He was up and dressed in the clan kilt as here it was worn daily. By the time his sword was strapped to his side the Elders were at his door with a single knock before stepping in. He turned to greet each one in kind, hands clasped while the other griped the their forearm. No words were spoken as next to follow was one of the Elder's daughters with a platter of food prepared for them to break fast with. Warmed mulled wine would be the libation as the Laird noted with the opening of the bearskin flap of his door, it was snowing and the air had become colder. When Ellen left they sat in a circle around the platter and began. Part way into their consumption the talks would begin. Instead of a debate as was expected the Laird instead told him of the Plan. Surprise was evident and even some shock as the Elders glanced to each other as if confirming they were not the only one to react so.

Broch needed no rest, no bones to become weary in the ethereal. He however stayed lurking about the Laird's hut, waiting. Perhaps it was pure exhaustion that found sleep for the Laird this night with the accumulation of events to take their toll or perhaps insight eased his mind knowing now there was a reason he had lived with others he loved had died. It didn't ease the pain but gave a reasoning of why to a degree. Six hours of sleep were gained, a luxury for him considering if he got an hour of any real sleep it was a miracle. Most were spent in tossing, turning, for the nightmares that would plague his nights. This night there was nothing but sleep, a deep sleep that was needed. He awoke groggy at first but that swept away with the new day's dawn. He felt changes to come in the very quality of his first conscious breath taken and the cobwebs of his mind faded. He was needed.

At first arguments arose to a mild degree in such a decision if it was sane. The Laird held to his decision standing strong with it, they were satisfied easily. There was one thing about a warring clan, they would rather fight to the death than ever run no matter what they were to face. No matter what the odds. There was honor in death as a warrior for death took its toll easily enough just by nature's hand in such the wilderness they lived.

The arguments came more over the plan of defensive strategies and some offensive measures, it was this that surprised them more than deciding to stand against the Dempsy faction. Still, the Laird stood strong in his decisions, the plan laid out to him by Broch would be followed. He was chancing it all to something higher destined than mere humble human reasoning. If the spectra of his dead cousin came to him at this particular time, he better well listen even if it defied human logic. In this he had hope.

Within that hour the warring clan of Cunningham came alive as shovels, twine, spear heads and spikes were collected. More were made continuously that day by their smiths. Even the women that were hale would work side by side with their men. The others that were not as hale, that included the frail older men, saw to the children along with food and water to be taken to those working. Shifts were taken as to not exhaust anyone so completely they would not be able to fight to their best ability. The Laird hoped to have all completed within a day and a half by being organized. The trenches dug were done strategically along the passes those on horse would have to take. Others were scattered for ones on foot. All the deathly hidden traps that Broch listed were seen to before the evening of the next day. The battle would once more end up on the Field of Tears of those who survived the traps.

This night they feasted before the women saw to all the warrior men to rub them down in specially prepared herbal oils and all muscles worked to limber. The Laird was seen to by Ellen whom he would never know had volunteered for the task. Such notions had died with his Maureen and none, even the lovely kind Ellen, could break through those walls of pain and loss. Although Ellen's feelings were kept to herself, it was an honor to see to the Laird himself no matter. She was skilled with her hands to work over him so well he had fallen asleep within the half hour. This would serve him even better as she quietly vacated his hut. In a few hours time at the stroke of midnight all men, women and even youths of age would join in the Warriors Dance of Battle.

Mulled wine and honey mead flowed between all of the clan for this was a battle that all would have to fight to varying degrees. First it would be the warrior males and if they were breached then the warring females more near their homes before it was the elder and children to face the foe. Clan wars usually came in the slaughtering off of a whole family although the Cunninghams were defending not perpetrating the wars and killings. Night fell along with snow as the horses were all seen to also. The whole clan worked as one with one goal in mind, survival. They all knew what they were up against, they all prepared to die in this battle. Hope was still a spark as with working together it gave them strength, many were the prayers said constantly either silently or out loud.

The snow seemed to taper off as the large bon fire was lit in the middle of the small village that made up the Cunningham clan. All wore their best kilts as weapons were adorn with feathers and the men's hair braided in parts, symbolically tied off in knotted pieces of fabric, some with beads interwoven. Next came the war paint as each painted their faces in Celtic designs or even Runes depicted. The Laird's own was half black with streaks of red along the other side that followed the contours of his cheek along with the triple pinwheel of power and strength of their leader. This night they celebrated as a conscious unity both life and death as one with the dance of the women and the men to join in around the fire. They were prepared to live or to die in honor. They would drink moderately this night for all would then rest in preparation.


The runner came alerting the heads of the clan, first the Laird then the Elders, the Dempsy warring faction were on their way. It would take them a few hours time to reach the Cunningham stronghold. Warriors from the Langan clan were in added force giving the Dempsies an assured air that victory would be theirs this day in the slaughter to come. The clamor of metal, the heavy clop of hooves against the hardened earth all herald the approach of the army like some Doom's day parade of locust to swarm. The Cunningham warriors were mounted in a line up over the curve of the Field of Tears, a hundred strong to meet the forces of two hundred or more. The snow had started to fall in thick heavy flakes making visibility at a minimum as it layered the ground around them quietly. The Laird, waiting with his men in silence, went more by sound than sight as they all listened to the approaching army. There was only the occasional snort of a horse while shifting adding the muffled sounds of their armor and weapons with the motion.

Broch had moved out and hovered above at a distance from the approaching army of doom, remaining undetected by the horses as they continued towards the other. The Spectra becoming a specter waiting for that right moment. It wasn't until they neared the areas set up in deathly traps that he started his part, adhering to his promise. With an ethereal screech he was down along the front of their horses spooking them as many reared up then charged forward to get away from the supernatural. The men could not see him but the horses could sense him. Mayhem insured instantly as well trained steeds became unmanageable. Soon the screams were heard as the horses lost footing when the covered trenches were reached, stumbling, sending their riders to the ground and the spearheads to meet. The heavy snow becoming an aid in making it impossible to know what laid beneath those pounding hooves. Riders were leaping over downed comrades as they charged on only to find twine swing up unseating them as spikes were found to penetrate as they landed hard to the ground. Other sprung traps sent arrows to zing into mass of warriors. The spill of blood had started.

The horses now shifted restlessly as the foe drew nearer. They heard the sounds of death for the traps set hoping it dwindled their forces to one more even. It had, even if they were still outnumbered. The Cunningham clan had that edge to fight for survival even more fiercely. It was then that the Laird nudged his stallion forward as he maneuvered him up and down the line of his warriors. "Today we face our Foe of many years. Today we show them who we are... the Cunninghams! We will not be put asunder but shall prevail. For those of you who die this day in battle, you die in honor. For those of you who live through this, and we will live through this as a clan, you shall carry on our heritage." He turned his stallion as the Dempsies now reached the field. His own battle cry to resound as he led his men into the charge of battle, swords drawn and shields positioned. The clash came within seconds as the two forces met in the heavy falling snow that now turned red beneath the hooves of their steeds. There were cries of both man and beast as both fell under the blade. It was slash, hack and pierce in the frenzy to follow. It was hard to tell who was even winning.

Broch continued to work moving on his ethereal course through the battle. A horse to spook here, a blade to alter its course or a shield to fling from a warrior's hand of the foe. What he didn't expect was to witness the Souls leaving of downed warriors, Cunningham, Dempsy and Langan alike. The gates of Heaven opened up as some were swept upwards while the pits of hell suck others down under. He was drawn to the light, like a moth to a flame but every time he neared he was sent spiraling down again, repelled. Hence his own hindrance now in struggling to help the battle upon the ground and the natural draw of the Light. There were cries of death on both levels he could hear, filling his very essence in that heavy weight  of emotions.

All mingled in a dull roar that echoed through ones very existence. A side of battle, death, that went unknown to those embodied in the slaughtering below. An hour passed and still the war cries continued, the clash of steel, the snort and trilling of horses as they too were in the heat of it all.

Laird Broch Cunningham noted Laird Ned Dempsy in the battle and worked his way through with the slashing of his sword and use of his shield until it became a separate one between the two. They were well matched as swords clashed, shields butting to resound with all the others combined. The snow had deepened to a good seven inches and still fell heavily around one and all. Their own driving force had them moving away from the main battle without them even realizing it, so intense they were in each strike the other sounds were not noted to dwindle. Soon it was silence except for their own clashing, both becoming bloodied as hits made their mark but none in a death strike as of yet. Laird Broch's horse hit an ice patch that shifted the stallion as a blow came from the Dempsy Laird. The angle of his shield altered having the other's blow to make its deadly mark, unseating him to land sprawled over the snow below. Ned reared around to deliver the final death strike when a surprised cry came as Sean Cunningham's sword slid to pierce deep into his side.

Neither had heard the cousin's arrival, next in line to be Laird. Sean reared his own steed around as Ned started to slump but Ned had one last blow in him that found its mark against Sean. Ned then slumped to the ground as his life giving blood now took its toll in its spill from that fatal wound that bled. Red soaked into white as life was given up to death. Sean was wounded bad as well as Laird Broch who laid barely alive in the snow. Sean tried to get to his cousin to help but darkness swarmed in rendering him unconscious. He slumped over his horse who just stood there a moment in the drift of the snow until turning to head back to the village, the other two horses following. Silence. Unless one could hear the snow that continued to fall slowly covering the two bodies left. The battle took about two hours time for the clash of steel and metal to cease. Both sides took a heavy toll with no victory on the Dempsy side. Once more the Field of Tears tasted the blood of its sons in a wasted battle that only took more lives. Each clan collected as many of their wounded they could and headed back. Many were left to be buried later when possible.

As the battle slowly ceased, leaving more dead than alive, Broch went in search of the Laird. At first he could not be found but then he was not found on the ethereal plane either as those that had joined him briefly before pulled in one director or another were all sensed. He hovered for a moment in that now ensuring silence before the pull to his cousin had him drawn over the two bodies that laid quite a distance away from the field. The other dead and gone but the Laird was holding onto a thread of life. Broch moved down closer, waiting, feeling that his cousin would be joining him soon. The Laird was in a place, here and not really. Maureen appeared in the glowing Light to surround her, her hand held out to him. Red hair seemed to flow in the constant lift of a summer's breeze, eyes as blue as the sky met his own dark green ones. Her lips never moved as she spoke to him, her sweet voice heard in his mind. First he was told that his siblings were alive but scattered to other lands thinking the others dead. His cousin Sean would live under the care of Ellen whose hands he was now in. The Laird now had the choice to join his Maureen or go back to the living.


Broch continued to hover over the Laird. He tried to go back to the clan village, even with attempting such several times, he failed in all attempts. He even tried pure will power of thought to hopefully draw one to them but only felt the veil of snow that fell like an impenetrable static wall. It seemed he could not move from his cousin. Perhaps it was because of their connection of sorts, a higher reason, that had brought him here? Broch couldn't seem to even reach him, barely alive and in a place he was not allowed. He could sense the familiarity of it, however, while waiting in the darken silence that surrounded them. The only source of light was from the snow that kept falling even though it had tapered off some. One could tell where blood and snow mixed for the dark areas around both prone bodies. He couldn't see where there was any hope his cousin could survive this unless they found him and soon. Even then it was a hopeless situation unless they had one very adept healer and a miracle. There was nothing more for him to do other than wait.

Maureen's words penetrated the Laird's mind as he took her hand in his. "They live?" Amazed yet he knew now it was the truth. "You're still as beautiful as I remember, even more so." Words fell quietly in his thoughts as he took up her other hand in his. There was a decision to be made. He wanted to be with her, had wanted to be with her since her own physical life ended those years ago. "I wish to be with you. No, I long to be with you Maureen. I do not worry on my clan as Sean will be a good leader for them, in some ways better. His heart will be completely there for them while mine continued to be divided. Still, if my brothers and sister are alive then I am obligated to find them and bring them together again." It was a heart wrenching decision between what one wanted for themselves and what one knew was needed of them. He knew the obligation would come out on top but he procrastinated to spend as many precious moments as he could steal with his Maureen. It was then he felt the presence of others not seen even in his mind's eye, only sensed as Maureen continued to console him in the Light she was part of. One that comforted and healed mind and soul.

Just when Broch's patience was about to wear very thin, he was sucked in. Exactly where was anyone's guess along the realms of consciousness without the physical as we know it. A different kind of reality that was more real than the physical world. It took him a moment to realize he was where his cousin was and the woman that could only be this Maureen he had told him of. She was as beautiful as he described, no, more beautiful. No wonder! Hell, he couldn't begrudge his cousin one bit wanting to be with her. Wait, there were others too, those same others he had felt their presence twice before. It seemed they were in conference with the two and he just loitering on the outskirts of any details. He began to wonder why he was here when his cousin turned leaving the others to stand before him. "I have made my decisions. I have decided to go with my Maureen. She is where I belong, where I have been in my heart. My cousin Sean will take over the clan and if he makes the right choices he will marry Ellen. They will have fine bairn in the years to come and eventually a peace between the Cunninghams and Dempsies accomplished. Sean possesses such diplomatic abilities to bridge even that gap."

This was good to hear, comforting too, although Broch began to wonder why he was being told all this. Where did he fit in and what was going to be expected of him next? Had he not redeemed himself enough by now to at least enjoy some peace of Soul in a corner of Heaven? Such  fleeting thoughts crossed his mind before they were gathered, halted, and reversed back to his cousin as he spoke up again.

"For the situation and information I was given privy on you, I was given another option that covers things three fold to resolve in a most suitable way. It is my gift to you by their intervention for you to take my place here on Earth. You still have miles to go that were not traversed before in your past and this gift is being offered to you by my acquiesce with the powers above. You have my leave and my blessings. I ask but one thing if you accept, that you reunite my siblings for the honor of our shared surname of the clan Cunningham. You will not be obligated to stay here as Laird for Sean is destined now to lead them. Instead, yours will be this added quest along with becoming the one you should have been."

It seemed his cousin knew well of what he spoke and Broch could rightly figure the others there in the background knew exactly also, still, any implications of what was being said eluded him. What all this meant exactly. He knew one thing that fitted no matter, even without any details added. "I will do what is still needed of me to accomplish what I must." His cousin smiled in a more knowing way than what Broch felt before he seemed to melt into the Light with his Maureen. He could feel the intensity of their shared loved for that fleeting moment. A blessing was left in the wake of their departure that Broch would achieve his new goals. It was in the next moment he felt the excruciating pain that twisted all consciousness into blackness for him as he was drawn down with its weight, like being sucked down into the Earth itself. That was all he remembered before he was engulf into nothingness. He never saw nor sensed the slightly hunched cloaked figure that had appeared out of nowhere in the falling snow leading an old horse with a makeshift stretcher dragged behind it.

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