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Kildare Saga

Date: 07-26-09
Poster: Broch Cunningham
Post # 41

Swan Lake Keep

The four had gotten a good night's rest as much as one could before embarking on such an enterprise as this. Broch was use to the lighter sleep and didn't worry himself over waking up a few times. He was up and dressed into the villager's clothing that had seen better days but found them to be comfortable. He was getting acquainted with the mule that would be drawing their wagon that he note was full of hay and a few chicken coops. One pig on a lead attached to the back of the wagon as well two young cattle. He was up to the buckboard to make sure the reins and harness were all in top order while waiting on the others. Of course everything was seen to precisely down to the last detail. As he would expect of the King and Regent here.

Logan was out soon after Broch, a tune whistled under his breath as he had a nice walking stick he found. Why he was a few minutes late. One that could easily serve as a weapon, as suggested. He took to such good suggestions easily. A hand out to rub over the heads of the cattle as he checked them out. "Not shabby ones either for there is always the chance of losing them in this charade if we don't actually sell them." Like that was an item of importance which it was not but he was one to add in that part with a grin. He also swung up the basket into the buckboard with some food in it for the four of them on this trip, kind that would last if needed.

Mike had slept well enough but was still yawning as he joined his brothers. He eyed the walking stick that Logan had, deciding to watch for a suitable one on the way. "Nice day for a journey." He grinned as he spoke, then adjusted the straw hat. Always anxious to get started, he walked around the wagon, checking it over carefully. Satisfied all was well, he leaned against the side of it while they awaited Vadoma.

Vadoma had been up for some time, tending to a few last minute details. Of course, it would make her late when that didn't normally happen. She joined the three men and smiled. Her hair had been braided, then curled into a bun at the nape of her neck. "I'm ready finally." She said as she patted one of the cows in passing.

"T'at's mae Maureen, late fer 'er own funeral," so the bantering would start as he gave her a wink and patted the buckboard right next to him instead of her sitting to the other end. "A guid morn'in tae yea all, time tae gae." Which he started up the mule once everyone was ready. He knew the way and soon they were pass the castle walls heading southwest. They were to stay to the main road, in full view as would villagers traveling to sell their goods.

Luckily he wasn't leaning against the side of the wagon as he lagged back and to the side of the cattle. No way would he walk directly behind them knowing that much about such animals. He was in for a good stretch of legs but with the cattle, pig and coops of chickens, they would not be going fast. He took notice of the improvements done and in the process of being done as they moved through the small commons, expanding one, and off onto a main road that would lead to this Keep of Swan Lake.

Mike wasn't leaning when the wagon started. He whistled as they walked, finally spotting a stick that was suitable for use as a walking stick and for fighting. He peeled off leaves and broke off branches as they walked. Later, when they stopped for the night, he'd fix it more. Though it didn't seem like he was paying attention, he was.

"Aye, and likely forgettin' somethin'." She answered as she moved up and settled on the seat beside Broch. She leaned over and planted a kiss to his cheek. "And a good morn to you." She wasn't too terribly uncomfortable though she was certain by the time they stopped, her backside would be sore. "Good morning lads, and no lolly-gaggin'." She grinned back at the 'boys' before adjusting her hat and settling in for the ride.

He had a pad she could use to sit on if the buckboard became too harsh, pointing it out as his kiss to her cheek grazed the corners of her lips. They might have to actually kiss and they had not practiced so it was close enough. It wasn't like they were young and more demonstrative. They made good time but as the road passed into the area the usurps were trying to remain split from the castle, they soon saw their patrols. The mark of the dragon inside the circle on their upper arms. He kept his eye to the road in moving the wagon off to the side giving them their way. Though very aware it was better he kept his business to moving slower over the terrain as they passed than stopping.

Logan chased off a few stray dogs intent on finding out if there was anything they could snatch and eat, such as a loose chicken or the like. He felt the vibration of hooves long before the troop was coming upon them. Leoric and Gaidan had said they would be encountered. He made sure the cattle followed the wagon without any rebellion. He was aware of the man looking upon him like he was debating to start something up just for the sport of it. Ducking around to the other side to help make that decision a little more complicated and if the troop was headed somewhere in particular, not have that kind of time to spare. He also didn't really look at the man for that too would be accepting a challenge by making eye contact. The man passed a look over the others and soon nudged his horse to speed up in catching up with the rest of his comrades.

Mike stayed close to the wagon, making sure none of the cages bounced off or the ropes came loose. He glanced up at the men then looked down again, using the brim of his hat to shield his eyes. He watched the man ride off then gave Logan a half grin. Another time perhaps. Tipping his head to look at the sky, he took the hat off briefly and swiped a hand across his brow. It was getting warm.

Vadoma smiled at Broch, claiming that pad a little later. She placed her hands on the seat as the men approached, not even glancing up at them. Once she heard the horses move away, including that last one, she let out a little sigh of relief then looked at Broch. Hopefully any other patrols they passed would ignore them.

"Last t'ing we bae need'in is a confrontation before we even get t'ere!" Relief evident as the riders rode on. He had been checking their weapons and figuring he'd have to take on at least four himself. The road seemed to widen as small huts sufficing as homes were passed and those grew more of and closer together forming a town. At one point it opened up into a rough hewed general square where probably the law was seen to as well as marriages and the selling of goods. There were some of the town's people already set up and more coming in along the road they had taken. It was not real crowded this day but crowded enough until he heard one of the older folks checking out his cattle. "You might want to bring these in to the Keep's market square up further and get a better price." The man seemed to take to Maureen as he spoke to Broch. Probably wouldn't have said anything had she not been with him. "Aye? I bae t'ank'ing yea. I 'eard business gaes well 'ere to give it a try." Deciding that the towns folk would know they were new so why not go along with it and be on the safe side. So he started up the wagon and got into a pace with a few others that were going beyond the gates into a larger market area. He slipped an arm around Maureen to let the man know she was with him. Just in case, he didn't need any other kind of trouble either to get in their way.

For a change, Logan kept a low profile. Eyeing others as he was eyed but he didn't put forth any challenges. Luckily it was early and even if enough others were drinking, they had not drank their fill to that point of starting fights. He was sure that would come about past noon day and more by early evening if ones still lingered. He'd make a good bet the families with children would be long gone out of here by then.

Mike kept an easy smile on his face, touching fingers to his hat if any looked his way though not keeping eye contact with anyone for long, not even the lasses. He took note of a few who could be trouble later on, but hopefully they'd not have to deal with them or better yet, be on their way. He glanced at Logan then studied the larger market area. Nice crowd but not as large as some places they had been.

Vadoma had added a plain silver band before leaving Kildare and she made sure that it was seen as she leaned into Broch. The man offering advice was given a slight smile but then she turned her attention forward. He didn't look like one to make a challenge. Taking note of any guards, she waited for the wagon to come to a stop so she could stretch her legs while the men planned their next move.

This marketplace was far more crowded and less likely for them to stand out. Children running about, older lads shouting to one another and some games started up for those who had to come but didn't sit out the selling of items. They were getting into a stone tossing as piles were being made as well wagers. One would think this was a normal place to be but he highly doubted what seemed to be and what was, matched up. They were only making do with their lot in life, knowing death to be a reality around any given corner. He found a spot just past the last wagon they were behind and drew it over to the side. The cattle would go for two hundred coins a piece and that was cheap for their size and health. It was about the going rate for a villager to ask under such circumstances and if one of the lords came about and wanted them for less, they best be willing to come down in price. "Yea get along lads and see to the list yea Ma gave yea." Handing Josh a bag of coins that would cover the list and the list given to Jack. "Make sure yea get it all." If they could and certainly loud enough that anyone paying any attention to them would hear. Like small towns, there were ones paying attention.

"Aye Da, give a holler iffin yea bae need'in us." Eyeing the sport being set up as one his age would. He had combed his hair and attired in a way to look a few years younger than he was, early twenties." Taking the purse as would the oldest and certainly brought a grin his brother's way. "Ye ready Jack," stressing his name like a sibling would using his authority over the other. "I'll bae mak'in sure 'e gets all on yea list Ma." Like Jack was the wayward one. When both were really going scouting for their bounty.

He took the list and read over it, squinting slightly as if not entirely sure of the words. "Aye, we'll git it all. Doncha bae worryin' none, Da." He looked up at his brother and smirked. "Aye, aye, I bae ready. Don' worry none, Ma. I'll bae keepin' Josh out o' trouble." He flashed Vadoma a grin before he was over to join 'Josh'. "Guess yae bae gettin' tae mak' the payments, aye?"

Vadoma chuckled as she listened to the brothers, shaking her head. "I'm countin' on you both. And don' be stoppin' to gawk at any pretty lasses. Jist get what's on the list an' get back here." She even moved over to Logan, standing on tiptoe as she brushed back a strand of his hair. "And stay ou' of trouble. Make sure Jack doesn't go wanderin' off." Then she was back to help Broch with the animals.

Meanwhile, in the Keep:


"Your current lack of enthusiasm to our cause has me rather distressed, Ultan."  Phillip Harman rocked on the back two legs of his chair, his feet crossed at the ankles and propped up on the desk before him.  When the man standing in front of the desk opened his mouth to speak, Phillip lowered the chair fully to the floor, his feet following, and held up a hand to halt any comments yet.  "Kildare is coming within my reach, your Duchy closer to yours, and yet I've not seen a single move on your part except to scramble about like a wharf rat afraid of the sunlight.  I find your incompetence quite taxing."


Ultan Cunningham took a step toward the desk, a dark frown marring his brow.  "And what would you expect of me, Phillip?  Our sources have said that I'm being tracked, that any steps we take to our goal are being closely monitored.  Incompetent? Would you have me throw myself to the enemy?  That would do neither of us any good, regardless of your ... distress.  While you sit here in your comfortable surroundings."  Ultan made a sweep of hand to indicate the plush, pleasant accommodations of this room.  "I'm hiding away in hovels and hell holes.  I'll tell you exactly what you can do with your distress."

Phillip clicked his tongue, tsk'ing away Ultan's anger as he came to his feet.  He turned to push his cushioned chair under the sizeable, cherry desk.   He had never been denied any of his physical pleasures.  His gold coupled with his greed and ruthless determination provided the best comfort in the lands...for him.   It would soon also extend that comfort to the throne of Kildare.  This particular desire had been delayed in the coming, but it would come.  Harman always acquired what he desired.
"Such an ill temper."  Phillip strolled, rather leisurely in his confidence, over to the table where a decanter of brandy and glasses had been placed for him.  "Shall we defuse the situation with a drink, Callihan?"  He tugged the stopper from the bottle's neck and poured, his movements slow, calculated, precise.  He knew Ultan had come up behind him, and he didn't doubt the man was furious with the insults laid against him and yet, Phillip Harman did not care.  Not one wit.  When he turned with a glass in each hand, it was easy enough to hand one over to Ultan.   The man actually stood closer than Phillip had sensed.  "Guard your thoughts, Ultan, lest your expression make it too clear just how much you despise me."

"Is there any doubt in that, Phillip?"  Ultan smiled taking his glass, though that expression was more so of evil intent than friendship.  "My future king."  He bowed, a mock show of reverence as he held his hand with drink out from his side, although he kept his full attention on Harman.

"Why don't you take some time for yourself, Callihan.  You will be safe enough here.  Stroll the market..." Phillip started to smile, taking a drink then finishing his comment.  "Find a've no need to dart about here."

Ultan hadn't finished his drink yet, so he took the time to do it.

Phillip lifted his brows in question as the man lingered, but didn't say anything until the whole of his drink was consumed.  "That is all, Ultan."

Ultan Callihan set the glass aside on the expensive desk, not even minding that it may leave a mark.  He cast a look to Phillip from the corner of his eyes, then started toward the door.  This was not all!  But any further discussion would wait until after he ... strolled around.



Date: 08-11-09
Poster: James Callihan
Post # 42

A Planned Visit

It was late night the Frontier finally ported in Barrett's Bay. The massive ship anchored out a distance from the piers. Heathfield's port was always a sight to see with the various lights dancing off cresting waves  The sounds of the port ranging from the various ships, a fog horn, and those of humanity in taverns or outside. A dinghy set sail from the Frontier, taking James to the dock where he would disembark. Some of his crew would be taking leave while others stayed aboard until any further commands. James didn't captain his ship but left it in the reliable hands of another he appointed.

Morgan had put his own ship into a berth where it could be unloaded. He was off the ship but watching the unloading, though it was the quartermaster who was checking things off. He had taken note of the large ship out in the bay but from this distance, it was impossible to see whose ship it was. Because of the heat, his shirt was unbuttoned and untucked. The dinghy caught his attention and perhaps something more as he watched it make its way to the docks.

James wore a slicker, dark Stetson dipped in the front lending a mysterious air about him. He recognized the ship docked further down the pier as he headed there, coming up behind Morgan to place a hand on his shoulder. Deep timbre voice held a touch of mirth, "a fine lady you have there sailor."

He hadn't seen James come onto land but that voice had him grinning as he looked over his shoulder. "Aye, she is at that. Been out seeing the world, have you, brother?" It seemed like they usually missed one another when they made port.

Hand fell away but the smile remained. "Aye, seeing the world and what she has to offer. Seasons come and go and with them many changes. Some good, some, well, probably best after all. I would say it is time for me to turn some focuses elsewhere for it is a large sea and many to meet." Certainly cryptic but his brother would understand. "Have you seen Adam yet?" Another brother for him or them to find this night.

"Not yet. We made port early today and I sent word that I was in. He answered that he had a meeting but would seek me out once things had settled." He crossed his arms over his chest, studying his brother. "Have you heard of any other attacks of late?" He had discontinued his association with the British but still had not mentioned it to James. So far there had been no reason to.

He motioned to a deserted area along the pier and away from the men unloading the ship where they could be overheard. Once to the area where their voices would be a low rumbling to others' ears at best, James took up a lean against one of the pier posts. A cigarillo drawn out before the flare of a match set the cherry to the tip as he drew in air though it. Smoke exhaled in turn as he studied his brother, giving him the few moments to get situated. "Most likely they are going to have Ultan in custody in Kildare before this week is out. I need to find out how each of you feel in what should be done with him. What he did, the penalty is death. They will also find out if Gillean is with him or any part of his newest scheme. It was discovered through an undercover assignment that Ackerman is probably not part of the rebellion, that it is solely coming from Harman in Swan Lake. Had not pertinent information been discovered and soon to be confirmed, Harman would have Ackerman framed, using his influences in the English upper crust to have those ships sent, enticing private interests," which they would still need to discover if it continued, "in obtaining Kildare lands, including Kildare Castle itself if they thought it possible."

He frowned as he listened, giving a shake of his head. "So the attack on Regan's ship was likely a test of sorts." He rubbed at his chin., his expression thoughtful. "Treason is a never a good thing, James. Blood or not, I'd say his fate is in the hands of the King."

"It seems that way, probably of strength though it was only our caravan of ships. I don't know if they will be back but I'm sure we will find out. Mostly, far as Ultan, I would want to be prepared if the King decides to leave Ultan's fate in our hands for a verdict out of respect of our family." And they had helped the king regain Montrose which was now a loyal subject.

He nodded then looked out over the water for a moment. "Then I would say exile, if father agrees with it. I don't know if he could handle Ultan's death as a traitor, James."

He took another drag of the cigarillo, leaving the smoke trail from his lips before speaking up again. "I think that is one of the reasons he made me Duke, for it will fall on me instead. Of all the things our father has had to endure, this is one thing he could not bear the weight. So yes, I agree. Banishment is what I would seek, exiled from Kildare and all sister castles lands. That if he is found in any of them, he is to be executed on the spot. No questions or hesitation needed. I think it would destroy Caomine if he was executed, she'd never show her face in any lands but wilt away wherever home she was staying."

"Aye. She didn't deal well with what he did to Da. The shame might have her wither away to a ghost of herself." He nodded again, satisfied with that. "It'll be good to have him out of the way at least. Though I wonder if the King and Regent will have to face another uprising until each is certain of their strength." That would become tiring rather quickly in his opinion.

"As much as she came to fear her own father. In all of this, I can hope that Gillean is found to be clean of the dirty deeds. That he was pressured, even forced to do his father's will. If that is the case and he shows up not with his father, she can save face." At least she was being taken well care of in Whispering Pines, another reason he came to check on his favored home here. "I am sure the King and Regent will need prove themselves after the mess left behind and hard to bring chaos to order so widely distributed. They are doing a good job of it nonetheless but it will take time." He was up from his lean as the cigarillo butt was dropped to be crushed under the heel of his boot. "What do you say we find Adam and drinking this night, possibly some company in the form of the prettier gender..." quirk of a smile to follow as he was ready for whatever this night would bring his way.

"Aye, that sounds like a plan to me." He grinned as he straightened as well. "It looks as if the lads are about done with the unloading " Not that they needed Morg to hover over them in any case. "And I can use some potcheen to quench m'thirst." They'd have to see about the company. It would depend where they went!

"You're like a mother hen over your crew," chuckling as he teased his brother. "Faelan should be around. I know he's down here to do some running for zoo critters." Which he might find some strange ones in the forests of Kildare from odd stories that seem to float around even besides the ones of beasts in the denser area. "Regan is here?" Knowing that particular sister had an itch that could well get her scratched in a way she'd not welcome nor ever forget.

"Aye, she is. She wants to talk to Faelan I think about some of those zoo runs." He smiled slightly and gave a slight shrug of his shoulders. "I think she's at the manor tonight though." He hadn't seen her since the afternoon. "Mother hen? Those scoundrels would be sleeping on the crates instead of hauling them into the warehouse." Saying it loud enough so his men could hear. They earned their drink this night.

Which had him laugh out loud, "then you best pick a better crew or at least a task master over them that you can be drinking with your brothers instead of mothering.." still teasing him with that idea. "I can hope then she sails with Faelan in the least, if not yourself as well. I would rest easier at night than wondering if my sister found herself in the hands of those pirates again. She doesn't have a good running record avoiding trouble. Seems it finds her quite well. If you hadn't been there, or the rest of us when heading up to Kildare, I dread to think what might have happened." Speaking while starting in the direction of Adam's place of business.

"Mmm," was all he had to say to that. He hoped none of them run into those devils alone but the attack on her ship hadn't seemed to slow her quest for whatever it was she was seeking. "I think we'll have to find a man for her, keep her at home." Grinning at that. Wouldn't work.

"There are some good men in these lands but it might take one that shared the same interests or she fell so dam hard she want to please him without him asking. Anything in life is possible, never forget that, just as nothing is impossible." Griping his shoulder in a quick hold as they moved along before released again. "Now, tell me how things are coming along with you." Which he would get in before they reached Adam's place.

"Aye, I know there are. We'll just have to wait and see." He grinned at the question. "Well, enough. I don't attract much trouble." Which wasn't totally the truth. Their voices faded off as they moved away from the docks and toward their brother's office, laughter the last thing to fade.

Date: 08-13-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 43

Getting Ready

Joe had been up early, ate early and spoke with the King and Regent before shown to the room left at his disposal. The royals had other things needing their attention as was normal for their station and were not needed further with Joe. At least Leoric had good help in his brother in running the kingdom. Marc Langan would be shown to the room as soon as he arrived as well the Lady Ackerman once she was up and finished with breaking fast. There was coffee and tea in the room along with some scones and Danish under a glass dome to peruse at their leisure. Joe wore a light maze hue poet's shirt tucked into lightweight brown pants and riding boots. He stood at the open window, hands tucked behind his back as he enjoyed the view before him. One would never know such chaos existed in these lands for the serenity of the scene before him. But, as with anything, what is seen could be deceptive of what was really there. A point in case that would be helping them infiltrate a Keep.

Marina didn't follow the trend that so many others did in England. She was up early to enjoy the sunrise, then dressed.  Though she fussed little now that she was away from her father's house, she still would keep up appearances.  Her gown was a simple, and comfortable one made of pale green linen, with short puffed sleeves and a scooped neckline.  Eyelet lace trimmed the sleeves, neck and hem of the gown. It was one that was good for traveling.  She had pulled her hair back in a simple braid. Her only jewelry was a pair of pearl earrings.  She had a cup of tea, planning to break her fast later.  She never had eaten right after waking.  Guided to the room where Joe waited, she cleared her throat softly to alert him of her presence.

One could tell he was deep in thought for that momentary distant look to green eyes as he turned. He obviously had heard the slight sound she made and snapped back to the moment. "Can I offer you a cup of tea or coffee?" Hands having unfolded from behind his back as one swept out in indication of the table set up. The room wasn't large but it was one with a view she might take note if she looked beyond him. "You look very lovely this day," not really an afterthought as it was he finally noticed such. "Marc Langan is the man that will be coming that had been to your brother's keep a week or two ago but we can start the preliminaries in the meantime." Having crossed the room as he would get tea or coffee for her and a mug of the latter for himself.

"Thank you."  She smiled, cheeks taking on a hint of pink for the compliment. "Tea would be lovely."  She moved to the table to join him.  "Did you rest well?"  She also helped herself to one of the scones, now ready to break fast.  "I have a lovely view from my window, but I don't think any of the rooms have one that isn't."  She was a little nervous now that they were so close to seeing her brother.  "He's talk to Charles then?"

He took care of her tea first before pouring himself a mug of the coffee, taking it black. "I slept very well considering being in a different room." Though he had many years of practice, sleeping in strange places was necessary for his line of work. Sleep was important though he balanced it by becoming a light sleeper. If someone came into his room, he was up in a flash and any weapon he had in hand. "I think you may be right on that. The countryside here is as wild as it is beautiful." Though his eyes were fixed on hers as he spoke. "I don't think he talked with your brother as in a friendly conversation. He's a vet that travels around and your brother seems to have a love of horses. One of his that was older and a favorite needed attention so he called in a vet. Brought the horse from England with him it is said. The horse was failing after all these years." Her tea steeped by this time as he took out the metal ball with the crushed tea leaves before handing it off to her to fix as she liked. His mug taken up as he indicated the chairs near the hearth that looked comfortable even if the hearth's use was not needed.

"Ah, that would be Champion likely.  He always did favor that horse and he'd be up in years now."  She added a bit of honey to the tea before placing two of the scones onto a plate and joining him.  "I'm a little nervous after all these years.  Isn't that odd?  We were so close before he left home."  She smoothed her skirt once she was seated, then bit into the scone.  After chewing, she added, "And we did keep in touch for a time until he didn't write anymore." Though she suspected that her father had something to do with that.  Possibly intercepting her letters and Charles'.

"I think it would be more odd if you weren't nervous. It's been some time since you seen your brother plus the circumstances leave a kind of wonder that might bring disappointment. Though I'm sure you wish to keep a positive attitude," pausing the moment to reflect on in an age old saying, "hope for the best but be prepared for the worse. That would bring a lot of nervous feeling right there." Smile was a lazy kind tipped off to one side as he watched her closely, he could feel for her especially since she was a descent and caring woman. They were rare to find. Beauty was more easily found than a good soul beneath it. Here was a good soul. "I want you to remember back to your brother's voice. Something that would not have changed much at all if any in the amount of years. Is mine deeper or higher, or about the same tone?" Taking a breath as he continued, "I want you to help guide me in imitating his voice. I fear my ability to change my looks will go unseen by you but Marc should be a great help there."

It helped greatly that he understood and she smiled as she listened. Lifting her eyes to meet his again, she felt her cheeks growing warm. Not an unusual reaction when someone watched her, especially if that someone was as handsome and kind as Joseph. She frowned slightly in that she couldn't help with his looks but the voice she could remember. "Just a touch higher, though still deep. I would think he still has the accent, which would be similar to my own. There was always a hint of laughter in it when he spoke to me, but not when he spoke to my father, or to those he was suspicious of. He could also have a very cold, extremely proper tone if displeased."

"A bit of an old English rogue would he be then Madam," affecting an English accent with his voice to lilt higher, possibly a little too high but then that she would know better just how high her brother's was. The accent as well might need adjusting, did he dip in tone at the end of his words or swept them up. Things like that. He didn't plan to speak much so close enough to her brother's would do. A person's voice could change to account for any difference, a slight cold, too much smoking and so forth.

She couldn't help the laugh that escaped, head tilting as she listened. "A little lower. You've caught the tone but ... there was always a lift to the last of this words. Not so much that it seemed he was asking a question. I believe the accent is perfect, at least from what I remember." She had finished the scones and took a sip of the tea, her expression thoughtful. "He never raised his voice either, not even when he was furious. One could measure his anger by how calm he was if that makes sense."

So he slowed it down some first, A .. bit .. of .. an .. old .. English .. rogue .. would .. he .. be .. then .. Madam?" Garnishing the end of each word to just the right lift and down an octave. Next he strung them all together, "a bit of an old English rogue would he be then Madam?" Sweeping a smile at the very end and would await her approval or any needed corrections to try.

The tea cup was placed on the table, and she pressed a finger to her lips, eyes narrowing as she listened. "I do believe you have the voice down perfectly, Sir." She was obviously quite pleased with his imitation. "I daresay even my father would be hard pressed to say otherwise, though Charles' family might be harder to fool, but then, I don't believe we'll be attempting that?" She had lowered her hand as she spoke and now reached across the table to place her hand over his briefly. "I can't thank you enough, Joseph, and will likely continue to try."

"No, we only need it long enough to get into the Keep. I need to know any fond sayings he had and to come up with a good excuse why your brother is riding into the Keep when he'd not been seen leaving it. Not only that but with a beautiful woman at his side. Are there any there that would recognize you? If there are then we shall keep it as him escorting his sister who arrived unexpectedly and he wanted to surprise her by going to meet her himself. You would know the way in otherwise? Have you been to his estate before?" In short, he needed all information she could possibly think of to pull this off smoothly.

"He had a habit of saying excellent! when pleased, and would use sayings like don't beat around the bush, or wet your whistle but not to the point of being annoying." She chewed on her lip a moment then nodded. "There were several servants that went with him when he left so they should still recognize me. As far as ever being there, no, I haven't. Neither my husband nor my father would allow me to travel alone, and they certainly had no cause to visit him I fear I'm not much help with that."

"You have been excellent help," still affecting the accent and tone of her brother as she gave him enough to see this through. "Now, tell me how he looked." All the while he committed to memory the voice pattern so that it would flow more and more naturally. He hadn't really had to mimic another person before, most of his disguises were males he made up and one female that near got him into a lot of trouble when the men that came after her found she punched like a man, fought like a man and quite seriously caught them by surprise, knocking two out in the first three minutes of confrontation that the other two high tailed it out of there figuring she was some kind of witch.

"Well, he's perhaps two or three inches shorter than you. His hair is a rich chestnut, and if he follows after the men in our family, not yet touched with gray. His eyes are a touch bluer than mine. His nose is patrician, strong. His jaw also strong, cheeks high. I'm told he much resembles our father when he was younger, so if you can remember his features, that may help." She made a slight face. "I had a miniature of him but unfortunately that was left in England."

As she spoke he was changing his features though one part, "we will be riding so the two inches would be less noticeable. I can still make myself appear smaller though had it been over four inches, it would prove more difficult." There was a point he would not be able to pull off such a difference. His hair had become a rich chestnut, the nose sounded much like his own, aristocratic. It was at that time a guard knocked on the frame of the entry way announcing. "Marc Langan here as arranged." Stepping away as the man was ushered in.

Marc was probably in his thirties as he stepped within. Hat in hands as both held to curve of the wide brim in a tight grip. Hair had been neatly combed back and what was most striking about his features were his blue eyes contrasted under dark bushy brows. He had chops on the sides of his jaw that lent him an older look and slightly distinguish in an effort to compensate for his poorer clothes. Marc wasn't a man of title but could pass as a baron at least down on his luck if he tried real hard. "Good eve..." but he stopped short as he caught sight of Joe, "m'lord Ackerman, I didn't.." but confusion swept leaving him with a befuddled expression before brows dipped to the bridge of his nose. "Wait," setting the hat aside to a table in passing as he approached the two. "It is not quite right, you're not him. You're the one I'm here to help." The surprise passed as logic filled in the missing pieces as to what was transpiring. This man was already three quarters looking like the Lord he knew from Cottonwood.

What perfect timing! She shifted slightly in her chair to watch as the man entered. Now Joe could put the finishing touches on his disguise since she couldn't tell him if looked like Charles or not. She couldn't see the disguise.  Delighted with Marc's first reaction, she looked at Joe. "And here's your final help."  With a smile, she looked at Marc again and stood. "Good morning. I'm Charles' sister, Marina." offering her hand as she spoke. "And this of course, is Joseph McDonough."

"Excellent!" Clapping his hands together once as his voice at this point should be near perfect, at least perfect enough to the normal human hearing as he was around to greet Marc. "Just the man I was waiting for old chap. I've been told of your loyalty to the crown here and tight lipped you be. There will be a handsome reward in all this and ones to keep coming if you continue to be handy for the Crown." Marc would have no idea of how Joseph really looked even if he had not quite the looks of Charles. He was close, this he knew by the man's reaction.

Now that his nervousness was subsiding, he took Marina's hand in his though briefly, lifting it up to not quite touch a kiss to its back as he didn't feel worthy enough to actually have his lips touch before releasing. His hands were sweaty and he knew it but he also knew how to behave as a gentleman. "You are as beautiful as I heard your brother boasting about you." The idea of continuing to aspire under the new leadership didn't get pass him in the hint made. One he would take to heart and find himself a proper position now that he got to meet both King and Regent. "I'm sure the King told you how I met Lord Ackerman briefly, though there wasn't much I could do to save the old stallion as his heart wore out after so many years. I had feared he'd go into a rage and have me punished like I've heard Harman has done to villagers," he shook it off as he was rattling on and realized it. "He didn't at all, he rewarded me with an extra few coins for helping to ease the pain of his beloved stallion." He cleared his throat as if to excuse himself and got to the matter at hand. "Charles has grown a beard and moustache with small handles. Perfectly trimmed and his hair a touch longer and not so curly but still in thick waves. The chin just a little more wider." Looking Joe over that looked more like Charles and would more with those adjustments.

"Thank you. It's always nice to know that Charles thinks such of me." She inclined her head slightly, her smile warm for the obviously nervous man. Once they had spoken, she took her seat again and finished what remained of her tea. She was sad to hear about Champion but knew he had served Charles well. Trying to picture Charles with a beard, she looked at Joe. Of course, it wouldn't help her see since she could only see Joseph.

While the man spoke, Joe's face shifted before Marc's eyes. An oddity for one not use to it and Marina couldn't see such transformations that were more on another level. She was the rare one and something that intrigued him. One in a million or at least a few thousand. Though it was business first, leaving the thought of afterwards if such an opening offered itself to explore. "That would be hard to explain if they saw him briefly beforehand then on the road and the facial hair gone." They didn't need anything even remotely different to cause such notice and attention turning more keen. Part of the ruse was the natural acceptance of what is thought should be than what was.

Marc took a stumbling step backwards as Joe's face started shifting right before his eyes to look more like Ackerman. Here he thought it would be adding makeup and fake hair. "Holy bejaysus, begorrah, I've never seen anything like that." Though through rumors he heard things on the King and Regent here, those that associated with them, the fact he killed the Witch of great power, a good inkling there was going to be a great deal of magic around and why his silence of word and loyalty needed in trusting. He was loyal and would remain so. He knew the good egg from the bad most of the time. "You've got him down to a hair, now. Iffin I just came in, I would not believe any otherwise you were not Charles."

Again, Marina couldn't help her response which was a quiet laugh when Marc stepped back. She really wished she could see the change but his reaction when Joe was finished was satisfying. "Then, it's just a matter of making the journey to Cottonwood, and getting inside." She looked back at Joe and grinned. She felt this would all work and hopefully without a hitch.

By the man's response Joseph grinned, "that tells me I have hit the mark." Which while he spoke he was committing the pattern to memory as well integrating the voice pattern with it. A hand grasped Marc's shoulder, "well done my boy, I'm sure the King will see you are rewarded handsomely." Being all this was being done for the kingdom in their ongoing struggle to freedom and a place as safe as what they were use to in Heathfield. That is why he was helping the twins towards that goal.

Marc had finally stopped being nervous around the two. "I'll tell you what. I can lead you through the woods so that you come out on the road near the border. So you're not seen coming all the way from the castle. I'm sure there are spies about mingling with others here for interests of the coming and goings. I heard about the ship being attacked. Word was all about the lands in Swan Lake where I had to go next. There is something afoot there, you can smell it in the air. I found a path through the woods when I thought they were after me and I ducked in there, turns out they were after another. Poor soul." The last being mussed under his breath.

The more she heard the more she was worried for her brother and his family. She looked at Joe, not hiding her concern. It occurred to her too, that Marc should be recommended to the Twins if they didn't already have him taking care of their horses and other animals. "It sounds to me like a good idea." And though she wanted to ask who he thought was after him, she didn't.

"Well then, I think we're ready to take our leave with your guide. It was suggested to move through the woods. There are paths leading out from the lands in back of the castle. An outer wall gate most don't even know exists. A guard from here assigned as well the horses have been made ready. If you need a mount, one will be readied for your use, Marc." Joe finished off his coffee though lukewarm by this point. He was ready to get this in motion while the patterns were fresh and better conducted immediately while fresh in his mind. His looks turning back to himself as he indicated the door where a guard awaited them the while. One of Leoric's bodyguards though Joe knew the King didn't really need them, it was good for appearances and expected.

Marc wasn't going to get use to that all too soon as he watched the transformation in awed amazement. "You're like a chameleon," just came right out there before he cleared his throat and started on his way. "Aye, I could use a mount being mine is attached to me cart and it would take a bit to get him unattached and he's been pulling a heavy load here." Killing two birds with one stone he brought in some merchandise to sell at the market but his nephew could see to it. He'd send him word on their way out.

She stood again, and offered the two a smile. "I believe my things are already on the pack horse so I'm ready. " She'd be riding side saddle as would be proper for a English woman. Lips twitched slightly as she added. "All I need is to add my hat." And that wouldn't take her long at all since it was small and she had sent it with her belongings. She could put it on without a mirror.

Date: 08-21-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 44

Infiltrating Cottonwood Keep

One of the royal guards led the three through what seemed a maze of walls and gardens behind the castle. It was any wonder the far gate behind various bushes and shrubs was ever found. The guard dismounted to unlock the ancient heavy gate to swing open that they may pass through into the field beyond. The opening was more high than wide, hence the tall hedges to obscure, so that obviously ones could escape on horseback without having to dismount. Though Joseph had to duck his head, taking up the rear as Marc led the way in the direction the guard indicated. One that would bring them through a field of tall grass then woods to where the path Marc knew of. The guard seeing to the closing of the gate once they were through and locking it again.

Marc went scouting ahead, not only looking for where the other path would meet up but anyone that might be around. He didn't put it past Harman to have men roaming even this close to Kildare but with the King's growing army, he doubted they were stupid enough to get caught especially after the episode of two ambassadors gone missing. It was a good hour into the woods along the path when heard the rush of hooves and soon found himself surrounded by at least eight men with swords drawn.

Marina said very little as they left the castle grounds, though she was quite impressed with the maze. It was an excellent idea. She looked over her shoulder and gave Joe a grin when she saw him duck then once more looked forward. The ride through the woods seemed peaceful enough until she too heard the sounds of hoof beats. She halted her horse and looked at Joe, eyes wide. Though she had a knife, she didn't think she didn't know how much help she'd be in a fight.

Joseph was a face well known to the heads of Leoric's army. He felt something transpiring before they even got to see it. He had left Marc to ride ahead on purpose, in case someone flushed him out, it would be for Marina's safety he would have a window to get her out of there. Exactly why Marc rode ahead. Catching not only up with Marina, as he was the means to protect from behind, he shot past her with a signal that she slow. Far enough away to they didn't see Joe before he saw them and the way they rode their horses. They were trained under Captain Madison and a certain style that was a cross between the more modern methods and an ancient cult. "Hold up there, Simmons," his horse doing a round about as he rein him in from the gallop. "That's my guide you're holding up." Simmons turned about as they were about to bring the man in as a slow grin spread. "Well, McDonough, it's been some time. Man should have spoken up."

"You know these men?" Marc finally spoke up. He had learned the less said the better the chance they'd not kill him but move on or drag him wherever. Too many times a man pleaded for his life only to have the captor slay him on the spot for doing it, annoying them.

She watched as Joe shot ahead, staying in the shadow of the trees while he approached the men. When she saw they were all talking, and all seemed well, she urged her horse forward at a walk. If it turned out they weren't friendly, she could still escape.

Joe was motioning to her by the time she started out of the woods. Always better to be certain for an ounce of caution was worth the otherwise possible consequences. "Simmons, best you remember Marc's face for he will be helping out the crown in many ways in the days and months ahead." Pausing only a moment before continuing. "How go the patrols of these woods up to where the rebels lay claim?" He didn't introduce Marina on purpose for her surname and he need not to the patrolling troops unless a valid reason.

"Wise choice Marc on the norm." Simmons retorted, though they would not have been his demise. "They had quite a few spies in these forests watching the castle until about six months ago when the two ambassadors came up missing. We flushed numerous ones out though some still try to come back. The Royals up the security when Lady Corina came for they were not taking any chances. We'll give you an escort," which would mean keeping them inside the group so basically unseen, "to your destination. Just in case there are any hit men or spies sent." Signaling out certain ones with just a look as they moves around the threesome. "We're not usually up this way but we ran into three not belonging in these woods and ran them out with a threat the first time they not come back." Finally the woman was addressed with a slight bow of his head. Her name not given and he'd not ask. He didn't take it as any slight on his part. "Ma'am."

"Joe's the boss but I think it's a good idea and offer. About ten miles from here there is a bend in the road that is wooded on both sides. I'm sure you know Devil's Turn, a place noted for ambushes if one goes unaware. That would be a good place for the two to show up on the main road once we make sure it is clear." Which would mean him going ahead with this troop to scour the woods in making sure they were not occupied by anyone.

She nodded at the men as she joined them, just in time to hear Joe and their leader speak. She felt more than a touch of relief that these were Leoric's men. A smile and nod of her head was given to Simmons before she looked at Marc. Then her gaze shifted to Joe. Of course she liked the idea of an escort, at least part way, but somehow she was also sure they'd be fine. Still, whatever Joe decided would be fine with her.

If this was a mission on his own, no, he'd not go with the escort. The circumstances of Marina being with him and even Marc, he agreed. He continued speaking with Simmons as they moved through the woods the rest of that ten miles. Marina was kept to his other side and Marc on the other that kept her cushioned away from the men, not that there was any worry but more so they couldn't speak with her. The reason was in case any of the men were spies within the troop. It was not unheard of though it would mean instant death if they were found out. Harman knew too much not to have a spy well planted and Joe wasn't taking the risk. Luckily Marc was smart enough to catch on. Very little talk was done with Marina and she in a position where she couldn't change that. Marc as well kept a conversation with the two closest him on the other side, though saying near nothing about who he was, who Joe was or who Marina was.

Simmons was laughing at one point for the questions his way he knew Joe was picking his brain. He'd give a glance to the lady beyond him but he knew there was something up but would not let on either. He had known Joe long enough and conversation would not go into giving information away on Kildare but more on other things surrounding Harman and even there not too much of what he was privy to. Just what would be expected. He would make sure all his men were kept in sight and accounted for.

Marc was a fast learner as he finally turned to Marina. "You'll not have to worry Lady, we'll make sure you and your husband get past Devil's Turn without harm to visit your relatives in Swan Lake." Like they were somebodies and why the escort which was not unheard of. If they were going to Swan Lake, and a spy within their midst, it would not be really worth noting to chance exposing themselves. He was also taking a chance here referring to the Lady as being Joe's wife, though knowing the king and his group, had relatives they wished to visit, probably help them get out. If Joe didn't like the idea, he could always change it. That would also account for the lady's obvious value.

She hid a smile as they rode, this reminding her of times with her father though he'd rarely let her ride anything but in a surrey. The hat she wore had a veil that partially hid her eyes so that may have added some to the disguise.  She offered Marc a dimpled smile as he gave her assurance. "Thank you. I very much appreciate it." She cut a look toward Joe, her smile unreadable but still warm. One might wonder if she had some mischief planned for her 'husband' though of course, she didn't.


Joe caught the look and his unreadable other than a quick smile, he'd go with the ruse offered by Marc for it suited the unpredicted circumstances. Simmons would not question it even if he suspected Joe was still not married or had married in the time they last encountered each other. The rest of the trip to Devil's Turn went without incident or any more surprises. Simmons and his men scoured the area before Joe was signaled to head out of the wooded cover and onto the road with the lady. Hand signals of good luck were given and Marc giving them the thumbs up then two fingers in how many days he would be back. Knowing Joe, in the least, would be headed back this way in two days. Simmons had committed to making sure this side of disputed lands would be kept clear of Harman's or Ackerman's men if they were both one and the same. Those distinctions were never made clear, hence this infiltration. Joe gave them a wave and signaled his thanks before escorting Marina down to the road. "Now will be the test my fair sister Marina." From wife to sister. His voice in duplicate of her brother's as well his appearance and weapons concealed on his body he didn't alert her to. In case he needed to fight in protecting her. A steady pace was picked up of one on his own turf.

Marina found herself growing less nervous and more excited. She couldn't wait to see her brother again or meet his family, though there was always that nagging fear that he could really be part of the plot to take over Kildare. She kept telling herself it wasn't likely and finally, that small voice seemed to win over the doubt. Giving a smile to their escort, she waved as well, then near started, forgetting that Joe would be imitating her brother for a while. She laughed softly, giving Joe a look. "Indeed it will be, Charles, indeed it will."

They were not even a mile on the road leading to Cottonwood Keep when men arrived bearing the mark sewn on the sleeves of their shirts that indicated them to be Harman's. They came at a fast pace, weapons drawn as Joe picked up his pace to set him between Marina and them. There was, or should not be, any reason that Charles Ackerman should need run from his close friend's men. Distant relative, or so Harman claimed years ago when he bought out the original family separated from the Castle while under siege of the Witch.

The head man, going by the name of Thor, signaled his men to put their weapons
away once he realized who the two were they came upon. "Hail, your lordship. I didn't realize," struggling to get control of a situation that took him by surprise and the fact he was not pleased Charles had left the Keep without his knowledge as well there was an unknown woman with him. Though he was disciplined enough not to let it show for Charles was still above him although if one watch closely, Thor felt himself above for secrets known.

"Excellent, you may escort myself and my sister back to the Keep. Though, you would be of better use checking the woods. There are some royal guards about." As Charles he would not explain what he was doing here, nor when, where or how he had met his sister. He would throw out the gauntlet that they were slacking in their job after showing who was in charge by his authority remarks.

The butterflies she had felt earlier returned at the sight of the armed men, but Marina lifted her chin slightly and looked at the man speaking in manner of one used to an escort. She said nothing in greeting, merely waited to be once more on their way, showing a hint of impatience at being stopped. Had the man been a little less arrogant, she might have shown some warmth.

Thor narrowed his eyes with the challenge. "As your will, my Grace," seethed through his teeth before he angled his steed away giving orders to his men, half to one side of the road and into the woods while the other would scour the other side. Only then did he turn, "you should be safe back to the Keep," implying that area had been scoured and he doing his job before heels met the sides of his steed as he galloped off in the direction of the first group of men.

With the troop divided up and on their way, including their Captain, Joe turned to Marina with a wink only she would see before setting a quicker pace towards the Keep. Luckily Marc had been able to describe it to them for having been brought onto the main Keep Grounds to see to Charles' horse that had been more a comrade. Words came low between them the more they distanced themselves. "You did perfect." By her not saying a word. Impressed with a woman that could hold her tongue when needed.

She didn't bother to acknowledge the men as they left though she gave Joseph a hint of a smile, one that grew when he complimented her. A hint of pink touched her cheeks, for she was pleased by the compliment. "I've seen those types before. Best to pretend to ignore them while keeping them in sight." She studied the Keep as they approached. The next step would be interesting, especially if Charles had not been seen leaving. Or would Joe change before they reached the gates?

There were gates and they were guarded. Though by this time there probably had been at least one change of guards. They didn't question what their sight told them in that their Lordship was coming in. The call went out as the gates open before they reached them. Guards saluting the Lord of the Keep as he passed. Any of the townspeople and workers stopped to bow or curtsy as they rode pass. The second set of gates were already opening as they approached, much like the first. Quick enough Charles would not have to slow his steed, which seemed to be the way the man liked it. The horse he rode would appear to be whatever the horse Charles usually rode in the eyes of those that worked for the Earl of Cottonwood.

It was, without a doubt, an interesting experience to watch how the people reacted to the man they saw as her brother. She smiled at the people they passed, inclining her head slightly as she looked around. It seemed that her brother was doing well enough for the people here and that pleased her too. She would hate to think that he'd be as callous as their father when it came to dealing with those who worked for him.

Unlike the early troop encountered, the staff and workers seemed to genuinely respect the Earl they served. Perhaps he gave them a fair break. Little was said to the woman at his side and sure curious eyes passed over the striking woman. There would be gossip spread all over the Keep within the hour on speculation of who she might be. Instead of going to the front gate, he turned their horses to his private stables, the lads rushing out to be of assistance as Joe dismounted. They too were seeing Charles as Joe was around to offer Marina a hand down. Marc had told him of a private back entry where two guards stood. Even here, peace was not something that was secured and many tight precautions taken, though the lord of the Keep was known to be a renegade, doing things on his own. This very fact helped them out greatly.

She was wondering if all the troops were actually chosen by Harman though that would be a question she might ask her brother later. She smiled at Joseph as he helped her down, her eyes saying what she would not say out loud -- so far so good. Being unsure what they would do next, she waited for Joe to lead.

He caught her up in his arms a brief moment which was natural for the distance down from the saddle and his help. Stepping away with her hand on his arm as he headed straight for that hidden door around a patchwork of hedges. The two guards were in position, somewhat relaxed and stiffened up fast as they saw their Master headed their way. The door was unlocked and quickly opened to allowed their entry, bowing as they passed and quick to see the door closed with a click behind them. The small room was dark in comparison until their eyes adjusted. The hall having candles lit along its length shed some of its light into this smaller anteroom. "I can hope the hardest part is over." Though one never knew as he stood there a moment listening to the sounds of the Keep.

All in all, she was still amazed at how they eased through all this. Not for the first time, she wished she could see how Joseph looked but then, she would when she saw her brother. She allowed herself a small smile for the two guards, then let out a little sigh of relief when the door closed. "What now?" She asked in a whisper, falling silent as he did.  She was pleased to see that her brother was doing so well for himself and stilled the voice that whispered her worries.



Date: 09-04-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 45


There was a faint scent of peat burning which gave a welcoming feel in spite of unfamiliar surroundings. Joseph didn't need to answer her question as he was more getting a feel for the Keep and its occupants. It lacked the feel of diversity found in other places that had much to hide. No depressing gloom, no.. but then his thoughts were shattered as one rushed into the room with them. Short person, a young lass with eyes lit up, "Da!"which had Joseph making the split decision to turn into his real identity. The other melting away much like the shadows she had burst into from the well lit hall. Stepping where he could be seen better while maintaining a calm voice. "I'm sorry lass, but I am not your father. Though, I am looking for your father. I have escorted his sister here so she may visit." Marina would be her aunt as a hand upon Marina's elbow encouraged her in stepping where she could be seen better as well. "Can you bring us to him?"

She watched Joe's face as he seemed to be studying something though she wasn't positive what. Her attention then wandered to the room itself. She smiled slightly then jumped with a gasp when the little girl burst in. Pressing a hand against her chest to calm her heart, she watched the young girl and smiled. This surely had to be Charles' daughter. She stepped forward and smiled reassuringly to the girl.  "Hello, I'm Marina. You really surprised me when you came in." Most children loved to play that game so she mentioned it in an attempt to help the girl relax. It took a long moment but the girl smiled again. "Then you must be my Aunt Marina. I'm Kaitlin and I'm ten. I was hiding from Dillion, my brother but this is important." She turned and almost ran to the door. "Come on, I'll take you to Da."

Joe started forward with Marina as the girl seemed unafraid nor intimidated by their appearance in this anteroom. Perhaps it was mostly due to her age but he was not complaining. The sooner they saw Charles, the sooner they would find out what they needed to know. Though, if he was in with Harman, Marina would not be in danger but he would. Yes, he had addressed that scenario and would rely on his abilities and instincts to get out of the situation. Taking Marina with him if she wished to go. Fleeting thought that took a millisecond when another surprise had him halting with Marina as Kaitlin near crashed into her brother Dillion, "HA! I've caught you." Devilishly called out until he realized there were two in the room he didn't know. "Who are you?" Demanding tone as he stepped around his sister pushing her behind him into the hall.


Protective brother was well noted by Joseph. "I am your aunt's escort, she is here to see your father, her brother," barely out and mixed with Kaitlin's swatting her brother, "she's our aunt, doesn't she look like the painting Da has in his office?" Pulling at him so they could all get there. "C'mon," hand fisted into the back of her brother's shirt as she drew him into the hall so the two could follow them. Dillon gave way for the explanation as he had taken that moment looking over the woman and decided she did look like the painting their father had. Smile was shy as he motioned a hand for them to follow, the two leading them through the hall, down another, up a flight of stairs to yet another hall that led to their father's study. The two certainly got looks as they passed any of the house keep which Joe ignored and kept up with the two youngest of Charles' children.

Another near start, but this time she suppressed a smile as she watched Dillion become protective of his little sister. "Hello, Dillion. I'm so pleased to finally be here to see you all." She was pleased that Charles kept the painting of her where it could be seen. She looked up at Joe, and allowed her smile to grow brighter, amused at her niece and nephew. Of course, she was concerned that Harman might be about but she was more excited about finally seeing her brother after all this time. She kept her chin up as they walked, ignoring the looks as well. If she looked like the picture, the staff would recognize her soon enough.

They left a hush of words behind them paraded through the Keep until Dillion was first to the door and gave a knock. "Da, it's me and Kaitlin." Giving her a look then their aunt before adding, "we got a surprise for you." Barely the words out as the door swung open, Charles standing there with a grin to greet his son but soon faded as he looked upon the male and female in surprise then more as brows lifted, eyes holding that stare in disbelief upon Marina.


She winked at Dillion when he looked at her, looking up when the door swung open. She laughed softly when she saw his expression though her eyes were moist with tears. "Hello Charles." She said as she stepped forward, "It's been too long." She wasn't sure if he'd be glad to see her or would turn away from her. Surely their father had written that Marina was missing but perhaps not, considering the type of man he was.

Charles was expecting a different sort of surprise, perhaps a puppy from the kennel, or a treat since both of his younger children favored sweets. What he saw surprised him more than anything he could have expected. "Marina?" His tone held disbelief and then he was sweeping her up into a hug. "How did you get here? You haven't answered any of my letters of late." Though he was certain his father intercepted many of them. He looked at Joe as he released her from the hug but kept one arm around her waist. "I'm Charles Ackerman. Is it you I have to thank for bringing my sister here, to me?" He held out his hand to Joe. There was no one else in the office behind him.

At that point the eldest son arrived to witness the scene before him. Dillon and Kaitlin told Charles Jr. what had transpired in hushed tones as they huddled half in and out of their father's office. Joseph waited the few minutes of reunion before stepping closer to take Charles' hand in a good shake. "So I'm told and finally get to meet. There is a long story to be told and an important conversation to be held in spite of this reunion I hate to interrupt." Obviously it was important and of a dire matter as his expression foretold. "I'm Joseph McDonough, though I doubt you have heard of me." He would also need to tell him of the ruse in how he got Marina in, he was sure once Charles' surprise settled he would have many questions for the tight security over the lands, if he was aware of just how tight they were. "If we may speak alone," slight glance to the children and back. If Charles wanted to tell them later, any or all, that would be up to him.

She laughed when he hugged her and then sighed. "It's a long story as Joseph said. And not as happy as I wish it were." She smiled at the three children. "We'll spend plenty of time together whiled I'm here." She hoped to stay but things could always change and she would have to see what transpired with the talk.

He returned the shake and smiled then at his children. "Why don't the three of you run and tell Cook that we have guests, and when we're finished talking, we'll come find you." Likely Chas would keep Dillion and Kaitlin busy. His handshake had been firm but not overly so and his eyes showed Joe that he was most interested in the tale. Once the children ran off, he motioned for them to step into the office. "This is the most secure place to talk."

Where to start? As Charles' hand was released and he stepped into his office. "Good, it needs to be the most secured place for there may be many within your walls you cannot trust. You'll understand why once I'm done." Speaking up after the eldest led his siblings off to see the Cook. If she was a good Cook, she'd have some treats for them too by way of baked goods. There was a slight smile as once the doors were closed and the thickness of oak would ensure their words would not be heard, if not loud. "Let me start by asking you a question. Do you know of two ambassadors that were sent here about eight months ago?"

He kept a hand on his sister's elbow, guiding her to a chair. "I should have asked if you'd like tea, or would either of you prefer a drink?" He motioned for Joe to sit even as the man began to speak and sat opposite him and to the right of his sister. "Yes, I talked with them and had told them that I would be willing to speak to the King. I told them that as long as I continued as I am, I would surrender my lands and swear my fealty as one of his Earls. I haven't heard anything back as of yet, but I know how busy they must be with rebuilding." He look from Joe to Marina and back, his expression one of concern.

Marina would let Joe do the talking of course, interjecting if she felt the need. She smiled at him then looked at Joe. If Charles was willing to become part of the court, then he wasn't a traitor, or so she hoped.  She shook her head though at the mention of tea or a drink. She could wait.

Joe studied him the while he spoke, his words were genuine. He had a way of telling who lied when they spoke. Although it didn't seem to work much when it came to love. Luckily he didn't ditch his instincts in this. "I would like a glass of whiskey if you don't mind." Taking the seat offered as he reached under the vest worn to draw out some papers. "Those two ambassadors were sent in good will and never returned. The bodies have yet to be found for I am certain they are dead. I would like you to recall if Philip Harman or any of his men were here when they came and knew of their intent." The documents he leaned with a reach to toss on the table for when Charles was ready. "Your time in England, you may well recall a man that went by the moniker of Birdie, Burgeous Northam. He gave me proof to bring and a document that has your signature, or one very close to it, asking for English ships to be sent to find out how much of navy Kildare has and the lands of Heathfield where the king and regent are from. Their mother's lands. There is also the account of the sea captain whose own comrades turned and sank his ship in a convenient plot to save their own necks. Philip Harman has been using your name around England as being your cousin and spokesperson for his own gains."Letting this much to sink in before he continued.

He decided to pour himself a glass as well and handed the first over to Joe before taking his seat again. The decanter was placed on a side table so either of them could refill it as they wished. He poured a small amount of brandy for his sister, giving her a wink. He had a feeling she might need it after hearing what all Joseph had to say, even if she heard it before. As he mentioned who might be around and then brought up Birdie, his frown became more pronounced. "There's usually one or another of Harman's men around, though ... if I recall, one of his Captains was here that day. Thor. He had stopped to relay some message though I can't remember what but he came when I was speaking to them." He tapped his finger against his glass as he picked up the documents and gave them a quick look over. "I never signed these papers and Harman certainly isn't my cousin, nor does he have the authority to act for me." The papers were placed on the table again and he took a drink before asking what suddenly occurred to him. "Why haven't the King and Regent sent troops? Surely the death of their ambassadors would be seen as an act of war."

Yes, she would, though she had heard some of the story. She watched Joe as he spoke and then her brother. The brandy wasn't touched yet. Instead she waited for Joe to answer the question. She was grateful that the King had waited to learn the truth but the fact that Harman felt he could get away with what he was doing angered her, though one wouldn't know it by looking at her. She seemed perfectly composed.

"That is exactly what we suspected. You're being setup to take a fall, a scapegoat though I doubt Harman plans to allow you to live to defend yourself. This has gotten far bigger than you realize. The King of Kildare is a just man and would not sacrifice you with Harman to march on when there was this small window you were innocent. I was sent to England to an elite sojourn to meet your sister and start there in finding out more on you. As it turned out she was being used as a pawn, to be married off again to some rich bloke that would look upon her as another bauble to possess. Needless to say, we upset the party and were on the run. I took her first to Heathfield lands until further orders, volunteering to bring her myself for my skills. I am a man of impeccable disguise. Thor and his men believed they saw you today in escort of your sister. I think it is imperative that we get you and your children out of here before the King marches on Harman. He will have assassins on you and your children to make sure no one can speak against him if needed. He probably figures he can overtake the King's army but he is in actuality clueless to its size and those who are at his disposal as Montrose discovered. I am sure you are aware of the Callihan family? That matter is all settled except Ultan on the run as a traitor." He could make a pretty good bet that Charles was given a different account, if he knew that Ultan was at Harman's Keep.

When he spoke of Marina being forced into another marriage, he frowned again and reached out to take her hand. But his gratitude to Joseph would have to wait as he heard the rest. He paled at the thought of his children being in danger. "Harman is ... a very confident, dare I say, arrogant man though he and I have been friends for several years. Or so I thought." He took a deep breath. "I've met Ultan on several occasions He claimed that he was driven out of Montrose by the eldest son after he attempted to defend Montrose from the armies of the King but I had my doubts. How can we leave without being noticed? I'm certain that Harman is having me watched now that you've told me what you have."

She squeezed his hand gently then waited for him to finish. "I believe Harman is also a friend of Father's, Charles. He may approve of what is being done." It pained her to say so but considering how their father had used her, she couldn't deny it was possible.

"Ultan Callihan attempted to poison his own brother to gain Montrose and march on Kildare thinking the castle cripple enough after it was taken over from the Witch. He found out differently and ran. He is an accused traitor to the Crown and will have to face his crimes. Harman, in the least, has now aided a traitor," which by law was subject to the same fate. Death. "Harman doesn't know that I am here, it will be reported that you met your sister who has come to visit to you here." Which had him thinking of what he could offer in advice. "I would choose only the most trusted men that have had nothing to do with Harman and his. Perhaps they have seen more but not in a position to accuse with no real proof. You can be escorting your sister to Devil's Turn," which seemed to be one of the boundaries. "Have your children hidden in the carriage, I will drive, taking on the appearance of your coachman. It would be normal for a well trusted guard or two to escort you to see her safely on her way. I think it is imperative not to wait too long, but your sister would stay a day in the least before leaving. Let word leak out that she decided to return home at your urging. Ultan is being taken care of and as that is going down parallel to us coming here, Harman may well panic and who knows what orders he will set into motion far earlier than planned. Harman would sacrifice you in spite of your father, he has no loyalty to him as I have a feeling your father's involvement is to gain some kind of control over you again, get you back to England, gain control of his grandchildren and his heritage."


Charles listened quietly to all that Joe said as he leaned back in his chair, his drink forgotten. He rubbed his chin and gave a slow nod, looking at Marina before he looked back to Joe. "Yes, I could see that as my father's goal. I'm certain he'd like to gain hold of my fortune and estates for his own use, but I'm not about to allow what I've worked for be lost. Most of my men are uncomfortable with Harman's. I have three I trust completely. They're certain one or two of those recently hired are Harman's men. I can't be certain there aren't any among my servants but we'll make sure they don't leave the manor. The two I suspect I can send to a village near here. There's been some trouble and I can use the excuse of deciding guards are needed there. They'll be told they're staying there a week, and I'll send four others so it looks legitimate. As for the children, it will be a grand adventure. Is there anything else I can help you with before we leave." If he had an escort, he would dismiss any of Harman's men if they tried to join them on the journey.

Marina felt a sense of relief as what she believed was now proven to be true. Charles was no traitor and would no longer be under Harman's thumb, if he ever truly was. She watched Charles as he spoke then smiled warmly at him before that smile was turned back to Joe. They should be able to smuggle clothing for the children and Charles as well in the guise of a gift for his sister.

"Your wealth to barter for more wealth as he heard your wife had died. So you, like your sister become a political commodity being it for money gain or position. From my understanding he is looking for political status." Which boggled Joe's mind there were actually people who used their own flesh and blood as pawns for personal gain. "Have the three you trust be part of the escort in case we are attacked. Three willing to sacrifice their life for you, your children and that of your sister's. They will do you well later. I am advising you not stay and fight Harman, he has grown far too strong and good intentions will find you and your family dead. You have a different fate. The rest of your men, have one that remains tell the others that evening when you do not return to send out a troop to find you. All except those suspected. Have some ruse to send them elsewhere like that idea, aye. Have your hired help alerted by the same man you trust after you are gone six hours and not back, to pack up and find someplace safe to hide until all this blows over. I would just like to say, there was no way you could have known how Phillip Harman was setting you up in England, showing you one face but a wolf in sheep's clothing. Once under King Leoric and his brother, you will have their protection from there on out, plus there will be a future for your children." Finally taking a moment to kick back his drink as he stood. "I believe there is a meal we are expected at and I am sure you would like to spend time with your sister afterwards as well time tomorrow. I can amuse myself throughout the day." Which had a wry amused smile to touch over the more serious expression while talking.

He finished his drink as he listened to Joe's advice. "I'll put Cook and my man, Andrews, on seeing to the safety of the staff." He had some precious things hidden away in a secret room in the basement so that would be one worry he didn't have to deal with. A few more could be moved but he didn't want suspicions to be aroused so he'd have Andrews do so before he left. Yes, it could be done and hopefully Harman wouldn't take revenge by burning his home down if he came to suspect he had escaped him. He smiled at Joe as he stood, nodding. "I appreciate more than I can say what you're doing for my family and myself. My children are my life to me and so is my sister. And we have much to catch up on. They could spend time preparing to leave once the sun had set and would be able to prepare the carriage at dawn. He offered his hand to Marina. "And yes, I'm sure you are both hungry. Just be prepare for a thousand questions." He motioned to the door, "Shall we?"

Joe and Charles had it all under control, though she frowned at the thought of her father being worse than she had realized. Thankfully the children wouldn't be subject to his plans now and would be safe. She smiled again when Joe smiled then laughed when Charles finally took her hand and gave them his warning. "I can't wait to learn all about them either so I'll have questions as well." She was also ready for a meal.



Date: 09-10-09
Poster: Marina Ackerman
Post # 46

Brother and Sister Talk

The meal was a more pleasant one he and his children had in a very long time. At least two years since wife and mother died leaving this time more functional than enjoyable as it once had been. The evening meal was a time to reflect, to give thanks with Agnus leading the little ceremony before they partook of the meal. It has been one of her traditions that had endeared her to Charles. One of the many little things about her. When she died, he no longer took heart with the evening meal than to eat it with his children. Thanksgiving and Christmas being the only two meals out of the year with some special significance. This night, with his sister present, had brought back the feel of when Agnus was alive and this time he didn't regret the feeling that welled up but made him feel more alive. Her escort, an important man he realized, added to the festive feel. Entertaining others which was something else they had not done in too many years to count. Agnus was the one that had made friends and invited them to their home to share their meal.


It was a realization of how much she had been a part of their lives, how much was missing by not promoting some of the things she had done with them. He realized that had been a sin in and of itself. Although he was not the one that had the social knack, it was possible his daughter would. If she did, he would let her at this point where he had discouraged anything extra before. Once the meal was done, Joseph was taken off by his eldest and second born sons to show him the Keep, knowing the two would probably have a thousand questions on battles, warriors and fighting more than anything else. It worked out perfectly as the elderly woman companion that had waited on his wife, now took Kaitlin off to see to fitting her into new dresses for the winter. Charles adjourned to his study with Marina on his arm. "Now, tell me everything that has gone on since your last letter to me three years ago. You had been married to that awful stuffy man father chose for you. Had you received any of my letters?" Pouring himself a brandy as well one for her once within and Marina settled to one of the comfortable chairs in front of the hearth.

The meal was all that Marina had hoped it would be and more. She was delighted to spend the time with Charles and the children, and the fact that they so readily accepted Joseph just added to the whole feel. Once the meal was finished, and she and Charles were alone, she found she had been looking forward to this time. "Yes, I had been and he ... well, he left me alone more often than not. But there was a huge scandal and he killed himself." She was surprised to find it didn't seem so hard to talk about it now. "I stopped receiving your letters likely the same time you stopped receiving mine." Just a guess on her part but if her father and husband kept the letters from her, surely they had kept hers from being posting.


"Except for the few that I managed to have someone else send. I was allowed to mourn for the correct amount of time but father was attempting to find me another husband. We were attending one of Elizabeth Churchill's parties, for just that purpose when Birdie brought Joseph to the party in disguise. We talked, about father, you and some of the rumors heard, and then, in the middle of some confusion, the three of us escaped." She laughed as she brushed her fingers over the skirt of her gown absently. "I left with just the clothes I was wearing, some jewelry and that was all. Joseph helped me get what I needed and got word to Elizabeth who send what I had left at her home. She said father was furious but had no idea where I was." She spread her hands apart, palms up. "I was glad to accompany Joseph and here we are. It was quite an adventure all in all, and I was glad... no, overjoyed to leave England behind. Even more so now that I'm here." She sighed as she studied her brother. "Had I known about Agnus, I would have found some way to come sooner, Charles."

"I had still hoped when I left home to marry Agnus, that father would come around. Ill placed as time proved and he tried to build a barrier between you and I. I realized he was intercepting any letters and having Bast'ian boy do the same." Said purposely that way for the man had been a wimp and easily controlled by his father. "He wanted me to be like him, to be under his control. I think that is why, aside his family's money, that he was chosen for you. It does not surprise me that when things got rough, he took the easy way out than confronting his challenges. You were far too good for him." Having handed over her brandy before taking up a seat next to her.
"At times I felt guilty that I had so much love and you were living with him, missing out on all it should be. I will tell you right now, had I known that Agnus would die when she did, I still would have done it all over again. Before she fell ill, after seeing to many families about the lands that were becoming ill, we had planned that I would come back to England without anyone knowing, find you and bring you off with me if you were not happy in your marriage. I wish I had come nonetheless though Aggie had become so ill I feared to leave her. Father would have stopped you from coming on your own, using force if needed." Something he knew about their father. Finally taking a taste of his brandy and giving a few to let all his words soak in before continuing.

She sipped the brandy as she listened to him then nodded. "Sebastian had several children, and all his money went to them. The only thing I missed was the country house he had. I loved it there." She smiled at Charles. "I think I knew you would have come for me if you were able. After Sebastian's death, Father watched me like a hawk. I was only allowed to go certain places and he'd either accompany me or have someone constantly watching, even if they were in hiding somewhere close to where I was staying. He is so in love with power and money that I knew he'd have me in another loveless marriage and perhaps worse than the first. I felt like a captive bird freed from a cage once we were away from England. I don't think I would have cared if I had to dress in rags the rest of my life." She smiled again. "It sounds quite like a novel, doesn't it?"

"Yes it does an he was more than ten years your elder, like near twenty if I recall. I'm sorry you didn't have any children but in this case, maybe for the better. One day you will, you're still young." Which had a smile to come with the next. "Had you not come, I was going to come for you soon. It took me a while after Agnus died then all the strange going ons that I wasn't sure other than instinct that something was up that smelled very badly." Taking a moment in pause before putting a thought out there boldly, "tell me sister sweetlin," like he use to call her when teasing in a loving way. "Are you ruined on the idea of marriage? Do you wish to have children one day? Would a man like this Joseph McDonough be tempted as a husband? Can you see yourself going to bed with him?" He was watching her in that keen way to note her reactions. They would answer a lot on her mental welfare.

Her smile grew, not only at mention of her still being young, but at the nickname. At the mention of marriage, children, and mostly the thought of Joseph McDonough as husband, and ... well! She could feel herself blush, even if she tried not to. "Charles!" She laughed, leaning to swat his arm, then she sat back again. "I'm not ruined on the idea of marriage, though I'm sure there are some who consider me too old amongst the nobility back home. Children would be a delight for me, and Joseph ... well, " the blush deepened. "Joseph McDonough is a very handsome, charming man, and I would be lying if I said I wasn't attracted to him, but he's been a complete gentleman and I know you were only using him as an example." She didn't know if there was any interest on Joseph's part and wouldn't say otherwise.

Which had him laughing, something not heard in a very long time. He didn't even try to escape from the oncoming swat. It was deserved and well worth the tease for the blush. "The blush alone tells me that you have not been ruined. Had you been, I'd have to consider challenging father to a duel in your honor." Something that was practiced in England but rare was it challenged between a father and son. "You're not going home, so you can toss that idea out. Here, the Celts like their spouses mature and age doesn't matter over what the heart feels. My interest is piqued, however, aside the teasing on what you know of this man that brought you here. Is he married? Does he have children? Is his character as good as my instincts tells me it is?"" That he picked up on right away, strongly. Wasn't often he got strong impulses from an unknown. Yes, she would be well advised on her instincts that her brother would purposely get to know this man more as it was clear she had noticed him with enough interest to warrant it. Not a bad thing on his part for the way he'd go about it. Hopefully she knew him well enough in that area in spite of his teasing.

"Father is still quite fit but it's nice knowing someone would stand up for my honor." She took another sip of the brandy as she considered. "Joseph is probably one of the most upright and strong men I've met. He's loyal to his country and the King and Queen, loves his family and I think would die for what he believes in. He has two children, Joshua and Tamara, sixteen and twelve. They're waiting in Kildare at the castle with his cousin. He's not married now though I'm not entirely sure what happened." She looked thoughtful. "He's a very good man, Charles. I knew I could trust him from the moment I met him."

"I can hope you end up with such a man and have children of your own. It is something that is irreplaceable and incapable of achieving once past a certain age. Before we seek our beds," setting his empty glass of brandy to the side table. "We should speak on your future. Have you thought of where you will stay, what you will do?" She would have left more than her clothes behind with her financial security under their father's thumb. "Before you start addressing that reality, know that I can and will support you as needed. That you are welcome to stay here once these matters are cleared up and things more safe. Though these lands are rough and safety will need to go with a lot of precaution but not unlike most lands. I am told that the lands to the south, where Joseph is from, enjoy a peace and security that is rare. I can understand if you wanted to stay there. I've not been there to know for sure, firsthand." Giving the idea the benefit of the doubt and wondering just how much Marina had thought out, planned, as best one could under such circumstances.

She nodded, agreeing that children were a blessing and something she hoped not to miss. Her expression changed with the change of subject. "No, I haven't completely. If you hadn't been so welcoming, I certainly would have left but I had decided to wait and see. Heathfield is a wonderful place, Charles and I've made friends there, but I would also like to spend time with you and the children. I think I have time to make a choice. The hardest one will be what to do though. I haven't considered anything as of yet but I feel I should make my way , somehow." She gave a slight shake of her head. "I'll have to think of what I'm good at." Though she thought of the gardens and wondered if perhaps that would be something for her to look into.

"Indeed you do, now with two options. I will see to funds for you. I've more money than I can spend in a lifetime. See you up properly that no man can approach that a marriage bond with them would be pulling you up in society." So he was still stuck on the way things were done in England as a criteria even if he had not adhered to them. "You will be accepting my help until you are on your own." As her brother, it was his duty and one he wished to see through for all the years lost. Now he could help her. "See that this man Joseph shows you around his lands that will aid in helping you make a decision." So he could be a little sneaky but the suggestion had merit too in what it would acquire needed knowledge. He was up from his seat to collect their glasses and place on the tray for the maid later when she cleaned up. "Lucy will see to you and your room to make you comfortable for the night. You may get visited by your niece and nephew before they turn in." Moving to take her into a hug and a brotherly kiss upon her brow as he held her. Held her moments that counted for those years lost.

Not that sneaky. She was deeply grateful for what he was doing and knew any protest she had would be pushed aside. He hadn't changed and that only added to her happiness. "You're still the most wonderful brother a woman could have, Charles." She didn't mind his suggestion at all. "I hope I do. They're going to be an important part of my life after all." She hugged him tightly, this moment making up for how much she had missed him. "Good night, Charles. I love you and I'm so glad to be here."  As they stepped back, Lucy arrived to see her to her chambers and make sure she had all she needed before she left her for the night. If she had any doubts left that she had done the right thing, they were gone now. She knew she had.

Joseph had a very good time with Charles' lads. He found them intuitive, intelligent and a strong sense of what was right and what was wrong. It was said the nut didn't fall far from the tree. The King and Regent would be well pleased to learn of how this mission went. Leoric hadn't been wrong, no real surprise there, in waiting to make certain before marching his army. After the few hours, the lads left to their rooms and Joseph headed for Charles' study as he had been asked earlier by the Earl. He caught a glimpse of Marina chatting amicable with Lucy and moving away down the hall from Charles' study as he approached. A light tap on the frame before he heard the 'come in' and soon the door closed so that the two men could talk another hour away before they found their beds. Maybe his ears were still ringing just a little bit.



Date: 09-28-09
Poster: Broch Cunningham
Post # 47

Capturing the Bounty

As his brothers took off, Broch gave a look Vadoma's way before getting to the task of setting up. The cattle were put into a makeshift pen as well the pig. The coops with the chicken in them set off to the side of the pen as some were coming around already to see what they had. Checking the livestock out and guessing under their breaths on the cost, obviously the cattle were of health and obvious good stock to take a better price. He was sure the ones were wondering on them as he caught certain curious looks their way. Where they came from, who they worked for and so on.

Logan wove his way around the marketplace in a way he would be soon lost to any with interest in watching. Ducking behind hedges along a wall that he followed until a tall enough hedge gave him cover in flipping up and over the side to land in a slightly wooded area opposite. These wooded areas would interchange with various gardens and walkways as fancied by the owner. His interest was in sizing up the wall that led to an open tower window portion that jutted out round to the front and would cover up him scaling it.  Except he was distracted to voices coming from a lower window and made his way closer. Enough words between the two and names used in the insults informed him of whom they were and what they were saying before checking to see where his brother was, knowing he would be close.

Mike just grinned as he headed off. He made sure to stay where those interested could watch him, making something of a show as he studied what others had for sale. He even stopped to talk to a few of the vendors. Mostly he was taking his time to head off to where Logan would be. He grinned as he joined up with his brother, glancing about and at the window. It seemed there was a bit of discord amongst the wolves.

Vadoma kept herself busy while watching over the crowd. She wasn't sure what Ultan looked like, but she was also watching for any who the people around them deferred to. She offered Broch a smile as she moved closer. "Nice crowd, aye?" Tucking a strand of hair behind an ear, she watched the folks looking over their stock. And give each a warm smile if they looked her way.

He motioned to Mike to circle around as it was not clear from which part of the Keep, Ultan would emerge. If he emerged just to appease what Philip had tossed his way, to take a walk or to get laid. There were enough women in the market this day to see to any such needs as well any women kept in the Keep for that purpose. Serving wenches with a new meaning. Though, from what he knew of this Callihan, he wasn't sure if he was virile but too set on greed to be bothered. Such women usually stole as a means to get out of that type of life. Most ended up dead at an early age or became too old too quickly to be useful.

Broch, as Jake, would give a playful swat to Vadoma, as his wife Maureen's, backside. A loving squeeze here and there as they passed in their chores while he kept an eye out for any signal from his brothers. He knew they would need get the wagon over closer to wherever they were to waylay Ultan. Presently he was haggling with a noble on the price of one of the cattle. The noble kept glancing around and the more time the haggling took, the more nervous he became and finally agreed to the fair price offered, paying over the coins before having his servant lead away the beef steak on legs. Only thing Broch could tell was that he was looking to make sure someone else was not here.

Ultan's mood was foul as he left the office, though he didn't stoop to slamming the door. He knew that would do nothing but make Harman laugh. The fact that he was dependent on the man irked him more than he cared to admit. Added to that the disappearance of his ungrateful son and it was no wonder his mood was so foul. He would find his 'servant' later and warn him they might be moving on again but first he decided to take that stroll. He needed to cool off. After a moment's thought, he decided to head for the market. Not to buy anything of course, but just to walk off his anger. If that was possible.

Mike gave a slight nod before he was heading away from his brother. The guards seemed to be mostly at the market or the front gate of the Keep which spoke of Harman's confidence. He avoided any guards that might be out, noting two on the front parapet who seemed more interested in watching the lasses at the market and gave a shake of his head. He was sure the Twins would be interested in everything observed.

She laughed or murmured softly with each show of affection. The nervousness of the noble certainly caught her attention and had her looking at the others around them. They didn't seem quite as nervous as the man, but they weren't as friendly as the people in Kildare. It seemed Harman's reputation as a cruel man was justified.

There was a dampened down feel overall in spite of the merry making. Older adults gave wary glances over the guards, (and others for that matter) as children too young to understand dashed by in chase of one another. The ugly truth was soon to show its face as a boy of about eight ran into one of the guards accidentally. He was picked up by the collar of his shirt and thrown into the side of a stone wall where he crumpled to the ground. Broch started forward but knew he could not interfere or be cut down, exactly what the blood lusting guard wanted. Even the father was helpless as the mother ran over to get her son. Rule number One when on a mission - do not get involved where it would jeopardize accomplishing the task undertaken. Broch stood there indecisive a second but his hand soon eased on the knife nearly being drawn unseen as the child seemed to recover. A bloody gash on his cheek while the mother gathered him up and away in those few seconds of aftermath. The father then working his way to where he could meet up to whisk them away before the guard tried to stop them. It was noted that none others tried to interfere nor even gave much of a pause to the incident. Fingers flexed with a frown before he was approached by another, woman this time, on buying one of the coops of hens. A man came by asking Maureen on the cost of the pig.

Logan cut a corner just as a side door opened up to what was probably a kitchen for the bins there. Luckily they were there as he took a quick dive down behind one of many and waited. He could see enough through the cracks though he wasn't sure how long he could suffer the smell and flies.


Ultan stormed out of the door, barely paying attention to his surroundings. How dare Harman treat him as if he were no more than a servant! He would bide his time however, and once Harman was king and he was Lord of Montrose, things would be different. He paused for a moment, then smiled to himself. Patience was all he needed. Time and patience.

Mike made his way back toward Logan, not seeing any doors opening and not wanting to take a chance on being discovered. He spotted Ultan as he rounded a corner and ducked back. He wasn't entirely sure where his brother was. Ultan hadn't seen him luckily. Pressing against the wall, he leaned slightly again, watching the man.

'Maureen' saw her husband's reaction to the soldier and though she understood what Broch was feeling, she was over to lay a hand on his arm. "In time this will end." She said softly, smiling up at him. By then, the two customers were there and she turned her attention to the one asking about the pig. It wasn't a hard sell. The pig was healthy, large and soon she was turning the money over to Jake.

Logan caught sight of his brother brief as it was. He knew he'd be watching Ultan who was already moving away from the door and area. Quick thinking had him making a decision on how to capture his attention. The man was already about to explode and might not hear any noise made or write it off as a dog or cat scrounging if he jostled the bin. A quick glance had him catch sight of what he needed as he picked up the remains of a rotten tomato with pieces of greens stuck to it. Mike would have a good view and know who'd do such a thing, the angle would show the direction in which it came for his brother, unlike Ultan getting hit from behind. He took aim as he stood up from the bin, strong throwing arm had that tomato leaving his hand like a bat out of hell to hit Ultan in a sliding splat where his right shoulder met his neck and head. Once thrown, as he had another ready if needed as he ducked back down hoping Ultan would become furious enough to find out who did that. Certainly no cat or dog.

"Aye, and I've the man's face marked." Which meant he would be back when it was and show the man what it felt like to have a brick wall hit his face via Broch's fist. He would do it for the lad and his family. He had calmed but his teeth gritted before turning back to stack some of the coops onto the back of the wagon after selling the one to the woman. There were a lot of chickens for sale at this market so less of a chance and they would suit in covering up the bottom of the wagon as time was passing at this point and surely his brothers would be getting a signal to him depending on how it went down.

Ultan had only taken a few steps when he was struck. It was an unpleasant sensation made worse by the smell as the goop oozed down into his tunic. He was cursing now and turning to find the offender. Certain it would be a youth for only they would dare such a flagrant outrage, he intended to deliver a sound thrashing. He all but stormed toward the garbage bins.

It took all he could to keep from laughing when he saw the rotten tomato hit Ultan. Logan always did have a good arm. He waited until Ultan started toward the bins, then with a quick glance around, pulled out his knife and ran up behind the man as silent as a cat. He used the hilt of his knife to knock the traitor in the temple, sending him to the ground in a crumbled heap. Next he pulled out a cloth with chloroform and put it over the man's nose and mouth. Now they could truss him up and fetch Broch and the wagon. He grinned as he looked in Logan's direction, mouthing "Well done!" And all without attracting any attention. If only all their captures went so smoothly.

Logan was out from his hiding place, tossing the other tomato aside as it wasn't needed. Had Ultan made it to where he was, he would have gotten that one in the face, enough to blur his vision. Instead he was getting out the rope as Mike took him down and proceeded to tie the man up as he motioned to the kitchen door. "Go see if they want some chickens as a token from our Da." Grinning as he started dragging Ultan's lifeless body over to the bushes to hide him behind. He would stay there as if they accepted the offer in the kitchen, they would send someone down to the gate with Mike as Jack, though hoping they didn't inquire how he got there to start. Most serving in a kitchen were not too swift and if so, Mike would come up with something.

"Aye, that's a good idea, brother mine." Laughing as he headed for the door. He composed himself, then knocked on the door. Giving the lass that answered his most charming smile, he asked to speak to the Cook. The harried woman seemed ready to smack him with her spoon until Mike talked, and talk he did. He emerged from the kitchen with a triumphant grin and two meat pies, one of which would be saved for his brother, and a lad to open the gates. He had claimed to be chasing one of the very birds they were going to give. Once they were at the gates, he ran to where he knew their parents were waited and quickly explained the situation to Broch and Vadoma. Since most of those at the market were making ready to leave, no one would see any problem with the small family. "I got all your stuff too, Ma." He winked at Vadoma, then waited to lead them to the kitchen door, and to their hidden prize.

Broch caught sight of Mike soon as he emerged from the opening gate. A quick look given Vadoma as he knew the moment had arrived and piled the rest of the coops onto the back of the wagon. More to one side with hay over the trap door beneath flush with the wagon's bottom boards. It was so precise one would have to look really close with some boards extending farther than others to blend it in making it near seamless. "Aye, ye bae a guid laddie, Jack." Helping Maureen up to the seat before he was up to lead the mule under the guide of the lad from the kitchen. They had gotten some looks from a few guards in passing but seeing the lad leading them, they paid it no further mind. Once through the gate remained open with the lad staying there to close it up after they were done and out. Broch wasn't sure where Logan was nor the bounty but he figured he would keep those at the door to the kitchen busy with bringing up one of the coops, leaving the wagon angled towards the bushes. He would have Mike bring the second right behind them so they blocked the door and attention kept on them. Vadoma could help Logan, for he was certain his brother was just waiting the opportunity.

Logan waited with the body which he now had wrapped up in a canvas tarp like a rug, drawing him up and over his shoulder as the wagon stopped not all that far away from where he was hidden. Instead of dragging him, he looped him up over a strong shoulder after taking one glance down the way to where the lad waited at the gate. He was the only one about at the moment aside those within the kitchen. The lad was distracted to all the bustle in the marketplace which was what he hoped for. He was quick out from the cover, motioning to Vadoma to open up the trap door in the bottom of the wagon, one big enough of a well beneath to fit two bodies tightly though that would not be the need with only one. The son had not been anywhere in sight. With her help he would get the body lowered and the hay back over as well the remaining chicken coop of hens and extra trappings they had needed in the marketplace. Ultan would not be waking for a few hours for the chloroform.

Mike kept the somewhat goofy grin on his face with the compliment from his Da. He climbed onto the wagon, nodding at anyone who might look their way except of course, for the guards. It was easy enough to follow behind Broch, and keep the attention of those inside the kitchen on them. He even made a show of introducing the Cook and flirting with her a bit. They still had a way to go but so far, so good. Still he wouldn't let himself get cocky. Things could still go south pretty quick.

Vadoma laughed and patted "Jack's" cheek. "A very guid lad," she agreed then finished helping Broch make ready. Once they were outside of the kitchen, she was down again, and had the trap door open as soon as Logan motioned for her to do so. She pretended to fuss over the remaining chickens as a good farm wife would do once the door was closed and everything covered. Then she was back onto the seat, waiting demurely. She glanced up as a guard looked their way then disappeared again. A slight smile appeared then she turned her attention to her 'family' as they finished delivering the chickens. She'd be glad to see the last of this place.

Logan had not been in the picture so once Ultan was quickly stashed away, he ducked back to the cover of the brush and would make his way back out as he had made his way in. Once on the other side of the wall, he would slip back into the remaining crowd, taking up a step behind a group that passed by where he was hidden. Emerging that way and taking his time to head in the direction where the wagon would come out and up just a short way from there and where the wagon had been originally parked.

Broch joked with the older cook, "aye, just like his Da w'en 'e bae about 'is age." Which she eyed the big man and had to agree. The chickens were healthy and plump, making a good meal for the master of the house so they were pleased. After the fare was taken in and a meat pie given to Broch, they were shoo'ed from the kitchen before they got in trouble for entertaining guests. The master of the house would be stopping by soon to request what he felt like for his dinner this evening and how many plates to be made up. Broch knew they gave Logan enough time as he and Mike emerged. With Vadoma sitting there in wait with not a care in the world, he knew the body was stashed. He would lose no time though he noticed Logan was not about. He was up onto the buckboard next to his wife as he started the mule ahead to turn about and head out through the gate minutes later. If anything was amiss he was sure Vadoma would tell him in whispered words. He waved to the lad before heading towards where they were parked  originally but slowed the mule to a halt as he noticed Logan, "t'ere yea bae mae  wayward son, 'urry it up o' we'll bae leav'in yea 'ere."

Like a good son, Jack offered the meat pie to Vadoma, saving the other for Josh. Instead of walking, which he likely would do once they were outside the city, he sat inside the back of the wagon, Watching the gate close, he turned his attention to the few folks about, making a show of yawning as if he were tired. Once Logan came closer, he offered the other pie to him. The woman was a decent cook but of course, that was to be expected.

Vadoma waved off the offer of the pie, laughing. "You enjoy it, me darlin' boy. I'll make due wit' what bae left in the basket." Once her husband was seated, she scooted closer to him. She showed the usual interest a woman would in her surroundings then smiled when Josh was spotted. Once they were on their way, she would breathe easier.

Date: 09-28-09
Poster: Broch Cunningham
Post # 48

Logan, as Josh, was like a lad about to be left behind as he frantically waved to get his parents attention and picked up speed so that he caught up to the back of the wagon and swung up in. "Nae leav'in me 'ere Pa." And trying hard not to laugh as the wagon pulled in with others making their way from the castle grounds back out to the outer marketplace. Those there were also starting to break up as daylight didn't keep as many hours now that autumn was here. Their weight would make sure that false bottom stayed in place as he shoved a chicken coop up further out of his way.

They got the usual looks being strangers but there were a few others new to the market place in that was not that uncommon either. Mostly the regulars were wondering if some of these new folks would become regulars or cause some kind of trouble for them. That could be good or bad depending if they could profit from it or not. Competition was not good though few had cattle with them like this family had. Though not enough to sell to have them stand out.  Wagons and carts gradually went various ways and only a few headed out onto the main road of those coming from the northeast. Rarely did anyone come up from the south for the terrain.

Jack was grinning as Josh came onto the wagon. He handed him the wrapped meat pie, then leaned back against the side of the wagon. They could walk if needed once they were outside of the village. He nodded at a few of the folks who stared, mostly to have them thinking he was a bit strange. When a pup barked, he laughed and whistle.  The pup barked more until his young master picked him up, which had him laughing.  Children and puppies would be the same everywhere. He started to sing as if he didn't have a care in the world.

"Maureen" laughed as Josh climbed into the wagon and turned to look at him. "We'd nae bae leaviin' you behind, my dear. Jack would be lost wit'out yae." She then turned back to face the road, sliding her arm through Broch's and leaning against him. A bright smile was given to those who might look their way and she waved at a wee lass who stared and then grinned until her mother pulled her away with a sharp word.  It made her frown that they had to be so afraid but she knew it would change soon.

Logan took the pie to devour greedily as another wagon was passed stationed alongside the road with a few ladies onboard. Ones that waved with coy glances and fluttering of lashes in flirting with them. Of course that had him swat at his brother before answering his mother, "aye Ma, you need mae tae be 'elping." Like that was the only reason as dark eyes held that gleam. And didn't he hear something like: we'll take him, coming from the ladies as they passed them by. "See Ma, they'd take me," though they were almost out of earshot and so he waved their way.

Broch only chuckle as his arm lifted to slip around Vadoma as Maureen his wife. Though he noticed being watched he pretended not to see but lips tucked over hers in the drawing of a kiss. Not too long but certainly coming off as affectionate as the couple appeared to be. Husband and wife that hadn't lost their desire for one another like some. The wagon rumbled on at a set pace, not too fast nor too slow and certainly it would be better that his brothers rode unless otherwise needed to make that better time. It was the perfect autumn night with trees turning bright reds, orange and golds that seem to hold their own light, leaving an amber glowing appeal in surreal. No sun shinning for the clouds above that had taken on dusky periwinkle, pinks and purples melting into lemon-gold near the horizon. Air had the nip of cold, brisk enough to know winter was not far away.

The heavier clothing worn was welcome as they settled in. Mike appreciated the way the sky looked but he was watching the road behind them. Certainly they shouldn't be looking for Ultan so soon but one never knew. He kept singing but not quite as loud as before. More a hum, almost as if he wasn't aware he was doing it.  If there wasn't a need to keep watch, he likely would have stretched out in the back of the wagon.   But he knew it wouldn't do to forget where they were, or who their hidden passenger was.

She had taken up her shawl earlier when they climbed into the wagon and was grateful for its warmth. She could feel her cheeks turn a little red with the kiss but it pleased her for some reason.  Best not to think on why as she gave Broch a dimpled smile.  She laughed when she heard Logan after glancing at the  wagon."Yae nae bae goin' anywhere, as pretty as the lasses are but home with us." As they rode, she pointed out the sky and how beautiful it was. "Won't be lon' until the leaves are all gone and snow falls."

"Aye, near gives mae a c'ill t'inking o' it." Which only had him fold her in against his side more as he hoped their luck continued to hold. The wagon with the ladies had started up again and lagged about eight hundred yards behind them. There were others even a greater distance and some that were so far ahead of them to even see any longer. They had about a mile left to where the bend in the road would have them leaving what was now Cottonwood grounds. Though that didn't seem to matter to the troop of about fourteen guards that shot across the distance of fields to surround the ladies' wagon. They could hear screams as they were antagonized for being without men.

Logan got to see it from the back as Broch and Vadoma were facing forward but certainly they would hear the ruckus of hooves then the women's screams. "Broch," growled low as he slipped from the back of the wagon with the stick-pole in hand he had gotten before and had remained in the back of the wagon.

This created a predicament as Broch brought the wagon to a halt off to the side of the road. Predicament for the cargo they carried though the buckboard was filled with hay and a few chicken coops. He handed the reins over to Vadoma. "Can you get this wagon across the line? I'm sure others from Kildare will be patrolling the area. This mule is suppose to be fast." Glancing behind to his brothers, "w'at do you say? Are we tae bae Gallant Knig'ts?" Though he looked older , he was not physically and could fight like a crazed bear.

Mike was sliding out of the wagon , grabbing the stick he had as well. He gave Logan a nod then glanced back at Broch. Vadoma was given a wink, then he turned to start to run toward the wagon. Not quite what was expected but he'd never turn down a fight.  And he knew both would be on his heels,  if not beside him.  He was careful to keep a steady pace and not overtax himself though with training with Logan, he could run longer distances than he used to.

"Yes, I'll get it across. Be careful." Not meaning to sound foolish but she did care about the three even after this short time together. She turned and urged the mule forward, as fast as was safely possible.  At least the road was in good shape and she was able to keep the wagon moving.   The mule's ears were forward as if he were listening for any sounds of danger ahead.

They were on foot but they could make good time as Broch had taken a long pipe from under the buckboard. "Time to teac' some lessons." They would be upon the group in about ten minutes as he paced himself so that he was not winded when they got there.

Logan started right in with his brothers as by the time they were fifty yards from the group some of the men broke off to get into a real fight. Of course they outnumbered the three men coming from nowhere it seemed to the rescue of the women. The ladies were putting up a fight. One of the younger ones had a pitch fork she was keeping the three men at bay circling her. One was pinned up against the side of the wagon as the man started tearing at her clothes. Another lady threw an apple to clip him in the head and so the man left the one to go after the other while that one crawled under the wagon. The oldest woman was doing most of the screaming trying to gain help as she had a heavy stick she was trying to beat another man away from one he pinned in the back of the wagon. Those still on their horses were encouraging their comrades though they weren't trying to get the women at this point. Probably the idea once tamed down, they would be passed around.

Mike had a full head of steam as they came up on the men and the first of those looking for a fight reached them. He smacked the one who came charging soundly, knocking from the horse who ran a short distance and stopped.  The man jumped Mike and they both went down., Mike twisting so the other fell first. Not far enough to knock him out but the man was winded. A good punch and that one was out. "Glass jaw." He muttered before looking for the next one, and checking on his brothers.

The men had an advantage being on horseback but that didn't deter Logan any, the steed reared in spite of the man trying to run Logan down when he lifted the heavy stick. Once the stallion was down, he swept  the stick in the direction of the man to deflect his sword while a solid punch landed in the horse's face knocking him out. As the steed crumpled the man was thrown and pinned under the unconscious equine. One down as he barely missed the swing of a sword as a comrade took over.

Broch saw the one go after Logan as he came up from behind, the pipe shoved into his side having him pushed off his horse with his swing and down onto the ground. The horse took off in the confusion. Only problem was the other men were still after the women while their comrades took care of the ones daring to stop their entertainment. At this point he heard more horses pounding the ground as he cursed under his breath.

A troop of about eighteen man were fast barreling down on the scene but instead of going after the villager men crazy enough to fight these men they were going after them. The men were torn off the women they were still after and blood was being shed as swords drawn were used. One of Thor's men called out "Montrose," cussing spat as he scrambled for his horse to get out of there as fast as possible. Thor, who had waited back just watching his men have their fun, called the retreat but the look as much said they would be coming after those of Montrose. "Your days are numbered," though the one leading the others turned on Thor as he pointed, the look in his eyes murderous. "Your days are numbered so you better flee Scum of Satan." Thor wasn't waiting around as he galloped off not even waiting for his men. Those that managed to get away in one piece were fast to do so leaving some of their comrades behind not breathing in a pool of their own blood on the ground. The leader of the pack worked his way to where the brothers stood, gleam in dark eyes as he sheathed his sword while his men helped the ladies get back in their wagon and get all things righted. They also offered to escort them to Kildare until this was over. "I recognize you two scallywags but who is this old man with you?" James Roy Callihan would be recognized as he faced the two with a grin.

Mike watched as the other riders approached, not certain if they were about to be in more trouble or not. He held his stick until he heard the call then grinned as he watched the men run. "Well, well, aren't you a sight for sore eyes." A hint of a grin appeared as he tried to become serious. "You've never met our brother, Broch?" Now maybe he should have said anything but how could he resist. "He doesn't age well." Waiting for the hit.

Broch gave Mike a discreet shove as he moved ahead and held out his hand. "Aye, we 'ave not bout I've 'eard a lot about yea. Thoug' we 'ave little time as we bae o' a mission." Which he lowered his words at first making sure there were no enemies ears to hear. "We 'ave someone yea kin." Which reminded him they needed to catch up with Vadoma and hope that Ultan had not awaken, though if he had he was still bound. Still, these were wild and untamed lands even on the roads under Kildare and Montrose. One was only considered safe within either a Keep or Castle. "Iffin ye can give us a lift?"

The man that had been under the unconscious steed had been pulled out as Logan was back over to help the stallion back to his feet, "sorry about that but it had to be." Then swung up into the saddle as he appeased the steed, "I'll make it up to you if you swiftly get me to where I need to go." Which he turned the stallion around as he called out to his brothers. "I'll see you there!" Just before galloping off in the direction of their wagon. Vadoma might not recognize who was on her tail riding a horse from Swan Lake. If she could see the markings or trappings such as the saddle and like.

He leaned to grasp Broch's hand in a good grip before motioning to his men to loan them two stallions, certainly there were a few extra that hand been left behind as the one that had run off had been gathered up by his men. "I will accompany you to Kildare then as Leoric would only be sending for me anyway." Which once there he would send word to the rest of his siblings and father. "I think your brother will beat you there," laughing as the man was leaving a cloud of dust like a bat out of hell in the chase. "He's a good rider, Logan." More under his breath as it dawned on him while watching.

He was about to say something to Logan when he took off but he just laughed, then turned to watch Broch and James. "We'll appreciate the company, won't we, Broch?" He turned with James' comment and nodded. "Aye, he is at that." He wondered what Vadoma was going to do with Logan charging at her though. He mounted the stallion offered and waited for James and Broch to be ready.

Vadoma had stopped a short distance beyond the border, then urged the mule into a slower walk. She heard the sound of hooves before she could see anything. Being it was growing dark, it would be nearly impossible to tell who it was. She grabbed up the stick she used to control the cattle and griped it with both hands. If the rider tried to attack her, she'd smack him one right in the face! The mule kept going, even as she tied the reins to the wagon itself and made ready.

"Vadoma, hold up," coming up alongside as he shot ahead to reach over and grab the reins of the mule to slow it too. At least she was safe now and he reassured that she was. "They're coming," she'd see his grin with white teeth picking up what little light was left. "James Callihan arrived, have you met him?" Unsure if she had as he eased the mule into a slower gait then down to a halt. "We have an escort back in case someone awakens." Glancing over his shoulder as he was sure the rest of them would be coming soon. Though moments ticked away with all that went on and their timing now off in getting Ultan to the castle before he awakened. Hard to tell if there was a muffled sound or not coming from the back of the buckboard.

"Aye, that he is bout 'is bot'ers are just as guid." Speaking as the handshake finished, brief for now, and he was swinging up into the saddle of the stallion handed to him. "I got t'e Leoric special 'n me looks," which would explain it in being much older. He wasn't around to waste any more words as he was fast galloping behind his brother in catching up. Mike hesitated? There was something about he who hesitates is lost!

James let out a good laugh for the banter amongst brothers. Much like his own as one of his men approached all concerned. "They recognized us, sire." Waiting for the banter with the other men to cease before speaking up. "The ladies are all settled and the wagon made ready as they are moving as we speak." Why they would linger behind to see to the safety of the ladies. James reached over to grip his comrade's shoulder. "Exactly what I wanted, Jacob. They will rally to march on us and into a surprise." Why go to them when they just had the luck of getting Thor angry. "Let's see to getting these ladies to Kildare tonight."

Hey! He was waiting for James. He grinned and shrugged then started after his brothers. It was a relief to know that they were nearly at the end of their goal. He urged the horse into a run, and would catch them where they had stopped to meet with Vadoma.

"You nearly scared me out of my wits. The women are all right then?" Her heart was still pounding furiously. Waiting to calm a bit, she undid the reins, and turned slightly in the seat. She could hear their horses again before she saw either rider. She tried to hide the shaking of her hands while they waited.

Logan was a devil at times as he enjoyed the sight of the flush upon her cheeks that made her so more vibrant. "Aye, they are fine and the warriors running with their tails tucked. Broch and Mike should be here any moment." Swinging from the horse into the wagon, reins still held that he tied to the side before checking on their captive. Man seemed to be still out which was easier all around.

Broch was next to arrive as he slowed down once the wagon was reached. Swinging over from the stallion as he too tied it off to the side of the wagon before taking up the buckboard and reins of the mule. "I can 'ope all goes well from 'ere. We 'ave an escort." As James along with some of his men would be joining them while a number remained in escort of the women. "Yea bae all rig't Vadoma?" A glint in golden green eyes that shifted in a look back upon his brother. "'e bae be'aving 'imself?" Not really thinking Logan wouldn't.

Mike was last but he grinned as he joined them. He sighed as he dismounted. "We have to ride in the wagon?" He didn't mind really, and if Ultan woke up, they'd be able to control him a bit better. He motioned to the trap door Logan had open. "He still out?"

"Oh aye, he's behaving. Nearly made me faint, he did." Teasing. She had been more ready to fight. She smiled at Broch. "And I'm fine. I was worried about the three of you, of course." Not bothering with the accent now. They were in Kildare lands.

"Keep tabs on that man. He's important to get to Kildare alive." Or unconscious was fine. Then to Vadoma, "iffin yea still want the warmth of me arm, yir welcome to it." As he didn't mind her cuddled up against his side and it would keep her warmer than only the shawl she had. They would make it to Kildare without further incident and the brothers would drag Ultan into the castle and one of the holding cells in the dungeon.

This time she did blush but didn't hesitate on accepting the offer. It was cold after all. James and his men both received warm smiles as she was cuddling up against him. "Aye, I think I'll be accepting that offer." Once they were back in Kildare and Ultan safely tucked away in the dungeon, she'd have a story to share with Corina.

Date: 10-04-09
Poster: Rick McAndrews
Post # 49

Talk on Kildare

Rick was in Heathfield lands again to mostly work with Mikhail. There was a good chance they would be going up to Kildare as a recent note implied. He had gotten into Heathfield a couple hours ago but stopped at the Thistle for Hazel's good cooking. The general food served at the castle in the knights' quarters was made in bulk and sometimes that left it not quite as good as Hazel's. Though he, for his birthright, could eat with the royals there, he didn't separate himself. This was the better idea being he didn't need to meet with Mikhail until tomorrow, ready to head to Kildare too. The plates were stacked on the tray once done. A tunic of dark blue only made blue eyes brighter, black pants and boots that laced up over his calf. He was enjoying a glass of potcheen while talking with Alex, stool straddled and comfortable.

Kieran was in a good mood as he made his way into the Thistle. He had worked out in the morning, then gone to the candy shop to help his sister. And to top it off, they had heard from Corina. He was wondering if Kildare would be a good place for him once his training was finished though he liked Heathfield. Of course, there was a lot to think about, including if moving would be a bad idea once his sister and Gaidan were married. Of course, that was all in the future and all he wanted right now was a drink. He headed for the bar, greeting both Rick and Alex.

"Kieran, good to see you again." Which had him turning enough to greet one of his many friends. Thoughtful expression though the dimples were sure to surface. "We may be going to Kildare in another march, would you be wishing to come with us?" He figured if he had the interest, he could make sure he was one of the ones that went if it was all right with the others.

Vanessa had been plenty busy in the Gardens. She had received the treated canvas tarps to shelter over some of the flight cages of the warmer climate birds and that in and of itself was quite the task for her. It had taken most of the day yesterday and part of the day today to complete. Cages were far too tall for her, but she managed well enough and likely would have made an entertaining sight to watch. Tonight she opted for company and warm cider, so made the walk from the cottage to the Thistle and entered quietly. Golden, pupilless gaze turned to look over those within donning a warm smile. Her first destination was the fire though, to warm up.

It was a pity she hadn't met Rick earlier for such tasks were far easier for one of his height and still growing. He noticed the one coming in right away with the draft of cooler air the moment. Smile swept easily bringing with it those McAndrews dimples they were all cursed with. Twinkle in blue eyes to make them seem brighter or devilish as most of them owned up to. Though Rick was far more conservative in comparison. He was young. "Evening lass, come to warm up from the autumn frost? We might get to see some of that dazzle snow soon, stuff that doesn't stick but looks like minute sparkles in the air."

"Aye, I would." He couldn't be more pleased that Rick asked, and maybe even see Corina. He missed her, even if he'd not admit it. He hadn't sat yet so he turned as the young woman came in. "Evening, miss."

"Evening, gentlemen." She smiled lightly, looking to Rick as he was the first to greet her. She shivered slightly at the mention of snow before looking to the other. "And to you. I have come to warm myself, and enjoy some warmed cider." A glance given to Alex, though he probably already knew her drink of preference. It never changed.

"I'm Chadrick McAndrews though I go by Rick being my father is Chadrick. You are welcome to join us, or if you prefer a table than the bar?" The offer being sitting at a table was a bit more comfortable. Easy for him to stand from the stool as he introduced himself as his legs were longer than the legs of the stool. Full height of Six foot Seven and a half made her shrink in comparison.

"And I'm Kieran Turlough." Reddish hair and eyes that held both green and blue made him a contrast to his taller friend.  Though he could still grow some, he'd never be as tall as Rick.

Well, if that didn't make her feel shorter than she was, then nothing would. She smiled to both as they gave introductions. "A pleasure to meet you both. I'm Vanessa Baltimore." Warmed enough now, she moved to the bar to pick up her drink. "Table or bar, I'm comfortable at either. I'll join you here at the counter though."

He patted the stool next to him that would place her between the two. This way easier to pay her attention as she seemed to deserve. Least to him a lady should have such attention considered courteous and not overboard. "A pleasure to meet you Vanessa. You are here a while or new" I fear I would not know so well for I am from Ballicastle and not necessarily up on social status quo." Actually he was one more bent on his profession than women at this point in his life but if circumstances, such as presently, presented themselves he could have enough charm to entertain.

"A pleasure to meet you, Vanessa." Echoing Rick he grinned then waited for her to sit. Once she did, he would and then he'd enjoy his drink since Rick had asked her a question.

She took the offered seat, pushing her hood way from the top of her head and unclasping her cloak so it wouldn't pull against her neck when she sat. She looked to Rick and smiled. "I'm new here. I've been here a few weeks, but an official resident for only a couple weeks now."

"Then welcome. Ballicastle is a sister castle to Heathfield. Have you settled in? Met others?" Genuinely curious and so the questions as he took his seat again. At least sitting he didn't tower over them.

She settled on her seat and picked up the mug of cider to cradle in both hands for its warmth. "I am, mostly settled in. There are still a few things that I need, but nothing immediate, and I have met others. The people here are very kind."

"Good. I didn't expect less but always good to hear. Are you to have a shop or such profession?" Most did so a safe question to ask before he finally kicked back the shot of potcheen then set to refilling his glass, leaving the bottle in reach of Kieran. He would have topped his glass off but that would mean reaching over Vanessa and probably getting very up close and personal. A certain uncle would do that. Well, maybe more than one of them.

Lifting the mug for a small sip, she nodded as it was lowered. "I have acquired the cottage on Oak and the lot next to it. I train birds, so the aviary is set up there within the gardens." A smile given to Rick. "What is it that you do?"

Most of the single ones!. He grinned his thanks to Rick then looked at Vanessa. "Aye, they are. When my sisters and myself came here, folks were more than willing to help." They had lost just about everything during a shipwreck.

Only the single ones. The others were very committed to their wives or they would have the right to do them damage! Dimples were back as Rick was quite frank and up front. "Aside being the heir to the throne of Ballicastle, I am very good at tactical warfare and getting to hone these talents working with Mikhail MacKay. Of late, Kildare has had need of our services as it is still wild and unruly there. We have already fought one battle successfully of renegade Keeps after the destruction of the Witch and it looks like there will be another battle soon."

"Do you know what's happening there, Rick." He paused in his lift of his drink. "Or more, can you talk about it?" Sometimes things were kept quiet until they were moving out.

There weren't any strangers in the Thistle and he highly doubted Vanessa was any kind of spy. She just didn't seem the type. "Remember the attack on the Callihan ships, especially Regan's? It turns that is connected with these two Keeps being Renegades of the lands. They waited to march on them to make sure the one was innocent or not. They sent Joe McDonough in for him being one of the best undercover agents. Tricky situation needing his extraordinary abilities. It was found that the one Keep is not part of the rebellion and being framed. They are in the process of getting the man and his family out of there so the other cannot use them in the crossfire. They also sent in the Bounty Hunters for capture a certain man wanted for treason." Whose name he probably knew. "Once both are back they will send in the troops and put an end to this mockery."

He nodded, serious for once. "Will this end the trouble with the keeps in Kildare?" He knew there had been several who were reluctant to accept the Twins and return to the fold so to speak. But he never knew how many.

It was one thing not wanting to return to the fold but they wanted to keep what was Kildare's lands, not abandon them. "We can hope though there are smaller masses over that vast stretch of lands that have yet to be dealt with. There is also the rumors on deadly creatures left over by the Witch that have claimed a deeper section of Forest to upper corner of Kildare. Monstrous things that no one comes out alive so far. Though there are those with special abilities that would be gathered if there is any validity to these rumors. Sir Trevor Cairns, he is one of those with special abilities if he is willing. King Leoric of Kildare though many will be giving him a hard time over it if he goes in. Time will tell as right now they have this other to resolve first. Once it is, the twin brother Gaidan will marry your sister." Another reason for him to go and then send for the other sister still here.


She'd given a nod to Kieran and looked back to Rick with a nod. More things she didn't understand. Now she was just listening quietly to what the two spoke.

"Aye, Corina has said when this recent conflict is resolved, they'll be married. If Sir Trevor goes, then I suppose I'll be returning." He was proud to be Sir Trevor's squire.

Which he noticed the slightly confused expression upon Vanessa's lovely features. She was a pretty one, that much he was normal to notice. "The second and third born sons of the Queen here, twins, Leoric and Gaidan are heirs to their deceased father's throne of Kildare. There was a Witch involved that tried to destroy the lads when teens and parted the two who had been close for some time. They overcame the trickery as they got older with a Wizard from these lands looking over the two but leaving them to learn what was needed, something only they could do in their hearts. Leoric is most like the oldest brother Andrew, Druid in the forces of Nature and paranormal. Gaidan was the more physical, one of the finest swordsmen in the lands.


Once they overcame their strife with each other and joined forces, they were able to destroy the Witch instead of her destroying them and claiming the throne of Kildare. Something she never really had even with her spells over the first knight under Seamus McLarkin. She held the men and lands there captive using trickery and sorcery though she could not contain the whole kingdom so many of the Keeps separated to their own. Now that the lands have been reclaimed some of them do not wish to give up what they had illegally claimed. Some were hoping to overrun the castle and take the throne for themselves, not knowing who the sons were or that their motherland was there to back them up when needed." He felt like he'd been long winded and probably missed a bit, but hope it made it a bit clearer.

She looked from Kieran to Rick as he began to explain. Pupilless eyes focused over the rim of her mug as she took another drink, then set the mug down with a nod, showing she listened. She listened with interest even. "So now the journey to Kildare is to try and bring the keeps back together?"

"They have one already but two others are rebelling. Though we have recently found it is really only one of the two. The one that killed the two ambassadors sent to start terms with the families. Well, the bodies were never found but not likely the two would not return if they were alive. Montrose had initially rebelled under the one brother who was poisoning his own brother the Duke there. He had enlisted a mercenary army to move on Kildare but Kildare forces, with troops from here marched on them, meeting on a field that determined that day in favor of Leoric, his brother and Kildare. The Callihan family, the true family line, went in that very day and overthrew the Uncle and rescued their father. In the meantime the King and Regent are trying to rebuild with such setbacks as these that need to be resolved."

"They've made quite a bit of progress too, according to my sister. There's still much to do but they're becoming more self-sustaining. She said the crops were excellent this year."

She looked between the two with a nod. Knowing nothing of politics, she really didn't have anything to say. "I'm sure it will all work out the way it's meant to, and in a way that is best for everyone." It was all she could offer.

Which gained her a dimple smile in understanding. "Enough of trial and tribulations of lands far to the North this evening. Are you ready for winter and keeping warm?" Which finally dawned on him once he gave his mind a break from such political intrigue. "My uncle Jon came this way to build something.." see, had it been political he would had known exactly what that something was. "Err, was it this bird building you needed?"

At mention of the winter, her smile was meek. "Winters are always a good thing and a bad thing. I enjoy them from a warm place because they are beautiful, but I do not handle the cold well." Pausing..she had to think on his question regarding Jon before nodding. "Oh! Yes. He helped build the flight cages in the gardens for the birds."

"I'll have to come up and take a look sometime." Possibly before he headed for Kildare and if not, then when he got back. "Do you have enough firewood? Blankets and the cottage sound? No drafts?"

He just grinned to himself as he listened. Rick would make a good king someday.

"You're welcome any time." She smiled and gave a nod. "I believe Calhoun has offered to bring wood to supply me for the winter. Blankets I'm sure I have enough of and I've not noticed any drafts but I only keep to a couple rooms of the cottage."

"Best to close off the ones you're not using. That is what they do in the immense castle of Ballicastle. Stone can be drafty too so there are many thick tapestries hung to help keep in the heat." He decided to quiet so quiet Kieran could pick up the conversation.

"Have you been to any of the shops here yet, Lady Vanessa?" Quiet Kieran didn't usually have a whole lot to say, unless she wanted to talk training.   But he'd try.

"I am having canvases made for the door ways of the rooms I do not use." Then to Kieran, she shook her head. "No. Not yet. I've been busy preparing the flight cages to have them built before the first snowfall, and begin training some of the hawks and falcons. I haven't really had much time during the day."

"You train and sell them? In time I would be interested in two. One for myself and one in appreciation for Mikhail MacKay in all that he has done for me." Though some might argue it had been his duty, Rick didn't see it that way.

"There are some nice ones here. My sisters always like the candle shop. And if you go to the candy shop ever, tell Cairenn that you know me. She'll probably give you a gift pack since you're new here." He'd mention her name to his sister.

"I'm sure that Mikhail would appreciate that." From what she knew of him the few times she'd met him. A good man. She looked to Kieran and nodded. "I will, thank you. I would like to look into the candle shop. Hopefully soon I will have time."

"Cairenn buys candles from there all the time." He tried to hide an impish grin as he continued. "She buys them for me too. Says it's a good thing to have in the squire's barracks."

"How does she know about the smell that a pack of sweaty knights and squires make?" Which was asked with amusement as the dimples that showed no matter the suppressed smile.

She smiled to the impish grin and gave a nod. "Candles are a wonderful thing. And if the barracks are anything like the knights hall where I come from, I'm sure they're useful." The Knights hall was a place for smelly men and kind of stunk like sweaty men. Looking back to Rick, she laughed.

Looking to her in that quick double take as he laughed with her. They were on the same track in this.

"She's visited me there a few times." They both had him laughing. "See."

She just gleaned a smile to both and sipped from her mug.

"Next she'll be sending those bags of herbs to hang everywhere. Burn incense and so on."

"And incense pendulums."

"I get kidded enough about the candles." He laughed, "though I think they remind some of the lads of home."

"I'll have to get some peat to burn just for the smell." Knowing many were from Ireland and Scotland where they burned such. It had a unique scent. He finished off his drink as he was starting to feel the toll of the night. "It was my pleasure to meet you Vanessa and I hope to see you again." Which he would try if at all possible for she was not only pretty but agreeable. That was good for one not all that noticing on the norm. He was easily up from his stool as he would take the bottle of potcheen up with him to share knowing he would run into a few he knew.

"I'm sure it does. Scents are nice like that." Looking from Kieran to Rick, she smiled. "It was a pleasure to meet you and I hope to see you again soon."

"If you're walking back to the castle, I'll join you, Rick." He stood, then bowed slightly. "Welcome to Heathfield, Vanessa. And good luck with your new business as well. If you're going back, we can escort you." He looked at Rick and gave him a half grin. Sir Cairns made sure Kieran was schooled in manners.

"If you are heading back, I would be, we would be," glancing to Kieran and back, "honored to escort you home."

"That would be nice." Another smile, she finished what was left of her drink and set the mug down as she slid from her seat. "You're sure it's not out of the way?"

"I'm sure." Wouldn't matter if it was technically for it wasn't. It was the right thing for the young aristocrat to do. Smile dimpled as he offered her the bend of his arm, escort her in style too.

The hood of her cloak was drawn up over the back of her head before she took the offered arm. "Since you're sure." Smile flashed, how lucky was she to be escorted by two very handsome men.

He turned that half smile on Vanessa and with a wave to Alex, moved to open the door for the two. Outside, he'd walk on her other side.

"Positive," giving her a more dashing smile as he laid his other hand over where hers rested on his arm. "Good night Alex," offered up as he led the lady out with him and Kieran.

Date: 10-15-09
Poster: Joseph McDonough
Post # 50

Leaving Cottonwood Keep

It was still dark when Charles had the carriage readied, packing not only Marina's things, but hiding clothing for the children as well as himself. He was certain they could obtain more once they were safely in Kildare. Sleep didn't come easy and he wanted to be certain everything was readied. The lives of his children as well as Joseph, Marina and himself depended upon how things proceeded. There was a chance that they'd reach the borders unmolested, but he'd leave nothing to chance. The children were led out before even the sky turned grey. Kaitlin was sleepy enough to not even protest. Finally, as the first rays of the sun tinted the sky in rose, purple and gold, he led Marina out and helped her inside. Instead of riding with her, he mounted one of his horses, a roan stallion who was well-trained. He nodded at the driver of the carriage, who might have looked like Martin, but was really Joseph, in one of his amazing changes.

Marina had found it hard to sleep as well, but stayed in her room. She dressed early, went through all the motions and even waved as if the three children were looking out the windows. Once she was seated, she spoke softly to the children, hidden in the seats. She'd let them know each phase of the journey and when it was safe to come out.

Those loyal to Charles had made certain no one was about the area where the carriage was made ready. There were no windows from the servant's quarters this side so that it was easy for them to get the children out and into the carriage. One that had small drapes on the windows for privacy.  Joseph scouted the perimeter making sure to ward off anyone by other means. One that would have them forgetting, a little dazed and confused to retreat their steps instead. Once the others were situated and Charles mounted, he took on the appearance of Martin and his station as driver of the carriage. One of Charles' men stationed at the back while a few more came to be in the escort as they would. It was Harrison that came with the news of what happened last evening. "Sire, there was an upset last night, Harman's troops encountered renegades from Montrose who got the better of him and his men." Could Charles tell that Harrison was enjoying relating this news to him in a way in case anyone managed to overhear? "They tucked tail and ran back to Harman. They are not sure if the two incidences are related but it also seems that Ultan is missing, he suspects he double dealt him and set him up. There is talk about him marching on Montrose."

Charles frowned when he heard the news then nodded. "You better join us then. They may have extra patrols and we don't want them stopping us in getting Marina back to Kildare." Marina and the rest of the family. "Of course, we'll know nothing of the upset or that they were defeated. I want you to scout ahead and if you see any of them, let us know then make yourself scarce unless there's trouble." He had hoped to leave Harrison at the manor, but he was his most trusted man. He was over to explain to Joseph and then to his sister before they started off. There were others who would be getting the servants to safety and one or two more who were moving the animals to a friendly, neighboring estate, a few at a time with the excuse that repairs needed to be done on the barn.

Marina nodded when she heard what was happening. It was both good news and bad though she hoped that Montrose could hold out until the armies of the Twins reached them.

"That could well be used to your advantage, to personally see your sister to the rendezvous point to be met there by family waiting to see her back to England safely." Like his family was involved so Harman or his men would interfere at this point. Marina would have her hands full keeping three teenagers quiet. The severity of the situation would be in her favor. "I have some tricks up my sleeve if needed, though if needed you'll need to bear with me." Which Charles probably had a good idea of the kind of things Joe could come up with. Why he lasted so long in this business. He started up the team of horses as dawn was barely indicated in the rose tinted sky. Just the lighter shade at the horizon but it would be breaking before they reached the border Harman had claimed.

"Aye, I suppose it could." He offered Joe a quick smile. "And Harman knows my family comes first, so I don't think he'll suspect otherwise." He gave a nod to the last that Joe said. "I'll follow your lead." He would ride beside the carriage except where the road made such impossible. The horse was sure-footed so he had no worries there. Glancing at the carriage, he smiled slightly to himself then turned his attention to the road.

Joe kept a steady pace, not too slow nor too fast. He wouldn't wish to raise suspicion. The horses knew the trail well as the carriage rambled along with not a single person in sight. That was until about a mile away from the border, same place where the incident happened last night. With dawn having broken, one could see the areas of disturbed terrain. Dust was rising up from behind as Thor was leading a band of Harman's thugs. One didn't see Harman with them ever, no, the man didn't risk his life nor limb unless it was absolutely necessary, hence Thor worked out well for his blood lust. Joe would wait for the signal by Charles as the horde was descending upon them.

Charles put up his hand, motioning for the group to come to a stop. The six men who accompanied him, besides Harrison took positions on either side of the coach. They were doing exactly as they should be and Charles would not take any nonsense from Thor. The man was a flunky, nothing more, and Charles enjoyed reminding him of such.

Marina peered out through the curtains as the carriage slowed then halted. "Stay still and quiet, my darlings." She said in a calm, confident manner. Remember, your father is depending on you. We don't want to make these men suspicious." Hopefully Kaitlin wouldn't get a case of the giggles but then her brothers were there to help keep her calm.  And Dillon was more than ready to clap a hand over his sister's mouth.

Joe slowed the carriage and took on the effect he wasn't paying any attention only to when he would be alerted to start up again. He never looked at Thor nor his men and to them he would be all but invisible, part of the background kind. Thor maneuvered his men around but he only had six with him for the others were scouting the forests for any clues on the renegades or Ultan, while a few others Harman had sent to get them reinforcements for the march. "Lord Harman was going to meet with you today. It is very important," Tor spoke up holding his tongue short of asking Ackerman where he was going with the carriage. The pause had the man reconsidering as his real self importance emerged, "where are you going? Lord Harman will want you back at your keep to make plans. We are going to war." The anger was rising as noted by the red spreading from beneath his collar up his neck.

"Not that it's any of your business, but I'm escorting my sister to the border." Charles moved his horse closer to Thor's, effectively pushing his back in order for it to avoid a nip from the warhorse. "You may return to Philip and tell him that I will join him once my sister is safely away. " He studied the man a moment then motioned him away in dismissal. "I'm sure he'll understand that I wish to see my sister is away before we begin this ... war." He turned his horse as if to ride away though his men remained as they were, hands on their weapons.

Thor was about to explode as the warning came gritted through his teeth. It was one thing to feel superior over Charles, who was being played the pawn, or so he thought, it was another to speak for Harman himself if it got back to him. Presently he was throwing caution to the wind, "you better be there by sundown or you will be considered an enemy," turning his horse abruptly after being backed up by Charles' he motion to his men as he headed across the fields towards the woods. He was steaming for he knew Harman's foul mood was only going to get worse with this turn of events. Joe smiled to himself as with Thor and his men riding off, he started up the carriage, soon they would all breathe easier.

Charles chuckled to himself as Thor rode away. The man's arrogance would certainly be his downfall, and Harman's notoriously bad temper would be worsen by sundown. By then, the house would be empty. They may return to ruins but that which mattered most to Charles was here, with him. He looked up at Joe, then once again moved close to the carriage. "You can all breathe easier now, but stay alert. We're close to the border." He would hope that the man wouldn't get it into his head to turn back and force Charles to return with him. There'd be a fight Charles Ackerman didn't intend to lose.

Joe had speeded up the carriage, just in case. If Thor decided to change his mind, although he had thrown the illusion there were riders in the woods where he and his men headed. That should send them on a goose chase for enough time that it wouldn't matter if the man decided to let his anger take over fully or not. They had barely crossed the border when another small troop descended from the woods. At least by this time one could tell they were not Harman's men and that one was Marc. As he had promised he would escort them from here. Not coming close but with a salute as his men took a wider distance from the others."That is Marc, he's from Kildare." To alert Charles and his men, these were not enemies. Joe had gone back to looking himself in appearance.

For Charles, it felt as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. With his family safe in Kildare, there was nothing Harman could do and Charles was no longer under suspicion of being a traitor to the Crown. Knowing too that his father's plans were thwarted pleased him even more. Let Harman run back to England. He was a traitor to Kildare. "We need to get to the King quickly. Montrose needs to be alerted." He looked at Joe thoughtfully. "If you wish, you may take my horse and ride ahead. We owe you a debt that can never be repaid, Joseph."

Marina was assuring the children as they crossed safety into Kildare. Though she made no promises, she was certain their servants and animals at the manor would be safe. She opened the curtains and smiled at her brother. She had been certain he was no traitor and she had been right. Neither of them would ever be under the thumb of their father again., nor would Charles' three wonderful children.

"Ride ahead with me. Marina will see to your children as they are under escort to the castle. Marc can ride to Montrose to warn the Callihan family." He had a feeling they probably already knew,  although those in Kildare may not, they would be shortly either by them or a runner from Montrose sent by James.



Date: 10-26-09
Poster: Michael Cunningham
Post # 51


Broch drove the wagon past the outer castle walls into Kildare as citizens rushed around them. The guards coming to keep the curious pressed away and surround as they headed into the inner stone walls and the grandeur of the castle beyond. Leoric and Gaidan both were there to greet them and Ultan taken away to the dungeon and seen to when he awoke to have food and clean clothes to wear. A rider was sent out to Montrose with a note to James on the matter and to meet with them immediately. Being he had been made Duke, he could handle how to break the news to his father and the rest of his family. They were all congratulated as the tale of their episode was told, Vadoma retiring to get cleaned up as the brothers would shortly. They were each awarded a share of the bounty money, 5,000 coins for the return of Ultan alive. Broch was itching to get home but assured Leoric that he was at their disposal as well his brothers. There was a very anxious sister waiting to hear on how they faired knowing their dangerous profession. There was another matter of Michael wishing to speak with Niall and his brother who both happened to be at the castle for political matters of urgency.

Logan accepted the praise and the money with a grin his brothers' way before he excused himself, once a few drinks were shared, to go and get cleaned up and something to eat. He too wished to be on his way as soon as possible for they had been away longer than expected to start and one worried sister when they got home. One that might box their ears for making her wait in suspense. They were to meet up at the break of dawn, their horses would be saddled and ready to go for them.

Michael was glad to accept the money though he was never short of cash. His mind was more on the meeting to come and how he'd dress. He excused himself as soon as possible, cleaned up, dressed and managed to get a bite down before the time came to meet with the brothers MacKinlay. And until that time, he'd pace. He'd faced pirates, dangerous criminals, and even learned to climb cliffs but this was the hardest thing he had ever done.

Vadoma hadn't expected to receive the bounty but she was delighted with it. She thanked the Twins, then spent as long as she could with the brothers whom she had become fond of, even if they had been in one another's company for a short time. Before she left, she gave them each a hug and a kiss and made them promise to come see her again and to certainly keep in touch by writing.

Niall wasn't sure why they had gotten a request to meet with Michael Cunningham but certainly he would accept the invitation or in this case more an audience with the man. He knew enough on the family that they were well respected and more, that they were here to help his King out and that which was good for the whole of Kildare on a dangerous mission. That put his esteem for the family up there. Cian was with him so he would meet with both and possible they would have news on their sister for these months she had ended up spending in Heathfield over a couple weeks as originally planned. It was just as well for things had become even more unsettled with the renegade Keeps and talk on forest beasts devouring any who dared to enter the Northwest forest of the lands. One of the many small office type chambers was allotted them as a table with various libations was set up. Niall had taken on the appearance of a noble, that which he was born to but so in contrast to prior years. Waiting on his brother as he ended up first there, a good twenty minutes before the appointed time, he poured himself a drink of potcheen finding he liked the Heathfield brewed whiskey. He was attired in a finely stitched tunic of gold trimmed in a russet brocade. White shirt beneath and black pants with a satin stripe down the sides, black boots to finish the attire as well hair tied off on a tail at the nape of his neck.

Cian had a few errands since he had set himself to be in charge of the new garden. He wanted Brigid to be pleased when she finally was able to come home, though things were still unsettled. He left the Kildare commons and arrived a few minutes earlier than their appointment time. As he stepped into the office, he grinned at his brother and bowed, in a teasing way. "You look the part now, brother mine." He himself had chosen to wear a shirt of raw silk in a dark blue with a vest of black brocade. Finely made wool pants were tucked into riding boots of black leather. His hair was still unruly but pulled back as well, as neatly as it was possible for him to be.

Mike was directed to the office and made his way there not long after Cian arrived. He had chosen to wear a buccaneer's shirt of dark green, pants of a darker shade of green that were nearly black, and his now highly polished boots. He had combed his hair, and even tied it back, which would amuse him once he saw how the brothers had done the same. Pausing, he glanced over his shoulder as if he expected someone to have followed him, then he knocked. It seemed like the right thing to do.

"I'm working on it, although I am still trying to figure out a way to have my jaguar at my side down these courtly halls.." mussing that over as he offered Cian a drink. Barely done when he heard the knock on the door. "Come on in, it is unlocked." Turning with drink in hand as he waited.

He looked thoughtful, then laughed. "I have no idea how you can pull that off, Niall. But I'm sure you'll come up with something." Cian then made his way over to Niall, accepting the glass. He liked it as much as his brother did.

Mike opened the door and stepped inside, studying the two men there briefly as he closed the door. There was some family resemblance to Brigid but he'd make certain he hadn't wandered to the wrong room. "I'm Michael Cunningham, Mike if you prefer. Niall, and Cian?" He stood with his hands behind his back as he spoke, at an 'at-ease' stance.

"Yes, care for a drink Michael?" Stepping away from the table with a gesture of hand before it was offered to shake. "I'm Niall, this is my brother Cian. We also have a sister, Brigid, staying in Heathfield and I'm, rather we," giving a glance to his brother and back, "are hoping you know of her well being as we've not heard from her in a couple weeks. Then again she might not say if she was not happy in her letters to us for fear we would be disappointed." Which he admitted to himself he would be but would deal with it and come up with another plan. Probably have her installed as a lady in waiting to Corina until the threats calmed down. At least in this castle she would be safe and they with an ease of mind to do their jobs.

Cian nodded at the man, smiling easily at him. He offered his hand once Mike shook Niall's then nodded. "She writes often but one can't always read between the lines." It was especially strange for him being the two of them had spent so much time together.

"Yes, thank you, I would." It might help calm his nerves some though luckily as he shook first Niall's and then Cian's hand, his wasn't sweaty. After helping himself to the potcheen and taking a drink, he looked at both men again."Brigid is doing very well, and I think I can say she's happy there. In point of fact, she's why I wished to talk to you both." He paused to take another drink,but only a quick one. "You see, she and I have become quite close."

"I am very pleased to hear..." but whatever else he was going to say came to a dead end. A blank look first encompassed his features as brows were on the rise as it sunk in. "How do you mean .. quite close?" Would he have to challenge this male of a respected family to a duel or just rip his heart out from his chest? Such thoughts dared enter his mind.

He looked at Niall, watching his brother's expression then looked at Mike. This ... might not be good.  Still he was concerned about Brigid. He didn't want to see her hurt.

Mike could understand the protective attitude that suddenly came over the two men. "My intentions are nothing but honorable, believe me. Brigid is sweet and beautiful, gentle but strong. The truth is, I'm quite smitten with her. And I'm asking your permission to court her. And, in time, I hope to marry her." He looked from the older brother to the younger and back. "Of course, if you have any objections, I'd like to discuss them before you turn me down." He had a feeling Brigid might have something to say if they did, that is, if she felt as strongly as he did.

"Well," hand rising to loosen the tie about his neck as he still wasn't use to them. Although it might come off as something else. "I was wondering there for a moment if I would need to rip your heart out from your chest and squeeze the living beat out of it. Instead, I have but one question to ask of you before approving of you courting our sister. How does she feel about your attentions upon her." Yes, he had seen the worse of courts.

Cian had to choke back a laugh. He had no doubt his brother could do it but then again, Mike didn't look like a man who would take kindly to such. He decided it would be best for him to take a drink at this time instead of making a comment.  And his brother's loosening of his tie made him glad he never wore one.

Had he been drinking as heavily as he used to, or had this been anyone else, Mike might have taken that as a challenge. Instead, he just smiled. "I've been called a scoundrel and rogue, but you wouldn't have to do anything that drastic." He had never forced his attention on a lass who didn't want them, and never would consider such with Brigid. "She welcomes them. I wouldn't be asking this if I wasn't certain how she felt. Whether that would hold true during courting remains to be seen, but I love her, Niall. And I want more than anything for her to be happy." His brothers would be falling over if they could hear him!

"If you were truly a scoundrel and a rogue, you would not get near my sister. I happen to know you and your brothers are well respected and what is most important is that the one who gets with our sister is one she loves," pausing as there seemed to be someone at the door which had been left partially open. Though he didn't see anyone and any sense of a presence diminished. A slight mental shake before dark eyes were back upon Michael. "I respect that you came forward in the proper manner before asking our little sister to court. Cian?" As his brother had not said a word and he wished to know his feelings on the matter. He was pleased to hear Mike confess his love for Brigid but confessing and acting were two different things. Many males said that which was of the wind and gone in time. Time would tell.

Cian put down his glass and looked at Mike. "I'm of two minds. I would hate to lose our little sister so soon, and yet, I want to see her happy also. If you can do that, then I'd be proud to call you brother."

Hopefully Niall hadn't seen anyone but anything was possible. Mike of course, wouldn't have really noticed at this point.  He smiled at Cian but then his gaze was back on Niall. While the younger brother had some say, in the end, it would the elder who gave permission.

"Then if she accepts your proposal to court her, I will sit well with it too. Only know that we would not tolerate you or anyone, no matter who they were, if it was the king himself, to wrongfully lead her on in matters of the heart or harm her in any way. If you have any sisters, I feel you can appreciate my warning. I don't feel it will ever be the way of it but it still needs to be stated."

Cian merely nodded though he had been watching the door. It had been a brief feeling and likely not as strong as his brother's but it felt odd.

Mike nodded, his expression quite serious though his heart was another matter. "I do have a sister, Laura. And I'd not take kindly to anyone playing with her heart or harming her., so yes, I understand. I promise you, I'll never treat her badly nor willingly leave her." He looked down at his drink briefly then up again. "I've even decided that should she agree to become my wife in time, I'll be giving up my present occupation." He might do it while they were courting if she felt strongly about it.

There had been someone and if he came across that someone again, he would recognize him by his scent. A trait that was above normal in Niall. "I accept your promise in the interest of my sister." Which a smile finally appeared as he made a gesture to their drinks then picked up the bottle of potcheen, "shall we drink to the upcoming courtship of Brigid then," refilling his then held out to refill both Cian's and Mike's.

Now he was grinning, and somewhat with a sense of relief. He hated to not have Brigid back with them, though she still might be if things didn't work out, he was happy for him. Mike's reputation was a good one. "Aye, we should." He held out his glass for a refill.

The sense of relief he felt was obvious on his face and he smiled as well. "Thank you for allowing me this chance." He held out his glass as well. Now he too was anxious to be on the way back to Heathfield. Not only because of Laura, but because he missed Brigid so much.

"Slainte," raising his glass to the toast before it was kicked back. "Know that if you should marry, that our very large manor doors would be open for you to spend time or even live there." It was that big and neither he nor Cian were married with kids to fill it.

"Slainte," he kicked back his drink, enjoying the burn. Then he nodded. "Thank you. I'm certain that we'll spend time in both Kildare and Heathfield. " He wouldn't keep her away from her family and knew she wouldn't want to keep him from his. "And I'm sure she'll hope that the two of you will find happiness as well."

"Slainte." He downed the drink, then looked at Mike and smiled. "And we'll come visit her I'm sure. Though, I'm not too sure about finding myself married." That seemed to him impossible, at least at this point in time.

"Aye, but I best not find out she gets you into her plots on us..." though he had to grin for the impish ways of their sister. There was a face that came to mind but he had not thought along such lines. "Cian will be married in time, that you can count on." Giving it a wave of his hand in dismissal, "probably before me."

"I will not!" Cian protested after coughing on his drink. "I don't even see any lasses since we so rarely come to court." He'd have less reason than his brother being he was the second born. Hell, he hadn't gotten to sow any wild oats yet!

They had plenty of time to sow any oats if they wanted now that things were smoothing out somewhat. Certainly better than two years ago.

He laughed then placed his empty glass on the table. "Again, thank you for listening to me. We'll be heading out soon, if you'd like to pen notes to your sister before we leave?" He offered his hand again. "And I'm sure, if she accepts, she'll be writing to you both."

"Aye, I would like to indeed." Which would be sealed so no one could read it without breaking it. "We will have them ready in the morning before you leave." Which part of the letter would be to tell Brigid they were coming in to see her too. Very soon. He took his hand to shake in a firm grip before released.

"As would I." He took Mike's hand and shook it then stepped back. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Mike." Using the shortened version as he had heard others call him.

"Good. I know she looks forward to them. I'll bid you good night now. I'm certain my brothers will want to leave early. And I'll introduce you to them then." He headed for the door then, his steps light.

"A good night be yours, Michael," realizing he would be a brother to them if he and Brigid married one day. "I will be honored to meet your brothers as well."

"Good night and rest well." He saluted Mike as he left then looked at Niall. "Well, that was a surprise." Not much else he could say but he was pleased.

"I agree and we only got to witness one half, the other, our sister, we shall very soon." Then he would be really settled with the matter. "It is late and we've to get up early tomorrow," a hand coming to grasp his brother's shoulder before his glass was set and he would vacate the room with him.

Date: 12-10-09
Poster: Leoric McLarkin
Post # 52

Preparing for Battle

Leoric paced in his office before stopping in front of the southwest window. A room with a view over Kildare lands from two sides. Southeast in developed rolling lands down to the port while the other showed many fields, forests and mountain ranges. As far as the eye could see from these windows it was Kildare lands. Most undeveloped and wild. A few Keeps and a number of scattered villages and homes. It was in this direction he stood seeing far more than with his eyes. If one came into his office they would catch what appeared to be him staring off into the distance unfocused here on this physical plane. He was scrying into the dark to pick up on the recent disturbance. Joseph McDonough along with Charles and Marina Ackerman had arrived back and shortly thereafter, Joe had taken his children back home. Broch, Michael and Logan Cunningham along with Lady Vadoma had arrived at the castle the evening prior with Ultan Callihan as their bounty. The son had not been with him which was good news in this bleak situation. Ultan was presently in the dungeon and Leoric had been informed he had awaken. The man was seen to as Leoric was not into torture but nothing extra nor privileges were given either. His demands in seeing the King went unanswered. The Cunningham brothers already home to Heathfield as Leoric's army was being gathered at this very moment. James Roy Callihan, Duke of Montrose, was on his way here to deal with the traitor Ultan Callihan as well for the threat of Harman to march on his home.


At dawn they would be marching on Swan Lake estates to end this rebellion once and for all now that all the facts were in. They had come to another milestone in rebuilding Kildare but Leoric knew there were more challenges to be met in the near future and in the years to come. Although he had his twin brother Gaidan at his side, soon to be married, there was a slight pang in his heart he had no such comfort at his side. It would not be something he would dwell upon but leaving that to fate if it was to be. He would not be normal if he felt nothing even if there was no jealously of his brother that he had found someone. Someone far more reliable than the women he had met so far was the hope in meeting one day in the near future. So, maybe his choices in that area had not been well placed. He wasn't perfect and in a way it was a relief to know he wasn't. Strange as it may seem to some but it would be a hard ideal to live up to being perfect and being human. Even there he wasn't all human but still he was not perfection either. He could feel loss, pain, loneliness, heartache, failure and so on to at least some degree. Being King of Kildare he could have just about any woman he wanted in his kingdom or even some outside of it but he knew that was not the right path to take if he ever wanted something real. A knock came upon his door that distracted him from such thoughts. A relief actually for it was not a good place to wander at the moment. "Come in Sir Vincent," knowing who it was.


Vincent had never been comfortable knocking on Leoric's closed door.  He knew well the king was probably deep in thought and felt an intruder of sorts even if he was doing his duty; that which was expected of him, commanded of him. Opening the door, which he knew for the amount of seconds it took Leoric to respond he had been right in that he was occupied in thought, he stepped in barely across the threshold. The door not even open enough to see the guards in the hall for he fitted within that space. Saluting his king with a fisted hand against his left chest and bow of his head before he spoke up. "Lord James Callihan, Duke of Montrose, has arrived and is being seen to a meal for the hour as you requested."


Turning to face Vincent from where he still stood by the southwest window in this upper corner room. "Good, bring him up here to my office in an hour's time and alert Gaidan of his arrival." Which then Gaidan could join him with James on the matter of Ultan and any other concerns with Harman. "See that the guards outside are not to allow anyone to disturb me for this hour until they arrive. Unless, of course, it is an emergency." Which would have to be pretty dire in the way portrayed to Vincent in passing on his orders to the guards outside his office.


Vincent saluted Leoric once again with a fisted hand to his chest and a bow of his head before stepping out and closing the door as he did. The two guards were informed of the King's request before he was off to find Gaidan and deliver the message.


Once the door was closed, Leoric turned back to stare into the darkness beyond his window. Except, for him, the darkness gave way to colors, then definition as objects, buildings, and people were focused in on. There was a mob forming with torches in hand made up of the guards under Phillip Harman. Word had gotten back that Charles Ackerman had not return to his Keep. That very man who was safely here under Leoric's roof along with his sister and children. They were to march on Cottonwood, putting aside the march on Montrose as Phillip became enraged in losing control; being defied by one he looked upon as beneath him although he had used Ackerman's influence in England without his consent. A man out of control and in power is a very ugly sight to witness. There would be many within his own keep that would meet their death by as little as being in the way of his rage. Hooves thundered against the ground as the light from the torches streaked the night making it look like a comet moving from Swan Lake Estates to Cottonwood Keep. Screams rose up as someone managed to ring the church bell in the square warning the citizens of Cottonwood to make haste to safety as the mad rush by them had some of the Harman's men set their homes on fire. Many had already gone that had been alerted hours before.


Phillip saw rage like the fires that consumed the torches as they rode on Cottonwood Keep. "I will make an example of his children, of his staff and men at arms." Swearing to make examples of them all for going against him. They were prepared to fight what men Charles had left. It had been an organize effort over the years to gradually switch the loyalty of many of Ackerman's men to his although they kept their positions under Charles as spies. Carrier pigeons had been sent from his Keep two days before he left, giving the code to the one in England that would receive the message in the next day or two. Ships would be sailing soon to attack from the harbor by the time he collected his hidden army. A small league he kept just outside of Kildare lands to the north within the forest. He fully intended to march on Montrose and win the day, then immediately march on Kildare and do the same. By then the ships would be in the harbor shooting off their cannons to destroy the fortress walls and army within. He had it all planned out.


Leoric watched as Phillip got to Cottonwood only to fuel his anger more when not only Charles was gone but his children and staff. Only minions were about and some of them killed on the spot that didn't move out of the way quick enough "Burn it down, burn it to the ground," he heard spat out by Phillip before he turned back from the house to mount up and ride back to his estates and prepare his men. Phillip and his men disappeared from the scried scene as the manor showed fire through its windows, Phillip's men heading out of the building as others escaped from various entries out into the night. He continued to watch as the last of Philips' men got out of there and one by one those fires were extinguished. Some of the staff had hidden away and as soon as the men left the manse, they were there to put the fires out. They were being helped on another level by Leoric as he could in this situation and none the wiser. If any of Harman's men turned a look behind they would see the place blazing although it was not.


It was just as the hour was over that Gaidan arrived from seeing to his duties. He had known his brother was using his abilities due to the link that they had and also knew he would share if necessary when they were face to face. Their troops were ready for battle, and more than willing to face another threat to their country. He had been talking to a few of the commanders and found the moral of the men to be good. They had also received word of a fleet and would be preparing for that as well. Since Leoric had wished to be alone for that time, he knocked lightly on the door and waited.

There was one that need not even knock as the guards respectfully stepped aside. Leo, already hearing his brother's steps long before they reached their destination,  opened the door before Gaidan could and ushered him inside. James would be coming soon on his heels. "I want to show you this." Easier than going through the length of verbally describing so he had his hands on Gaidan's shoulders and with eye contact transferred all he saw happening this night with Phillip Harman. It would be a fast paced recycling of images in flashes that took only a few minutes to transfer. Gaidan should be use to the load-down as Leo called it. Usually left one wide eyed as their mind processed all that it got to see and hear.

Even being used to it, it still gave him a bit of a wide-eyed feeling, even if he didn't show. He waited until all was complete before he let out a soft whistle. "I'm glad the family was out of there before Harman moved. All is ready and I believe the Callihan ships as well as some others will intercept the fleet coming. " He gave his brother a hint of a smile, being things were so serious. "I don't know if we'll have complete peace soon, or when our children to come are grown but I think this will show those who feel Kildare will be easy to take how wrong they are."

"It is clear that eventually Charles and his family would have gotten the hatchet. When he was no longer of use after any pull got Harman in where he wanted. I had three carrier pigeons sent, one to Ballicastle, one to Innis and one to Heathfield to keep our mother and the others abreast of the situation." Being Heathfield didn't have any real naval they had the best of warriors. "A fleet is more than the Callihan's have or ourselves combined at this point. We need a new shipwright and a few have applied that I will be making a decision on along with your input once this matter is at rest. Or if you pass and leave it to me, we can see to getting you and Corina married before the year's end if you wish." He could take care of such matters and leave his brother to fulfilling another part of his life that has been neglected for everything that kept coming up. "It should get easier in negotiations of any feudal Keeps left. None of them are as big as Montrose or these last two. I will see to having the Lords or Lady come to talk and reestablish the court."

"I think that would please Corina very much." He smiled fully at mention of Corina. She was doing as much as she could to help but he wondered if she was worried that they'd ever be married. "I like the idea of another shipwright as well. Will ships from Ballicastle and Innis reach here in time?" He rubbed at his beard as he looked thoughtful. "I think I can trust you to pick the right one if it means getting married faster." Teasing, for in many things, the two thought alike.

"Get one in there, possibly two and start working on a fleet. See if some can be outright bought. We can use the inheritance we found stored away of our father's. There was enough there to outfit a number of fleets five times over. I was thinking that for what our mother was put through, using some of the money on something for her." He wasn't sure how to word what he felt, but their father had not abandoned her or was he sane when he tried burning her with him in their chambers. It was a peace offering for what the Witch caused. "James is coming," which had Leo glance to the door in wait but certainly time for his brother to respond to his idea.

"I think that's a splendid idea, Leoric. Something very special. You know, if we capture any of those ships attacking, we could rightfully take them as spoils of war. After all, they're attacking us." He looked at the door also, knowing they'd discuss the idea in more detail later.

"I am hoping the English keep to their ways that when there is one more than what they have, they abandon the project or seek negotiations. Being this is not a negotiable project to start, that their Crown is not aware of the underhanded doings and would probably cut their heads off if they did, especially if not fully successful. Where in if they came back with lands and a castle, going underhanded would be forgiven and in fact be written that permission was given. All on the up and up. I do not want to have anything to do with an English ship. I'm sure there are a few shipwrights, including the one in Heathfield, that ships can be built as well I'd like a few French and Spanish ships bought."

James had arrived as the one guard stepped around to knock on the door then open it up to allow the Duke of Montrose's entry as he was expected. James gave a nod to the man as he passed and stepped within the chamber. A fisted hand going to his chest with a bow of his head respectfully to both. "My lieges." And would wait then to be addressed.


"Still, the ships might be worth keeping." He chuckled at Leoric. "If nothing else, as a reminder not to attack us ever again." His words were lowered and he turned as James came in. "James, it's good to see you again. " He'd not say more as Leoric would need to address him and tell him of the situation.

Leo had a thing about something tainted and such English ships would be even if rightfully overtaken. Although he knew it would not come to that, they would retreat instead and be the last of it. "James. I hope your trip went well in coming here, unfortunate the circumstances they may be twofold. I'll get to the quick in addressing each so that we may move ahead and the sooner they become the past." Hoping that he understood that it was best this way and that he was not trying to be insensitive. "Ultan Callihan has committed Treason as well as numerous other crimes in a lesser listing. Nothing short of attempted murder of your father while he was the Duke of Montrose under the Crown of Kildare. His sentence is Death but in consideration of your family and the delicate matter of your cousins, Exile can be the generosity of the Crown being he was not successful on either account, leaving his life in tact but with the stipulation that if he steps on Kildare lands or any of the sister castles he will be killed upon sight. No jury, no procedure as presently. I leave the decision up to you." He would address one matter at a time. One consideration as he indicated the table with various libations that he could have a drink.

He preferred getting this all over and as far as he was concerned, he would have had Ultan hung as an example of Traitors to the Crown. He had never liked the man and was the original reason for him leaving Montrose many years ago as part of a heated conversation with his father. "If it were just me, I would see him hung. No matter where he goes, while alive, he will cause pain for those he encounters. It is my father and that of my cousins, at least Caoime that Exile would be the course if offered." Which obviously it was. "I know with her sensitive nature, it would be the last straw in destroying her complete. I know it would kill my father inside as well even though he knows what kind of man his brother really is. My brothers and sisters are of one mind with me on this matter. None of them have ever liked the man for his ways. I would like permission to find my cousin Gillean and bring him home. I feel he may feel his fate would be the same as his father's for being his son and being in association until he could escape. I feel he was not found with Ultan because he finally managed to escape him and in a self inflicted exile. I'm sure he knew of all that his father was doing but his hands were tied." Having felt he said enough, he was over to pour himself a good shot of whiskey to kick back.

Exile was not the first choice of Gaidan either but he had agreed it would be best to allow James the choice. He stood as he listened, watching James as he talked. "You may have to have some detective work to find him. He seems to have covered his tracks well, but we'll assist you as we can. " It could have been the son knew and at first went along with it but found himself in conflict in time.

He gave a nod to Gaidan's addition. "We have means to help." Pausing a moment while the man had his drink. Something of which he could understand. Both he and Gaidan had to live with their father having tried to kill their mother while he committed suicide. Though in time they were able to release their father of that accusation in proving what had really happened. A curse of a sort lifted. "Do you or any of your family wish to see Ultan before the sentence is carried out?"

The glass was refilled as he turned to study each, both men had been more than fair in this embarrassing situation of his Uncle. "No. My father's wish of exile over death was due directly to the fact he could not condemn his own brother. Blood being thick. My only agreement was for Caoime as I feel the same for my brothers and sisters. I would only wish to know when it is done so my father can be at rest with the situation. Bury his brother's memory knowing he still did not lift a hand to his demise and become as him." He kicked back the second shot as it was a warm chaser after the first before setting the glass aside. There had been a few things for him to deal with including almost giving his heart only to be abandoned. Luckily, he firmly believed that as one door closes, it is because another door opens and one that would prove the other best it had closed. He waited for that. "I am here to ride with you against Phillip Harman, along with some of the men that could be spared from the Keep. Leaving enough men there to protect my family if needed." Although he didn't believe that Harman's men, no matter where he got his army from, could withstand what he knew of Kildare's army, especially since Madison and his men joined their ranks couple that with the expertise of a few Heathfield military men.

"I will be riding out tomorrow at dawn before Harman can get together all his army. I know he has more hidden to the north in the forest and they will be cut off. A few troops are being sent there to see to it as we speak. I will be making a public example of Harman once in our hands of what happens to those who commit treason." So he will have that coup to discourage others from the same route as there are about five more Keeps of lesser strength to be contacted and reestablished within the Kingdom. You are welcome to ride with me as it should be," a Duke aside his King. "The victory will be ours as the last was ours." And those under James Callihan and his family will only strengthen their loyalty and commitment and in turn to the Crown. "I am to convince my brother to stay here just in case and to keep his wife to be from unnecessary worry." Though he wasn't sure he could hold back his warrior brother even for his bride.

Gaidan's expression up to that point was unreadable but it changed when Leoric stated his intentions of convincing him to stay behind. "As much as I love Corina, I don't believe she'd want me to stay when my place is beside you, brother. Unless you order me to do otherwise, I ride with you." Then again, if Leoric felt there was a threat from the ships that would be coming to the lands, he'd stay.

His brother's words were true and though it would ease Corina's worry over him, it would not be right for him to order it even if he could for being born a few minutes first. "I will leave the decision to you. Ride with me and our army come dawn or see to the threat of the ships in the harbor. More that the People there will have their Regent in attendance knowing their King rides out to put down the army that would march on them. I have left a few troops that could be spared to the port. There are two advantage points to have cannons set up to defend the harbor if any of the ships make it that far. Something that should be put in place anyway. It is just going to be sooner for the threat." Sometimes a need put something ahead on the list of things to be done and Kildare had a long list of things to be done. "I could trust you to see to their positioning and moral support in the least to the threat on the harbor." Which was a very good idea, of which he read upon his brother's thoughts. Again. Gaidan would be use to it and in the exchange, he was learning to read his.

James took the time to enjoy the next dram of whiskey while he listened to the brothers. A slight smile played its way in sight and he could envy their rapport that spoke of so much more. He was pleased to be in service under them and would do anything asked that he was capable of.

There was the slightest hint of a smile as he shook his head. "You know I would go where you wish but it makes sense for me to remain in light of your words. I know where you mean for the cannons." He frowned slightly. "Do you think the ships will reach the harbor?" Best not to take the chance, but if there was the slightest possibility, he'd be readying the citizens.

"No. I do not. If my sight does not fail me for some unseen veil, ships from Ballicastle and Innis will arrive to fill our harbor," Gaidan would notice how his eyes went unfocused as he was seeing the sight right before them as real. Standing there at the port with the crowds of people around him cheering. "The English ships will stall at the mouth coming in as they would have to pass many a warship they had not seen the likes of before and only finding that yet another set of sails in a fleet of warships coming in from the ocean to block any retreat if they wish. They will find them in a stand off, at the ready but leaving them the judgement to withdraw then be sunk into the sea that day." Although he saw something else too but did not speak on it. Something to do with the Pontiac being the last out and possibly followed. The one did not open fire but taunted by just being there until the Pontiac lagged more and more behind to turn on the other ship. It was cut off there as it was not a scene written in stone and he blinked back then cleared his throat. It was not something if he had a say in it, could allow. "Do I have your decision on this, brother? If so then we can all get the rest we need for it will be a long day ahead of us tomorrow."

He was reluctant to have his brother ride out without him and Leoric would know the conflict Gaidan was feeling inside but he nodded. "Aye, I'll stay and see to the defenses here, even if there will be no battle." He made a face, "but you know where my true abilities are and I will not deny that I dislike not being able to fight at your side." And he would have been in the thick of battle, had he gone.

"If it eases your mind at all, I will not be engaging in battle either. The troops will have little resistance as Harman's men turn from him and run in the hope of escaping a certain death otherwise. Harman along with the one that calls himself Thor, will be captured. A few others but most let to escape. The bigger battle will be the one that prevents the troops from the north getting down into Kildare lands led on our behalf under Airtre Madison. His blade and those of his men will see blood." All for the glory of Kildare, for its King and Regent, as it should be.

He nodded again, then smiled. "Of course it eases my mind. I have no wish to become king in your stead and even with men like James here with you, there is that possibility." He clapped a hand to his brother's shoulder. "All will go as it should, which will relieve our people of another worry." He stepped back and looked at James. "And I trust you to keep my brother safe. Now, I think perhaps it is time for the three of us to seek our beds so we're well rested for morning. I will see you off then." First he would go and speak to Corina if she was still awake and tell her that he would be staying. He moved to the door and held it open so the three of them could leave together. The dawn would come all too soon.



Date: 01-09-10
Poster: Leoric McLarkin
Post # 53


The day held a bleak wintry cast that was about normal for this season. Snow fell in a steady pace but it would not detain Leoric and his men from their mission. They had set out on such a day to meet Ultan's army, now part of  his army. General Airtre Madison was given orders with the combined advice of his brother, Mikhail MacKay and the young warrior prince Rick McAndrews. Scouts had been sent, ones trained in Heathfield, to scour the northern forests above Kildare. It was discovered that Phillip Harman, viscount of Swan Lake, had been gathering an army he kept hidden in the forests to the north to go undetected. The viscount wanted to keep the illusion he was more a business owner, nothing of significance so that he would have the upper hand in surprise in taking over a kingdom. The idea had been gained through Ultan Callihan although he had failed, Philip didn't plan on failing. Not only did he have his army whom a runner had been sent to bring them down out of hiding, he cashed in his favors to have Captain Henry Robinson bring in a fleet of ships to attack from the harbor. All was discovered before it could be attempted.


The fact remained it took a lot of clout considering it was done the King of England's nose without his knowledge. They were just going on another mission making it sound like the colonies. All for the honor and glory of England. Airtre was sent by another route into the northern forest to cut off Harman's men. Kildare's eight hundred to their 500 as Harman had no real idea of how many were really in Leoric's army. There had been a few hundred from Heathfield that remained to see to bringing all of Kildare under the one rule of the McLarkin twins. A diversity that started under the Witch and had many go off on their own. Three hundred men rode with Leoric set on a direct course to Swan Lake. Any scouts that Harman had would be running back to warn Philip and his right hand Tor. They would know the size of the army that came believing it was all being sent and that the King was amongst them. If he could be brought down, they could have that advantage leaving only one brother left to overtake.

Philip Harman was a man confident of his path in life. That path was one he had planned and worked on for a long time. Though Ultan Callihan had disappeared and Ackerman had betrayed him, he still was certain he would soon be the power in Kildare. Ackerman was no longer a worry and Ultan had never been one he felt he could rely on. He would succeed without either. He had slept well and was about to enjoy a hearty breakfast when a young soldier came riding up to the manor house. He stood as Tor came into the dining hall, the breathless man behind him. "McLarkin is on the move and approaching with his army. " Harman smiled, a cold, humorless smile and tossed aside his napkin. "The men have been restless. Sound the call, Tor. We're going to take down the King and his army. You've sent the runners to the rest of the army?"

Tor nodded as he motioned the man away to get a drink and take a short respite before they marched to meet the Kildare army. "Of course, m'lord. Everything is ready. In a few hours, we'll be marching on Kildare itself. Nothing stands between you and the throne now."

Philip laughed and called out for his armor. "See to the gathering of the forces. I want to be on the road in fifteen minutes." Breakfast was forgotten. Why bother with trivialities when there was a kingdom to be won.


Leoric had it all paced, knowing that by the time Harman was alerted by any runners and gathered his defenses until his army could unite with them, would put them in the mile stretch of road and fields to either side just around the bend that marked where Harman had claimed Kildare lands as his already. Where Swan Lake Estates stretched to, larger than the original size but who was there to dispute that before? The McLarkin flag flapped in a cold bite of snowy wind. The men more shadowy in such a veil and the ground resounding with the multitude of hooves hitting the ground beneath. They were not in any rush as Leo would not put them at risk unnecessarily in this weather. A quarter mile into these lands he would reclaim this day, he halted his army and waited. They were all prepared. Mikhail rode up alongside Leo requesting to bring most of the men forward, leaving a few with Leo and Rick McAndrews who was at his side. James Callihan was one of them to protect his king if necessary. Leo gave a nod to the request as he would not do battle himself unless necessary but more the reason he would protect the young prince next to him overall. It would not do well for Ballicastle to lose such a man as Rick was turning out to be as its future king. Mikhail then signaled the men to spread out in a progressive arrow maneuver with a few flanking the edges.

There were scouts closer to Swan Lake who informed Harman and Tor that the King and army had come and were waiting a short distance away. By then Harman was mounting his horse and he and Tor led the army away from the Manor. He was wearing armor that was highly polished but in this weather, there would be no showing off. "It will only be a matter of holding them off until the rest of our army comes. Then we'll crush them between." Tor had his orders and nodded. He would lead half the army in an effort to divide. Of course, in this weather, it would be nearly impossible to see how the enemy was positioned. Still, both men were certain they had the better trained men.

When Harman's men finally arrived, Mikhail rode out a short distance ahead. His voice cut through the icy cold loud and clear. "We will give you the opportunity to lay down your weapons and acknowledge your King, else you will either die this day on this field or be executed in public for Treason for all to see. If you reconsider your actions, then throw down your flag." Mikhail's horse pranced back and forth, half turning in a need to be on the move. One trained for battle like his master.

If Harman was surprised that the voice he heard wasn't Airtre, Harman didn't show his surprise. He didn't hesitate with his answer, shouting out, "Never. If your flag is thrown down now, and you surrender I may consider sparing the lives of your men." As he spoke, he lifted his arm, then dropped it down, signaling for the horns to sound charge. Spurring his horse forward, he led his men forward, hoping to catch the enemy offguard with the charge.

It would be they who would be offguard as Mikhail turned his steed and headed back to the point of the formation. It split away to show the archers crouched that he passed, as one set of arrows flew then the ones behind came up to replace them as another wave of arrows flew. All the while both sides were curving out to converge by surrounding Harmen's troops, cutting them off from behind as well. The archers were swallowed up by the horsemen coming forward before they were mounting up on their horses that were held behind the lines to rejoin their comrades as backup.

Tor's men were split from the main party but he ordered them to fight through to Harman, not caring if he was sacrificing his men or not. The remainder of the army would be here soon, or so he thought. His horse was killed beneath him as he fought forward but still he pressed on to reach Harman, many of his men joining him. Others had fallen beneath the onslaught of arrows. Snow fell heavily around them but still the snow on the ground was stained red with blood.

Harman fought like a man possessed, the easy battle he thought would be won, suddenly seeming to be out of reach. He kept listening for the sound of horns but all he heard was the sound of battle around him. He cursed silently, swearing he would punish the men who failed him.

Leoric still chose not to join in as it would be easy for one such as him to do so. He was here as the symbol of Kildare of which each warrior in his army fought for. For their king, for their lands and for their families. Leoric could use powers that were beyond the norm but like his older brother Andrew he learned there was a time to use such gifts and a time not to. Today was not a day to do so.  None of his men would be killed for how well they were trained and led under Mikhail, although some would suffer wounds. It was to the glory of his men to fight for their king that was allowed and needed this day. It would weave the thread tighter in the ongoing restoration of Kildare and its citizens, soldiers and men of all stations as well their families.

Mikhail went after Tor as swords clashed, the man would find he had more than met his match as Mikhail hounded him down, hitting him hard and unrelenting in his drive. At one point he gave him the chance to throw down his sword but Tor could not stand being beaten and tried unsuccessfully to cut Mikhail down, having him drive his sword through the man ending the fight. Mikhail turned to find that the rest of their men had either been killed or rounded up in surrender. Most of those were ones that had been under Ackerman and never had been willing to fight this war.

At first Philip thought his army would fight their way through but it proved to be impossible. Worse, he could see more than half of his men had surrendered. His? They had been Ackerman's and the cowards had given up. Cursing, he found himself surrounded and had no choice but to give up as well. Furious, he jerked himself free of the men who tried to grab him after throwing his sword on the ground. There were be no sign of regret as he was taken before Leoric. There would be no mercy and he expected none. It did give him some satisfaction that those back in England had gained nothing as well.

This was a small skirmish in the order of things. "You will be sentenced tonight." As Harman was brought to him, his horse side stepping not liking being near this kind of man. Even his horse had good sense. "Mikhail, see him chained within the Dungeon away from the others." Which Mikhail would know in particular who he meant. It was at this point that Airtre showed up, they had lost a few men but the army they had in tow had been reduced to more than half. Those that remained had thrown down their weapons and surrendered. They too would be criminals of war and their fate determined at a later date. The leaders would go first, Tor already dead. "It is time we got back for there is still much to do." Leo may have noticed the sly wicked grin on Harman's face but that too would be wiped away. Turning his horse and back on the man, in point, he started off his men homeward. Mikhail would know what to do as set forth earlier.

Mikhail gave a nod as he indicated for two of his men to bind Harman's hands and put him back on his horse. A troop of warriors would be sent to Swan Lake Estates to put the house under guard and any of Harman's men left would be put under house arrest, if they had been stupid to stay around.

Most of the war criminals would be set free to go back home of those that were threatened to fight with Harman than a choice. Others would be deported and some would be hung, all depending on their involvement. Leo would set his eyes on each in the days to come and would know where their heart laid.

Meanwhile back at Kildare Harbor:

Peter received the carrier pigeon sent as he already had vessels in the waters between Heathfield and Kildare. He personally boarded his main ship as two fleets were collected to manage the colder weather and waters up along the coast. Being that no English ships were to be found in the port as of yet, he took his fleets within to bottle neck the entry. Only those ships from the port or legitimate ones coming in were allowed to pass the multitude of warships.

Liam was further away in receiving the message via carriage pigeon but he was quick into action and only a half day behind those of Peter's ships to head for Kildare. Seeing as Peter had filled up the passageway looking like white butterflies from spring to alight upon the waters, he held back his two fleet of ships to form a barrier of any passing down from Kildare towards Heathfield lands. They could easily surround as they were positioned in formation All were set and awaiting, there was another fleet of his ships notified to head this way once they could converge leaving two more fleet of ships to protect the shoreline from Ballicastle to Heathfield as a measure of precaution.

Gaidan himself saw to the placing of the cannons that would protect Kildare. The first two were at the mouth of the river on the land masses that made up the entry from the ocean into its harbor. The guns were large, and accurate with crews that were well trained. The second set were placed close to the city where any ships that gotten through could be hit. He was watching the fleets of ships as they took their positions, smiling slightly as he watched the people of the city prepare in case of battle. Women were covering windows while their men folk gathered at the docks and waited bearing weapons in their hands.

The Callihan ships were among Peter's ships, having been at the harbor when the fleet from Innis had made port. The four ships (including James') were scattered among the ships. Regan had taken a place close to the 'edge' of the fleet and after all were in position, she gave her crew a quiet order. With so much movement between the waiting ships, she hoped none of her kin would notice as the Dream moved from one group to the mouth of the river where the Ballicastle fleet awaited.

Captain Henry Robinson jumped at the idea of getting his hands on Kildare. The message had been received and with the seal sent (the confiscated Ackerman seal by Harman), he was given two fleets under his command. He was in his glory and sure of a victory forthcoming. It came as a surprise when they neared the mouth of the waters leading into the port of Kildare to see warships. They seemed to stall as this was totally unexpected but he didn't give off any signs of negativity. He was flying English flags as were all the ships under his command. They moved slower waiting to see if the ships were aggressive or not when it was spied that the whole of the waterway into Kildare was filled with even more warships, none hiding that fact and a flag not all that familiar to him saying Innis with a coat of arms. The others outside flew that of Ballicastle which he did recognize, now cursing that when originally here they had not investigated down that far.  Appraising the situation he gave the signal for his ships to retreat. He got a VERY bad feeling on this all that he'd been setup by Harman. He would get even but no way was he going down this day. Much as he'd like to blast most of these lands to kingdom come, he knew when he was out numbered and out maneuvered.

Regan watched as the English ships first came closer almost sensing the hesitation of their leader. Lifting the spyglass, she turned it toward what seemed to be the flag ship. "There you are, you bluidy tuilli." She muttered before looking toward her first mate. "That's him. Time to make him pay for damages done and for those men who died for no reason." She knew some would say she was doing the same but she had a feeling if Robinson wasn't stopped once and for all, he'd be back. "We'll take down the ship and rescue who we can, and if Robinson survives, we'll see him turned over to the King and Regent."

Being it was Robinson's ship that had been the closest, the others had turned and were heading back the way they came, leaving him to lag behind. Perhaps he stalled to get an estimate of how many ships were about knowing there had to be at least four fleets to his two. Of course England had more if they had been interested in starting a war, the Crown that is, but there might be more than what he could see for the port was pretty crowded and he couldn't see past a good number of them for an accurate count. He hadn't really noticed the ships he had stalked that time amongst the bigger ones. So he salvaged the knowledge in case he was found out that he had gotten an account of ships. Of course this had him a spaced a growing distance from his fleets. Being the fleets here didn't open fire on them, he figured they were only waiting to see if he had. A Show of Force it was called.

Regan felt the usual butterflies as she approached the ship. She was watching Robinson's ship as they approached, frowning. He was staying behind the others so she had no idea if he had noticed the Dream. "Hard to port," she called out, then looked toward the Master Gunner. "Prepare for fire on my mark!" As the ship turned, she called out, "Now!" And the first barrage of cannons was fired. "That's for the lads that died the day you attacked my ship!" Yelled just before the cannons went off. And the Dream began to turn for the second round.

Robinson was already figuring out what excuses he would need once he was back to England. He also had plans to see to Harman being discredited and abuse of connections, dragging Ackerman's reputation and those of his family into the hole. He would get satisfaction doing so. The thought barely there when a ship, insignificant compared to all the others opened fired on him. Of course it brought his fleet back around and barreling down on the smaller ship as fast as they could go. It would take them a number of minutes to even come within firing range.

Liam was itching for a battle and it seemed he was going to be provided with one. The shout went out as the other fleet of ships started to come back around as one of their own opened fired on the one. He wasn't sure why or who gave the orders but that didn't matter much at the moment when a fight was to be had for the seafaring Irishman. His ships immediately moved ahead preparing to do battle with the others.

The word spread fast over Peter's fleet within the port waterways and so those closest to the mouth started to pour out into the ocean to make a quick end to any fight from the English.

Robinson's ship had a freaking hole in the hull as his fleet was coming to the rescue. Then they started to retreat again as more than they could ever win against the odds poured out into the open sea. Robinson's ship was sinking fast as fire shot up over masts and sails and the fleet moving past the wreckage started to open fire on them. It was Lieutenant Edwards that was next in charge and gave the orders to retreat. The last thing they needed was to lose all their ships and the crown of England to find out on the mess. They still had a chance to keep it under taps and so Robinson was abandoned for the good of all.

Peter gave the signal to cease fire as a few rounds in warning was all that was needed. He noticed Liam had done the same whose ships were amongst his. Those surviving the English ship would be taken up by the closest ship, which happened to be Regan's he noticed. He wasn't sure why she opened fired on them but it would be reported to the King of Kildare to handle when all was done this day. If she didn't pick up the survivors, his ship was close enough to do so.


Liam's continued chasing off the other fleet a distance up the coast to make sure they didn't change their minds again, a few of his ships along for the fun.



Date: 01-09-10
Poster: Leoric McLarkin
Post # 54

"All right, m'hearties. Let's take on the survivors and make sure they're unarmed." The second round hadn't been needed and with the sight of the other ships, the English had turned tail. As she watched them leave, she pursed her lips slightly in thought. The English had ships everywhere but they still had a large fleet and this wasn't all of them. Somehow, someone had gotten permission for these few. "Mickey, see if you can spot Robinson," she called to her First Mate. "There's more to this than meets the eye." Call it intuition but somehow she doubted if Captain Robinson was the type to go down with his ship.

Robinson and two others (ones to row the dinghy) were making their way to the other ships that were turning, hoping the one lagging behind reluctantly would let them catch up. Except there were all these other ships around them at a distance. Hopefully they would not shoot an unarmed vessel.  He wasn't one to go down with his ship, instead using his ship to block

Dinghies were lowered as well as ropes to help the survivors to safety. "There!" She pointed out the smaller boat moving away but was reluctant to leave the survivors to their fate in order to capture Robinson. "Signal King Peter or one of the Ballicastle ships and see if they'll stop those men. The Captain is on there." And had left his men to their fate again. She set to getting blankets for those that were being brought on board. Her crew was quick and efficient and even the ship's cats would be spared. No looting, just a quick search through those parts not yet under water for survivors. If Robinson managed to catch up to the lagging ship, he'd be gone again.

It was Peter's ship that was closest and got the signal from Regan's ship. There seemed to be a reason the lass had gone to this drastic measure. His ship picked up speed coming between the dinghy and the English ship lagging. He noticed that a couple of Liam's ships moved up ahead in case the one had any ideas of opening fire, they were in position to take it down. Seems whomever manned that ship decided against the risk and more sails lifted to catch the wind and speed. Peter had his men bring the three aboard and put into a holding cell. They would be presented to the King and of course Regan would be there to plea her case and actions this day.

She let out a sigh of relief then turned back to what she had been doing. It had been a matter of revenge at first but now the need to established a connection was strong in the young Captain. There were losses on the English ship of course, but not so many as there could have been had the Dream not stayed to rescue. She glanced over her shoulder at the retreating ships and grinned. She might be facing the King, as well as her brothers, but it was worth  it. Especially if it would discourage outside aid for any who planned to defy the Twins again.

Peter's and Liam's ships escorted Regan's into the port, passing all the other ships as the word was quickly spread that the English had gone. Of course there was a fleet or two that would lag behind making sure they retreated out if sight. They would linger for the next couple of days to make sure none return. It would be brought to the attention of Leoric and Gaidan of getting a fleet or more of ships together to defend their port and lands. They would always be willing to help but it was on luck they could all get here before the English had. Leo might not have that advantage next time. Peter would suggest to Liam on leaving a few ships here until Kildare had a fleet of its own. It was at this point that Gaidan would receive word that Leoric was back from the battle victorious and would meet him in the castle soon as he was done.
Once all settled and Regan's ship in a slip, she was escorted by Peter up to Gaidan, willingly. Which would say much in her favor. Peter would be staying a couple nights and would talk with Leo and Gaidan later on about acquiring some ships they had extra. Leaving Regan with the Regent, he headed up to talk to Mikhail first and would probably end up having dinner with his friend. He would learn all he needed to know through Mikhail, knowing the King and Regent had a few matters to see to.

Back at the Castle....


Gaidan offered his arm to Regan as she approached, though he kept his stern expression. Of course, that was usual for him. He was interested in hearing what she had to say as far as her actions when they met with his brother. Not much was said as he escorted into the castle. Captain Robinson was also escorted and while he wasn't placed in the dungeons he was under house (or in this case) castle arrest and under guard. He was informed he would be remaining until this business was investigated. Gaidan headed for the office where he knew Leoric would be waiting, certain his brother would also know Regan was with him.

Regan had no reason to not go willingly. True, her following Robinson hadn't been for the best of motives at first but now she was glad she had gone after him. Something still wasn't sitting right, but she wasn't certain what that was.

James, Mikhail and Airtre were with Leoric in his office when Gaidan arrived. A light respite was set out for them to enjoy at their leisure as well goblets of mulled wine to wash it down. The guards saw to the door as Gaidan and Regan entered the lush office that served for many different functions, from war plans to visiting family and friends. Of course Leo would already know much more than he conceivably should be able to. He didn't waste getting down to matters for there was a good reason. It was time to settle this all up so Gaidan could finally wed, no more rescheduling due to events in progress. They would at least have their lull and the citizens of their Kingdom to have an event of Importance to participate in even if they did so by the mass of them celebrating outside. "Please have some food and wine before you begin enlightening us on the reasons of your actions today, Lady Callihan."

Once through the door, he released Regan, motioning her to enter ahead of him and giving a quick wink. With her brother also there, she was under some pressure. Stepping over to join the others, he helped himself to the wine and food before taking a seat.

She gave Gaidan a quick smile, then inclined her head respectfully to Leoric. "Thank you, your Majesty." Cutting a quick look toward James, she went to the table and helped herself to the wine and a slice of cheese. She wasn't really hungry and if she were to be in trouble over this, best to get it over with. Turning, with the wine glass in hand, she spoke. Regan tended to pace when she talked so she didn't take a seat. "I have to admit, when I first went after the English ships, it was for revenge. Captain Robinson is the man who was in charge from what we were told. Not only now, but during the attack on my ship earlier last year. His callousness and that he had attacked before, just stuck in my craw, so when I saw the chance, I had my ship and crew go after him. And they were acting on my orders." She paused to take a drink of the wine, trying to put her thoughts together about what had happened next. "But as I approached the ships, I caught sight of him with my glass. His manner wasn't what I had expected of a man who had been seemingly about to attack a city, only to find himself thwarted. His face was red, he was pacing and his men were avoiding him. I had a feeling that if he got away, he'd be back. Maybe not for a while, but the first time someone else decided to fight against the two of you, he'd be there. And I wanted to know what he thought he was going to gain by this. He may very well deny he was about to do anything at all, but we do have the word of the Commander whose ship he sank that he was working with someone." She paused again, then gave a half smile. "Well, the rebels obviously, but the question is why an English Captain was using English ships, ready for battle, to approach Kildare."

Leoric listened, piercing blue eyes followed her movements and every word spoken. He knew she spoke the truth to him and all in her heart. He would start with a warning. "Revenge is a bitter cup to drink from for it begets a chain reaction that brings many to their deaths by the time it is done in most cases. In this case it is the latter," but not something she knew when she set out hence the warning. "Robinson attempted to take down one of ours, you and your ship, as well being in a conspiracy with Harman to take over Kildare. Harman has confessed," Leo had his ways, "his part in all of this. He will remain under house arrest as a war criminal until England is contacted on whether they want him back and compensation for damages done. Along with that will be the report by Commander Palmer in his hand and seal." Instead of just executing the man for his deeds they give England the respect of doing so or leaving it to them if they washed their hands of the man. It would also have England save face in this matter diplomatically, hence avoiding a possible negative chain reaction. "There is a meal being prepared for all those tonight that took part in keeping Kildare safe. A room has been prepared for you, Lady Callihan, that you might freshen up and join the others. It shall be written that you acted on instinct to bring down a war criminal. An honor to your King and country." Although he had to warn her about being too impulsive for such could get her in trouble instead.

She nodded to his words, knowing it wasn't the best course usually. She had been lucky so far, but then again, she hadn't run afoul of a certain threesome. She nearly sighed in relief that she had done the right thing, then saluted Leoric respectfully. "I'm glad he's been brought to justice, your Majesty and I would be honored to join everyone at dinner." She cut a quick look at James, wondering what he'd say later. Then again, she hadn't been thrown in the brig!

James was only a witness here tonight as requested. If he was to be more than that, he was sure Leoric would let him know one way or another. Eyes held upon his sister, pleased that in this case she had been correct even if not politically correct. A smile etched a fraction with a minute dip of his head after all was said and done. He didn't know beforehand how Leoric would handle it.

A guard stepped in to escort the Lady Callihan to her room that she might freshen up. She would also find gowns in the closet and all the trimmings along with the undergarments that would be needed.

James received a smile in return, her blue eyes sparkling. She was glad to have done her part and it showed in her step as she left with the guard. James might not recognize her when she returned. Gaidan watched the young Captain, then smiled slightly as she left. She was a lively lass, and one that might be a handful. He stood to refill his glass, offering to do the same with the others. Then he remained standing while they waited for Harman to be brought in.


Once she was gone he turned to the others, a nod to Airtree who then excused himself. "I have all evidence I need to proceed with the sentencing of the other two held within our dungeon. First will be Harman." He was reversing addressing them in the order they had occurred. A drink was taken of his mulled wine as he waited. Airtre returned with Harman bound in chains and escorted by two guards.

Harman's condition was less than the perfect one he liked to present. He had been stripped of his armor, he was still blood spattered and dirty from battle, and he was limping slightly. But he still held an air of defiance but what did he have to lose? He had lost everything in his bid for power but that was a chance he had taken. That he failed likely meant his death for treason but he was determined to not show anything but bravery as he met his death.

The doors opening as he was brought forth and forced to kneel before the King and Regent whether he liked it or not. Leoric studied the man for a few long moments knowing well he didn't really kneel before him. His heart was wretched, black, his mind twisted in need for power over others to bend to his will. There was nothing to save here with was a sad thing for one like Leoric. He knew now how his brother felt at times. "Phillip Harman. By your actions in Treason against the crown, for murdering of innocent people as well our two representatives sent to you in peace, I hereby strip you of all titles and lands. Tonight you will be hung by the neck in the Square in front of many witnesses until you are dead. You have one hour before this sentence is carried out to have your last meal and the comfort of a priest if you wish." If he didn't, one would not be pressed upon him. As a king he would see to charity in what was of a convicted criminal sentenced to death. "If anyone here has anything to say in the defense of this man and judgement being passed, please state anything in his defense now." The only people that could possibly save this man from death were in this room for they had all the information against him. There was a platform for the hanging being set up as the sentence was being pronounced. Word was being spread by mouth as many flocked to the Square already. When the time came, Mikhail along with Airtree would see to the hanging. Mikhail to speak for the King and Regent of Harman's crimes and subsequent sentence of death.

James had gotten to witness firsthand some of Harman's deeds as he slightly shook his head in disgust, he would not come forward in the defense of this murderer. A man who had committed Treason against King and Country. A man who would have overrun Montrose and his family had he the opportunity.

Harman grunted as he went down on his knees but lifted his head to meet the King's gaze. The defiance left him and he looked away, unable to endure the intensity in Leoric's eyes. He had expected no mercy and would receive none. "This will not stop with my death. " He spat on the floor at Leoric's feet. "And I curse you, I curse you all." He struggled to his feet, his eyes wild. He was dragged out, cursing and spitting, his yells echoing through the palace halls. He'd not go quietly to his death when the throne of Kildare should be his!

After the two guards dragged Harman away, Airtre, who had gone with them returned with Ultan in tow. His hands bound and made to kneel before the King after he was brought in for his sentencing.

It was far better to be done with it all this night as the Citizens of Kildare celebrated two victories. The dread that had loomed over them and fear to ride pass the Bend as it was known, was lifted. "Ultan Callihan. In gaining an army to march on my and my brother's castle, for near poisoning the then Duke of Montrose, you are convicted of Treason against the Crown. The normal punishment is Death, the rare occasion is Banishment. Because of my respect of the former and present Duke of Montrose, your sentence will be the latter. It comes with a heavy price nonetheless that renders you dead to these lands. You will be taken by ship under guard to a small island that will support life with the decree that if you ever enter these lands or allied lands again, you will be executed on the spot. All guards will be made aware in all the lands affected. You will be given a ration of food and clothing but no coin nor weapon." He didn't say who or which of his family managed to have him not hung by the neck until dead right beside Harman. "You will be placed on a ship tonight that is heading out of the harbor that has been commissioned with this task and has a holding cell you will be placed in." Airtre was personally going to see to this one and Leoric trusted him to see the deed done as he owed Ultan his due.

James had nothing to say for all had been said already. Ultan had been at the root of his problems many years ago when he set upon his father's mercy to be taken in. His look stern bordering on stoic with a clenched jaw.


Ultan, though filled with hate, was not like Harman. He had escaped death once more, though his life was all he had gained. He had lost family, standing and wealth. To come back would mean death. He was trembling as he knelt there, his head lowered. He didn't dare say a word, in case he caused Leoric to change his mind. As he was made to stand again, he looked briefly at James, then looked away. Somewhere out there, his servant still waited. It might be possible for him to make some kind of life, perhaps escape the island but he wouldn't return to these lands, unless he was assured of victory, or became tired of living.

Once Ultan was taken out to be deported, he turned to James, "please let your father know how this matter was taken care of in all due respect of him from me." He hoped it would lighten the burden Rowan carried for his brother. For him it should close the chapter without blood on his hands of his own family.

James gave a fisted hand over his heart. "I will this night when I return." He knew he was to stay in witness of the hanging that would be coming up soon and to the feast being prepared for the Victory of this day.

Giving a nod, Leoric turned to his brother with finally a smile to show. "This feast tonight I have set to be prepared and portions distributed to the Citizens that will be waiting outside, is also for the announcement of your wedding day that all might start making preparations. One that is to be soon as it has been put off too long." Soon meant a week or two unless Gaidan really insisted on waiting to Spring. "This Ceremony will carry with it the symbolism of when Kildare became victorious over its enemies. It will strengthen all who live here and who will be coming to live here in the future as we grow."

Gaidan placed his glass onto the table as he crossed the room and placed his hand on his brother's shoulder. "Corina will be delighted. I believe she's been planning continuously so she wouldn't be caught unaware." He lowered his voice, slightly, not because he didn't want the others to hear but because of emotion. "Thank you, Leoric." They had weathered another storm and perhaps this time, they'd only have to deal with natural ones instead of those made by man.

Or unnatural ones made by other forces beyond man and residue of the Witch. That one woman had done a lot of damage they were still cleaning up after. His hand lifted to be placed on his brother's shoulder, mirror images, "then let us go get ready for tonight's events. Two hours time," that would give an hour after Harman's hanging, the body and scaffold taken down and away. It would also give Corina time to dress up more than usual for they would be coming out onto the higher balcony with Gaidan and himself for all the Citizens to see as it would be announced there after the meal and while those in the Square ate of the same meal they had just enjoyed.

Date: 01-30-10
Poster: Gaidan McLarkin
Post # 55

Royal Wedding
Gaidan McLarkin and Corina Turlough
Kildare Castle Gardens - January 30th at Noon
Marriage Consummated that night during the Full Moon

The wedding was planned for the end of January, on the 30th, as the whole of Kildare kingdom prepared for it. It was the talk amongst the women and all of the townsfolk. There would be a big celebration and all would wear their best clothing, even if it was rags they would be clean and as neat as possible. The florist was hired to bring in the flowers that afternoon planned as the gardens were cleared of snow. Luckily the weather had held. A reprieve from the harsher winter but maybe someone had something to do with that? Or combined with another of even greater talents. Invitations were sent out to family, friends and the heads of sister lands. Many were coming, including children. The garden area was big enough for the whole of Leoric's army to be contained within so would accommodate all. Many came the night prior in the least if not a few days ahead of this special day. The bakeries were busy preparing all kinds of breads and baked goods as hired by the King along with meats and vegetables.
King Chadrick came with his lovely wife Danielle and six of their older children:  Rick, Treve, Douglas, Bryan, Rory and Charles, the last being triplets. The rest were left in the care of an uncle and aunt. Liam had his ships in the port still to ensure the safety of the waterways. Ed, Jon, Michael and Joseph were in attendance. Collin and Lah, sister of the groom, were there with their two children, Myles and Laoise. Trevellyn Douglas also attended assisted by his son Malcolm and his wife Georgette. Queen Honeee, mother of the groom, came in the day prior along with Andrew and his wife Noirin. Valandil had the company of his cousins. Henna, Solarina, Tykir, Carlton and Lydia all in attendance. Sean DeBurgh escorted his mother Amberlette, aunt of the groom, along with his sister Atessa. Trevor Cairns, one of the four horsemen, would also be about to ensure the day went as it should.
Julia came with her with her two brothers, Aleric and Niklas. Some stayed to make sure the sister castles were not left unguarded. James Callihan, the Duke of Montrose was also in attendance with most of his family. His father in his care would meet Trevellyn Douglas for the first time and a friendship gained. Adam, Alannah, Morgan, Faelan, Regan and Deirdre would be attending. King Peter O'Neill arrived the night prior along with Elaina and Conor, Nycole and Cara in attendance of the Princess while Calhoun and Lancely attended the King. The other knights remaining in Heathfield to see to the security there. The wedding ceremony would last a couple days for many of the guests. Corina's sister and brother, Cairenn and Kieran, had arrived three days prior to help out their sister and future brother in law. Kizzie Cohen made it up to watch her friend be married.

Cousins and friends of the groom that came included Gerrard MacShire and Rory McDonough along with his wife Kia. Draven MacShire as well Maurice and Joseph McDonough were able to make the ceremony and festivities. Thalan would be making his usual surprise visit to bless his prodigy, at least one half of the twins on this special day. Niall MacKinlay was in attendance along with his brother Cian and sister Brigid. Michael Cunningham invited as a guest of Brigid's. Charles Ackerman and his sister Marina came as guests. Jael had been assigned as lady knight and body guard to Corina now that she would be royalty. If Leo ever married then she would be in charge to both and probably gain another female or more to be trained to that station.

Even the city had been decorated to celebrate the day. Banners of brightly colored materials had been strung, many with good wishes for the happy couple. Housewives and shopkeepers had swept the areas in front of homes and shops, and some even added coats of whitewash. In spite of the rebuilding and the fighting, they wanted to present their best to the many guests. As each guest and group made their way toward the palace, they were greeted by cheering people. The city was filled with joy after the events of the past few weeks and it was a welcome break. Gaidan stood at the window of his room, alone for the moment, watching everything below. He needed a few moments to himself on this joyous and welcomed day, He was dressed in the full dress kilt of the McLarkin clan, his hair loose, save for warrior braids, and he was more nervous than he could ever remember being!

Their brother Andrew MacNeil would be conducting the ceremony, Leoric, the best man opposite the maid of honor, Cairenn Turlough. Gerrard MacShire opposite Lady Diarine Fisher and Vincent Hamilton, head of the kings men, opposite Lady Vadoma Ayers. Corina had chosen ivory trimmed in a pale leaf green silk over organza. Long sleeves and a fur line cape covering a modest neckline edged in Venice lace with small pearls woven in. A tiara headpiece made up of the same Venice lace and pearls as well the sheer netting to cover her face until lifted. Her brother, Kieran, would be giving her away. Her ladies in waiting as well her bridesmaids along with her sister helped her dress this very special day. They would be married on the noon hour giving it special meaning in the lands. A time for all to take their break from work and a small respite in the days to come in honor of this day, a symbolic landmark. Her bridesmaids' gowns were of pastels, Cairenn in shades of green like that of her sister's gown but without the ivory. Vadoma was in pale yellows with the touch of greens and Diarine in shades of pale purples with the same touch of light lime greens.
The garden was well prepared,  rugs laid so the benches placed didn't sink into the ground, and every flower in its proper place that had been brought in special for this day. Thalan had added a spell that would keep the area warm and clear of snow. The couple would stand with Andrew beneath a trellis laden with white roses, snowdrops, daisies and babies breath. Delicate vines added green to the white, intertwined throughout the trellis. Snow still coated the trees, and fairy lights sparkled among them, giving a wintry glow to the scene. The altar was also placed there, covered with a cloth of white, embroidered with the symbols of Kildare, Heathfield and the sister realms The benches were padded with comfortable cushions for the comfort of the guests. 
From the tents, which were heated with braziers of brass and shaped like creatures of fantasy, there was some movement as preparations were finished.  Delicious smells filled the area with the offerings for the guests included roast beef, chicken, a variety of sea foods, as well as several kinds of potatoes, vegetable dishes such as green beans and red peppers, corn, and peas and baby onions. There was shrimp bisque and savory basil tomato soup to start. And of course, all those lovely breads and pastries would be enjoyed. Serving maids dressed in the livery of the land waited patiently while lads made ready to bring in each course. The children were given an area to gather until it was time to be ushered to their seats. The McAndrew triplets were just noticing girls and were busy talking among themselves, while the younger ones were watched over by young servants who tried to keep them from getting too rambunctious. And over it all, Thalan watched from the side, making sure that all went well.

Musicians played amongst the townspeople according to what was being played in the Garden, so they all felt a part. Waltz and classical soon mingled into the wedding march as first Laoise, the flower girl, came up the isle strewing rose petals about in heading the procession. Corina's sister and two friends followed looking spectacular, moving as gracefully as swans before her. Kieran was attired handsomely as her hand rested on his arm. Corina was so nervous she wondered if she'd miss a step, her smile couldn't be wider as she greeted those she cared for in passing. Once to the altar, her brother handed her over to Gaidan after touching a kiss to her cheek and a few heartfelt words.

Gaidan stood at the altar, waiting. He glanced at his brothers, giving each a quick smile and his mother a wink before the music became the wedding march. He looked toward the back, smiling as Laoise appeared, and then the others but it was Corina who held his eyes once she appeared. He felt his heart catch in his throat at how beautiful she looked, how like an angel. Everyone else faded into the background as she came to his side. He inclined his head to Kieran as the young man stepped away. He gave her the slightest of winks before turning to face Andrew. And when they turned, he whispered so she could hear, and most likely Andrew, "You look absolutely beautiful."

Her eyes misted as her heart swelled as she moved to Gaidan's side. There was only her Snow Prince and herself in that moment, in their own world and vaguely aware of Andrew. Moments suspended before taking the steps to face Andrew and he finally entering their world. With Gaidan's words the nervous smile melted away into liquid warmth that filled misty green eyes. "You are the most handsome of all men, to me." Her voice catching a moment as her fingers found his to interlace. The small bouquet of carnations, roses and baby's breath that matched the colors of their gowns, was handed off to her sister before Andrew was to begin.
Andrew knew how his brother felt for he knew personally how it felt to be in love, piercing blue eyes lifted to Noirin a moment with that thought before back upon the couple before him. He was attired in a splendid white robe trimmed in gold as the Druid priest. Once everyone was situated, he stepped forward, smiling at the couple before he looked up toward those gathered. "Friends, we have come here today to celebrate love. We not only see it in the faces of my brother Gaidan and Corina, who stand before us, but we feel it in ourselves as well. This love is powerful enough to untie the strong entangled knot of life. It is a love which is spoken of in all religions, which kindles our souls with hope and which is our true home, our true meeting place. Gaidan and Corina have opened their hearts to one another and in a few moments will share their vows of marriage together. We are privileged to be invited to share this day with them. To this day they bring the fullness of their being as a treasure to share with one another. Their marriage is being entered into reverently, with the recognition of a true union which has been discovered. For what greater joy is there for two human souls than to join together to strengthen each other in all their endeavors, to support one another through all sorrow and to share with each other in all gladness."
He paused to look back to the couple. "We hope that the words and spirit of our gathering may be filled with a truth that will deepen with the passing years. We hope too that the meaning of the vows they are about to share will also deepen as they have children and grow old together. This is a love that will grow and not be tarnished by events that will occur in your life together, one that will flower both in deepest adversity and greatest joy. As the years go by, you will find more and more in one another a loveliness which neither comes nor goes, which neither flowers nor fades, no longer even taking the form of face or hand or words or knowing. Everything in your marriage can partake of this mysterious beauty beyond beauty, until wherever you turn you see reflections of this loveliness. We ask that the vision you have of one another be always informed by that radiant power which first brought you together. Love is stronger than your conflicts, bigger than life's changes, the miracle always inviting you to learn, to blossom, to expand. It is to love you must always return." He nodded to Leoric then for the rings.

Leoric stepped forward with the rings to offer his brother, his heart overjoyed this day for his twin and the woman he had grown to respect. A perfect match for Gaidan to spend his life with in the days to come. Ones he blessed in his mind for them both. All they would see, however, would be his smile.
Andrew took the rings as he pronounced a blessing over them then he handed the one for Corina to Gaidan. "Gaidan, at this time, you will speak your vows to Corina, and place the ring on her finger. Repeat these words after me, and then, speak what it is your heart. I, Gaidan McLarkin, Regent of Kildare, in the name of the spirit of God that resides within us by the life that courses within my blood and the love that resides within my heart, take thee Corina to my hand, my heart, and my spirit, to be my chosen one. To desire thee and be desired by thee, to possess thee, and be possessed by thee, without sin or shame, for naught can exist in the purity of my love for thee. I promise to love thee wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in life and beyond, where we shall meet, remember, and love again. I shall not seek to change thee in any way. I shall respect thee, thy beliefs, thy people, and thy ways as I respect myself."

Gaidan took hold of Corina's hand, holding her ring with his other. He looked into her eyes as he spoke, his own filled with the love that nearly overwhelmed him. "I, Gaidan McLarkin, Regent of Kildare, in the name of the spirit of God that resides within us by the life that courses within my blood and the love that resides within my heart, take thee Corina to my hand, my heart and my spirit, to be my chosen one. To desire thee and be desired by thee, to possess thee and be possessed by thee, without sin or shame, for naught can exist in the purity of my love for thee. I promise to love thee wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in life and beyond, where we shall meet, remember, and love again. I shall not seek to change thee in any way. I shall respect thee, thy beliefs, thy people, and thy ways as I respect myself." He slipped the ring onto her finger, lifting her hand to place a tender kiss upon her knuckles.

"There was a time," he spoke in a voice that carried well, for all to hear but his words were for her. "There was a time when I thought my path was to be walked alone for that seemed to me to be the best way for a warrior and for one who was to stand beside his brother as his right hand. But the heart knows the best way, and so it was with mine. On a night when the snow fell in large flakes, I saw a vision dancing to music in her heart. Snow glistened on your hair and you were so full of life and joy that I couldn't resist joining in. You didn't disappear like one of those fragile snowflakes and as we danced, I lost my heart to you, Corina. I knew then, somehow, that you were my soul-mate, the one I would spend my life with. You were my snow nymph, my sweet Angel, my lovely Fae, my Princess of the Dance, and I fell in love. Though many deny there is such a thing as love at first sight, I knew the truth that night. We didn't declare our love right away but in time, it couldn't be denied. And when you came with me to Kildare, my heart sang and I knew this was where you belonged. I love you more than I ever thought it was possible to love. Your love has made me kinder, more tolerant, less impatient and stronger. I strive to be a man that will make you proud, and in doing so, I have found myself. I love you, Corina, fully, completely and utterly. I will never hurt you, I will revere you and keep you not behind me, not in front of me, but beside me. You make me complete and I want to spend my life and my eternity with you. As we stand here together, my heart sings for the beginning of our new life together." He was usually a man of few words, but this day he had inspiration.
Once Gaidan was finished with his heartfelt words, Andrew looked upon the guests before upon  Corina. "Corina, at this time, you will speak your vows to Gaidan, and place the ring on his finger. Repeat these words after me, and then, speak what it is your heart. I, Corina, Lady of Heathfield, in the name of the spirit of God that resides within us all, by the life that courses within my blood and the love that resides within my heart, take thee  Gaidan to my hand, my heart, and my spirit, to be my chosen one. To desire thee and be desired by thee, to possess thee, and be possessed by thee, without sin or shame, for naught can exist in the purity of my love for thee. I promise to love thee wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in life and beyond, where we shall meet, remember, and love again. I shall not seek to change thee in any way. I shall respect thee, thy beliefs, thy people, and thy ways as I respect myself."

"I, Corina, Lady of Heathfield, in the name of the spirit of God that resides within us all, by the life that courses within my blood and the love that resides within my heart, take thee  Gaidan to my hand, my heart, and my spirit, to be my chosen one. To desire thee and be desired by thee, to possess thee, and be possessed by thee, without sin or shame, for naught can exist in the purity of my love for thee. I promise to love thee wholly and completely without restraint, in sickness and in health, in plenty and in poverty, in life and beyond, where we shall meet, remember, and love again. I shall not seek to change thee in any way. I shall respect thee, thy beliefs, thy people, and thy ways as I respect myself." The while slipping the ring down his finger and taking a breath before she spoke the words from her heart. "We met on a wintry night four years ago. A night that is still clear in my mind. A night out to go to the Thistle as the snow came steadily while I danced through the drift of flakes. Music in my heart and mind that guided my feet. Hope to see family and friends, possibly make new ones as sometimes comes about. I was as a bird set free that night. It was a magical night that would surprise me in meeting the man of my dreams, the love of my heart and for him to share the same. He came out of the drift of snow to capture my hand and my heart. My Snow Prince, forever dancing in my heart with this day to become his wife giving of myself fully. Little had I known he was a prince and an unfettered heart either way came purely in what grew within. A love that would not be denied and for you alone. You are my desire in this life, Gaidan, I purely love you."
Once Corina was finished speaking from her heart he addressed them both. "Now you will light the candle together, each taking a light from the two and lighting the one together." Andrew turned to family and guests as they did. "The candle is a symbol of light and hope, of two becoming one just as the ceremony and the rings symbolize the same. Just as the single flame is not created by one, neither is their love the sole possession or creation of either. It is the symbol of the spirit of love that has grown between them." He fell silent as they stepped forward to light the candle, then when they returned to him, he spoke again. "I now, in the name of the Crown and by the power given me, before those who love you and have assembled here to celebrate with you, pronounce you husband and wife, and present you as Lord Regent and Lady, Gaidan and Corina. You may kiss your bride."
Through the rest of the ceremony, Corina and Gaidan followed each step then he turned and lifted her veil. He kissed her with all the passion that was within and she returned it in a way that left them both breathless. They finally came up for air when someone cleared their throat, then turned to face those who had assembled, laughing as they were cheered and applauded. They were greeted first by Queen Honeee, after which Andrew gave his congratulations and then everyone followed. Before the feast would begin, the couple was presented to the whole of the citizens of Kildare. Coming out on a wide balcony as the crowd sent up cheers while Andrew announced them as husband and wife. Flowers were strewn and gifts left below under the balcony for the guards to retrieve later to bring to their chambers. Words were spoken as the occasion lifted the hearts of all, old, young, warrior and peasant. After a short bit, when the cooks brought out the food to be share amongst the citizens, Gaidan led Corina back to the tents where their feast waited. They would dance, cut the cake, and toss the bridal garter and bouquet before his whisked her off to his bed chambers by nightfall with the full moon up above in witness through their chamber window. Their first night would be spent in the castle, and then Gaidan planned to sweep his bride off to a honeymoon that would encompass several lands. And thus, they began their life together as man and wife.
~~This concludes this part of the Kildare Saga~~

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