time?”
Rory gave him a level look. “Aye..” he replied cautiously.
MacConnell’s discretion melted away and in a stentorian voice the women in the kitchen could even hear he pronounced, “Lads, Rory’s finally had a woman!”
Rory cringed at the cheers, hoped vainly Ceri had not heard MacConnell. He did appreciate several of the men who chastised the Scot for his crudity. Cedric eyed the man with a reproach. “Not in my house, MacConnell, and not about my niece.. and my new nephew.” MacConnell subsided rapidly. Cedric boasted, “To have Rory McGuinness in my family.. who would have imagined it.”
In the kitchen Ceri had heard the shout, but she pretended not to and no one else cared to say anything about it. Her aunt and the other women sat her down at the table there and quizzed her about every aspect of the past few weeks that they could politely inquire about. They listened to her simple, matter of fact account of their decision to elope, the wedding, and how Rory had settled in quite happily to farm with her. He got on immediately with her neighbors, and he had even agreed to teach the local men to fight with proper weapons. This last brought many ooh’s and ah’s of admiration for Rory.
Ceri’s aunt leaned confidentially to her and said very quietly, “Are you happy, my dear one?”
Ceri’s smile was radiant and her eyes danced. “Aunt, I have never been so happy before in my whole life.” Her aunt embraced her smiling.
The evening went on full of song, dancing, and merriment. Of course someone called to Rory to sing to Ceridwen, which he gladly did. He had brought Aelfled’s lute and there were murmurs of pleasure when he retrieved it from their chamber.. an errand she accompanied him on and made sure lasted long enough for some longed for kisses and which received looks of innuendo when they returned.
Men smiled and women sighed as he sang love songs to Ceri, looking into her eyes as he did. She gazed back, and she kissed him tenderly after each song. Faces around the table beamed. Their darling Rory and Ceri were the love match of the century. The sense of well being and happiness prevailed and drove out all care and worry.
In their chamber later that night, Rory lay in bed with his arms around Ceri. “To think ye have slept in this bed without me for many a year..” he commented.
“Do not remind me!” Ceri retorted. My life started the moment you sang to me at Beltane.”
“That’s rather ironic, dinnae ye think, love, since that was a song about the end of life?” Rory kissed her hair.
Ceri thought. “Nay, ‘twas the end of our lives apart and the beginning of our life together… long, long life I pray,” she said aloud. Rory crossed himself and she did likewise.
Next: Bringing the News to Lawrencium, Part II
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