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Kildare Saga

Date: 03-20-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 21


The trip to Winchester went without incident. A few curious looks over the trio but then passed off as ordinary. Perhaps Joe was giving off that feel if they drew any attention. The road they took had few upon it, exactly what they had hoped for and probably the very reason the trip went without incident. Presently, Joe was not up for any incidences. His head wound was mending miraculously fast that by the time they arrived at their destination, there was no trace he'd been hurt at all. What was missing, or accurately stolen, would not be discovered, at least at this point. It might never be but the possibility existed and that would be a bridge to cross then. About the only thing that trickled across his thoughts was that he felt better than he remembered, not that he'd been sick and excluding the recent incident. Perhaps that was the only oddity. He was focused. Then again, there was no reason for him not to be? So any such odd thoughts faded off. Jack had decided it best to drop them off and continue on. There had been a private talk between father and son that Joe had discreetly waited a distance away for the short duration. Jed seemed distraught at first while he watched as his father rode on until he could not be seen. He turned then to join Joe as the two approached the door of the modest manor. One that had aesthetic value but not oversized like some. It was the perfect size for a man like his friend. The brass knocker made use of as a stunned, but pleasantly surprised, Birdie greeted the two as the door opened.


Birdie answered the door himself, waving the butler on to go help the cook. Knowing well the man favored the woman and it also had her duties go a bit faster with his help. "I'm fully capable of answering my door." Grinning with an amount of relief too as he opened the door to find Joe standing there in disguise. He recognized the ruse of Alger Windsor. "Come in, come in." Twittering the words as his hand was in motion as well. "I was beginning to worry some mishap befell you." It was the perfect disguise for the upcoming event to gain information. Joe was a few days later than expected and there was another with him as Birdie eyed the lad curiously more than suspiciously. If he was with Joe, there had to be a good reason.


"Birdie, this is Jed. He.." realizing he needed to come up with a way of putting it, "is my apprentice. More to observe than get directly involved." Which he and Jed were going to have a long talk this night or tomorrow. Rules set with no deviation or it could cost them their lives. Jed would need agree and follow them to a T or he would be dropping him back off with his father. If he really wanted to be trained, he would need to watch, learn, and commit a lot to memory. He would need to follow directives without question when on the job, questions to come later. Once back in Heathfield he could train him in the other areas and discover his talents, the ones his father assured him he had. Although he knew it would be more of an awakening for Jed.


"Well in the meet Jed. Come, your rooms are ready," Birdie was fluttering as well twittering again as he ushered them upstairs so they could settle in. "Each has its own bath," perhaps a bit of a hint there, "you can freshen up, then we shall eat and afterwards we shall talk."


"I'm honored to meet you Birdie," although Jed was having a hard time with the man's name, let alone his fluttering mannerisms. He was obviously one of those less than a male, fops, that fluttered around women and men alike of kind. Jed knew about them but had never met one up close personally. Made his skin crawl yet at the same time trying not to laugh, which would certainly come off as nervous as he was.


Birdie obviously had some things to attend to as he left the two without waiting for any comments or replies. They would hear the high pitched voice exclaiming as he headed downstairs. "If you need anything ring the bell aside the bed." Almost sounded like there was laugher in his voice for the look upon Jed's face. It was not an uncommon one for Birdie to see and it meant he was playing his part well.


Joe was realizing he had his work cut out for him and would keep the ruse of one Alger Windsor for the upcoming event. Jed was going to be in for a number of surprises. He wondered how he would handle them for it would be crucial in determining if he remained an apprentice. It was good to soak in a hot bath to almost a prune then dried off and into clean fresh clothing. A comfortable chair and soon Joe was asleep, a much needed rest as his healing completed. The sun was heading for the horizon when he woke, the view spectacular from the window close by. Red washed over roofs mixed with gold, some silhouetted depending on the angle. Reds turned into purples and soft violet to whites in an artist's splattering across the sky. It was then he heard the dinner bell ringing as he was finally up to make his way downstairs. There had been a feast prepared, scent and sight having him realized just how hungry he was. Birdie was as colorful as a parrot favoring his yellow and purples as he sat down the one end entertaining Jed. Jed was laughing, genuine, for the tales Birdie had to tell and if there had been any reservations before, they were melting away for the humor Birdie possessed.


"Alger, you're just in time to feast with us. I've been plying this poor young man with many of my outlandish tales while we waited. Not long, mind you, but I didn't have the heart to wake you from such a deep slumber. One that seemed needed." Bridie had not been told of the accident befallen Alger or rather the ruse of the man before him, Charles Abbott or for some, the old man Ebenizer Potter. Birdie knew of them both along with Alger and a few others Joe had perfected. The cook and some of her maids were finishing setting out the platters laden with the night's meal. The place to Birdie's right was set for him with the chair slightly out in wait. "Come, come," twittered, "time to eat! And let us not eat like birds," laughing at his own joke with a wink to Jed as he started the plates off by taking a portion then passing it over to Jed.


The meal was splendid as well the company. Burgeous or fondly known as Birdie, was the perfect entertaining host. Birdie knew of Joe's skills as Joe knew of Birdie's. He was far more than what he portrayed. What he portrayed worked well for the other in as good a disguise as Joe could take on the appearance of another. Once the meal was done they would have a half hour to themselves to settle their stomachs then meet Birdie in his Den. Joe took a walk, more for some fresh air to clear his head, in the gardens behind the manor. They were secluded with tall hedges and trees to block out any neighbors. A small haven in this particular city.


Jed wandered Birdie's extensive library, even the public libraries he'd been to, only two in his lifetime, didn't have as many books. Books on appealing subjects as he read the various titles but didn't touch a single one. How his fingers itched and if anyone could see them, they would see the hunger in his eyes. When the half hour was up, as he was particularly keeping track not to be late, he headed for the Den where he'd been shown its location earlier. He was the first one there.


That would be one of Jed's first surprises, for he was not the first one there. Birdie had blended well with the shadows as he moved away from one of the windows out into the dim light the room had to offer from the small fire burning in the hearth and a few candles lit. "You are a punctual man, Jed. That is to your credit." There was no twittering to his voice and he was wearing all black. A way to blend in with the few shadows even in a room with some light.


Jed gave a start and at first was going to ask who the man was. He didn't look like the man that he just shared a meal with nor did he sound like him. The voice even had a deeper timbre to it. "Birdie?" Not realizing he had taken a step back.


It was at that point Joe stepped into the Den, a hand coming to Jed's shoulder just as the disguise of Alger melted away to his real appearance. "All that is said here, remains here. That is your first Rule if you really want to discover your talents and use them for the good of others. Meet the real Burgeous Northam. Long time friend of mine met through a mutual friend decades ago. Meet the real me. Joseph McDonough."


Jed was having an initial stunned reaction as not only did Birdie look different, Alger was virtually completely different. About the only reason he could hold onto his sanity was the fact he knew Alger, now Joseph, could change appearance. By his words, however, Joseph was the real man under the Chameleon's disguises. "I think you look best as Joseph" as he stared at his face a moment then whipping a look back to Birdie, "as well you Burgeous." He knew enough to listen from this point on unless directly asked a question that needed his input. There was a lot to learn and he was going to find it all fascinating as well educational, better than even a library could give him.


Burgeous laughed, a deep rich sound. "There will be many surprises in store for you in the years to come, Jed, under the care and training of my friend. Joseph," turning his attention there, "how is Lisette? Is she happy in her marriage? I've missed her." He would get into the depth of their talk after the social question for it was something that really interested him.


"She is doing well, her flower shop gets a lot of business and she is very happy that I'm aware of. Robert Frasier is a good man from a good family. You should come and get to know him better beyond your first encounter. Plus, they have a son born to them last summer, Bryan Robert." Which he knew of the incident when Robert was playing the Highwayman, how he first met Lisette while she was being escorted by Birdie.


"Good. I will make it a point and bring something for the lad," then a slight wicked gleam in blue eyes, "and for his mother." Knowing it really would not be a problem since he was more like an older brother or father to Lisette. He got right down to business as there was no more time in wasting. "Marquis Henry Churchill and his wife Elizabeth are having a soiree at their country estate three days from today. I have a standing invitation to all their affairs as I can make them for knowing both well, personal friends. This particular soiree will have Marina Ackerman along with her father Bramwell, attending. From my understanding he is watching her like a hawk. He has a few political strings being pulled to see her married off again. Word has it, she is stalling after the death of her no good husband. A womanizer and died in a duel no less. The estranged brother is the one that settled in Kildare that information is being sought on. What you want to do, Joseph, is get her alone and talking. I know you have the charm."


Birdie continued with an exaggerated sigh, "alas, it wont be your normal handsome self but Alger should do nonetheless. If her father is there, he will be trying to bid her time with suitors so it will be my job to play diversion and calvary. Elizabeth will be helping to keep her time and being the hostess, there will not be a whole lot Bramwell can do about it. He's a sly devil I'm told so it should be as interesting as a chess match. I have taken the liberty to gain suitable clothing for you to wear and have added another for Jed. He wishes to be part, he has to learn to play the game in all colors." Trying hard not to laugh as he was over to open up the closet door. Inside hung two suits. He took out the first, "this one will be perfect for you to wear, Joseph." Satin, they were both made of satin. Joe's had fuchsia pink trousers, all with silver cording. A pale pink dress shirt, bright yellow vest with sculpting and a deep red waistcoat, lapels corded in the same silver as the trousers. The one for Jed was peacock blues, darker pants, pale orchid shirt and a deep purple waistcoat. "Of course I will be wearing my traditional yellows." Which had him laughing.


Joseph was listening with intense focus, all information and details being committed to memory. He could visualize too as part of his skills as if seeing the soiree in progress. That was until Birdie spoke on what he needed to wear. He blanched. At first left speechless, especially for the colors chosen. "You are..." knowing well Birdie was not joking, "not.. joking. You are positive that wearing such an outfit wont the woman, Marina, go running? Screaming of being blinded?" Which had him laughing for seeing it in his mind's eye as he took the duds from Birdie giving them a closer look. They were his size, perfectly fitted he could tell. Shaking his head the while. "Luckily my face will not be seen wearing this." As he would be going as Alger. "My brother Maurice might look good in this." As Alger happened to look more like Maurice.


Jed was floored. Sputtering at first that he couldn't get out a coherent word. At least he wouldn't be wearing the one Joseph got. "You are serious. I have to wear this.. this..?" It certainly wasn't like any suit he would consider stylish. He had to swallow his pride. "I only hope I never meet anyone there again after all said and done."


Joseph was over to lay a hand on Jed's shoulder. "It's like taking bad medicine that is needed. You swallow it, eventually all gets better. You will be coming back with me to a place you'll never have to wear this again. Where it is much different than you have ever known. A peaceful place where people help each other. What is only a dream here for those oppressed is a reality there. This will be your first trial in disguise. Look at it that way and play the part. The better you are, the better you'll be in becoming an undercover agent."


Birdie watched in amusement but well noting it was getting late. "We should all get some sleep. Try them on in the morning and if any adjustments are needed, Alfred will see to them immediately. We leave early the following day so we are all settled in the night before." Which only certain guests were invited to come earlier and stay, getting well settled in before the few days spent in fun and games began.


There would be a lot for them all to think upon as well Joseph would be taking Jed aside on the morrow to have that extensive talk to prepare him in what to expect and lay down the rules. He basically will be observing, mingling, staying close enough to either Birdie or himself as suited.



Date: 03-27-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 22

Churchill Estate Soiree

Marina Ackerman stood at the window of the room she had been given upon arrival at the Churchill estate. There were several people walking in the garden, including her father. He was having an animated conversation with another man, one she recognized as Lord Stanton. A vain, pompous man, he was one of those her father was hoping would take an interest in his daughter. She was certain the second was around somewhere but she was beginning to think that man's tastes ran odd. Her lips twitched slightly as she thought of the scandal but could it be much worse than what she had gone through? She moved away from the window in case her father looked up and instead moved to the mirror. Though she was not wearing black, she still wore dark colors, insisting on them as she was still in mourning for the man who had been her husband. The dark blue made her look pale as was suitable. She wrinkled her nose at her reflection, and sighed.

She didn't mourn Sebastian Howard, Count of Moreley, no more than any of his many mistresses. The man could not be faithful through no fault of his own. And she hadn't known it for several years after her marriage to him. Sebastian could have been kinder, less cruel but she was certain that was impossible as well. She was still stunned after all these months by how he had died. A duel over one of his mistresses, the husband calling him out. It took several days for the news to reach her at the country house where she was usually alone save for the servants. She smiled slightly as she thought of that lovely house with its expansive gardens. It had been the only place she had been happy, and it was there dear Alice had taught her so much about nature, about life, about the old ways. Smoothing down the skirt of her gown, she sighed. Everything Sebastian had was taken and sold for gambling debts and the children he left behind, leaving her to deal with the scandal.

She had taken back her maiden name and found herself once more under her father's roof. The things he said to her still stung, and she had long ago given up trying to defend herself against his accusations. If she had been a more caring wife, more concerned about his needs, if she had made a home that was a sanctuary to him ... The truth was it was all about the money he had lost after that farce.  Her lips tightened as she thought about how Bramwell Ackerman was trying to marry her off again, without a thought to her feelings. If only she could get a note to her brother, tell him of her plans, but her father had kept her from sending anything to the disowned son. Had Sebastian been a different man ... she shook her head, refusing to continue. She could only depend on herself to escape, to get away from her father's plans. Someone knocked at the door, startling her.

"Marina. It's Elizabeth. Are you ready to go out  and be on display?" Beth's voice was filled with laughter and she couldn't help but smile.

Elizabeth was the one bright spot in her life, the reason she was glad to be here. Grabbing a shawl of Spanish lace, she opened the door.

"You look terrible." Beth teased. "Now, let's not pinch your cheeks. Maybe a little more powder to make you paler." Sliding her arm through her friend's, she tugged her out and closed the door. "We shall be absolutely terrible and talk behind everyone's back while you play the widow?" If she had to be part of her father's plots, at least Elizabeth would see that she laughed.

There were to be the Lawn games this accommodating day with sunshine. If it had rained it would be under tents, still outside with the budding gardens. Spring was here and the start of the circuit of events. The Churchills starting them off as was tradition in this section of England. The staff was finishing in setting up the areas to be used this day. Lawns manicured to a think green carpet. Blooming flowers from greenhouses were added so that there were plenty of blossoms. Tables and chairs set out with umbrellas to shade the women with sensitive skin. A few croquet courses set up and one in particular designated for the younger children here with certain families. Prepared food would be brought out, from snacks that would sate any pallet to a full course meal. A variety of wines, ales and spirits offered. Some of the guests were just getting up, while others, the few early risers, were out milling about. Some to take a walk about the extensive property to see the sights, which included a lake. Gazebos there and docks, canoes and smaller fishing boats.

Nothing ever started too early in the morning so it was good timing they arrived at that time. Their carriage pulling up to the front of the Churchill Estate before the footman was down and around to open the door. Birdie was the first to emerge from the dark confines, Alger then Jed lastly. All were attired in their colorful spring ensembles. Three smaller bags were also unloaded as the butler at the front door announced their arrival. Elizabeth or Henry would be around to welcome the arrivals expected this day. Presently it was Henry as Elizabeth had gone to see to Marina. "Count Burgeous Northan of Briarthorn. Marquis Alger Windsor of Elderwood and Lord Jed Mitchell." Announced as they entered the manor. Birdie had informed him of the extra guest. Not an eye was blinked where Birdie was concerned.

Birdie's infamous twitter would be heard by anyone near as he accosted Henry in outlandish compliments. Henry trying his hardest not to laugh and that was part of the game. Henry knew much of Birdie even if not everything. He didn't need to officially know everything though had a very good idea. "Ooooo, you have outdone your royal selfness, the gardens sparkle as well as you my dear friend. Where is that lovely better half of yours? I do warn you I will steal her away with me one day, fly off to my emerald studded nest." Cooing while posed like a peacock in full glory.

Joseph, as Alger, stood to the side leaving Birdie to do all the talking while he took in the structure of the room, the decor, the exits and the passing guests that fluttered as much as Birdie. Well, maybe not quite as good as Birdie.

Jed was overwhelmed, especially not only being announced but called a Lord. He had his chest puffed up, doing his best to look the part. Handsome lad even in such silken blues. He caught an eye or two of some of the passing ladies which had him divert his attention right back to Alger, Birdie and Henry. For a Marquis the man seemed down to earth, not like the tales he was told. He was reciting in his head all that Joseph had gone over with him and the crucial one, if in doubt, say nothing. Birdie was doing enough talking for the three of them. The thought had a slight twitch to his lips.

"I'd like to keep you by my side the whole time." She laughed as they walked down the grand staircase. Of course she knew that Elizabeth would have to see to her other guests and she knew her father would likely be hovering over her soon enough. As they reached the ground floor, they saw the sight of the three men and Marina looked at her friend, wide-eyed. "That has to be the one you told me about. Birdie? But who are the two with him?" She had been away from society far too long. "And how can your dear husband keep such a straight face?" Henry Churchill was a rare man among the nobility. One who loved his wife and was quite proud of her.

Elizabeth was intrigued by the sight. "Yes, that's Birdie and I believe a Marquis Windsor was the name. I'm not sure of the younger man." She glanced toward the double doors that led out to the garden then back. "Shall we have Henry introduce them before your father sweeps in?" She would do whatever was necessary to foil Bramwell's plans for this soiree.

It took a lot for Henry not to start laughing as he held the rounds with Birdie, "certainly not as colorful as yourself and your friends you have brought this day to honor the Soiree." Rescued by the sight of his wife as he motioned her over as well Marina. Perfect. He would be getting this rolling even earlier knowing well Bramwell would try to monopolize his daughter and exclude her to certain men. Men he found distasteful though there was no way around them being here. Relatives of respected families, friend or such, there were always the few one had to bear with. That was the way of English life, especially amongst the nobility. The real game would be keeping from any over dramatic scenes. "My wife Elizabeth and the Lady Marina Ackerman," not looking towards Birdie nor Alger as he spoke the woman's name but keeping eye contact upon the Lady then his wife. "Please meet Count Burgeous Northam, Marquis Alger Windsor," the surname alone saying volumes. Though there were so many Churchills, not all were well known in particular. "His Lordship Jed Mitchell. If we can dispense with formalities at least for the afternoon games other than introductions?" All these names and titles played on the older Henry after a while.

Blue eyes turned on Elizabeth first as Alger bowed his head. "It is a great pleasure to meet you finally Elizabeth." Smile tucked in a trimmed beard of a deep reddish brown as focus shifted to Marina. He had to admit she was very lovely though a touch too pale. That was no wonder for a woman at the mercy of English society. "A pleasure as well Marina," another slight dip of his head, leaving Jed then to respond as he discreetly studied this woman he planned to get aside. It was a way of feeling out how he could go about it and certainly hoped to at least be able to.

Jed cleared his throat and bowed his head much like Joseph had done. "A pleasure m'ladies." Not feeling comfortable enough to use their given names presently, considering he was much younger as well. He also knew not to say much and give away his true upbringing.

Birdie was in a twitter over to take up Elizabeth's hand and overkill in lifting it to meet a chaste kiss, flattering words poured from him as easily as a summer's rain before such was turned on Marina, "I must sweep you away with me before this soiree is done, being the woman of my heart is taken," his blue eyes flashing with mirth as he lowered his words but certainly not lowered enough not to be heard, just effect, "and her husband might not be too agreeable."

Elizabeth inclined her head to the three gentlemen, her dark eyes sparkling. With Birdie here, the five days would be a success and there were two new gentlemen for hearts to be a flutter over. She offered her hand to Birdie, her laughter chiming through the foyer. "Ah, my dear Birdie, how good it is to see you in full plumage after the long winter. If I weren't so in love with Henry, I would allow you to sweep me off my feet. Alger, Jed, you are most welcome here. I hope you'll enjoy yourselves, and avail yourselves of all there is to enjoy."

Marina's smile was genuine and warm as she inclined her head to the three men. In more formal settings she would have curtseyed. Birdie caused her to blush, even if she knew he was just prattling. "You are very kind, Birdie and I just might take you up on your offer to sweep me away. I must say, I've heard good things about you and am delighted to see people spoke true." She glanced over at poor Henry who was still struggling not to laugh then turned her attention back to the three men.  It was then she noticed that Alger was studying her. Lowering her lashes briefly, she looked up again and met his gaze, offering a slight smile before she was looking back at Birdie. "I do hope you'll be staying the entire time."  She was looking forward to watching her father's reaction to the men.

It was at that moment the music started up outside and Henry ushering them all out so that any guests within the manor would follow suit. Those arriving would be directed to the lawns where everything was setup. A few guests got Henry aside as well some of the wives to flutter around their hostess. Bramwell emerged with two gentlemen he'd been talking to about  arrangements. The way he went about it would have the two in competition to see who could win her hand just on a bet. Not that the prize was really coveted over the win but what Bramwell offered monetary wise, an inheritance, lands, political connections, they all added up to one enticing proposition. Of course the two were both from families of money, they would all get richer. One was an older man, partially bald with tuffs of gray either side, full beard, waxed moustache and somewhat of a paunch that he tried to cover up with his drab attire. The other man was younger, tall but almost bony thin. Waning hair was slicked back and he only managed a goatee of a mousy brown. Both eyes glinted Marina's way as the men conversed. The fact she was with Elizabeth, the only reason they had not approached. Though they would not be stayed off for long.

Birdie was back into his twitter near in flight outside to greet certain guests that would be expecting his notice after his arrival. Best to take care of them now before the real game began.

Jed wasn't about to follow Birdie when he saw the crowd gathered he headed for. Too risky as he took a glass of wine from one of the passing servants and waited near Alger.

Alger was a little surprised she had caught him taking notice, though it would be normal to, except, the method he used she should not have. He wasn't sure if Elizabeth would sweep Marina away with her, though it was probably best she did. Before they were expected to make the rounds his words came low near Marina's ear, "one would think by those men's looks, a bone had been tossed out for them to fight over. A pity when there is far more to the object of their attention than coin. If you wish a breath of air later.." but Elizabeth was waving her on to meet two older ladies she held in high regard.

Marina had taken note of the two with her father and gave a slight shudder of displeasure. She knew there were others that he might approach but it honestly seemed as if he picked the worse of the lot. She smiled at Jed before Alger spoke and her eyes shifted to his. "I may well need one." She answered wryly, before joining Elizabeth and the two ladies. They were delightful, and few escaped their wicked tongues, including her father. When they turned  their attention to Alger, however, it was to say how handsome he was. "And a Windsor too." Lady Smyth-Jones declared, while Lady Stanton nodded. "I must say, I don't normally care for beards but the color is quite striking, with his blue eyes. What tint would you say the color of his hair is, chestnut? Or perhaps russet." Marina looked surprised for a moment, then quickly recovered. "Oh, I'm not sure. Perhaps Elizabeth has an opinion?" While her friend answered, Marina looked over at Alger. How very odd. She saw no beard, his hair was dark and his eyes were green. She pursed her lips slightly then smiled as the topic switched to someone else.

The call that the luncheon was ready had many of the guests starting to the tables laden with food. More carriages had arrived that demanded both host and hostess but Elizabeth was keeping Marina with her like a daughter. Bramwell was scowling that his plans would continue to wait. The two males headed for the food like vultures, the game of winning Marina would wait. After the meal there would be the lawn sport, they would participate if she did, otherwise asking her to dance would be their next option.

Meanwhile both Jed and Alger were gaining attention as women started to flock around them. Jed looked lost and got so near Alger that their shoulders brushed at points.

Joseph was trying not to laugh, perhaps he should have schooled the lad in how to handle this but such had slipped his mind. It came second nature and when a small group around Jed's age wandered over to introduce themselves, he made the suggestion he join in the game of croquet with them. It was right there out in the open, not far, he could keep an eye on both he and Birdie and excuse himself from the game at any point, leaving another to fill in. How it went. When they started off, he gave him the advice to say little and indirectly answer questions. That he was an associate of Alger's but didn't wish to talk on business matters when this was a holiday. Smile and nod more than not and he should be all right. Improvise where needed. Once Jed was gone, he made note of where Birdie was, flirting no less with a flock of women that giggled and squealed at his outrageous mannerisms. Marina was safely with Elizabeth, Bramwell was watching his daughter like a hawk and the two prospects were conversing while they ate. That was never good. One thing to compete but another to collaborate. He was distracted then by another lady introducing herself and her sister, which he politely reciprocated.


Date: 03-27-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 23

Elizabeth was certain that Bramwell knew what she was up to but she didn't care. She disliked both men and would happily applaud if his plots came to nothing. She linked her arm through Marina's as they approached the luncheon table, laughing. "You should eat like your starving. Let them worry about how they'll keep you in food." She teased. Though she nodded at the two men, she led Marina off to introduce her to another woman and her husband.

Elizabeth was nothing less than a godsend in Marina's eyes. Eventually she'd have to deal with the two men and her father, but her room wasn't near his and he'd have to catch her. Giggling, she was about to collect a plate when she was dragged off in another direction. "I won't be able to eat if you keep me away from the table!"

Most settled into eating and it was a good excuse for Alger to detach himself from the two ladies who obviously wished to continue the conversation and talk about getting him into a game of croquet. Once the meal was done, for the majority, there were the late comers and those who chose to wait in having something to eat, the call for the game of croquet began. A couple of lads going around to recruit. Henry and Elizabeth politely declined as they would have to see to any new guests but as Henry put it, he was too old to be chasing a ball around the lawns.

Birdie got in the game, like a big yellow bird he stood out with some of his cronies, a heartily laughing bunch that were enjoying life and their time here than seemingly involved in any intrigues. Certainly there were many about, not just the one Marina was in and their secretive mission.

Alger took up a table near the one Elizabeth, Henry and Marina were at. Their's was too crowded and he wanted to take the time to scout the place, get a feel for the people around him. The two ladies invited themselves to his table as well two other gents that knew each other. At first he thought he might have a problem but the two gents luckily had an interest in the two ladies even if they didn't return the favor. It would still work to his advantage.

Marina could use the excuse that she was still eating to keep from getting into the game for the moment. Normally she would have enjoyed herself but the way her father watched her was becoming almost noticeable. She watched Birdie and laughed occasionally but mostly she listened to the conversations that surrounded them. Finally eyes of gray blue shifted to Alger and she smiled. "Are you enjoying yourself, Alger?" She used his name purposely, knowing very well who and what those women were ... husband hunters!  She could see Elizabeth laughing but pretended to not notice a thing.

Alger was noticing the two men who were now finished with their meal and a signal from Bramwell no less to prompt them into action. The man was obvious to anyone who took notice and he didn't seem to care other than a sole focus on his mission. The musicians had started up again and if they got Marina to dance, which it would be hard for her to refuse and not come off impolite to the extreme on her host and hostess, they would keep her dancing. Taking turns, then to see the gardens or library, anyplace that might get them alone. They demonstrated body language of one about to make their strike, the only hesitation in deciding who was to go first. Joe knew how it went and any moment one of them would be approaching Marina. His mission wasn't much different except for a whole different reason. When Marina spoke up, he seize the opportunity as he gained his feet, "if you will excuse me," not giving the two ladies a chance to argue as he was over to join Marina and Elizabeth. "I am enjoying my time as well my comrades." Birdie was having ones in fits while Jed seemed to be blending in nicely. There was eye contact every so often that assured him he had not lost sight of their real purpose here either.

Elizabeth spoke up before he could continue with the small talk. "Why don't you show Marina my exquisite gardens just down that path," discreetly indicating the precise one. "Before the vultures descend on her. Henry will entertain Bramwell for a few hours."

Which as Alger looked up, there was Henry drawing Bramwell into conversation and indicating the door to the manor that would take them into his library and his extensive weaponry collection he loved to boast about, loved to capture an audience for. He would have Bramwell detained indoors for a good amount of time. Most he could get away with. Another of his colleagues was joining them so Bramwell could hardly refuse his host and one of his esteemed guests. Joe had to hand it to the two, and just how did Elizabeth know for the two had been separated? Something to think on later as he saw the backs of the three men disappear inside. "I would love to escort the Lady if she would like my escort." He had a charm about him but he found he didn't really have to use it, as in pretending.

When she saw Henry leading her father into the manor, she discreetly covered her mouth with her napkin, then she motioned toward his two friends. "Indeed they are. Though I think Birdie would enjoy himself anywhere." Elizabeth had her coloring, but she stood and stepped over to place a kiss to the woman's cheek. "I absolutely adore you, Elizabeth." She couldn't outrun the two forever but at least her first night wouldn't be ruined. "And I would very much like your escort, Alger." She slid her arm through his, eyes bright with laughter. "We'll have everyone abuzz about our ... disappearance." Her tone showed she thought all the gossip was silly but it might serve to discourage her would-be suitors, or make them more determined.

Pleased that she accepted for a few reasons a smile came lazily, naturally, as well an amused glint to blue eyes for most would see for the ruse of one Alger Windsor Joseph had taken on. "I am amazed of the smooth ability Henry and his wife both have in dealing with others." He had come to like them near instantly and knew why Birdie took to them as well them to his comrade. He would do the usual small talk as he followed the path Elizabeth had indicated. Others milling about as they turned a few heads, plus whispers. Most of the women lifting a hand to hide a smile or even grin. "Do you know many of the ladies here?" For it seemed they knew her or of her. Possibly her situation was a gossip item about England in this upper crust society. "I might be adding to a scandal." Tone held the amusement in it, let their tongues waggle. There was that bit of a devil in him, sitting on one shoulder daring him to kiss the lady and see if any of those dainty flies fainted. Except he knew where it led when he listened to that little devil and this mission wasn't the time nor place for such games. "I must admit, the color upon your cheeks becomes you." That moment she had blushed for whatever reason when giving Elizabeth a kiss to her cheek, did her well.

Marina lifted her chin slightly as they walked, ignoring the other women for the most part. "I'm afraid I know of them, yes and they do me." She returned his look with an impish one of her own. "Actually, what you're adding to is the poor Marina whispers. First the husband, then the father's plots." She waved her hand in dismissal. "It keeps them amused I suppose." The compliment had the blush returning. "Elizabeth takes delight in thwarting my father and the vultures he encourages." She gave him a sideways glance. "Might I ask you a question for a question, Alger?" She paused to sniff at one of the potted roses that were in bloom along the path.

Shoulders straightened naturally with the slight lift of his chin. "I could hope that maybe I was a spark in such a dreary account of your life." Smile gave way the tease as they were gradually leaving the others behind, few had gone this far. There were young lovers, one got a glimpse of walking the fields or heading for the lake. Though most were at the games with their partners to show off. Some definitely the talk of the town. "I can understand why Elizabeth and Henry would. Giving the same circumstances I would as well." Well he was to a degree wasn't he! A brow lifted with a dip of a glance her way. "Of course you may ask whatever you've a mind to. I can only hope I have an answer." He was well aware of his surroundings and quick to note certain areas compared to others as he took another path that led behind tall hedges and climbing rose bushes. Full English garden was a spectacular sight but it also had paths that wound like a labyrinth. Something they could make use of in keeping their privacy to talk. He headed them to an alcove of bushes and flowers were a bench was located. Positioned so one could tell if someone was coming and yet be mostly hidden. He paused here that they might take a seat.

She laughed softly, a dimple showing as she answered. "You may have been a part since it isn't often I'm asked to walk with a handsome man." The smile faded slightly as she continued. "Elizabeth and Henry are wonderful. I wish I could see them more often." She sat once they reached the bench, smoothing her skirt briefly before she looked up at him and waited for him to sit. "It's rather odd but ... the two elderly ladies, and even Elizabeth, see you in a different way then I do. Where they see you with a beard of reddish hair, and blue eyes, I see you clean shaven and green-eyed with dark hair." She lowered her voice slightly as she spoke even being certain no one else was close enough to hear.

He took a seat and almost stood again with her proclamation, taking him more by surprise than anything else. There were two ways he could go about this but instinct said to be honest. There was something about this woman that all would be lost in lies if he even considered them. Alger was silent for a few minutes as he debated more in how to go about this unexpected question. He took her hand in his, roughen fingers were not those of nobility whom didn't work with their hands. "I am going to chance trusting you, Marina. There is something about you that tells me I can. Possibly you need a friend and you will end up having to trust me in like. A fair tradeoff I'm feeling. You see me as I really look. It is a long story that I might get to tell you at some point but presently there are far more serious matters at hand that have brought me here." Eyes holding to hers, "to speak to you in particular. Mostly about your brother. Is he a man of political intrigue that is on an escalating scale or is he a victim? If he is anything like your father.." but the rumor was that Charles was estranged from his father.

She watched him quietly, wondering what was going through his mind. When he took her hand, she looked down briefly then up again, meeting his eyes. Surprise was evident with his words about his appearance but she waited for the serious matter he spoke of. "Charles is estranged from our father and has been for some time." She frowned and looked toward the house then back. "My father has had guests, men who he would take to his study. I overhead some names when they were talking. A Viscount Harmen who my father said is befriending Charles. There was talk of lands to be gained and other things. I feel it's all to get my brother back under my father's thumb." The frown deepened. "Is my brother in danger, Alger?" If his appearance was not what it seemed, she was certain his name wasn't either but that she wouldn't ask.

"Yes. I would say he is in danger because the lands he is on as well Harmen are under Kildare. It is a long story there as well but in a nutshell, they are considered renegades, men sent to talk with your brother in particular were not seen nor heard of since. We believe they are dead. The new King and Regent have held off bringing their army down on them to find out more first. They are of a kind they would not harm the innocent. There is much more to all of this..." eyes that had held hers quickly glanced up and beyond as if he was listening. Something was in the air, a tint of disturbance

Marina watched his expression and turned to look toward the house, though it couldn't be seen from where they were. "What's happening?" She asked softly. From where they were, she could hear raised voices but not was being said. It was the tone that worried her.

Edgar Clarke was a very determined man and he was one with a mission. Having heard that the man known as the Chameleon could very well be among the guests at the Churchill soiree, he gather a group of men and made his way to the estate. When an attempt was made to stop him by the men at the gates, he waved them aside with a show of papers and his badge of authority. He could go anywhere he wanted and not even a member of the upper class could stop him. Even if it meant that he would be facing problems later, he was one tracked in his pursuit. Sir Henry heard the commotion and was outside to see what was happening. Furious, he confronted Clarke who waved his protests aside as he showed him the papers. His men began to gather the guests. Some of the women, including one of the women who had managed to corner Alger earlier, fainted. Others grew angry and demanded they be allowed to leave but they were ignored. Clarke's men were attempting to herd them inside, to the Grand Ballroom where they could be gathered in some comfort. Unlike Clarke, they were not happy with the situation.

Birdie appeared without his usual flutter. Somehow Henry found out the investigator was on his way before he arrived, not that he could do anything about it and better he seemed surprised. Heads were going to roll, one in particular, Clarke's, after this upset was done and over. Burgeous was stripping of his bright yellow waist jacket as he approached Joe and Marina. "We need to go immediately, seems there is a rumor of me possibly being the man he is after, the Chameleon. Henry gave me enough warning once he knew. His man has a carriage waiting at the far end of his property, past the lake." Jed had their bags and was already changed looking much like a baggage lad as he caught up with Birdie. "Change enough to blend in, quickly, jacket at least," then stopped with a laugh. "Best get those pink pants off as well." Jed set Joe's bag on the bench and seeming very anxious to be on their way. He had his own reasons not to wish interrogation as well Burgeous had too many to count, even if they were not related precisely to this mission or to the Chameleon. Joe, certainly didn't need the publicity either. Ruses had a way of showing under a magnifying glass.

Joseph wasn't exactly sure other than there was quite the commotion, Henry's voice being heard in a way he swore it was far louder than he ever heard it since meeting the man. Birdie's appearance with Jed, clarified it. All signs saying, get out of here and fast. "Marina," while opening up his duffel bag, the jacket taken off, folded small and tucked away as he took out the long overcoat. The pink pants were next to be taken off to be replaced by a pair of ordinary brown cotton ones. "we can drop you off somewhere safe until your father is free to pick you up if you don't want to go back to the manor and joined the fiasco." He really didn't wish to see her put through, nor did he even think to ask her to turn her head, if she was shy enough she would automatically.

When Birdie appeared, Marina stood, a hand coming to rest at the hollow of her throat. She watched the men a moment, looking away while the man she knew as Alger dressed. His words had her thinking, coming to a decision. "Take me with you. I don't want to be part of this anymore and I want ... I want to see my brother." She looked at Bridie first. "I'm tired of being used as a pawn and have no wish to be forced into another marriage."

"Then we will be putting a great deal of trust in you as you will be for us." He could hear voices starting their way, taking Marina's arm with a cup of a strong hand at her elbow for they would be moving quickly. Jed took care of the bags and Birdie would lead the way. He knew Henry's lands as good as the owner for having scoured ever inch over the years.

Birdie didn't say a word, just a look between Joe, Marina and Jed spoke it all and he was around on a heel. They would follow and as quick a pace he set to ensure Clarke's men never found them nor a clue to exactly where they were going. Most believed it was only woods beyond the lake and if one were to escape they would head for the main road in the least. They wound their way around the lake to the opposite side where there was a path through thicket and trees that then led into the thicker woods. By that time they were concealed well. They could hear shouts from one direction than another as if letting one know at a center location none were found or some of those lovers that had wandered off, got a big surprise. There was a high pitch squeal and even a scream as ones were found, their privacy invaded without warning and then dragged off to be interrogated. Clarke wasn't going to come up with his Chameleon, at least if he had it would save him the flack he was headed for in the days to come. An anxious coachman, one well trusted by Henry saw to getting them in the carriage quickly once they got to where he waited. The bags stored in the back before he was off, taking a beaten path that led through the woods to a main road that would take them to the port. One of Henry's ship docked there and would see them to wherever they wanted for certainly they should vacate England for a while until all this blew over.

She gathered up her skirts, not worrying about propriety nor appearances now. She was concerned only that Elizabeth would worry and she would write her when she had a chance. The sight of the bags reminded her she was leaving with only what she was wearing but that didn't matter. The promise of freedom was a heady thing and far too enticing. She couldn't wait to be free of England and the life that had left her little more than a prize to be handed over to the one who impressed her father the most, monitory and politically.

It was very possible the men Clarke hired would have found the escaping party if it weren't for odd mishaps that set them in a new direction. One said he heard what sounded like chiming laughter a few times. Determined to search the lake area and beyond, he ran first into a hoard of frogs. Trying not to step on them, he fell a few times into the edge of the lake only to come face to face with an angry woodchuck the last, who then chased him like a small yapping dog. A few of the others ran into odd incidences as well, some too embarrassing to mention and all seemed centered around the lake area and beyond especially. If any of Clarke's men weren't superstitious before, they were after this day on the job.


Date: 04-07-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 24

Homeward Bound

The Ship called the Getaway was one of a few privately owned by Henry Churchill. This one a merchant ship than passenger but was equipped with rooms for special occasions. It would not be one checked for those coming in and out if the Guard were looking for anyone. Those orders hadn't reached the port for Clarke was certain he would find the man he was after at the Soiree. Three hours had passed since they boarded, the winds good for sailing having them far out from the coast of England and on their way. There would be a couple of short stops as would be expected of this merchant ship to deliver and pick up goods. Evening was approaching as Joseph emerged from his cabin below. Refreshed. He no longer needed the ruse of one Alger Winston and was dressed in his regular clothes. An Aran sweater over brown tweed pants and his cloak for the wind held a bite to it. Though, the sight of the sky was spectacular with blues highest melting into pinks then purples before the deeper reds nearest the horizon. He was at the rail taking it all in.

Borrowed clothing was what Marina was wearing as she emerged from below deck. A warm woolen sweater, pants and spare boots from the cabin boy who was promised a new pair when they made shore. A heavy coat in place of a coat kept off the chill and she was wearing a fisherman's cap over blonde hair. She figured she could trade her jewelry for clothing if necessary though hopefully Elizabeth was able to hold onto her belongings. Of course, what was there was not really suitable for everyday but Marina was nothing if not practical. She had some coins hidden among her things. Before they left, a note was written to her friends. She was safe and would not be returning. There was no point in worrying. She was fine. No word about being in touch though she hoped Elizabeth knew she would be. The note wouldn't be delivered until the day after tomorrow in the hopes that her father would be gone. She saw Alger at the rail and was over to join him. With no makeup, her hair pulled back, she looked younger than her years.

Distracted when Marina appeared, a lazy smile surfaced though green eyes were hard to read. "My brother has a grown up daughter about your size to see in getting you some suitable clothing when we arrive in Heathfield. A place far different from England or any other such country you will be discovering. It is the Queen's twin sons who inherited their father's castle in Kildare, had to overthrow a witch to get it back. It is why those of Heathfield are helping. A number of Keeps became renegade when the Witch had taken over and feel they have rights to land that is not theirs. The lads have their work cut out for them." Which reminded him of something as an aside. "Joseph McDonough of Heathfield, at your service."

"I'd be thankful of anything she can spare." She smiled easily, her demeanor changed since their escape. She was more relaxed, more ready to face what was ahead. "Kildare is where Charles is then?" And the smile grew warm as she inclined her head. "It is a pleasure to meet you, Joseph McDonough." She looked toward the sunset "How beautiful it is."

"Yes, he is in the upper lands of Kildare on estates called Cottonwood. The other man, Harman, is on Swan Lake, noted for its namesake as well the other. When was the last time you were in touch with him?" Glancing back out over the display only the hand of God could make, "perhaps it is an omen of new and better days to come for you?" Certainly from the little he saw at the soiree, hers had looked bleak.

She smiled, pleased he was doing well even though it sounded as if the lands were wild. "Is he one who feels he has rights to the lands?" She looked worried as she looked at him again. "It's been several years, since before my husband's death. Once I was forced to move back into my father's house, my contact with him was curtailed." The smile returned, lighting her face. "I will consider it such, and happily so. Something I had only dared hoped for."  It did seem as if God was smiling upon her at that moment.

"That we don't know. What the King and Regent of Kildare want to find out. I believe your brother moved to Kildare when Seamus McLarkin was still king or near the end of his reign. Charles has two sons and a daughter. His wife died a couple years ago so you may not know that. Do you think your brother would want lands not his own under such circumstances? What can you tell me of Phillip Harman? The more we know the better the chances your brother will have. I know you would wish he would not be a renegade but lives are at stake in dealing with both men."

"Charles, unlike our father, was always an extremely honest and good hearted man. I can hope that hasn't changed over the years. In fact, from what I've heard, I'm inclined to believe he still is. It is possible he's cut off from any news because of Phillip Harman." She turned to face him, leaning her hip against the rail as she did. "From what I heard, Harman is an agent or associate of someone higher up in the government. There was some talk of the Twins and testing the atmosphere to see how willing the people were to be ruled by the sons of McLarkin. There was also a man named Ultan mentioned with Harman. I heard them say Harman could be ruthless if necessary but then the servant came to announce another guest and I had to slip away." The frowned deepened. "Now I wish I would have returned to hear more that night."

He watched her eyes as she spoke, it was there he knew the truth of her conviction where her brother was concern. It weighed in the balance. "Once we reach Heathfield, we'll settle in. I've two children that have been waiting for their father since Thanksgiving. More, it was expected I be home for Christmas. I will send word a report to the King and Queen there who will contact Kildare and then wait on the response. Most likely I will escort you to the castle in Kildare to meet the King and Regent. They are men of peace but if they have to use their army, they will. I too will have more information on anything found out while I was gone and if I'm still needed. There will be possibly a couple of weeks interlude in setting this up. Perhaps quicker considering the circumstances. We don't know if it would be dangerous for even you to try and get in to see your brother. I suspect many of the armed men are Harmen's. There are many unanswered questions that can't be second guessed." Letting that be soaked in before continuing. "You can stay at the Thistle, a home away from home and set up without cost. You will get to meet the kind of people that inhabit our lands. There is a lot to learn if you have a desire." Which brought him back to something that might well be important. "There are very few people that can see through my disguise I transmit about me. My brother and a few other adepts in our lands. Have you had training in the Druid ways or such similar?"

She couldn't imagine what it must have been like for his children while he was away, or even himself. "Only if your children don't object." She smiled slightly as she spoke. "They're liable to fear your leaving will mean you'll be on one far too long again." She could ask later on the Thistle but his final question had her smile growing. "Yes, I did. There was a woman named Alice who lived close to the estate of my late husband. We met one day when her cat came into the garden and became friends. She taught me what she could until she grew too fragile to live alone and her daughter came to take her away." She looked away again as she continued. "I knew, as soon as your appearance was mentioned, not to say anything about what I saw. I also knew it would not be dangerous to ask you about it."

"Then you have learned to trust your instincts. After this mission, I am retiring as an undercover agent. The Chameleon will never be found and fade into a legend of sorts I suppose," which had him chuckle as he leaned against the rail, forearms crossing as he watched the sky grow gradually deeper in color. The wind whisking about his hair for it wasn't that cold he needed to cover his head. He preferred drinking in the fresh air. "If I don't escort you, another will that you will meet beforehand. You're instincts will have you knowing to trust them. Unless your brother had become dangerous, not the man you knew, you will get to see him again. Hopefully all in once piece. It is possible if you can work with me, I can look like he does to get us into Cottonwood." Though it would be hard to convince his children other than this was still part of the mission.

"I'm sure your children and your wife will be glad that you're retiring. It's a dangerous life I would imagine." She watched as the stars began to come out, giving a slight nod in answer. "I'll do whatever I can to help, Joseph. I don't know how old his children would be now only because I've lost count but with his wife gone, he may need my help with them." Especially the girls as they grew older.

"I am not married. My wife decided to up and leave us on a flight of her own making you might say. Long time ago. My oldest is not of her and Tamara doesn't remember her at all, she was too little. I guess the best way, is the logical one, wait and see how things go instead of crossing bridges that one may never come to." Which on a thought he added, "I'm not seeing anyone either, haven't in a long time so you'll not be running into any jealous lady where I'm concerned. Actually, in England, my reputation is probably ruined as one of Birdie's boyfriends he brought to the soiree, two in fact to be outlandish. Plus, you'll never see me in pink satin pants again. I run a cattle ranch with my brother as well operating a private investigator's agency." Belated wondering if she saw him less as a man. Even Birdie was a ruse as she would have seen him in dark colors since they started this trip. No need for the disguise here nor in the lands they were heading to.

She colored as he corrected her, knowing it wasn't done to embarrass her. "I am sorry. I should have asked before assuming." She was relieved not to be causing any fights as well between himself and another but then she laughed. "You mean Alger's reputation is ruined, though in truth, I've never heard Birdie's preference mentioned. You should know that there are dandies all over England, I'm told, who try to imitate him. Poorly." She paused before voicing another question. "Will he be able to return to England?"

"Birdie is one of a kind and Alger can have the questionable reputation." A flash of a smile as he'd been corrected on who would have the reputation, not really him but his ruse. "I'm sure he'll be able to return to England in a few months if he wishes to. Though he may want to stay, he has friends here as well that he can be himself with. Time will tell. Will you be wanting to return?" Curiously with doubt considering what awaited her back there if she did. "Or would you prefer making a new life, either at your brother's place if all goes well or on your own in Heathfield if you find it to your liking, or even in Kildare but not living under your brother's roof." Wondering what her preference would be.

"I don't want to return, at least not until I'm no longer worth anything to my father." She gave a hint of a smile again as she turned to look back to him. "I'm nearly too old as it is. He only sweetened the pot with the promise of money and the inheritance that should be my brother's. A new life is what I want though I'll have to see what suits me I suppose. It's a little frightening to think that I'm starting all over and not sure what I can do."

"I can't say as I blame you. To live under another's rule is not living. Certainly there is a security but the price is too high in my opinion." Catching her look as he laughed, first in a while, "I would not say you are old at all and if you were that would make me ancient. Or so I would feel. Perhaps your brother will thwart him in the long run with a bit of help." Shifting up from his lean as it was getting late and it had been a very long day for them both. The trip would be long enough too. "I said at your service, so if I can help in you getting situated or into a business or whatever you would like to, it will go smoother than you realize." He had the clout to help her out.

She laughed as well, eyes sparkling in the light of the torches. "You are fair from ancient, Joseph. It's more in what most of the nobility desires in a wife. Unless she has her own fortune." She straightened as well, realizing that she was suddenly tired. "I hope he does and while I do appreciate your offer, it's more a matter of learning what I'm capable of doing, business wise. I suppose that too, will come in time." She covered a yawn, laughing  sheepishly. "I hope I'm not a poor sailor on this trip but tonight, I'm certain I'll sleep soundly."

"And positions available wherever you decide to stay. Sleep well tonight, you're on a new journey to a better life." Or so he felt and his tone conveyed those thoughts. He offered her the bend of his arm. "If I may escort you safely to your cabin?" Though on this ship she'd not have to worry about the crew for heads would roll if one of them got out of line. They had it good working under Henry to chance such an indiscretion.

Her smile was near brilliant at the thought. The journey was the beginning of a new adventure for her and the future held so much more promise than before. She inclined her head graciously, the smile never fading. "I would be delighted to have you escort me, Sir." Using the formality of the Court in a playful way.

Which brought about his lazy smile while realizing it was the first he'd really seen her smile like this other than a few times with Elizabeth, the exception. He saw her to her cabin and all got a good night's needed rest. The trip went without incident while the four enjoyed each other's company to pass the days, ones that added up to a few weeks before they ported in Barrett's Bay. For Marina, her journey was just beginning.


Date: 04-09-09
Poster: Broch Cunningham
Post # 25


Broch asked his brothers to meet him at the tavern this evening. What he had to discuss he wanted to with just them before Laura got to know. Mostly because it would upset her and the meeting would have that cloud hanging over them to start. A warmer night had him in just a lightweight tan sweater, brown pants and black boots lacing up to below his knees. Casual but finely made for the meeting he came from. He was called in being the head of the family and such recognized. He had some stew and brown bread for his evening meal, the tray set aside to one end of the table he had chosen along the wall. He had a view through a window as well. One reason it was chosen. The place was quiet at this point, various ones having come and gone as he waited. A bottle of potcheen and two extra glasses, each set to the table in front of two vacant seats nudged out.

Mike had skipped his usual night of cards when he knew that Broch wanted to meet. Instead he spent the day doing some chores outside, cleaning up areas that would be made into gardens, and the like. He cleaned up before heading to the tavern, wearing black leather pants with a matching vest, a blue poet's shirt and black leather riding boots. His favorite pea coat was worn as well, not too heavy but enough to take of any chill that might have lingered. As he entered the tavern, he saluted Alex then headed directly for where Broch was seated. "Evening, Broch." Giving him his usual grin as he took up one of the other chairs.

Logan was not far behind Make, still with the climbing gear attached to a belt. Rolled up rope, grappling hook, spikes and he also had his whip. He'd been practicing with it again. Vest was worn over a white shirt, least he put one on, leather pants matched the vest as well in dark brown. Even darker boots showed he'd been through field, forest and ledges per smudges and markings. A chin up was given Alex before he was headed for the table where Broch was seated and Mike in the process. "Good evening to you both. I hope your day was as productive as mine." Any day he got to climb and came back whole, was considered productive. Turning the last chair out completely and around he was down straddling it with a lean in against the edge of the table. The bottle taken up as he poured his and Mike's glass full before setting it away again.

"Good evening to you both and, you're both on time." Slow grin as there wasn't an exact time set other than evening, giving them time to finish up whatever they were up to this day. "I'm pleased to hear you had a productive day Logan, I can assume you have as well Mike? Mine was and it involves both of you."

He nodded his thanks to Logan after clapping a hand to his younger brother's shoulder once he was seated and before he poured the drinks. "Aye. I did chores around the house." Though he might grumble about doing them, he enjoyed the work. A brow lifted at Broch's comment but he waited for him to explain, taking a drink of the pure while he did.

"So Laura caught you before getting out?" He had risen before the break of dawn to set up, do his climbing before the noon day sun. High up on a mountain where he ended up, he practiced with the whip there before finally heading back. "That means tomorrow will be my day." Knowing well if he avoided doing any work about the house, Laura would box his ears when she caught up with him, or worse, punish him from dinner.

Laura usually got them to do the work but he often did as well if not in a meeting like he was called in for today. "I had an audience with the King and Queen today, on Kildare. Looks like you are called to duty as Bounty Hunters if you want the job. Joseph McDonough is back and gained enough information to pinpoint Ultan hiding out not in Cottonwood but Swan Lake with Phillip Harman. It is believed that Ackerman may be clueless and not aware of what is really going on with Harman. The King and Regent are being notified in Kildare, probably getting the message as we speak. I think it will be a good idea if I go with you." They might notice he had dropped the accent for this more serious talk. "Watch your hides or Laura will have mine." Not adding if he stayed, he'd never hear the end of her worrying. Plus, he would be seeing to his obligation of watching out for them. One he didn't mind nor regret.

"I'm ready anytime we are to leave. I'll leave you the telling of this to Laura." Wide grin before he kicked back his portion of potcheen. Glass set and refilled, topped off Mike's too. "Is there any plans in particular or will we be seeing to them?"

He grinned at Logan and nodded. "Aye, but you know she always divides the work." Though they had hired hands if needed. He looked at Broch, becoming serious as he listened, then he nodded. "Same here, both in the leaving and in the telling." He nodded again, this time in agreement with Logan's question.

"Aye, it is best that I be telling her." She was less likely to strike out with anything near being he was the head of the family. "Far as plans, we are to go to Kildare and see the King and Regent before proceeding. Mostly due to be privy to any new developments before jumping in. We'll probably go in under the cover of merchants with something to sell. Perhaps some cattle," they didn't look like tinkers or sheep herders. "We'll scout the place out, see if Ultan has any habits that we can waylay him, or more, leaving that to your expertise and I'll have the means ready to get out fast."

He was listening, all was sound in the procedure. They winged most of their missions for it depended on getting there to see what the situation was like. "Did they say when we are to leave?"

"And if we have a time limit on getting him out." He rubbed at his chin thoughtfully. "What about Ackerman? Are we to talk to him at all?"

"No, we are not to involve Ackerman at all. There will be others to deal with that part. We are to bring Ultan out alive, and his son if he is with him. There is still uncertainty if the lad has been forced by his father or a willing part in the crimes committed. The King and Regent of Kildare will pass judgement for their crimes, we just need to deliver him or them." Sounded easy but Bounty Hunting was never easy. One got thinking that way, they ended up dead. "We are to leave immediately, within a day." So less time for them to need listen to Laura's protests. Though her protests were genuine they grated on the brothers.

Dead or alive was usually their option, easier at times to bring them in dead. Basically because the one or ones would resist, became a matter of self defense. They would use something efficient to knock the one and his son out, together or separately or do it the old fashion way than chloroform. A good fist to hit just right.

All the moreso because they knew she didn't mean to nag. She just worried on them. "Tonight then, or tomorrow morning?" It would take a little time to get things ready. He lifted his glass for a drink, ready to leave if it was necessary.

"I would say, by tomorrow afternoon." He had hoped to tell Gaelle but he'd not seen hide nor hair of her since the last race. He hated leaving a note, hoping she would show here tonight so he could tell her. But, she wasn't here.

He nodded, leaning back as he lowered his glass. He'd be making a stop at the stables to tell Brigid. A slight frown appeared as he wondered what her reaction would be.

"I have my gear packed, keep it that way in case we are called out suddenly." For all his seemingly wayward ways, he was organized. He always brought his climbing gear, it came in handy more than one occasion.

"Won't take me long to pack what I need." Scratching at his cheek absently, he looked at Broch. "Going to be heading to Clearview tonight, I think. Talk to Brigid." At least he was admitting there was something there though Logan might be surprised?

Which had him studying Mike for a few lingering moments. "How would you describe your relationship with Brigid? Yea bae just friends or more intentions?" Sure they had all gone out to dinner together but that didn't make a relationship. The fact Mike felt a need to see her before going on this mission said a lot.

He was listening, being that area of his life was not complicated. If he was surprised, he didn't show it. He would grin and drink as Broch put Mike on the hot seat.

"I feel there is more. We've even talked about me talking to her brothers." He rubbed at his neck and grinned sheepishly. "Who both live in Kildare." Not that it was a reason for his going there but still, best for them to know that, right?

Laura wasn't in the mood to sit alone tonight. Whether it had something to do with spring being in the air, or it was something else she couldn't tell. Knowing her brothers often ended their evenings in the Thistle, she had saddled up her own little mare and ridden to the tavern. After turning her over to the stable boy, she made her way inside. For comfort, she was wearing pants of deep blue suede with a matching coat, riding boots and a lacy shirt. Her blonde hair was pulled back into a ponytail. Spotting the three together, she smiled though there was a sinking feeling in the pit of her stomach. Her brothers had been at home for far too long. Putting on her best smile, she stopped at the bar and obtained a glass of potcheen punch, peach flavored, before joining them. "Good evening, brothers mine. What are you plotting this evening?"

Which had a slow grin. "Maybe send a message ahead so they can meet us at the castle so you can talk to them." Lo and behold, there was Laura! He got to his feet and a step aside to draw out a chair for her. "Please do join us. Your timing is impeccable. I needed to talk to our brothers before speaking with you. I can do that now. We got word to head to Kildare by the King and Queen." Which made it all that more important to see to duty. "I will be going with them to make sure they come back in one piece." The main reason at least. He was blunt and right to the point, not pulling any punches.

That was a bit of a shock of course and she might have turned slightly pale but she quickly recovered. Hiding her disappointed as she settled in the chair, she sighed. "Well, then I can't fuss at the three of you can I? Other than to tell you to make sure you stay as safe as possible and don't do anything too dang... no, that's not even worth saying." She was going to have a few days off then another couple weeks before school was finished in each of the realms for those children who had to help their families plant. "I won't even ask where you're going." Giving a slight nod of her head, though of course, she was curious!

"It's a dangerous occupation but know that we are very good at what we do, Laura. We trained well and we don't take unnecessary risks, or act without caution or erratic." Trying to reassure her but knowing she would worry on them nonetheless. Glancing to Broch, not knowing how secretive this mission was if she could be told or not.

"We are going to Kildare to see the King and Regent first. They have an army if needed but better not to have many chance losing their lives that are not even involved in the politics of landowners."

"And I would assume it's a delicate situation." She bit at her lower lip then managed a smile. "Well, I could still fuss but for obvious reasons, I won't. After all, I can only keep that up for so long." She looked from one to the other. "I am going to make you each promise to be as careful and safe as possible." She knew it might not be possible but it would help her feel a touch better.  She smiled slightly.  "I love each of you and can't help but worry."

"Of course we promise." He even crossed his heart like he had when they were young and back home. "We know you care, Laura, and you worry. No need to fuss too." He winked at her to take any sting out.

"It is a higher priority than the usual renegade Logan and Mike have had to drag to justice. Delicate might fit it," giving a nod as he had taken his seat again and kicked back his drink, poured another, kicked that one back too.

"Careful will be my middle name. I happen to love life even if I live it dangerously cliff climbing." So the thrill of bounty hunting fitted him well.

"Aye, yea 'ave mae promise and I'll add t'at I'll bae keeping t'eir 'ides safe tae." It was getting late as he rose from his seat. "Why don't we have a nightcap at home." Michael could write his missives to be sent before they left as well each of them see to what needed seeing to in getting ready for tomorrow. "Ah, we leave tomorrow." Not being sure if that was mentioned.

She smiled at all three, then wrinkled her nose. "Well, they usually do leave quickly. When you get back, we'll have a grand meal together in celebration. Will that be all right?" She stood as well, only half of her punch gone. They meaning Logan and Mike.

Michael downed what was left in his glass and stood as well. The only missive would be to the brothers. He was determined to see Brigid before he left, even if it was only a few moments at most. She did know what he did for a living and he'd not go into a lot of detail for not wanting to worry her.

He finished off his glass as was up, tucking the chair back in place before taking his empty to the bar. Once that was accomplished, he waited on brothers and sister to head out. "I would like a good dinner to look forward to."

"Aye, I'll be looking forward to it and breakfast tomorrow before we leave." Laura made a grand breakfast that would sate them well into lunchtime. He might even coax her to pack them one. He returned his glass to the bar before offering Laura his arm in escort.

Which had a dimple appear with her smile. "Aye, a grand breakfast to see you off." Not that they were leaving right away, and she'd be glad to make them a lunch to take. She returned her glass and slipped her arm through Broch's.

He was over to the bar to drop off the glass, then buttoned up the coat he had never removed. Maybe they should have Broch tell Laura they were going off more often!


Date: 04-13-09
Poster: Garath MacShire
Post # 26

Plans Being Made 

After a long day with his children and a talk with Garath wherein his cousin filled him in on the months he was away, the two headed for the Thistle. "There is a woman I brought back with us, Ackerman's sister." To clue him in. "She is staying here as well Jed and Birdie for now." Birdie had stopped by with Jed and decided he would stay at the Thistle so both could easily meet others. Joe knew it was more not to impose on him so soon with his return and time spent with his children. He didn't argue the point for either was fine and it was true the two could meet others easier staying at the tavern, come and go as they please without disturbing or feeling that they might upon himself and his family.

"What's she like?" He chuckled softly. "I can't imagine she'd be anything but decent or you'd not allow her to have come here. And how is Birdie?" He had yet to see him. "I have to say, Joe, that your two children were a pleasure to look after. Bright and well-mannered. Even when they're up to mischief. Especially that youngest imp of yours. I'm going to miss them, but I'm glad you're back. We were starting to worry."

"She seems honest, sincere, concerned on her brother with all going on. She is fleeing a frightful life. A widow from a forced marriage. She is pretty as well but there are many.." which had a chuckle as a hand clasped to his shoulder before falling away as he gained the steps. The porch crossed as he opened and held the door. "Never know, bachelor like yourself.." teasing him like old times before becoming serious again. "They are good children," which there was pride in his eyes that naturally came when speaking on them. "You're welcome to stop by any time. A time out with them to the zoo or fishing.." giving  him some ideas if he wanted to spend more time as there was a good possibility a rapport had been established. "Birdie is himself, I'm sure you'll get to see him eventually. He's been taking Jed with him exploring."

"I have no doubt of that. If he's staying a while, I'm sure he'll be coming into the store." He stepped inside, nodding to Alex as he removed his cloak. "So, what will you do next? I know you're planning to retire. Maybe look after that widow yourself. Or a few others that are around." He grinned at his cousin.

"I don't have a whole lot of luck with women if you remember.." not going into details as they were well known, wife up and leaving and the death of Joshua's mother. "I think you could use a child or three," grinning as he headed in after closing the door and straight to the bar. Alex set out a bottle of potcheen and two glasses automatically. "Retire from being an undercover agent. I hope to train Jed to take my place, possibly my son if he has such an interest, though I'd not wish such a job on him. I'll have my hands full taking care of the cattle ranch and the investigator's business I started up." Removing his cloak as he slid it over the back of the stool. It was late so more a nightcap and the good walk. Which also had them by Maurice's place to let him know he was back on their way here.

He shook his head, smiling. "Aye, maybe if I had grown ones like Xan. I'm beginning to think I'm too set in my ways to have a family." But he knew quite well how things could change. "Your brother might finally get married, now that you're back. He's been waiting I think."

"I am hoping to catch up with him soon. See if he set a date. I'd like to be there but may need to go to Kildare and see this mission the rest of the way through. If my gut feeling is right, those warriors are not Ackerman's but Herman's and would try and cut us down before we ever reached her brother's Keep. My special ability might be needed to get her in." There was only one other he knew of who could do it, Andrew, one who trained him and his brother further with their gifts long ago. "How is the business coming along?" Seating himself as he finally kicked back his first full shot.

"It may be that he'll wait until this business is completely finished. I know he'd like you to be there. It's coming along very well." He grinned as he sat and held up his glass. "Almost too well but we're keeping busy. " The portrait he had painted of Joe's children was framed with a special frame from France, one of their latest imports. "You should stop by sometime."

"I can see about stopping by tomorrow. Has Andre Bovee contacted you? He was here the night I got back, he's back too and rumored to have quite a bit of merchandise from many different parts of the world."

"Not yet. I haven't been out and about much lately." He rubbed at his chin, thoughtfully. "Maybe after you stop by, I'll head down to the docks and see if I can catch him. He's been gone for some time so I'm sure he'll have plenty we'll be interested in."

"Maybe some old maps, hint on other adventures waiting." He topped off his glass as well his cousin's before setting it aside. "Though, if I remember right, you're done with adventures of that type?"

"One never knows." He picked up his glass again, studying it a moment. "I've no lass waiting for me. My family is the only reason I might not go." He looked at Joe. "Though I think Draven would just shake his head at this point." Another grin was followed by a long drink.

"Perhaps if the adventure is not too far nor to be too long? I've a promise made to keep, yet allows shorter trips. I'll be taking Tamara and Josh with me to Kildare to see the King and Regent there on this matter." Which he would know more in what would be needed after speaking with them and the better course of action. "Well, we'll see what Andre has to offer. Perhaps Maurice might be willing to go on an adventure. Least his children are grown." Giving him a pat on the shoulder, "never know, cupid might well aim his arrow straight in catching you broadside." Which had him chuckle with that visual. His drink done, it was time to get going as it was getting very late. Vacating his stool with a farewell to Alex as he gathered up his cloak to don.

He just shook his head, laughing. "I've been lucky so far in that Cupid has missed." He may or may not mean that. The fact he had no children of his own had been brought home by his stay with Joshua and Tamara. "And I'd like to join you. I've been meaning to travel to Kildare for some time." Finishing his drink, he saluted Alex. It was time to return to his flat.

"You'd be welcome for I need to leave Josh and Tamara at the castle. It would be better if an uncle was there with them to see the sights." Holding the door open by this time and once Garath was through, he was behind him, closing off the door. "So, you're going to tell me that in all the time you've returned home, you've not met some of the beautiful women that is more than skin deep?"

"Of course I have. But time hasn't been on my side lately." He was protesting as they went on out the door. And likely would be until they parted company.


Date: 04-15-09
Poster: Corina Turlough
Post # 27

Changes in the Air

The day was the first real warm day spring had to offer. Late afternoon found Corina out in the courtyard garden with just a shawl about her shoulders in lieu of a cloak. Spring green dress offset in white lace, she looked much like the flowers coming up through the ground. She was helping the gardener out after stomping down his complaints that she should not be. Though he couldn't argue with her long but gave it his best. Tulips were about six inches up, some with buds that would bloom first. Daffodils, lilies, irises were all showing clumps of green. The rose bushes had sprouts and buds of leaves. The sun still shining which would last a couple more hours. She had alerted one of the maids within the castle as to where she would be this later afternoon.

Rosalind spent much the morning tending the finishing touches to the Gallery, where the paintings were taken down for restoring, the room cleaned thoroughly from top to bottom, and aught that needed repairing was so done. Now the room nigh gleamed as if new, the walls fresh painted and the flooring polished to a high gleam. She stood supervising the replacing of the paintings to their proper place, right proud of the efforts made by all and took care to see as her gratitude was well known. Word of Corina to the gardens brought her out in need of fresh air and the wanting to see progress made outdoors as well, trusting to Alexandra and Vadoma to join them therein.

Vadoma had been overseeing some of the cleaning being done. The windows were a large chore but she was pleased with what had been done so far and properly thanked the workmen. The castle was beginning to look more and more complete and with spring and all the planting that was going on, it would look as if Kildare had never been under the Witch's rule or was still facing some trouble. She gave a few last instructions before making her way outside and to the gardens.

Cleaning wasn't her strength, but Alexandra hadn't been idle either. The castle had plenty of tapestries and other drapery that needed mending. Since she had talent with a needle, she'd been spending her time working to bring the fabrics back to their pristine state or replacing them when necessary. Stopping when her fingers were sore and the latest panels were complete, she went to join the others in the gardens.

She turned from the gardener with a bright smile for all, the shawl looped in the front so she didn't need to be holding it, freeing her hands. Rosalind got the first quick hug, then Vadoma before Alexandra as they arrived in that order. "What a beautiful day, the beginning of many," almost breathless as she slipped a ticket size paper from a hidden pocket in her gown. Waving it, "we're all to get new gowns, enough to see us through to the fall. We can build a dance floor out here once we decide the best location." The garden area was an expansive network of gardens and paths from the main one, where they are at.

Giving back the hug, she smiled to Vadoma ere she arrived and then Alexandra, laughing for hearing Corina. "Another shopping trip for us, to be sure, and one we ought combine with seeing to your wedding gown, aye?"

She hugged the others as well then sniffed the air. "I love the way everything smells, even if the flowers aren't in bloom. New gowns. How lovely." She chuckled when she heard Rosalind. "That sounds like a plan to my way of thinking. And there should be new materials for the season." Like silks and new laces.

"I always think the smell of spring is the smell of hope. And there's so much hope waiting to bloom here," she agreed softly, then laughed. "What of your own wedding, my lady? Aren't we going to have two brides soon enough?"

"Aye, wedding gown and.." pausing with a wide-eyed blank look, "the outfits that go with it. Gaidan asked me to think of where I would like to go on our honeymoon, provided we can. It is why we decided to wait on the wedding to see the most recent problem cleared. He doesn't wish to leave Leoric alone with it, though Leo assured him he could." They knew how it went, how the brothers were. "Which there is news," sparing a glance Rosalind's way for she knew as well, then back. The gardener had gone, and they were completely alone at this point, guards outside the wall and in the castle of course. "Joseph McDonough is escorting Ackerman's sister here, they will talk more once she arrives. Joseph gained a lot of information already through her, she doesn't believe her brother is involved in the rebellion but the other, Harman, is. It is believed Ultan Callihan is also hiding out with him so the Cunningham brothers are on their way as well." Now she caught her breath.

"That means as there will be action taken soon, aye? To put down this rebellion ere it grows beyond the control of aught?" Rosalind did not seek hide the worry growing in her eyes for the serious news come from Corina, but kept her upset well-hidden until she could speak with Leoric. "My family is not to come north until I give word, for I sent a letter home as it might not be safe yet."

"Once all the information's been collected and confirmed, the King and the Regent probably will move to put down the rebels once and for all. It has to be, Lady Rosalind." Alexandra's gaze was sympathetic as she touched her shoulder. "Don't worry, King Leoric and Regent Gaidan won't take any foolish chances. Not with the McDonough and the Cunninghams coming."

"Yes, and find out why the Callihan family ships were attacked by the English, if this Harman is involved in that as well." She could tell the worry in Rosalind's eyes as she was over to give her another, reassuring hug. "Leo and Gaidan wont be best, they will resolve this and unite all of Kildare lands once more. We have a good size army and we have friends with ships in the waters. They will be commissioning Lady McKenna to build and possibly buy some already built to start up a navy of our own." That would take time, much more than they had time if the English came by sea, they would need help from Heathfield, Ballicastle and Innis as well the fleet McKenna had. "Let us think on more pleasant things. A site has been obtained to build an orphanage. We will need to interview to find a suitable Head for it. We've have visitors soon arriving, within a few days. Quarters have been set up and we'll need to see to a menu for the duration of their stay. Be it only one night. A dance area selected so a platform can be set up to provide an area where we can have garden parties this summer."

"Aye, you are both right. I should not worry so, for both know well the what they are doing." She smiled for Corina's sake and Alexandra's, nodding and turning her attention to the plans. "Where will the orphanage be built, and have you aught in mind for its Head? And what visitors are due for arriving?"

Alexandra was quiet, knowing Corina could best reassure Rosalind. When the topic turned to more domestic matters, her smile returned, moving to stand beside Vadoma while the two women, the impending ladies of the castle, went about planning.

"Joe McDonough and the Lady Ackerman, the Cunningham brothers. I hear at least one of them is still single," loud enough for both Alexandra and Vadoma to hear. It was her way of lightning up the conversation by teasing them. Least Rosalind was spared her teasing and they got teased enough over Leo and Gaidan. "The site for the orphanage is within the inner castle walls on a plot of land covering ten acres, a pond big enough to go swimming, fishing and boating. There are many orphans in the wake of the Witch, either by her and her cronies hands or a byproduct of the beasts she set loose in forests." Which had her biting her bottom lip, rumors there were still some of these beast that managed to escape in the deepest part of the Northwest forest would only upset Rosalind more in hearing it.

"Then the sooner we get the place built and the children housed, the better. Sure and the spring is coming, but there are many children needing to be housed and cared for. It may be as we need two to head the orphanage." She did not like hearing aught of the creatures of the forest, remembering too well her journey here and what came of it. Rosalind nigh shivered with the memory, but tried put it from her mind with the mention of a single gentleman. "Aye, if we're to be wedded, our ladies should be so as well."

"Pish." She made a face, wrinkling her nose though she was laughing. "I think I'm perfectly content as I am. At any rate, we should be worrying about our guests. And I think the idea of the orphanage is wonderful. It would be good to see the children have a safe place to stay."

"I'm with Vadoma. Let's get you two married off first. There are priorities, after all." Hiding her grin, Alexandra couldn't agree more with her fellow lady in waiting.

"Two, maybe a married couple or two ladies. They will need a good handyman as well." She didn't know a whole lot about taking care of such but was willing to learn. "We'll need to get a head count as well and find all the missing ones. I was told two guards came upon an abandoned hut out in the woods, girl of about thirteen tried to attack them with a knife in defending herself and two younger brothers. They were dressed in rags and half starved but it was a wonder they had survived on their own. They were reassured they would be looked after and if their parents were alive they would try and find them." Caught up in the telling of it until she blinked Alexandra's way. "Don't think that once we are married we wont still tease you both over eligible men!"

"Brave little lass. Once aught is restored to the way of peace, mayhaps we can see if families wish adopt the children or seek places to apprentice the elder when they're of an age to learn a trade." The words to Alexandra made her laugh. "Aye indeed, perhaps the moreso for being happily wedded ourselves."

"You'll be too busy being wives to bother." She laughed then looked thoughtful. "Have you anyone in mind, Corina? Or is that something still to be thought on?" She wasn't exactly changing the subject. But there were other things to talk about along with all the teasing about being married. Perhaps in time.

"Maybe someone who was displaced as well and still needs a home?" Alexandra wasn't sure what the qualifications for heading an orphanage were, aside from the obvious.

"I've not begun beyond finding out all of this. I offered that we could help out so any who want to volunteer or we can do it as a foursome. Or split up tasks," like they had before. Oh, their schedule was going to be pretty busy for the next couple months, especially if this rebellion gets squelched, then she and Gaidan could get married and in turn Rosalind to Leoric. The gardener was back with a wagon driven by his son of about twenty and two. Good looking lad who kept eyeing Vadoma and Alexandra as he helped his father unload the flats of near blooming annuals to plant. Corina's smile turned into a sly one with a glance to Vadoma then Alexandra in turn beneath the thickness of blond lash. Not a word but her expression said it all.

Rosalind noticed the looks given the two ladies by the gardener's son but said naught of it, neither wishing be teased for certain sure. Hoping to distract Corina from her teasing, she spoke up to enquire of them, "What are you after planting here?"

"Whatever you set me to, I'll be more than glad to do." She noticed the young man, smiling at him briefly before turning to listen to Corina and Rosalind. "The gardens are going to be especially lovely this year." After all the neglect, she was amazed on how it was shaping up.

Alexandra caught him eyeing her and returned a stern look that urged him back to his business, then glanced at Corina, Rosalind and Vadoma. "Maybe even better than it used to be?"

Vadoma's notice near had the young man tripping over his own feet. His father noticing then said something low having the son run his fingers through is hair in a nervous gesture but set to carefully taking the plants from the flats and setting them into the earth. "Asters, pansies, dasies, bachelor buttons and the like ma'am." Half under his breath in answering Rosalind. He had a touch in pressing the earth around them in a tender way.

"I haven't seen the knights about," offhand remark for Corina knew they had been here but out on missions back and forth. There were three eligible, good looking knights. She would ease off, for now. Possibly. "I think they are going to look beautiful, where do you think the dance floor should go where it wont take from the gardens but have the gardens enhance the spot.." Reeling back to the orphanage topic again, "if old enough or maybe give some of the older children responsibilities in helping to organize the others, set them to a new life." Turning a non teasing focus on Alexandra. "How does the gallery go?" Knowing Rosalind had chosen to concentrate there earlier this day as attention then swept there.

"It's nigh finished. I left the others hanging the portraits, but sure and it looks much the way I am told it did ere the family had to leave." Pride shone through her smile for the hard work's achievement. "And the gardens will be a fair sight as well. What of putting the floor for dancing nigh the fountain? It would give the music of the water as well as the musicians."

Stifling the urge to chuckle at the poor boy's fluster, she kept quiet. Since she didn't like to be teased, Alexandra tried not to tease in the first place.

"That might work well or at the far edge where the view of the castle is the best?" Her eyes held a hint of amusement but she pretended not to have seen what was going on. "Maybe some twinkling lights to add to the affect?" She could almost see it in her mind's eye.

"I like that idea, would you like to make up a drawing, floor shape, Rosalind?" She pursed her lips in thought, the sunlight was starting to fade towards the horizon having her pull the shawl around her a little tighter. "Vadoma and Alexandra, under escort," knowing well neither Leo or Gaidan would allow the ladies to roam the growing city not escorted, "would you like to see if there are any caretakers of the children already willing to take up the position as Head of the Orphanage? They are located in various houses there is a list of I can get to you. Rosalind and I can see to the dance floor and start up of the gowns." Being she would need to get a wedding dress ready. It was started but with all going on she had put it off. "There might be listed the children under each of the temporary care." Which then they could get a rough estimate of how many children were homeless. Set up a committee or hire investigators to find any parents alive or those who would like to adopt.

"I will see to doing that, aye, and be pleased accompany you about the gowns," Rosalind nodded agreement, already thinking of shapes and sizes for a dance floor.

"Yes, I believe we can do that." She smiled again. "Going to their homes will help us see how suitable they might be. We need to be careful that they'll be good to all the children."

"I'll be happy to do what I can to help. Maybe if we find a few candidates, you'd like to interview them and make a final choice?" Added as a suggestion.

"You'll have to tell us your favorite colors to start your gowns in," the seamstress already had all their sizes so that part made it easier. They would be coming home with the latest fashions as the woman managed to keep up with such. "Yes, we would like to meet them in an interview. We have time and should meet as many as there are interested in the position." Linking her arm through Rosalind's, "as it is getting chillier out, I think I'd like to see the gallery and the miracle I'm sure you have worked in restoring it." Vadoma and Alexandra were welcome to join them but not obligated if they had other things to see to.

"Aye, and I should like you to see it as well. We ought be going in anyways. Will you both come as well, Vadoma, Alexandra?" She looked over her shoulder to invite the ladies come along.

"I'd like to see it very much." She looked at Alexandra to see if she felt the same. Then they could follow the others inside.

"I'm with you." Falling into step with the others, she nodded in agreement.


Date: 04-20-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 28

Plans Made

Joseph headed for the Thistle in the hope of catching up with Marina and Birdie. Things had settled down and word back to him from the Crown and Kildare. After their meal at home, he spoke on the matter with his children, being he was offered to go, rather than expected, it was up to him. He would take them with him to visit at the castle, something of a rare chance for them both and not left at home. So he had accepted and would be leaving soon. He was also told of the Cunningham brothers already taking their leave to address collecting the bounty on Ultan. At least he would not be doing such as dangerous a mission, so appeased his decision. Leoric knew of his ability as an undercover agent for the Crown and had found a man that could be trusted that had recently seen Charles Ackerman having fled from that particular Keep for learning too much on Harman's men. Casually attired in a lightweight sweater of tan heather over brown cotton pants and comfortable boots lacing up mid calf, he sat at the bar having a glass of potcheen while keeping idle conversation with Alex.

Birdie stepped to the door, carrying some packages for Marina as he saw to opening it up for her. Least he had one free hand. "Look who is here!" Grinning from ear to ear. "We have been out supporting the various shops once again." Having helped Marina, more encouraging her, to buy new dresses, bonnets and the like. Buying some for her as he felt the urge, sneaking them in with her other packages. She'd figure it out he was sure but then by that time what could she do? He obviously liked buying clothes, liked buying clothes for a lady.

The day had been a pleasant one spent in the company of Birdie. There was quite a difference between the man he appeared to be and the man he was. She had been trying to not spend all of the money Joe had given her. When she finally realized what Birdie was doing, she'd just shake her head, knowing he'd not take them back. She might scold him but in a playful way. "Hello Joseph! How have you been? " She was certain he had spent all his time with his two children and rightly so. "Were your children surprised?"

He was up from his seat and around with a growing smile. "Just the two I was hoping to find here tonight." Good chance on that for they were both staying here. "I see you are in the company of one very good at helping to spend money." Birdie had good taste in clothing aside the flamboyant persona he portrayed as a ruse in England. Served him well for his real path in life. "I have been well, the children were delighted to have me home finally." Really went without saying but it had touched his heart deeply. "I have heard back from the Crown on Kildare. We shall be leaving in a day's time. I promised to take Joshua and Tamara with me though they will stay at the castle." Where they would be safe. "I have accepted seeing this mission through and will need your help along with another in Kildare." His last time playing the Chameleon as an undercover agent. Description from the man of how her brother looked and help from her in getting his voice down perfectly to pass off as the brother in getting her in.

Birdie wasn't dressed in his bright traditional yellows emulating an adorn Fop of English society. Here he could be himself as a dark brown tunic sweater was worn over black pants. Dress booths beneath. Once within he closed the door behind them and got one of the lads to bring the packages up to Marina's room. There were always a few lads around conveniently willing to earn a coin. Once that was taken care of he was over to retrieve the glass of potcheen set out for him. "If you need me along, I'm willing to help out in any way I can." He would offer but he doubted he would be needed for this part of the mission.

"Much sooner than I expected but I'm pleased." She was over to place a kiss to his cheek in greeting, considering him a true friend though they had only known one another a short time. "Birdie not only has wonderful taste but has been showing me around in between the shopping. Heathfield is a delightful place." She was dressed in one of the gowns she had purchased previously. It was a lovely shade of melon, trimmed with eyelet lace of off white. Her hair had been pulled back at the nape of her neck and allowed to fall free. She was wearing the locket she had worn on the day of their escape as well as the pearl studs in her ears. "I'll do whatever you ask of me." She would also be delighted to meet his children and quietly tell them how brave their father was. Birdie received a smile for his offer as she turned and requested tea from Alex.

Adeline had been exploring the lands to the fullest extent she could. Here and there and everywhere she could get. Such a nice place with nice people. Having just returned, her horse was stabled for the night and soon she made her way from there to the interior of the Thistle. Quiet passing through the door with a light smile, she held a decent sized satchel in hand used to push the door closed behind her before turning to approach the counter. A nod given to Alex before a passing glance was given to the others inside, with a dip of her head in greeting. Though she kept quiet to keep from interrupting whatever conversation was going on.

"I was thinking you might like to help out my private investigators while here Burgeous." Referring to him by his given name as Birdie seemed more fitted to when he played the English Fop. The kiss to his cheek received as he gave her a quick hug in return. Perhaps feeling she could use one all considering. She was amongst friends even if just getting to know them. "Ah, Adeline, how are you doing?" Greeting her with his usual lazy, yet warm, smile. "These are two of my friends, Burgeous and Marina."

He gave a bow of his head with a lopsided smile. Getting use to not acting the fop when out socially would take time. "A pleasure Adeline." Considering Joe's offer the while before making a decision. "I would like that. Perhaps even be able to use some of my skills when needed." Two sided, he figured the one was a definite while the Fop would stay in the closet until needed.

Subdued and quiet as she let herself in, Anne strove for a discreet entrance, all the moreso for seeing others present. Offering a polite nod to the faces she recognized - minus one, of course - she headed straight to the bar and Alex.

"Lady Anne, good evening to you as well. I don't believe you have met my friend, Burgeous." Offering them both names in introduction.

Once a request to Alex had been made for some warmed rum and cider, she smiled to Joseph. "Eve, Mister Joseph." small dip of a curtsey, she set her back on a stool. "I am quite well. How are ye?" She looked to the two she was introduced to. "Pleasure to meet ye both." She gave a small wave to Anneliese as she came in.

He turned to the newest lady to enter with another bow of his head and the lopsided smile to remain. "A pleasure Lady Anne." Taking up his drink to taste of the fiery brew he enjoyed when here. Here he would be for a duration.

"Good evening," was the low reply. "Burgeous, a pleasure to make your acquaintance."

"Good evening, Lady Anne. A pleasure to meet you Adeline." She smiled warmly as she looked up from stirring her tea.

"Joseph will do," as they were lax on formalities here. "I am doing very well. It is good to be back." Certainly his children would agree. "Have you been shopping to the various stores as well?" Addressed to Adeline before attention turned back on Anne. "How is the dancing going?" Perhaps when he got back he would take his children there, they could show her how the Gypsies dance, least the group of them that stayed in the fields behind his ranch.

He was studying them each discreetly, Anne and Adeline. The ladies here were quite different than most he knew in England. Why the ruse had worked so well. This was going to be interesting for him in a few ways. "You teach the dance, Anne." More a statement than question as he picked up on that. "Do you have filled classes or is there still room?"

"Lady Marina, Lord, Joseph, Miss Adeline." Remembering to greet them each by name, she glanced up from the glass of wine Alex graciously gave her to blink at Joseph. The question needed a minute to sink in, but the redhead caught on quickly enough as a slight smile was summoned. "Busier than ever, thankfully. Your children are well?" She'd never met them, but she hadn't lived in Heathfield this long without hearing plenty. Turning to look at Burgeous, she nodded to answer his first question, then replied to the second, "There is always room for someone who wants to learn, sir. You're welcome to come and observe, or to join in if you prefer."

She thanked Alex for her drink and looked a little puzzled by the question. "Shopping?" took a moment to realize, she glanced at the satchel and smile. "Oh! No. I've been out most of the day practicing charcoal techniques." The mug was picked up and sipped from.

"They are doing well. I have a trip to make that hopefully will not take long. Once back I would like to bring them over. Joshua is seventeen and should learn more of the traditional dances in case a ball comes up he is to attend. Then he wont feel awkward. Tamara is twelve and loves to dance." Green eyes turned back Adeline's way. "You are an artist then. Are you willing to show your sketches?"

She was content to listen, a little tired after keeping up with Burgeous. She also looked at Anne. "Is your studio open every day?"

Blue eyes turned on Marina, she was quiet once more gathered. He offered her a reassuring touch of a smile. Perhaps there was a shy side to her or just all that had gone down in her life of recent. Ah, there, she was joining in.

She blinked at him, tilting her head a subtle bit. "If ye are interested in looking." A meek smile was given, she set her mug down on the counter to free her hands. The satchel was untied and opened, she produce a leather bound book of loose papers and offered it to Joseph. The first few pages were just various scenes around the current area of Heathfield such as the lake and the town with buildings lined along the travel paths. All in charcoal. Some were smoothly etched and others were chicken-scratched. Just depending on what would have been more appropriate.

"Every day except Sunday. I need one day to myself, I must admit," she smiled thinly, sipping the wine.

The leather bound of loose papers was taken when offered as he stepped away from where he'd been standing near the stool he'd previously occupied. He brought it over to a cleared section of the bar to set there, plenty of room if anyone else wished to see them too. He was careful in handling them, not to smudge any of the charcoal as he studied each in turn, giving enough time to enjoy the whole then details.

Yes, a touch shy but only because she had spent so much time in isolation. She smiled at Birdie in return then turned her attention to Anne again. "Very understandable. I would think it a necessity to have at least one day. Do you have anyone assisting you?"

"You work hard, a love for dancing would not make it seem like work." Edging his way closer that he could see the sketches as well while Joe turned each over."Do you sell your sketches, Adeline?" Curious as they were good enough to sell.

Adeline retrieved her drink and took another small intake while watching Joseph and Burgeous. "Heathfield has a great deal to offer in the way of beautiful scenes. I was lucky to catch dawn this morn." Green eyes drifted to Burgeous. "Perhaps if someone were to show interest in them."

"I had a partner," Anne was focused on Marina then, "but she fell in love with a sailing captain and went to sea with him, selling me her half of the dance school. So now I teach alone." Pausing, she asked carefully, "Do you pursue an art or a trade?"

"I like the one of the buildings in the square. The angle reminds me of other busier towns." Which he would obvious buy as a reminder of where he came from.

"Not as yet." She smiled again, to show she was not offended by the question. "I am going to Kildare to see my brother and perhaps after that I can settle down and decide what to do. It's been a while since I've been on my own."  And she was quite happy to be that way.

Her mug placed down so she could come around to Joseph's other side and see which one Burgeous spoke of. She smiled some. "It helped that it seemed there was a good deal going on. That was yesterday."

"A good choice Burgeous. There is a gallery here in the castle that does exhibits of local artists." Stepping aside to give them room. "Very well done, I'm impressed. You've captured the feel of not only the town but of the scenes." Had there been elusive lights bouncing about, it would not surprise him.

"Ah, you have family close. You must be looking forward to being reunited, I hope?" She smiled, pleased she hadn't hit a sore spot or tread where she shouldn't have.

Burgeous collected art. "Would you mind signing it?" It seemed as only sketches that minor detail was left off. "Name your price."

"Very. It's been a long time since I've seen him and I've never met his children. His wife, unfortunately , has passed away." She was certain she would have liked her.


Date: 04-20-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 29

He was well aware of the conversation between Marina and Anne, though he didn't interject with such thoughts that came up. Time would tell but he was sure that Anne would find another partner in time to help her out.

Sidelong glance cast to both men with a smile. "Thank you." To their compliments, she nodded to Burgeous. "I would not know what to price it at." She walked to her satchel, picked it up so she could find a stick of charcoal to sign  the picture with, which she did when taking Joseph's side again. Just the corner pinched and turned so as not to smudge it.

"Oh, I'm sorry to hear that. How many children does he have?" Not wanting to linger on the more painful passing of a spouse, she was interested in the children, and Marina's reaction to them.

"Two boys and a girl. I'm not even sure of their ages." She felt her cheeks color. "It was hard to keep in touch because of the distance." Best to not mention her father or late husband.

"I understand." The color in Marina's cheeks was a warning and Anne abruptly shifted conversational topics again. "You've not been here long, if my ears don't deceive me."

He took out a couple silver as that was a good amount for the times. "I have paid this before for well done artwork of one unknown." Who could become known or as most, remain unknown. "Would this suit?"

"A coin well spent Burgeous." Though he was getting more insight on the mission he was to address soon in listening to Marina speak to Anne. He knew it had to cause turmoil within yet she handled herself well in a delicate area. "It wont be long before she gets to see her brother and meet her niece and nephews." There was a bright side and hopefully warn the brother. They could also hope he still had men to back him with Harman's men infiltrating or so the conclusion.

Her name scrolled in the corner beneath one of the buildings, she turned it towards Burgeous to take and smiled at the offered price. "That is very generous of ye, Mister Burgeous. Thank ye." Before taking the coins, she lifted two papers from the back of the book to place the art between them so there'd be less chance of it smudging, then offered all three papers to him. Was Joseph still holding onto the book?! If he was, she relieved him of it with an apologetic smile.

"Not quite two weeks." She looked over at Burgeous and Joe and smiled warmly. "Thanks to these two very gallant gentlemen who aided me." Joe made her smile grow even brighter with his words. "I truly can't wait."

He had set it on the bar to a cleared area so nothing got moisture on it.

"Thank you," pleased with his purchase as he knew where to get it framed. He'd been exploring with Marina in tow, keeping them both company and possibly wearing her out with the energy he had in getting around. Doing so was helping him adjust. He was to go to Ballicastle, Falkirk manor in particular tomorrow and visit his long time friend, Lisette, and her husband. He had bought a rocking horse for their son.

"That's wonderful news." She smiled gently. "I have not known Joseph for long, but I have heard great things of he and his family. I'm not surprised to hear he came to your aid."

A subtle dip of her head to Burgeous. "Aye. And thank ye." The book was carefully collected and returned to the satchel, coins were tucked away and she went back to her drink, content to quietly listen.

He knew little of Anne for that matter and curiosity tended to take over his thoughts bringing about certain questions. "Where did you hail from originally Anne?" Wondering what kind of adventures she had faced before reaching these lands. Many were content not to have such adventures that had your blood racing and your thoughts whirling to survive. Some lived for it.

She nodded then settled to listen a moment while she sipped her tea.

He handed the sketch to Alex so he could put it carefully into one of the slots with his room number on it. It would be safer there presently until he got the chance to head to the gallery. Possibly on the morrow.

"I was born in Ireland, but left for France when I was five to enter the academy." She didn't often talk about her life, simply because there wasn't much to say when most of it had been spent in dance classes or in the theatre.

"How did you like France? Did you miss Ireland?" He was curious as he knew those of France, their experiences such they could not go back without facing a lot of trouble.

"One thing about the French, they love their dance." Having to make that comment as obviously he was listening. His glass then drawn up again for more of the smooth burn potcheen had to offer.

She had to laugh softly, gray blue eyes shifting to Burgeous. "And do you, Burgeous? I didn't get to see you dance before we left." Teasing just a touch.

Finishing her drink, the mug was set down so she could collect her things. "Mister Joseph, Miss Anneliese it was nice to see ye again. Mister Burgeous, Miss Marina it was nice to meet ye. I hope ye all have a pleasant evening." Then took to her room for the night.

"Good night, Adeline." She nodded a farewell, then glanced to Joe. "I did miss Ireland at first, but France kept me far too busy to brood on it. The other girls made fun of me for a while, having such an accent, but I soon learned French, and the Irish faded away."

His free hand lifting to rest over his heart. "I must admit in all truth, I love the dance. More, watching others dance. The looks exchanged, the placement of hands and feet tell so much.."

The dull thud of his boots would be heard coming up the steps of the tavern, a hand reached up to push open the door He wore black pants and a black hooded cloak, his face hidden beneath the shadows of his hood. He carried a sword at his side and a dagger hidden within his boot, in his right hand he grasped an old wooden cane. He made his way to a secluded table and took a seat, a rather heavy limp in his walk, blue eyes peered around from beneath the shadows of his hood, observing the tavern and its occupants.

"Good night, Adeline." She smiled again. "It was nice to meet you as well." Then she was listening again, though Birdie had her nodding. "I agree. One who dances well is a pleasure to watch."

She was too quick in taking her leave. "Good night," added in as Adeline rushed off. Perhaps it had been a long day for her.

"It is why I shall have to come to Anne's dance studio to see her dance," addressed to Marina but blue eyes turned with a twinkle in them upon Anne.

"Good evening," greeting the man with the cane coming it. "Alex will see to any drink or food you wish. There is no cost here." Alex had moved to wait on the man if he so requested any food or drink. Though, Alex didn't wait on tables he would find, anything gotten was at the bar which he rarely left unattended.

He bowed his head politely at Joseph then ordered an ale from Alex.

"And you would be welcome to do so, Burgeous," Anne replied warmly.

Which had him smile in response with a dip of his head in acceptance. "When you are back, you should come as well Marina." He was sure she was taught most of the formal dances.

"Good evening, sir." She greeted the man with a nod of her head then turned back to the conversation. "I think I will."

His hand reached up and pulled his hood down to reveal his face. He had a slight stubble and a scar running through his right brow but all of the focus would be on his eyes, they were simply stunning and majestic, a shade of blue you would never think possible. Those glowing eyes would once again gaze about the tavern.

"I am Joseph, the ladies Anne and Marina as well my friend Burgeous. Have you traveled far?" Addressing the unknown male cordially as he was also discreetly studied.

She nodded politely to the man, offering only a "Good evening."

He moved his gaze to Joseph. " I am Aiden, a pleasure to meet you all," he paused to give a polite bow of his head, "I have indeed traveled far, but from no specific place, I simply travel to where I see fit."

He gave the man a slight uplift of his chin in greeting. "Well in the meet, Aiden." As his name was offered.

"Well met, Aiden." She smiled as she greeted him then finished her tea and placed the empty cup aside, shaking her head as Alex offered to refill it.

"Much like a few Gypsies I know." Plus himself in his earlier years. "Welcome to the lands of Heathfield. If you need a room for the night, they are offered without cost here."

"Thank you sir, I just may need a room for the night, I have yet to decide if I shall stay or continue my with my travels."

His drink done, it was time to get some sleep for a busy day planned tomorrow. "I will see you both before you leave tomorrow, Joe, Marina. Then I shall await your return and news."

"The offer is there if you should." Reason why he mentioned it. Take or leave, there was no pressure on those who came here. As Birdie spoke up, attention shifted there. "Come to the ranch for breakfast, both of you." Invitation to both Birdie and Marina as they could leave from there once his children were ready.

"Rest well, Burgeous, and thank you for the shopping trip." She looked at Joe and nodded. "I would enjoy that." And she'd pack her things tonight before she went to sleep.

"I will escort Marina there come morning." He would see them off then continue to Ballicastle and Falkirk in particular. The gift for Lisette's son was sent already and should be there before he arrived.

"Good night, Burgeous, it was a pleasure to meet you," she piped up finally.

"A good night, a pleasure meeting you Anne. I look forward to visiting your studio soon. Safe in your travels, Aiden," setting the empty glass to the bar before he was heading for the corridor that would lead to the stairwell and rooms upstairs.

Birdie seemed to be adjusting and it was strange not to see him attired like he'd be in England for the ruse he presented. He wondered if it was hard for his friend to break such a habit. He considered convincing him to attend Anne's studio like he would an English gathering. Ah yes, something for when he got back, a good show to sit back and watch.

"I should probably make my way upstairs as well and pack." She had yet to discover Burgeous' presents among her shopping. "Anne, it was good to see you again, and I'll be visiting when we return. Joseph, I'll see you tomorrow.  And Aiden, if you do stay, you'll find the room quite comfortable. Good night to you all."

"Likewise. Have a safe journey." Finishing off her wine, she stood and smiled. "Good night, Joseph. Aiden, enjoy your stay." With that, she took herself off as well.

"Good night Anne," perhaps it was that time to get home especially if he was to be up and ready early tomorrow.

She gathered her purchases, taking note that there were more there than she remembered, then she headed up the stairs, in Burgeous' wake.

With everyone taking their leave, he was on his way home as well.


Date: 05-05-09
Poster: Corina Turlough
Post # 30

The Wedding Gown

Corina got a message from the head seamstress that her wedding gown was ready for final fittings, plus she needed the colors picked out for the bridesmaid gowns. It was evening by this time she got the note but they had a guard escort, six in all to accompany them to the square. The Commons was fairly safe but all considering they took the extra precautions. A carriage was made ready as she sent one of the handmaids to alert Alexandra, Rosalind and Vadoma. She would need to write to her sister for she'd like her to be one of her bridesmaids too. Attired in a simple gown of pale yellow, one she could get in and out of easily without much fuss, she waited on them outside in the carriage for it was a balmy night, only a shawl of Irish lace over her shoulders.

Told of Corina awaiting them, Rosalind called for Alexandra and fetched a light shawl of her own to keep the cool at bay. Down the stairs she went to join Corina directly in the carriage, leaving plenty room for Vadoma and Alexandra when they arrived. Her choice the evening of gown was ever simple, this one of soft, dusty blue with an ecru ruffle to the hem and an edging of lace round the collar, a ribband to match holding back golden hair. Aided in entering by the waiting footman, she smiled to see Corina. "A pretty daisy you look in your yellow."

Vadoma received the note as she was looking over a letter from a distant relative. She quickly found her shawl and was down to join the others. Her gown was a pale green while the shawl she wore was of Spanish make, black with shades of green embroidery. She smiled warmly at Corina and Rosalind as she climbed into the carriage. "Good evening to you both. It's a lovely night, isn't it?"

Alexandra was running a little late and hurried down to join the others. Arriving just behind Vadoma, albeit a little out of breath, she smiled and wiggled her fingers in greeting before taking her seat to calm down. "Sorry, sorry... I was distracted. Fittings tonight?"

"And you a pretty bluebell, Vadoma like the new leaves sprouting and Ally like spring's first breath, or out of breath. Did you see the knights come in?" She had said she was distracted and so she would lightly tease her. They knights were a sight that would have any woman take notice even if such didn't go beyond that notice. Moving right along. "You all will be bridesmaids for me as well my sister? Would you like all the same color gowns or different colors of the same styling. Should they be of silk or some other lightweight material?" Twenty questions as they started on their way. She was open to any voting on the matter.

"The knights are come? Sure and I did not notice such..." Her words were given over to talk of wedding and bride's maids dresses, a smile curling her lips for anticipation of such a happy occasion. "Should not such be your decision, Corina? Perhaps do you not wish us all in the same exact colour, but shades of one? And do you yourself intend wear silk or satin?"

"I'm afraid I was on the other side of the castle." She gave Corina an impish look before nodding her agreement with Rosalind. "I would think you should chose. I'm happy with anything as long as there's a wedding happening." And it was a welcomed one after all.

"Not to sound like an echo, but I agree. Though the idea of choosing shades of one color sounds pretty." She nodded, agreeing with all of them. "It's your day, Corina. We're just here to help and support you."

She listened to each, not really surprised Rosalind nor Vadoma had missed the arrival of the knights, three of them and then again they had not been in the area where they were. It was only a tease on Alexandra. "I like the idea of varying hues of the same color. My wedding gown is made of silk organza, petite flowers, pale green leaves with pearls offsetting along the hem, bust, neckline and shoulder puffs." Least what she called them in how they looked. "Greens, blues or oranges?" By that time they had arrived as the footman was down and around to help each of them out. Mrs Summerlin was waiting at her large display window, only to quickly be at the door to open it up, waiting to greet the ladies respectful of their station.

"I would think a blue or a green would be right lovely for a late spring wedding, but sure and that is only my opinion." Looking up to see the seamstress awaiting their arrival, she smiled to her and waited for Corina descend first.

"And there are so many choices in those shades." She liked orange too but would be happy with any of the three. "I think it will depend on the material as well." Mrs Summerlin received a warm smile as she followed Corina and Rosalind inside.

Alexandra brought up the rear to trail the trio inside, smiling a little to herself at the tease on the knights. Deciding it was best not to say anything, she was alertly listening to the banter and decisions flying around her.

She had a feeling that if Alexandra ever fell for a man, it would be like a thief in the night of the one to steal it. Just idle thoughts and Vadoma pretty much the same, a little impish smile as they headed inside. The woman and her husband greeted cordially as she was led into a back room where the gown hung on a makeshift form on a platform. One that had three large mirrors so one could see a few views in how it would look on them. She was led there, and helped out of her plain gown by Mrs Summerlin then into the gorgeous wedding gown that looked like she should be on top an elaborate cake or something. They would definitely have to do something special with the long straight blond hair for that day. She blinked a few times at her reflection, "oh my," never had she seen a gown so beautiful and it fitted her perfectly, or so she thought, Mrs Summerlin was fussing however, taking pinches here and there about her waist, adjusting the shoulders and so on.

"Corina, you look beautiful." Rosalind stood the side to watch the fitting with an eye to doing much the same herself soon did all work out as hoped. "You'll nigh take Gaidan's breath away by the sight of you. A proper princess you look."

"Absolutely perfect." She had her hands clasped in front of her as she study the gown from all angles. "Gaidan might not be able to speak when he sees her." She gave Rosalind an impish grin. "And Leoric will have to nudge him."

"We might have to remember to remind the men in the congregation to close their mouths, and all the women," she added with a teasing gleam in her eye, "will be as green as all the frogs in the pond."

She was blushing yet her heart surged just thinking on how Gaidan would respond seeing her in such a gown. "I hope he likes it," hoped to see that surprised look in his eyes with something more. Laughing hearing Vadoma's comment, "I think I would like speechless for a few minutes." Eyes were bright as putting the gown on made it all that more real what was to take place soon. "Then we shall choose shades of green in silks for you all," going by Alexandra's comment as it chose the color they should wear. "You need but pick out the shade you wish amongst you. With all going on, I figure the wedding will be in June the earliest." Hoping that it wasn't later at this point. A fall wedding had been hoped for but she liked the idea of a warm day, light breeze and wearing silks instead of  satin. Mrs Summerlin had gotten out swatches of the varying green silks she had. Forest green, hunter green, moss green, leaf green, grass green and mint amongst a few others.

"Aye, perhaps but weddings in June are a superstition as the marriage will be long and loving." Giving Corina a smile, she wished not to muss her in her gown with a hug. "I think Gaidan will like it very well, you could not have chosen aught suited you better." Going to look after the swatches, Rosalind enquired, "Your sister will be your maid of honour, aye?"

"It's going to be hard to make a choice though I think I favor this shade." She fingered a swatch of the mint shade. "Or this one." Just a touch darker in grass green. Dark eyes shifted from the materials to Corina as she waited for the answer to Rosalind's question.

Making her choice, she went with the lighter green as it suited her blonde coloring better and laid it aside, turning an expectant expression to the two ladies' conversation.

"Yes, and lucky we are both to be alive." Certainly so happy as she was. "We started our adventure to the lands of Heathfield a number of years ago, landed in a shipwreck off the shore from where the lighthouse stands." She was very grateful they had all survived, sister and brother for many had not. Here she was about to become a wife. After Mrs Summerlin was finished with her adjustments to be made, she helped her back out of the gown and into her regular one. "Oh, let me see," she was over to see which shades of green they picked.


Rosalind followed that she might look to see the which Vadoma and Alexandra selected for their favoured colours, curious to know of Corina's approval. "You'll need choose the colour for your sister's gown as well, I am thinking, Corina." For her part, she was for the mint green suiting her blonde hair and complexion.

She held up the grass green to herself and nodded. "I think this one will suit, don't you? And yes, you'll definitely have to pick the color. What is her coloring?" She was hoping the problems here would be over soon so the wedding wouldn't be delayed too long.

Holding the mint up for Rosalind to inspect, she offered the hunter green to Corina as her choice, preferring the darker color while listening to the conversation. "Yellow and white flowers, maybe? Or pink and white..." She was half-musing to herself, then returned her focus to the matter at hand: The dresses.

"I think the moss green would suit her well, not too light nor too dark." It would fit in amongst the other chosen shades. Mrs Summerlin had her ear quietly before moving off to jot down the notes. "Oh, and while we are here, we're each to pick two shades for the start of our spring wardrobe, the voucher has arrived and Mrs Summerlin would like to get started on them soon as the other gowns are made, not having to interrupt us again." Which the woman had left the book there to pick the styles from. "Unless you think she should have a complimentary color? Cairenn would look good in almost any color," smile quickly spreading. "I'm lucky she didn't meet Gaidan before I did!"

"That which is meant to be, will be. You were meant for Gaidan and he for you, naught should persuade you otherwise." Smiling, she touched Corina's shoulder and went to sort through the colour swatches for her spring gowns. "I think, do you ask me, that your bridal maids ought to be in shades of the same colour, for the focus needs be you, Corina."

"Aye, I agree and that is exactly as it should be." She laughed softly at mention of her sister. "And I'm sure things would have been the same, perhaps only delayed for a little while." She would consider the other colors in a little while.

Rosalind and Vadoma summed it up perfectly, so Alexandra peeked over their shoulders at the offerings of rainbow shades in lighter hues for the spring season. "That would look good on you, Vadoma," she pointed to a soft lilac swatch of silk.

"A light green and a pale rose for me," which she picked the swatches out for the next two gowns before leafing through the styles book, "oh, look at this French dress, all the lace and hats seem to be in as well." Stylish looking made of the same material of the gown in accent. "Missy will be the flower girl and I'd like you to compose a gown with all the shades of green we have chosen for the bridesmaids using white as needed in an overlay, Mrs Summerlin." Which the woman nodded her head approvingly while making the notes. She had Missy's size still. Corina paused on a page, elegant styling, streamline that might fit for the gowns, nothing overdone and there were off the shoulder capes to go with them.

"And I will have these prints, do you please." Rosalind chose a white with yellow and green print, and another of light blue printed with cream.

"It is lovely, isn't it?" She was over to examine the material then another. The lilac would be a certain choice while she wasn't sure what else she wanted until she saw a pale yellow material. "And I think perhaps that one." On closer examination she was delighted to noticed a tiny dot pattern in a darker yellow.

Her own choices were made discreetly, selecting a dusty blue and a cream and green paisley print for herself. "Do we want to pick out spring hats just in case?"

"My sister has not a man and there are three handsome, single knights here.." Corina was sliding into her more wicked mood as the impish smile curled. "So we have three single men and three single ladies." More mussed to herself, not looking upon Vadoma nor Alexandra directly before checking out the lilac shade, "that is very pretty, some lilac perfume would go perfectly." Next she was off to look over the prints like those Rosalind had chosen. "Maybe I should make the rose a print like this one," one that shaded into a pretty pastel pink flower, minute it didn't become gaudy. Substituting that one for the other. "Wonderful idea Rosalind," if it wasn't for her she would have stuck with plain colors. "I think we should, support the latest styles to show that Kildare is not a barbaric kingdom any longer, that progress is being made in all areas."

"Sure and it will do good to support the businesses growing as well." She nodded in agreement. "With your wedding coming fast and being in town the day, we ought see about aught else you'll be needing. Shoes, flowers, aught special for the cooks and the like."


She didn't care much for hats but would go along of course. Maybe she'd learn to like them. "Yes, the flowers will be important and depending on the weather, will you have it in the garden?"

Alexandra turned away to ask Mrs. Summerlin for a piece of paper and a pencil, the better to keep accurate notes so nothing was forgotten.

"If the dancing platform is finished in time, we can have it out in the garden, I like that idea. Lots of room for guests too." As the heads of the other kingdoms, Gaidan's family was fairly big and her brother would also be coming. She would get advice from Gaidan to make out the list and invitations sent once they set an exact date. "I think we should go visit the cake shop, the florist, shoes as well but I think Mrs Summerlin can see to those to make sure the colors match the gowns." Which the woman nodded in affirmation she would see to the silk dress shoes. "Shall we head out, everyone picked their preferences?" It seemed all was in order here and the seamstress could get to work as she had much to do, though she had experienced workers that did the preliminaries.

"Aye, I think as we're ready move on." Rosalind nodded with a cheerful smile. "I've never seen to a wedding before. I think it's exciting."

"Yes, I've finished." She smiled at Rosalind. "It's been a long time since I've been to one. It's all very exciting, isn't it?" And she was sure they'd all be amaze at how wonderfully it would come together.

Finishing the last note of places to visit, she handed the pencil back to Mrs. Summerlin with a grin. "Then lead the way, my ladies... there's plenty more to do and less time in which to do it if you're wanting a June wedding."



Date: 05-05-09
Poster: Broch Cunningham
Post # 31

Kildare Bound

The three Cunningham brothers set out for Kildare the following day, late afternoon to be exact for Broch needed to get a buckboard. One that was weather worn to fit the ruse. If they had gotten a new one, it would only take one observant warrior to call their bluff. Old clothing was also worn, gotten from that extra room in the Thistle. So they didn't fit perfectly as his outfit proved. They were clean, that could be taken care of once on the mission. He would man the buckboard pulled by a mule. There was one older workhorse tied to the back of the wagon. Both his brothers could ride with him but once headed for the Swan Lake marketplace, they would walk alongside. The wagon was sturdy though patched in places as they rumbled along, "now all we need is a woman to pose as your Ma. I'm leaving that to Leoric as he will be able to give me the older appearance of being your Da." Grin turned on his brothers before focus trained back on the road. Straw hat helped to keep the bugs out of his eyes that had been numerous of late, as well the smoke drifting from the corn cob pipe kept them at bay. Tobacco coveted and a sign of meager wealth, least to this working class. "We'll be getting three heads of cattle there to bring to market, any more would be suspicious as well only one. It's how I can afford this tobacco." Poet's shirt was worn, frayed around the neckline and cuffs, leather vest looked like it had been worn a good ten years as well the boots lacing up. The heels worn down but fitted.

Logan eyed his brother with a long pause before grinning wide, "I think you're enjoying this far too much, Broch. So we're to have a Ma? Will she be pretty, I like older women," just to egg him on. He had a similar straw hat with the length of his hair pulled back in a tail, mostly hidden away. He had let the scruff build up over his chin in an uneven way, couldn't afford a proper shave and too much work to be done to bother. He wore an old leather tunic and otherwise bare beneath, arms showing, worn pants that had a few patches and boots that had seen better days. "We should probably pick some names and get use to using them. I'll be Jacob." A fairly common name amongst peasants.

He was laughing as he listened to the two, though he was constantly watching the road.. A straw hat worm of course, and like Logan, he looked scruffy. A threat-bare poet's shirt was worn beneath a vest, the sleeves of the shirt rolled up. His pants were patched at the knee, boots lower than what he normally wore and well worn. "I shouldn't keep Mike then. What about Will for me?" He swatted at a swarm of bugs that they road through then chuckled. "Maybe he'll make her toothless so she's not too appealing?"  Poor lass would need a lot of patience too.

"Yea bae go'in aft'er yea mot'er, I bae going aft'er yea 'ides," teasing yet if they were even remotely serious, he would pound them. Logan would be a challenge of the two for his build but Broch was bigger still. Thankfully. Which reminded him of something as burnished green eyes turned on Michael, "yea bae seriously interested 'n t'e lass yir see'in or yea bae just interested?" Being that Logan was sitting in the middle on the buckboard he had to look around him at Mike for emphasis, but he took advantage of it in shouldering Logan, "'bout time yea found yerself a lass, Logan." Then back to Mike, "yea kin iffin yea get serious yea may wis' tae bae s'ifting yea profession." He didn't know of any woman that wouldn't have a problem with their profession, especially if they got married and started having children. Laura had been exceptional on it of late but then again she wasn't married to them.

Logan raised his hands in a defensive manner as if about to be attacked. "I figured I'd let you two settle down first." Hands lowering to rest aside onto the buckboard for stability as it started hitting rougher road. "I am, after all, much younger," making it sound like the two of them were old compared to him, "and still many years to sow those wild oats I hear tell about." He couldn't keep the grin at bay making it sound like he was some kind of innocent waiting to become corrupted.

None of the brothers were a small build. Broch might have a run for his money with either. He leaned forward slightly so he could see Broch, frowning slightly as he considered. "It's between those points, I think but closer to serious. Took me by surprise and if I get the chance, I'm going to speak to her brothers when this is all done. I want them to know I'm seeing her and would like to take it to the next step. If she's willing." He made a slight face. "Not sure what else I'd do though. I was a sailor for so long that I didn't think I'd ever stay on dry land. This isn't so bad, but ... aye, I could see where it would be a big worry. Wouldn't want to leave a wife and children alone if it came to that. Something to think about in any case." He gave Logan a look then snickered. "You've been sowing wild oats since you were a wee laddie. Though I'm thinking a lass would have to rope and hogtie you to get you to slow down enough to even notice." Teasing right back as he jumped down from the backboard to lend a hand as needed.

Which had Broch laughing with Mike's last comment, "aye, and once they got to know him better, it would be hogtie, tar and feather him." Of course he was only kidding as a bump of his shoulder indicated right at the moment they hit a bump too. Convenient. "Though he might surprise us both and be the first to get married. Never know.." sounding more close to a threat. As if by saying it, it would happen. Back to a more serious note. "It's why I brought it up, Michael, something to think about and before you take that next step, talk to her about it. Hide nothing that she should know." He didn't believe getting serious meant telling every thought you ever had or every relationship before them which most were just for one thing. That would only eat away at the lass instead of being taken as it should, something in the dead past. On that thought, he didn't feel he needed to tell his dead past, only his siblings warranted knowing. He had thought about that in consideration as he'd been seeing Gaelle, though he hadn't seen her in a while. "Her brothers are in Kildare, once the mission is completed we can look them up. Least find out how they stand on the matter." See if he was going to have trouble with them at all.

"Exactly why no lass is ready for me, for I'm not ready to give up the dangerous life. Even if I gave up bounty hunting, there is still cliff scaling. I'd really have to be swept off my feet," words halting as he stared at Broch a moment then lean back, crossing his forefingers in a warding off hex sign. "Don't you go hexing me like that." Sounding serious and near a touch so before hands lowered with a nervous laugh. "I'll frequent the Flower Garden instead, thank you."

"I appreciate that." Meaning finding them after the mission was over. He flashed Logan a grin before taking off and running a ways ahead. Standing at the ridge, he placed his hands on his hips as he surveyed the road then made his way back. "Looks like a small bit of the road washed out before the bridge but we can get around it all right. Hopefully the rest of the road is in better shape. River's high too." Moving away like that gave him a moment or  two to think, clear his head. He needed to concentrate and didn't want to be worrying about Brigid's brothers. "Mule can be led if he gets too nervous going over the bridge." It was sturdy enough but one never knew what might spook the beast.

"It's been all the rain, seems like they had a downpour here lately. Best you get off as well Logan, so we don't sink into any mud with all your weight," grinning at him as he halted the mule to gander a look ahead where Michael indicated. Giving a nod as it certainly would take caution but should be managed. "Ride the workhorse on ahead Michael see how the ground is, he's surefooted but if conditions are really bad, he'll let you know." Possibly dump his brother!

Logan gave him a wry look for the comment on weight, "I'll have you know it's all muscle, not flab like some others," jumping down from the buckboard with the last so any punch his way would be missed. "I've got me rope if we need it, with the spikes we can make a pulley if it turns out that bad." Moving on ahead so he could survey the area, water was laying over part of the road and small trenches were carrying some of it away as he glanced up over the hill only to get a spectacular view of a waterfall rushing down the side of the mountain, one heavy for the recent rains. "That's where it's coming from," calling out as he turned pointing in the direction of the mountain about twenty acres away. He turned then to survey the bridge with a keen eye, water was high beneath it but didn't reach the bottom, it was rushing fast enough to make a thunderous sound the closer one got.

He gave a nod though he was laughing at the weight comment from both brothers. Mounting the horse, he urged him forward and nodded. "Aye. Makes for some spectacular scenery but if they get more rain, they might have some travel problems." He wouldn't be able to hear either once he got closer to the bridge. The workhorse wasn't to be rushed and Mike certainly wasn't going to insist on it. He let him pick his own pace as they checked the ground that lay beneath water. This close to the bridge he could see the wagon had enough room to avoid the washed-out part of the road.

Broch started up the mule in Michael's wake, there was a method to his madness as they veered off the road where the grass and moss grew thicker amongst stones. The going would be slower but it would bypass the large puddles and soaked earth making up that part of the road, conditions wheels got stuck in. The mule halted seemingly indecisive to continue but a tap on his rump gained laid back ears, "keep 'er going ole coot!" Worse to stop for even grass could get slippery which they were doing in spots.

Logan took up the rear, bracing his hands against the back of the buckboard to help in any areas where the possibility of slipping started. Keeping pace with them easily at this rate. He kicked away a water snake at one point as he near stepped on it, muttering under his breath though use to them as well others found along the cliffs. Least the water snake were harmless unlike the rattlers, where his whip came in handy. That too was carried.

The workhorse balked for a moment, then stepped to the side and avoided the center of one of the larger puddles. "Might be deep there." He shouted out over the water, and pointed as he turned on the horse to watch the wagon. Dismounting, he walked back to grab the bridle of the mule and keep it moving forward. The workhorse plodded ahead, over the bridge and took advantage of his wait, cropping grass that grew there.

By this time it was getting late, they were in Tyremoor lands at least. "A few more hours and we should be at the Owl's Nest. Try not to get into too many fights," he loved goading his brothers for they gave it right back at him! The mule was steadfast as he set him at a steady pace, not too fast nor too slow but just enough to get them through without getting stuck. There was one spot, had to be a large rock beneath that he coaxed the mule to give it his all, mule bayed but then hooves dug in with a stubborn determination horses didn't quite possess. Mike taking the bridle at that point helped. It got the wagon, even with it shifting precariously to one side briefly, through and back onto the road where it sloped up before the bridge. Once there he halted the mule and was out to affix the lanterns, one hanging from an iron bar out over ahead of the mule. Two more attached to either side of the wagon to see left and right as needed, giving the mule a quick rest while he saw to the task. Once done, he would be back up onto the buckboard to take it across the bridge.

Logan put his shoulder in against the back as the wagon pitched then lifted trying to get over some large rock beneath. Near fell in too when the mule dug in and dragged it over. Did one of those pinwheels with his arms to catch his balance. Luckily Broch couldn't see him for he knew he'd not hear the end of it! He also found out that one of his boot heels was so worn, it leaked for the deeper water he had to trudge through. Glad to be on solid footing as he unhooked his flask for a quick drink of the pure. Catching up as it was corked and placed back on his belt before helping Broch set up the lanterns. By this time it was dark gray shadows filling in around them. "Best to get over the bridge, terrain is higher going through Tyremoor." Grinning before his next comment. "I'll follow yours and Mike's lead at the Owl's nest, clean up man." Swinging up onto the buckboard as Broch started across the bridge.

He near held his breath as the wagon shifted but the mule did a good job. Steadying the mule, he scratched between his ears then headed across the bridge for the workhorse. The horse teased a bit, moving just out of reach each time Mike reached for the lead but finally he allowed himself to be caught and tied to the back of the wagon again. Mike was grumbling under his breath as he jumped up into the buckboard and joined his brothers once more. "Broch's the oldest. He takes the first swing, then we can get right into it." By the time they reached the Inn, the only thing he'd be wanting is a good meal, a drink and a warm bed!



Date: 05-07-09
Poster: Logan Cunningham
Post # 32

Owl's Nest Inn

He passed around a small basket of food that Hazel provided him with, one they ate their dinner from earlier and still enough left to snack on. Broch found his appetite was back. Logan had been right about the higher grounds and the traveling, though different at night, was easier in that respect. A wolf howled in the distance and answered by another even further away. A group of three on horseback passed them, wary glances exchanged on both sides which only told Broch they didn't want to run into any trouble either. They would keep ploughing ahead, seeing little of Tyremoor at this point as they neared the border.

Logan automatically straightened as he was on the end this time after they all settled on the buckboard, a hand moving down to the handle of his knife in a way the three knew he had one and the glint in his eye was fair warning he knew how to use it. Perhaps that was the wary glance Broch got to see as being on the other side with Mike in between he'd not see the subtle gesture in warning. Luckily they would not be stopping to set up camp for the three looked like the types that would double back and try and take them by surprise. There were a lot of varying noises in the forests they passed, obviously filled with wildlife of all kinds and the nocturnal on the hunt. Both the mule and horse showed signs of fear every so often as certain scents were picked up. Though most animals of the wild didn't attack humans. Wasn't too long where he spotted the turn off from the main North Road above Tyremoor in Kildare lands. "Turn is just up ahead where that large tree leans out over the road." Which sometimes made it difficult to spot if you had never been here, which his brother had not.

Mike was munching on a bit of bread when the three passed them and he just watched them from beneath the brim of his hat. Shadows made it hard to see his face even with the lanterns but he could feel Logan tensing. He finished the bread then glanced to the side where it seemed there was some growling going on. Likely a wolf on the hunt from the sounds of it. He wasn't too worried on the horse since the lead had been tied in a good knot but the sounds had him looking into the woods a few times. Looking up, he nodded then grinned. "Not long to the Inn then." He might seemed relax but he was listening to every sound.

Broch seemed to pick up on his brothers and their reactions. "I'd only worry once in Kildare and those upper forests where the rumors are on some unnatural beasts. They say you don't even know what hit you, sounds all around before your body is being ripped to shreds and eaten alive as you stand there in shock." Like the older brother telling grueling horror stories to his younger brothers, well, it was exactly that except there were such rumors! He turned the mule onto the side rode after passing the leaning tree. Looked like lightning had struck that one as it was eyed when passing. The lights from the tavern washed out over a green lawn, one that hadn't been trimmed yet for the continual rains more than likely. Drizzle was starting up and he wondered a moment if it was only raining here on this tavern and lands. A stable lad in a slicker ran out to offer to see to the wagon, mule and horse for a coin. Broch gave him two as he got down and off the buckboard. "Extra care lad and you'll see another one of those on the morrow." The lad was bobbing his head with a rare toothy smile like one that just came into money a bit more than the usual. The basket would go with them, what was left wouldn't last much longer, as well his duffel bag with a change of clothes and a few necessities.

"Don't worry brother, those beasts would take one look at Mike, tuck their tails and go screaming away," teasing of course before they were at their destination. Leaving Broch to the stable lad as he was out to collect his bag, leaving nothing to be stolen for certain anything of value would be in a place like this. He headed up the steps, crossing the porch and through the open door. The noise could be heard from outside and a lot louder within. He was directly over to the tender to see about a double room with three beds. A place this big usually had them which the man handed him over a key for a price. Little steeper but not the cost of three separate ones. There seemed to be a pretty good crowd inside drinking it up. He was also given a run down of what was being served in the way of food this evening if they were interested.

"Aye, they'd take one good look at this hat and run away afraid of who dwelled beneath it." He agreed with a good-natured laugh, though he knew the stories weren't really to be taken lightly. Watching the boy a moment, he chuckled, then grabbed his own pack, hoisting it over a shoulder as he turned to follow Logan. He wasn't surprised at the crowd for on a night like this it was better to be inside then out. He had caught the scent of smoke hanging in the area of the tree and wondered for a moment how long ago that storm had been but it was forgotten as he leaned at the bar beside Logan and listened to the list of food offered.

He was in after his brothers once the lad led off the mule and horse with the wagon. Bag slung over his shoulder as he came up behind the two of them. "Can't say I'm hungry but I could use a couple of shots of whiskey. If you've not potcheen then Tullamore Dew iffin yea 'ave it," the brogue working its way through as certain an Irish lad born as he addressed the tender. The latter was set out but the man inquired about this potcheen for they had not been the first to ask on it. Which he gave him the information and contact if he wanted to start up a supply. Man was grateful and offered the whiskey on the house, then again they were already spending a pretty copper for the better room.

Logan collected the bottle thanking the man as he handed the three glasses to Mike to carry. "Lead on brother, your treat tonight," grinning being it was free.

Drinks sounded good to him since they had eaten a good portion of the food Hazel had packed for them. He nodded at the tender, not saying a word while either brother talked. He did however, watch those in the common room, though it would not be an easy thing to tell with that hat. Collecting the glasses, he pretended to sigh, an act put on though a moment later, the grin returned. "Always glad to buy a drink for family."

Broch was over to claim an empty table near a window, one which showed they had gotten in just in time as it had started pouring out. That would have been all they needed after the time with the wagon, to get drenched as the finale. Drawing out two chairs before the one he was to occupy as he sat down, weary to the bone he realized after the long haul.

There was a rough looking bunch of about five that had been playing cards and after finishing up were watching the three of them with that glint of trouble in their eyes. Logan noticed and well knowing neither of his brothers wanted to get in a fight, detoured their way with a comment as he got close. "Ever hear of the one called the Cliff Hanger?" One of the men had started to rise, willing to start the fight but when he heard that comment, he sat back down. Obviously they had heard of the one. Logan tipped his hat, "have a good night." Since they decided better of the fight, which they would lose though five against three. He was back over to take up the seat pulled out for him and pour their drinks.

He pretty much ignored the five though watching them from the corner of his eye. With Logan trailing behind, he pulled out a chair and sat, watching with interest as his younger brother handled the situation very nicely. He placed the glasses on the table, tipping his hat back so his brothers could see his face. "Good night to be inside, isn't it?" He gave Logan a hint of a smile but there was laughter in his eyes.

Broch watched the incident though really couldn't hear what he said to the men for the distance between and other loud patrons within. A rowdy bunch with a few in their cups. "Sae, brot'er, w'at did yea tell 'em to put t'e fear o' God 'n t'eir eyes?" The man that had started to rise was quite a big fellow. Broch had risen in case there was to be a fight but took up his seat again when it was diffused.

Logan grinned a moment, "when rumors come in handy. There is a story," lowering his voice so they were not overheard, "about one that became known as the Cliff Hanger. He was jumped one time while out scaling a mountain and had reached the top, startling two highwaymen. Of course they decided to truss up the man and take anything of value. Except, he trussed them up. One he hung down over the side of the cliff where there was a ledge with a coiled up snake rattling in warning. The man didn't know he was actually out if its striking distance and each lunge the rattler made had him screaming until he passed out. If he had been in range it would have been his face and instant death. Once he passed out, I hauled him up for I was not leaving my equipment there, he could get down his buddy I strung up in the tree once he revived. The story grew that a half dozen or more men tried to jump the Cliff Hanger and he had trussed a few into the tree and some over the side of the cliff for the snakes to get." Looking quite pleased as he lifted his glass to kick back its contents.

He hadn't been sure what was said either but it was the results that had him grinning. He took a drink while he listened then chuckled softly. "Well now, that's quite a tale isn't it, and came in handy. I'm not sure I'm up for a fight." Of course, he'd have no problem at all, and knew Broch wouldn't either. "I have to say though, I would have liked to of seen it."

Broch drank to that and refilled their glasses. "Aye, I'm always ready even if dead tired if it need be the course of action. But I'm grateful to the Cliff Hanger, this will need not be one of those nights." It was becoming obvious Logan had traveled these lands in his search for another cliff to scale. He was right proud of him. "Maybe you can teach me to scale a cliff, I hear you taught Mike."

"It was a bit before I taught you Mike and certainly I can teach you Broch, we can make a trip of it. It is safer in numbers," but that fact never stopped him. Though a few times he had cursed that another had not been with him. Such occasions only forced him to think of a way out of any new challenge that he got caught up in. He had some creative alternatives that had worked, obviously. Cheating death a few times that wagered a claim. He finished off the next drink as it was getting late and they all needed a good night's rest before continuing to Kildare. The lands would get rougher and for their getup, some thinking them easy targets. "I'm for bed." Rising from his seat as he drew out the key.

"Aye, and he's a good teacher." Though there were times Mike had wondered what he had gotten himself into. He enjoyed it now though. Finishing his drink as well, he nodded and stood. "Aye, I could use some sleep meself about now." He glanced around briefly but it seemed most had lost interest in the three men.

Broch finished off his drink but took the complimentary bottle with him for it was at least half full. They could enjoy a few more drinks upstairs in their room. He had the directions in how to find the room for it was a literal maze he was told. So many additions, you had to go up or down steps to get to other parts and through areas to get where you needed to go. Many had gotten lost and it was an ongoing amusement, especially if they had too many. "Aye, a guid night sleep is in order." They all needed to be rested and alert for this mission. That group was back to playing another game of cards and best that they had as he led the way to their room upstairs with nary a glance to any left in the tavern.



Date: 05-11-09
Poster: Michael Cunningham
Post # 33


The night passed with no trouble and Mike woke early, feeling refreshed though stiff from riding in the wagon. He was downstairs to order breakfast, a big one of bacon, eggs, biscuits, fried potatoes, toast, and coffee. Knowing his brothers would be down shortly, he told the serving maid to wait to place the order except for the coffee. The common room was quiet, those from the night before likely off to work or perhaps still in their beds. It was still before dawn but he could hear the birds twittering as they woke to begin their day and greet the sun.

Most of the crowd, least the ones they'd have to worry on, were locals and had gone home late or more aptly, wee hours of the morning. Quiet was good, at least he slept well enough as he was out from his room, a fist to pound on Logan's and Mike's door as he passed in case they were not up. He had his possessions with him for he didn't plan on returning to the room. He caught sight of Mike at least once he entered the tavern area now serving as the breakfast room. "T'e works lass, I bae 'ungry," addressed to the maid serving as by his size and looks, she'd know to fill his plate with all they were serving, joining Mike as he drew up a chair to sit. "Will one o' us bae need'in tae drag our brot'er out o' bed yea t'ink?" or Logan would be missing breakfast if they had to.

Logan was fast asleep when the pounding came on the door. Though he slept well on the norm, he bolted up from the bed ready to fight. Hands fisted with a dream haze look in his eyes for a few seconds until reality overtook that hazy look. Luckily no one was there to see him as he eased from his defensive stance, fingers driving through his hair as he continued to wake up more. The scent of cooking had his stomach growling and he went to glance out the window, only to discover this room had none! No wonder he overslept, he woke with dawn's light. Grumbling under his breath he was quickly dressed, and his belongings tucked in the duffel bag to swing over his shoulder as he bolted out of the room, leaving the door open behind him as he hurried down to the tavern area. Slow grin spreading but nothing said as he was over to join his brothers. Least there was no sign they had eaten yet. Calling out to the maid that looked his way while drawing out a chair to sit, "I'll have the same as them."

He shook his head chuckling. "No. I'm sure he'll be down shortly." He didn't know that Broch had knocked on the door but he knew Logan. Nodding toward the entryway, he watched as Logan joined them. "I ordered coffee for us." And the lass was bringing it even as he spoke. He waited until she left then looked at Broch. "So when do you think we'll be reaching Kildare?" Dropping his voice as he spoke.

When the coffee was set, he went for it straight off. "Gett'i
n yir beauty sleep Logan?" Teasing his brother but he hadn't been too far behind them in getting up. Then back to Mike, "from here, by late afternoon at the latest. I'm told we are to go directly to the castle, they will be expecting us. Rooms there and a briefing with Leoric and Gaidan as soon as it can be arranged, so it will probably be within the hour of our arrival unless some major breakout." Or other dire circumstances. They would be top priority otherwise.

"I had the room with a view," sarcasm lacing his voice as he listened to both question and answer, few words as coffee was what he needed most presently.

He nodded then chuckled. "No light? To be truthful, I don't recall if I had a window or not. I fell into bed after undressing, then woke when my stomach decided it was time to wake." He stretched out his legs as he tested the coffee and nodded. It was good and hot and just what he needed.

By then the heaping plates of food were delivered, on a cart, as the waitress set them around to each. Broch saw to a generous tip for being so prompt which gained him a smile from the lass. That was worth it right there as he tossed in a wink before setting to work on his plate. Swallowing after the first, "eat up, we leave soon as we're done. No time to waste as a King and Regent wait on us." Nothing more said as he sated his appetite, as well the lift from the coffee which he had a second of. Eating enough he'd not have to stop for lunch, figuring they would get another good meal once they reached the castle.

"I wake with the light," which pretty much said there had not been a window to offer him this means. Brows lifted with the amount of food piled on their plates but he was hungry and would do it justice.

He nodded at both Broch and Logan and he started on the food being quite hungry. He said nothing more until he was finished, then he leaned back. With such a meal, he wouldn't want to eat until late in the day. He looked at Broch to see if he was ready and if so, he stood and picked up his pack. He was considering walking for part of the way, just to stretch his legs. Might help him to be less stiff come the morrow.

His meal finished and certainly a good start for the day. Once his coffee as done, he gave a nod, all that was needed as he rose. The duffel bag picked up as he was over to see to the tender, returning the keys as he collected the two from his brothers, paying the man and a few words exchanged about the road ahead of them. Mostly to find out if there had been any trouble noteworthy. The lad sent to bring their wagon around along with the workhorse. The stable lad earned that extra coin before the three were on their way.

Silence was fine with Logan as he'd rather be eating than working his jaw in talking. Enjoying his meal as he ate every last bit and finished off three cups of coffee by the time his brothers were done. Only stop he'd need would be a pit stop for all the coffee. Then again it would probably coincide with his brothers. He was once more on the outside seat opposite Broch as the road they were taking showed enough travel.

The sun was beginning to rise as they started out again, the road still rough in places. Mike studied the sky as they traveled, shaking his head once. "Might start raining before we reach the castle." Clouds were forming ahead. He fell back into silence, not really one for small talk.

"Aye, bout t'at would bae welcome over t'e news t'ere 'ave been a number of incidences along t'is stretc' o' road," falling back into his brogue with a thoughtful edge to it. "Damien warned t'ere bae 'ighwaymen about more t'an t'e usual wit' t'e knig'ts occupied wit' ot'er circumstances. Most happen during t'e evening or late nig't bout o' late t'ere 'ave been reports of robberies during daylig't and worse, a few murders." Which usually the highwaymen kept from murdering so they would be considered lesser crimes with the hit and run robberies if caught.


A brow lifted as Logan turned a look his brother's way. "During the day? They have to be lunatics," worse kind. Ones that had gotten that haughty were the most dangerous for being so cocky. "Seems when a Crown has to turn a watch elsewhere it brings out the termites in storm." Man had given them a good warning for in the knowing, they were far more prepared. The thought made his fingers itchy. He was making note of where they were along the road as he knew it well enough, the various landmarks and where a hit most likely would be.

"Lunatics or desperate?" He squinted his eyes briefly in thought then shook his head. "Dangerous in any case but my guess is they don't care." He looked at Logan a moment. "You get any feelings, let us know right away, brother mine, even the smallest one that you'd normally ignore." He trusted Logan's instincts completely and had no doubt he'd speak up but what were brothers for if not to add a little nudge?

"Aye, bae prepared and any gut feelings ye get Logan," mirroring Mike's words to their brother. He'd not been this way so didn't know the terrain although he had his own instincts. "We can truss them up in a nearby tree, let all kin the Cliff 'anger bae travel'in t'e roads." Which was not a bad idea at all for such fears and superstitions kept many to behave than take chances. The wagon rattled along at a steady pace, though he had not been this way before, he was taking it all in with landmarks noted, learning it. Be it a huge tree that stood out from the rest to a rocky area or a certain sight of water in the distance.


Logan half listened to the comments as his perceptions were set on acute more than the norm. There was the great oak with its spreading branches that dominated a field, mostly grass and flowers. It was the craggy area that sloped upwards into dense forest that was coming up around a ben that his hand shoot out towards Broch, forearm across Mike to do so, as a silent signal to stop. Words came low, "keep going ahead at this slower pace." Giving a look to Mike before hopping off the buckboard and heading up the side of the rocky hill to the woods. Enough pines here to obscure a good look of the road below but he knew that would not be the case around the bend.

Mike started when Logan put his arm across him then looked at Broch. He gave him a nod before he was off the wagon as well, giving a quick check toward the horse to make sure the lead was tied well. Didn't want him spooking and taking off. He opened his vest to allow him to reach his weapons easier. A pistol was tucked into his belt, but they were often unreliable. Still, the man it was pointed at would likely not to want to test that. He followed Logan into the wooded area, keeping the wagon in sight.

Logan had a few bolas with him that would wrap around a man's ankles as good as a rope being knotted. Plus he had plenty of rope. He was home in the woods, moving silently with nary a twig to snap under soft sole boots made of leather. One tree then another gave him ample coverage. His instincts on high were not wrong as he spotted six men waiting at the edge of the forest, camouflaged by brush and younger trees in foliage. He crouched down not far from them but far enough they'd not see him. He knew Mike would stay close as he passed him two of the bolas, he had shown him how to use the weapon in lots of practice, now he would get to try it firsthand. Well, on a precaution he offered him another so he had three. He had his pistol if all else failed.

Broch was grumbling under his breath that coincided with the rumbling of the wagon as he moved along. Like a duck decoy and seeming a lone man making a good target even if a peasant. They might not get much from such a mark but most likely they would have their sport instead. Words quieted of such and into a bawdy song as one oblivious of anything possibly amiss coming up. He rounded the bend and knew immediately what Logan suspected for he would the same for the perfect location of a trap. It was then that one man on horseback charged down from his hiding place to block the road. Duly noted that it was too steep on the side the man came from to try and divert the wagon there and a drop off along the opposite side. One only had one option as he started to slow the wagon down. As he started to slow the wagon down, the other five came out and down on foot with weapons drawn to try and surround him and overtake the wagon. That's when he whipped the reins on the rump of the mule, knowing it would infuriate him as he lunged forward at full speed, the mule's ears flattening and teeth bared. The sight had the horse the man was riding rear up just as suddenly and throwing the man from the saddle.

He stayed as close to Logan as was safe, not getting in his way. Logan had been a good teacher and he was nearly as silent though not quite. Moving quickly, he stayed low, grinning when he heard Broch singing. He took the bolas and watched patiently. Six against three -- not bad odds at all though it seemed that little trick with the mule had thrown a bit of a surprise in there. He looked at Logan and gave a slight nod to let him know that he was ready.

Soon as the men were heading down, Logan was up from his crouched position. Being the men would fan out, he indicated to Mike to move to his left to go up behind the two in that direction as he followed the other three down. They would not be noticed as the men were on the move forward and would not be looking behind them. Out from the cover so that he had no interference, he was up swinging the first bola which went flying through the air and around the man's ankles, making him trip up going downhill and square onto his face. Here too, by picking off the ones behind, it would take longer, seconds being crucial, for the ones ahead to realize they were under attack. Just as the first was quick, the second bola was flying to wrap around the second's neck, having him drop his weapons as the air was being cut off from his lungs.

Soon as the man fell, knowing well there were others descending on him, Broch jumped from the buckboard to tackle the man down fallen from his horse. The mule would not go too far especially with the other horse in panic before him. Broch was a much bigger man and that kind of leaping from the height and distance of the buckboard, squished the air right out of the one before Broch scrambled to his feet, taking the one up with a knife to his throat from behind. That's when he got to see what his brothers were doing. He would not be needing a hostage, although the knife was held at the man's throat as a huskier voice growled by his ear. "Bae it kin, the Cliff 'anger bae tak'in o'er t'ese roads 'n claim, 'is territory now." And now more could be added to that legend that he had taken on members like Robin Hood. Broch would fit Little John.

It was hard to not let out a whoop but Mike was up and sending one of the bolas flying toward his first man. Down he went with a tumble and roll, crashing into thorn bushes. The second neared missed their mark but had the man crashing into the trunk of a tree rather than having his air cut off. That left a third who seemed to have decided to desert his partners. Mike went to the first who had fallen and pulled out his pistol, cocking it as the man caught his breath. He stilled as soon as he saw the barrel of the gun pointing toward him. The grin Mike gave him made him look like an insane man who would enjoy pulling the trigger.

Logan grinned as he heard Broch and a legend that would be set this day, right here and now. It would help the King and Regent out. Rope was exchanged for the bola, which he lopped through his belt, before trussing up the first man to hang upside down from the closest tree. "There's more rope in the back of the wagon," addressed to Mike and Broch alike for this task would go quicker with their help. "Let it be known that the roads in Kildare are not a free run for highway men. We are leaving you alive, unless nature claims you until your found, so you can pass this on in warning to any of the other bands." Though most bands would set against each other there was still a code between them. Tying up the second guy who was still gasping for air until the bola was taken from around his neck.

The knife was lowered he had at the man's throat once the one knew they were bested. Shoving him forward towards the wagon he then set to tying up his hands behind his back then cording the rope around his ankles to follow suit in hanging him upside down from a thick tree branch while Mike held the other three at bay with his pistol if one tried to bolt. Once he was done with this one, he would set upon the next in the same manner.

He just stayed as he was, holding the three men as his brothers tied them up one by one though the final man was still stunned by his crash with the tree. He jerked him up once the others were tended to and pushed him over toward the wagon. "Hope tha' someon' come quickly b'fore th' monsters tha' lurk about get yer scent." He added as he tucked his pistol away to help with the last man. He stepped back to study his brother's handiwork. "Ah, tha' bae a tru' work o' art." His brogue heavier than usual. He needed the practice for later.

At least they were already in disguise so there would be conflicting tales on how the ones looked, which would go well to fit in with this developing legend. The men were squirming, cussing while making threats about what they would do once they were freed. The May flies and mosquitoes would have a feast on them until they were found. Giving Mike a clasp of his shoulder as they needed to be on their way. Once at the castle they would send guards after them, if they were still here. Fate would decide that part as Logan was back up the side of the hill only to return a few minutes later with the other five horses, "most likely all of these are stolen too," as he set to tying them to the back of the wagon and one he would ride behind to make sure all stayed secured. Swinging up into the saddle as he waited then on his brothers.

"I bae impressed wit' yea," not adding brothers or names for the trussed up captives to pick up on. He got the mule calmed down and was soon up on the buckboard to continue forward. He was sure if there were any other spots such as this one, Logan would let them know.

He was up beside Broch quickly once Logan returned, after giving him a hand with the horses. He scooted over a bit, so he could watch the sides and offered Broch another smile. "Ye bae pretty quick yerself. " He said as he made himself as comfortable as possible. "Enjoy yer day, gents. Migh' bae th' last ye see o' th' sun fer a while." Though more than likely those clouds overhead would let loose soon!

It would be a day for those particular highwaymen to remember. Trussed up, bitten alive by bugs, sunburn until drenched in rain. Though, they were lucky to be alive. Highwaymen, one had the right to kill on sight. He set the mule at a quicker pace to make up for the time lost but he was chuckling to himself with the image left in his mind on how they left that half dozen behind. "At least they can get these horses back to their rightful owners and if any be of those men's rightful possession, they'll know who they are if they should managed to get down from their present affliction." It would be late afternoon when they reached the castle. They got some looks as they passed through the outer fortress wall with so many horses tied up to the wagon. They were stopped at the inner castle wall gates but allowed passed once discovered who they were, a lad to run ahead and alert the King and Regent, their guests were here. Once at the castle, Broch alerted one of the guards of the horses and how they were acquired, leaving them for the law here to take care of.



Date: 05-13-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 34

Setting Out for Kildare

It was early morning of the next day after talking with Marina, that Joseph waited on the porch of his ranch for the carriage to arrive. Joshua and Tamara were excited to be going. Tamara couldn't stand still and Joshua frowning slightly as he watched the road leading up to their ranch. Joe couldn't get over how much his son had grown into a man, looking older than his years of seventeen. Looking very much like he did at his age. He could read his son's mind just by the expressions that flittered over his features. "It will get here and you'll get to meet the Lady Ackerman. She's quite pretty and will be in the carriage with both you and Tamara. They will pick her up first with a two guard escort insisted by the Crown." Which was understandable, though Joshua would not consider himself a child, Tamara still was, plus there was the lady going with them.

"..but Pa, can't I ride outside the carriage with you and the guards?" That was more the frown he was wearing as he turned a look his father's way. Tamara's extra energy was starting to wear on his nerves this day when it usually didn't. It was more, having him in the carriage denoted he was still a child and not allowed to ride with the men.

Joseph read that look in his eyes and realized it would be a mistake to have him ride with the females. A few seconds passed as they looked eye to eye before he called out. "Mike, have Joshua's horse made ready. We could use another man on guard." Mike had been standing nearby in case he was needed, with a nod he was off to see to getting Josh's horse as requested. Joe kept eye contact with his son. "Wear your sword and knife, you know how to use them but son, I can hope this trip doesn't end up being the first time you kill a man." Eventually that would most likely happen but he hoped Josh to be a lot older. "You will ride close to the carriage to help ensure the safety of the women," that clause was in there if he was to ride and he'd be safer than those riding ahead or behind, "you follow my orders without question or those of the head guard, William." Most likely he would be the one giving Josh any orders. The sound of hooves had them both breaking contact.

Josh couldn't help the smile nor the pride to shine through that swelled up inside. He wore his knife and the sword was affixed to his saddle rather than leaving it in his room so he would have it to put on once his horse was brought around. A nod given in acquiescence before turning attention back to the road as the carriage was heard in approaching. He wondered what this lady would be like, not so much if she was pretty although that wonder was there.

Tamara would have pouted had she been the only one riding in the carriage, but the fact that the Lady was also going to be doing so appeased her. She knew the road to Kildare could be dangerous and didn't want to be in the way. Still that didn't settle her in the least. She wasn't chattering away but still she was darting here and there while they waited. First to look over the flowers, then to speak to one of the gardeners then back again. A moment later, she darted into the house to retrieve a favorite cloak. She did settle when Da talked to Josh and grinned at him. By then the sound of hooves had her standing on tiptoe to look down the stretch of road.

Marina would be the first to admit that she was nervous. Not only about seeing her brother for the first time in many years but about the trip itself. She was looking forward to it at the same time. Dressed comfortable in a gown of blue cotton trimmed with embroidered ribbon at the neck and hem of her sleeves, she watched out the window of the carriage. As they approached the ranch, she smooth the skirt of the gown and smiled to herself. She wanted to look her best, even if she was going to be riding for hours but that would likely depend on how things went. Spotting Joe and his children, she sat back again, not wanting to look too anxious.

"Tamara, don't be fidgeting the whole trip," words came low in warning. "You have brought a couple of your books to read? Your drawing pad?" Something that would occupy her instead of going back and forth from one window to the other. There was time for them both to meet the Lady Ackerman properly as once the carriage pulled up, he was over to open up the door before offering her a hand. "I would like you to meet my children, Lady Ackerman," leaving it to her to allow them to call her by her given name if she so chose. "My son Joshua, and my daughter Tamara," helping her down and a means to stretch her legs a few minutes before the long ride ahead of them. They would be stopping at safe points so that both could stretch their legs.

Josh could feel the heat against the collar of his shirt as a hand came to splay over his chest accompanied by a bow of his head. "A pleasure to meet you Lady Ackerman. I hope this trip will be a pleasant one for you." He also had his fossil fairy for good luck tucked away in his pocket. Pants were of his better ones, brown cotton but heavy enough to do for riding. Poet's shirt of a pale green had his eyes looking even greener and his hair near black that curled down past the collar though tamed back into a tail.

She looked a bit sheepish though she nodded quickly. "Yes, Papa. I brought things to keep me busy." Even some embroidery that she was learning. She was wearing a dark shade of rose, her gown a simple one for traveling but well made and trimmed with eyelet lace. Her hair was braided, and the braids looped to be gathered with a bow behind her ears. When Marina stepped out, she curtseyed, smiling. "It's very nice to meet you, Lady Ackerman.. I'm glad to be traveling with you."

She gave Joe a smile as he opened the door and offered his hand. The chance to stretch her legs welcomed and of course, more importantly, to meet his children. "Hello, Joseph. It's good to see you again. Joshua, Tamara, it's a true pleasure to meet you both and I too am glad to be traveling with you both. And please, call me Marina. I'd much prefer it." She smiled again at Joe. His description of them previously had been very accurate. "And on top of that, it looks like the weather is going to cooperate." Though with it being spring, that could change.

Mike handed off Josh's horse, Oakney, while Red Fox was brought around for Joe. Mike helped the butler load the trunk with their things while one of the chambermaids rushed out to put four pillows inside the carriage for whomever was traveling inside, could sleep a while if needed or just be more comfortable. There was also a picnic basket, one of the much larger ones, packed with food enough for them all. Joe was attired in a pristine poet's shirt with a dark green vest, pants of black as well the boots that laced up just over his ankles. Lighter ones for the summer. Hair tamed back in a tail and a wide brim hat. There were slickers for all and even blankets stashed under the seats inside the carriage, there was also a driver and a footman who would see to the door once those riding inside were within. "Tamara will be riding with you as my son has requested to ride with the men. He will be riding close in guard of the carriage," giving Marina a wink before he would see her and Tamara into the carriage.

"Thank you Marina, ma'am," smile was lopsided and his father had been correct in that she was very pretty. Very pretty. Staring the time his father was talking before catching himself and quickly swinging up into Oakney's saddle. In a way he almost regretted not riding in the carriage but if he had, he'd be squirming inside and possibly staring. That would be totally embarrassing himself! He turned the horse into position as he greeted William and James who would take up the rear. His father probably riding the other side of the carriage from where he was.

"Oh yes, it's going to be nice at least for today. It might rain tomorrow though because I heard it's raining a lot in Kildare." She caught herself and smiled then watched as the wagon was loaded. She hadn't mentioned what was in her trunk to Joe because she didn't want Josh to hear she was taking her favorite doll and a stuffed bear. At mention of her riding with Marina, she grinned at both her and her Da. Once settled in the coach, she looked out the window. She'd do her best to be still but it wasn't going to be easy!

She stepped back as the carriage was loaded, laughing softly at the sight of the picnic basket. It seemed Hazel had done the same but the food wouldn't go to waste with all those accompanying them. "I'm glad he'll be riding close since that will ease my mind. I know there has been some trouble on the roads." She smiled at Josh who she had noticed staring but given the lad's age, she understood and pretended not to have noticed. Once they were settled she watched Tamara a moment then looked in the direction of the flower beds. "Did you help plant the flowers? I'm sure they'll be fully in bloom by the time we return, don't you?" She wanted the girl and her brother to both feel comfortable with her.

Joe was smiling as they both seemed to take to Marina well. There really shouldn't be any reason not to unless on another level that children seemed to pick up on quickly. Though his instincts were acute, he had believed her at the party and wouldn't second guess his judgement. Nor that of Birdie for that matter. Once they were inside as he saw to closing the door in lieu of the footman, he took the reins from Mike with a few words to spare, trusting the man and his staff to keep things running smoothly. He'd been to Maurice's place the evening prior to square business matters before taking this leave to Kildare. Everything would be fine here, it was Kildare that one needed to worry on, enough the Crown insisted on the two guards as well the carriage for the lady and his children. Swinging up into the saddle and with a nudge of his heels, the small entourage was on its way.

Josh kept about a horse's width distance from the side of the carriage and back a pace so he didn't block their view from the window. He had added his cowboy hat that would keep both sun and rain off his face and his slicker tucked away in a saddlebag. He sat tall in the saddle, then again he was catching up to his father's height already. By the time he was twenty, he'd be as tall if not taller. The look on his face showed the pride in acting as a guard instead of listed amongst the children in the carriage. He was very protective of Tamara and now that he was getting older it would be as a man in protection.



Date: 05-16-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 35

Another to Join Up

Tamara watched her brother for a moment then leaned back. She had taken out one of her books but wasn't ready to read it. "Josh looks so grown up." Her voice sounded wistful. "And pretty soon, he'll be off on adventures like this one without me or Da." The impish look that she couldn't usually keep away for long returned. "And the girls will start to notice him and make him blush cause he's handsome like my Da."

Marina had brought embroidery and a book for herself, but she wasn't certain she'd do either. She was too nervous and excited for now. Perhaps later when she grew weary of traveling. She looked at Tamara and laughed softly. "It's unfortunate but we all grow up and get older. I do agree though." She lowered her voice and leaned toward the girl, eyes sparkling with laughter. "I do agree he and your Da are both quite handsome."

Joseph lagged behind watching the woods about them on either side of the road. Not that he expected any danger while still in the lands of Heathfield, but borne of habit. An intersection was coming up as he spurred the stallion forward in a gallop, passing the carriage with startled glances from the footman, and driver as he caught up with the first guard, slowing down with a few words passed between them. The guard dropped behind and motioned for the carriage to stop as they reached the intersection having them pull it off to the side in case anyone else would be using the road. Joseph reined in the stallion in the middle of the intersection and waited. The guard had not a clue why other than he was asked to stop the carriage here. He was well on guard but figured the Lordship would tell him if there was any kind of danger.

Luckily Joshua didn't hear their comment though he could hear their voices, just he wasn't tuning into them as he was watching the others. When his father galloped by he was tempted to do the same and see what was up, but he kept his position under his father's orders that had not changed. Frowning slightly for curiosity got the better of him, he could finally move around, off the road and into the clearing before the treeline to watch from there and be between carriage and woods.

Garath was a short distance from the intersection and off to the side. He hadn't been here long but allowed the horse to crop the new green grass that was growing alongside the road. When he heard horses, he stood and mounted True again then rode forward, hailing Joe. He was dressed in leather pants and riding boots, as well as a poet's shirt of dark blue. Because of the warmth of the sun, his cloak had been removed and put into his saddle bags as well his sleeves were rolled up. "Afternoon, cousin." He grinned as he joined Joe. "I see you're keeping to schedule."

Tamara was watching the woods, catching glimpses of the animals and other creatures that hid there, or so she'd claim. She blinked when her father rode by and leaned out the window slightly to peek as the carriage rolled to a stop. "Da is waiting for someone." She told Marina. "And there's a rider and it's Uncle Garath!" She sounded pleased and she was!

Heathfield was a beautiful land and Marina was lost in her thoughts as they rode through the forest. She was thinking it would be cooler in the woods on a hot summer's day when Tamara spoke. Smiling, she listened to the girl. "That's wonderful. Now we've more company and someone else to watch over us. Have you traveled like this before, Tamara?" It was mostly to keep the girl from falling out the window waving to Garath that she tried to get her talking.

Lazy grin fell naturally in place as Garath joined him. "All ready cousin." More a statement than a question for obviously he was. "We've plenty of food, extra," which came with a low chuckle as he glanced back towards the carriage. "Want to say hello before we continue on?" He would wait there, watching the intersection and once Garath was done, for Tamara would be hanging out the window of the carriage until he did, they would continue onward.

Josh pushed back the wide brim hat so Garath would be sure to recognize him once it was known who the one was his father waited for. Giving a wave to be sure his uncle saw him as he didn't leave his post. The pride in his eyes and upon his features evident that he was riding with the men, acting as another guard. He felt grown up and needed.

"Ah, I take it both your cook and Hazel made sure you and Marina had baskets." He chuckled as he spoke, then he glanced toward the coach and laughed. "I guess I better." He intended to greet Josh too, bringing his horse close as he spoke. "Josh, good to see you joining us. And even more to see you riding guard. No more calling you lad." He leaned slightly to clap a hand to the youth's shoulder before he was over to the carriage. "And how's my favorite lass?" He grinned at Tamara. "Enjoying the ride." He nodded at Marina,. "Good to see you again. Is Tamara talking your ear off yet?"

"Oh yes. Sometimes we visit other places but it's been a while and Josh kept me company before." She let out a squeal of delight when she saw Garath was riding their way. "Hello Uncle Garath! I'm so glad you're here for our adventure." If she had been able to do so without falling, she would have hugged him from the window.

There would be more time for questions once they started again. Garath received a warm smile. "As it is to see you, Garath, and not at all. She's making the journey much more interesting." She winked at the girl then looked at Garath again. She didn't say anything about riding with them but the smile said she was glad.

"Indeed they have, we shall all feast in a few hours," called out to Garath as he headed for the carriage. Joseph planned to take their break in Tyremoor lands about midway through. He debated to stay at the Owl's Nest but they had left early enough they could continue through. Better once in Kildare lands where the roads were more dangerous and who knew who would stop at the Owl's Nest, not so much for himself but his children and Marina. Less chances taken, all the better. The Owl's Nest was pretty descent but still dangerous for its location.

If Josh smiled any more, which was from ear to ear, his face would be hurting the rest of the day and into tomorrow. "Aye," pinching his hat's brim between forefinger and thumb in due respect of his uncle, or so he was considered though in actuality, a first cousin once removed. Uncle was easier and more suited. His words surged in his heart having him feel the man instead of the lad and the fact his uncle recognized it. "I will make Da and you proud." He was determined.

Joe watched on, the lazy smile lingering the while, pride in his son and daughter both as well the rapport Garath had gained with them in his previous absence. Once the greetings were done he gave an upnod to the head guard to continue north on the main road as he dropped back to his position behind the carriage. One that was moving back into the lane once Tamara was inside from hanging out the window as she had been.

He grinned at Tamara and Marina again, then glanced at Joe. The pride he wore was the mark of a good father in Garath's opinion. He felt it too, though not like Joe would. Touching his fingers to the brim of his hat, he rode beside the carriage for a moment before falling back with Joe.

"Uncle Garath is very handsome too." Tamara waited until they were out of earshot. She giggled softly and continued. "Course I'm not supposed to be noticing that, but I don't notice it because I like boys or anything. I'm looking at them with a ... an artist's eyes." She was trying to teach herself how to draw. "I don't like traveling like this much, do you? I'd rather be riding."

Marina watched as Garath dropped back. When Tamara spoke, she smiled at her. "There's nothing wrong with noticing, Tamara. There's all kinds of beauty in this world and not a thing wrong with enjoying it." She looked thoughtful and stretched out her legs, resting her feet on the seat opposite. "No, not really but traveling with just you means we can be a little lax in behaving. As long as we're not caught." She thought Joe and Garath would laugh even so, especially with something harmless.



Date: 05-22-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 36

An Unexpected Encounter

Considering how many of them there were, they were making good time. Frank Hall, the head guard, had ridden up ahead to scout not more than a quarter mile at any given time. They were far into Tyremoor lands when Frank turned back to halt the procession to let them know that the road up ahead was in rough shape from the rains. Half of it washed out and by the ruts, a few carts and carriages had obvious trouble by the deep gouges left. Joseph moved up from his trailing position to meet up with Frank, waving on the other guard, Big Bobby McHugh. It would be their task, along with the driver and footman of the carriage, his son, himself and Garath to make use of the shovels in the tool box strapped to the back of the carriage. There was enough loose gravel along the sides of the road to  help fill in the muddy spots so they didn't get stuck as well repair the road for any others traveling this way. They would only lose an hour with so many to help. Once organized, they continued to the point where the road needed the repairing and set to work.

After riding so far, Marina thought perhaps it was time for she and Tamara to stretch their legs while the men studied where the road needed repairing or work on it, if that was the case.  She wasn't used to sitting for so long and the fact that they had been riding on a rough road left her feeling almost as if she had been beaten roundly with a stick.  She gave Tamara an impish grin as she peeked out of the door before climbing down, something managed quite easily in spite of the gown worn. Of course neither she or Tamara would wander off.

Garath groaned good-natured as they paused in their work, then nudged Joe and motioned toward the carriage.  "We have an escape."  He said in a low voice, chuckling.  He didn't blame them one bit for taking the opportunity to stretch their legs.

Tamara giggled as they stepped from the carriage then stretched with a happy sigh.  She studied the area around them then looked at Marina. "Should we get the food ready for them or should we ask Da first?"  And before she could answer, the girl turned. "Da, should we get lunch ready?"

The sun was beating down as the tedious work had them sweating in little time. Most took off their shirts, including Joseph and excluding Joshua who was too embarrassed to. Josh was sent ahead with Big Bob to check on the condition of the bridge and area beyond in case they needed repairing as well. Better to find out beforehand. The stones filled in nicely and had someone not taken the time to see to this, the road would be washed out completely with the next heavy rain. Something which would take weeks to be repaired. Muscles worked under the heat of sun as a shovel load was taken from one part to finish filling in the areas with ruts that had become pretty deep. Hearing his daughter, he handed the shovel off to the footman, who'd taken a break, as he came around the carriage, grabbing his shirt from where he hung it to don in the presence of the lady. "We're almost done here and once Josh and the guard get back from checking the bridge and immediate area beyond, we can all eat. So about twenty minutes if you ladies would see to setting up?"

Josh's shirt was soaked, wet down the front in a V and one matching in the back by the time his father had him stop and go with the very large guard to check things out. His father had been right about him being embarrassed but more, he would look very thin, even if muscular, around men like his father, uncle and the guards. Especially McHugh, he was colossal compared to the average male. Both he and Hall were hairy too. Josh didn't have any hair on his chest, so he would look naked compared to the others.

Marina was not one to blush at the sight of shirtless men, not at her age, but it was very hard for her to not stare at first.  She did take peeks occasionally.  Laughing at Tamara's impetuousness, she lowered her voice.  "Tell him we'd can do that."  Since the girl had asked her father, she should answer.  Hiking up her skirt some, she made her way back to the carriage and collected the baskets as well as blankets. Then she and Tamara set to finding the perfect spot. One that wasn't wet, or stony and plenty of grass for cushioning.

Garath had joined in pulling off his shirt as the heat became more intense.  He stomped down some of the gravel then grabbed his shirt and glanced down the road.  It was quiet enough here but he knew appearances could be deceptive. He wasn't worried about Josh though, not with McHugh with him.  "If the river wasn't moving so fast, I'd be tempted to take a dip." He muttered to Hall as he walked by him.

Tamara grinned and followed after Marina.  Once the blankets were down, and the dinnerware ready, she started to gather some wildflowers.  She didn't wander far but paused as she noted a fawn staring at her.  The flowers were offered to the baby who nibbled at them a moment before a snort of warning from her mother had her darting into the woods again.  Tamara waved then turned back to replace the eaten flowers and make her way back to Marina.  They were going to be used to decorate their "table".

A fawn wasn't the only thing watching Tamara. Joseph was back around to let the others know once they were finish up they would break for lunch. Try the road afterwards to see if the carriage had any problems. He was back around checking the length of road to the bridge where his son and the large guard were coming back from. It was then he caught something out of the corner of his eyes that lurked, crouched along the edge of woods and trees. Tamara in its path where she collected some wild flowers. "Tamara!" Shirt wasn't even fastened shut as he started running. Whatever was there was moving fast as well in Tamara's direction but switched heading for Marina. Seeing Josh close, he too switched to try and tackle the above average height male.

Josh could see something running towards Tamara from the opposite direction of his father, being on horseback he was to his sister faster having urged the stallion into a gallop. The thing, as it was unclear what exactly it was had shifted as he scooped Tamara up into the saddle with him and moved her to safety. By then the others would be aiding his father as he guarded her, no matter how tempted he was to go and help his father, he knew presently this was the best thing he could do to help.

Marina heard Joe's yell and turned to look, her eyes growing wide.  She picked up a knife as if to charge in to protect the girl, but then the direction of the thing changed and it was coming for her.  Instead of screaming and running in terror, she stood her ground until Joe turned to tackle what she could see was a male.  She took several steps back, knife still in hand.

Garath couldn't see why Joe was yelling or why he took off running, though he could hear him.  He was around the side of the carriage, taking it all in within seconds.  While Josh went after his sister, he headed over to Marina in case there were others.   "Are you all right?" He asked, making sure she wasn't about to faint!

When Tamara heard her father yell, she didn't look to see why but turned and started to run in his direction, the flowers dropping from her hand.  Seeing Josh coming close, she put up her arms and clung to him when he scooped her up. She wasn't sure if it was the mother deer or a bear that came charging at her, but she wasn't going to look until she knew it was safe!

The man went down with little effort even if he was as big as Joseph, though bulkier. That's when Joseph heard the cry.

"Timmy no want fight. Timmy hungry and bad men in forest."

Joseph blinked as he had the oversized child-man pinned to the ground. He recognized the one as in a moment later he was up, helping the lad up for certainly Timmy was more child than man. "We thought you were a bad man, Timmy. You need to be more careful out on these roads and charging out of nowhere like that. Where did you see these bad men?"

Tousled and frumpy, Timmy got to his feet with the man's aid. "I sorry," given to Joe then the others as he look contrite in what he'd done. The food had him staring in that direction for a few minutes, that he forgot the question.

"Timmy, when have you eaten last? Where is Emmie? Where are these bad men?" Realizing the lad's distraction and not answering the other question yet so was repeated.

"Healer come take Emmie or she die. I was told to get food at the Owen's farm but they are not nice people." Which they had to be pretty bad if he went starving instead of going there, only eating the few berries that were ripening. "Timmy alone and no cook like Emmie. Bad men ran when I came upon them. I smelled something strange but didn't see food. They ran, then I saw all of you."

He could spare the footman to ride into Tyremoor with Timmy and alert the guards there for the Keep was on their way and then word could be sent down into Heathfield in case they moved to the forests there. Looked like the Rangers would have their work cut out for them. He turned to the others, mostly Marina, noticing Garath right there by her side. Lazy grin for a second, as well green eyes sparked in a devilish way. "This is Timmy, see that he gets some food and drink first before he starves." Then back to Timmy, "you can come with us to Tyremoor castle, as we will pass the area and Norton will take you into the Keep. They will see to helping you out." Being they had their own mission and as much as he'd like to help out the lad personally, presently it would need to be given into the hands of another. He knew they would see to it as good as himself in Tyremoor.

Joshua couldn't help but stare at a grown man that had all the mannerisms of a child. Once he was introduced, he recalled the tale of the one name Timmy. Honestly had thought he was made up at the time. He was over to let Tamara slide from the saddled down by Marina so she could help the woman as originally planned. Once done, he backed the stallion up before dismounting as well. By then all the others were ready to eat.

Well, that had been exciting!  Of course, she wouldn't know the story but she did hear how Timmy talked. Thank goodness they had plenty of food to spare considering the sizes of the men here, plus Josh would have a teen's appetite. She nodded at Garath and looked down at the knife.  "I think I was getting ready to carve whoever was after Tamara."  She said sheepishly as she set the knife back down and finished setting out the food.  She felt shaky but she'd collapse after they were back in the carriage and have the vapors then.

Garath caught that look and give Joe one in return.  Don't even think it!  "Good job, Josh."  He grinned at his nephew as he made his way back to the carriage and grabbed his vest.   He rejoined his cousin and gave him a nudge. "You move pretty good for an old man."  Teasing, of course since he was older than Joe!

Tamara had heard of Timmy too and wasn't so scared once she realized all was well.  She hugged Josh tightly before he took her back to Marina.  She gave the woman a happy smile then was over to take Timmy by the hand. "Come on.  You can sit beside me. We have lots to share."


Tamara just became Timmy's best friend. Her small hand in his seemed dwarfed as well her overall size in comparison as he was led to where they would sit and eat. They would have to forgive how he consumed a good amount of food, for his size and the fact he'd not eaten a good meal in days. He wasn't one much for talking, only when addressed or needed something. Presently he was too immersed in sating a large appetite.

It was a break they all needed, a respite from the hard work and surprise visitor to settle things back to the norm. There was more than enough food to go around and sate all appetites. Once they were done, not taking too long but long enough, all was packed up before they then continued on their way. Timmy would ride up with the driver for his size and not crowding the ladies within the carriage, as well his smell indicating he could use a bath with a good scrubbing once he reached Tyremoor.

Date: 05-30-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 37

London Bridge is falling down, falling down
Men a-hanging upside down, upside down
The trip went uneventful from there to Tyremoor Keep, which certainly was welcome having the ladies with them and considering Tamara's age. Though they didn't go into the Keep themselves, Timmy was escorted there by Norton who would catch up with them as soon as Timmy was safe and sound in the right hands. Joe's salutations would be extended to the Duke of Tyremoor, knowing well if they did stop, they would lose at least another day for the socializing that would commence. One that would be very welcome under different circumstances. He would stop on his way back, introduce his children and spend a day or so on the welcome extended him. Trevellyn Douglas had always been a gracious man. There would be news to share and retelling of stories. It was up towards the border that Frank came back, halting the carriage and escorts as he spoke to Joe about what he saw up ahead. It put him in a quandary as he thought about what he could do about it and coming up with an idea he hoped would work. First he was over to Garath. "Take Frank and Big Bob back with you and see what the situation is. I would advise not interfering being it is over the border in Kildare." From there he was over to the carriage which had been pulled off to the side. "Lady Marina, if I might have a word with you in private?" Having come around to open up the door on the one side. Giving Tamara a wink as if nothing was amiss. Which presently it was not. The men were all tied that hung from trees upside down. Alive.

"Of course, Joseph." She smiled at Tamara as she stood and then offered Joe her hand. She kept her expression carefully neutral not quite sure what was happening. She waited for him to lead her away from the carriage then tipped her face up toward him. "Is something wrong?" Keeping her voice down being certain that Tamara would be looking out of the carriage window.

Garath watched as Frank returned and spoke to Joe then turned to face his cousin. Giving a nod, he mounted his horse and motioned for Frank to lead the way. He asked questions as they rode off. Of course, there'd be questions of the men hanging upside down and he'd persuade them -- nicely of course.

Tamara grinned at her father then at Marina before she stepped out. She not only looked out the window but nearly leaned watching for a moment before she sat back down and picked up the book she had been reading. Too far away to hear anything!

He folded her hand in the crock of his arm as he leisurely walked her away from the carriage. He didn't answer her questions until he knew he was out of earshot. Deviously putting them at a corner from the carriage where it would be hard for Tamara to see. Joshua was over to talk with her as a brother and sister would. Joseph was quite pleased to see his son pick up on that and help out without the need of being asked. He stood very near so he could speak low. Green eyes had specks of gold in them she might notice this close under the slight shading the brim of his hat offered. "There is a situation up ahead. About a half dozen men are hanging upside down from the trees. It seems they have been for a few hours. I do not wish Tamara to see this if you can keep her occupied. There is a bend in the road with a few large willow trees over hanging it, beyond there to the left is the location. There is quite the scene to the right, possibly see some wild horses down in the valley," giving a wink with the suggestion. "The carriage will be given orders to move quickly through that area. Big Bob will continue as guard as well Frank will join him, my son, the driver and footman." Who had caught up with them earlier in the day. "Garath and I will find out what we can." The walk would continue back after Marina added anything she wished to say on the matter, and hopefully agree.

She glanced back at the carriage and smiled slightly before her attention was on the short walk away. The ground wasn't real rough but she didn't want to trip over an unseen hole. When they stopped, her attention was fully on him, though for a brief moment she did take note of his eyes. "Hanging upside down." Repeating that part as he finished. She could understand why he wouldn't want the girl to see that and nodded. "I'll do what I can to keep her distracted. If she's like most girls her age, horses will certainly pique her interest." She was ready to walk back when he was, a smile in place as they returned to the carriage.

He could imagine the visual that would make, men hanging upside down, though in the next thought would be that they were not hung dead hanging from the trees. There was much to be said in that and certainly had Joe's curiosity. Once more her hand was folded in the crock of his arm as he escorted her back. She would have a strong hand there if she should falter at all, enough of a problem, he would just sweep her up into his arms and carry her the rest of the way. Lucky for her she would need not be embarrassed in him having to whisk her up into his arms as she was safely delivered into the carriage. "Now, Tamara, you take of the lady as our guest. I hear that up around the bend down over the valley on the right, you may well see some of the wild horses that run free over this area, so you may want to switch to this side to not miss them. I also hear there are blue heron that fly down near the lake that can be seen in the distant too. I don't think the Lady Marina has seen much of wild life in England." Once more giving his daughter a wink as he was sure she would rise to the occasion in entertaining the underprivileged lady. Giving the door to the carriage a last pat before pushing off to swing back up in the saddle. He would lag behind as before, more to the left to help in blocking any sight from that side as they neared the area. The horse would end up in the way until they passed then he would drop back behind and catch up with Garath.

She was trying to not imagine the scene and it had her wondering why the men were in the predicament they were in. She smiled as she settled across from Tamara and made a slight face. "England is much too refined for things like wild horses. I really hope we're able to see some as well as the heron." She scooted over so she could be looking out the right side.

"You've really never seen wild horses?" Tamara couldn't believe it. "My cousin Rory sometimes captures some for the horses he has. I love watching them. " She scooted over as well, talking a mile a minute. "And the lake has heron all the time. You'll have to visit where the horses run and the lake. If you're coming back." She nearly bounced in the seat. "I want to catch my own horse someday. A white one. Did you know that white horses aren't really considered white but gray?" And on she chattered as the carriage started forward again. Men hanging upside down? Likely Tamara wouldn't noticed at all.


The carriage continued on where the scene of the half dozen men would be impossible to get a glimpse of for the tactics used. The driver knew to slow down, even stop so the ladies could see the small herds of wild horses in the valley once past the other a distance. Big Bob was ahead along with Frank, securing the road against any danger. Joshua was to stay near the carriage along with the driver and footman. Joe and Garath dropped back only to turn their horses off into the field that contained the upside down men. They had been trying to get the attention of anyone driving by as one called out to Joe and Garath, "help us down. We were attacked by highwaymen."

Marina kept pointing out the different horses with unfeigned delight. She had seen horses of course, but they were all perfectly trained and not at all able to run free. She also spotted one of the heron Joseph had spoken of. It was a relief for her to be able to enjoy herself so openly and not be chided for unseemly behavior.

Tamara giggled each time Marina spotted the horses or some other delight. She had a feeling that there was more to all this then what she was being told but in spite of sometimes chaffing against being consider little, she understood her Da wanted to protect her. A wild canary flew by the carriage, landing in a bush and she pointed it out to Marina.

Joshua was around to where they could see and hear him but remained in the saddle. One hand resting on the hilt of his sword as he pointed out some of the herds. "Look over there to the right, the lead horse is jet black," which was rearing up before the herd headed down another path leading them away to the lake in the distance. "And over there," hand swinging to where a smaller herd was grazing. "I wonder if they will round up some of them and keep ones that are trainable?" Something he would ask one of authority in Kildare castle once they got there. So he was in on distracting his sister from that other sight which he had caught and certainly was curious. He knew his father would tell him once they took care of the matter.

Garath eyed the men and looked at Joe for a moment before looking back. He was actually amused by the scene and having taken note of the appearance of the men, he doubted very much that they were law-abiding citizens. "Now what did you do to get yourselves into such a predicament?" He rested an arm on one leg as he leaned forward slightly, waiting to see what kind of explanation would be forthcoming." Highwaymen indeed.  He barely held back the grin as the man tried to explain.

While Garath talked to the one, Joe moved about them. Not too close for some had soiled themselves and they were attracting a lot of flies and other insects. "This rope looks familiar," it was a special kind as it dawned on him, coupled with the knowledge the Cunningham brothers had headed for Kildare a day before they set out. The man talking to Garath gave some incoherent mumbling how they hadn't done a thing and started offering money in a bribe. "Me thinks you proclaim your innocence too strongly," moving his horse back away as the stench was becoming a touch overpowering. "If you're strung up by the one I am pretty certain strung you up, then you were deserving of it and lucky you're not all dead instead. What do you think cousin," purposely not using their names nor the names of the brothers.

Garath had positioned himself so the smell didn't overwhelm him. He watched Joe a moment then looked at the captive. "I think I have to agree with you on that, cousin." He gave a slight nod and looked back toward the captive.. "And in that case, I'm sure someone will be along to help you down soon enough." He grinned at the man. "And all that blood rushing to your head might help you consider the path you've been on."

Joseph was about to say more but he cocked his head instead with a glance over his shoulder towards where the carriage was up a way. "Horses," which had him tugging on the reins of his stallion to bring him around promptly and into a gallop as he headed up to where the carriage had stopped so the ladies could watch the wild horses while they saw to this matter. Big Bob and Frank were already on the alert as Joe positioned himself towards the front of the carriage, between it and the road and waited. It wasn't long before a troop of dozen warriors came riding in at a good clip.

The capes worn and ensign were that of Kildare. McGregor, the head of this small dispatch stopped to speak with the two men ahead of the carriage who promptly pointed out Joe and Garath. Giving them a nod he proceeded to the ones in charge. "Hail, greetings from Kildare. Captain McGregor at your Service. I am alerted guests are on their way, McDonough party."


Joseph visibly relaxed seeing the colors the men wore. "Aye, I am Joseph McDonough in escort of Lady Ackerman as well my two children and cousin." Not that he was really escorting Garath as he shot his cousin grin before asking a question of his own. "Who are the ones loitering in the trees up yonder?" A way of putting it being Tamara was in earshot at this point.

"Do you think they will, Joshua?  I hope not all."  She knew of course, that horses could be a loyal animal but she hated for them all to be tamed.  And of course Marina and Tamara heard the horses.  Marina put her arm around the girl, keeping her close. "We'll wait to see what your father tells us, all right? In the meantime, how do you know so much about birds? Is it something you learned on your own?" Encouraging the girl to talk might keep her from being too nosey.

Tamara was sooooo curious but she knew that it was best to stay right where she was. "All right, though I thought maybe we'd have an adventure." She grinned, then nodded. "I've always like to go into the forest and meadows and I started to learn the names of the birds from my Da or looked them up." She couldn't help but try to peek though. Too hard not to try.

Garath squinted a look toward the road before he too was over to wait for the riders. Seeing the insignia of Kildare, he removed his hand from the hilt of his sword and gave Joe a half-grin. And there was the million copper question they were both waiting to hear. Attention went back to the Captain as he listened.

"Seems this band of Highway men tried to attack the Cunningham brothers. Six to three they were still far outmatched. We were sent to collect them though they had every right to kill them on the spot. It will be up to the Crown to decide their fate, possibly a hanging to deter any further bands from gathering or roaming. I am to escort you to the castle to ensure your safety with three of my men, the others are to get those prisoners off to the dungeons. They will lag behind us." That way if needed they would be close at hand but not in their way otherwise.


Joseph nodded as he listened before motioning to the driver. "Let's be on our way then as there is no time like the present to see to getting there. A good meal will await us all." By the time they reached the castle, he would be hungry as he was sure the others would be too. If time, a meeting with the King and Regent on how to proceed. The driver started up the horses, taking the carriage back to the middle of the road with their escorts about them, four more included.

Date: 06-15-09
Poster: Leoric McLarkin
Post # 38

Expected Guests

Leoric stood at the large window, one that started about two feet above the floor and near reached the ceiling, looking out over the front lawns that spanned out a good distance to the inner castle walls. From this height he could see even beyond the inner walls to points of the outer castle walls and the commons between, the stores and residential areas it contained. Beyond that one could see the port, more in a haze this day, in the greater distance. One hinting at a good storm to come. One that would probably hit during the night which many seemed to do in this part of the world. He had sent for his brother while the Cunningham brothers were brought to their rooms to freshen up first then immediately to his office within the hour. Food would be brought up within the half hour once to their office for their meal to be taken there this evening. Such would afford them privacy as they talked, made plans and not worried on entertaining ladies or other nobles of the court when tired to start. He knew they would be tired. Knew about the men they had to string up as a troop had already been sent to retrieve them.

Gaidan had been discussing the building of a new wall near the forest where the larger beasts were reported to still wander. It wasn't so much to keep them out as to enable the guards stationed there to see any danger. There would be places for warning beacons so none were caught unaware and the farmers able to protect themselves. When he received the message from his brother, he excused himself and headed for the office. A light tap on the door was followed by his entrance. "Leoric." He was over to stand beside his brother.

He greeted his brother by gripping his shoulders a moment then released. "Were you able to find the old map maker?" Since the decision of investigating the rumors on the beasts hidden in the farthest most deep woods of the lands, they found there was an old mapmaker, "as well a troop of men, consisting of rangers and warriors to scout the area, talk to the people in the vicinity?" They had a bit on their plate to see to first that needed immediate attention but the whole bit on this part of the forest had been nagging at Leoric. Scenes invading his dreams of the more lucid kind. This he had not told his brother at this point. There was a good chance he would need go for he had a better chance going in to make certain and coming back out alive than an ordinary man.

"Aye I was." He chuckled as he greeted his brother in kind then stepped back. "He's elderly but still sharp. He has a few detailed map that he's making copies of for us to keep. I asked him if he wanted to move the whole lot and himself to the castle but he very politely and firmly declined. Said he's been living on his own too long to be surrounded by people now." And Gaidan had respected his wishes considering the man's age. "He'll have the maps ready within a day and have one of his grandsons deliver it. Preliminary plans are drawn up for the wall, though I think it needs to be smaller." He waved a hand though. "We can talk on that later." It wasn't urgent certainly.

"I have an idea once I get the maps. My main concern is not to lose any men over finding the boundaries and not overstepping them and getting ripped apart, if these beasts are there." Which after being the one who overthrew the Witch, he knew well of such entities, though they were all suppose to have gone with her. "We may find out it is more embellished encounters with dangerous wild animals." There was that as well, why not on a high priority presently and the fact, that even if the rumors turned out to be true, presently it was if anyone went into the deeper forests to the southwest corner of Kildare lands. There were warning signs posted just in case for all to keep out or venture at their own high risk of coming out alive. Gathering the papers with all official finds documented as it drew closer to the time the Cunningham brothers would be arriving at their office.

"Aye, that's important. And we need to keep folks from panicking over rumors that might not be true." He smiled as he looked at his twin. "I'll wait until we have the maps in hand to ask any questions." There was always that concern over Leoric in spite of his abilities. They were brothers after all and Gaidan didn't care to become king if something should happen.

Broch and his brothers were seen inside and shown to their rooms, which was in part of one of the wings for guests. West Wing in this instance. They were allowed time to freshen up before being escorted to the main office, or meeting room, of the King. One could call it an office but it was large to accommodate a small group for the spacious interior. Homey for an office with the large hearth, meeting table a group could sit at, small library with chairs for comfort, various tables as the guard showing them to their destination related to the three brothers along the way with other information on the castle, in what he could get in for the ten minute walk or there about getting them from the West Wing. Broch took it all in attentively and noticed how well informed this guard was and probably told to tell of certain things. He, with his brothers waited behind the guard as the door was tapped before he stepped aside leaving one of the two guards waiting at the door to open it. They were ushered to continue in being they were waited upon.

Logan was looking at every nook and cranny, stopping to glance out one of the windows on the way to see how far down it was and if he could possibly scale the castle wall. Of course he could! Moving away in a quick step to catch up as if he had never dallied. Being Broch was ahead and listening to all the guard had to say, he grinned at Michael like they would be the two to get into mischief if given the chance.

Mike was not only listening to the guard but taking in the castle as they walked. He felt Logan's look and though he tried to not look at him, he couldn't hide his grin. Just a quick glance before they were stepping into the room. He had been glad of the opportunity to clean up and change clothes. It had been hot and dusty on the road.

As the knock came on the door and the men showed in seconds later, Leoric had turned to greet the brothers, indicating chairs at the round table to take a seat. Comfortable chairs that were padded and their meal could be taken right there as well in the half hour. "I'm pleased you could all make it and with only a little incident." The last bringing a smile, "of which is being taken care of and if the McDonough party has reached that point, will have an escort the rest of the way. You should know that Lady Ackerman is with them, sister of Charles Ackerman, Earl of Cottonwood who was under suspicion of being a renegade against the crown as is the neighboring Keep of Swan Lake under Viscount Phillip Harman." Leo was one to get right to business as enough time had passed before this point already to delay any more. "As you can read from the papers there on the table at your disposal, new information has come to light." There were a variety of drinks set within reach of all if they wanted anything. "I can assume you are hungry from your long journey as food will be brought up in half an hour, we'll take our meal here with you as the McDonough party may well be arriving within the next couple hours."

"It is guid to see both of you," giving a respectful bow of his head before Leoric started right in. He couldn't help the chuckle under his breath knowing the feeling of getting something done yesterday. He was over to the table to take up the documents spoken on as he listened. Reading as well and would place the sheets down in order so his brothers could check them over in turn. He gradually seated himself as he read.

Logan hung back, leaving Broch, as head of the family to be just that, the head. After giving a respectful bow, he took up a seat to the right of his brother and would proceed to read the papers as they were discarded, sliding them off to Michael in turn. By what Leoric had to say there was progress on information and some of that information changed the outlook on parts.

Gaidan turned as the three brothers entered, offering them a slight nod of his head. He knew Leoric wouldn't delay, following him to the table as he spoke. He had to smile at mention of the incident, though he felt sorry for the guards who had to deal with the men. After Leoric sat, so did he, watching the three brothers with a hint of a smile. Each very different, yet, it was easy to tell they were kin. "It's good to see the three of you also. We've found there seems to be a plot of sorts which we have to learn more of." Hence, where the brothers and Joe came in. "We're also certain that Ultan Callihan is with Philip Harman, and possibly his son."

One brother spoke and then the other as if one as much as they looked the same. "You will be heading into Swan Lake Keep to bring out Ultan Callihan." Exactly why they, as bounty hunters, were asked. "As with any renegade Keep, you risk getting in to start but they have a marketplace travelers are allowed in with goods they can use in trade. Cattle is something covet but peasants working for a lordship would only have two or three to bring to market. Two would not arouse suspicion. I will leave it to you to set up a ruse to get in. Your faces are not known to any there, or here for that matter. We will provide you with all you need as well the price in hire." Which he would insist upon paying well for the men earned their living dangerously to start and not use friendship to try and weasel a lower price. "I hope you can be ready to leave within two days or earlier if at all possible." Not really knowing how long it would take for them to be ready.

Mike gave a half bow to the twins in a show of respect then straightened. He waited for them to sit as well as Broch and sat beside Logan. The papers were look at with interest while he listened, looking up at the Twins. "Do you have a layout of the Keep? Also, do you want the son brought with him if we can manage?" He grinned at the last. "I think we can be ready by then." Gaze shifted to Broch since he was the man with the plan.

Broch had finished reading the report as he eased back in his seat to contemplate and digest all that he was being fed, mentally, food came later. He left his brogue aside with a glance to his brothers as much as saying for them to have their say if they had something to add or say. "I think going in as a peasant family would be best suited. Most marketplaces comprise of families, wife, husband and children, be they young or grown. It was said you could make me look older for a few days but I would still need one to pose as my wife. Someone that knows that this would be dangerous but would earn a fine coin and our promise to keep her safe, all three of us." Which they were warriors and women put themselves in danger every day in places like they were going. The woman would need to be aged also to fit the role, be it by magical means or makeup. Makeup stood the better chance of being discovered over the other. "We've a wagon suited for hay, the two cattle supplied to bring would fit in with the scheme. Under the hay is a trap door with enough room beneath to fit an unconscious man, two would be tight but manageable." They would have them unconscious and where ether came in handy. "If the lad is with him, we will nab him as well but we will nab the father in the least." Even if the other was there but not able to really get him and not jeopardize the main mission. The goal was to get Ultan above all.

"Between the three of us we should be able to get both if both are there. If only Ultan, at least we will be able to find out if the son is there and if in coohoots with his father as wondered." Setting aside the last of the papers to Mike as he finished up. A drink in order as he filled one of the glasses with some potcheen to warm his throat.

"It's been said that Ultan has been seen as well as his elderly manservant. The son hasn't been." Gaiden looked at Leoric thoughtfully. "I think we can come up with someone, aye?" He decided this would be a good time to fill his own glass and he offered the bottle in his hand to Leoric. "We have no doubt the three of you will work efficiently and effectively." He saluted them with his glass before taking a drink.


The son wasn't really important at this point but it was good to know what they wanted. He looked over the papers and nodded. It was definitely doable. They'd just need the right woman and they'd be set.

"I'll try to have someone for you tomorrow and then I shall work with you both. Here are the layouts," moving to get them from a shelf close by then setting to the table in reach of the brothers. The layouts of both Keeps were there that had been in the records kept here from before when their father was King. He would need find a lass that would not freak out over what would be considered magic. To Leoric it was not, it was understanding the laws of energy that all life was created from than what the word magic implied, something that happens there is no scientific law that can be applied. More it was science was ignorant of higher laws that governed life at the core. He took the offered bottle to fill his glass before setting it aside. At that point there was a knock to the door before as the serving maids were allowed in with the trays of food to set out, enough for all and then some. A page also arrive coming up to Leo and Gaidan with the news that the McDonough party had arrived and were being seen to their rooms, a few minutes to freshen up and would be escorted here once they were ready.



Date: 07-11-09
Poster: Leoric McLarkin
Post # 39

Plans Made over Dinner

Broch made the most of his meal, eyeing the pageboy that came in to deliver a message to Leoric. Noted before he was back to the food before him, realizing just how hungry he had become. By the looks of all the dishes being set, duplicates of a few, it was a small feast, something he would give due justice to.

Logan was off to his own thoughts although the food being brought in had him working up that good appetite, leaving the business matters a rest until they were done, then again they might be done for the evening. There was still the matter of finding a woman willing to go with them under a ruse. As plates were put out and no need of preamble, he started filling his of the various meats, potatoes and vegetables.

Mike felt the rumble of his stomach but luckily it didn't make a loud noise. Like his brothers, he dug right in, saying little to nothing as he ate. He tried a little of everything, decide which he liked best and had a little more of that before he was through.

Joseph, Garath, Marina and his children were greeted in royal style once they reached the castle. Escorted by guards and a few chambermaids to see to their comfort as rooms were assigned. They were put in the West Wing as well. Big Bob and Frank were put up in the warriors' section that also accommodated the guards, bodyguards and the like on the lower floors of the castle. Joe, Marina and Garath were invited into the office for the briefing and dinner while Joshua and Tamara would dine in the great hall with the ladies, Gadian's fiancee, Corina, put in charge of making them feel welcome and see to their comfort. Parting ways soon after they freshened up a bit, for the hour was of dinner upon them, they followed the guards to the Royal Office. A knock on the door was followed by them being opened up and ushered in. Some of the serving lasses were still busy with the plates as they were taking their leave behind them. Joe noticed the Cunninghams with a nod before a smile turned on Leoric and Gaidan with a grin. It had been some time since he'd seen the twins, though two of his private investigators had been sent to help them out with the Montrose case. Seemed all the ends were not quite tied up yet. "Your majesties, it is good to see you both again." Giving them a respectful bow of his head as a fisted hand went to his chest over his heart.  Once straightened a hand touched upon Marina's back, "may I present to you the Lady Marina Ackerman." The light touch falling away with the introduction.

Marina was grateful for the chance to freshen up. She replaced her travel clothes with a light gown of pale blue cotton, semi-formal as compared to that worn earlier. When they were escorted to join the others for dinner, she looked a touch worried. But it soon passed. As they entered the office, she smiled at those already there. A curtsey was given to the twins with Joe's introduction. "Your Majesties, it is an honor to meet you both."

Garath was glad for the few moments to clean up and to catch his breath. It had been an interesting journey but if truth were told, he was glad it was over.  He joined Joe and Marina looking forward not only to a good meal but to seeing Leoric and Gaidan. A smile and nod greeted the three Cunningham brothers and the Twins were given a slight bow. "Your Majesties. It's been a long time."


Broch returned the nod in a welcoming way as he noticed Garath, not having met him personally but he knew him by sight. He received a respectful nod also. The woman was noticed in appreciation before he was back his meal.

Logan gave a wave but otherwise little was distracting him from his meal. Well, wait, the woman got a second look for she was that kind of fetching. He was single and normal.

"It is good to see you again Joseph as well of you Garath." Leoric spoke up first before ancient eyes turned upon Marina. The eyes were the window to the soul and if one had such perceptions in understanding, they could tell when a lie was presented or the truth, as much as one knew as the truth. He found no contradictions in this woman on the initial evaluation through his instincts. Trained instincts. "It is my pleasure to meet you Lady Ackerman. If I may call you Marina?" He could without asking permission do just that but it was out of respect to give the choice. "I am Leoric and my brother Gaidan," which he didn't really need to indicate his mirror image. "I would also introduce you to Broch Cunningham," indicating which was the eldest of that family, "and his brothers, Logan and Michael," indicating each in turn as they were introduced. "What may come of talks here, is to be kept here unless otherwise given permission to speak on outside these chambers." It was important and a lot of trust was being given  Marina especially in this matter, even if should find her brother was indeed guilty. "I will be giving you all as much protection as is possible within my means. Once you enter onto the lands of these Keeps, it will be dangerous for any of you. I feel that if your brother is indeed innocent, which we will assume over guilty, he is in danger and probably unaware of his real situation." It was the first heads up for Marina. "If you would like to have something to eat first, then we can address the matter of what will be your task, Joseph and what will be of the Cunningham brothers, getting you all started off as early as tomorrow."

Joseph listened to all Leoric had to say giving a nod here and there that he understood. The information, the probable situation, was one he was figuring and pleased he was not the only one seeing that Charles Ackerman was being played as a pawn by Phillip Harman. No matter that Charles and Marina's father may not wish his son harm, the real control over that he would find he had lost to Harman. "Thank you, I'm quite hungry," he would join the Cunningham's once Marina and Garath were ready to head over.

"It's a pleasure to meet you all." Marina smiled at the men glad to see that they weren't interrupting their meal as introductions were made. She also noticed how they looked at her and felt a touch embarrassed but it didn't show as she turned to the Twins and spoke. "Thank you, your Majesties. I can hope my faith in my brother is justified. He's always been a good man, in spite of my father and his ways. I can only hope that he'll be glad to help once he learns the truth." When she smiled this time, it was fuller and showed a dimple. "I'm quite hungry, thank you." She wouldn't make the two men with her wait a moment longer.

Garath nodded as he listened to Leoric, his eyes showing how serious he knew this was. He was patient though and would wait for what needed to be said. Once Marina was moving toward the table, he followed, offering the three men another smile. He was certainly ready for a good meal himself.

Mike offered another smile, though with a closed mouth since he was eating. He too took a moment to study Marina following the introduction. Fine looking woman indeed. But back to his meal his attention went. He was glad to ease the growling beast that was his stomach.

Leoric was the one who would do most of the talking between the twins but Gaidan would add things as necessary. He was grateful though that they'd be having help with all this and even more so that it was Joseph and the Cunningham brothers. All of whom had excellent reputations.

The messenger lad waited on the King as he addressed the company arriving. Once Joseph, Garath and Marina were set to the table and waited on by the remaining servers, Leo turned to the lad before he would join them. "Find the Lady Corina and ask her to see if there is any lady available that is willing to take on a risk for the good of the kingdom. She must be agile and capable of body," pausing a moment to add, "and the Lady Corina cannot volunteer herself her position," taking a glance to his brother and back, "keeps her from such a risky undertaking when she would be recognized." He was sure the princess to be would be marked while other women were considered insignificant unless tied in directly to the king and regent. The lad of about fifteen understood and was off to see to Leoric's biding. "Justin will make a fine knight in a few years." Mentioned in general as the lad wasn't a page boy at his age. Leo had taken on a few of the most trustworthy aspiring lads to have them integrated into the system in a closer rapport and a stronger security gained. He headed over to the table with the hope Corina would find someone suitable in the meantime. Knowing she would spread the word as needed to see this task completed. Conversation had already started up as the others joined the Cunninghams and now he and his brother to partake of this small feast and set aside duties for the half hour or so.

Vadoma had spoken to Corina sometime before on her life outside of Kildare, before her return. She was willing to do what was necessary to help her homeland and was all of those things Leoric had requested. She also was a relative unknown in spite of her position. Her absence for any length of time was likely to go unnoticed. She was dressed simply in a summer gown of white cotton, printed with tiny blue flowers, her long hair allowed to hang loose. As she neared the door and the guards, she paused, lifting her chin just a tad. "The King and Regent are expecting me." A casual wipe of her hands on the skirt of her gown was taken, the only sign of her nervousness.

The guards looked at her then each other before the one higher in rank moved to open up the door. They knew Vadoma to see her and that she was one of the Ladies in Waiting for Corina. Since the king wasn't married and had no prospects, all fell to Corina and her ladies. "Wait a moment," as he stepped within to announced, "the Lady Vadoma here to see King and Regent." When Leoric stood, luckily having finished his meal, he waved the guard on to see the lady within. He was around from the table in order to greet her, looking very much the role he was destined as king. It was there in the way his shoulders were squared and his feet firmly planted spaced just so apart. Hands resting at his hips. Gaidan was welcome to join him or continue conversing with the others.

She smiled politely to both guards then stepped forward, and moved into the room. When Leoric stepped in front of her, Vadoma dropped into a deep curtsey. "Your majesty, Corina sent me. She said," and her lips twitched as she stood, "that she wasn't allowed to come herself."

Gaidan of course, was over to join his Twin as he had finished eating. He couldn't help grinning when he heard Vadoma and nodded. Corina understood and luckily, she had a sense of humor about her duties, even if she took them very seriously. He waited for Leoric to speak, knowing once again, he would be expected to add what he felt was necessary.

He held out both hands for her to take. "It is a brave thing that you do for me, for my brother, for Kildare, Lady Vadoma. Tell me why you have volunteered," the quirk of a smile dashing away the more serious side of Leoric. One that seemed more a constant for the weight upon his shoulders and only his brother to share it with. At least Gaidan had Corina to share things with. "I know she would volunteer and then I would have my brother breathing down my neck." Not looking Gaidan's way at all but then, he didn't need to.

She placed her hands in his, dark eyes looking into his, amusement replaced with a serious expression, though she did smile briefly at Gaidan before she spoke. "Kildare is my homeland, your majesty. I will do all that I can to protect her. When I gave my oath of loyalty to the two of you, I meant it. And I have done some work similar to this for some friends when I was away. I believe I can handle this."

Gaidan merely smiled when he heard his brother, though he gave Vadoma a wink. She would be one who knew his fiancee almost as well as herself and he knew she'd understand his concern. Corina had taken Kildare to her heart.  If she were to go on this mission, Gaidan would be like a caged lion until her return.

He studied her, delving into her eyes, not so much on the loyalty for he knew this already. Something else that would qualify or disqualify her on this mission. "I think you will be able to handle this." One hand released as he kept the one within his to guide to the crock of his arm. "Then you shall meet the Cunningham brothers of which you will be working closely with and who will protect you with their lives. Your part small but not insignificant in the least but one never knows what may happen so it is good you have done this kind of work before. Always be prepared for the unexpected for it may make the difference between life and death." Arriving by the Cunninghams as his arm them moved down, guiding hers away and drawing out a seat next to Broch for her.
"Broch Cunningham, Laird of his clan of Heathfield. His brothers bounty hunters and there is a particular bounty to be extracted from Swan Lake Keep. Possibly two. Your role will be as his wife, so enough of that ruse will need to be played out, if you have any reservations in doing so, speak up now. Logan and his brother Mike," indicating each, "will be your sons. You are to arrive to the market place as many such families travel there to sell their goods. Two head of cattle and some chickens in the back of the wagon along with a young mule and two pigs in tow. Wagon will be drawn by a mule but one that has speed when a certain command is given. Fast as a horse then if needed. There is one other thing, I will be setting a spell along the lines of glamour upon you both for a duration of three days, aging you in the eyes of others enough to pass off as the parents of these two strapping lads. Ones along to take care of the animals and see to selling them as many do along with protection. Especially an older couple so they are not taken advantage of." Next addressing the Cunningham brothers. "Broch, Logan, Michael, this is the Lady Vadoma under the service of Lady Corina who has volunteered to assist you in this matter."

Vadoma didn't look away, keeping her eyes on the King's as she knew he was making sure she was the one. When he seemed satisfied, she relaxed slightly. Moving to the table with an inborn grace, she smiled her thanks as she was seated. Wide brown eyes took in all those at the table, but she turned to the three brothers.


Broch was up from his seat as soon as Leoric arrived with the lady, "my pleasure, Lady Vadoma. I bae 'oping yea din mind being mae wife for a couple o' days." Dashing smile as he certainly would not mind the ruse in the way it was looking up.

Logan nudged Broch as he stepped away from his seat so he could be seen without the need of her leaning. "I am told I am not to flirt with me mother but hell that is going to be hard." Giving her a wink with an equally dashing smile. Poor lass.. she might back out before she begun!

Mike stood as well, inclining his head slightly in greeting. "It's a pleasure, Lady Vadoma. I'm looking forward to working with you." He smiled at her and made a motion toward Logan. "And you don't need to worry about him. He gets involved in his work."

She couldn't hide the blush that appeared with the compliments. "I think we can manage a couple of days." She had a sparkle in her eye as she studied Broch, then she laughed when she looked at Logan. "I'm sure once the spell is cast, you'll change your mind about flirting." She nodded at Mike as well, then looked at Leoric. "I understand, your Majesty, but there are very few choices for help in this situation. I'd be honored to take part and I'm certain I'll be quite safe." She laughed softly. "I've never been 'under a spell' before. It should be interesting."

The lad was back as Leoric moved away from the Cunninghams, "I will see all four of you shortly to set things in motion," while they got acquainted with Vadoma but didn't want them leaving the room. He was given the message from Justin which had him approaching Joseph next. "Your children await you in the solarium that overlooks one of the gardens and a practice field beyond. Tomorrow morning as the Cunninghams and Vadoma head out, we shall talk over how to proceed and what needs to be done on your end. I have the man that has seen your brother recently, Marina, brought to the castle to help on this matter. Once ready, you two will head out to Cottonwood Keep."Giving them their leave that they could also get a good night's sleep. Garath he would see tomorrow as he was to stay with Joe's children and assign them a guide as well guards to go exploring.

Joseph was up from his seat, "I will see to them immediately." He was tired and was sure they were too. It had been a long day. Offering his arm to Marina in escort as he knew where the solarium was. Garath could go with them and see it as well or head for his rooms, that choice was his. "Good luck on your mission, Broch, Logan, Michael, Lady Vadoma. Return safe and successful."

Broch nodded to Leoric, understanding as he took his seat again as well his drink to wash down. Hearing Joe he twisted around, "aye, we will and guid luck tae yea as well. We'll bae seeing yea back 'ere in a couple o' days. Clean up t'is matter o' t'ose renegades."

Logan added his farewell and blessing. "See you in a few days, successful with nary a scratch. We plan the same." Both had the one thing in common, a lady with them to watch over. Trickier but more the challenge.

Mike stood and bowed slightly to Marina, then he grinned at Joe and Garath. "Thanks and good luck to the two of you. We'll see you all back here in time, aye." He sat back down then smiled at Vadoma before he looked at Broch and Logan. This certainly did add a bit of a challenge to the whole mission but a pleasant one.

Marina too, was feeling weary but wanted to see the Solarium. "Thank you, your Majesty. I can't tell you how much I appreciate all your doing." Whether her brother was innocent or not, she was glad for the chance to at least see him and know the truth. She stood and slid her arm through Joseph's. "Good night, gentleman, Lady Vadoma. Rest well, and we'll see you soon." Confident all would be well, she inclined her head before leaving the room with Joseph and Garath.

Garath smiled as he stood, looking first at the three brothers. "It was good to see the three of you. And we'll see you back here in a few days, aye." He followed his brother and Marina out after giving his farewells to the King and Regent.

"Joseph, Marina, I'll be speaking with you tomorrow."  Gaidan had a few details to go over with Joe, some information they had received just lately. "Good night and rest well." With that he looked at his brother then at the four who remained, offering Vadoma a wink.  He appreciated what she was doing.


Date: 07-16-09
Poster: Leoric McLarkin
Post # 40


After everyone had left, except his brother, Lady Vadoma and the Cunninghams, Leoric move three chairs facing each other and spaced the same distance apart forming a triangle. "Lady Vadoma if you would please take a seat as well of you Broch." It didn't matter which one they took for he would take the third, putting one or the other to his right and left. Once they were seated he would hold out his hand each side. "If you will take my hand as well hold hands between you."

Broch was over allowing Vadoma to be seated first then himself as Leo took the last seat. He took up Leo's hand then held his out for Vadoma to take. Grin was spreading lopsided her way as he waited those few moments.

Vadoma offered Broch a dimpled smile as she sat then took his hand. Cheeks held a natural tint but the way he grinned made the color deepen. Her hand was soft and warm with no calluses but she was a hard worker. She just took care of her hands. She then placed her other hand in Leoric's and waited.

Gaidan took up a lean against one of the tables to watch after pouring himself a glass of potcheen. He was of course more than interested in how Leoric did this.

Mike joined Gaidan in the drink but he sat to watch. He hadn't had much to do with magic, their disguises were done with makeup, so this was of much interest to him.

Logan was with Mike and Gaidan to watch at a short distance. He was not unfamiliar with the area of magic but it continue to hold an awe of sorts in seeing it done. He knew Leo was gifted like his older brother. The pure went down well in the meantime.

The connection was made complete when he took each of their hands in his after theirs were held. A firm hold without pressure and the flow of energy would be felt in and through them coming from him through Broch, through Vadoma and back to him. Once the circuit was complete and continual, provided they did not let go of either hand, he was ready to begin. "Keep the hold of hands until I am done. This is important or something else could happen if only part goes through." This went without need for a response other than a nod perhaps on their part. His eyes took on a brighter quality and the area around him would haze to white and growing that even they would see. That was him putting up protection so that opening this area would not have a negative entity come in uninvited.


"From the center flowing free, comes all that is and will ever be. Power on high, seeking direction, power on Earth, complete perfection, for three days hence these two in connection will appear two decades older for those who look upon them. Upon the fourth, all haze passes away to what had been. Their rightful age regained. Right and reason rule the day. Love and order are the way. Round and round the wheel of light, endless power shining bright. I thank you for this request as through me they shall do their best." Once he was done, he opened his eyes to watch the transformation of twenty years appear upon their faces, hands and body. Though he didn't ask that they would feel the two decades older, only the appearance was sought. "You will need to act the age you appear to others when necessary." Their hands parting as Broch now had a lot of silver at his temples and strips of such in his beard. His moustache peppered. The lines at his eyes deeper and more pronounced as well upon his forehead. Vadoma also had wrinkles where there had been smooth skin aside her eyes and mouth. Silver streaked dark hair that was mostly silver than dark unlike Broch's. Their bodies assuming more weight in a rounded about way especially around the waist.

Broch had nodded with the request and wouldn't let go of Vadoma's hand if she tried! Secure grip without squeezing. He felt the oddity of the force that went through him from Leoric. A force he had been around before when he died. He recognized it and felt comfortable though he watched as Vadoma aged before his eyes once the ritual was done, knowing he was doing the very same in front of her. "Amazing, and you're still beautiful." Some aged better than others and Vadoma held that regal air about her still.

Vadoma nodded, watching Leoric with dark eyes that held no fear. It was an odd feeling but she didn't flinch. Instead her eyes shifted to Broch and she watched the amazing transformation. When all was through, his words had her smiling. "And you are still a handsome man. " Laughter came with her next words. "And now I have a preview of what I'll look like." It didn't bother her in the least.

Nor had it bothered him but then he'd been a decade older than this body he was in so the transformation would not be so drastic once he got to see himself. Men tended to look better older for some reason, where aging was hardest on females, probably due to social standards.

Leoric was up into a stretch as the procedure tired him out. He would seek rest as was usual after such endeavors. "Get some sleep, you will need to leave before the crack of dawn. The wagon, cattle, mules, pigs and chickens are all ready. It would be normal for the mother and father to ride the wagon while their sons walk either side keeping an eye on the animals and everything around them. They could carry large sticks of which they would be proficient in using though you will all have daggers to hide on your person. If all goes wrong, get out of there and to the area of the road you traveled there that is past what they claim as their lands. I will have men waiting, hidden in the forests to help. I cannot bring them any closer and not have them become suspicious. You will find the clothes appropriate for dirt poor farmers in your rooms." Glancing over to Gaidan to see if he had forgotten anything.

Gaidan was up from his lean as Leoric stood and he gave his brother a slight nod then looked at the others. "You'll likely see a lot of armed men but don't be alarmed. They patrol rather heavily. Good luck and we'll see you in three days." If all went well. He had confidence in the four.

Vadoma stood and listened to the twins then she looked at Logan and Mike. "Yes, off with you now, boys, you need your rest before we start out." An impish look was obvious in her eyes. She curtseyed to the Twins as they prepared to leave.

"Oh, there are fake passes stating you are from the Village Ashgrove north of Kildare. It's one that is scattered with mostly farmers for them to know them all. The surname of Williams, Jake, Maureen and their two sons Josh and Jack."

Mike nodded, his expression serious. Though the change had been interesting, he was preparing for the morning. "I'll be Josh. You can be Jack." He told Logan. Well, not totally serious. He inclined his head to the two Royals. "Three days." Sleep was needed even if they weren't leaving early.

"I hope I look as good as you do two decades older," grinning as he passed Broch, a hand in a grip of his shoulder before waggling his brows. "Aye mother but let me just say, you are still beautiful." Then to Mike, "we'll decide that with a toss of a coin. Heads or tails? Winner gets to be Josh, the oldest by a year." Which he took out a coin to toss once his brother picked.

"You don't look older than me." He laughed then nodded. "Heads." He didn't care in either case but it would be fair.

"Read and weep Jack!" Having flipped the coin and slapped to the back of his hand showing tails. Oh yes, he was grinning, muttering, little brother as he headed on out.

Broch was shaking his head as he slipped his arm around Maureen, which he realized had been his cousin's wife in this body. He might tell her about that, then again he might not, it might bring up too many questions. "See that Mother, our sons are arguing again," though mirth showed in burnished green eyes as they also headed out to get some needed rest. "Good night Leoric, Gaidan, we will come back successful." Having a good idea they would probably see one or the two of them tomorrow, well, seven hours from now, as they headed out.

"Enjoy it because it's the only time it will happen." He laughed as he followed after Logan, giving a wave to the others. And then he caught up to Logan to punch him in the shoulder just because Broch mention they were arguing.  "Let me see that coin!"

She laughed as she leaned against him.  Affectionate couple after all this time. "Aye, they are but what can you do? Boys will be boys after all. Good night, your Majesties." Old habits were hard to break.

Leoric watched them leave as a bit of the weight was eased upon his shoulders. "I have a good feeling they will come back successful but I do not feel the son is with the father. I'm not sure where he is but he feels distant unlike Ultan." That was as much as he could pull up on the lad with not knowing either of them firsthand as in having met them. Only seen briefly as a distance when they took off during the battle they realized they could not win. "You set your wedding date, there is nothing to hold you up now." They had held it off too long as it was.

"He may show up after his father is captured." And as far as the wedding, "Aye, soon." He looked at Leoric and grinned. "In time and then we'll have to see to finding you a bride." Teasing of course. He'd rather his brother fall in love on his own. "Now, let's get some rest." He knew Leoric would be tired from the ritual and would need to sleep.

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