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The Heir

Date: 02-16-2003
Poster: Broch Frasier
Post # 1

The Heir's Arrival
<Broch I Frasier, Brogan Frasier, Sarina Maree, LochIan Kearney, HannahFKearny, Grace St Ives>

His duffel bag had been stashed away into a room he already made arrangements with having met this tender Alex. Little was asked, little was said and Broch preferred it that way. He freshened up and even changed into suitable clothing. Herringbone gray pants were offset but a thick woven white sweater. Only the collar of a black shirt beneath folded down over the neck's edge. Hair was precisely combed into stylish with a hint of woodsy cologne.

Brogan was in a fine mood tonight and for no reason in particular.  His walk to the tavern was a leisurely one, enjoying the slightly warmer weather. Patrick and Daniel had said they might be around and about tonight, this was one of the best places to run into them. He pushed the door open and sauntered in.

He had taste in his clothing and that showed. He was even wearing a smile as he made his way down the stairs to get himself a drink now that all was taken care of for now. Soon, he would be meeting others. He paused there in the entrance way of the hall as hunter green eyes were in quick pursuit of the one that just came in. Well, well, a Frasier already, he was in luck. "Evening." So his smile spread cordially.

"Evening," he too paused in his steps at the sight of a rather familiar face. His smile was just as friendly, his expression questioning but he continued his trek to the bar.

Once the man passed so he fell in steps coming up to the bar and taking a lean, one like he was familiar with the place. Such was his way, a man that liked being comfortable in any given situation. Alex, having already met him hours ago, set out a drink of Scotch. A polite nod given Alex before he took it up, not saying a word but he had no qualms in looking the other over, as one man would size up another. Glass lifted in the process as he took a slow drink of his preferred libation.

Sarina had just returned from a visit with her niece and nephews at Balli. Miranda was expecting again... at the rate she and Mike were going they would soon populate half of Balli themselves. Her mood was a good one, though, only one thing would improve it at this point... and he was away on a short journey. Gloved hand pressed to the surface of the door and she eased it open, stepping in from the cold.

It was only the cold drift of air that had him setting his glass aside and hunter green eyes riveting to its source. Well, well, even better as one very lovely lady was found coming through that very door. Things were looking up even more.

"Ale... dark, Alex." A grin sent to the tender. The night was young, he had several hours in which to drink himself silly. His gaze turned to the dark haired man, observing him while his attention was on the door then it shifted again. "Sarina, a fair evening to you."

He was already up from his lean, standing to his full height of six foot four. He had always found for some such was intimidating in itself but in this instance, a lot of women liked big men for good reason. He would wait, he had such patience.

"Good eve, Brogan. Have you seen..." but her words broke off as light blue eyes came to rest on the tall man as he stood. Not only because he was a big man but because he bore a strong resemblance to another man she knew well. "And good eve to you, sir."

A partial bow was given as a hand crossed midchest in its execution before he straightened. He took a long moment to well look the lady over before speaking. Not too long but it had its effect. "My fair lady, a welcome sight for a weary traveler's eyes. You do me honor by your presence alone. If I may be so bold upon hearing your name already, a good evening Lady Sarina. I am Broch, recently arrived." A Scottish brogue all his own, one that had been tempered by many other countries he had visited with his shipping enterprise.

Brogan had remained standing and was glad now that he had. He opened his mouth to introduce Sarina to the gentleman but closed it as the man introduced himself instead. He said nothing for now, watching instead.

It took her a moment to find her voice. "It's perfectly alright, my Lord... Broch." Heavens, the man even had a Scottish accent! "A pleasure it is, to meet you." Offering a slender hand to him.

A pause in his step forward had him now glancing over the newly arrived. The evening was definitely looking up as he dipped his head as she passed then proceeded to take up the Lady Sarina's hand. His own were warm, calloused enough to show he worked with them. Fingers captured her hand to his as it was lifted to meet the discreet bend of his head. A kiss touched just above her knuckles before the intensity of hunter green eyes would lock upon hers as he lifted his head. Her hand held as smile swept transforming his features so pleasantly, even charming perhaps. One lone dimple dipped as her hand was lowered and released slowly. "The pleasure is indeed mine. I am beginning to feel Scotland is not the only country with such beautiful women as we like to boast."

Alex had set his tankard on the bar but Brogan had yet to pick it up. Arms crossed over his chest, an expression of mild amusement in his green eyes. His attention was on Broch and the Lady Sarina.

A blush crept into her cheeks, it could not be helped, but she lowered her gaze away from his quickly, eyes darting in Brogan's direction. "I am flattered, my Lord. You have recently arrived here?"

Again he opened his mouth to speak and again he closed it when Sarina asked the very question he had planned to ask.

"That I have, this very night." A drink of his Scotch was taken before he set it aside. He turned to Brogan at that point. Still the intensity was held to those hunter green eyes as he offered his hand to shake. "Brogan is it not?" He was an avid listener they would find out.

"Aye, Brogan it is. Well met, Broch." He took the man's hand in his, giving it a strong squeeze.

Broch shook Brogan's hand well, even passing his other over his wrist traditionally before both were released. So his first night continued meeting others not of the Frasier family but of the lands here. He gained a wealth of knowledge from Alex along, putting forth certain questions that told him even more. He learned about the war on the Ballicastle boarder and other such useful information, as well as the seed planted that he was here to meet with the Duke of Falkirk himself. Important family papers were to be delivered personally into the hands of Neale Frasier, whom was away for a few days. It would be on his second night's stay at the Thistle, he met Hannah Frasier and her husband along with another.

Second Day at the Thistle:

Hannah chatted amiably with the cooks while putting together a tray for Lan. She doubted he had eaten and if he had, it couldn't have been much. A hefty bowl of stew, several slices of bread, cheese and two apple tarts were piled high on plates.

Now, Hannah was one hell of a good wife, she knew him well and his appetite. Lan was over to take up a stool to make short work of the fare she set out but not before he tasted of a kiss, something he needed even more. Quick enough it probably went unnoticed except by her and held the promise for later when they were alone.

A door opened and close in the hall upstairs as he stood there in the middle of the hallway listening to the sounds that drifted from down in the tavern. Impeccable dressed in brown tweed pants with a ribbed tan sweater with a white shirt beneath. Only the collar was folded over the ribbed neckline. Dark hair combed back still curled as it pleased along the edge of his neck to taper down longer in the back. Oxford shoes were of the finest leather made and held a nice shine. Woodsy cologne hinted to linger on his clothes. He counted at least three distinctive voices besides Alex whom he knew. He took his time in a leisurely step that even hinted with a swagger. Soon enough he was emerging into the main taproom from the corridor that led to the guest rooms.

It was a promise she would hold him to, a sure cure to ease the tension from his aching muscles. With a soft laugh she boosted herself onto the stool next to Lan and smoothed her skirts over the gentle swell of her stomach. All settled, she reached for a slice of cheese from Lan's plate. No one ever need question Hannah's appetite, particularly when she was expecting.

He dug in with that very healthy appetite but as she stole some he edged the plate between them to share. Dashing smile came with a wink before he started up again.

And her laughter followed, a small bite taken as she glanced up to see... Neale enter the room. She opened her mouth to greet him but closed it when she realized it wasn't her brother but rather someone who looked very much like him. Green eyes had widened in surprise, watching the dark haired man make his entrance.

Only one pause in his steps as he noted Lochlan and Hannah, especially the woman. The description he had would make her a Frasier if he was correct. He continued on as if not one step had been missed, continuing to the bar as a smile eased over his features. "Evening ladies, sir."

Grace turned from her distracted fascination with the dancing redgold flames within the hearth. Fiends of emerald isle green alight upon the tall man, a gentle warm smile offered to his greeting. "And to you my lord." Her voice was low and soft, not a care in the world upon the slender shoulders that were held so proudly, despite the faded hint of dirt upon her chin.

"Good eve, sir..." Following him with her very wide eyed gaze.

Hunter green gaze shifted over the lady near the hearth as his smile would charm more with an added dip of an elusive dimple. The splotches of dirt now noticed as a dark brow rose a fraction, green eyes dipping down and back up. "Mud fight?"

He had to swallow a good mouthful before he greeted the man. Finally taking a look then a double take with a fast glance to Hannah and back as if asking if she knew him. "Evening." At least it came without any spewing of food.

A curious tilt of her head, sending the precarious cinnamon silk bun to one side for a few moments. "Mud fight? Oh... " A gentle shake of her head, soft laughter bubbled up and escaped. "No my lord.. I am the keeper of the Green House within the Celtic Gardens. I was so eager for my supper that as a bad child I forgot to properly wash up first." A slight lift of her brow with a grin as the mug lifted to her lips and she took a sip.

Her response to Lan was a quick shake of her head, auburn brows arched in question. Finding her tongue, she finally spoke. "This is the Lady Grace, my Lord. I am Hannah and this is my husband, Lochlan Kearney."

"It would appear my lovely lady that your Green House has decided to keep you company tonight." His own smile warmed considerably as in a way one could find it fetching. Business at hand in family matters now had him turning his attention on the couple. "The honor of the pleasure to meet you Lady Grace, Lochlan." Pausing there as the hunter green gaze locked upon Hannah's holding it a long moment. "Hannah Frasier. I am Broch Frasier, come to seek out your brother Neale whom I was told is away."

She fought the sudden urge to reach up and wipe the dirt from her chin. As they spoke of their family matters she finished her journey to the hearthside where she claimed her usual seat, sinking gratefully into the soft warm cushions where she relaxed with a soft sigh.

He gave a nod as he sat back from his plate he was consuming of its piled food. Instead he was completely drawn to study this man as he spoke to his wife.

"Yes..." green eyes widened yet again at this introduction and proclamation. "Then it is our pleasure to meet you, Broch. And to welcome you here." She could not remember meeting Broch but she had so many cousins... and he did look much like her brothers. "Neale should be home soon. Are you rooming here?" Glancing from Broch to Lan, briefly, and back.

"I thank you. All whom I have met have been very cordial and warm in their welcoming. Quite the good reflection on those whom live in these lands." He had to keep from even giving the slightest notion of the hand he held tucked there in a breast pocket of his shirt beneath the sweater. Important papers of the kind he would keep on his person until delivered into the Duke's hand personally.

"I would have seen to a room for you at Falkirk had you sent word of your arrival. I'll do so as soon as Lan and I return home. You're welcome to come with us. We can have your things sent over later...." she was speaking so quickly she'd nearly run right over the man!

Another sip she took from the mug, her gaze intent upon the dancing redgold flames within the hearth. The quiet crackling the only sound within the tavern at the moment. She did not know the Frasiers first hand but she did know of their reputation and hoped everything was all right with them.

Backing up to the question put forth to him now. "Yes, but I was invited to stay at Falkirk by your cousin Brogan. I plan to move in tomorrow if that will be alright with you?"

"Tomorrow is fine! I'll see to it that all is ready for you."

"Thank you. I look forward to seeing this manor home I was told you built here firsthand, especially when it is named after the original homestead."

"Aye, proud of it we are." Her smile bright, green eyes twinkling. "Tomorrow you can meet Patrick and Rob, Rob's wife. Daniel's leaving for Thornwyke so you may not catch him before he goes." Hannah kept tabs on them all!

He wondered which one he had seen on his way out, the looks were distinguishable that he knew the one had to of been another Frasier. It was a shame the hour was so late that he couldn't stay to find out for certain. There would be time. "I look forward to meeting the whole of the Frasier family. It will be my pleasure."

Lan sat there pondering as he listened. It would seem this man knew of the old homestead, he wondered on what more he knew then of these Frasiers. He said nothing for now but questions formulated in his mind he would talk with Hannah on later.

"The pleasure will be ours, of course." Her laughter light as she gave Lan's arm a squeeze. "Shall we start back?" She needed to see to Broch's room and her husband's sore muscles.

Distracted from those very thoughts as he turned a smile on his wife. He knew she would tire easier for her condition and would make sure she got enough rest. "I am ready when you are, as I remember there was a promise made." Still early enough to see to it as he would tease her too. He loved teasing her when he could.

"A promise to be kept," she laughed, pressing a kiss to Lan's cheek before sliding carefully from the stool. "It was a pleasure to meet you, Broch, we look forward to seeing you on the morrow."

He was up from his own as a hand pressed protectively against the small of her back. "Eventide Lady Grace, Broch. I look forward to seeing you at Falkirk soon."

She looked up from her thoughts, distracted a moment, then that gentle warm smile returned. "Safe journey and peaceful dreams to you both."

"A pleasant night to you, Grace." A smile given to her as she plucked her cloak up from the chair.

"Good night to you both, I should see you tomorrow."

He saw to Hannah's cloak before escorting her out, heading back home.


=+= Broch Ian Frasier =+=
The Past Always Catches Up

Date: 02-16-2003
Poster: Broch Frasier
Post # 2

The Claim Made
<NealeMFrasier and BrockIFrasier>

Familiar was the scene in the study of Neale Frasier.  A fire blazed with the occasional pop and crack within the hearth, the heavy, damask curtains were drawn apart to allow the light of day to add light to the room, a coffee carafe had been placed at the edge of the expanse of cherry desk and steam filtered up from the cup close to the papers piled within easy reach of the man deep in thought seated behind.  Word of their cousin's arrival came by way of Hannah and Neale had asked that when the man made his appearance that he be shown in immediately.

The night had been a long one as he stayed up talking with one of the ladies of the lands. Even after he finally retired to his room, upstairs in the Thistle where he was staying, he found sleep to elude him until the very early morning hours. He got enough sleep to still have him up, not quite as early but early enough, to see to a breakfast before his few belongings were attached to the saddle of a horse he was allowed to borrow until he got one of his own. He headed out to Falkirk around 10am, arriving there a few hours later. Hannah had kept her word as the staff was alerted and his things brought to his room set up for him there. He freshened up after being told that Neale had returned and would see him in his study. His attire impeccable even for the long journey for he had been careful in how they were packed. He dressed accordingly, choosing the gray herringbone slacks along with the black shirt beneath a thick gray corded sweater. Collar points neatly folded over the sweater's neckline. Hair combed precisely in style, even his Oxford shoes held a nice shine before he set off to Neale's study to meet the Duke. He was prepared. A tap came upon the door as he waited to be acknowledge.

The light rap drew his attention to the door and Neale stood from the confines of chair.  "Enter."  Neale, himself, never appeared less than flawlessly immaculate.  Even with only paperwork to keep him company, the crisp, white shirt was one of tailored perfection as were the vest and waist coat which had been discarded for the business at hand.  As always, Hessians were shined to perfection.  The only questionable attribute was that his shirt sleeves had been rolled up.  These he started to fold down as he crossed to take up the remainder of his attire, that green Frasier gaze settling on the door.

With the word in affirmation the door was open and Broch stepped through confidently. One look over the man before him, he knew why he was being mistaken for this very man. The idea amused him but nothing was given away in his expression. Cordial, polite with just the hint of an affable smile. Hunter green eyes assessed in that quick way one did an opponent in respect. He crossed the distance in the next moment as he held out a hand. His manners too were impeccable. "Thank you for seeing me this soon as there are some family matters of importance to be discussed." Choosing his words carefully for many reasons. "I am Broch Ian Frasier, the papers I have will explain all." Using the Frasier name in claim rather than his mother's maiden name. It was all there in these papers he would soon pass into the Duke's hand once greetings were seen to.

No sooner had Neale shrugged into the finishing touch of jacket and the man entered.  By the look of him, there was no mistaking that he resembled the Frasiers and who this man must be.  "Broch."  Neale took up the offered hand and added the clasp of the other to the cousin's forearm.  "Of course, of course...I wish you would have sent word so you could have come directly to Falkirk."  The greeting complete, he released his hold and motioned to the chairs situated in a grouping near the hearth.  Family was Neale's strength. Family ... was Neale's weakness.

His other hand came over Neale's also in that clan style of respect before they were released and he to step back. "I would have sent word had I prior knowledge but decided to come and deliver these papers personally. They are of that importance." Speaking as he took up one of the chairs indicated settling comfortably for all appearances. Once Neale was seated a hand discreetly dipped beneath the neckline of his sweater to withdraw the folded parchments of legal letters. The thickness of his sweaters worn hid them well beneath as he had not trusted to keep them anywhere else but on his person. He leaned forward to place the folded documents carefully to the table in easy reach of Neale before settling back to watch his every reaction when the man read each line. He knew each one by heart and with a near photographic memory. He would know where he was at by his eye movement over the pages.

The fact that the man presented all business rather than with the air of comfortable kinship drew a faint frown across the Duke's brow.  He dipped off a nod, studying the man as he spoke, then leaned forward from his chair to take up the papers which seemed to be the main reason Broch had come to Falkirk.  Neale didn't relax back.  The usual atmosphere of comfort in his study had suddenly dissipated and was replaced by the solid walls of formality.  One final look to the man across from him then Neale lowered his gaze to the contents.  Neale was a business man and he read slowly, carefully, taking all the information in the first time through.  He didn't look up though.  No, he read it through again.  The papers were folded once more and Neale reached out to place them back to the table he had lifted them from, the green gaze of his family rising to meet that of the man across from him.  Not a cousin then...but a brother.  And the eldest of the Frasier clan.  For once in his life, Neale Frasier was at a loss and it took a moment for the information to process completely.  A stroke of hand passed over his face from his mouth down, and as it did, his frown eased away.  He came to his feet slowly, his hand extended to Broch to welcome him properly.  To Falkirk .. and to the family.  The former Duke was still stunned, but the evidence was in that paperwork.  It would be researched, but until such time as the claims could be confirmed or disputed, this man would be treated as the eldest Frasier brother...and Duke.

Under other circumstances Broch would have been just social but the situation at hand, as Neale would read, he felt it best the man knew exactly whom he was before getting to know each other. Otherwise it would be like a lie and as it were he could not even tell the others before Neale knew, being Duke. Hunter green eyes met his own, even a hint of compassion for surely the words there would have some kind of effect. It was all legal and signed by their father himself. Even his tone of voice held that edge to it, surely it would be a shock, first to Neale then the others. "I know how shocking this all is as I was shocked myself when I was given these documents from my 'adoptive' mother's lawyer. Now you can understand why I had to come myself." He wasn't sure how the man would react but he did it with all the aplomb he had come to know of the Frasiers here. As Neale rose, so did he to take the offered hand in a new kind of grip, held strong and longer before released. "I look forward to getting to know my family, brothers and sister, after all these years not knowing I had them. I am still in shock myself."

Even though the man drew his hand away, Neale stepped forward, reaching out again to grip his brother by the shoulder and drag him close for a bearlike embrace, a welcoming pound on the back of his shoulder.  He started to speak even before he finished, stepping back as he finished.  "It is a shock, Broch, but a man can only be blessed by the addition of more family."  Neale rubbed his temple, the ghost of a smile faint upon his features.  "Christ, man, I'm at a loss.  We have so much to speak on."  Even before the information was passed on to the remaining family, these two men needed to attend to the matter of the shift of title.  His father's deceit is what coiled in a knot of disbelief and disappointment in Neale's stomach.  And Ellyn.  Neale's Ellyn.  Neale would find it near impossible to give up his little darling.  However, the Duke of Falkirk was responsible for the lass.  Concern for his family etched the lines of Neale's face although delight with the return of this brother to the fold collided and warred with that unease.

He was waiting for that, the acceptance. If he not been accepted, legal documents or not, Neale would not extend this kind of hug that was given between family. His grip was tight in return as a strong hand curled fingers into the muscle of Neale's one shoulder while the other gave the good pound on his back. Long lost, presumed dead, brotherly hug. The grip lessened then loosened to release as they both stepped back. He drew in a breath and released it slowly, his first real sign of deeper emotions. "I didn't know how you would take this news, frankly, most would be furious. We have a lot to speak on, three decades and two to catch up. I have discovered you have a ship, I too run a shipping business. It must be in the blood." He knew it would take time to be really accepted and that would take getting to know them all. He had patience.

As did Neale.  Although Neale accepted the man and his claim, Garrett would be the next Neale spoke with, and the documents presented would be researched completely.  Patience would be a well used virtue in both of these men's immediate future.  "Let's get you settled completely, Broch, and then, we'll begin the process of 'catching you up'.  After the noon meal?  We'll share the rest of the evening preparing you to meet the rest of your family."

"That sounds perfect to me as I have not even unpacked completely yet." A winning smile was quick to sweep over his features at the prospect of getting to know them all better. This, after all, was going to be his new life, his new place in the scheme of things to come. He was one even in business to know all whom he dealt with and each personality to deal with effectively.


=+= Broch Ian Frasier =+=
The Past Always Catches Up

Date: 03-03-2003
Poster: Broch Frasier
Post # 3


Broch had not been around socially for all the matters he was involving himself in. He jumped right in as Duke, the title and position fitting him well. He was already getting himself involved in Frasier matters and finances. He was already checking into Neale's shipping affairs, not that there was much to be found there so far. Even Lochlan's smithy finances were poked into to find out all he could. He didn't do anything major he was just getting his feet wet in what would be expected.

On this particular night he would appease some of his brothers after hanging around so much he seemed to irritate them, especially at the race track. Already he made improvements in the plans, changes, he wanted to be a part of this enterprise. Of course they were improvements as he saw them and done without really as much as 'by your leave'. He wasn't about to explain he had some gambling experience in his background. Dark alleys, rooms, secret meetings, betting, things that went bump in the night.

So, Broch set out to this tavern in the township of Rhydin. He forced himself to stay within the room for a half hour before he couldn't take it any longer. It wasn't how crowded or even the noise, even how strange a mix. No, it was the attitude of mostly the low life. Not his taste. He barely entered into the room when a low class female tried to accost him. She even had the stench to her of one just bedded and never to wash. He well noted how many of the women of these lands all but wore a sign, no matter how finely dressed, of bed me -- I'm available. I'm desperate was more like it.

Broch left that low class din of intrigue, preferring higher class, to proceed to the Thistle. It was here he held a conversation with one that he found to be refreshing, no pressure she was after more then he was willing to give. He would have continued on longer but the bustling, husband hunting kinds were starting to fill up the place. Oh yes, a man could recognize by their silken tongues always denying the very thing their actions said in difference. He had matters still to see to and so made his hasty retreat. It was not wise for a single man to be left in a room full of single women with marriage on their real agenda. It was back to Balli Hi he left post haste.

The Pub really was closer to home for Brogan and the entire family. There were elements in the Thistle he wished to avoid. So it was here that he came, nodding his head toward Allan as he requested a tankard of ale.

Hannah's moods were up and down of late. Broch's presence in general tended to aggravate her. He had been nothing but nice, nothing but polite and caring in his manner but she could not reconcile her mind to the possibility that he was really their eldest brother. There were too many... things that didn't sit right with her. To Lochlan she had voiced her concerns and Patrick knew how she felt about it but other than that she tried to keep her usual cheery attitude, for herself as well as for her brothers.

Broch headed back all right, not wishing to become the center of a pack of hen's doting. He tortured himself enough being in the tavern in Rhydin earlier for a half hour. He was not a glutton for punishment. Instead of moving into the main tavern part he took up residence in an alcove just down the hall, one that he found voices traveled well to from the other room.

Patrick was grumbling more and more these days at least when out of Broch's hearing but then sometimes he didn't care if he heard either. Oh yes he got the glares and it only made him grin more. He had waited for this meeting between brothers and sister, Broch not included for it would be about him. He was soon whisking open the front door in need of a drink and more. Fast to move to Sprite, spying her there to take her up into a big hug, the swing around slow for her condition. Setting her back to her feet his head was up as misty greens swept. A nod to Brogan but then back to Hannah. "Where's Neale?"

The newly acquired mare was tethered and the little plainswoman dismounted, drawing off a parcel intended to resupply Allan.  Alex, no doubt, had added a few important ingredients as well as the surplus hares Willow had supplied. She watched the door open and close then stepped in behind the fellow, making her way quietly to the bar to make her delivery

Her laughter was bright as she hugged Patrick, pressing a kiss to his cheek. "Careful now, you'll make us both dizzy." Teasing as he set her on her feet. I've no idea, probably at the docks, away from the tension at home."

Broch sat in a near completely dark room. Comfortable seat, very low fire in the hearth and let the quiet surround. He could hear well those conversations now starting up in the other room that they would not be the wiser to. If anyone should find him he would feign being asleep in the chair, none the wiser.

A courteous nod was given to the others in attendance as the pack was placed on the bar, a quiet explanation given as to its contents and care.

Brogan nodded a greeting to the lady entering, taking up his tankard to join Hannah and Patrick near the hearth.

Patrick glanced to Allan then the woman, then back to Allan then the woman again before a smile appeared with even that elusive dimple of his. "Evening to you. I'm Patrick. My sister Hannah, cousin Brogan."

The archer glanced over her shoulder to the source of the voice and nodded respectfully. "Greetings.  I am called Willow."  No more of an explanation was offered.

"Pleasure to meet you, Willow." Her smile bright as she dipped into a bit of a curtsy.

"Well met Willow, welcome to Balli Hi." He would not keep her from her business with Allan as it seemed that was why she was here. Still, it was proper for him to at least attempt introductions.

"Pleasure, Willow." Another nod to the lady before he dropped into a chair by the fire.

The business was concluded and a whisky was poured.  Truth be told it was a miracle she was still sober after all that she had imbibed today.  Taking a seat she took the chance that she was not intruding on any highly secretive discussions.  Just a bit of a rest before continuing on to the borders. Fingers curled around the glass as she inspected its contents before taking a sip.

There were just going to do a bit of Broch Bashing... He ushered Hannah with him over to the hearth, down he went claiming a seat near Brogan, guiding his sister to a knee like old times.

So enters the man who will spoil all their fun.  Neale was already removing the leather gloves from his fingers as he entered the tavern, Frasier greens seeking out those he knew he would find within. The black woolen long coat was removed next, and the gloves folded into the pockets.  "Good evening, all."  A special indication to the only nonmember of his family there.

He looked both pleased and relieved to see his brother show up. They were only missing Danny and Robert now. "Neale" was all he said.

In the silence of that alcove a brow rose unseen as Broch heard the familiar voice of Neale now added to the fare.

He draped the coat over the back of a chair as he passed it and joined his family, pausing first at Hannah to press a kiss to the top of the woman's head.  "You're feeling well, Sprite?" His hand rested to her shoulder as she sat on Patrick's knee, a light squeeze to follow his question.

"Aye, not a single problem." Save for the usual discomforts of pregnancy but those were nothing to her after what she had gone through to deliver her son. "Good to see you out, away from the tensions at home."

"Never more than I can handle, Hannah."  A light pat to the area he held and he turned to look to the bar, debating on his usual coffee or just enjoying his family's company.

"Neale." Brogan gave the man a nod of greeting as well. There was no question where he stood in the current situation with Broch.

It was the second that won out and he stepped around his brother's legs to claim a chair on the other side.  "Good to see you, Brogan.  Have any of you seen Broch this day?"  The missive from Jon had Neale concerned.

He mumbled under his breath. "I still say we stuff him in a crate and ship him back where he came from." Grumbling he was still as his chin rested against Hannah's shoulder.

Her smile was warm as it came to rest on her oldest brother, her forehead resting gently against Patrick's. "I saw him earlier in the day but only spoke to him in passing." To Patrick's words she did not comment but her expression was sort of amused and sad at once.

"At least he wasn't hanging around the building site this day. Seems he wandered off. I told him about that tavern in Rhydin to check out. Maybe he went there?"

Willow tried to keep from eves dropping, truly.  It was not the little plainswoman's style.  Then again being the only one within the pub to not be involved in the conversation made her at least feel as though she stood out, and the conversation did have its vague interest.

The grumbling sound was heard, but not the words.  Greens lifted to rest on Patrick as he made himself comfortable then shifted slightly to settle on Hannah with a slow nod.  "He should be here with us."

A light snort was Brogan's response to Patrick.

What was this?  Neale looked between cousin and brother but said nothing yet.

He should, yes, but she was glad he was not. Green eyes met Neale's a moment then she spoke, softly. "Have you heard word from Garrett yet?"

Brogan reigned his comments in. The honorable thing for them to do, what Neale was doing, was to do their best to welcome Broch into the family fold. He wanted to be able to but could not. For now he remained polite and friendly to Broch, on the surface, and spoke of his true feelings with Patrick in private. For Neale, he had only the greatest respect for the situation hit him the hardest of all.

His chin was up shaking his head in a firm no to that suggestion of Neale's. There was just something about Broch that grated on Patrick from the very beginning. He couldn't put his finger on it, considering Patrick got along with just about everyone.

Vaguely familiar names from her tenure here crossed her ears and so she remained, sipping at that whisky, trying to get her bearings.

"I've received a couple of messages from him, yes."  He crossed his leg, ankle to knee, his arm resting across the bend.  "Nothing of great importance yet unless the Ferret's escape matters."  Which it did and Neale had debated letting Hannah in on this information considering her condition.  Still, the weasel of a man had not yet shown his face.  Offering this tidbit of information brought his gaze to rest on Patrick, then to look to Brogan.

It took a moment for that bit of information to sink in... completely. "When did this happen? How did it happen?" She sat forward so quickly that she nearly toppled off Patrick's lap.

Misty greens took on a hard edge to them hearing this news even his demeanor stiffened. At least Patrick didn't shoot up from his seat like would be normal for Hannah. Whoa, he ended up anyway to keep her from toppling.

His brow creased, his eyes narrowed and he opened his mouth to speak but Hannah asked the very same questions he intended to. He came close to spilling his drink, though, as he lurched from his chair to keep Hannah from falling on the floor. It proved unnecessary and once he saw Patrick had hold of her, he sank back into his chair. "Wonderful news." There was no mistaking the sarcastic edge to his voice.

Neale had suspected Hannah's concern, that was understandable.  "If you'll come by my ..." He paused.  "...the office, Hannah, you can read through Garrett's words yourself." That applied to all in the room.

Actually all the lurching forward was providing a bit of comic relief to her otherwise drab existence, much appreciated.

Broch leaned forward in the quiet of that room. Not even a crease of the leather cushion to be heard as elbows braced to his knees, fingers lacing together to slant down as he cocked his head just so to hear better.

"I want to see them." He needed proof to his feelings. He didn't like having such against one that seemed very nice if anything. It was tearing him apart inside and finding comments to tumble easily that were so negative.

"If there is any news to be found...Garrett will find it."  Neale had complete confidence in his man.  "Patrick, of course."

"I will, of course I will." She needed to read it for herself, to speak with Lan. "Do you think he's here? That he'll come here?" No mistaking the fear in her voice. The man had terrorized them so ... thoroughly once.

"Ferris has never proven himself to be a wise man, Hannah...but I doubt even he is foolish enough to set foot near any of us.  Especially you, Sprite."

There was some comfort to be taken in those words. Some. The worry over the Ferret's whereabouts would sit in the back of her mind. "I hope you're right."

"That's the only news from Garrett?" He was impatient for news that could either prove or disprove Broch's position.

As soon as Hannah responded, Neale regretted his choice of letting her know.  He should have just informed Lan and the men could have handled this information.  His expression eased into as near a smile as he would in this public place.  "Hannah, I've yet to let you down, true?" Brogan's question drew Frasier greens in his cousin's direction, a very slight shake of head that might not have even been evident.

From bad news to worse. Ferret only made his blood boil more. Allowing Hannah to have the comfortable seat, Patrick set to pacing just around that short area.

"You have never let me down." Leaning back in the seat again, her expression of worry softened and the hint of a smile could be seen. In her mind, of course, it was better for her to know!

It was slight but Brogan saw it and gave the slightest nod of his own.

Curious turn of events as the last of the whisky was polished off and she drew her quiver between her legs to inspect her stock.

Neale sat forward, lowering his foot to the floor.  "There is a matter of some concern to me beyond Ferris Hughes." Neale also knew Hannah's involvement was for the best, still, his concern for her discomfort always weighed heavily on him.

A hand came to rest on her stomach, rubbing small circles there, her eyes once again meeting Neale's as she waited for him to continue.

Patrick had rounded the seat his brother Neale occupied, resting his hand on his brother shoulder as he stilled some of that pent up anger that was only on the rise.

Brows raised. He would need something stronger than ale tonight, it would seem. "What is it?"

Neale actually looked up to Patrick because his comment would be directed to him. "The payment to Jon McAndrews has yet to arrive.  In fact, the last two payments are in arrears." 

As at ease as she was finding herself at the Pub, the hour grew late and there were miles to ride yet this eve.  Rising up she carried her glass to the bar, a nod of thanks given to Allen.

The financial aspects of her family Hannah had little knowledge of. "What does that mean?"

He stared hard with that shocked 'what!' looked that just screamed in his expression. "What the? Jon wouldn't lie you know that. He didn't get the payments? They were made out from my understanding."

An exchange of promises were softly made and a handshake to seal the bargain.  Taking up her pack she moved hastily towards the door.


Date: 03-18-2003
Poster: Eddie McAndrews
Post # 4


Ed was in his office, well, the McAndrews one here as he went over Jon's ledgers again to make sure he had not miscounted. It was still there, small amount as he sat back, considering.

Edward's message received an instant reply from the former Duke of Falkirk. One of concern. One of decision. Neale sent a reply to Edward via the same messenger that had delivered the news.  Neale would meet Edward this day to go over the figures which just weren't matching. Entering through the back, Neale removed his cloak and draped it over his arm, arriving at the McAndrews' office door with a light rap upon the wood.

The note received was tucked in the crease of that very page that showed the discrepancy. He was up to walk that short distance to the window to look out while he thought on this matter. The sun was shinning and the grass becoming green again, such was heartwarming to
: view. The winter had been too long and too harsh, spring was appreciated even more. Hearing the rap he turned coming back around to his desk as he called out. "Its open."

"Edward." Neale nodded toward the Prince, taking just a moment to lay his cloak aside on the seat of a chair near the door. "I regret it is a matter of this nature that warrants a visit." It was very rare that Neale Frasier was less than resplendent in appearance and manners. Today was no different. His stride forward was one of confidence, years of self-assurance and knowing his place in the world. The only indication that the past weeks may have taken their toll upon the man was a faint darkness beneath both eyes. Daniel's emotional pain weighed heavily upon him and now, the possibility that transactions with the McAndrews had gone askew. The worst of it was that, the one he wished to welcome as family, may be at the crux of this latest upheaval. Neale paused just before Edward's desk, hands coming together behind his back.

He picked up the note to slide to the desk as the ledger was open showing all the deliveries and the sums given that didn't quite cover the cost. It wasn't a lot but it was the principle. "I wish to explain right up front, it is not the amount of money that is short but more the why. I know you and your family very well and this, well this is not any of you that I know. I feel there is something more here that you should be aware of. It is the only reason I have asked you here. Somewhere money is being skimmed I feel, money that was probably in the right
amount to start."

Frasier greens lowered to the page though, at first, he wasn't looking at the numbers. "Patrick would have been handling the payments, Edward, while Daniel was away." Briefly a frown creased his brow and he looked up to Edward. "He would have seen to the proper funds being transferred."

"I know, that is the point. I would not even suspect Patrick to skim funds. Such is not in his character to so. The question remains then, how, where, why and whom."

Neale nodded, the motion of his head slow as he continued to think this through. "That is the question, but the first matter of business is to see you reimbursed properly. How much are the transfers short?" Reaching behind, Neale withdrew his wallet and flipped it open, a promissory note plucked from the fold and placed upon the desk. He leaned and reached for Edward's quill, dipping it into the jar of black ink to see the amount covered today. The note, delivered to Neale's solicitor, would settle the matter of money. Then, all that was left to settle, was the matter of principle.

A hand drew down along the column where the figures of negotiate costs were and what was paid. "Honestly, normally I would not have even bothered you for this amount. It is not the real matter here. Neale, I am concerned for your family. Even where there is a small matter of fraud, there is risk in other matters."

"I know, Edward, your concern, as you stated it, is for the who, where, why and how. I share that concern. It is a matter of honor to see the funds taken care of...then another matter of honor to find out what the hell is going on. The light scratch of pen to parchment took care of the first and, as one hand replaced the quill to its holder, the other slid the note across to Edward.

"If there is any way I can help, let me know. I have some of my own means to find things out."

"I appreciate that, Edward. I appreciate ... "  He nodded toward the books. "Everything. I will speak with Patrick...and then, I will go from there." Neale would not act until he had all the facts. Although he had some idea as to what was possibly happening as far as the Frasier accounts went, he would make sure.

"Patrick, he seems more hot headed lately?" He was edging on where he might be overstepping but he well liked the Frasier family. "Daniel, is he doing any better with his loss?"

Neale reached behind to tuck his wallet back into his pocket. "They both have their burdens to bear. Patrick is not one given easily to trust. one who feels deeply. Time will temper and heal both."

"Daniel I can understand, but Patrick...well, I feel there is an immediate reason."

"I trust your family is well?" He didn't step from Edward's desk, not until the man indicated that their business was completed.

"Yes, actually. Megan had her baby, Brian is back and possibly Collin will be soon. There might be a situation there but one that needs to be confronted."

A nod, Patrick's anger centered around one certain Fraiser relative. "When there's a rift, it's only amplified when in that circle of family. Megan and the babe are well then?" The first observation could have been directed at the Frasier family...or the McAndrews family. It encompassed both.

"Yes, a beautiful bonnie baby, but how could little Erin not be with her father and mother in who they are?" He was chuckling as he spoke. "I know there is this new brother in claim. What is this man like? This Broch?" Yes, he knew of him and found it curious as things conveniently changed since this man's arrival.

He keeps mostly to himself. No matter the encouragement, he rarely joins the family. He has taken a great interest in the workings of Falkirk, but, not as much in the family aspect." Neale's arms crossed over his chest. "We're all still strangers to him, it will take awhile."

"I am asking too many questions where it is not my business." The tone was low in an apologetic way. "Just know if I can help I will."

Neale did appreciate it and he appreciated the fact that Edward knew when not to press for more information. His hand extended across the desk to Ed. "I do know, and your offered help means alot, Edward."

He took his hand in a strong grip, but not the crushing kind as his other folded over both in that clan style shake. Done and done before released, Ed was grinning again. Neale knew he had the backup of the McAndrews not just Ed now.


Edward Cathal McAndrews
Ballicastle Smelter and Kennels
One must not live in the past but use it as a measure for a better future

Date: 03-19-2003
Poster: Daniel Frasier
Post # 5

To help a brother, a friend, in grief.....

Sarina was on edge for many reasons... knowing what those fleeing the Abbey would soon face, the situation with Broch, the loss of Rowena, all weighed heavily on her. The sick children from the orphanage were on the mend, though, thanks to the healers and Danielle's help and most of the wounded were getting along nicely. She had been there earlier and making the day's rounds had brought her finally to the Thistle for a bit of a reprieve. Her cloak folded over one arm, bag carried in the other hand, Sarina used her shoulder to push the tavern's door open. A smile would greet anyone inside before she turned to set her bag on the floor and hang her cloak.

Business completed, Neale started for his cloak. "I think I'll bother Alex for a cup of coffee while I'm here. Will you join me?" The garment was lifted and, once again, draped over his arm, turning back to Edward to get his answer.

"I will be out to join you in a few minutes, gladly. I want to finish off the notes on the smelter, kennels and game room. Wont take me long as I am almost done."

Silent was the response to Edward so he could start back to his work, just a nod, and Neale closed the door behind him, continuing out into the common room. The first chair he passed received the weight of that cloak over the back before he moved toward the bar. "Good afternoon." The woman across the room, tucked away in a seat by herself was greeted, then Frasier greens settled on Sarina. It seemed she, and he, had timed this perfectly. "Now this is a pleasant surprise." His chin lifted toward Alex and the tender was about getting the necessary drinks for the two. Neale reached out a hand, palm up, to Sarina.

"Good day, my Lady," greeting the only person there, besides Alex. Hands smoothed the front of her dress as she started for the bar. "Lovely day, is it not?" The words had hardly left her mouth when she heard Neale. Her gaze found him and a smile lit her face, making her blue eyes sparkle. "It would seem I have good timing." Placing her hand in his. The sparkle in her eyes faded some as she noted the shadows beneath his eyes, a slight crease to her brow.

The frown from earlier with Edward's news eased away. His gaze remained on Sarina, but he spoke again to Alex. "Edward will be out soon. You might want to prepare for him as well. He brought the softness of her skin to his lips, placing a light kiss to the top of her hand before lowering it again. "So it would seem." Propriety ruled and he released her hand after a gentle squeeze, turning his gaze to the stranger then. "Neale Frasier, Miss...and the Lady Sarina." The sweep of hand indicated the bar. "If you would care for some sort of refreshment, Alex is your man." Sarina would know the weight of the world that now rested upon Neale's shoulders. It was no more than the concerns she carried though. All, could and would be dealt with. It was the way both of them were raised...both would see to handling their responsibilities.

Her teeth caught her lower lip for that brief moment, eyes lowering then lifting to smile on the Lady there. "Pleasure" She knew, the weight he carried and felt it heavy on her heart. His burdens were also... her burdens. The glass was cool to the touch but the brandy warm. "Things are well today?" Turning, now that introductions were complete, to face Neale.

He nodded. Neale, his family, and matters concerning them would never be discussed in public. His nod for now would do until he had Sarina to himself. She knew this as well so he answered regarding things outside the Frasier clan. "They are." He would never imply that Danielle McAndrews was less than competent, but still, he asked. "You have all you need for the children?"

"I do, they're doing very well. On the road to recovery."

Had Falkirk not been so far for the sickly to travel, he would have insisted that Sarina deliver them there. Neale knew that Balli and Danielle McAndrews would see them properly tended to. "Has Daniel been to see them?" Daniel's loss might be eased by a visit to those children Rowena loved so much...

The ledges all closed up had him rising from his seat and into a stretch. Arms up had his hands cupping to the back of his neck in the process. Once the good stretch was done they were lowered in a swinging motion as he headed out the door of his office.

"No, not yet. Do you think it might be good for him to see them? They're well enough to travel, I could bring them to Falkirk." That was something she hadn't thought of but now that Neale had suggested it, it seemed a good idea.

A nod given the guard to lock up, indicating he was finished for now before he continued on to emerge into the main tavern to get that drink he said he would share. He was a little longer than he had anticipated but ledgers were like that. Dimple grin was already in residence over his features as he indicated to Alex for a cold tankard. He had worked up a good thirst. Numbers did that.

A glance found Edward, a slight nod of welcome, returning his gaze to Sarina. "I thought better he travel to Balli. Perhaps put him to work there for a day...or two."

"Neale, Sarina." Lingering there with his smile again, welcomed her back basically before his focus shifted.


The initial heartache with the association of the children and Rowena would be difficult. Neale knew that. Eventually, though, the concern for the children's well being and that his concern would mirror Rowena's ... might help his brother to heal.

"That can be arranged easily enough. Shall you approach him with it or would you rather I do?" Her smile, always present when greeting someone, was offered to Ed. "Good day to you, Edward."

"I fear if it comes from me, he'll feel it an order for service. If it comes from you, Sarina, he'll perceive it as a genuine request for assistance." Both would be the case and Daniel would respond to either. Better though that the lovely Sarina approach the man.

"I'll seek him out at the end of the day." Patrick and Brogan had voiced concern over the way Daniel had been drinking but Sarina felt it was likely a temporary escape. Daniel had been through a lot.

He heard enough of the conversation but took to drinking his tankard instead of inviting himself into it.

Neale would not argue that Daniel had been through a lot. Temporary or not, though, Daniel's drinking could be remedied by keeping him too busy to lift a bottle. "Thank you, Sarina." The urge to kiss her and thank her properly was strong - but his upbringing was stronger.

Sarina would talk with Danielle and together they would see to it that Daniel was kept busy. Sarina could not have asked for more from the Queen of Ballicastle in recent days.

Later that evening.....

The evening meal finished, the day at it's end and still she hadn't had a chance to sit. There was one thing left to do before she would allow herself to rest for the evening and she hoped to find the man she sought here, at the pub.

Dan was drinking, alone tonight, seated comfortably in one of those chairs in front of the hearth. The silence suited him and he was well on his way to comfortably numb. He was mussed looking in his appearance but he was clean, even smelled good of some old spicy cologne.

There he sat, by himself. She smiled slightly, the sight of him there tugging at her heart strings. She left her cloak on a peg at the door and started toward him. "Daniel, I was hoping I'd find you here." Her voice soft, gentle as she approached.

Sarina's voice startled him in that hazy dazed way as he struggled up, setting the bottle aside. His voice still held that gruff husky emotional quality to it as he spoke. "Sarina, you startled me. Still, pleasurably so. Its good to see you. All is well?" Hand up was in a quick swipe to fix his rumpled hair before a discreet slide down over the front of an equally wrinkled shirt as if he had slept in it.

"All is well." Resting her hand on his shoulder as she eased herself onto the stool beside him. "How are you?" It was obvious by his appearance but she asked anyway, her voice both serious and compassionate.

He leaned in for a quick kiss to her cheek before settling back down into his chair. "I am doing better, better than yesterday and a lot better than a few days past. In time." He well understood but hell it was hard at times.

"It's difficult, I know." Giving his shoulder a squeeze. "I won't offer you any advice, I'm sure others have. We all have to deal with loss in our own way."

"Well, I have not really talked to anyone about it. Really, it use to be Ro I turned to with all kinds of troubles starting when Brandy and I broke up. I will be fine, I know I have others to talk to not to replace her but well, well you understand."

"No one will ever replace her." Anyone who knew how much Daniel cared for Ro would know this. "You'll talk about it when you're ready to." Another gentle squeeze to his shoulder then she let her hand fall to her side. "I do have a favor to ask of you."

The warmth of his hand came to touch over hers in a light pat. Dan even smiled some with the gesture. Falling away to his knee as dark brows were up curiously. "Any favor I can grant you I will Sarina."

It was good to see him smile, even if only for a moment. "The children that were at the orphanage. They're doing much better but it's hard for them here. They're young and the faces they see are unfamiliar. I thought it might do them some good if you could pay them a visit. Spend some time with them?" Approaching it as delicately as she could. "If you'd rather not, I do understand."

"I would like that. I had gotten to know some of them and they love stories to be read. Would you be able to get to the library and pick out some that would be good to read to them? I'm willing to read the books but I would be at a loss to what would be good." He'd end up reading something complicated and lose them completely.

"I'll do that as soon as I get there in the morning. I know they'll be excited to see you." And relieved that Daniel was willing to take on the task. Neale had been right, it would do Dan a great deal of good to spend time with the children. "Thank you." She eased from her stool and rose up on her toes to kiss his cheek. "I need to be getting back to Falkirk. Would you join me? We can talk on the way."

"Yes, of course." He stood with more ease this time. Hand hovered over the bottle then bypassed it as he offered her a bend of his arm to escort her out.


Daniel William Frasier
"The helping hand" of the Frasier Clan

Date: 03-23-2003
Poster: Hannah Frasier Kearney
Post # 6

Brotherly Love

Hannah always brought Lan something to eat this time of the day. Today it was sweet bread from Megan and Teri's shoppe, bought after a morning of shopping. It sat now, wrapped in cloth in the basket with her other purchases, waiting for Lan to take his break.

Hannah herself sat inside the smithy, a hand circling the swell of her stomach while she watched Lan at work, her gaze distant. Over and over she thought on her earlier encounter with Broch. Over and over she tried to dismiss the unease it had aroused and over and over found she could not, not entirely.

Heaven knew that pregnancy could do strange things to a woman and Hannah tried now to convince herself that this was the case where her brother was concerned.

The babe kicked out, rolling itself to one side. The pressure brought a smile to her face and she pressed her hand against it, an affectionate gesture to her unborn child.

It was that gesture that again brought back an image of Broch. With an irritated sigh, at herself more than anything, she closed her eyes and let her mind go over the meeting one more time....

He was there in one of those wing back chairs, nursing a glass of this potcheen. He found he liked the choice but it was strong, maybe why he did.

Hannah had been out doing a little shopping. Her hopes were that this baby would be a girl and with those hopes, she had purchased a few frilly outfits, bonnets and the like. She was content and humming a tune as she waltzed into the pub. A rest here then on to the smithy with a treat for Lan. He was always hungry around this time in the afternoon.

He was up from his seat as Hannah waltzed in. A certain kind of grin to surface that might be questionable as dark hunter green eyes lowered down over her, pregnant or not there was that edge to them before covered up as they lifted. "Your looking very well my lovely sister."

The sound of Broch's voice startled her but a moment, her smile cheerful and bright the next as she set her basket on a table. "Thank you, Broch. You're looking well, too." Whatever her feelings for Broch, on the surface she did not show them.

Of course he crossed that distance to give her a brotherly hug, lingering a little longer as a hand slid down over the roundness of the child she carried, just a tad low too before coming to rest near the top near her breast. "You carry well Hannah, will the child be born soon?"

It would have been both rude and improper to pull from the embrace of her brother, no matter her own feelings. Her hands fell to her rounded stomach as his touch moved away. "Another few months, I think. The time is growing close." Her smile faltered slightly and there was an uncertaintly in her gaze as she looked up at Broch, nothing more.

She could well see the deep hunter green of his eyes as he slowly let them drift over her features appreciatively. "Few women look so well while pregnant, if you weren't my sister." Leaving that where it was that grin of his surfaced again. "Out shopping?" His hand sliding away finally with what might have been perceived as a caress of fingers in the process, not real distinctive.

"This pregnancy has been an easy one, carrying Little Lan wasn't," she took a step back, trying to keep up her smile. She hadn't felt really at ease with Broch at anytime she could recall but today, now, she felt distinctly uneasy. "Yes, buying a few things for the babe and a little something for my husband."

He cocked his head to the side as she moved away, winsome smile spreading as he teased her or so it would seem. "I don't bite Hannah." Or did he? One couldn't tell for that look in his eyes might be read differently. "How is.." Purposely stalling as if he couldn't recall the man's name, as if insignificant. "Larry is it?"

"I'm sure you don't," attempting to laugh it off and brush off the feeling that Broch's attentions were other than brotherly. "Lochlan is his name, the same name your nephew bears."

"Ah yes, I should remember that now, Lochlan." Looking contrite as he could but his point was made in a subtle way.

Yes, it was. "I know you've been busy trying to learn the business end of things but perhaps you could spend more time with us. Everyone would like to know you better." Perhaps she could make her own point as well, albeit not as subtly.

"I would like that..." His look as much as saying especially if she was there.

"We all would, but particularly your brothers. The last few months have been a difficult adjustment for all of you." Her smile returned, despite the look he wore. Her hope was that time would heal the situation. If Broch was truly their brother then he should be welcomed into the fold. The last word from their father's mouth had been "family".

"Yes, it has. I still don't feel like I'm accepted by some of my brothers." One in particular but he didn't state the name, it probably was obvious to them too.

She knew of whom he spoke, knew Patrick's feelings on the matter. "Perhaps if you spent more time with him, getting to know him?" That their father had been anything less than honorable where the circumstances around Broch's birth stood was difficult for any of them to believe.

"I will try again. I spent a lot of time at the racetracks, helping them but it seems it wasn't appreciated." Of course that was a one sided view and he was in fact a nuisance to them instead, changing just about everything they did to his liking.

She also knew of some of that. What Patrick told her, mostly. "It's hard for all of you, Broch." She hesitated then rested her hand on his arm, meant to be a comforting, sisterly gesture. An attempt at acceptance.

His hand immediately came to rest over hers with just enough caress of his fingers against her soft skin. A touch of an affectionate brother it could be taken as. "Thank you for your concern Hannah, I really do appreciate it." Instead of her eyes that focus of hunter greens came to rest upon her lips a lingering moment before lifted, a slight grin etching its way as gazes locked.

"We're family, right?" A squeeze to his arm. "Everything..." her voice falling off as she noted his gaze, Frasier greens darkening as she met eyes so similar to those of her family. "...will work itself out in time."

"Yes, it is my wish." Did his eyes say just a little more too as they remained locked until a pat of his hand over hers had him taking it away.

"Mine... as well," her hand fell to her side, her gaze averted as she turned to gather up her basket. "I should be going, Lan will be wondering where I am."

"Let me walk you out?" Warm was that smile now in reassurance or maybe he just wanted more time. Could be any reason really.

"I would like that, yes." Basket over her arm, she waited for him to offer his. Perhaps she had only imagined the... lingering looks and touches. She didn't know Broch as she did her three other brothers.

A hand came to rest to the back of her shoulder, fingers to slightly curl in as he escorted her out. Seeing to the door had his hand briefly removed before it was back again to cup her elbow instead. He also relieved her of the basket to carry it for her, the epitome of the perfect gentleman.

....the sound of Lan's voice, his laughter as he knelt in front of her, amused that she had drifted off amid the noise of his work, brought her back to the present.  The smile in his eyes pushed aside thoughts of anything but him and as she lifted the bread from her basket, she vowed not to think on it again, for now.


Date: 03-25-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 7


The usual fare was brought back to Alex, though as of late the hares were becoming fewer and fewer.  The plainswoman was concerned but didn't let on.  Expecting to find the place empty she made her way in, a brilliant smile on her lips as the game was presented to her friend  "Greetings Alex.  I hope the night finds you well" She found a seat at the bar, the offering scooped up by the kindly tender.  A bottle was placed in their stead and after a time a bowl of stew would be presented as well.

Broch had been in the back checking on some figures, notes, things the Duke of Falkirk would see to. A moment's pause as he stilled hearing someone enter into the main taproom from the sounds of it. Even if those sounds were subtle.

She pulled off her tunic, thin silken shirt beneath but she needed to repair where the blade had damaged along her back.  A broad tear still was evident in the soft doeskin and so she carried that along with the bottle to a nearby table... repairs would be made with sinew pulled from her pack. Fingers worked at the soft material, weaving the gash closed creating a lovely pattern as she did so.  She hadn't the coin to replace the entire tunic and so the stitching would have to suffice until she found a job that produced coin.

He signed off a few notes and saw a message sent off with a package to family back home. So it would seem as the lad was paid a good coin to see it quickly there. Once done he neatly stacked the documents and slid them into the desk drawer. Another moment he was out the door heading up into the main room for a drink. Neatly dressed in pinstripe charcoal pants with a light wool sweater vest of black over a off white shirt. Oxford shoes had a just shined look to them.

Dark eyes lifted to his arrival, a respectful nod given then back to her work.  Business first, the tunic was getting drafty.  With any luck such heavy garments wouldn't be needed for very much longer.  One heel came to rest on the chair in which she sat, the stitching arm encircling that crooked knee.

Blue was a favorite color of Sarina's and so she was often seen in blue garments of various shades. Today was no different save the lighter fabric of her dress, donned because of the recent warmer weather. When she stepped into the tavern, the only telltale sign of the walking and work she'd done that day were a few misplaced strands of golden hair, tendrils fallen free from the french twist she had carefully pinned up that morning. She was looking forward to being off of her feet now and having a drink to help relax her some before continuing to Falkirk.

Dark hunter green gaze dipped over the woman seated at the bar. A moment to linger before his focus was drawn to the other. A smile was slowly etching its way across his features as he well looked over Sarina. Of course he would with the obvious way she had taken time to look so good. "Once again you brighten up the tavern Lady Sarina."

"Good evening to you, Broch," a smile warmed her features as she stepped to the side to place her leather bag on the floor far enough away from the door to keep people from tripping on it. "To you as well, my lady." Willow... she thought must be the woman's name.

"Ladies, Cerri, Willow." Picking up the last also. "A warm evening to you both." Except his focus was still on Sarina as he spoke. One might read as thoughtful.

She stood and straightened, smoothing her hands over the front of her dress. "It's warming up nicely, you can already see blossoms in the trees." Her hands coming to rest on the bar, then. "Cider, Alex. I'm too thirsty for brandy just yet."

He came into a lean near where she took up a spot. Dark gaze roamed a moment before the lift of a hand had fingers to capture the strands of blond. Such was rolled between the press of those pads before guiding it behind her ear. The brush of fingers along its shell as they retracted. "It would seem the light warm breeze this night favored you."

"I... suppose it has," a slight smile there as she glanced up at Broch, politely tilting her head to one side, away from his touch. "Have you had a busy day as well?"

"Busy as always and I'm not one to tarry long." He noticed her subtle motion away from him but his smile remained that cordial way if nothing was amiss or noted. In time.

"No, I don't imagine you are. You seem to have settled into your role very nicely." Nothing but kindness in her voice as she took the glass Alex handed her.

"I would say, it could be better. I still feel the one left out in a way. Time, I was assured it would take to fit in properly. I have my doubts but I should keep an open mind that such could happen." He sounded just a little wistful there.

"It hasn't been very long yet, Broch. A month or so is not very much time." Cradling the glass in both hands she stepped away from the bar and indicated the hearth. "Join me? I need to sit for a time."

"Of course, it would be my pleasure." A cordial nod was given between Cerri and Willow in parting. A moment longer dark eyes lingered on the latter, thoughtful there again as he reflected back on a conversation with the one. Next he was crossing that distance to rest a hand to the back of a chair for Sarina to take then around to seat himself to the one cattycorner to hers, close enough to easily talk. Alex brought over a glass of cognac for him and set it to the table near his right hand.

An audible sigh escaped her as she relaxed into the comfort of that chair. "It feels so good to sit tonight," a slight laugh accompanied these words.

"I could give you a back rub if you are sore?" Offering it in the kindness as he heard that kind of sigh.

"Oh... that's very kind but no, thank you. I only need to sit a short while." An appreciative smile cast his way. "How are you liking things here? Other than the problems adjusting?"

"Lands are beautiful, rich...the people welcoming, sincere and kind." He hadn't sat back in his seat, instead more like one about to rise any moment as hands curled to the edges of the armrests, ready to lift. He had noted her refusal. "If  I might be so bold, Lady Sarina, so I do not step on any toes, especially my brother.." He would pause in consideration of his words. "Are you seeing someone in particular, perhaps even special?"

The question took her by surprise, somewhat, but she managed not to let that show... aside from the faint color rising in her cheeks. "I have been... I am... for some time now."

"I see, then I shall have to forego asking you to dinner with me some evening. It would not be proper. Still, I would like to continue this conversation another time. The hour is late and I need to get back." He lifted from his seat as a hand ran down to properly smooth his vest.

"I... I'm sure we'll have the chance to speak again soon," standing as he did to bid him farewell, nothing less than a warm smile presented.

Hunter greens locked for a moment before a dip of his head. Moving away he spoke quietly to the other two in passing as he headed for the hall that led to the back offices. There was a something he needed to pick up to bring back with him. "Good night ladies, Cerri, Willow."


Lady Sarina Maree

Date: 03-26-2003
Poster: Patrick Frasier
Post # 8


Patrick was rip roaring angry and it showed in the fierce look to those darkened misty green eyes. A hand met the door in a swing that near took it off its hinges if it wasn't so well made. He stormed in.

Brogan was already there and calmly drinking down a tankard of ale near the hearth. There was no fire today, the days were too warm to need it of late though it was still necessary in the evenings. "Whoa there, Patrick. You look damn near ready to blow apart!" Tankard put quickly aside as he got to his feet.

He only held up a hand to indicate to Brogan he would be with him in a moment. He was too furious to speak and surely didn't wish it to come off wrong on his favorite cousin. Instead, he finished that storming route to the bar and opted for poteen instead of his usual cognac. He wanted something stronger even if he preferred the taste of the cognac. Once Alex put out the bottle, saying nothing, Patrick took it up and all but ripped out the cork as he was around heading for his cousin. He paused half way to tip it and take a long drink of pure fire before coughing under his breath as it was lowered and wiped his mouth with his free hand. He continued on to take up a seat near Brogan as he composed himself.

During this time, Brogan sat back in his chair, watching his angry cousin with dark brows raised. Not a word did he say, though, taking up his tankard again. Green eyes watched Patrick in silence until the man was ready to speak.

And that took a few moments too as more poteen was taken down. Finally he relaxed some as he turned that misty green gaze on Brogan. "I ran into Edward earlier today. The man was discreet but the more I thought on what might be going on and reflecting on me, the angrier I got. I know Edward would know I would not do such a thing, but someone has."

"Do what? You sound like you've been accused of behaving indecently with someone's daughter." It was a mild attempt at humor but Brogan was truly alarmed by the fury in Patrick's voice, the crease in his brow made that plain enough. "What's happened, Patrick?"

He drew in a breath before drawing in more poteen. A wipe of his hand over his mouth again realizing he should add more details as what he said was very vague. Brogan's humor was lost on him in the state of anger he was in. That in itself was rare.

It was and Brogan was bright enough to recognize it. Still he waited for Patrick's head to cool enough to explain the situation a little better.

"I have been seeing to the payments of the lumber in Daniel's absence. Edward tallied up Jon's books while his brother was up getting the mill open. The figures came up short again. Now, Edward is discreet, the amount was not a lot but more he is concerned. He knows I would not skim any money but someone has. He has talked to Neale about it and wasn't sure if Neale had spoken to me. I think he wanted to make it clear he didn't think I did it. Still, circumstantial evidence would put me under blame's spotlight. I know I put the right amount in that pouch that was left in our locked office for when their runner could pick it up. The guard would have to get it for him and he is one that can be trusted."

Patrick had no reason to skim any money. None of them had. They were all very well off on their own. "So someone had to go into the pouch and take some of it. One of the servants?" That was a strong possibility.

"That I do not know. You can understand my anger and I know I need to get it under control before I speak to Neale. He has not summoned me yet, but he might be trying to look into it first. Neale is like that. There was one thing mentioned by Edward that has my own suspicions only heightened."

"Neale knows you wouldn't take any of that money," the thought was ridiculous. He took a swallow of ale, wishing for something stronger now. "What?"

"I do not believe Neale would believe what it looks like. He has known me all my life." He paused to take another drink of that poteen as it was helping him to mellow out his anger. The bottle lowered away to balance against his knee as he sat up more. The intensity of misty green eyes focused and locked on Brogan with his next words. "Edward said he found it odd that these discrepancies started happening after the arrival of Broch." Low and almost hissed out. Notice he didn't refer to Broch as a brother.

The thought had occurred to him, too but he had pushed it aside. This was why he didn't look at all surprised when Patrick said this. "Before you... we, do anything, we need to talk with Neale." He had lowered his voice considerably, even though they were the only two present in the room with the exception of Alex.

About to say more, but he stilled any words as to not be overheard. Nothing was known by others in their suspicions on Broch. The man had been the perfect gentleman so far to even taint such with a thought. Misty green eyes had shifted focus over the two entering. Their conversation on the most recent incident dropped as Patrick would need to talk to Neale as soon as his brother and he could catch up with one another.


Patrick Connell Frasier
the one, the only, the original
-- any others are just wooden nickles --

Date: 03-30-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 9

The Heir (is not so) Apparent

The burden of the mind could weary the body, at times, even more so than physical labor.  Neale had taken his ease at the hearth area, claiming one of those cushioned chairs while drinking down his usual coffee.

Today was a day of rest for all, even the Lady Healer. She had been up until late last night and taken her rest in a room at the Thistle. Seldom did she sleep long past the dawn but exhaustion had caught up with her so that she found she had slept the morning right through. A late breakfast, a hot bath, and she felt much energized and improved. Her skin was still pink from the steam and she was in the process of tucking a few more pins into her hair, securing the french twist when she descended the stairs and entered into the common room.

He was all spruced up, tailored pants of a dark brown with a light tan shirt with a light ribbing that was open part way. He looked more himself as those shadows had even left dark green eyes. He checked the notes and documents in their office first before proceeding into the main room. He was caught up and there was some other concern that would need speaking of with his family.

His gaze moved to the Lady entering from the rooms above.  There his attention lingered until the movement from the corridor leading to the offices was caught in his peripheral vision.  "Daniel..."

A discreet cordial dip of his head was given the woman. He didn't speak up as she was in conversation with his brother, his focus moving to rest there as he waited. While he waited he procured a glass of cognac from Alex before crossing that distance to take up one of those comfortable chairs. Might as well relax for a few.

Brogan was brooding today and not for any specific reason, no, just brooding in general. He'd looked about for Patrick to invite him along to the Thistle today but hadn't been able to find him. Hands tucked into the pockets of his light coat, he meandered down the path toward the tavern.

He didn't take a seat just yet as Sarina made her way in. A smile surfaced seeing her.
"Neale, good to see you." Spoken as he took up that seat to relax, hopefully a few minutes as a taste was taken of his cognac.

She could not have asked for a more pleasant sight to greet her and a warm, gentle smile surfaced as she continued into the room. Her voice light and pleasant, "My Lords Neale, Daniel."

He was late, but he was at the race tracks seeing to things so they might organize their grand opening. The hour was growing late for when he said he would meet up with Brogan. He rounded upon the tavern seeing Brogan heading there too, he wasn't so late after all. "Brogan!"

Patrick would catch up sooner or later, he wasn't worried about that.  He gave the door a push, stepping within. Frasier green eyes fell on the lady at the bar and then those members of his own family at the hearth. Whoa! The sound of his name from outside had him reaching back to hold the door open before it could close completely.

He was right in behind him as a grin spread fast. Misty green gaze to dart next over those here and the grin subsided. It would be the time as Neale was noted, good, it had to be and the sooner the better.

"Sarina, good to see you." Shifting his attention to his brother and cousin in turn. "Brogan, Patrick, get something to drink and come join us."

Standing before Neale, she offered a curtsy that was not deep but delicate and graceful in its own way, blue eyes meeting the green of his when she straightened.

Neale glanced up over Sarina's shoulder to the entering brother and cousin, a lean to the side placed his coffee cup aside and his hand lifted to rest just above Sarina's elbow after she dipped briefly into that dainty show of respect.  As his palm slipped away from that contact, he dipped his head in just as brief a nod to this woman whose company he craved both day...and night.  He had been denied her presence the night past, lowering his hand away from her now was not accomplished with ease. 

"Neale, Sarina, Daniel, milady." The woman noted with a cordial nod as he could use that drink. A bottle of cognac was gained from Alex along with a glass. He might need a few.

"Daniel, Neale, Lady Sarina," they had chosen a good time to come. It was a tankard of ale he was after and once in his possession, he moved to join his cousins at the hearth.

He was heading across that distance to where his family gathered. Well noting one particular one was not here so it was family to him. He didn't sit as he was too riled up, instead he remained standing near the hearth. Glass of cognac poured before the bottle was set off to the mantle there.

As the name was offered, he dipped his head in the direction of each one.  Although, once that was completed, he returned his gaze to Sarina.  "All is" 

It was in the intensity of her expression when she searched Neale's gaze that told him just how much she regretted being unable to be with him this past night.

A silent communication between man and woman then Neale shifted his gaze to Patrick.  The man's stance alone was enough to give evidence to his continued ill humor. 

He was in good humor except for one. He would be in better humor if some of his thoughts on the could be enacted.

"All is well here." For it was. Health and spirits always rose with the start of spring, lessening the need for the healer. "All is well with you?" She knew the answer before she asked but it was the subtle responses she was looking for in his answer rather than the answer itself.

Not that Neale couldn't completely empathize with Patrick's ::ahem:: concern.  As matters escalated, Neale waged one mental battle after another to keep himself impartial...and attempted to not allow his suspicions to overwhelm his better judgement. 

It was good to see Patrick in a reasonably good mood, all things considered. It was difficult for all of them at this point in time.

Subtle it was and only for Sarina.  That faint, barely visible shake of head once.  A flicker of greens down to her then back over to Patrick.  For his brother to be in a reasonably good mood was like wandering through a bog in the mist.  What you couldn't see provided a reasonable feeling of security, but one wrong step...and all hope was gone.  He motioned to a chair for Sarina, then addressed the other woman.  He lowered to reclaim his chair, but he didn't reach for his coffee again even though his arm reached out over the expanse of armrest and side tabletop in the general direction of Sarina's chair.  A light tap of fingertips to the wood, perhaps to just gain her attention or then, perhaps just that, a light tap of fingertips, before he returned the length of his arm to the armrest, hand draped over the end of it.

It was as she thought and she gave the barest hint of a smile to show she understood, light blues resting on Patrick, doing her best to keep the concern from her gaze. Hands smoothed the back of her skirts as she sat, blues returning to Neale with the tap of his fingertips to the table.

Patrick was fidgeting about now too. He was worked up even if his mood was good around his family. Pacing started but luckily it was contained to a small area and slow.

Daniel kept to himself for now, he wasn't needed in conversation and he was distractedly watching his brother pace.

Blues flickered toward Patrick, observing him quietly. She couldn't blame him at all. In fact, she was impressed with just how well the entire Frasier family had held up under their current pressure. But then... she had expected nothing less.

His pace slowed to stall as a hand ran up along his neck, fingers curling into the tendons there to work out some of that aggression. There was a flicker of misty greens to note a few of his family glancing his way. He was becoming obvious as his hand slid away with a clearing of his throat. He plastered on a grin to last a moment before it was gone.

It would appear all eyes were on Patrick because, yes, he was quite obvious.  Neale was no exception as he, too, had followed his brother's pacing.  The term of unexpected endearment was heard but would appear otherwise at least where Neale was concerned.  

With all the tension he just blurted out, quite loudly too. "I want to see him crated on a slow boat to China." Speaking his thoughts as they were all looking at him.

Once more Patrick came under Neale's assessment.  "A moment of your time, Brother...perhaps in one of the back rooms?"  The hand which rested just over the edge of armrest slipped back, pressing down on that area as he pushed up to stand. 

Nothing new there but oh it felt so good to state it!

"I'll help." Spoken more sullenly and low but Patrick would hear his voiced support.

And he was pushing to stand as well. If there were going to be a discussion of this nature, he was not going to be left out.

That sobered him up fast as he gave a nod in acquiesce to his brother.

Daniel was not helping matters.  Neale started past Patrick on his way toward the back, paused a moment as he looked to him, then continued on.  Family matters involved family...and each of them knew the 'offer' to join extended to each. 

He grabbed up the bottle to go with the glass in hand and started off after his brother, passing him to go straight to the back to their office, he needed to get this over and done with before he exploded.

He continued on to the corridor which lead to the office provided for them by the monarchy.

He saw what he needed as he set off after his brothers. He needed to get with the agenda and knew enough now to do so.


Lady Sarina Maree

Date: 03-30-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 10

He was already in the room as the guard saw to unlocking it as soon as he entered the hall. He chugged back a drink of the cognac as he prepared himself. Refreshing his glass as they would join him.

Neale stood to the side as each of his kin passed him by, starting down the hall only after Sarina.  He was the last in the room, a nod to the guard, then he shut the door behind, sealing them off from the rest of the tavern.  For now, he remained silent, waiting for whichever of the Frasier brothers or cousin wished to begin.  It seemed they all had a bit more on their minds than they let on.

A nod to Neale in passing as he stood off to the side, there as needed as he would wait to see how this meeting went.

The tension and anxiety they all felt was palpable.

It wasn't as if the brothers didn't know of him and Sarina, so, Neale used the privacy of the room to ease his arm around her lower back, holding her closer to his side.  He was in as much need of her presence as he was of her touch, propriety wasn't breached as long as he didn't allow his hand to wander lower than her waist.

It was Patrick who needed to vent the worst of them now so Brogan took a seat for himself and waited.

Propriety was something she did not worry on when it was only Neale's family present and after a night spent alone, she was as much in need of his touch as he was her's. Her hand rubbed gentle circles against Neale's back, her eyes on Patrick... while she struggled with her own problems with Broch.

A few breaths drawn and released just as quick, a few shots of his cognac kicked back in between as he waited for them all to pile in before turning like Frasier greens on his brother.

Dark brows lifted ... well?

"I put the right amount of money in the pouch. I know none of you accuse me of skimming but hell, I think it is this so called brother of ours. I cannot accept as a brother." He was shaking his head as his words fell in those harsh sharp tones with venom.

"You're right, Patrick.  None in this room would accuse you nor did we ever even think it."  It was Neale's turn to draw in a deep breath then release it slowly.  "and whether you accept him or not, Patrick...Brogan...Daniel..."  all three of them were addressed before he returned his statement back to Patrick.  "He the moment...our brother and head of this family."  The fact Neale had sent Garrett off and Rob and Lis now joined the man with research regarding Broch made it clear that Neale also didn't trust him, though, verbally he would never claim his distrust. "Not only has money been skimmed from the McAndrews' payments, but from others as well...a good many of our creditors have been contacting me.  Some not as understanding as the McAndrews."

"Forgive me brothers but I cannot accept him as a brother, I will be cordial and non aggressive.." He barely kept in check the fury Broch seemed to rise in him. He could not even lie to pretend to accept him as a brother, just was not possible for Patrick. He couldn't even continue the sentence as he started in a fast quick pacing to alleviate some of the anger building.

These, he should have sent Broch's way, but the Frasier family name was at stake, Neale handled all those matters personally...and immediately.

Now he was listening as he spun on a heel to face Neale again. Brows were up as much as confirming his own feelings on the man.

It should not have surprised him to hear this, where one account had been touched, it was likely others had as well. "How long has this been going on?"

The eldest Frasier in the room held up a finger for patience to Patrick.  "Couple of weeks, three at the most.  It's been handled."  His gaze passed over those of his family again before he continued.  "Inquiries have been made on The Fury as well."  That he WOULD handle on his own, he was only keeping his family informed.  "Still, until such time as word is received from Garrett or Rob, cordial we will be, Patrick...and most amiable to the man who may very well be the rightful heir of Falkirk." 

"There is something else that figures in here..." The intensity of those green eyes were unmistakable, more like murderous.

His fingers tightened where they rested on Sarina's side.  "And that would be?"

She listened, she kept silent, hoping her presence lent some support to them all. Her usually smooth brow had knit in a frown, her expression showed nothing less than the worry they all felt.

"You have noticed that Hannah hasn't been about lately. The word was she was sick so I went to see her. It is not her pregnancy that has her sick, she confided something else to me for her own uncertainty. She asked that I not mention it for you know she doesn't like to stir trouble especially when not completely sure but hell, it has her sick. I trust her instincts.." He paused needing an even bigger drink of his cognac, finding the glass empty he all but spilled it filled before drinking down more. If they wondered what most of the fury that fueled Patrick on Broch, they were going to find out soon.

Neale stiffened, a frown drawing his brow down.  "I trust her instincts as well, Patrick...."  Whatever had Hannah sick needed their attention and Neale felt a sudden wave of guilt for not noticing she had not been well.  With all the demands for his attention to the matters of bad debts, and the miscellaneous inquiries regarding his ship, the loss of Rowena and Neale's concern over Daniel, Broch...period...he had not given much thought to his sister's lack of joining the rest of the family during the day or evenings. 

Brogan was no longer sitting, he had gotten to his feet, his eyes narrowed as he waited to hear what Patrick had to say.

Perhaps it was the tightening of Neale's hand at her side or that it was she knew with all certainty what Patrick was going to say but she tensed, stiffening, bracing herself for what had to be coming.

"Our brother.." the word sneered out in sarcasm. "..managed to find Hannah alone. Oh he was this ruse of propriety but his touching of her was more than brotherly on her. The kind you can't say for certain but where his hand brushed and such had her sick to her stomach." Without realizing it the glass was crushed within his hand, some blood mixed with cognac to spill on the floor. He spun to dash the broken glass against the wall before getting a towel to wrap around it. He was furious now.

"What!"  No, this did not sit well with the eldest brother.  Neale knew that Patrick and Hannah shared a special bond of confidence with each other but this...this was something she should have mentioned to him as well!  He released his hold on Sarina should Patrick need her attention.  That, and his fingers had curled tightly into a fist.  "Who can't say for certain?  If Hannah was uncomfortable and Broch's actions questionable by her...we all can say for certain."  Greens to greens, Neale shot a glare in Patrick's direction.  "Why the hell didn't you tell me sooner? When did this happen?"

His own grip tightened on his glass as green eyes darkened to that storm quality they have seen before. His teeth gritted as it took him a few moments to soak in these words. "Hannah would not make up something like that. If her instincts told her his touching was more than it should be, a woman knows those things, especially her."

The sight of blood prompted her to take action, her eyes casting about for something to blot it. A towel snatched from the back of a chair would do the trick and she stepped forward to see to the cuts. "Hold still, Patrick." She winced not so much for his injuries as for what was being said in the room. "It is not always easy for a woman to tell." Her first contribution to the... discussion, as it were.

"I just found out tonight, that is why I was late. I had heard this morning from another so went to see her the first I could. She said it happened a few days past." Words stalling then as the intensity of his gaze rested on Sarina. That muscle along his jaw was being overworked. If his hand hurt, throbbed, he didn't notice. He had been VERY good all considering in how he behaved in the tavern with others there.

"How is that, has such ever happened to you Sarina? Your a woman." His query soft in curiosity as she was the only woman here and could enlighten him at least.

If ever he found out that Sarina held such information from him...

He let Sarina work on his hand but his attention certainly wasn't there. She might have to make him stay still as his attention shot between Neale to Dan to her finally, waiting.

"Hannah can tell us anything."  Or at least the confident Neale thought. They were family.  There should  be no reason why she couldn't ease her mind by speaking to them.  Even as he spoke the words and had heard Daniel's question, he was looking over to Sarina.

"Yes... " She paused there purposely, wrapping the towel gently around Patrick's hand. "Keep the pressure on." Taking a step back from him, returning to Neale's side. "It's... I... Broch is... he invades personal space."  And that was a woefully inadequate description.

"Are you saying he did things to make you question his intentions being more than a gentleman, Sarina?" Oh he was worked up as that hand wrapped up was fisted, it would keep pressure on it.

For a brief moment, disbelief mixed with hurt passed over Neale's features with just the one word ... yes.  As Sarina continued on to add a name to the culprit ... his jaw worked as he grit his teeth. the question from Patrick only had Neale adding a single word in question.  "Sarina?"

"No... " For he hadn't, not really. "It's difficult to describe. I've been... struggling with whether or not to say anything... I could be wrong and there's enough for you to cope with..." She hadn't missed the look of hurt that crossed Neale's face. "I didn't want to add to your burdens... when I couldn't say what was happening for certain myself."

"Trust your instincts with us Sarina." The tone of genuine kindness and concern came with his words. "If you were to just say exactly how it made you feel, then do it. We know things would still have to made certain before any actions but I personally would rather not see something worse happen by being hesitant." He was just relieved Hannah finally told him, he knew she feared telling Lochlan. He suggested she told him. He now wondered if she did.

"Uncomfortable. He makes me uncomfortable." That was the truth... and she had told Neale as much.

Neale trusted Sarina's instincts and intuition even more than he did his sister's...he studied her gaze for a long time, then nodded, looking to his brothers and cousin.  "I believe it's time we had a little chat with Broch...about more than just Frasier finances."  Neale...would find the man...tonight! 

"I'm at your disposal if you need me Neale." He didn't really need to state such as his brother knew. Actually it was more a hint he needed to help in this matter where Broch was concerned.

"I will expect each of join me." 

"There is one thing he did do, last night, when I arrived at the Thistle late. He asked if I were seeing anyone."

"Good, count me in of course." He was relieved to hear Neale voice that.

That had a double look in Sarina's direction.  "And...your answer?"

"That I had been seeing you for some time. He knows I am seeing you, how could he not?"

So he would interject. "What did he say to that?"

"He could not...not."  Neale growled beneath his breath even as Patrick spoke.  Anyone that knew either of them ... knew.

"Nothing, really. He took his leave after that and I went upstairs to my room here."

Ah yes, the present Duke of Falkirk would most definitely be coming face to face with the former Duke.


Lady Sarina Maree

Date: 03-31-2003
Poster: Ferris Hughes
Post # 11

Back Alley

Ferris Hughes took to the shadows like a fly took to shyte.  The waning light was like a second home to him now.  Still, the frail, ferret of a man paced, along the wall all the way to the end of the building, stopping just before the light of the street penetrated the alley then teetered, turned and started back in that quick, heel-to-toe pace.  Wouldn't do.  Wouldn't do to be found.  No.  Wouldn't do.  Boney fingers fumbled with the chain of his pocket watch, popping it from the confines of that vest pocket.  He fiddled some more, pace never ceasing, as he plucked open the cover and peered at the face.  A twist of the tarnished secondhand timepiece this way, that, in order to catch what little light the shadow provided, even reaching out from the darkness into the moonlight for illumination.  Late.  Late.  Where was the blasted man?  Wouldn't do to be found here...five more minutes.

He had sent word to Ferris to meet him finally. Some rumors were getting around that were making him uneasy. Those here were not so blind as he would have liked to think, or more, how Ferris painted them out to be. His own clothing was all dark, trench coat worn as he made sure any of his family was off on other matters before heading out to meet his cohort. The alleyway was approached as he studied some sign in a window as a couple passed. Once done he ducked away into the darkness of that alleyway. His eyes adjusting in a moment's time as he continued on searching for that smallish shadow that would be Ferris.

At the far end of the building, Ferris spun again, only this time his steps stopped instantly.  A large form moved through the inky blackness and he squinted those already narrow eyes in order to make out the identity. It would be this way Broch found him, slightly hunched and face screwed up in order to see better as the unidentified man approached.  "Gah! It is you.  About bloody time."  He slapped his hand to his pocket when time was mentioned, then continued.  "Wouldn't do to be found, you know." 

"Nor followed, time is always approximate." Moving closer but one could be sure Broch was armed even against Ferris. He didn't even trust him. "Rumors are starting about money being noted missing. I thought you said they were not competent." More an accusation than anything else. "You have received the monies, investing them? What news do you have?"

Like the skittish rodent the Fraisers called him, Ferris darted to the side to see down the alley behind Broch, just to make sure he wasn't followed, then scooted back before the fake Frasier.  "Did...and did."  Monies received. Monies invested.  "It is I who should be asking of news.  How much longer before I see them writhe with ruination?"  The dry, calloused palms rasped together as he imagined the Fraisers, at last, defeated.  "How much longer?"

Jon happened by the alleyway earlier as he was checking out supplies in one of the back buildings they were to repair. He was enjoying the silence when finished taking to sitting on the steps. It was from here he noted the shadowy figure enter the alleyway, then another to follow, from that short distance away where he blended in well. He was about to stand and greet the one, hail him, but something kept him from doing such, instead he remained as silent as the night that fell around them, listening instead. The first voice he didn't recognize but he could make out his form and some of his features. The second voice he recognized as belonging to one Broch Frasier. When the smallish one moved the moonlight passed over his features enough for him to get a quick good look. He didn't know him but instinctively didn't like him either.

"I can take care of that now, this week. Now that I have been given full power and you're ready too. I will see the mass of the fortune being transferred. I will also disappear with it. It won't matter. I am having one problem, the brother Patrick, the rest have accepted me but him. You willing to dirty your hands a little in some fun?"

Patrick Frasier!  Patrick Frasier would decorate the blade of his sword to the hilt rather nicely.  "Inconsequential.  Patrick Frasier is of no consequence.  The eldest, Neale, that one...and Daniel...those two.  They have given you full power as heir?  Then, you need not worry over the likes of the baby, Patrick."  Fidgety fingers danced over the handle of the dagger at his side.  Since escaping his confinement, the ferret found it extremely difficult to remain still.  "Hannah...have you seen my Hannah?"

"Never underestimate anyone. That little brother is hot headed, defiant and well loved by his brothers. He has been in my face already in defiance so I can imagine what he is trying to stir with his brothers behind my back." He paused as a wicked grin slowly formed to twist his lips. "Lovely little Hannah, very pregnant Hannah, doesn't fade her beauty nor the softness of her skin."

His tongue snaked out to wet drying lips with the thought of Hannah Frasier.  When the Lords of Falkirk were nothing ... Hannah would once again be hisssss.  Patrick Frasier had always been a hothead.  Everyone knew that.  Even the Frasier brothers.  The boy...and the call of wolf.  Besides, why think of Patrick when there was Hannah to think on?  "I've invested those funds for get my Hannah for me.  Anything you manage to take from the Frasiers, be it land, monies, titles, their're welcome to.  But Hannah Frasier is all I require.  Before the fortnight, Broch.  My Hannah must be delivered to me, unharmed, to my room at the inn."  Unharmed...for Ferris wished to be the only one to get his hands on the lovely Hannah Frasier.  The desire of his every waking moment, the fantasy of every single dream ... the witch he meant to see burn at a stake of his own design just as he had burned all these many years for her. he had planned this out to the most intricate detail in his warped mind.

As warped as Broch might be, he stood before one more warped than he. He would cross that bridge when he came to it for he really didn't care to try and risk getting Hannah. Cop a feel, brush a breast, contented him enough. Maybe the Frasier men could be manipulated for the position he was in but Lochlan Kearney didn't answer to him and the man was a blacksmith  Bloody hell, the muscles on that one he was not going to test out. He would find something else for Ferris to appease him or if the opportunity arose he would get that wench away with him. There was still time to devise a plan. So the one even wanted her pregnant, interesting, he was warped. "Of course, she will be yours, the rest will be mine."

"Two weeks, Broch."  Ferris shoved two fingers, his thumb and forefinger, up into the other man's face.  "Two.  Do your worst.  You still do not know where I've stashed your payment...better you get your job done and get yourself gone.  If you are found out...your funds will not be."  A twittering chuckle followed, much like the whinny of a hyena as it anticipated its turn at the prey.

"Two weeks, I'll see it done in half that. The less time spent here the more time I can spend spending my fortune away to a place I have in mind while you can do what you want with this Hannah, morning, noon and night." He was about to conclude this conversation when a thought crossed more to see just how this man thought. "What of the child she carries?"

It seemed they understood each other still.  Ferris' fingers were flittering at his thighs as he spun on a heel in order to scurry away but Broch's question had him pausing.  He stood with his narrow back turned to the man and he asked a question to answer the question.  "What of it?" 

"You plan to raise it as your own?" He just couldn't visualize Ferris as a daddy.

Ferris Hughes didn't turn still, but a grin curled the thin, cracked lips of the smaller man.  Broch didn't know Ferris' plans for Hannah Frasier.  Neither mother nor child would survive. "I plan to take care of the mother...the babe goes with the mother."  Again, that twittering, high pitched neigh of a laugh and The Ferret made good his nickname and scampered away into the darkness of shadows.

There was just something to the edge of his words that would make hair stand out even on the back of his neck. It wasn't his concern and now he didn't wish to know. He just wanted the money that would be his and didn't care about the rest enough to make a difference. Once Ferris disappeared he headed around to enter the tavern for a drink. As if he was out for that very intention this evening.

Silence returned to that alleyway as the two men vacated the area. Jon sat there thinking on what he overheard, blond brows drawn down in a furrow. Once he was sure they were gone, giving those few extra minutes, he was up to head out. No matter how late it was there was one Neale Frasier to be gotten up, wherever Jon found him. What information he would bring him tonight was important enough to arouse the man.

Ferris Gordan Hughes

Garbage left forgotten, tends to rot

Date: 03/31/2003
Poster: Lochlan Kearney
Post # 12

A day at the Smithy

He was working on some weapons, the last of the lot for the day. Daggers and mostly swords were forged. The flames were hot and he mostly bare chested except for that body apron he wore that had pockets for tools to keep in easy reach as needed. The days had been warmer but still that edge of coolness to the air so the smithy was still comfortable for the heat contained within.

Hannah had taken both Ellyn and Little Lan to the castle to let them spend the afternoon with the children there. Falkirk's nanny was a trustworthy woman but Hannah did not want to leave the children there without her, Lan or one of her brothers present when Broch was. The day was comfortably cool and the walk to the smithy good for her, giving her time to think. The basket she carried over her arm contained bread, cheese and fresh fruit for her husband. She could hear him working inside even before she reached the door, allowing for a bit of her bright smile as she stepped inside.

The little bell on the door rang off as he sunk a glowing hot sword into ice water after shaping it to perfection. A long hiss came before setting it aside. Hands were wiped off on the apron as he moved into the adjacent room where business was conducted. Bright blues held that welcoming surprise as he saw his wife standing there. "Well, this has made my day my lovely lady." Moving quick to encompass her within the strength of a loving embrace. She was use to his scent working here so he didn't hold back. There was a nice sheen over well developed muscular arms, that which was upon his chest mostly soaked into the bib of the apron.

She welcomed that embrace, dropping the basket to the floor so that she could wrap her arms around him. The smells of the smithy were a part of him, always. "I brought you something to eat, I thought you could use a break." He had been working that much harder these last few months with the problems brewing in Thornwyke.

"Perhaps I shall have my desert first." One hand siding up to sink his fingers into the soft thickness of her hair as his lips found hers in a searing kiss as he leaned on down in. He let it linger before slowly breaking it off with a nudge of his nose to hers in the process of straightening back. The smile on his face was offset by the devilish twinkle in those bright Kearney blues. "Now I'm ready to share lunch with you." Fingers unwove from her hair as his hand lowered to the roundness of their child she carried. "How is our little daughter behaving today?" He knew they would not have to wait much longer and he had found those frilly little girl outfits she had bought in the room prepared for their newest arrival.

The kiss was too brief for her.... she wanted to take him away from his work today, steal away for the afternoon where she could lie in the comfort of his arms and forget everything but the two of them. She cupped his face in her hand, smiling into those blue eyes. "She's taking a rest now, she was good and active earlier." That same hand lowered to cover his hand. "Soon... a few weeks at most, I think."

"Good, I must admit I am getting anxious to be able to hold her too." Notice how positive on the child being a daughter he was, like wishful thinking would make it so. "I am done for the day. You remember Todd, the seventeen year old apprentice I hired, he will finish up and close up so I wont even need to stay for that if you would like to go somewhere?" Anywhere was fine with him and she could tell by the expression he wore.

She had noticed... she wanted a girl herself this time around and knew that she would be Lan's little darling when she arrived. And she was anxious for that arrival. "I would love to... maybe a walk by the lake?" Frasier greens watched him with tender affection... he always seemed to know just what she needed.

"A walk by the lake would be perfect, we can watch the sunset too. We can use the open carriage out back to get there and back to pick up the children if they are not at Falkirk?" Such an intensity of blues studied hers, he knew sometimes, especially recently she was leaving them at the castle. She hadn't said too much but he was well aware of the tension within her family over this brother that showed up. He well understood it too, even he didn't care for the man even if he had not shown such but gave him a chance. His feelings hadn't changed any, if anything he liked him less.

"They're at Ballicastle..." Green eyes met his. He did know, he always knew, but he always waited for her to open up and talk to him when she was ready. "Or... we could stay the night at Balli. I can send word to Neale that Ellyn's with us for the night. He won't mind, he knows she enjoys her time there." A night away from Falkirk and all chance of running into Broch.

He studied her a very long moment, the love there in his eyes a caress in itself even if concern could be seen there too. "Has anything else happened with Broch?" He was getting that strange inkling not all was right, even less so. The muscle along his jaw clenched slightly as he hoped to hear all was at least the same but prepared if it was not the case. Something was wrong to not have the children stay there at Falkirk when the man was around. "We can stay at Balli tonight, even for as long as you wish." Her health came first more than anything else and he realized the brothers might wish to address Broch without having to worry on her being there too. "I can always take a run over to make sure all is well." He knew she was curious too and that would appease such and not have her have to go.

"Broch is... I want to speak with you about him... but when we reach the lake." Not here where they might be overheard or where they were close enough to Falkirk for Lan to walk there himself and lay waste to Broch. He would be angry when she told him. "We can decide... things after that." She bent to pick up the basket, pressing a hand against her stomach as though some support could be found there.

"Alright." He denied her very little if anything at all. So far he had never had to as he called upon Todd to bring the carriage around. He was back as he took the basket to carry, even wore a smile as he looked forward to being in her company this afternoon, any time he could get. There was a caress of his fingers along the line of her jaw before falling away to rest along the small of her back to escort her out. Todd was around with the carriage a few moments later before he set the basket inside then helped her up. Once she was comfortably seated he situated himself near her, taking up the reins to give a light tap to the two dapple gray mares to start off, guiding them to the lake. The journey was not far to one of the smaller lakes of Ballicastle that laid about the same distance between Falkirk and the castle itself. It was one that few venture to for the larger ones around. It was quiet lake about three acres wide, willow trees lining most of its embankment and a sandy area cleared for those whom wished to go swimming or fishing. The small beach was vacant as he reined in the carriage there. Up and out he was helping her out before grabbing up the basket too. The mares would be content to much on the sweet grass that edged where the sand left off. Turning to her, he spoke not a word as they reached one of the picnic tables already out, setting the basket atop before he waited on hearing what she had to say.


Lochlan Kearney

Date: 03/31/2003
Poster: Lochlan Kearney
Post # 13

At the lake...

It was beautiful and warm and just what she needed. Fresh air, to be near the water and in the company of her husband. She took a moment to breathe in the spring air, then brushed her hand over Lan's arm as she went to open the basket and set its contents on the table. Simple fare, the kind Lan preferred. "What do you think of Broch?" Glancing up at him then returning to her task, slicing the bread and cheese. Lan had said very little about the man himself... moreso they had discussed the situation rather than Broch himself. She asked directly now, knowing he would tell her how he truly felt.

"It is hard to say not knowing him very well. Seems he doesn't even associate much with his own family. Gut instinct is another story for there is just something about him I feel he hides, why he is not open. I would think, for myself in the same given situation, I would want to get to know my brothers and sister as best one can, not isolate myself." He was shaking his head, slowly, with his thoughts. That something there one couldn't put into words would not be appeased the few times he ran into the man and tried to strike up a conversation. Granted he was only a brother in law, but still, he was treated as part of the family in all ways by the others.

"I know, I feel the same way. I've spoken to Broch about it, about giving everyone time and making more of an effort to know his brothers." She spread the food out on a clean cloth and sat on the table's bench, lifting her eyes to meet Lan's.

He took up a lean near her as she saw to the food being put out, snatching up bits to eat already before continuing in-between bites. "What had he to say about that?" He was watching her very carefully for he knew she sometimes was hesitant to talk negatively about anyone or cause unnecessary trouble if she was unsure about something. They were all unsure about Broch except, mostly, those gut instincts.

"He said he would try. I spoke with Patrick the other night... he said someone took some of the money paid to the McAndrews for lumber." She broke a piece of cheese off one of the slices and popped it into her mouth. This was the first chance she'd had to talk with Lan in a few days. He'd been working hard and late so that by the time he arrived home, he needed to relax... not hear about problems.

A few more bites as he was listening, plus his gaze was glued to her so he didn't miss anything. He had this impression of playing cat and mouse in this conversation for undercurrents he was feeling. "Was it an oversight? An isolated incident?" Such would not mean much if so. Mistakes happened. He was getting anxious as nibbling ceased. "Hannah, sweetheart, is there more I should know?" Hoping it would prompt her to just open up and tell him everything. She knew she could tell him even the craziest ideas she got into her head and he wouldn't look at her like she had three in the process. Oh, some things he would tease her about but he loved her enough to take all she told him seriously enough even if it was a passing feeling.

It was all there, on the edge of her tongue. His question prompted her to do just that, spilling it all without thought. "Broch doesn't behave with me as a brother should... he touches me, whispers, stares, looks at me the way a man does when he... wants a woman. I thought I was imagining it all at first or that I was making more of it than I should, that the pregnancy was making me emotional but it's making me ill and insecure in our own home..." it was there that she finally broke off, needing to take a breath after speaking so quickly. Tears shimmered in her eyes but she held them back, she had always been a strong woman, defiant in many ways but this, and being so close to giving birth, had pushed her too far.

At first the color drained from his features as he froze to that spot, unbelieving his ears what he heard. He expected something but he felt like an anvil just fell on his head. That paling was brief as fury was fast on its heels to bring a nice ruddy red to his features and the darkening of bright blue eyes to a color she had never seen before. He didn't move, he was afraid to, for he would be breaking up the table with his bare hands as if it were Broch. He swallowed as reason tried to thwart the fury some. She could see that muscle working along his jaw. He knew he would have to kill Broch if he had touched Hannah at all. Breath taken, released, before followed by another trying to calm enough to speak and not have it bellowed in furious tones. "I....have....never....insisted..." words coming slow until he got started "anything with you my love, but in this I have to insist you stay at Ballicastle until the child comes. I can tell the others it is because the midwife is close so it will not be questioned. Your safety and that of our child is most important, I will not risk you or her or our son." He saw the tears as it was his own undoing, he could barely imagine what she had been going through. He had her in his arms, holding her there in that reassuring loving embrace. "I will go talk to Neale, he needs to know." Not adding so they would know why they found Broch dead by his own hands, unless Neale managed to talk him out of killing the man outright.

She reached for him, expecting the fury she saw there. She had seen Lan angry on many occasions but not to this degree. She reached out, taking his hand as he spoke, wanting to soothe him in some way and knowing it wasn't possible now. "I'm sorry, Lan..." her face buried against his shoulder. "I didn't know if I should say anything or not...whether I was being ridiculous.... when Patrick told me about the missing funds, I told him about my uncertainty... and maybe I am wrong, maybe I am making too much of it, reading it all wrong."

Hand was up in a soothing caress over her hair in long strokes. The fury of his gaze was transfixed out over the calm small lake, ironically so. "There is nothing for you to be sorry about, it was not your doing." Broch was the one that was going to be sorry when Lan broke his neck. "I trust you, if any man made moves as such, you would know. I promise I will talk to your brothers first, Neale in particular, all of them.....except Broch." Of course but he made sure she knew. "I think we should get back to Ballicastle. I will see to having anything you need sent over. Do not go there unless with your brothers and only if you absolutely have to. I will seek out Neale." He felt in this she would do what he asked for it was not unreasonable even if it would be hard. "Don't worry, I'm sure they will be over to see you and..." another thought had him clenching his teeth, she could tell by the way the next words were spoken. "A guard will be on hand if by any chance Broch decided to do the brotherly thing and see you himself. I, more than likely, will be there." He didn't have much work to be done left and Todd could see to it. The lad would probably be ecstatic with the opportunity to show off his skill and he was skilled.

She felt a mixture of relief and dread. Relief that she had told Lan, dread and worry for what might happen in a confrontation with Broch. Her arms wound tight around him. She was afraid of what all of this could mean for her family, her children, Ellyn, all of them. "I know you and Neale can handle things." She had such faith in them both. "We can send for the nanny... she can bring what Ellyn and Lan need. Tell Neale that she's with me at Balli..." and Balli with its guards and walls was one of the safest places for them to be, guard or no.

"I will, if there is to be any trouble it is best Ellyn, you and our children are well out of harm's way. It would be harder if any of us had to still our hand or hesitate.." Leaving it go there for he felt she would understand. He finally released her from that hug as he helped pack the food back into the basket, he wasn't hungry anymore and it could wait until later. "I will protect you Hannah." Or die in the process but those words went unspoken as he offered her one of his bright smiles. He was soon escorting her up to the carriage, another time they would come back to watch the sunset. For now, he needed to find Neale as quickly as possible.


Lochlan Kearney

Date: 04-01-2003
Poster: Jon McAndrews
Post # 14

Boiling Point

Neale's explosive entrance into the foyer at Falkirk had startled the household staff.  Surprise registered on every face and whispers hissed in the background as Neale began his search by storming up the stairwell that lead to the family rooms above.  Those who had gathered at the foot of the stairs to stare upwards scattered when he reappeared, his hands slamming down to the wood of the railing which protected the walkway on the second story.  "Where is His Grace?"  It took a moment for that question to register since, to all those below, His Grace was glaring down at them.  At last, the braver of those blinking stepped forward.  "He has not been present since the noon hour."  Neale just jerked off a far from discreet nod of anger and started down those stairs he had just sailed up.  "When my brothers arrive, tell them to meet me at the Thistle."  It would be from that establishment Neale would begin his search.  He didn't wait for a response but headed straight to the door.  The uniformed man there struggled to have the portal opened by the time the Frasier's pace delivered him there.

He came in at a gallop, dismounting as he barely reined in his stallion. A quick dusting of his britches came as he headed up the steps to give that brass knocker a few good resounding thuds. Hand reaching out found the door opening, only to have Jon rush in right by the man. His voice a command. "The Duke.." Realizing that could be confusing he quickly added. "Neale, I want to see him immediately, no matter what!" His words barely out as steely blues locked right on the one he demanded to see. "We need to talk, now."

Neale shook his head, though he reached over to rest a hand to Jon's shoulder in respect.  "Tonight is not a good night, Jon.  I've got matters to attend to that need my immediate attention."  He dropped his hand and started out, then stopped right where he was, the deepening of his frown as he turned back to the McAndrews prince.  The fact that Jon had ridden to Falkirk finally registered past the fury.  The pad of his palm rubbed to his temple.  "Jon, forgive me..."  That same hand motioned toward the hallway that would lead to the privacy of a parlor.  'No matter what' demanded by the likes of Jon...would take precedence.

"Its about Broch." Key words spoken low that wouldn't mean much to the staff if they overheard them. He gave a quick look to see if the man was around then back on Neale. He didn't think Broch would be for he saw him headed into the Thistle. Turning to follow Neale out if he had to, any steps were halted as Neale turned back. With the motion of the man's hand, he headed in that direction instead.

The mention of his brother's name tonight of all nights ate away at the last of Neale's ability to remain neutral.  The door closed behind the two of them, separating them from any stretching ears.  "There seems to be quite a bit about The Duke of Falkirk this night, Jon.  Please...add to the mix."  Neale didn't stop there by the chairs but continued on to the cart where the crystal decanters of spirits were kept.  A forceful tug of cork opened up Pandora's bottle...and the liquid gurgled with the freedom as he filled two matching glasses.  He didn't even bother to return the stopper as he returned to Jon, offering over one of the glasses and retaining the other for himself.  Not since Sarina's departure those many months before had he indulged...tonight was a good night to break that fast.

He took the glass and drank down a good swallow of the liquid before beginning. "I was behind the Thistle tonight, one of the back buildings near the alleyway needs repair so I was there checking it out to see what supplies would be needed. I decided to sit on the steps, for such a nice night, and relax for a few before heading back. Two men came into the alleyway. One I didn't know but the other was Broch. The first was this smallish, almost weasel like man, sharp features and skittish like a cat on a hot tin roof. I could see that much of his features when he moved where some light illuminated them." Time for a breath and another shot of his drink before he would continue.

The glasses were wide and Neale had poured more than four fingers into the depths of that crystal.  While Jon spoke, he had sampled the whiskey but his swallow held with the burning liquid still lingering at the back of his tongue when he heard the description of the other man.  A quick swallow to clear his throat.   "Could you hear?"

"Yes.." Now he needed to recollect and give it in order. "They first talked about funds being exchanged, that skimming I believe. Seems Broch was getting uneasy. The weasel man said he had what he sent invested. Now, I missed some words spoken but that was the gist along with sending the rest of the fortune before getting out. I think he plans to take all the Frasier fortune and run but there is something even more disturbing." Now he took a bigger swallow of that drink. "This weasel man wants his Hannah, told Broch to take anything else he wanted, all the money, lands, titles but he only wanted Hannah. Broch asked him what he planned to do with the child, he said something about the child would go with the mother. It was the way he said it that had the hair on my arms standing up along with the ones on the back of my neck. He has a horrid laugh, unmistakable, like someone torturing a cat."

"Hughes." Neale's response to Jon's information was growled out through clenched teeth.  A curse followed beneath his breath and his fist met with the cushioned back of the nearest chair.  Gone was the controlled Lord of Falkirk, brother to Fraisers, in his stead was a man only allowed free rein on a few occasions.  Blood lust glowed in Frasier greens. He didn't even attempt to hide it as he looked to his friend.  "Thank you, Jon."

He had seen to Hannah and their things being brought over to Ballicastle before he headed back to Falkirk to find Neale. He wanted to make sure Hannah was safely tucked away before anyone was alerted to this move that could get back to Broch in the process, like running against time. Once at Falkirk, being his own home, he went right in grabbing the first staff member's attention he ran into with a strong hold of their shoulder, the grip tighter than he realized. "Neale, where is he?"

"You have my help if needed." All that was needed to be said on that as he finished off his drink. "I would suspect the two are very dangerous and if they find out we know, even more so. What are your plans, if I may ask?" Which he didn't have to answer and Jon would understand.

Lochlan's hold gained the required information.  " the parlor, m'lord."  When Lan released his grip and started in that direction, more words followed in his wake.  "But he's already detained within!" This one debated running after Lochlan ... but with all that had transpired since Neale bounded through that same front entrance, he thought better of it and just rubbed his arm where that tight grip had been.

"My plans are to see Hannah to safety, find The Ferret and his cohort...and personally see that both of them realize the error of their ways."

He didn't pay the one any more mind as he was a man on a mission and knew well how Neale felt about family. He didn't worry about interrupting even if the staff member was. He headed for the parlor, knowing where it was as the door swung open. He only stopped for a moment seeing Jon there, slight nod before that bright Kearney blue gaze fastened on Neale. "Its about Hannah."

Neale's attention shot to the door, ready to blast the one who dared interrupt until he saw who that one was.  "It definitely is, Lan.  Shut the door behind you."

He was quick to step in the rest of the way as the door was closed with a bit more force than he intended. He was still running high on fury. "Broch isn't here I hope?" Not waiting for an answer before he plough right in. "Hannah told me how he was touching her more than a brother should and looking at her in the same way." Words were being growled out in that intensity Neale could see mirrored in Lan's eyes. "I took her and the children to Ballicastle, Ellyn too, they are going to remain there under protection until the child comes." Or he killed Broch, which ever came first.

Neale nodded.  With all that had come to pass, he did not at all begrudge Lan his anger.  "You should remain with them, Brother...until the babe comes."  Hannah was due at any moment, Lan should be with her. Dealing now with Lan's justified temper helped Neale to maintain his own.  Not lessen it...just control it.

"Hannah has her midwife close but she is not due for about three more weeks. I need to at least talk to the man and set him straight where she is concerned." Threaten him was more like it if he didn't break Broch's neck in the process to get across his point. Fists were clenching, and well hone muscles of the blacksmith strained against the shirt he wore. His fury was not easily being abated.

For very good reason!  Neale took a step closer to his brother-in-law, clamping a hand down on his upper arm.  "He'll not threaten the women in our lives again, Lan, of that you can be sure.  I was on my way out the door to find him when Jon stopped by with ... news."  Greens turned to Jon, then back to Lan.  "Seems the present Duke of Falkirk is rubbing shoulders with the former Count of Whitford.  Ferris Hughes."

"I saw him headed into the Thistle from the alleyway, its possible he is still there." Having been quiet he now spoke up to help aid in their search to at least where the man was last seen.

"Let me go with you, tonight. Hannah is fine and I will let you do the talking." Hopefully he would not need to say anything but would be ready to if needed. "Ferris! No wonder, this...Broch can't be who he says he is then." He was growling under his breath some profanities at this point.

"If he is, indeed, our brother, Lan...he has not come to reunite with the Fraisers but to lay us low.  Blood or not...this matter will be settled." Neale welcomed Lan's company to seek out Broch.  He finished the remaining liquid in his glass then tossed it aside to a chair cushion to be collected later.  "The Thistle is where we will begin, Jon."

A glance to Jon in a way to say he was glad to have him with them too. One never knew what they would be up against if the Ferret was involved. "Let's go." He was anxious, very anxious to find Broch. Turning on a heel, he was already heading out for the Thistle.

As he passed the doorman, he reiterated his previous order.  "Any brothers...are to be directed to The Thistle."  Then he and Jon departed as well.

Jon was right behind the brothers, he would do what he could to help and not get in the way.


Jon McAndrews

McAndrews Lumber and Mining

Making something more of his life, not just handed to him.

Date: 04-02-2003
Poster: Broch Frasier
Post # 15

Stolen Kiss

He left the alleyway to ease out of the shadows after making sure none were around. His conversation with Ferris left matters wanting. The man was insane, he was sure of that in his own mind, not judgmental of himself in his own pursuits and ways. He needed a drink and to think as ideas were already forming. Steps taken soon had him opening the door, only to close it behind him as he made his way in. Alex hailed in greeting as if nothing was out of the ordinary, his ruse donned easily. A drink of poteen this night was gained as he moved to the hearth from there, none being about presently and he would not be obliged to sit in conversation with Alex this way. He seated himself comfortably, poteen worked on as he went to work out those initial ideas. He realized in his position, even if Ferris got him there, he didn't need him any longer. There was no reason not to transfer the funds to an account he had in France. He had a few but that country would be least suspected to go looking for him when he made his move. He was up to put these decisions into action this very night. Glass taken with him as he lifted it in salute to Alex when he passed him on his way to their office in the back. Once there he was quick to write out the transfer of funds and sent for their usual runner. Keep it on the up and up still. That seen to he finished off his drink, it was time to get the hell out of Heathfield, not even taking his belongings would help in his disappearance. He would not chance going back to Falkirk as time now was of the essence to make his escape. It would probably take them a couple days to realize he was missing, then a search, all taking time, time where he would by then be spending the Frasier fortune and even Ferris none the wiser.

Sarina had remained at the Thistle when Neale left to search out Broch but was called away shortly after to tend to a child's broken leg. Spring was here and with it, springtime injuries, children anxious to climb trees and race about. Seeing to the injury had helped to keep her mind off what might be happening at Falkirk in any sort of confrontation between Broch and his brothers. As she walked back to the Thistle, though, those thoughts returned and with them the memory of the hurt look on Neale's face when she admitted to keeping her... concern about Broch's behavior with her to herself, even for a short time. Preoccupied by all of this, she pushed the door open and reentered the Thistle. It was busier than she had expected. "Evening, Alex. Might I have a little brandy?" Calling out to the tender over the noise of the tavern as she approached the bar.

Heading down the hall, that would take him back into the main room, with an excuse to give to Alex that would detain search on his whereabouts formulated until he heard Sarina's voice. Well, why not? Another thought on how he had been wanting a taste of her lips had his steps pausing as ideas on how to gain this desire before he left. He withdrew his dagger and with a quick slash, cutting cloth and skin alike, made a superficial wound on his arm enough to draw blood. The dagger wiped off on the inside of his shirt and resheathed to his side before his next performance was about to begin. He clutched his hand over the wound long enough to have blood all over his hand before rushing in. "I need a healer!" Taking that dramatic pause as he wore the correct expressions for each turn of this drama. "Sarina, a petty thief tried to relieve me of my money pouch when I stepped out into the alleyway for a smoke. He didn't succeed but slashed me in the process before running."

The call for a healer gained her attention immediately but there was no hiding the look of surprise in her blue eyes when she saw it was Broch in need of her services. She left her glass untouched on the bar, and hurried by other patrons at the sight of the blood welling on his arm. "Neale is looking for you..." the words left her mouth with no thought to them as she took Broch's hand, stretching his arm out so that she could have a better look at the cut. "It doesn't look too bad, I don't think it will need any stitches..." a glance into the room let her see the looks of the patrons. "Let's go back to one of the offices, it will only take a minute." No need to take care of this injury in front of everyone.

He played along, his idea exactly where to get her. Luckily she came up with it rather than having to convince her. "Yes, some are faint around blood even if not a critical wound. Thank you." Always the gentleman or so when it would get him what he wanted. The cut stung alright but he had suffered worse and would be minor payment for that kiss extracted. A nod to Alex and others in general in apology before leading her back to the office. He needed it to be serious enough for her to tend it but not enough to have others volunteering to help. No, that wouldn't do at all for what he planned. The door was unlocked as he favored his arm then shoved open as he stood to the side to let her pass through first.

"Alex, if Neale or his brothers come, let them know where I am, please." Parting words to the tender before she started down the corridor with Broch. "Did you get a look at the thief? A description might help to find him." As the door was opened she almost hesitated, a sudden uneasiness creeping up on her. A glance at Broch and his cut, minor as it was, decided her and she gave him a slight smile as she stepped into the office, crossing toward a table at the far end where clean cloths sat beside an empty water basin. "It's not a bad cut, won't take long to clean it up." Was she repeating herself? She had the feeling she was saying this to comfort herself and not Broch at all.

"Hooded little bandit in a brown trench coat if that helps to describe." One of those forget it type descriptions and move on. The door was closed over but not latched as he moved to join her at the table, coming to stand close. She would have to work on his arm so it couldn't be taken otherwise. "I'm sure it will be quick." Not really meaning her tending his wound as hunter green eyes were solely locked over her.

She had filled the basin with a splash of water from the pitcher there and now dipped a part of the cloth in it to dampen it. She could feel his eyes on her but she kept her own cast downward, fixed on the task at hand. A step closer to him as she bent her head, taking his wrist in one hand while the other used the cloth to wipe away the blood. Quickly, quickly, so she could leave him as soon as possible... that feeling of uneasiness was growing stronger by the minute.

Perfect, her dipped head and concentration on his cut, she would not notice the other hand slip up and around to have his fingers bury into her hair at the nape of her neck. Tight clutching hold with enough of pull would bring her head up and back just enough to have his mouth over hers in a heated intensified kiss. The process would have her releasing his wrist as that arm drew up and around to crush her hard up against him in a fastening hold. How he had wanted this taste and her lips were worth the cut as he had expected.

It happened so fast that it took a second for what was happening to sink in. She let out a cry of sudden pain as her hair was pulled, the wrenching of her head up and back. By the time his mouth came down on hers she had inhaled sharply, a scream in the back of her throat. A scream that was muffled and unheard beyond the door of that room. The cloth was still gripped tight in her hand, palm pressed to his shoulder in an effort to pull from his grasp. When he didn't release her, when he only pulled her up tightly against him, she struggled that much harder, bringing a fist around to hit his shoulder, to pull his hair, anything to free her enough to call for help.

Her lips were sweet but her resistance to him enticed him to wanting more. Had she given it freely that would have been all that would be, but now.... now he took further action as she struggled. Pain was little to him, didn't even feel it as she pulled his hair, she had ignited something far more bestial in him as the arm holding her tight released as fast as he grabbed that bloodied cloth, twisting her about as lips left hers to replace them in a gag. He was around, far stronger than she was to be able to pry loose, as one hand held the gag while the other withdrew his dagger to edged that blade up against her neck. "We're going to take a walk and talk." The press of the blade as much as saying she better not resist or she would lose far more than a kiss. Shuffling sideways steps inched them to the door as with a positioned wedge of his boot he opened it enough to glance out. All was clear as another nudge sent it open enough for him to all but drag her to the exit near that led to that very same alleyway. Not even trusting being this close to the building as there were guards to show up on their rounds, he continued to hold her at knife's edge up to the small forest behind. Just within the pitch dark of the trees he shoved her around to brace her back against the rough bark of one very large oak. Pressing himself up against her to help wedge her there as the cloth held hand kept that material firmly in place. "You entice me dearling to want more sampling of your treasures." Drawing the knife down along her neck, yet not breaking the silken skin, he eased it in along the edge of her dress to cut it away from her shoulder. Material falling forward and down to expose more of her flesh.


=+= Broch Ian Frasier =+=

The Past Always Catches Up

Date: 04-02-2003
Poster: Patrick Frasier
Post # 16


Danny came back from the Celtic garden, time spent with Rowena in memory. He had made a habit to visit when he could, at least a few times a week, knowing it wouldn't be too long when she would be moved to her final resting place. She looked the same as when Andrew saw to her wake there. It was still hard to believe she was gone for good but now he had accepted it finally. His stallion reined in had him sitting there for a few moments in reflection before dismounting to head into the manor. He was barely within when he received the urgent news from his brother to meet them at the Thistle. No relaxing for the weary tonight as he thanked the staff member having him at least get him a quick drink before heading out. He took this libation in the adjoining room.

Brogan had gone to the Balli Hi Pub, on the lookout for Broch. He had a quick drink but when there was no sign of the supposed "Duke", he headed on to Falkirk. Maybe Neale had had better luck there. He was hardly in the door when a staff member told him Neale's urgent message and told him that Danny was in the next room, ready to depart for the Thistle as well.

To work off some of his anger, Patrick had been at the racetracks. Food that wasn't perishable was being delivered and he set up with the Balli Pub to deliver perishable kinds on the day of races. It was getting close to opening it up as some of the hired help were decorating the fencing with blue, then red ribbons, spaced along the distance. The stalls and kennels were ready, all having been inspected too. He was there until long after the sun had set, giving him enough time to settle his anger to a low roar. It was time to head back and find Neale to see if any word had gotten back from Garret or Rob. The distance back from the tracks wasn't far and the walk did him good as he was soon making his way back in. A good meal, a hot bath being looked forward to after he spoke with his brother. He came in on the heels of Brogan, catching the last of the urgent message and then repeated to him. "Well, looks like I got more news than expected cos. Have them saddle me up a horse." That spoken to the staff member only to find they already had horses ready for all of them.

He barely kicked back his drink when he heard his brother and cousin in the next room. The glass discarded to a table as he was quick to return to the grand foyer. "I'm ready."

The sudden urgency is what surprised Brogan and brought about the grave look on his face. "Something must have happened..." the words were hardly out of his mouth before he was glancing at Dan and Pat and going right back out the door he'd come in. Quick to mount his horse, waiting only until Dan and Pat were ready as well to nudge the stallion forward.

He was on his heels too. Obviously something big was up. Out and mounted along with his cousin and brother as it was time to make haste. Heels nudged the stallion around that had been brought out while within. He was quick to take off into a full gallop headed for the Thistle tavern in Heathfield.

His own steps quickened as there was no time to waste, out with his family he mounted up a fresh steed and was soon off in a gallop with them.

He kept pace with his cousins, his eyes intent on the road ahead. They had to slow down once inside the commons at the stables behind the Thistle, opposite the side of the alleyway. Brogan had to rein in so quickly, in fact, when a lad raced out in front of him, that his horse nearly threw him. The boy, so startled by the close call, he lost his footing and sprawled out in the dirt. The pouch he carried went flying and as it hit the dirt it opened, letting its contents loosed on the ground nearby. His horse calmed, Brogan dismounted, glancing at his cousins. They had come to a halt, too, and looking as concerned for the boy as he to be sure there were no injuries. Brogan helped the lad to his feet, instantly recognizing him as the young runner used often by those at Falkirk. "You alright, lad?" He brushed some of the dirt from his shirt, looking him over for injuries.

Even his horse did a doubling prance sideways as Brogan near collided with the lad. As he saw to the lad, Patrick was down to retrieve the notes that had fallen from the pouch. Opening the folders they were contained in had both brows rising as it dawned on him just what they were, not only that but how much they were. "Dan, Brogan, come here quickly, tell me I'm not seeing what I am seeing." He didn't want to believe things were this bad but a part of him knew it to be true. They would have been laid to ruin, their amassed fortune gone.

He was behind the two so he only had to guide his horse off to the side, dismounting as Patrick did he was soon over to take a look. "Well, doesn't that say it all. Thief in the extreme." Frasier greens turned on the lad. "Go home and not say a word, we will talk with you tomorrow. We will take care of this matter." Knowing the lad would have no idea what the pouch contained, only doing his job when summoned. He was a good kid and was quick to obey not asking a single question as he was trained.

Satisfied the runner was not injured save for a few minor scrapes or bruises, he gave him a pat on the back and stood, brows lifting as he moved toward Dan and Pat. "What is it?" They didn't need to answer, a single look at the papers Pat held told him everything he needed to know. "We have to find Neale. Now."

At that point the three of them headed around to the tavern after seeing their horses to the stables to be taken care of first.


Patrick Frasier

Date: 04-04-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 17

A Timely Arrival

The crier had just called the hour prior to midnight but those of an entertaining vein still meandered along the sidewalks.  The three that charged into Heathfield's proper gave little heed to the heads that turned to watch their flight. The trio hell-bent on a destination practically thundered over the cobbles until, one after the other, they tightened the leather straps and reined their mounts to a sudden stop just outside the establishment.  Neale was the first to dismount, not even looking to his companions as he jerked his reins through the hitching ring and strode on to the entrance knowing they would follow.

The closer they came, the more furious Lan got as he was down from his mount on the heels of Neale. He didn't even bother to tie off the steed, they were well trained and the stable boys would be out to take care of them as he mounted the steps to the tavern with the others.

Jon was very concerned on the brothers, wishing now they would find some of his own brothers here. He knew a few of them patronized this tavern as he dismounted to head in with them.

Garrett had only just returned, still sea stained and weary from the long voyage.  The corner of the portfolio of findings was tucked beneath his leg and more than once he had used the hilt of his sword to pound the wood above his head to encourage the driver to pick up the pace, each time leaning to brush aside the window covering so he could see out into the night.  They were only in Heathfield when Garrett thumped again, taking that look out the window. "Hold, Man!  Hold!"  He shouted as they passed the local tavern and three were noted on their way in.  There was no mistaking the one.  The horses balked at the unexpected command to stop, whinnying, snorting and jerking against the pressure but Garrett didn't wait for them to comply completely. He had already knocked that door open and was jumping down, the road still moving beneath him, and called out to the rightful Duke of Falkirk.  "Neale!"
The three of them came running around the side of the tavern from the stables, toward the tavern's entrance. They nearly collided into one another when Brogan came to an abrupt halt. "Neale! You won't believe what we found!"

Patrick's hand shot out against Brogan's back to avert that collision, having him going off to the side. The folders of their amassed fortunes clutched in his hand tight. "This" Holding them out to Neale but words were stalled as Garrett approached.

Dan also averted Brogan's abrupt stop as he swung to his other side coming up short as it seemed now to be a few meetings. This was proving to be one hell of a night.

Neale had spun to look back to the street when he heard that familiar voice, hand still on the door.  Frasier greens searched past the bodies of Jon and Lan to what Garrett held in his hand only to now here his name to the side. Patrick, Brogan and Daniel...the message had been delivered.  Their meeting would begin here.  He motioned Garrett into the fold then reached out for the folder held by Patrick.   His hand clamped down on the offering but he didn't open it yet.  "Broch is thought to be within...shall we join"  Just by the faint shake of head that Garrett had provided when Neale made eye contact with him, Neale had a feeling he knew what both of these folders held within. 

"I think  you should look at what is in the folder before we confront him, not in front of him." All Neale needed to know as what Patrick held in his hands said it all.

"Alright."  Neale stepped to the side to allow the yellow illumination from the street lamp to fall upon the contents of that folder.

"Might as well add this to the mix, Neale...if you're tallying up points against the fraud."  Garrett passed his information over as well. 

A few moments passed in silence while Neale looked over the information.  Only one word in response.  "Christ."  He looked up to his brothers, to Brogan, then a glance to Jon and Garrett.  "We were almost too late." 

"Almost. The runner was on his way to the docks with it, when we... ran into him."

Lan was standing close enough to see some of that information. "I think its time to get inside and confront the impostor."

"Agreed."  Neale closed the folders and slapped the spines against his palms, turning to enter the tavern as he had earlier intended.

"I agree." All Patrick said as he was pushing up and through to get to Broch fast before he escaped their clutches.

Dan need not repeat the same felt words as he too was grouped there with the rest, mass entrance.

Jon let the others pass first as he followed in behind, keeping up the rear. Ready if they needed him but now there were a few.

Garrett motioned the carriage on, taking up a stance there near the front entrance, just off to the side in case an escape was attempted by way of door or alley.


Lady Sarina Maree

Date: 04-04-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 18

A Timely Rescue

The crowd had thinned some in the last few minutes and Alex was busy wiping down the bar, clearing away glasses. He looked up and gave a nod to the Frasier clan as they entered. He froze where he was, though, when he saw the expressions they all wore, knowing instantly that there was trouble of some kind.

The stilling of Alex's hand from his business was enough proof that he recognized the immediate change in the atmosphere of the room. Neale continued on as normal though things were far from it. "Good evening, Alex.  Have you seen our ... brother, Broch?"

Dan spoke to Jon before the McAndrews headed out to the side entrance that would put him where the path led to the stables while he took up a post in the room itself unless otherwise needed. If Broch was around there was no way he would escape. All escape routes were being blocked off.

"He came in a while ago... he's in the office now with Sarina. Thief tried to rob him, cut his arm. She went to take care of it." Alex nodded to the untouched glass of brandy on the bar, lines of worry etched in his forehead. "Do you want me to send for a patrol?"

Neale shook his head as he tossed the folders to the counter top and started toward the hallway.  "Watch those for us?"  No safer hands than Alex's could that information be in if it couldn't be in Frasier hands.  The thought of Sarina alone in the room with Broch was all that was needed for Neale to practically run down that corridor, crashing into the room only to one there.  A look was shot to Lan, then to Patrick and Brogan.  That look was one which spoke it all in the silence which filled the room. 

Lan noted Jon head out the side and Dan taking up a post there, good, now he didn't need to for he wanted to get his own hands on Broch, if anything was left of him. He had made a promise to let Neale do the talking and he was a man of his word so that was about the only thing that would restrain him as he too took up a run down that corridor, coming up short just outside the door. "They can't be far."

Fist clenched as he too sprinted down the hall to the office where they were supposed to be. The very look in his eyes was nothing less than dangerous. "We need to start a search." He was off to open up every room along the hall in case they had taken to a different one for some reason.

"They could be in a different office..." as Brogan spoke, he was pushing open the other doors, alongside Patrick. Like his cousins, he felt instinctively that something was very wrong.

The cloth was damp, bloody from wiping Broch's cut and the coppery taste that suddenly filled her mouth gagged her. Nausea and panic gripped her so tightly that it took her a second to even be aware of the dagger at her throat or that Broch had spoken to her. She had the presence of mind, then, to keep still, repressing a sob when she realized no one had heard her. Black spots danced in front of her eyes as she tried to clear her mind. Sooner or later she knew she would have the chance to break free, she had only to wait for it. Outside, the cool air didn't help much. Bile burned the back of her throat but she managed to swallow it down. She was breathing too fast, gray fog filled her vision then cleared away when she felt the jagged bark of the tree cutting into her back. Her hands went up, fists clutching at the sleeves of Broch's shirt, her nails digging into his skin. There was no repressing the shudder or tears as the dagger's edge traced along the column of her throat and as he began to cut at her dress, she squeezed her eyes shut. The tears were bad enough, she wouldn't give him the satisfaction of seeing the fear in her eyes.

As her nails dug in, Broch's lips trailed where the dagger had before sinking his teeth in, not enough to break her skin but enough for her to feel the bite. Two could play at this, the harder her nails dug the harder his teeth would sink in, see who called chicken first. He would have her succumb to him before her took her completely.

Neale hadn't moved, his mind racing as Patrick and Brogan began a search of the other rooms.  He didn't watch long though.  He shook his head...for some reason he knew Sarina was not to be found behind any of those doors.  He didn't wait for the search to complete, he was suddenly in motion toward that back door.

"Nothing" Called out as Patrick was already heading down the hall back towards Neale. Not casually either as steps were near in a run.

Lan checked down the other end but found nothing either, every door was tried before they were heading back to regroup. "Outside..." Heading there as he spoke.

Brogan didn't wait. When the other rooms were proven to be empty he was right behind the others, heading for that back door, hand already on the hilt of his sword.

She nearly choked when the pain and pressure of Broch's teeth sank into her skin. With a gasp for air, she dropped her hands, as he had intended for her to do, and turned her head away, screaming again into that bloody gag.

No sooner was he out the door then his head snapped up, looking towards the thick of trees. The muffled sound of distress caused his body to tense.  "Sarina."  He didn't call her name.  He barely even spoke it.  He didn't even wait to see if the men behind were following, he was running toward those trees.  As he neared, what he saw caused his blood to boil within his veins.  The unmistakable 'zing' of a sword being freed from a scabbard echoed in the night air.  For a split second, his gaze centered on Sarina, Broch along his periphery. 

Lan's own sword was unsheathed as he was coming up fast right behind Neale, stopping off to the side of him as he waited for an opening as needed.

The sight of Broch, of Sarina, was enough to invoke a fury that Brogan seldom felt. With Lan to one side of Neale, he stepped around to the other, drawing his sword slowly and with careful purpose.

As soon as Broch heard the commotion and that telltale sound of a sword being unsheathed, he felt someone behind him as he shoved away from Sarina. Letting go abruptly he was around with the weapon he had already in his hand, his dagger, as it was lashed out at the one in a horizontal slash as he ducked into a forward lunge. He knew he needed to use that surprise attack of his own along with his body weight to gain an edge.

Sarina heard the sound of Neale's sword being freed but it didn't register at first... not until the weight that crushed her against the tree suddenly lifted. Her hand was up to pull the cloth from her mouth as she opened her eyes, stumbling almost blindly away from the tree. She wanted to run but her legs would hardly support her. Two steps, three. Red-rimmed, blue eyes found Neale and relief flooded through her. It was short-lived, though, for at that moment Broch lunged toward him. She felt a split-second's panic and, already lightheaded, it was all she could take. Another step and she simply ... crumpled to the ground.

Needing quick thinking as one part drew Patrick to go after Broch another part drew him to help Sarina. The latter won out as reason dictated Lan and Neale were already dealing with him. His sword was almost drawn as he halted and made a fast run to Sarina instead. Catching her as she crumpled to the ground he yelled out to his brother, Lan and Brogan included. "Get the bastard, I'll take care of Sarina." He was already lifting her into his arms, retracing his steps to get her back into the safety of the tavern and have her seen to. He would guard her so Neale knew at least she would be safe.


Lady Sarina Maree

Date: 04-04-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 19

A Timely Death

The instinct of defense brought up his arm in a parry to ward off Broch's attack.  For all he wished to look in Sarina's direction, to be the one to see her safely away, Broch took away that choice even as Patrick called out the order.  Broch was no small man and the surprise of lunge knocked Neale off balance, his steps faltering backwards to compensate for the weight of attack. 

Broch continued to push forward, about to grab Neale's sword arm as one hand went out to grasp as the other slashed with his knife again. He planned to gut the man even when he realized who it was. All the more reason, until he noticed he was not alone as he saw Lan there, Brogan and Patrick too. In that instance he abandoned the fight to start running down along the side and away from them all. Brush grabbed at his legs as twigs snapped beneath booted feet. In the dark it was harder to see especially when running near blindly in the woods. He made out an embankment that would take him higher and deeper into the trees as he was scrambling up only to find the earth still soft, muddy. Footing slipped and he was heading back down that very same ground he had gained.

Neale lurched back in a bend to protect his midsection from Broch's attack but not far enough.  The tip of that lethal blade cut through the fabric of his shirt, sliced through the skin along his lower ribs.  His free hand dropped to clutch at the rended cloth and flesh but, with only a glance toward Sarina just to make sure, he took off after the retreating man.  Nature worked in Neale's favor and to Broch's detriment, thwarting his immediate escape into the woods and brought Broch sliding back down toward his demise.

Broch lost his dagger as it left his hand to grasp at whatever he could to halt his descent. To no avail as he was soon crashing right back into Neale, sprawled out in the mud. He struggled to get up with the quick twisting of feet first to hopefully topple Neale to the ground.

Brogan saw the injury done to Neale but by the time he'd raised his own sword to step in and block another strike at Neale, Broch had taken off at a run. Sword still clutched in his hand, he was right behind Neale again but as Broch came sliding down the embankment, he stood back. Neale's anger was as palpable as his own, but it was Neale who had suffered the most under Broch's brief... time there and this was why he now stood at ready. It was Neale's and Lan's right to pummel Broch into the ground.

With quick glance over his shoulder he made note of Patrick taking care of Sarina. Turning back to the struggle between Neale and Broch as blood was drawn with the man on next on the run. As Neale took off after Broch, so Lan followed as brush and bramble were barely noted in the pursuit.

Neale danced over Broch's attempt to bring him down by way of kicking feet and lashing legs.  As one foot came up again, Broch's attack caught him at the ankle of the other, knocking him forward and down toward the man.  Neale tucked his sword.  His mind screamed for justice, to see the bastard skewered on his blade, but Neale killed only in dire circumstances ... ever.  Broch was no longer armed.  The bloody front of his shirt was stuck to his skin and his hand was smeared with the life-giving red but Neale still tried to keep his sword from mortal damage of both himself and Broch.  Neale, however, was not beyond beating the man to a bloody sack of flesh and bones.

He was almost to his feet as Neale came crashing into him, muddy earth oozed slime beneath his boots again as they were now sliding together when he tried to avert his fall. "Bloody mud." Growled out beneath his breath as fists tried to connect with Neale's head. He was not supposed to end up down into the mud again, just Neale.

Lan stood impatiently off to the side, very near but to use his sword with the two struggling as one could have him hitting Neale. Instead he was circling close, waiting a chance to get a hold of Broch himself.

Brogan's jaw tightened, teeth clenched. It was difficult to remain still but he willed himself to do it. Neale was a strong man, even with the wound he'd suffered it would take a lot to bring him down. If at any time Brogan felt his help was needed, he wouldn't hesitate to step in.

Scrambling. Sliding.  Grappling.  Grabbing.  Punching.  Pounding.  Neale released his sword, returning blow for blow as they rolled through the muck.  The end of the tumble had Broch on top, a fist connecting with Neale's jaw. Neale's arms bent and shoved, propelling Broch from him to the right. He was already struggling up from the slippery, thickness of mud in order to get his hands back on Broch before the man could make good any possible escapes.

Blow for blow as the two were well match in a duel of fists, both making connections to various parts of each other's bodies one couldn't even count in the fast paced brawl. The mud didn't help and seemed to rule his night as when he last found himself sailing through the air in a flip only to land firmly on his stomach. Shock registered as the slice of his own dagger, having been wedged between two stones with the blade tipped up, came through his ribs to pierce his heart. The rush of his last breath came without words as an eternal darkness sucked him in. His body stilled as all life drained in a matter of seconds, laying limp on the ground while his life's blood soaked into the mud.

As Neale flipped Broch away he was fast to move to where he landed, pausing momentarily as he seemed to be laying still. It was one of those brief decisions to stall that hand reaching in case the man was playing possum. Instead, he readied his blade to lower point down to skewer if necessary as a boot wedged under the man's side to flip him back over. One look at the shock expression and wide-eyed look, unblinking, he stepped back. "He's dead, no mistaking it."

Brogan was of the same mind as Lan but it was to Neale that he went, offering a hand to help the man up as he heard Lan's proclamation.

Neale was scrambling on hands and knees, covered head to toe in the dark sludge of the battlefield, in order to make it over to where Broch was.  When Lan flipped him, there was no mistaking that Broch was no longer a threat to the Frasier's and those they loved.  On all fours, Neale's head bowed between his arms, a pound of fist into the mud before he glanced up to see Brogan's offer of hand. He slapped his own palm into Brogan's, using his aid, needing his aid to stand. 

"Falling on his own dagger. No other man deserved a more proper finish to his life."  He braced himself, helping Neale to his feet. "You need to get inside, take care of that wound."

"Neale, I will see the body to an undertaker this night, get him out of here. Brogan if you wouldn't mind giving me a hand when ready, let Neale get back to tell the others and see how Sarina is doing along with tending his own wounds."

"Aye, I'll help you." A pat to Neale's shoulder. "Can you get yourself inside?"

Neale nodded, swiping the back of his hand along his brow and then his hand slicked back his hair...mud smearing with the process.  He continued to look down to Broch even with the motion of his head to answer Brogan.  "See to him. I'm able to tend to myself."

He left the embedded blade where it was as he easily pulled the man up with the slide of one muscular arm to hook under Broch's. Letting Brogan get the other side before proceeding to drag the dead body away. The undertaker would be gotten up this late hour but the extra coin given would appease the man.

A nod to his cousin then he joined Lan, stooping down to hoist the other arm of the dead man up around his shoulder.

A quick look up to each of his kin then he took a step back, retrieving his sword, a slow pace set toward the back entrance of The Thistle.


Lady Sarina Maree

Date: 04-07-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 20


His steps back to theThistle were at first slow as his mind sifted through the details, replaying in his mind how he might have been able to spare Broch...and yet.... So many 'ifs' raced through his head.  With the rampage of thoughts, he was soon to the door of the tavern.  He hadn't even realized in what direction he was heading until his hand closed over the latch of the door.  The solid metal of the door latch snatched him back to reality.  The reality that he clutched at his midsection.  His hand lifted slowly and he looked at the mud and blood smeared surface of his palm.  In an instant the vision of Sarina in Broch's hold, her gown slashed down along her shoulder, her body pinned to the tree flashed before his eyes.  He was through that door and down the hall, not even caring that Alex started when he saw the usually immaculate Lord of Falkirk bedecked with sludge.  "Where did Patrick take Sarina?"  He was already started toward the stairs that lead above, pausing a few steps up to look back at the man for the information.

Alex had known exactly what the situation was when Patrick carried Sarina in. "He took her to the lounge," nodding in the direction of the game room. Neale made a striking image, covered in mud, blood all over his shirt. The older man looked very concerned but knew that if his help was needed in some way, they would call on him.

Neale was back down with one step taking care of the three he had started up.  A nod to Alex for the information and it was in the direction of the lounge his pace now took him. 

He felt the safest place and most comfortable would be this lounge in the back few knew about. No regular patrons and there was a nice big couch. This is where he carefully placed her before checking for any vital signs at the same time shooting off orders to a guard that came in with him, followed once seeing the circumstances. The guard left immediately to find a healer as in the meantime one of the chambermaids saw to some warm water, cloths and such to clean up the lady.

Daniel heard the commotion in the back hall and was on the run there when he saw his brother carrying Sarina. He stationed himself at the door to make sure none that should come in, didn't once he found she was going to be all right. He was anxious about what transpired and tempted to head outside to find out when he saw Neale coming.

"Daniel."  Relief washed through him with the power of opening floodgates.  "Is she alright?"  The question was asked, but Neale was already pushing his way in to see for himself. 

Her vitals were fine, she was fine. Other than the purplish blue bruise on her shoulder where she had been bitten, she was unharmed physically and already starting to regain consciousness, eyes fluttering open as Neale pushed his way inside.

His relief was brief and only because he saw Daniel, when he entered and saw her upon the couch with Patrick near, the blood which was not seeping from the wound along his ribs pounded in his ears, against his temple.  Her name escaped in a whisper of concern and he skidded to a one knee-kneel beside her.  If he shoved his brother aside, Patrick would just have to forgive him his need to be there at her side.

He barely got in a nod with his words as Neale pushed through and he to follow on his heels but stepped off to the side once he was in. "Yes, mostly."

She felt a little disoriented, apparent in the puzzled expression she wore ... it was quick to fade when the memory of what had happened rushed back. There was a flicker of fear in her eyes, gone just that fast as she took in Neale's appearance and sat up so quickly she made herself dizzy. Ignoring even that her first words were of concern for him. "You're hurt ... he hurt you..." the blood on his shirt and the wound beneath became her immediate focus.

He was already moving aside to give his brother room once he was in, so any shove went with the flow of his own movements. He gave a quick glance to Daniel then back over Neale. Words hopefully reassuring. "She is going to be fine. You will need looking over." He knew Neale would not bother but his words were more to remind him in a brotherly firm way.

The angry mark of teeth on her shoulder was where greens dipped, even as his hand lifted to lightly pass his fingertips over the damage.  "Aye, I'll do, Patrick."  He was no fool.  The wound was mixed with mud and grass, but it was still freely bleeding and was keeping itself clean for the moment.  He knew it needed attention.  The pain of the gash was present from where his position opened it more.  Neale and Sarina were of a like mind...only different. Where her concern centered on him...his was on her.  "Where else are you hurt?" 

The lass that had cleaned Sarina up went to get clean water and towels. She was back shortly waiting to assist Neale once allowed.

No allowance would be forthcoming until he was assured of Sarina's well being.  No matter what his brother had said. 

She glanced up at Patrick and Daniel, communicating silent thanks with her gaze, blue eyes that returned to Neale with the light touch of fingertips. "Nowhere else," her voice just above a whisper. She touched a muddy cheek with the back of her hand then reached for one of those towels. She would see the flow of blood stopped and the healing process started herself.

He cleared his throat as no mention was made of what happened after he brought Sarina in. "Broch?" The question needed only one word for he had noticed Lochlan nor Brogan returned.

Broch would be addressed after Sarina eased his mind...which was in the process.  A quick glance over her before his hand lowered to rest on her leg.  "Is no longer a threat to any of us."  He turned his gaze up to Patrick.  "The very dagger which threatened us..."  The 'us' referring to the Frasier family had him looking back to Sarina, including her as it should be.  "saw to his end."  He now watched Sarina closely as he finished. "As we fought, he landed on his blade."
He was relieved to hear such, understanding the implications that came with it also. Pity, always the way of such. "We can leave you two, see to his healing Sarina. We will wait out in the tavern if you need us." Daniel being the more sensitive one to certain things, knew the two needed time together to talk alone without them present.

"Fitting, very fitting." Still no smile came as anger still held to the look in his eyes. He also knew now Neale would not feel any pang of guilt if he had to kill the man himself. Such was always different when you knew someone opposed to an unknown, even if the man was lacking. At that point he heard Daniel, realizing beyond his anger. A nod given and he was pushing his way out, he needed a few drinks right now himself.

The hand that held the towel, now wet and ready to wipe away what she could of mud, grass, blood ... trembled so that she had to press it against the couch there to still it. A mixture of emotions could be seen in her gaze but primarily, she felt relief and for the moment, managed to keep herself under some control. "Thank you, Patrick, Daniel." Some measure of a smile offered them even with the tremor in her voice.

The lass made her way out right after Patrick. He waited a few moments as he looked between the two, a silent nod give before he too vacated the room, closing the door behind him as he gave instructions to the guard not to let anyone in they didn't request or had a right to go into the room. There were those above his own authority.


Lady Sarina Maree

Date: 04-07-2003
Poster: Sarina Maree
Post # 21

Family Prevails

Neale didn't move from his position but looked to his brothers as they departed.  His gaze lingered on the closed door for just a moment more before he looked back to Sarina. 

As the sound of the door latching closed was heard, she slid from the couch, sinking to her knees beside Neale. "Let me stop the blood..." her voice catching.

Her movement to join him there on the floor had his heart skipping a necessary beat.  He plucked at the front of his skirt to move it away from the wound.  His breath sucked in as the fabric pulled at the sliced flesh.  He didn't remove the soiled garment, just held it open as he looked on her. 

To call on her abilities as a healer came second nature to her but even so, it was difficult now. Her hand shook as she wiped the worst of the mud and grass away, wincing herself at any point she thought might cause him pain. When her hand stilled, the warmth of energies that flowed through her and into him were somewhat soothing, putting a stop to the flow of blood and sealing the wound. It would be tender but it wouldn't require stitches. Such an act tonight took longer than it normally would. When she sat back to look into his eyes, the bruise on her shoulder had faded almost completely.

There were a couple of points where his breath held completely with a tight clamping of teeth.  The wound wasn't deep, but it was viciously long and had been delivered right where any bend of motion could have it gaping open again. The heat of Sarina's healing eased through him and he closed his eyes at first, willing the warmth to seep through as needed until it at last adhered the torn tissue.  Neale knew how Sarina's ability worked and just as she sat back, his hand lifted to catch her by the wrist, pulling her back to him to support her there against him, mud, blood, sweat, wound be damned.  His head dipped to speak his words near her ear, his breath as heated against her as his meaning.  "I am a willful man, Sarina and I love you...I love you completely.  I fear I'm as set in my ways as the moon is to the cycle of the skies."  He lifted his head, looking down to her then, the whites of his eyes enhanced by the darkness of mud upon his face, the Frasier greens...shining as well.  "and I know you know I'm a damn bit more stubborn than most could manage.  But you manage, do you not?"  He searched her eyes now, this woman he would give his life for.

It was as he pulled her close that she lost what hold she'd had on herself, her arms wound tightly around him, taking strength from him. Her eyes closed against what tears might fall but those tears were not for what had happened, they were for an entirely different reason. If a simple look could convey the deepest of emotion, of devotion, of love then that is what her eyes reflected as they met his. Fingertips lifted to wipe at some of that dried mud on his cheek, almost absently. "I would not want you to be any other way, Neale. I love you as you are, I couldn't ask for more." Her voice soft, thick with unshed tears.

The stern countenance of man was gone.  This was the Neale who held Sarina each night in his arms.  The Neale who desired each night to have her weak in his arms yet vibrantly alive from the evening's passionate play.  This was not the Frasier Lord of Falkirk.  This was a man...who was very much in love with the woman in his embrace.  "Aye, but I could, Sarina...and shall ask for more.  I shall ask, My Love, if there is anyone I should approach with my desire to make you my wife....if, you will have me as your husband."  Propriety even in this...but this was the man known as Neale. He would wish nothing but Sarina to be happy, with him, and he would confront Satan himself to claim the woman as his wife. This was the Neale that no one but Sarina knew...not even his brothers or sister.

It was who he was and she knew this, she loved that and every other facet of his being. A woman could not be more in love with any man than she was with Neale, he could feel that every time she smiled at him, held him, kissed him and always, she could feel the way he returned those feelings, spoken or unspoken, even if only in a glance her way. Her tears did not remain unshed for long, they began to flow freely down her cheeks. "I would have you, Neale, nothing could make me happier or complete me more." Her hand had stilled and now cupped his cheek as she looked into those green eyes, all the brighter this night. "There is only Andre." There was no other relation for Neale to speak with.

He nodded within the delicate touch of her palm against his cheek, smiling down to her.  "Then I shall seek him out come the morning."  Her touch on his face would be lost as he scooped her up tighter against him, a momentary intake of breath from the still tender area but, he had come much too close to losing her again...the kiss which followed claimed more than her lips.  Although he had for some time claimed Sarina with the shared emotions they had one f
or the other...he now claimed her as his fiance'e and once he spoke with Andre, he'd be sure his kin knew of his claim as well.  His own hand lifted to cup her face while his lips moved over hers, his thumb stroking away the tears which had traveled down her cheek. 

From that kiss came the soft sigh that always followed that moment each night when she was safe in his arms and the rest of the world shut out. When she gave herself over to him completely and tonight, it was with the promise of their future together, as husband and wife. Her arms were around his neck once more and the passion he instilled in this most proper woman, when alone together, surfaced. When at last they broke that kiss, allowing a moment for both to breathe, she spoke. "I have something to tell you, I've been ... looking for the proper time." And there could be no time more proper than this.

Dark brows twitched up in question with a cant of head.  His smile had returned for her alone.  "What would that be, Sarina?"  What had transpired this night seemed centuries away.  The entire universe seemed to be separate from the two of them by light years.  Contented to hold her, both of them kneeling on the floor, he waited for her to speak.

Gently she stroked that questioning brow. The news she would impart might not have been such happy news prior to tonight but now... "I'm with child."  Her eyes had locked with his again and now searched his gaze, awaiting his reaction.

His reaction was delayed for this was most definitely the last thing he had thought to hear.  The smile, faded, but due entirely to the fact she caught him by surprise.  "You..." Neale Frasier...could not form his words, such was the sudden, unexpected surge of delight through his body.  "When..."  And finally just summed it all up with...  "Sweetheart."  His smile as never before beamed as his head dipped back and his eyes closed.  He was only just opening them again looking down to her as he drew her in for another tight embrace, this time...any discomfort of wound was not felt at all!

Tears filled her eyes anew and for an entirely different reason, tears she gave into for all the happiness that came with them. "I'm not very far along, I could ... sense it, feel it only a few days ago." His acceptance, his love, ...she was smiling through those tears. "I wasn't sure how you would feel about it." Given the circumstances until only a few hours ago, there had been good reason.

"My family is all to me, Sarina...and it shall always be."  Neale hadn't come prepared to propose tonight.  However, he was prepared to make Sarina his wife.  His mother's ring he had taken to the local jeweler to have the golden band supporting the sapphire decorated with complimentary stones along the top.  So many times he had thought that that night was the night...or that day was the day...and some oddity would steal his opportunity.  Spontaneity was the call...and now he gained more than just the woman of his dreams to share his life with...but a child of his and Sarina's blood to play alongside Ellyn. After he spoke with Andre, he would slip the emblem of his devotion to her...upon her finger.

Family had been a word with an altogether different meaning for Sarina for most of her life. Through Neale, with Neale and his family she had learned the true meaning of the word. Their child would have a life different from her own and grow up knowing what she had only recently learned. "As it will always be to me." No truer words were ever spoken.


Lady Sarina Maree

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