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

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rory and Ceridwen Series: A Morning Conversation, Part I

I just ran across this story on Ghostletters.  I don't think it is posted here yet.  SO I will just put it up along with any others I find and figure out where it goes in the story depending on the events.  Bear with me.

eridwen came into the room to clean up some of the cups and plates from the
evening's gathering and was surprised to see that one guest was still there.
From the location and the hair, she knew it was McGuinness. He had his head
cradled in his arms on the table and was fast asleep. She smiled at the soft
look of his restful face.

"Let him sleep," her aunt said behind her. "Lord knows he is that tired."
She went to the entrance hall and saw Rory's cloak there by itself on the
chest. She brought it in and draped it over his shoulders.

The two women gathered all the items from the table as quietly as they
could. Then Ceridwen blew out the candles and left Rory sleeping soundly in
the dark.

The morning light was streaming in when Rory awoke, unsure at first where he
was. He did not recall falling asleep with his head on the table nor half
waking during the night and just stretching out on the bench he was sitting
on. He smelled baking bread and other morning smells, sat up and looked
around and realized he was in the master metalworker Cedric's house. He
stretched some of the kinks out of his back and started to rise.

Ceridwen and her Aunt Gitta had been watching all morning for him to wake,
and now Ceridwen entered with breakfast for him: hot bread, cheese, and
meat, and a cup of ale.

"Good morning, Rory . We were hoping for thee to sleep as long as possible.
Art thou hungry? Here's bread and meat..."

Rory looked up a little embarrassed. "Och, I dinnae mean to fall asleep and
abuse ye'r hospitality, lass. But since I am here and ye are offerin', aye I
am that hungry. I thank ye."

He took the cup and plate from her hands and set them before him on the
table. He began to eat gratefully. "Will ye not join me? Sit and keep me
company a while? If ye are not too busy..."

He gestured to an adjacent bench and looked hopefully at her.

With a smile, she sat, then studied his face.

"Nay, I've nothing to do. I'd love to keep thee company. But thou do look
like thee could use a bit more sleep, Rory. We're all thinking losing
Shannon has been hard on thee. It was a very rare friendship..."

Rory finished the draught he was taking from the cup of watered ale and set
it down. He looked down a moment then back at her, his eyes clear and his
demeanor direct. "Aye, that it was. " He seemed to go inward for a moment,
then turned his attention bak to Ceridwen. "We were boys together, back in
Tyrone. I have traveled and lived with him these eight or so years. Sure and
I tried to help him get through his troubles, but I failed." He bit his
lower lip and then tried to cover his emotion by eating with more gusto.

Ceridwen looked at him with deep concern and answered him slowly and
thoughtfully. "If Shannon could speak, I guess he'd be telling thee not to
blame thyself, Rory. He wouldn't have wanted to leave thee with a heavy
heart. He would have said that the times with thee, even those latest, were
the best in his life. He would say say thou gavest the best any man could
have...nay I don't think thou failed him, Rory. Think of what his darkness
would have been without thee..."

Rory just sat and stared at her, his eyes filling. "That be the kindest
thing that anyone has said to me, Ceridwen." He looked down again, and
lifted a fist to wipe away tears. "Ye are right. 'Twas naught I could do for
the man, although I tried. He was that bent on havin' Heather again, though
it were obvious to all 'twould ne'er happen." He paused, then went on,
"'Twas just that I thought with him givin' up the drink, there might be

Rory tried to rally himself. "Lass, ye are right, 'tis important to remember
what Shannon would want for us all. I keep thinkin' on him and his
sweetness. I dinnae know if I can bear ne'er hearin' that voice again." His
struggle to stay composed fell apart and he buried his face in his hands,
weeping. "I am sorry, Ceridwen, I cannae help it. I dinnae want to upset ye.
Ye must think me a terrible weak man."

She went to him and put her arm around his shoulder, leaning her head
against his for several moments. "Nay, Rory. I do not think that thou art
weak. I think thou art the kindest man I ever met. It is not weakness to

He continued to weep for several minutes, then straightened, sniffed and
wiped away his tears. "Faith, I wonder when I should leave off grieving. But
'tis soon, I know, and mayhap it must have its way, this grief. I thank ye,
lass." He looked up at her with red eyes. "Ye speak of me kindness, but I
think 'tis ye that are kind. Ye and your family, to let me sleep, to feed
me, and to offer such comfort."

He put his cup on his plate and started to lift it to carry it to the
kitchen. Then he turned to her. "But ye dinnae live here in Lawrencium any
more, do ye? I thought I had heard ye live up river on a farm of ye'r own.
Did ye come in to market? It must be a goodly ride."

"Yes," she replied, smiling with the change of subject, "I have my own farm,
up the Welland, but I don't come to market every week. I have a man who
works for me that does that. Mostly I come along when I get tired of being

Rory replied, "Ooch, aye, poor lass, I knew ye are a widow.. but alone? No
wee ones then? Still there be alone, and then there be alone.. How far up
river is your farm? I do hear that the farms in the valley are that rich and

Ceridwen took the cup and plate from his hands and headed for the kitchen,
hesitating as she went to reply. "No, I...I never had any children," and her
voice had a touch of sadness. "But I'm happy; I love my farm. I do whatever
I like; I have no one to answer to....oh, it's about a half day's ride, if
one hurries. And yes, we are lucky in the soil; everything grows well there.
It makes me feel that I'm a great farmer," she added, laughing at herself.

Rory smiled a little wistfully. "'No one to answer to,'" he repeated. "Sure
and I suppose if ye put it that way, 'tis something to seek. The life of a
minstrel is like that.. no one to answer to but one's belly's need." He
smiled and got up from the table. "Still there is many a time I would I had
someone's sweet voice to answer to.. in quite a different sense. Still 'tis
me own doin', if matters of the heart are a choice."

He noticed his cloak was draped across the bench he had been sleeping on. "I
should be on me way." He turned, but then stopped and turned to her again.
"I thank ye again, good lady, for your kindness and I would ye thank your
kind aunt and uncle as well. They are good to us all, our wanderin' race."
He seemed to think a moment. "Och, 'tis Beltane in just a few days. Will ye
be stayin' in Lawrencium that long? I am after wishin' ye would say aye."

She blushed to hear him express a finer emotion than her own, that of
longing for a sweet voice to answer to; she feared it must have seemed in
contrast, as if she didn't care for company. And then she blushed deeper at
his final remark, which caught her off-guard.

"Oh... Yes, I will be staying for Beltane." she said with a little
embarrassment, but added with more composure, "particularly if thou wishes

Then something happened that had not for some time. Rory's face shone with a
smile so genuinely pleased that it almost changed his appearance. Blue eyes
danced and dimples appeared in the cheeks. He said, "Aye, Ceridwen, 'twould
be me wish."

To his own surprise he found himself whistling as he headed for the castle.

Ceridwen found herself back in the kitchen trying to keep herself as busy as
possible to stop the thoughts of Rory that were suddenly filling her mind.
But it was to no avail.

Next: Morning Conversation, Part II or Rory's Fay

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About the author

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