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Thistle Staff Stories

Date:  06-25-10
Poster: Maggie Callahan
Post # 1

It was that hour of night when the world was dead quiet... the crickets long silenced and the morning birds still hours away from chirping. All of the tavern guests had left the commons hours ago and the staff gone to bed, Maggie included. Tired as she was from the day's work it had been a restless path to slumber, only slipping into really deep sleep after a couple of hours. Her dreams had whisked her off to a far away place but one still vivid in her memories, a village clinging to a rocky hillside in Wales. It was all there as it had been when she was just a child, the craggy knolls and squat stone houses, horses and sheep roaming freely amongst them. It was idyllic and there was a glimpse of a face, the features vague and muddled in her mind's eye and the voice merely a familiar whisper... her mother, and she was telling Maggie to run. She did not understand, the sun was shining, the day was perfect, but Run.... run. The warnings were lost in a sudden rumble, a growing roar of sound that clouded the sky in darkness and made everything difficult to see. Shadows danced long in a flash of fire as one thatch roof went up in flames. The ground was shaking beneath her feet and thrumming in her chest, or maybe it was her heart pounding as people starting running around her. Friend or foe, she could not tell, all was screaming and chaos... out of nowhere a raven landed on her shoulder, and she could see her reflection in its beady eye, as it stared at her... as if it knew her. She was hypnotized by that omniscient gaze and then a hand grabbed her arm, hard... and back in the land of Heathfield a piercing scream broke the deep quiet, muffled only some by the walls of her rooms.

There was one that wasn't asleep, as he needed to check out the attic for bats. Best time was late at night, after everyone else was in bed. So late that they were back to hang from the rafters if there were any. He only found a couple in this wonderland of paraphernalia, cobwebs and dust. He almost missed the one that was there, using a net, for his sneeze. Placed in a sack with a cinch neck he was back out and heading downstairs to the second floor, then the main floor. It was the scream that altered his path, dropping the sack in the hall as went in the direction of the scream. He skidded to a halt in front of Maggie's door but was uncertain which room (except his of course) that it came from of the staff. He waited a moment.

The tug on her arm was like an iron fist and her dream self screamed, pulling away with all her might, but to no avail. Against this faceless foe she was weak as a newborn kitten and she felt the pebbles sliding beneath her feet as she was dragged. Even so, the raven on her shoulder did not budge, digging its talons into her flesh to hold on. It was cawing in her ear, cawing, cawing, until she finally looked away from her attacker and again into its fey eye. It was trying to tell her something. She could feel it, but could not put it into words.... it was telling her to fight, but not this way... You know how to win, it is in you, you know how to fight it. But she did not know and her dark-hooded attacker threw her down to the ground. The raven flapped off and its absence brought a sharp pang of helplessness, and as she hit the ground, she thrashed in her blankets and screamed again. Her cries would be wordless to Matthew's ears but they were sounds of horror and struggling.

Luckily Matthew had a master key for as soon as the next cry came, he was unlocking her door and bolting into the room. Those in the other rooms were stirring, Alex had stepped out into the hall to see what was going on. Matthew had Maggie lifted up into his arms, extracting her from the tangle of sheets, "Maggie, wake up!"

For a breathless moment she watched the raven fly away, higher and higher into the broiling skies until it was merely a black speck lost in the thunderheads. Then her attacker was yanking her up again, pinning her against himself with steely arms.... of course it was only Matthew now but still asleep, she fought him as she fought the demon in her dream. "No, NO, let me GO!" She all but shrieked, writhing against Matthew's grasp. She was strong for all she was just a slender thing in a short-sleeved white nightgown. "Come back!" She cried out aloud, half a sob as her mind's eye watched the raven slowly disappear. It seemed to be her only lifeline and taking all hope away with it.

He was afraid of her hurting herself or hurting him as she struggled. "Maggie, wake ... up." Sterner and a bit louder as Alex came to the door. Hazel had stuck her head out the door and called to Alex to see what was going on, two of her kitchen helps were also at their open doors while the third continued to sleep through the commotion totally unaware.

There was a voice in her ear, his voice, loud and commanding. It broke through the voiceless roar of chaos all around them and she could no longer scream, only sob for air as she fought still. "I don't know how," it was almost whispered and in such a sad tone... to the raven who had given up on her. She had let it down, let them all down; no longer could she hear her mother's voice, only his voice. She gave one last squirm before the repeated words suddenly sounded in her brain, not in that horrible voice, but a familiar one. Wake up. A final gasp had her eyes flying open, blazing blue and unfocused for several long seconds as she glanced between them all and breathed fast. Her room... it sank in slowly. Heathfield. She was here, not there. Going still and quiet in Matthew's arms, finally.

She might be petite, she might be slim, but after a few minutes she was getting heavier as Matthew sank into the mattress of her bed, her on his lap until she was fully awake. He was watching her carefully, eyes of bronzed hazel. "Maggie, it's Matthew, are you all right now?" Easing his hold as Alex gave a nod and assured the others all was fine, to get back to bed. The door of Maggie's room left open so nothing could be assumed to stain her reputation.

The faces sank in as the dream faded slowly, slowly, only reluctantly relinquishing its all-too-vivid grip upon her. There was Alex, and a couple of the maids flittering in the hall behind them... and Matthew. They were all staring at her and she realized gradually that she must have been screaming aloud. "I'm sorry.... I'm alright, I'm sorry," she managed to say in a small voice as the others began to filter away back to their own beds. Except for Matthew, whose lap she was sitting on she suddenly noticed, but the dream or nightmare still had her too immoblised to move. Her lungs were still demanding air and heart a-pounding, but she gave a few quick nods to Matthew as blues finally focused on his face. Her dark hair was of course down for slumber and falling in loose waves across her face and shoulders. "Yes... I am alright... I did not mean to wake anyone.."

Perhaps Matthew had sensed that very fact, that she was not completely back but getting there. "You were screaming. Not sure of the words, there were words too." Giving her a winsome smile as he didn't just get up and dump her there. Although, she was on his lap and they were in her bed, or on her bed more precise. A hand moved to rub in a soothing way against her back. The other still about her to keep her steady. "Is there something I can get you, tea? Potcheen?" Finally easing her from his lap so he could stand and soon vacate her room considering her attire. He still had to get rid of the....another SCREAM... was heard out in the hall as Flora decided to have a look into the discarded sack and out flew a bat in her face.

She gave another faint nod, she had guessed at the screaming bit. "I was having a nightmare.." and shaking still from it, likely the lingering fear though the room was a bit chilly. She allowed herself to be eased onto the bed, sitting on its edge and groping for the robe that hung on a post. It was a lightweight cotton material, lavender but long-sleeved... certainly more 'proper' than her gossamer night-gown. Pulling the robe on, she held it tightly across her chest with folded arms. No chance to answer Matthew before another scream came from the hall, and she jumped, fear leaping again into her eyes. Was this simply a continuation of her nightmare?

He heard Alex back out in the hall to help get the freed bat and calm Flora, shooing her off to bed and Nola going in to see to her friend's fright. Alex stopped by the door with the sack, "I will see to disposing of this fella," just as quick he was on his way. "Thanks," given Alex as he stood now that Maggie was off his lap and it was dawning on him just how undressed she was and how fetching too as he shifted from one foot to the other. "That was Flora, she opened up the sack with the bat in it," good distraction. Obviously Alex took care of it. He cleared his throat, "Would you want something out at the bar? Maybe tell me about your nightmare?" Figuring he should get out of her room or surely tongues would waggle.

The sack with the bat in it? She looked at him blankly. The obvious question of course being, why was there a sack with a bat out in the hallway... but she still did not have the tongue to ask it. She was reassured, in the very least that nobody was in danger. Still blinking the nightmare from her mind, she didn't answer him for a moment... part of her wanted to crawl beneath her blankets again, but there was no way she could sleep now. Atop that, her room felt frigid and her head beginning to ache. "Perhaps some tea," she finally answered, softly. Coming to her feet, she pulled the robe snug to belt it about her waist then re-folded her arms, protectively across herself.

She didn't look well at all in spite of her words. He was over to fold her up into his arms again offering warmth and even the feel of security within them. "You are cold. I don't know why your room is cold," easing enough and around to her side in guiding her out to the bar. Low lights burned there enough to see of course and it was a lot warmer though the room was far larger. Seeing her situated on a stool first before he was around to the tender's side to fix her a cup of tea with a bit of the medicinal herbs in it.

Indeed it was almost an unnatural chill that had swept her room, sinking into the bones and difficult to shake. She was wordless with gratitude at the hug, pressing into his arms with eyes closing briefly. He was comfortingly warm and solid, and kind, nothing like the dream villain at all. Allowing herself to be led out into the dim warmth of the tavern commons, she sat upon the stool, submissive as a lamb. The nightmare was already beginning to shred into disjointed pieces but it was the raven that remained intense, its eye still upon her as it flew up and away and she gave a shudder.

He was eyeing her the whole time. As much as he knew Maggie at this point, and certainly not intimately, she was not one to cower, to pale, nor be shaking or submissive as a lamb. "Whatever nightmare you had it was not of the ordinary type, but one that usually has a hold in the Otherworld and needs to be addressed. I know, I was once cursed." Words lowering as he added, "Not that I'm any expert but you are more shook up than I've ever seen you." He added a little potcheen to the hot brew as it cured all ills so went the song on it. He was back over to set it in front of her, "It's pretty hot yet."

"Otherworld?" She echoed, uncertainly. Reminding herself to be calm, to not give herself nor anything else away... but even so she could not deny the truth of his words... she felt like a quaking child, not her usual self at all. Long-lashed eyes fell away from his gaze as she absorbed his words of being cursed. "Thank you.." she said first when he set down the tea. Wrapping her hands gingerly around the hot ceramic. "It was only a nightmare.." Was she telling him this, or herself? She murmured it so difficult to say. Eyes lifted to find his again. "Did you have such dreams, when you were cursed?"

He was eyeing her in that way, surprised she had not heard of the Otherworld. "Aye, a dark place mostly." At least to his knowledge although there could be better ones too. As there was always two sides to a coin. Smile came for the thank you as she was certainly welcome. "You've a past you're hiding, like I was for a long time. I didn't have nightmares per say, living was a nightmare when I was around a lass." He wasn't sure which was worse, except you could wake from a nightmare. "Do you have anyone that can help you with this?"

His accusation of having a hidden past wasn't meant as an accusation of course, but even so there was a brief spark of the usual Maggie in her eye, a defiant look that faded away as quickly as it had come. Because he was right. Eyes fell away before catching his again, curious and concerned when he spoke of his curse, but before she could ask more about it, he turned a question on her. She shook her head slowly, looking almost lost. "It was only a bad dream...  what could I have to do with the Otherworld?" As for there being anyone to help her, she gave him a faint smile. "I am alone here, you know that." As she had told him briefly about her brother being missing for some time.

"Aye, and I avoided being around a lass as best I could for something terrible would happen to them, or too close for comfort." There were also the humorous things that happened like his split pants and mooning a few as he scurried to pick up the logs he had dropped, after extracting his face from another woman's lap where he fell, face first. There was a slight shrug to her question as he answered, "Maybe you don't have anything to do with the Otherworld, but the Otherworld might have something to do with you. Usually how it works, not many seek it out except those wishing to call on demons and sell their soul for their favors." A hand slid over to cover hers, "I'll help you if I can." Being he was not sure what he would be up against. Maybe they could find her brother too, that was another option.

"It sounds an embarassing curse," said with another faint smile though likely it had been no laughing matter. She listened solemnly to his words of the Otherworld, absorbing them with a shiver of dread to run down her spine. Could he be right, and this nightmare was only a taste of things to come.... her own curse, manifesting itself finally and demanding attention? No, she told herself... no. His touch was reassuring and she gave his hand a gentle squeeze. "Thank you, Matthew... but I'm sure it was only a bad dream. One cannot fight a dream phantom, after all," it was meant as a weak jest but her smile faded, her own words echoing the theme of the dream itself. The raven, cawing insistently, things she could not understand. Her temples pounded to think on it and she gave her tea a testing sip. It was hot still but she welcomed the heat.

"If it is, then there are no worries, if it was not, you know what door to knock on if you need help." Most likely she could knock on any of their doors and get the help she needed though some of them might be more helpful than others could be. "Actually there are ones that can consciously go to that Otherworld and fight the demons." He believed it, although he had not tried it. He was told what to do to get there. "You think you'll be able to go back to sleep tonight?"

She did not answer that aloud, but gave him a warm look of gratitude at his offer, which she fully believed. He was always willing to help others and she knew that included herself... and having that person she could depend upon if needed, was something she valued greatly. She considered his words of going to the Otherworld and fighting demons, knowing she would never seek out such a thing herself. Then glanced up again at his question. "No," she answered bluntly, with the wisp of a wry smile. "But that is no reason why you should not. You have helped me plenty tonight, already." Between waking her from the nightmare, making her tea and simply just being there.

"I will need to as there is much cleaning in the attic. That is an Otherworld in itself." Trying to add some humor but his words were true too. "How about I help you get comfortable on the couch in front of the hearth, get your comforter from your room and sleep out here tonight. Alex will wake you before he opens the tavern. Relax with your drink." For he had added some herbs to help her sleep, ease her mind.

He must have read her mind, for just at that moment she was thinking of how little she desired to return to her room, which was likely still cold and had the feel of the nightmare lingering about it. His suggestion was just the right thing and it earned him another smile, still faint, but genuine. "Aye... that would be better, I think." At least out here she would feel less alone. Perhaps even able to doze off again... as she continued to sip the tea her eyelids were growing heavy, despite her fears of the dream returning the moment her eyes closed.

"Hold onto your tea," fair warning as he was over to scoop her up into strong arms again while wearing that kind of smile, devil take care one. Long strides and he had her across the room to settle her onto the couch. Giving a wink before he was off to collect the comforter from her room. He left the door open because it still had that odd feel to it. Tomorrow he would see about that if it hadn't washed away with the morning's light. Such things usually did. A few minutes later he was back with the blanket to place about her so she could snuggle in.

A blink, and she just barely managed to put her free hand over the tea to prevent splashing, as she was scooped up into his arms. Chuckling just a bit at his wink and mischevious air, she settled into the couch once deposited there, the cushions smushy and warm in front of the hearth. Probably why she tended to nap on this same couch on occasion. A glance up when he returned and she nestled the blanket about her shoulders. "Thank you, Matthew. You're a good friend." Yes, Maggie could be a flirt with men, but she was entirely genuine at this moment and so was her smile. His small kindnesses meant more to her than he probably would ever realize.

He considered them friends and hoped she called on him if she needed. Acting sort of like her surrogate brother, he leaned in with a press of a kiss to her cheek and reassuring words. His scent of sandalwood and peat. "You'll be all right."

He was being so sweet, it stung her eyes with tears for a moment which were quickly blinked away. Her face tilted up to accept the kiss, and a hand lifted briefly to lay against his cheek in return. I hope so, she thought to herself at his words, but instead said again, softly, "Thank you."

Tempt the man, tilting her face in such a way that kiss near landed on her lips. Lifted so close as he spoke, and didn't he almost lean in again that would have them upon a lip cushion. Plush, plump, most likely sweet to the taste and his mind blanking out that hers found his so close before he abruptly pulled up. "You are most welcome." Hard to tell what was going on in his mind but it became a steel trap. "I will see you in the morning."

Ironic then, that she ws tempting him now... at a time when she was vulnerable and subdued and not at all her flirtacious bouncy self. Even so, there was that moment when he went still and quiet, and she was suddenly very aware of his proximity, eyes blinking open to see his lips only a hair's breadth away... it almost seemed as if he was leaning in, and she found herself holding her breath, heart missing a beat again though not from fear, this time. Eyes dragged up to seek his but at that moment, he stood suddenly. The moment had passed so quickly she even wondered whether she had imagined it all. Her response delayed by only half a second, "Aye... yes." He looked almost withdrawn but she offered a soft smile nonetheless, almost an unsure one. "Good night.."

He came that close to being rightfully slapped! Last thing he wanted was yet another woman's hand print on his face. He had a collection thanks to his previous curse. Whatever held him eased as seen in the softening of the line of his shoulders. A smile to follow before he was around and heading back to his room before saying something stupid, there was always that chance! He left his door ajar just in case she needed his help.

And he left her with yet something else to puzzle on! Though it would not be for long, as the tea began to kick in, accelerating her drowsy state to a near-asleep one. Eyes already closing as she finished the last sip and set the cup aside, easing down sideways to lay on the couch, curled up in her fluffy blanket. She fought it for a few moments, afraid that sleep would suck her to that other place once more... but when she did surrender to slumber, it would be a black dreamless one that carried her all the way until morning.

Date: 07-24-10
Poster: Brogan Frasier
Post # 2

Getting to Know You

The late morning light found Maggie stepping into the commons from her rooms in the back. The barmaid tended to sleep later than most, simply because her hours each evening also ran late, and the morning rarely required much waiting service. Her routine was to rise in time to catch the breakfast leftovers from Hazel, eat slowly and lounge around a bit with a book or some other to-do task, and by afternoon she would be in full cleaning mode before the bulk of guests arrived for dinner. And so she was still in breakfast/lounging mode, sans apron and with her hair allowed to tumble freely about her shoulders, for once. Only the shorter strands around her brows were pinned back to one side with a jeweled silver clasp. She wore a dress of cherry red that gave a splash of color to the tavern, its sleeves snug to her elbows, the bodice also form-fitting until flowing out from her hips in a swirl of skirts. She sat at one of the many empty tables, a half-full plate before her. She nibbled on some toast but much of her focus was on the book in her other hand. No, not the book itself... the pieces of paper that she had discovered acting as a bookmark. A letter that transported her to another place and time entirely.

Brogan's hours were similar to Maggie's. The Casino opened up in the afternoon but it was the evening that became busy. Extremely busy on the weekends after ones got paid. Of course they had that rule, that any one person could not bet their life savings or greater possessions away. A watch thrown into a deal, even a horse, but not tracks of lands and all their monies. The last thing Brogan needed was disgruntled wives or family members coming after him. It was more a family oriented, for fun, casino. Although those under eighteen were not permitted to bet even if they were allowed in the casino to watch. It was the smell of food, good food, that had Brogan getting up earlier than his usual hour and down to get some of that breakfast from the buffet laid out. He made it just in time before the kitchen maids started taking what was left away. Eggs, maple cured sausages, bacon and some hash browns were piled on a plate along with a Danish and blueberry muffin which were balanced as he got one of the larger size mugs to fill with coffee. Flavored with vanilla there was no need of a sweetener nor milk. These he took over to the nearest table to set. Hair was a little mussed for having rushed but his clothes were impeccable. Tailored vest of black with silver Aztec design along the edge dressed it up. Pants were black as well the low cut boots he favored. He noted Maggie across the way as with the French charm, as he was both French and Scotts, "Oui, mon mademoiselle, vous êtes aussi beau que la première lever du soleil. Would you care to join me?" Eyeing the book a moment as if he could read its title from that distance. Unfortunately he didn't have the eyesight of the Elves.

Maggie looked up quickly when Brogan began speaking, having not even noted him walk in. A smile began... but when he spoke in French, she lit up like the purest sunshine. "Tu parles francais?" She had had to learn the language of noblemen in Court, and had cultivated the skill since, for much great poetry was written in the language. "Merci beaucoup pour la hommage. J'aimerais me joindre a tu." She was beaming as she closed her book, tucked it beneath her arm and then lifted her plate to walk over to his table. Pulling out a chair for herself and casting him a smile. "You best beware or I shall be chattering away to you in French all the time. I have missed speaking it."

"Oui, on occasion as when in Rome.." smile warmed quickly across his features that brightened the darker green eyes a touch lighter. He had not taken his seat so pulled out the chair next to him for her to take as she took hold as well. Hands almost touched and that lighter green darkened a moment with the thought. There and gone followed by a smile as he would see to tucking her seat in as she sat. He knew the ways of the court. "You speak fluently in a way you must have spent time in France too?" Not wishing to assume but obviously she had that kind of contact. "I would not mind for it is one of the most beautiful languages just in the way spoken, oui? There are at last two Frenchmen here that perhaps you will run into. My mother was French. I've been to France to see to her estates after her passing. I was left a good amount of land but the French do not like so much one that is half Scotts." Taking his seat as the first thing he went for was the coffee. After a good drink he ate a good portion of his breakfast before it got cold.

She was not oblivious to the way his hand almost brushed hers and how it made him pause, but she thought nothing of it, seating herself with a smile of thanks for his manners. "Alas, non, I have never been to France. But I learned it..." instead of naming a place, she finished, "I learned the language some time ago. I do love speaking it, and hearing it spoken." She had that faraway look in her eye when he mentioned having been to France. "You have been! What was it like? I hear that the women there are the leaders in fashion, and wear all manner of fabulous cloths and accessories... And that the men are as fluent in flattery as they are their own language." She gave him a rakish smile. "I understand your skill better now." She was referring to the way he had lavishly complimented her last night.

"You learned it from one that was French?" Otherwise he'd be hard pressed to believe she learned it from one that had learned it. She spoke it too well. He noticed she didn't mention where, and he almost asked but instinct held his tongue. For now. "France is a beautiful land and most everyday people worth getting to know but many French feel they are better than others and treat those not French with disdain far too often. They do not make friends much of other lands." The last had him outright laugh, "so it is my French heritage over my Scottish then, lass?" And the brogue came effortlessly as had the flow of the French earlier. "I could tell how you'd look with your hair tossed by the winds o'er the moors with the heather about your feet and the sunlight upon your sweet features. The dew on the green no sweeter than thee and the mountain flowers pale in comparison."

"Aye, from one who had spent the first half of her life in French court." She was quiet a moment, remember the Lady Mary. Such a misleadingly innocent name for the imperious young woman. Maggie wondered briefly what Mary's life was like now. Likely the same as it was before, full of balls and galas and other frivolities.... and bossing around whomever had replaced Maggie. Which was why she laughed at his assessment of the French. "Aye, they seem quite skilled at that air of disdain." Mary had been able to turn up her nose quite prettily. Maggie trailed off when he went on in more of a brogue, which brought a smile easily to her lips and even the faintest tinge of a blush to her cheeks. Which was not easy to do, but perhaps it was simply the way he had spoken it. "Are you a writer of poetry then, as well?"

"If what I say sounds like prose it is only because I am inspired by the woman here before me. To claim being a poet, I fear will fall short miserably unless you were to be in my presence always." Which a wink was added to as well the quirk of a smile. "So you have not been to France but have been taught by a Lady of the French Court. It would follow that you have been raised in a court or at least for a while to speak it so perfectly. Do not fret, I will not give away any secrets if a secret it be." And his words had been lowered to a almost a whisper so that even Alex would not hear. Once, a time ago, he had been a different man but the man who sat aside her was one she could trust, it was there in his eyes, there in the feel about him. He had become a true Frasier. What a true Frasier meant, that would be something she would have to discover.

"Hm.." She pretended to entertain the idea quite seriously. "Does it pay well, being your personal muse?" But her blue eyes were dancing as they raised back to him. The conversation moved on to another area, one which had her shifting in her chair, one leg crossing over the other. "No, it is no secret... it is simply that I do not speak of it often. People rarely ask it of me." Beyond the niceties of Where are you from, what do you do, she hadn't encountered many who wished to know more than that. But Brogan seemed different. There was a pause as she gathered her thoughts, faint smile quirking her lips. "I was born and spent my childhood as far from a Court as you might imagine. It was a small village in Wales, quite poor, my father was a farmer." Is? Was? She didn't know what tense to use, for she had no idea if he still lived. So moved on instead. "When I was thirteen years old I left, and my brother with me. My parents had too many mouths to feed already." Nowhere near the real reason. But that was one thing which was secret. "We found work wherever we could and eventually landed with a noble family residing in a castle amongst their vast landholdings. We began as a kitchen maid and stable boy, but Richard - my brother - he showed skill with a sword and was taken as squire. The eldest daughter Lady Mary took me as her lady's maid. That is where I learned French, and dancing, among other things."

"Oui and aye, it would pay very well and all the fringe benefits you would wish." Which would imply quite a bit more as he was normal red blooded male. But, here too, it was said in a way not to imply she would seek such fringe benefits of a sexual nature. Certainly that would cross one's mind of experience enough to know what fringe benefits usually consisted of. Then again it could simply be jewelry and finely made gowns. There was a glance down upon the length of leg as she shifted so as would be a natural draw of the eye before lifted away again. He listened to what she had to say instead of other thoughts. This was the real Maggie being revealed and that was worth his attention. "Although dirt poor, do you have fond memories of Wales and your family? Would you like to see them again if only for a visit?" Voicing the thought before moving on to another, "this brother, is he here with you?" If he was, he'd like to meet him.

There was always that pang within her heart, that reflexive sting in her eyes when she thought of her long estranged family. Speaking about them was no different. She was quiet for a moment, but not because she was trying to avoid his question. She honestly did not know how to answer it. Of course it was her dearest wish to see her family again, to know they were alright. But perhaps the feeling would not be mutual. Certainly for the villagers who had looked at her suspiciously... enough to have given her the childish nightmares that sent her on the road. Finally speaking quietly. "I hardly remember them. That village was not the place for me." A breath drawn to answer his other query. "Nay, he did not travel here with me. I haven't seen him in some time." She was glossing over the truth there, but when her eyes lifted again to Brogan, something told her that she could be more honest. "He disappeared while we were staying in a very rough town some distance from here. Likely beaten, or killed, for whatever was in his pockets, but he was never found." Her throat contracted painfully. Richard had been her stupid big brother but he was kind, and fiercely protective, a good man. He hadn't deserved such a fate. Suddenly breakfast did not taste so wonderful as her eyes faltered to her plate.

She was quietly being watched under the scrutiny of green eyes, intelligent ones with that edge of caring, of feeling behind them. "Perhaps it is not, perhaps things have changed. I will offer to take you if you should wish to go, at least observe from the outskirts to see if it has." Perhaps that long pause told him a lot more. Especially for his own background. "If your brother was never found, then he should be. If he is dead then you can mourn but if he is alive and in trouble, you and I can help, if you allow me." He was willing to help her. He knew what it was like to be in a foreign place and finding few who cared enough to help. Not to belittle anyone for many had a lot going on in their own lives. Brogan didn't, not really. He had the Casino but Charles and a couple others trained could run it without him for a while. "There is always hope if you believe in your heart he is not dead. Do not dawdle on something that is not proven to be and upset yourself." A hand moving to lightly rest over hers in a gesture of comforting.

"No." She spoke immediately when he offered to take her to her home village, and more sharply than she had meant to. She curbed her tongue and went on more gently. "No, I have no desire to return, but I thank you for the offer." A soft smile added to say that she meant it. When he went on, her gaze fell again, teeth taking hold of her lower lip. His words had that old fire of hope bursting fiercely into life again, but she squelched it quickly. A slow shake of her head given. "No... if he still lived, he would have come to find me." She knew that to be true in her heart of hearts. "I remained in that town, hoping he would return, but he never did. I do not wish to dwell on the worst, but there is no sense in false hope either, is there." A rhetorical question that she answered herself. Only belatedly did she notice that he had taken hold of her hand, and her eyes fluttered there for just a moment.

He was quick to pick up on treading where he was not allowed. He was sure she had good reasons but that curt no, hit almost as a slap in the face on another level. That was the first stop sign. "I would not be me if I had not offered." Lightening it as he was fairly sure she didn't mean to strike out at him when he wandered to a sensitive part of her background. "Aye, I believe that he would unless he is unable to for some reason. Alive but being held against his will." Still there was the thought, if it was him, he'd want to see the body so knew his brother was dead, not speculating it. That was him. He had finished his breakfast as it was as good as ever. "I have a few things to see to but I shall be back later this afternoon if you are about, and have time, we can continue our conversation or start a new one." Being this last had her upset as the brush of his thumb came in a soothing motion before he lifted his hand away in case that gesture was tabu too.

She hadn't meant to be so abrupt about it... but there it was. And speaking of it further would only make her sad. At a certain point, the only thing left to do was to lift your chin and move on. So she refused to allow even a glimmer of hope when he suggested he might still be alive. Instead putting a smile back on her face as he began to make his leave. "Aye, I will be here. I am sorry to have begun your day with such a dark topic of conversation.." but he had asked.

"Not at all. I enjoyed our conversation but maybe we shall talk of other things when I return, oui?" Smile was sincere as the scrape of the chair's legs herald him rising to stand. "Bring back the sunshine when it has set upon my return." Which was in a discreet way asking she not be gloomy over this last bit and that there was the promise (as much as one could as predicting fate was a dangerous thing) the conversation would be on other topics. He stalled there, dark green eyes upon her lovely features as in an impulsive moment, hand lifted to graze his fingertips along her jaw. He didn't wish to see a frown there. It only lasted one of those moments that seemed to be suspended in time before he was around with a wave to Alex. "Let Hazel know her cooking remains superb!" He was soon out the side door leading to the street.


"Oui. Nous allons parler d'autre chose, les choses hereux." She replied in French as the smile crept back in to suffuse her features, an expression much more common for Maggie than frowns. Even when that frown might remain in her heart. Something shifted in her eyes when he paused to look down upon her, and ran his fingers down her cheek. It had been some time since anyone had touched her in such a way, a tender way. It stalled her breath a moment as his fingers left a trace of warmth along her face. When he stepped back, the smile returned, on a softer note. "Until later, then," she called out as he made his leave swiftly. Her eyes lingered on the side door even after. Women, too had stirrings and desires that teased when left unfulfilled. After a moment she shook herself out of it, and rose, bringing her plate over for Hazel. She would begin cleaning straightaway today, rather than waste time on idle endeavors. The hard work would serve to keep mind and body busily occupied.

Later that Evening...............

Brogan rode in after eating with the whole of the Frasiers living in Falkirk. It was like going to a banquet, children running around, mothers after then to behave. The men gathered in a spot as far away from the commotion as possible. He mostly talked with Neale, Danny and Robert as they rattled off the names of children as he had to ask again, knowing well he would not remember all those names. Dismounting outside the Thistle as the noise level still bounced around in his head and the crying of a child the most annoying he discovered. This one did that to the other and no one could be really sure who was telling the truth or not. It finally calmed down after the younger ones were sent to bed and Brogan, by that time, just needed to escape so gave his farewells and rode off in a gallop. Even the Casino was never that loud or more it was not that kind of noise. Hands swept over his clothing to dust away any trail debris when he remembered something. Getting the bunch of cultured flowers grown in the gardens of Falkirk as he was shown by Hannah and Kathleen, their pride and joy. Cut flowers and so he got some to take back. The stems wrapped up in a wet cloth and outer oilskin to keep them fresh until they could be put in water, preferable in a vase. So he headed up the steps and continuing right on in bearing a bouquet of flowers in his hand.

Maggie had kept herself busy since Brogan had left earlier. Their conversation had been good, in a way; it was good for her to speak about those things, rather than keep them always buried. She knew that instinctually, but that didn't make the memories any easier. She could almost be angry that the man had stirred doubts within her, doubts dating back to the decision made to leave when she was only thirteen; after all, if she had stayed put, Richard would still be alive. She knew that Brogan had only been concerned... but even so the afternoon had been a battle against her overactive mind. At this moment, the physically hard work of mopping kept her busy. She stood in the center of the empty common room, all of the chairs put up on the tables to make her job easier. A mop in her hands and a bucket nearby, and the whole room smelling lemon fresh. Of course, a wet floor was also a slippery floor.... at the sound of the door, Maggie glanced up, but her greeting came out hurriedly as a warning. "Oh Brogan, watch out, it's - " She never got to finish her sentence as the man's next step would have his foot slipping out from under him, and either he'd have to windmill his arms for balance or crash to the floor outright. Oh no! Maggie would hurry over - well, as much as she could without slipping and sliding herself.



Date: 07-24-10
Poster: Brogan Frasier
Post # 3

That step had him sliding. The quick windmill of his arms first sent that wrapped bouquet airborne and heading her way. Luckily he had good balance and didn't end up on the floor as he managed to catch the edge of a solid table to halt the descend. "I think you need to barricade the door when mopping." He was going to be feeling it tonight unless he could find himself a masseuse.

"Oh, I'm so sorry..." Her mop held in one hand almost helping her to balance as she made her way over, though paused when she nearly stepped on the bunch of flowers lying damp and slightly squashed on the floor. She bent carefully to pick them up before going over to him. "You dropped your flowers," as she offered them back to him. At the moment she wasn't thinking clearly enough to wonder why the man was carrying flowers about... she was more concerned with that slip of his. "Are you alright?" Head tilting as she peered up at him. She had pinned her hair back for work, only a few strands tumbling about her face. A half apron about her waist now atop the same cherry red dress of before.

"Actually they are for you, compliments of the Falkirk gardens." Which had him pause as he straightened in a way to see if anything was pulled badly or not. "You do like flowers?" There was enough of them that the few broken could be taken out. Daisies, black-eye susans, carnations, glads mixed in with wild baby's breath and ferns. He was hesitant to move as he looked over the floor surrounding them, "how long will it take to dry?" Figuring he would stay there until it dried at this point.

"For me?" He would have the pleasure of seeing that look of surprise come over her features, followed by a sunny smile. "Of course, I love flowers." She even brought them to her nose to breath deep of their perfume. "Thank you." She followed his gaze around then laughed at his question. "You needn't stand here 'til then. Come..." Taking his hand to guide him to move slowly forward. "I left a bit of a dry path just in case anyone came in." And indeed there was a narrow trail leading towards the bar, though it wasn't perfect, and a small slip herself had her laughing as the arm holding mop and flowers spread out for balance.

"Oui, but it was not how I had hoped to present them," a chuckle rising and then a wince as he could feel the pull in his shoulder as he moved again. "You are welcome." Not saying that maybe they would make up for bringing up things of her past that caused her sorrow. "I still think we need to alert anyone coming in before they get in," his hand much larger and calloused, as he did a lot of hard work besides running the Casino, engulfing hers within his as she showed him the path. "At least I can drink of the potcheen medicinally now." Giving her a wink and nearly got the top of the mop in his face.

"Oh, sorry..." She'd been listening to him speak rather than paying attention to what the unwieldy mop was doing, and she had to hastily move it away when it nearly socked him in the face. "Perhaps I'll pin up a note," said in reply to his worries about others that might meet his same fate. A chuckle at his comment of potcheen, "Aye... are you certain you're alright?" She would deposit him safe and sound at the bar before moving to look for something to put the flowers in.

"I could use a massage of my shoulders," knowing well he would be feeling it there come morning if not anywhere else. Her hand released as they reached the bar and he to take up a seat as she wandered off. Alex already had a glass filled for him and left the bottle. The first shot was kicked back with another to follow and another before he left the next fill set on the bartop. "Have you been working the whole time I was gone? Or did you head for the lake for an hour or so to cool off like many had this day?" He had taken a ride by there.

She gave him an impish look over her shoulder at his 'massage' comment, wondering if it was a subtle ploy to get her to play masseuse. Then she found an old unused vase on a shelf, blowing the dust off before filling it with water and pushing the stems of the flowers inside. The vase would then be set on the bar as she went about plucking here and trimming there, arranging the bouquet back to life. "Aye, I have not left the tavern yet today," she admitted. "I'm certain the weather was much nicer at the lake, is that where you went?"

While she was getting the vase then arranging the flowers, he kneaded his shoulder with his other hand, working out the pull in the muscle. "The lake first before I headed out to Falkirk in Ballicastle. I think I counted at least fifteen children running about that belonged there. There were a number more over to visit and play. It's a good thing the place is as big as it is. A small castle. The dinner was superb but then Hannah, Shiloh and Kathleen can cook, so does Lisette and they have young Ellyn helping them," which he promptly ended there being he realized Maggie would not have a clue of those he spoke on.

No, she didn't recognize a single name out of the lot... but she got the idea. The imagery made her chuckle again, "It sounds rather chaotic. Is that why you returned here, for a bit of a soothing drink?" She guessed sagely as she had noted him kicking those few shots back in a row. While she spoke she was scrawling something on a bit of paper, and she crossed the room again, carefully following her own dry path to pin the note to the outside of the building right next to the open door. Though hopefully with that breeze coming in, the floor would soon be dry. Maggie went back to the center of the room to collect her bucket of wash water, carrying it over to the side door to dump into the garden. Though even as she moved around she was glancing back at him in case he replied, not wanting to be rude.

"Aye, and some ice skating but that came as a surprise." Teasing her with a wink. "For being chaotic, the ladies seemed to be in control. If that makes sense, controlled chaos?" Definitely an oxymoron. He had to twist around as she moved about to keep facing her instead of having his back. "Woman, come and sit down for a spell."

That first made her laugh. "The only ice skating we'll get for many months. And aye, it makes some sense," affably agreeing with a smile before leaning out the side door to dump the water out to sink into the thirsty soil. His command had her turning back around more slowly, a dark brow arching ever so eloquently. "And what makes you think that I will obey your barked commands, sir?" Of course she wasn't really offended but she made a good show of pretending to be, even placing her free hand on her hip challengingly.

"Because I would enjoy your company," the tone he had said it in was more out of frustration trying to keep a conversation going while she was around and about, in and out. Patting the stool next to him. "But of course, if you wish not my company, continue walking about doing things as you are." Here he paused with a wicked bit of a smile. "Had you not wounded me, I would whisk you away in dance."

She held that indomitable pose only a moment before relenting with an easy smile, and moving back over to the bar once more - carefully. She perched herself on the stool he had just patted. "If you did so, we would both be wounded," she teased with a glance sweeping about the still-shiny floor. "Very well, you have my company as bidden. Now you must entertain me." She seemed back to her usual mischievous self, the contrast from earlier. Eyes which were so very blue were dancing.

"Unless you know how to dance on ice?" Which he did! Not that she would know but there always remained the possibility she might find out one day. "Entertain? Now there is an idea, I could play some black jack with you and see how good my luck is compared to yours. We can play for peanuts," as there were ones in a bowl on the bar, "or we could play for higher stakes, depending on how daring you are."

"Aye, perhaps I could dance on ice... but whether I succeeded or broke my ankle would all be a matter of luck, I feel." Brow quirked at the suggestion of black jack and she chuckled. "Oh, I am rubbish at cards so the stakes would have to be very low indeed." She asked Alex for a glass of water, all the cleaning she'd done sparking a thirst. Then she regarded Brogan a moment, head canting lightly to one side. "Tell me more of yourself. I spilled my all earlier, it is only fair..." Though her light smile assured him that if he didn't wish to share, she wouldn't be angry.

"Of course when on ice, one is far more bundled up and padded, prepared to take a fall without incident." There was that plus side to it. He paused a moment in wondering what there was to tell of his life. "I came here many years ago, a struggling lad trying to fit in. A disgruntled, dissatisfied young man. I chased after, charmed and bedded many a lady," he didn't go after trash but obviously the ones that got into his bed had looser morals than a true lady. "The more I did this, the more unsettled I became. I feel I disgraced the Frasier name. I caused trouble between cousins that would have accelerated had I stayed. Instead I took off. I had received news that estates had been left to me on my mother's side in France. I didn't know that side of my family, I knew only the Frasier side. There was blackmail, properties and fortunes stolen by my uncles being I had not been there to claim what was mine at first. So I became a Frenchman, worked my way up to their elite society and won what was mine back. I also won the race horse. I found I didn't care to be one of them and entrusted my estate to one I could trust there until they gave up on trying to gain them back or have me killed. I escaped. There is nothing they can do but seethe. It also gave me time away, to get my head together so that when I came back here, I would be a better man, a better Frasier. I had kept in touch with Hannah who seemed to see through the trouble young man I was and gave me a light in an otherwise dark tunnel I had to wade through." So in that he was not only lucky but grateful. "When I came back here and amends made, I opened up the Casino for it seems that such is in my blood. However, I would not see the ruin of any man and those depending on him so we have rules in place to avoid ruining anyone of their hard earned cash. There is no need to be greedy, the Casino does well."

She thanked Alex when he brought her a cup of water before turning full attention over to her companion. A few sips taken before she set the cup down, propped an elbow on the bar, propped her chin in her hand and listened. It was a fascinating tale though not without its own darkness, and she was a good audience. When he finally finished she offered a soft smile. "You were not the first young man to...feel his oats in such a way, nor will you be the last." She offered her understanding unmitigated. Not that it was a lifestyle she much approved of, either, but in the very least she knew him well enough to know that while he had philandered... he would never have forced a woman into anything she didn't want to do. Which set him apart from some. "The French elite are not easy to work one's way into with their touchy pride," she commented as one who knew. After a pause she ventured, "Hannah?" She remembered him mentioning the name before in the context of Falkirk. "Is she your sweetheart?" She did not guess wife as he wore no wedding ring.

There was a lot left out, like some of those adventures along the way but it was getting late and putting it in a nutshell was the better route. "No, but there is a way to feel your oats and another to over indulge." He would have rolled his shoulder but it still hurt. So it had been easy for him to attract women, "I've not really been with a woman since I got back, other than making friends, spending such time platonically." It was not that he became estranged but making up for his ways and went to the other extreme which was natural. He was on his way to that in-between where it would be normal. She was right about not having to force a woman to be with him, there were plenty very willing. "Hannah is my cousin and she is more like a matriarch of the family even if Neale is laird." Which had him chuckle, "I would be so lucky to find a woman like her."

She didn't reply to his words about having not been with a woman... which indeed made her a bit uncomfortable, for some unknown reason. In some ways she was still just a girl though she hid that innocence well with her breezy demeanor and flirtatious comments. A smile returned when he spoke of Hannah. "Aye, they say the woman is the neck that turn's a man's attention where she decides, you know." A wink.

"I would have no complaints on that if she is a good woman with a good head on her shoulders." Which obviously he was holding out for. "So tell me, lovely lady Maggie, do you have a beau or your eye on a special someone?"

"Smartly said, that'll serve you well later should you find such a woman," she offered a brief grin which morphed into an almost shy smile. "Nay, I've no beau. Plenty of friends who are men, but..." she trailed off, thinking better of what she had been about to say and rephrasing it into something lighter. "Well, most men do not look upon me for anything serious, it seems." There was a blithe smile to go along with that.

"Somewhat the same situation I'm in." Which his smile took on more of a smirk. "Plenty of lady friends of which I hope I can count you as one of them," in the least he felt they were establishing a friendship. That he found was very important and anything else worked upon that foundation. "Or maybe they feel they are not adequate enough? Men get intimidated by a woman prettier than the norm."

A bubbly laugh broke free to relieve some of the tension that likely she was only feeling within herself. Even tapping his arm in playful reprimand. "You do have a way of flattering, but I do not think that is the reason. I suppose men don't see me as a... marriageable sort." Eyes moving to the ceiling with a mocking gesture of her hand. Though her smile was quick to return as she became genuine. "And aye, of course you can count me amongst your friends, if I may do the same."

"I would think them blind for in the very least, their home would be kept clean. You'd probably have a brew of children," not adding that she seemed built to have children, which was a compliment. He caught her hand up in both of his as he placed a kiss upon its back. One that lingered and lingered a touch more as green eyes looked up at her from beneath his brows. They were smiling if eyes could indeed smile. Those little creases at their corners to crinkle a moment before his lips lifted away and her hand gently released. "I am pleased as well pleased to have had the opportunity to talk again this evening. The night grows older and I am not the young man that could stay up all hours and remain awake."

"Oh aye, it would be clean right up until that brew of children ransacked the place," which made her laugh again. It wasn't something she had really thought of before, children of her own. The idea was daunting but not entirely unappealing... her thoughts were derailed when he unexpectedly caught up her hand and placed a kiss upon it, the moment seeming to last a dizzyingly long time. She was aware of her pulse quickening... he certainly knew how to be a charmer, a thought she kept to herself this time. Instead recovering herself with a smile when he straightened. "You are not so old. But I'll bid you goodnight and sweet dreams nonetheless. Perhaps.. you'll be around again in time?"

"I'm staying here a few days until I decide what I want to do, to go see. I may consider taking a trip back to France in disguise to see my friend and the situation." They would not be expecting him after so many years. "The estate has its charm, centuries that speak down the dusty hallways, furniture with white cloths over them as ghostly sentinels witnesses of time. I will be breaking fast here again tomorrow." That much he knew. Instead of setting a strict course of his time off, he was letting fate lend her hand. Rising then with a dip of his head as eyes kept upon her. "Sleep sweet while the angels watch over you." A hand lifting to capture a length of fiery hair between thumb and forefinger as if weighing the quality and smoothness as he let it draw through as he lowered his hand again. There was something about a woman's crown of glory that attracted him. One of the things he indulged in before, running his fingers through such hair or combing it through knowing the woman enjoyed that pleasure. He shook off his thoughts with a smile in their place. Time to go as he gave a wave to Alex then headed for the hall and stairs.

She had to bite her tongue to stop herself from compulsively asking him to take her along with him to France. That would have been her lifelong imaginations of traveling the world and seeing all its sights speaking, and a rash voice at that. A bright smile jumped to her lips when he said he would be staying. "Perhaps I will see you again at breakfast tomorrow then." His fingers caught a tendril that dangled near her temple and even brushed her skin, sending warmth flowing from that spot and visibly into her cheeks, turning them nearly as crimson as her dress. Blue eyes flicked up to meet his while he held that gaze, a mix of the innocent and the sultry found there, though she was unaware of the latter. Her farewell coming delayed when he moved away. "Aye, and you as well." And if Alex was making any sort of face at the exchange, Maggie wouldn't even notice. She'd go back to her chores with a light smile on her face.

Brogan would be left with that image to fill his dreams. Certainly they would be interesting.

Date: 07-29-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 4



Matthew was upstairs now that any of the guests staying were up and gone. A few doors wouldn't open down the far end. Rooms seventy two, seventy three and seventy four. Discovered by the chambermaid Suzette when she tried to access the rooms to dust and freshen the linen. Being they were not used they were only checked biweekly. It was one more chore that took precedence over him getting to the attic. First was the need to chop wood and re-stack the wood pile that seemed to have spilled down one side. Next there was a leak through the porch roof that had not been there. Seemed someone messed around with the shingles, loosened a few of them up which he had to replace. Very suspicious it was not an act of nature. A leak in the kitchen sink where he found the washer and bolt had been loosen. Nothing major but a number of things piling up needing immediate attention and not taking too long. Somehow the hinges were locked up which was very unusual. He had to take each door off and run a certain grease into the sockets before putting the door back on. Something not hard to do but required time. Kind of time that had him putting off doing the attic chore. At this point, Matthew was starting to become suspicious, that instinctive niggling that was saying something was wrong here.

Late morning found Maggie still abed, for sleep had been difficult to come by last night. Her thoughts had inevitably kept returning to the time spent with Brogan yesterday, a few moments which stood out. It had occurred to her that it was possible he was interested in her.... romantically, beyond the usual flirtations she exchanged with men. His comments made of seeking a wife, those little touches to her hand and face, the flowers... and she tried to think about it very practically. He was a handsome man, older than her but there was certainly nothing wrong with maturity. He seemed responsible and owned a successful business. All in all it would be a good match... but she hated that she was dissecting it in this fashion and shook off the voice of Lady Mary and all the other ladies of court as she tossed and turned. When finally she woke it was not due to the sunlight which was beginning to bake her room, but a low growling noise, and the sounds of something ripping. She blinked, pushed herself off the pillows with an elbow, looked around the room... and let out a gasp. "Oh, no. Oh, no!" There was her new golden retriever puppy in the center of the room, gleefully ripping the stuffing out of a pillow, and she was surrounded by the tattered remains of other such 'projects'. A squeal echoed as she jumped out of bed. "Gilligan, NO! Bad!"

Matthew paused as his mind was a million miles away with his wandering thoughts. A pause in using the hammer to replace a bit of the stripping as his eyes were drawn to the stairs a short distance away leading up to the Attic. For a second there, he thought he saw something, someone, but then he heard a muffle voice coming from below in the staff's quarters. Not quite directly below. He shook it off and continued to finish up the door. His stomach rumbled as he realized he'd skipped breakfast for the frantic Suzette that she would not be able to get her duties seen to in time for she had her routine and didn't like deviating from it. Helping her out, said if she left her dust rag and polish, he would see to them after fixing the doors.

"Bad puppy! Bad!" Maggie reprimanded the golden sternly, with a frown and pointing finger, but the indomitable Gilligan barely took any notice. She just looked up from her chewing a moment wagged her tail as if quite pleased with herself. She would've diligently returned to her gnawing had Maggie not scooped her up outright and marched her to the door. Maggie's door swung open a moment only long enough to deposit the puppy outside it. "Sit. Stay. Right there." The barmaid didn't know what else to do! With the rampaging puppy in the room she'd never get those things out of the way. A harrumph sounded and the door shut, leaving Gilligan sitting there, looking perplexed but not perturbed. Soon she would begin looking around for something else to occupy herself with. Maggie, in the meanwhile was cleaning everything up. That pillow was ruined, as well as two different shoes, even a corner of her rug was slobbery and ragged... she would have to make some toys for the pup if she didn't want her entire room chewed to pieces.

One door done, another leaning against the hallway wall as he decided he better eat something or become too distracted he hit his thumb with the hammer or some other unfortunate accident. Taking the stairs that would lead down to the kitchen as the staff had a table there if they were not in Hazel's way, to eat at or get something to bring to the lounge. Hazel eyed him that he was just getting around to breakfast when it was near noon. Matthew had that sheepish look with a slight shrug of his shoulders, she knew why, this emergency or that came up as she fixed him up a heaping plate and a mug of coffee to go. She was starting on the dinner entrees and so he would not linger where he would probably get in the way, the look told him as much even if she somewhat fussed that he hadn't eaten until now. He was quick to take his plate and mug down the hall, passing a pup which had him blink. The smell of food had the puppy following him to the lounge. Matthew never knew what to expect in the tavern from one day to the next.

Maggie wrinkled her nose as she picked up a particularly slobbery piece of fabric and threw it into her rubbish bin. The room would require complete puppy-proofing later... but for now she needed some food before she became faint. Quickly stripping out of her nightgown, she threw it across her bed and pulled a dress from her closet at random. It ended up being the lilac cotton dress with capped sleeves, lightweight for the weather. She pulled it on, slipped her feet into a pair of brown leather slippers that had NOT been mauled, and stepped out into the hall, not bothering with her hair. It was free to tumble about her face and shoulders in all its silky, though somewhat mussed, glory. She blinked when she found the hall empty, sans dog, then narrowed her eyes when she heard nails tapping down the hall around the corner. "Gilligan...." a warning tone as she quickly jogged out to the lounge, but she hadn't expected a human and nearly bumped into Matthew! A hand quickly going out to steady the plate he held so as not to spill his food. "Oh! Matthew. Sorry... she's not bothering you, is she?" With a glance down to the puppy who was looking up at them oh so innocently.

"Mother of.." when he got run into and nearly lost his plate, a sausage rolling off the side which the pup immediately devoured so it couldn't be taken from her. "No, not at all, she seems to be hungry," but then pups and dogs for that matter, were always hungry. Coffee sloshed on his hand but only a small amount as he moved over to the table to set all and wipe up his hand with the cloth napkin. "So, she is your puppy?" He had to chuckle as he took a seat. "I've more than enough to share with her."

"Gilligan!" A beleaguered sigh as the puppy gulped down the sausage in record time then sniffed around for more. A hand raked her hair back out of her eyes, an aggravated gesture before giving him an apologetic look. "She shouldn't be hungry, she ate half of my room this morning," wryly stated before grabbing Gilligan up beneath her arm to follow him to the lounge. "Aye, she's mine, Eddie McAndrews gave her to me. And she is a handful." That last was directed reproachfully to Gilligan herself, who merely lolled her tongue out and tried to wiggle free. "I'm sorry about your sausage, shall I get you another?"

"No, that's fine I had five," they were the small breakfast sausages. About the length and thickness of a finger. "Ah, only half?" Smile swept in place as eyes lit up. "He or she? is looking for quality food like only Hazel cooks." Which he was sure she had scraps for the pup from the left over breakfast fare. "Usually the ones that are the handful are the ones that wiggle their way into your heart and end up the best of pets." Through the trail of many aggravations, but he didn't add that part. Just the smile and glint in his eyes.

That made her laugh, despite this morning's frustrations. "I don't think her taste buds are that discerning, she ate shoe leather with gusto." Maggie set Gilligan down to sniff around the floor, then seated herself across from Matthew. She smiled wryly at his last comment. "Aye, into my heart and into my closet too." Blues lifted to meet his and that glint in his eye made her smile genuinely, overflowing into a laugh, because he was right. She already adored Gilligan despite her skills of causing trouble. "So it looks as if you are eating breakfast but it's already lunchtime. Have you been kept busy this morning?"


"I don't think dogs have any tastebuds with the way they inhale food. I wonder if the smell is what sates them long before it is eaten. Otherwise there is no time unless acutely sensitive in that fleeting iota of a second they get to taste and enjoy. The fact the pup acts like they had just not eaten a thing, kills that theory." And who sat there, eating his breakfast and offering the pup bits of this and that. Taste of scramble eggs, hash browns and another piece of a sausage. He was getting his fingers licked as at least Gilligan took them from his fingers like a lady. Then getting back to the problems of this morning, "aye, Suzette found the doors not locked but stuck of rooms seventy two through to four. I had to take them off their hinges it was if they were rusted shut and no sign of rust at all. Seems there has been these oddity of repairs needing attention. Ever since I got the list of things to do and one of them is to clean out the attic."

"Or, they just don't care what they eat so long as it fills their belly." Settling herself in one of the armchairs, she watched with a wry smile as Matthew fed her bits off his own plate. "Thank you very much, now you are spoiling her, and making me into the villainess since I refuse to feed her off my plate." She was only teasing, of course. At least Gilligan wasn't snapping Matthew's fingers clean off. "She is acting polite for you." The smell of Matthew's food was beginning to make her stomach grumble, and she stood as he spoke. Pausing though at what he said, brows furrowing some. "That's odd.... I'll be right back, I'm famished." Off she went to sweetly beg a plate of leftovers from Hazel. She flashed the busy cook a megawatt smile of thanks and soon returned to the back lounge with her own meal, a mixture of breakfast and lunch foods, scrambled eggs and a cheese sandwich and some salad. She sat down with the plate on her lap and began to munch even as she turned back to him. "Do you think it's connected somehow, the repairs and the attic?" Though she had no idea how they could be linked.

"That's my job, feed the pets and then leave them to their owners," giving her a wink as he finished the Phd plate (piled high and deep) with the help of his apprentice. "Aye," was all he got out in confirmation it was odd as he watched her head out for food. Of course Gilligan's paws were skidding along the polish floor as she tried to run after her, took a few seconds like she had to work up to a certain speed before her body followed. He took to drinking down his coffee which had cooled down to a temperature that wouldn't burn his tongue. "I just finished a plate and seeing yours is making me hungry again!" As she was quickly back, although not enough to have anything more to eat. By this time the pup was all paws, tripping over itself to land by Maggie's feet in the hope of a repeat performance. He took on a concerned serious look now that he was actually asked he nodded his head. "Odd as it seems and maybe I'm just overworked but I think there is. Like there is something," forefinger up as he pointed to the ceiling in emphasis, "up there that doesn't want me invading its territory." He paused, one of those dead silent pauses in indecision then making a choice to say something, "I swear I saw something on the upper steps leading up there, but I'm sure it was only a shadow or kind you think you caught out of the corner of your eyes."

"Oh, for goodness sake Gilligan," as the puppy tangled herself around Maggie's legs and halfway beneath her skirts. "See the monster you've created," she told Matthew and decided to try ignoring the puppy, to see how that tactic worked. Since Matthew had said he was hungry again, she held out her plate in an offer to share, and went quiet when he began speaking. He sounded unusually solemn, and she listened attentively in return. Her gaze followed his pointing finger up towards the attic unseen above and when he spoke of seeing something there, an uninvited shiver passed down her spine. "Do you think... it could be a... spirit of some kind? A ghost?" She was reluctant even to say it aloud. A pause was given, her face all wide blue eyes, but then she suddenly gave him a look. "Or are you just trying to scare me?"

The poor pup was salivating and the longer she went without getting any tidbits, the more it started to drool down onto Maggie's leg. Matt was trying really hard not to laugh. "You wont need a bath." Then they were back to the serious conversation. "Aye, it could be that or bats in our belfry." Adding humor with a waggle of his brows. "I think I'm going to have to get up there no matter what happens next that would try to demand my time and delays." He gave a rub to the back of his neck when she accused him of trying to scare her. "I'm not making it up but I am speculating, and probably overworked." Which had his hand sliding back down to rest against his thigh.

"Hm?" Confusion passed her features at the comment about a bath, then she followed his eyes down, only to see Gilligan sitting there and drooling on her shoe. "Ugh! Gilli... no, get back, you're not getting any of my food." She moved her legs some to nudge the pup away before turning her attention back to Matthew. "Well, either you need to get more rest... or be very careful when you do go up there." She was giving him a concerned look.

"Aye, and if you hear me holler," but he never got to finish the statement as Suzette rushed into the room grabbing his hand and telling him he needed to come upstairs to see rooms sixty one and sixty two. Apologetic look given Maggie if she had interrupted. "Seems I'm off, I'll catch you later or if you need me, you know where to find me," boyish grin would be the last she saw as he was pulled right out the door. As much a little Suzette could pull a man his size, he had to willingly go along with it.



Date: 08-11-10
Poster: Maggie Callahan
Post # 5

The Nightmare Continues

The sun was warm on her shoulders as she sat on the ground, just outside the cottage. The faded brown of her skirt formed a hammock as she sat cross-legged, and in the hammock was piled several ears of corn. Her fingers were short and a bit clumsy, but she shucked the corn diligently, for Ma had said if she finished soon she could try an oatcake. Ma was baking a batch now, and the smell was so heavenly it made her stomach rumble. Maggie pulled the green sheaves off the corn then began picking off the silk. It wouldn't do to have any loose strands of silk floating about their soup pot.


A sudden strong breeze whipped across the village. She could hear the sound of their neighbor's daughters shrieking as some of their laundry was blown off the line, but her eyes were stung with dust. When she blinked a few times and could finally see again, a smile split her face. There was her big brother walking down the road, returning from the markets two days' walk away. "Richard!" She called out excitedly, waving wildly, but he had a strange empty look on his face. As if he wasn't actually seeing anything around him. Then she noticed that every step he took, snow flurried around his feet. It made no sense, it was summer time, it never snowed in August even here. But the wind blew again, frigid enough to make her shiver.


Something was wrong. She felt it with another chill down her spine, and leapt to her feet, the ears of corn falling with soft thumps to the earth. "Richard," she called to her brother again, and ran towards him, breathless by the time she got there. She reached up to grab his hand; it felt as solid and cold as ice. The moment they touched the world spun dizzily around them. Gone was the village, gone was the sky and the earth, there was nothing solid beneath their feet. Only whipping snow and ice all around, a swirling vortex that sucked all light away. Darker and colder it grew until she could barely see for the swirling frost.


Here, she couldn't speak, or at least when she tried to scream Richard's name, there was no sound. Only a constant howling and whistling of wind that whipped her skirt harshly against her legs. She clung desperately to Richard's hand, but the wind was pulling and sucking at her, until with a soundless scream she felt their fingers slip and she was ripped away. Up and up she was whisked to float suspended in the freezing air, and when she looked down, her brother seemed very small in the eye of this winter storm.


Out of the maelstrom suddenly jumped several small creatures. Creatures? The word was too gentle for these miniature demons. They seemed made completely of ice, all sharp edges, with spikes bristling their entire bodies and wicked claws. They swarmed over Richard like a plague until she could barely see him beneath his coat of snow and ice, but she saw bright crimson blood splash, saw her brother go down. "NO!" She shrieked, but it was only silence, nothing audible above the rising moan of wind. If only she could get down there, she could help him, she could save him. She struggled against the claws of wind that held her suspended, knowing that if she broke free she would fall, and if she fell, at least she could be with Richard...


...The wind was chilly up on the roof of the Thistle Tavern. The breeze rustled the white fabric of her nightgown as she stood, poised near the edge of the roof, body shaking as she fought the faceless foe in her mind's eye. There was nothing but soft air to stop her, in the real world, and yet each step forward was a struggle that made her sweat and strain. She was getting closer, closer to the edge, closer to falling, closer to her brother. Finally she stood balancing on the very edge of the roof, and a deep voice, Richard's voice maybe, was whispering all around or inside her, through the mess of snow and ice and blood. "Jump, you must jump, jump, help me..."


Even Alex was starting to get suspicious as he called out to Matthew who had started up the steps, "Seems Tommy discovered the wood pile is all over the place again." Tommy had that 'I didn't do it' look even if no one suspected him. Nor had any of his buddies. They all liked Alex and the others in the Thistle where they got to earn a good coin doing various odd jobs: seeing to the horses back to the stables and carrying trunks, baggage and packages in for any of the guests staying here as needed. Matthew paused, bucket, mop, dust cloths, cleaners in hand only to turn around and come back down, setting the equipment out of the way as he headed outside. Sure enough, in the back area of the tavern, part of the gardens too, wood laid all over the place which he started to gather up and stack again. One could tell that the new day was on its way this twilight hour. He was an early riser as was Alex and Hazel. Very little light streaked the sky lending it lighter grays that would turn to yellows as the sun rose more. After stacking armfuls he looked around to see if anything or anyone might be in sight to give a clue as to who did this. In that distracted state, something else kicked in that had him glancing skyward and in turned sucked in a breath. At first he thought the Banshee had come attired in white and the face in shadow. Except she wasn't see through and in that next second he realized she was familiar. He rushed to the area beneath where she stood and yelled up. "MAGGIE WAKE UP!!" Loud as he could. The shout had young Tommy coming outside at Alex's bidding and then yelling back inside that Maggie was on the roof edge.

The freezing wind held her trapped, a net of ice and snow as strong as steel. She gasped and sobbed as she fought; if she stopped fighting, the cold would have her, and she would be sucked away again, farther from her fallen brother below. Finally with a begrudging rrrrrrrrip... she tore herself free of the vortex and floated free above the deep, dark gap. She leaned forward, reaching towards Richard, about to let herself go - then suddenly there was a yell. It came from below her, but it wasn't Richard's voice. Confused, she looked all around, blinded by the snow, and disoriented when the entire storm seemed to dissolve around her. No... she couldn't keep grasp of the world, everything was disappearing into blackness, the ice, the monsters, Richard.... Desperately she reached, but in her confusion her body lost its balance. She leaned, and fell, and her arms and legs were suddenly scrabbling at nothingness as she fell off the roof and through the air.

"Mercy," cursed under his breath as Maggie's body was coming down at him fast. He hoped he could catch her and ... wouldn't think beyond that. He braced himself as she was dumped into his arms at a tremendous force. One that broke her fall but threw him back even with the bracing of a foot behind the other. It would have been worse had he not as he was thrown on his back, arms wrapping around her body as they were thrown down, landing on his back with an audible THUD. Knocked the wind out of him.

It was strange, but as she fell, she wasn't falling towards Richard, but getting thrown further and further away from him. She fought against this too, reaching and struggling, and she was still writhing in that moment she hit Matthew's arms. Then there was sudden sharp pain, an impact so forceful it seemed to whip her whole body. The world went from murky twilight to complete and total black and she lay where she fell, tangled up in Matthew's arms or somewhere thereabouts, depending on how they fell.

He had blacked out as well as Alex and Hazel rushed out of the tavern through the kitchen door. All had happened so fast that they only got to see Maggie's body drop into Matthew's waiting arms and the force throwing them both to the ground. Alex scooped Maggie up into his arms from atop Matthew, who then drew in a sharp breath once the weight was off his chest. Groggy as he fought unconsciousness to the conscious world as Hazel was fussing over them, her voice showed her worry, a bit higher pitched and afraid they both had been killed. "C'mon get up Matthew," who was needing her help as he struggled to his feet, swaying a bit but getting stronger every second that went by as they followed Alex into the tavern and to the back lounge where he placed Maggie on the couch. "What in the world was she doing on the roof?" The obvious question first voiced by Alex. Matthew took up a seat, his chest hurt still but he'd be all right. Hazel was quick to get some smelling salts to hopefully revive Maggie as the initial check showed she was alive, just unconscious.

Maggie was limp in Alex's arms, limbs dangling and head lolling as she was carried. She seemed unhurt though her face was milky pale and her skin felt hot to the touch. The group might also have noticed the strange chilly wind blowing outside, though they had gone inside so quickly they might not. There was no more dreaming in that unconsciousness, just black, then something tickled her nose. A strong sharp scent that dragged her back up to the surface, eyes fluttering then opening slowly in the light. Her eyes were very blue but seemed blurry at first as she moved on the couch. "They have him, they have him," she spoke immediately, quietly but with a sense of panic there too. She was looking around the room, recognizing the lounge, but where was Richard?

Alex and Hazel had not noticed the chilly air for how quick they were out and back in. Concern too would block out any inconsistencies. Matthew had noticed it more when Maggie was projected into his arms, those few seconds before of icy cold, not just chilly air. It was part of what sucked his breath away along with getting the wind knocked out of him. He probably saved her life at the risk of his own not that he would look at it that way. He did what he had to do. What any decent person would do under the circumstances. At least the seat he had taken was near the low burning fire in the hearth that gradually warmed away those icy fingers of an unknown force. "You were not awake on the roof, Maggie." His voice gentle as both Hazel and Alex took their leave once she was out of harm's door. They had to get ready for the breakfast crew and Matthew would let them know if anything changed for the worse. "I think you should see the good Doctor Barrington after his incident. You are getting to where it is no longer dreams but your life is in danger. He is an unusual doctor and might be able to help."

Her words trickled away as nobody seemed to heed them. Hazel and Alex left the room and she was gradually beginning to realize that what she had seen... it had been a dream. At least that's how it seemed. "They had him, Richard, they were hurting him. It seemed so real..." This whispered as she squeezed her eyes shut a moment then looked at Matthew again. "The roof? Oh, gods..." she felt sick as it sunk in. She must have sleepwalked up to the roof, believing it to be the way to help Richard, though she had absolutely no memory of this. The only thing she remembered was that voice telling her Jump, jump. Trembling hand pressed to her temples which throbbed and pulsed hotly beneath her fingers.

He didn't disbelieve her and yes, far as Alex and Hazel were concern, and concerned they were, she had been sleepwalking. He leaned forward as eyes met and held. "Something is not right and you need help, what happened a few minutes ago is serious. You would have been dead, whatever is in those dreams tricking you, they want you dead." This he was sure of because he believed her. "You were very icy when you landed in my arms. The deepest of winter's blizzard icy cold and still probably colder. I don't know if Doctor Barrington can help you but he is a mixture of ancient and modern so if anyone can, it will be him or one of the Druids here. Probably because you are here, something playing pranks had me outside so I was able to catch you, break your fall. As I said before, I do think you or we, as I don't think you should go alone, need to find Richard even if it is his body. You need to know. I think then the dreams will stop, or at least we will know more in what is going on."

She met his eyes when he spoke of something.. someone... wanting her dead. The words struck her with a nasty chill, the cold he spoke of still felt deep in her bones. Even though she was feverish now. She would have protested against seeing this doctor he suggested, but the words never rose in her throat. She couldn't say anything... because it was very possible that he was right. She could have leapt to her death tonight believing that she was doing it to save her brother, who was likely dead and had been for months. Maggie felt more lost than ever. Overwhelmed by that helpless feeling and the fear that came with realizing what had happened, tears filled her eyes and she wasn't strong enough to stop them. "You saved me," she realized, speaking it on a soft caught breath, "Thank you.."

There was a wistful smile to follow that didn't cover up his concern while he teased her back as to put a serious situation lightly, "what would I do without your help here if I lost you? They'd have an apron on me delivering food and watering plants besides all my own chores." He was up and over to place the palm of his hand over her forehead, "You've got a fever. I think I should go get you a cup of that special herbal tea."

There was a soft laugh in the midst of her tears at his jest. Eyes flicked up to him when he felt her brow. "It will pass." She had noticed she often got a fever after one of those bad dreams, but it would be gone by morning. "No, please, you needn't do that..." He had done enough for her already, but that wasn't why she said it.

"Can I at least get you some water or a hug?" He was eyeing her speculatively as maybe with this whole ordeal, the best medicine was some caring contact. It was said that hugs were food for the soul.

Really that was what she needed more than tea or water. She nodded and to answer the question, laid her head on his shoulder and let his arms wrap her up safely. It felt right, and comforting after the nightmare she still hadn't fully woken from. "I hope I didn't hurt you when I fell.." she murmured against his shirt. A few quiet moments passed before she admitted in very soft tones, "I'm a bit frightened."

He pulled her up close as his arms went around her after her head rested against his shoulder. One hand lifted so that he could run his fingers through her hair in a soothing manner. Lips touched to the crown of her head, pressed there a few moments before lifted so he could respond. "I'm fine," he would probably be bruised but bruises faded and his breathing wasn't hurting as much anymore. He would probably have some of the tea once he vacated the lounge to go back to his chores. Just not right this moment. "You have us all frightened," he knew both Alex and Hazel were now too as well as himself, which was mentioned. He didn't repeat himself, however, about something needing to be done. She knew that. "If you want to take today off, Rosie will fill in for you." Something mentioned when he had walked inside earlier behind Alex carrying Maggie. Hazel didn't need all three girls all the time.

Her arms slid up his back to hold there snugly, feeling the chill soothed away by the contact. Something she didn't want to give up just yet. A mirthless laugh at his words, "They probably all think me mad..." She certainly would have wondered about somebody's sanity if she had seen them jumping from a roof. "And perhaps they're right," she added more softly. Maybe she was... simply losing her mind. The vividness of the dreams, believing things that did not exist to be real... that was the definition of insanity, wasn't it?

"Actually," the combing of his fingers continued in long slow strokes. "I think they may feel there is something after you on one of those other levels. If it isn't physical nor neurological, then Doctor Barrington will probably know that and if he can't help you, one of the Druids can. There is Andrew, Michael and Leoric to start. Maurice and his brother Joe. Well, first steps first. I may have to lock you in your room so you can't sleepwalk again until we get this all straightened out." He was assuming 'we' but she might not want his help. "Or have you sleep here and I will sleep here too in the lounge for the next couple of days." He would offer to sleep in her room but that would not go over to well for appearances sake.

She was still wondering whether she might be simply crazy, a not-so-comforting thought. Perhaps she would ask Rosie to cover for her today; she wasn't sure if she could bear facing Alex and Hazel and everybody else after what had happened. But she pushed that weakness away, she had to be stronger than that. She nodded meekly to his suggestion, "Whatever you think best." Too tired to protest that point, and besides, he was right.. who knew if her sleepwalking would take her up to the roof again, or somewhere more dangerous even. "I think not working today would be worse than working." She would be exhausted but at least there would be something to occupy herself with, other than just her thoughts. For a moment longer at least, though, she closed her eyes and breathed into the hug.

"Well then, let Rosie take over the tap room and you can come help me with the attic. That way you can take a break in dealing with others today and still be busy." Where he could keep his eye on her too. "Well, after a short rest while I finish stacking the wood pile that someone or thing had scattered all over the back garden behind the Kitchen. That's how I discovered you. Tommy will help me with that." Cleaning the attic would be a lot easier than taking care of the tap room. Least he thought.

It was the perfect suggestion, exactly what she needed though she hadn't thought of it herself. Pulling back from the hug enough for him to see her faint smile, full of gratitude. "Aye... that sounds good." There was a pause as she studied him from this closer angle. He could have seriously hurt himself, catching her falling from such a long distance. Yet he hadn't given a thought for his own safety. In all the time she'd known him he had done so much for her, from the small things like fixing her cabinets to now... probably saving her life. She was swept with a warm feeling towards him as she had to say it one more time. "Thank you, Matthew."

"Good, then that is settled. You rest here until I come in. Hazel will have Flora or Nora bring you in some breakfast. You should eat something." That being a very strong suggestion. He too would have a bite to eat once the other chore was done. His smile was back reaching hazel blue eyes, one last hug, not too hard before he was up. A gentle tweak of her nose as if the motion assured her she would be all right. "You're welcome," words low before he got caught up in anything too emotional and was taking his leave. The sooner he got his work done, the sooner he would be back. "I'll be back!" As he headed out.

She would have to get dressed too while she waited on breakfast, being still in her nightgown, which she realized as she tugged a sleeve back over her shoulder. The nightmare's sharpest edges were fading, though whenever she saw Richard being taken down by those icy demons in her mind's eye, that same panic welled deep inside her. Matthew was right... something had to be done. But things would seem brighter after she was dressed and fed and busy with her chores, right? She let her arms fall away as he got to his feet, and that tweak of her nose lured another faint smile. She nodded when he promised he'd be back, watching him take his leave. What a lucky woman she was, to have a  friend like that. Then she would put her aching muscles into motion to go get dressed, then managing a few bites of breakfast while she awaited Matthew's return.



Date: 08-12-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 6


Matthew set out, along with Tommy, to finish stacking the wood pile. This was the second time it was scattered like this and he was too stubborn to give into superstitions. "Tommy, you'll get an extra coin if you keep a watch and see who is doing this. Once is one thing but this is the second time. You and your friends can help us out," Tommy nodded with a grin, he liked the idea of setting up a spy ring on the wood pile to see who was doing it, for it was making them all look suspicious. Once they were done, Matthew headed back in to see how Maggie was doing. He grabbed up the pail that held all the things he'd need in cleaning the attic before he poked his head in, being her door was ajar. "How are you doing?"

Maggie had gotten herself dressed in the meanwhile, a deep dark midnight blue that complimented her dark hair and contrasted the fairness of her skin. She'd washed the stale sweat from her face and combed her hair, even managed a few bites of breakfast. Matthew had said to rest but she didn't even consider closing her eyes, afraid the dreams would return and they were too fresh in her mind already. Instead she sat in an armchair alongside her hearth, looking at the small fire she'd lit but not really seeing the flames as her thoughts spun round and round. Matthew pulled her from it, thankfully. She looked up quickly to see him there and nodded. "Aye, I'm fine." Not entirely, but he probably understood that. "Are you ready to begin in the attic?"

He eyed her warily, tempted to say no, that she should stay in bed. Except, he had come to know her well enough that was not going to happen. Maggie Callahan needed to keep moving like she needed to breathe. "Aye, I'm ready but I'll not have you overdoing it either. You still look pale." Which she did and her eyes looked haunted. He handed her a big feather duster, long  cylinder type that could hard to reach places and had an extra handle pole to twist on if needed. "You can carry this up.." wicked swift grin that certainly was teasing, and at the same time making his point. He stepped back out, not that he was much past the door and waited on her.

She felt a little weak still, but Matthew was right about needing to keep moving. If she sat still she'd just torture herself with the questions left unanswered in her mind. She rose from her chair and reached for a shawl of knobby white wool, pulling it around her shoulders against the lingering chill in her bones, and in case the attic was cold too. She stepped over to take the feather duster he offered, giving him a knowing look and the hint of a wry smile. Yes, she noticed that he was carrying much more than her, but for once she wouldn't argue it. Free hand lifted her skirts softly from the ground as she fell into step beside him. "Thank you, for letting me work with you in the attic today. I think Alex would be giving me looks today... and Hazel would be fussing," but she said it with a soft laugh, knowing both of them meant well. She just couldn't handle their pity.

"Alex will just be keeping a watch on you to make sure you're all right. He's like a big papa bear, not that I would say that to his face." And they were way out of earshot, heading up the steps to the second floor then the third before the steps leading up to the Attic. So it would not really be pity but concern. There was a great difference there. "Everyone here has come to look upon you as family, even Tommy and his buddies. I think Tommy has a crush on you." Leaving her with that thought with a grin before he headed up that last flight of steps. A key was withdrawn as there was a door at the top and it was locked. The old latch clicked with the turn of steel to slide open. The scent was of many centuries past more than dust, but certainly there was enough dust and cobwebs too. It was also stuffy with shards of light filtering in from the sets of windows, four at either end of the very large and long room. The length was not clear like he thought it would be. There were all kinds of things up here. Old dress forms, tall dressing cabinets, trunks. Stacks and stacks of books, easels, old paintings coated in dust obscuring what they were of. A rocking horse that was almost life size and a few smaller ones, carriages, buggies, cribs and cradles. A coat rack loomed looking like a big man standing there for a hat was set on top. A full length mirror that could swivel in its stand. Desks, chairs, chandeliers that hung from the rafters. Tables, four post beds with canopies and the mattresses deteriorating, clothes piled on top. One dresser had old gowns hanging in it that were well made, spoke of money and times long gone by. Matt gave a low whistle as he set down the pail. "This will be a project." Nudging aside a box full of a child's toys, he started for the closest windows to crack open and at least cause a cross breeze.

Maggie nodded gently when Matthew spoke about Alex. She knew that... and appreciated it, and in some ways looked to Alex as a surrogate fatherly figure as well. Hearing that she was considered family made her smile a moment. "I wondered why Tommy always goes red and silent when he sees me." Tommy was a nice kid but certainly too young for Maggie... though it wasn't unusual for younger lads to develop such crushes. She followed Matthew up each flight of stairs, waiting for him to unlock the door before stepping in with him. Then her eyes went round as she gazed around. "My goodness..." her voice hushed. She was awed by the size of this place, not to mention the sheer amount of stuff that had gathered here. It certainly caught her imagination, as she stepped forward to walk around slowly. "Look at all of this. Some of these things must be a hundred years old..." her fingers traced along a mahogany dresser, lifting a layer of dust from its surface.

"I knew there was probably some stuff up here, but I never expected this much. I wonder what happened to the people that use to have this place, a home, a manor, one that was converted and everything stuck up here that couldn't be used." Probably what happened. The windows were stuck but he finally got two of the four open on the one side before he was making his way around the mounds of stuff to the other side to open them up. Windows were slanted in a way, the weather would not get in if it rained or snowed. Just no one had been up here in years. Maybe decades? He wasn't sure. "I'm not sure what Alex wants me to do, make it a clean mess as much as possible or sort through things and get rid of the no good. We'll keep what would be useful and anything in good condition we can't use, put out for anyone in the commons or villages to have." He highly suspected it would be the latter. It was then one of the chandeliers came crashing to the floor just one step behind him. Matt swung around nearly jumping in place with a good start and his instinct was to put himself between whatever it was and Maggie.

"It looks as if this was a store room for the entire town, maybe the whole kingdom." A light jest, but indeed there was so much in here, it made her wonder. The first order of business seemed to be cleaning and sorting, something she was familiar with, and she nodded. "Perhaps the toys and cribs and such can go to the orphanage, and the rest offered to those in need?" Though some of it was so badly rotted, it would just have to be thrown out. Maggie already had her eye on a few things that she might find some use for herself. Maggie tied her shawl on a secure knot along her neck, moving forward to get started when that sudden movement caught the corner of her eye. Glancing up quickly to the ceiling, there was no time to call out a warning before the chandelier came crashing down in an explosion of metal and glass. She had stepped towards Matthew even as he stepped towards her, both protectively. Her hand catching his arm, "Are you alright?"

"Yes," came in a whoosh as his hand had caught her arm. This particular stance broke the close call and quite serious almost mishap as he laughed. "I will clean this up first, I'm sure the breeze from the windows finally had the nail give way it was attached to." Easily rusted but the beams were up high just out of the light and in shadow. Kind of beams one could walk along if they could get up there. He was over to get the broom and dustpan as he started sweeping up the glass and dumping it into one of the sturdy bags he brought up with him. "I was once asked how do you eat an elephant," slipping a glance her way as he shoved more of the glass inside the bag.

Her laugh echoed his out of sheer relief, but it was a nervous laugh as well. It was the second time today one or both of them could have been killed in a flash. It made her recall again his words, of something or someone being  'after' her... and she couldn't help but glance around the vast shadowy attic. As if waiting for something to jump out at them. He won her gaze back though, with that elephant comment. Looking at him for a pause before curiosity lured out a reply. "How do you eat an elephant?"

He was crouched down as he looked up at her from that position. A huge smile sweeping over his features, "One bite at a time." It was symbolic to the elephant of a project ahead of them, or more.. him. He would have her help today and this project would be done one bite at a time until it was done. For a moment there he saw something move behind Maggie from that angle. It was fast, he was uncertain but she probably caught his expression. He rose with the bag in hand, the last of the broken chandelier frame in the other. "I wonder if squirrels have gotten in here..." more hoping that was the case than it be something.. else.

That megawatt smile of his was infectious, despite her worries and a smile crept onto her own face, soon overflowing into giggles. The answer to his joke was so simple and so silly, she just couldn't help it. Or maybe it was just a much-needed release of tension. She was still giggling until that look came over his face, and the laughter died on her lips instantly. A quick whirl to look behind her; that haunted look was back in her eyes. She swallowed, but she was sick of being afraid, and lifted her voice recklessly. "Who's there? Show yourself, if you dare." And she would feel quite silly if it was only squirrels, after all.

They were met with silence of course as he set the bag and frame aside out of the way. He was over, quickly as possible for all that was in his way that he had to maneuver around to see where whatever it was went. "Nothing," slightly out of breath as he caught it. Matt could move fast when needed as obvious this morning to catch a falling star, err.. Maggie. "I swear there was something not even a foot high." Shaking it off with a shake of his head he made his way back. "I think this should be started by working on things closest and gradually outward. Books we can stack and bring to the library as I'm sure Abigail will know what to do with them." If they were worth keeping. He was talking like Maggie had taken on this project with him, though not the case, at least it made it feel easier!

Maggie blew out her held breath and for a moment looked weary. And as foolish as she felt. "Mayhap a mouse, they tend to flock to places like this." She looked into the dim darkness a moment longer before telling herself, firmly, that there was nothing there. A breath drawn in and she nodded. Time to spring into action, and she appreciated having a big project like this to set her mind to. "Let's put the things we are keeping on one side, perhaps, and that which needs to be thrown out into its own pile." She would begin as suggested with the books, going over to pick one up and leaf through it briefly. This to see if the pages were intact, and also for curiosity's sake, for she did love books and reading.

"Bats and rats in our belfry will have the guests fleeing even if there is no cost. No wonder Alex wanted me to start on this project." Although he had caught the bat on the third floor that time, it was believed to have somehow come down from the attic, which had a locked door. Go figure. Something was not adding up and the more he became associated with the attic,  the less added up. "There's not much of a side to put anything," which had him laughing but they would make do. "Just some today," as he didn't want to overwork her and more to get an idea. He would get Tommy to help him lug things down, some to save, some to give away and some to burn.

"Aye... it seems long overdue." And then some. She wasn't exaggerating when she said some of these things could be a hundred years old. She looked up at his latter comment. "I'm fine, Matthew. Really." Not being impatient, but to reassure him. A soft smile to go with it before she looked back to the books. Her hair had been left loose and she pulled it over one shoulder to be out of the way. Glancing over the next volume before putting it on top of the stack. The next one she pulled, crumbled immediately in her fingers, crackling audibly when she slowly opened it. The ink was so faded she could hardly even read it, and reluctantly set the book in another pile. Such a loss, but at least it could feed a fire.

"Good," he was over to sit down beside her and offered her up a little gift. It was a pearly butterfly trimmed in gold edging along its wings and body. It could be worn as a pendant, in one's hair or just set on their dresser for it was very pretty. "I found this and it seems right you should have it."

She had started to reach for another book, but paused when something else was in her line of vision. A beautiful pearl butterfly, so delicate it appeared lifelike, held in Matthew's hand. Eyes lifted to him and she reached out, fingers reaching for the gem, brushing his skin along the way, which had eyes flitting up to his again. A smile appeared of true pleasure as she looked at the gift. "It is beautiful, Matthew, and I love pearls, though I've never owned any. Thank you." Her smile as warm as the summer sun, then she tucked the jeweled butterfly in her hair just above her right ear, where it nestled amongst the black and crimson locks. "How does it look?"

"You do now, not sure if it is a priceless gem but it sure looks pretty, even prettier than some of the gaudy things I've seen noble ladies wear because they are so expensive. Expensive fools I say," which he obviously had been around the high class to know this. "It looks perfect there, like it was created for your hair." Dimple showed this time with his smile and slightly cross eyed this close to view it in her hair. "Do you think we should put even the falling apart old books in a box and let Abigail have a look at them?" He hated to burn books, unless it was trashy writing.

She laughed softly when he spoke of expensive fools; that was something she could relate to, having spent time at Court, and having observed women adorn themselves from head to toe with the gaudiest jewelry imaginable. She smiled when he said it looked made for her, enough to dimple her own cheeks slightly. His eyes might have been slightly crossed but she was always intrigued by their unique color when he got this close. Coming back into focus with a nod of agreement, "Aye, maybe some of them are rare volumes with some value. At any rate, I'm sure she'd appreciate looking at them." Maggie was certainly enjoying it even if she was no literary expert.

He lingered a moment on his haunches aside her before he was up before the circulation got cut off and he'd be dancing on pins and needles for a while. Something annoying. He scrounged around and came up with a box, emptying the blankets it held out onto one of the beds. "I think these beds can replace the ones whose legs gave out that I had to patch up." Which he did a fine job of but if someone really heavy jumped into bed, they were not going to hold. These were good sturdy oak, well made, a three hundred pound man could jump up and down on them. Eyeing them a moment before he was back over with the box and started to put the books inside. "I think once we get this box full, we should get downstairs and see if we are needed." He was going to work on this a couple hours a day. That was the plan.

She enjoyed his close presence, something comforting and nice about having him so near, but of course they had work to do and couldn't linger chatting forever. She kept the butterfly in her hair though, as she went back to sorting through the books. "Aye, that bed frame looks like it could support that elephant of yours." Which had a thought, "How will you get it downstairs? Will you have to take it apart? I will help you with that too, if you wish." Yes indeed she was looking for things to do, something to talk about. It was all about the distraction. The plan being to occupy herself each day until she was so exhausted she couldn't stay awake, then hopefully she wouldn't dream.

"I think I'll collect a treasure for you here as I come across things. Put them in a fancy box," of which he had caught glimpses of ones. He eyed the bed, "they got it up here somehow, it doesn't look like it had been taken apart. So there must be another way." There was the double window it could have been brought up by a pulley but he had a feeling there was some other means that had yet to be discovered. He had that hmmm look as he looked over the piles of things about the whole of the attic. Who knew, beyond the rows, there might be cleared spaces too?

"You don't have to do that," she told him though the thoughtfulness made her smile. Following his gaze as he looked across the wide expanse of the attic, and its clutter of random things. "I wonder who each of these things belonged to... what their lives were like, and why they gave them up." Such things sparked her imaginative and romantic mind. "There is enough here to take months to sort out. I'll help you when I can." It was a huge job for one man alone.

"Aye, I don't but you can choose what you like of what I decide to put in a box." Someone should have certain trinkets that he felt were better than the usual. He would make sure it was all right with Alex but he had already said the stuff belonged to no one in a sense as the Crown didn't want it. "Well, we might find that out I'm thinking. All those portraits and paintings, there might be diaries amongst the books too." It might prove an interesting project. It would be more than he could imagine. He set to collecting books to put in the box carefully as it seemed it was mostly books in this initial area around the stairs. "I would appreciate the help when you can, Tommy will too. He might not be of much help when you are here." Which that amused twitch to his lips followed the comment.

"There are all sorts of treasures up here, I'm sure, not all of them jewels and lace." To her the most interesting things would be any diaries, like he mentioned... old letters, personalized trinkets, and the like. Items which told the stories of their owners long gone. She helped him to pile the books into the box Matthew brought, carefully to avoid any further damage. A smile at his words about Tommy, then it faded as she went quiet for a few moments.  "I think that I will have to go back... back to the town where Richard disappeared." She spoke it quietly. Finally... she was talking about it, eyes lifting to meet his. The idea brought no joy to her, for it had been a horrible run-down place but somehow... she felt it was something she must do.

"Let me go with you. You will need an escort." She knew he was right and he'd bode no refusal. If she did, he'd only follow and probably Alex. "I think then it is a good idea but not if you try to go alone." That he was certain on. "There are others in town that will fill in for me who have before. The Thistle won't come crumbling down if I am gone for however long it takes. Some things are that important, they need to be seen to."

Her features creased in soft lines as she regarded him. "You're right, I know, and it is very sweet of you to offer... but are you sure you don't mind? I've no idea how long it might take. You could be stuck with me for days, even weeks." Trying to infuse a bit of a lighter tone there, even a hint of a smile but as she watched him, it was clear she was concerned. Not only because she thought he might be offering simple because he felt he should... but also for his safety. Considering those nightmares, who knew what might await her when she began to delve into this further. "I don't want you to feel as if you must come with me. I could hire somebody to come along.. I'm sure." Well, she wasn't exactly sure who she would hire or where she would find someone, but certainly could figure that out if need be.

"Well, who better? I'm already use to being stuck around you.." which had the grin to follow in a flash of white teeth as he put the last of the books that would fit into the box. Next was to  fold the flaps over so they wouldn't open easily. "I don't feel obligated. I spoke to you on us being friends and a friend would go with the other to help. As you came up here today to help me. You hire someone, first bit of trouble and you'll find yourself facing it alone." That was how he'd seen most hired help. He was up, taking up the box. "Would you see to the door for me. I think I shall keep it locked too." The idea more muttered to himself for there was something out of place or odd up here.

Well, that was a thought and one she hadn't considered. Maggie was no fool, but Matthew seemed wise to the ways of the world, in some ways more so than her. She eyed him a moment longer, just to be certain he was making the offer genuinely. Then she smiled, visibly relieved. "In truth, there is nobody I would rather come along on such a trip, I think." She meant it, and her smile said so when she turned it upon him. Rising to her feet, she crossed past him to the door, to hold it open for Matthew and the box. Locking the door sounded like a good idea to her, after the falling chandelier and running shadows.

Whatever it was, the lock door didn't keep it in the attic but at least it wouldn't have any curious guests going up there or staff for whatever reason. They didn't need a panic. He was careful leaving and locking the door so when she pulled it closed it would latch over. He thought he heard something running, rapid footsteps of something small. "Squirrels," muttered before he continued down the stairs. He would put the box in one of the storage rooms that had little in it. Soon it would have a lot more as a sort of central station for the stuff to go out from. "Thank you for helping me today, Maggie." which had a smile sent over his shoulder.

Squirrels, or mice.... she hoped it was some small critter like that, as a wary glance went over her shoulder at the scrabbling noises behind the door. With all that was going on in her own life, she could hardly expend more worry on ghosts in the attic. Once the door was secured she followed him down the stairs, butterfly pin still in her hair though she would put it away carefully once she got to her room. His smile was returned as they reached the landing. "Thank you, for suggesting it. It made a nice change from my usual duties." And after this morning, was much easier to handle. Otherwise she would have been pasting a smile on her face to serve people their meals all day. At least with Matthew, her few smiles had been genuine.

He decided it would not do well to go up there alone after the chandelier incident. So Tommy, Maggie or another in case there was some mishap. The upper chambermaid never even heard the crash. "I will see you later for supper," as they all seemed to take the same hour break. "And tonight, I'll sleep outside your door." Or inside, the arrangements not official but someone needed to be near in case she sleep walked again. From the last set of steps he averted his into one of the storage rooms to start putting things. Later he would take this first box up to Abigail.

She was picturing him sleeping on a blanket on the hard ground, and winced. "I don't want you having to do that... why don't I sleep with my door open, and you can take the couch in the lounge. At least that's more comfortable, and you'll be able to hear me if I get up." Then added when he took his leave, "Aye, see you at supper." She wanted to tell him just how much she appreciated all he was doing, but he was already gone. And hopefully he already knew it. So anything she might have said was left unspoken, and she went off to her own chambers. She'd spend the afternoon cleaning her rooms, then into the dark hours of night. Sleep was no longer a welcome thing but something she feared.

He would probably drag out his bed next to her door or a cot so that she would have to fall over him to get out. Wouldn't that make the gossip if she did, fell on top of him and one of the kitchen maids happened out at that moment! He'd see her at supper, after they both got some things done although Alex and Hazel would be making her take it easy so in that, Matt's mind could rest assured.



Date: 09-13-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 7

Pint Size
Matthew was keeping supplies up in the attic so he didn't need to cart them up and down all those steps. They were extra anyway as there was plenty of cleaners, mops and dust towels. He and Maggie had been just missing each other but he noticed she had been up and working in the attic between times he'd been there. Although it had rained earlier and the air was cooler, he left the windows open for they were slanted against the rain and the place needed that extra air to make it bearable. Sunlight played in shards coming down through and you could see the particles moving about in the light. Something sparkled too that had Matt looking a few moments longer then shrugged it off (otherwise he'd swear it was fairy dust). Most of the books had been cleared away and there were still the beds and larger dressers to figure out how to get them down from here. He was not worried on them for they could work around the furniture.  The first order of business was dealing with the mounds of paraphernalia. There had been many bags filled that went out in the trash, all books went to the library no matter what condition and things in good shape and usable (of a smaller size) were brought down and put in the storage rooms in the front of the building. There seemed to be more dust than usual as he started to drag out bags of clothing to go through, it settled on his hair and in his beard making them sparkle when he moved through the areas where the sunlight came through. Plaid shirt of blues had the sleeves rolled up, sturdy brown pants and boots completed his attire.

Indeed Maggie had been working up in the Attic as often as she could. Even if some called it haunted, and she got that strange sensation up there sometimes, she had never yet felt threatened by it. She actually enjoyed the quiet and the feeling of being so far away from everything. It was good distraction besides, something to occupy her mind and hands with during those hours when otherwise she would have been thinking. And thinking. And thinking too much. She hadn't been sleeping well ever since that nightmare which led her up to the roof, but she hid it well too, mostly as cheerful and upbeat at work as ever. It was only in private that it ate at her. She'd finished her daily deep cleaning of the tavern and in this interim between cleaning and going to work in the tap room, she decided to spend some time in the attic. She had a few burlap sacks over her shoulder as she climbed the steps, to collect the items which were still good enough to give away to the needy. Her rich ebony hair streaked with cherrywood was parted to the side and pinned partway back, leaving most of it tumbling free around her shoulders. A crisp dress of cucumber green clung to her frame, dipping low but not TOO low at the neckline, flowing lightly out from an empire waistline. She was surprised to see the attic door standing open and peeked inside, then smiled to see Matthew. "You sparkle like a pixie in the sun. What's all over your beard?" She was stepping in through the narrow doorway and tossed the burlap sacks down.

Matthew hadn't forgotten that night even if they didn't talk on it in a while. His method was to keep watch. He still slept out in the hall on a cot even if there had not been any more incidences. "Oh, good!" Eyeing the burlap bags she brought up. "You have saved me a trip." He was about to start mopping the floor that had been cleared, they had about eight feet around them square that was clean. Except when he lifted the mop from the pail, all the dregs fell off except a few straggles. It was starting again. As the pieces splashed down he noticed something running behind walls of stuff. He only gave a quick look Maggie's way with her question on what was in his beard, a blank look and dismissed before he was running then crawling over piles of things, furniture and the like as he went after this beastie he was not letting go from his sights. "Come back here you rascal." Maggie would hear thuds and thumps when she could no longer see him.

Anything she might've replied with was belayed when there was a sudden flash of movement, just out of the corner of her eye, so subtle she would've missed it had it not sent Matthew off on a chase. "What-?" As he startled crawling and elbowing through boxes like a tunneling mole. "Matthew, be careful!" It was half a laugh as she heard things falling and clunking around. She gathered her skirts and followed Matthew in a light footed pursuit. "What is it? Where are you?"

"I'm over here," but then his voice was heard in another part further away. "You get back here!" While he lunged at whatever was quickly moving amongst the collection of things. There was another voice heard then, very Irish, very ancient that got caught under Matthew, "Muchadh is ba ort, go mbeire an diabhal leis thu!" Promptly followed with Matthew getting powdery dust type stuff in his face, in his eyes, as he naturally let go of the one he had tackled and trying to keep a hold on. "What the.." whatever else was said it was lost as the small one escaped leaving no trail. He sat up trying to wipe his face off of even more sparkling dust as Maggie caught up. "We are not alone up here and that was no ghost, although small."

She started moving towards his voice, stumbled and stopped when his next words seemed from a different direction altogether. So she started in THAT direction, only to stop in her tracks when another voice rang out. The voice of a stranger... it startled her enough to have her speechless, even after the stranger had vanished, and after Matthew had spoken. Then she stepped around a stack of boxes to approach Matthew, probably looking as stunned as he did. She noted the new layer of dust in his hair and glanced around, but the speaker of Gaelic curses was nowhere in sight. "He wasn't happy either, that was cursing. What was it, do you think? One of the Good People, the.. the Sidhe?" She was reaching down to help him back up.

"I'm not sure." Finally rising to his feet with a helping hand as all was quiet around them as if nothing had happened at all. "I think I discovered our prankster. Disgruntled it seems but I'm not going to stop what I'm up here to do. It was male, it was small, a bit round, like wrestling with a one year old that has muscle and coordination." He was still looking where the thing had gone before hazel blue eyes turned back on Maggie. A wry smile tipped off to the side as he drank in her expression. He was probably a sight as he then wiped off more of that dust. "I feel like I've been marked and I don't think it is in a good way either," but it had him chuckling as he finally yanked out the clean rag stuffed into his back pocket and used that to wipe his face. He went to shake it out then but as the piece of cloth unfolded it formed a man's face for a few seconds in the dust before it disappeared. Reddish hair, bushy, bushy eyebrows and a goatee that went to a point and curled up. Big ears for the size of the face, rounded bulb shaped nose. "Did you see that?"

A muscular infant that cursed with a man's voice? Now that was a disturbing mental image. She let out a laugh at his comment of being marked, deep blues lifting to sweep the attic. It was quiet now, but she had the sense that whatever it had been was still around, lurking. So it was that she was still gazing outward when Matthew saw the image that made him speak. Eyes bouncing back immediately, from his face to the cloth then back. "No.." She replied, looking at him a bit perplexed. "You missed some." She absentmindedly lifted a hand to brush some of the lingering dust from his hair. Then felt a bit silly for it, and dropped her hand.

"There was an image, left by the wiping off of the sparkle dust.." words trailing off as he heard himself and surely she would think him daft in the head if he kept on. He drew in a breath but came round when she brushed some of the lingering dust from his hair. Had him closer and the lock of eyes for a lingering moment that superceded anything else. That was until the few seconds her hand dropped away and broke the spell. "I'll be needing a shower once done up here this evening." More mumbled under his breath as he lifted a hand to touch a smear of the dust on her nose, leaving it shine. "There, now you are marked too." Lopsided grin followed.

That lock of eyes had her breath stalling for a split second, all thoughts fleeing except that she wanted to keep brushing his hair like that, or his beard. Her hand went to her hip instead to forestall the urge. "An image?.." She echoed, not really understanding but her mind no longer on the Sidhe or leprechaun or whatever it had been. Until he smudged the dust on her nose and that broke the tension, making her gasp and then laugh. "I never asked to be marked!" A hand snaked up to scoop some dust from his hair with her index finger, and then she was smudging it on his cheek to return the favor.

Which had him smudging more on her face too, laughing with her as they became like two kids teasing one another. Finally he bent his head down and with both hands ran them rigorously through his hair, sending a cloud of dust that turned into a funnel whirling. Inside it showed steps going down in a spiral to some small oak door. There was ivy growing along the stone walls that held no mortar to them but were perfectly stacked. A small lantern illuminated part of the landing at the bottom of the steps and anything else was lost as the image whirled away onto the floor. Matthew didn't see this for having his head bent and hands in motion causing the whirl of fae dust.

She was giggling like a little girl, yelping when he smudged her face again, then wiping her dusty hands off on his shirt. While he brushed the dust from his hair she continued wiping her hands off on her skirts, but paused when that funnel appeared. She watched the images that wavered in the dust, spellbound. Her voice had changed when next she spoke, "Matthew." But too late, the image swirled away like water down a drain and was gone.

He lifted his head up, goofy smile still lopsided. "Yes?" Unsure for the tone as the smile slowly disappeared and he was doing a quick look about then back to her. "Are you all right?" Stepping closer with that concern look in his eyes as certainly things had occurred to have concern over where she was concerned.

"Aye , I'm - " there went her ability to answer clearly when he took that step closer. A small step but enough to have him so close her mind felt like mush again. "Ah, there was a.. picture. In the dust." Now she sounded just like he had a moment ago, talking about faces in the dust. Long-lashed blues fluttered up to his face. "There was a spiral stair, almost like a castle but in ruins, there were vines and.. I couldn't see much more than that.." her voice petered out to a very thin trail indeed until she finally went silent, just looking at him.

"I be thinking these things seen in the dust are like a premonition, something to keep in mind but not let it boggle it either. I saw a face, you saw a place, both are connected to the wee male I nearly captured. A live wire that one and he's up here someplace even if all is quiet now." He was certain of it as he gave a quick look about. "Come, let us get some work done and be on the ready if he or anything else like him shows up again." A hand came to cup at her elbow as it would be tricky walking getting back although they had made a sort of path. Matthew made sure to move things out of their way as they ventured back, making the path wider in case he had to run it again, next time he would know enough to get a good grip on the fellow. "I think we can fill a few of those burlap bags with things good to pass on," which he collected some copper oil lamps on the way, less in the path that could get destroyed.

She blinked and the moment passed, and she was kicking herself for being so silly. The palm of her hand lifted to press to her brow, just briefly. A smile resurfacing in answer to his words, and she nodded simply, allowing him to lead her through the labyrinth to where it was a bit clearer. She was quiet as the started to sort through one of the endless piles of things, separating the good from the moldy or unusable. Perhaps just thinking about the strange things they'd seen this afternoon. She lifted an old locket from the pile, fingers brushing the dust from its surface, then working to open the clasp. There were no pictures inside it however so she tucked it into one of the burlaps.

He had to bring her close at times to fit through but they made it through without further incident. Matt started going through clothing, holding up a corset to his chest, "what is this thing and should it be saved?" She could wonder if he really didn't know or was teasing her in the lighthearted way of his just to get a smile. The fact she would go quiet, not the usual kind, didn't get past him either. It had him wondering where her thoughts went. "What is that you found?" Bringing the corset down to either toss in the good pile or the one to be burned.

She was keeping herself to herself, which was probably best. His question had her glancing up curiously. A blink at the corset he held up, she just shook her head and smirked at first. But another glance was stolen and then she started giggling. Maybe it was the way that the corset looked on him like that, or just something on his face, she couldn't help it. The mirth softened her features up again, and she shifted some as he came over to take a look. "An old locket." She held it up towards him in case he wanted to see. "Empty, though. I wonder why somebody would throw it away without ever putting pictures in it." The thought made her a bit sad for some reason.

"I'm not sure, maybe it was going to be given to someone but for some reason it never happened. It looks to be expensive too." Which he stepped away only to come back with a jewelry box he found that had plenty of room within. "I started putting anything of value in here." Setting it down that she might do the same. It was getting darker outside too. "We should probably take a break and get something to eat, it is dinner time, plus I want to go to the library to see if Abigail has any books with pictures in them, maybe I can find out what it is I saw."

Or maybe they had nobody they loved enough to wear their portraits round their neck.
But that thought was dark for Maggie and she didn't share it. Instead she laid the locket carefully down in the jewelry box, where it settled in its own nest of silver chain. She nodded her agreement, unfolding her legs to stand. "Aye, and I should probably get down to the taproom." She offered him a soft smile. "Let me know if you find anything in those books?"

Or maybe the one had been jilted so the gift never given. That too was a darker thought which he had pushed aside. "I'll join you down there first for I'm in need of something for a parched throat," all the dust. "Aye, and I'll let you know. I'll even borrow the book if I can." Some you could and some stayed in the library where you could go through it for as long as you wanted there or come back. He took up one burlap bag that was to go down to the storage room and assisted her until they got through the door, which he then locked behind them.
She nodded her agreement, her smile ever present but she was quiet again. Taking up the other sack-o'-stuff and tossing it over her shoulder to follow him down and out.

Date: 09-17-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 8

The Argument
Matthew was taking a break from the attic, more like taking a break from breaking his neck for the odd occurrences that kept up. He spent the morning splitting wood and stacking it and since the nights were getting chillier by the week, he started bringing in some of the wood to stack by the fireplace. The first since the summer. Long hot summer at that. He was in typical attire, poets shirt but with a quilted vest over it, brown pants and boots. A hunting knife sheathed from his belt as there was a few tools as well such as a hammer and screw driver.

Maggie was about to start her daily cleaning of the tavern, which always occurred around this time, between the lunch rush and the dinner hour. She came in through the side door, hauling a bucket full of water in one hand, a mop and small bottle of lemon cleaner in the other. Her apron was stuffed with clean rags she'd use for the tables and chairs. Her hair was streaked liberally with fire after a long sunny summer, swept back into a messy bun at the crown of her head. Several strands escaped around her eyes as usual. Attire was a rather faded dress, once deep blue and now a paler bluish-green; she always wore her older clothes for cleaning like this. A glance around found the place empty but for one familiar figure by the fireplace, and a smile surfaced. "Afternoon, Matthew. Getting ready for winter already?"

Torrie made her way up the path to the tavern and blinked as she side stepped the guy carrying the wood and eyed him curiously before she walked in the front door to the tavern and looked around curiously. Torrie wore a light purple tank top and short shorts, brown sandals adorned her feet and her hair was newly dyed blond and held into a tight ponytail ontop of her head. She'd look between the woman who was about to clean and the guy hoarding the firewood. "I'm sorry, the door was open.. are you guys...closed..?" She figured with all the cleaning going on, that they weren't accepting customers.

He set the pile down and proceeded to stack them before Maggie showed up. Eyeing the bucket and mop warily. "You start mopping now I'm sure to break my neck this time," remembering the last time she mopped at this hour. "Hold off until after the tavern closes and I'll help you with it." It was at that moment another arrived which only supported the notion to mop after the tavern closed. "We're not closed. Alex there will see to anything you wish to eat or drink. There is no cost in the way the monarchy has this tavern set up." Slight smirk went Maggie's way before he finished stacking the first pile of wood.

Whatever she might've said next to Matthew was aborted by the appearance of a woman... quite scantily dressed by this realm's standards. Oh my. She tried not to stare but instead offered a friendly smile. "Aye, come in." Looking back to Matthew she returned the smirk. The bucket was set down and the mop leaned against the wall. "I'm just getting ready. I'll clean the tables first, so don't worry about breaking your pretty neck," a wink passed his way as she pulled a rag from her apron to dip into the bucket.

Her attire was something more one saw at the northern infamous tavern. One that had closed down the last he heard or just abandoned. Reminded him of how long ago it was he had gone there. He was actually relieved she put the mop down after the episode in the attic earlier. "I think I invented a new dance last time called the slide. How one can contort their body in unusual ways so they don't land on their back looking up at the ceiling." After the curse was lifted he was losing the tolerance for such things. Before it was a way of life but usually the other suffered the consequences, now he was. He also noticed the lass took off real quick like. With a shake of his head he headed out the side door to bring in the next armload of wood.

She snickered at his words about a new dance, then followed his gaze as the young woman made a beeline for the exit. "Maybe she went to find more clothes," Maggie murmured, a wicked spark in her eye. Then she was walking around to the other side of the table, leaning over to wipe it down thoroughly as the smell of lemon would begin to waft around the room.

He stuck his head back in as he only got as far as the side stoop from the door. "She has nice legs." A quick sparkling smile before he was back out before something was thrown at him. It would be five to ten minutes later or so, if one timed him, that he was coming back in with another armload of wood. Enough stacked he could barely see were he was going but he knew the area so well it could traverse it blindfolded.

Her jaw dropped in shock that was half feigned and half real! "Horrible man," she told him with a growing grin before he took himself away before she could throw something. Wise man. A smirk and shake of her head as she went back to her scrubbing, humming lightly to herself.

"I'm a normal male, there would be something wrong if I didn't notice such assets." Smiling up her way from the hearth as he continued to stack more of the wood. Although that concern started to show in his expression even if he didn't voice any of his thoughts presently.

To which she rolled her eyes, but her smirk wasn't condemning. Indeed she understood men well enough to not think any worse of him for it. Engrossed in her cleaning, she didn't notice the way he'd gone quiet and was watching her, assuming he was just busy at the hearth. She pulled out a chair to reach another part of the table, flicking some hair from her eyes, eyes which were somewhat remote as she moved the rag around.

He had finished stacking the logs but still hunched down as he watched her. Finally the curiosity and concern gave way to words, "how has your sleep been? Your Dreams?" He still slept out in the hall on the cot outside her door. Certainly he got teased but they all knew why he was. He had this feeling that the first night he decided there was no worry, something bad would happen and she would wander again from her bed.

He lured her gaze back up with that question, and a shadow passed her face. She seemed to hesitate a moment, teetering on the edge of just smiling and reassuring... but somehow she couldn't lie to him. "I... I'm afraid to sleep, still." She admitted it quietly, swinging a glance up and around to make sure they had no audience. "So I try to sleep lightly, but sometimes I slip deeper and I see things.. awful things. A couple times I woke standing up but didn't get any further." Now she wasn't looking at him anymore.

He wasn't expecting that, the truth, he expected the reassuring be it true or not, usually anything said to keep the other from worry. He was up, faster than usual and over to her to take her into his arms, sliding a hand to take any rag from hers to toss on the table. "You need to sleep or you will get yourself into a vicious cycle where you will not be able to function at all even in little things. I will sleep outside your door, you can sleep, you'll not get past me but if the terror lies in the dreams themselves then see the doctor about giving you something that will leave you dreamless or if none of those work, you'll have to sleep in my arms and then the tongues will really waggle," which had a waggle of his brows in the hope to take the edge off this serious talk, yet it would remain serious.

It was his turn to surprise her, when suddenly he was over and wrapping her up in his arms. She blinked, standing unmoving for a moment before surrendering into it. He smelled like peat and fresh-cut wood, nice smells and comforting. And while she didn't want to make him worry... she knew he was right. There was a small laugh at his brow waggling, as she pulled her face back from its resting place against his shoulder to look up at him. "I saw a herbalist," she admitted on a murmur. "He gave me something for bad dreams, to make me sleep... it worked for a night or two but made me just as tired the next day." Indeed there were dark creases beneath her eyes, shadows which had been there for weeks. She hid it well but the truth was... she was exhausted.

"Rosie can take over for you two days out of the week. Two days to get in rest you may miss during the other days and nights. It was not expected of you to work seven day a week from dawn to dusk." He knew she had been working too much even of her own choice, maybe to chase the demons away or to keep them at bay. "People will be busy with the last of their harvesting and getting ready for winter so this is a good time to take a vacation. That will be a good start. We can go see if we can find out what happened to your brother. I think this is important and should not be put off to tomorrow which never comes but to make definite plans now."

For once she had no ready answer, and she was quiet, her frame nestled close against him but her eyes a million miles away. They'd been talking about doing this for some time, but now that he suggested making the plans concrete... she had that paralyzing reluctance creeping in. If the dreams were any indication, only darkness lay down that path, darkness and fire, things far worse than the phantoms of her nightmares. About most things she was dauntless but this prospect.. had her afraid.

"I will be right at your side to help you in this. If you feel another is needed then I will see of another joining us that is willing. You have friends here, people who care about you and right now you have us all worried. It is time to end that worry, face what is needed to be faced." He kept her in his arms with an even soothing tone, one of reassurance and not wavering from the fact, this had to be done, needed to be done or things would only get worse until it was faced. "The unknown is always the most terrifying thing to face but you will find that once you do face all your fears, that it becomes known and the fear leaves, leaving only fear being your worse enemy."

She listened quietly to his words, absorbing them and gaining some strength from the reassurance. He was right... and it didn't make it any easier, but perhaps made the idea more bearable. She nodded softly then drew a breath to bring her eyes back up to him. "Matthew." She said his name quietly, and there was something new in her eyes. "I think I'm going to go alone."

"Then I will follow you like a shadow," turning her in his arms as bronze blue eyes held to hers. He was determined. It would be better to just accept and do it outright or she can be certain she would be shadowed. "You know how one is warned, no matter how good they are, never to go swimming alone. This applies here too."

"No, this is different. Please just listen?" Holding his eyes deeply until his silence meant assent. "I don't want to be responsible for anyone getting hurt or.. or worse. This has nothing to do with you, nor with anybody here. This is for me to take care of, on my own and I know Richard wouldn't want anyone else harmed either. You haven't seen what I've seen, the dreams, they're..." they haunted her eyes. "I don't want to see you hurt because of me. I can't."

"I wont get hurt, not badly anyway. I've not come from under a curse to have something worse happen. I wish to come with you, I wish to make sure you stay safe. I can promise to do only that, be in the background as a safety net call it, not up front charging ahead. I will trust when you need me and when you do not but to be there in the background, just in case." He was trying to find a mutual ground and still see to her welfare as he had promised to do, it would be very hard for him to back down from a promise, something honorable inside of him.

"Do you really think you'll be able to stop yourself from charging, if danger comes?" She asked it softly, a fond smile bittersweet on her lips. She knew him well enough to know that he'd come to the rescue of anyone that needed him. That was what frightened her. "Richard promised me nothing would ever happen to him, too." A lump rose to her throat. That had been years ago, when they first took to the road together, but she could hear his voice saying it still. "He couldn't keep that promise and neither can you, nor can anybody. If anything happened to you.." she couldn't even bear that thought enough to finish it aloud.

"Yes, I will be there only if really needed. You can face your demons but if those demons try to harm you and you cannot stop them... then I shall charge ahead, scoop you up and RUN!" Which had a chuckle to follow as he could visualize it and possibly she could. "I am not Richard and for some reason I feel he is not dead, something happened to prevent him from contacting you that we have no idea of. I can keep my promise but it would be a hell if I do not go with you, as you are tortured so will I be if I am to stay behind." He was studying her hard, "if you were me and I you, would you not be saying the same?"

This time he couldn't lure a laugh out of her, she was too distraught over the thought of him getting hurt. Losing him somehow. It goaded her enough to want to keep protesting, and she parted her mouth to do so, but the words died on her lips as he finished. What did he mean by that, being tortured if left behind? His eyes captured her own inexorably with that final question posed. A spark shared between gazes and she couldn't say another word. Because he was all too right. She'd be insisting she come along too if it were he being faced with some trial.

She didn't need to say it, as it was there in her silence. This was not a contest of who could win over the other in an argument either. "We leave this coming Monday, set all we need to see to over this weekend." Alex was within hearing so knew without having him to repeat himself. Alex was in agreement that Maggie needed to go try and find out what happened to her brother for those nightmares to end and having someone go with her would ease his and Hazel's minds. "Now, how about we take a walk and see how the trees are turning down by the lake?"

And just like that she lost the argument.. for better or for worse. She still had her worries but those would be kept to herself... for now. A deep breath was drawn as she found herself defeated, and nodded. This Monday. It seemed far too soon and filled her head with all the plans needed to be made. She might have spun off to see to them that very moment, had he not suggested that walk. Probably a better exercise for her at the moment, something more soothing. So she nodded again and even brought a soft smile to her lips. "That sounds nice."

He helped to set her cleaning tools aside out of the way before he assured Alex they would be back within the hour. Rosie could cover for Maggie as she was the chosen one being her duties were light. Once done he was over to offer his arm all gentleman like. There was a warm smile on his face but far more in bronze-blue eyes that held many secrets still.

Maggie would have to thank Rosie for all her extra help; she was so grateful for it. With Matthew's help she got everything moved aside to make the place look neat until it was done being cleaned, her apron tugged off and folded away. Moving towards the door, she paused when he offered his arm with that gentlemanly stance. She slid her arm through his, a faintly laughing smile sent up to him. Eyes held for those few moments before she lifted her skirts to step with him out.



Date: 09-22-10
Poster: Maggie Callahan
Post # 9

As Monday drew close, Matthew realized that if Maggie's dreams were based on reality too, then someone was after her. Granted, it would be hard to reach her in these lands that had the kind of protection they did. Hence whomever was reaching out on the dream level to cause her harm, nearly had her killed had he not been there to catch her from the dive off the roof. So, in his mind, he felt it would be better for them to steal off in the middle of the night. Go through a normal day having it look like it would be a normal night and all fast asleep. Who in their right mind traveled at night? Although traveling at night would be speedier for there would be less traffic. Only a few would know of their departure. Alex and Hazel who both would see them in the kitchen before they headed out the back door. Tommy had brought up two horses that were outfitted to his specifications. Hazel made sure they both had more food even if he had packed enough. They had hooded cloaks and the clothing for both they were to change in would have them dressed as farmers. A knock came on her door, Matthew was already dressed as he held out the folded clothes and cloak. "Quickly change, everything is ready." Words low in a whisper for all of the tavern was asleep except for those mentioned at one in the morning.

Matthew had encouraged her to try to sleep some before they left, but she was far too jittery. She had nervous butterflies in her stomach at the thought of leaving Heathfield. It had become her home, the people here family. Depending on what happened... was there the possibility she'd never come back? Banish the thought. Everything was packed and ready to go, already loaded onto their horses thanks to young Tommy, who had stammered something to Maggie about 'best wishes for her trip'. She'd rewarded the young lad with a smile that left him looking giddy. When the knock came to her door, she was sitting in an armchair, a silk robe tied around her nightgown. A book was in her hand when she opened the door, blue eyes rising to find Matthew, and she nodded. Taking the clothes from his hands, she closed her door again quietly and changed quickly. The faded homespun cloak was clasped at her throat over the simple gingham dress beneath, fingers lingering on the clasp as she took one last glance around her room. Her puppy was given a final pet; Rosie had agreed to look after her for Maggie. Then she was stepping back out into the hall.


Tommy still had a huge crush on Maggie and probably would for a while. Lucky for the lad, Maggie was kind, not encouraging him but not annoyed with him either. Tommy was long gone back home by the time they were heading out. Only Hazel and Alex were left standing in the doorway of the kitchen to the back as Matthew saw Maggie upon her horse. "If we come across anyone, we are Tom and Sara Jenkins, farmsteaders heading north to visit a sick relative you are going to take care of." Bronze eyes with a golden cast in this light were reassuring as was the dimple to show with a touch of a smile. Once she was settled, he mounted up his horse, two roans that were bred more as work horses and endurance for long trips like this. More sure footed but could run fast enough like the wild ones. He pulled up the hood as there was a mist settling that would play havoc with the shadows for the moon's light as it shone. An owl hooted in the distance as they started out, he could hope that was a good omen. The one light from the tavern's door gradually faded or more likely Alex and Hazel turned back in closing and locking up. He kept close but spoke little and when he did it was in low rumbling tones that only she would hear. "What is the name of the village?" It was a village? Town? Hamlet? He realized he didn't know that part yet. Only that it was north.

Maggie hugged Hazel goodbye and kissed Alex on the cheek, and there was a brief misting of her eyes as she bid them farewell. She felt as close to them as if they were actually related by blood, and hoped it wouldn't be long before she saw them again. She thanked Matthew as he helped her onto the horse. She wore woolen hose beneath the dress for warmth and comfort, and swung her leg over the saddle easily, settling in. One last glance over her shoulder as Alex and Hazel stepped back inside, then she faced forward towards whatever lay ahead. Matthew's words had her nodding in understanding, a faint spark showing in her smile as she asked, "And are we siblings or spouses?" Hopefully the teasing would make her look less worried than she was. "It was only a poor Hamlet, I believe it was called Bogton." Likely because it was located on what had once been a marsh, drained to build the town... but even so the place remained damp, mildewy and infested with mosquitos and other critters.

"I think spouse will be safer for you." Marauders would take her easier if she wasn't taken in that sense. "Unless you prefer sibling? It will be safer for me to stay with you and not frowned upon if we are husband and wife." No way was he letting her out of his sight especially in unprotected lands. "Is that anywhere near a coal mining town called Slocum Hollow?" That was a place he'd been through and it was very rough. He had not heard of Bogton in particular but there were many smaller camps or villages depending on the size. Hamlets too. Coal mines and bogs, if someone wanted to get rid of one, easy enough to do in such an area but he didn't express such a thought. She was worried enough and already felt her brother was dead, why feed her more reason to believe that? He wanted to take the positive route but they would find out one way or another and why she was being plagued. They were already passing the road that forked off that would take one to the hospital and heading towards Willow lake of which they would not get that close but round somewhat to the west taking them past Willow Lake Manor then Clearview Manor. There was a pass through the mountains there that would take them over into Ballicastle lands in the next few hours.

"No," she answered in regards to whether she would prefer to go by siblings. "I mean, aye, that's fine." She heard herself stumbling over words and inwardly winced. When he spoke again she nodded in recognition. "Aye, it's not far off from there." She looked a bit fuzzy. "A day or two I think." When she had traveled that portion with her brother, it had all been a blur. Her head had pained her so horribly that she had been barely able to sit her saddle, each moment agony. Which was why they had stopped in Bogton in the first place. Curious glances went between the manors, recognizing the first as the new Quinn cousins' place.

The first had him slightly smirk which was covered by the side of the hood. He reached over to pull her hood more forward as the mist that had been rising was turning into drizzle. Hard to tell when moisture was coming up from the ground while coming down from the sky or just everywhere around them. Faint, hazy mist with a clean crisp scent. Moonlight played with shadows in the foggy areas, ghosting trees, grass and brush alike. Hopefully they would pass this area before it got too thick. "I have an idea where it is now once we pass Slocum Hollow." One could not really tell exactly when they were no longer on Heathfield lands except for certain terrain he knew the markings of. "Falkirk is due west from here," but they were taking the north road where it forked off. "There is a cabin on the other side of the Northern Tier of Heathfield on Ballicastle lands that we can stay at and get a few hours sleep before continuing if you would like?" They had already been on the road four hours or so and where the cabin laid, it would be even more at this pace. They would probably reach it by morning.

She glanced overhead as the mist seemed to thicken into light rain, and reached up to pull her hood on. But Matthew did so at the same moment and their fingers brushed. It was almost like a tiny spark was produced, having her eyes flick over to his and then away with a faint quirked smile. She nodded to his words, looking across the landscape thoughtfully, then back to him when he suggested stopping. "That would probably be best." She was not weary yet but likely they both would be by the time they got that far.

They would have traveled about twelve hours by then and they didn't get sleep yet this day. There was something in the air, which had him taking the reins of her horse and both of them off to the side up into the brush and cover of trees. She might think him crazy as the hoot of an owl sounded spooky in the woods behind them that was shadowed in mists. Same mist that swirled around them in a surreal way. He hoped the actions would still her tongue as he waited, ears strained. It wasn't too long when the sound of hooves in a gallop along the road below them could be heard. The crease of leather, the strain of the horses against the bit, breaths heavy. Three. Four. No way to count them from where they were. He waited until the sounds faded off in the distance before he would lead her horse back down with his. "Although the lands are safe, one cannot be too certain of ones riding in the wilderness parts of any of the lands." His words low as he would continue them on their way, releasing the reins back to her.

Much of the time passed with casual conversation but most was shared in companionable silence. Her own thoughts kept her senses distance but she was pulled back, literally, when Matthew took her reins and put them both on a detour. Into the woods. No time to speak or even wonder why before they were huddled in the undergrowth, and his attitude held her tongue. That, and the eerie mist, the skeletal branches of trees all around. She was almost holding her breath as the riders passed, several it sounded like, though she couldn't see them. A glance darted to Matthew but he seemed fairly calm. Either way she was relieved when he guided them back to the open road. A slow nod of assent was given when he spoke again and she answered just as quietly. "I understand. My brother and I were nearly robbed by some bandit out of the woods, when we were on the road."

Perhaps that occurrence alone would confirm that the decision of him accompany her had been a good one. He would have to keep to his promise of not barging ahead once they reached Bogton but only if it became a matter of life and death. He would protect her to the death but he would not tell her that. That would be cutting his own throat in this cause if she had known. "It may have been the Ballicastle patrol but this late of night, or rightfully, early morning, I was not going to take that chance. There are fewer troops out this far, usually it is the Rangers." Which they could possibly come upon. There were the stirs of nocturnal animals along the way, heard in the forests that lined the road. Some small and some big. A few where the horses became a bit anxious until whatever animal had been near had been safely passed. He had to keep the stallion he rode under his command a few times but he'd been told they were originally from the wild so would sense any dangerous animals near easier.

"Who are the rangers?" She asked, curiously. The Ballicastle Patrol's job seemed clear but she hadn't heard of the Rangers before. Her eyes were an almost hazy blue in the dim pre-dawn when they glanced to Matthew. The rolling hills on the land were highlighted at their peaks by the first tentative rays of sunlight, though the sun itself was not yet visible and stars remained overhead.

"The castle patrols, royal guards, are mostly within the castle walls. There are patrols that roam beyond the outer walls for a few miles distance. From there the Rangers take over. They are mostly Elves or partial. They can run like the wind, fast in everything they do. They are headed by Michael Reeves Silvertone. His father is full Elf and he helps out. I don't know the exact numbers of them but there are quite a few. They keep mostly to themselves in the royal forests and they scout all the way up to the borders of Ballicastle and Tyremoor. With the Queen's sons taking over Kildare, it is possible they may venture further into those more wild lands if needed." That was what he knew about the Rangers in a nutshell and knew both Michael and his father. By this time he was watching for certain landmarks that only one would know where to turn that knew of them. He edged his horse in front of hers cutting the mare off enough to have her follow the stallion. "This way," low under his breath as he cut through an area between a boulder and a great tall pine. There was hardly a trail but there was one nonetheless as he knew where to follow it. The forest gave way to a grassy field and a stone wall that separated it, worn down to passable from the trail and such on the other side where he knew where to head at an angle across. Once through that area where the gate was long gone, he headed into the thick of pines and oaks until he came upon the cabin near built into the side of a small mountain. He had almost missed it in the darkness himself. He dismounted to see all was well inside the place just in case. One hand on his dagger as he was over to swing open the door wide. A raccoon scurried out in a chatter but it was otherwise unoccupied.

Maggie listened to everything said about the Rangers, absorbing it with interest. She was still learning new things about the lands and its people everyday; it had such a rich and varied history that it would take a long time to learn it all. When he cut her horse off, she quirked a brow curiously but thought better than to question him, in case he sensed danger again. She had to duck slightly when they passed underneath a low-hanging pine, its needles sparkling with moisture. The passage was rough but he seemed to know where he was going, and indeed as they got further there were signs of habitation, the stone wall and the posts from what had once been a gate. Then they were at the cabin he had mentioned earlier, and she dismounted when he did, reaching out to take the reins of his horse as well as holding her own. Watching as he approached the door cautiously, she couldn't help but gasp when the raccoon suddenly charged. Then she was laughing at her own reaction, a brief smattering of true laughter. She hitched the horses' reins securely to a sturdy tree branch.

"There is a small stable down the side." As it was best to get the horses from view just in case. He was over as fingers brushed along hers to ease the reins from them into his. She would see his smile, appreciative of the gesture. "Cabin is safe now, I'll be right in," once he saw to the horses and if there were any other critters inside, he was sure to hear her yelp and he'd be in the back door quick as a whip. Once done he was back around and heading inside, there would be a fire to light to take out the dampness. There were two beds inside and thick quilted blankets. She might notice that it was well stocked. He knew the story behind it, why there were a number of them in the forests or such areas of wilderness. "Make yourself comfortable. Would you like to have some tea before we take our rest?" Squatted down as he was lighting kindling under the logs of peat and wood.

Again there was that minute spark of energy or electricity when his fingers brushed hers, but she chalked it up to her imagination. The smile was returned softly before he disappeared with the horses. By the time he came back, Maggie was inside with her cloak hung up on a hook to dry from the drizzle. Probably not surprising, she had found a broom and was sweeping the thin layer of dust from the floor, though the place was otherwise clean. Which surprised her some. When he came back in, she put the broom away in the corner. "Only if you want some too." She didn't want to be a bother. Maggie seated herself on the edge of one of the beds, leaning over to take off her shoes and then peeled off her stockings, careful to keep her skirts decently arranged as she did so. The stockings too would be hung to dry out a bit, over the footboard of her bed. "How did you know where to find this place?"


"There is some herbal tea in that saddlebag," which he nodded to being his hands were busy with making the fire. There was a kettle hanging over the fire too that had water in it to boil. The sparks flared up catching the kindle which in turn caught the logs on fire. "A number of years ago, I'm thinking like seven after I came to the lands, there was a huge Blizzard that swept through them all. Some strange occurrences with it," which he didn't get into for he was not privy to the real reason behind the Blizzard. It was no ordinary one. "A number of people had gotten stranded in the wilderness and with no shelter, perished. Their bodies were found later on. Maurice McDonough organized the gaining of huskies to pull sleds which they were able to rescue many but it was decided that winter, they would construct a number of cabins all across the lands in intervals that if one got stranded in winter they could find shelter. This cabin would be seen easier with enough white all around. They still keep the dogs and sleds for such emergencies." So she learned another little story in the history of Heathfield.

She rose and crossed the room on bare feet, to retrieve the tea from the saddlebag. Bringing it back over, she crouched down beside Matthew by the fire, sprinkling the tea leaves into the kettle which was already growing hot. She listened to the story with the solemnity and respect it deserved. "I think that's wonderful, and I'm sure it's sheltered many a soul who needed it." She offered a gentle smile as she reached to stir the water in the kettle with the end of a wooden spoon.

"I know some that come up and use them to get away. Do some soul searching, fishing trips and the like. Most bring stuff with them to replace anything they use or just use their own supplies." She might notice the few fishing poles in the one corner, a couple sets of snowshoes hanging on the wall. There were a few chests that had heavier clothing, extra boots and gloves and so on. The cabinets had dried food wrapped up well and most in tins so the raccoons, squirrels and the like couldn't get at them even if attempted. A few tins were scattered on the counter and floor from the raccoon. Probably frustrated the hell out of him. "If it was in the middle of winter and below zero kind of cold, I'd offer to sleep with you to keep each other warm under the blankets." Luckily they were not in that situation and he was surprised at himself he even mentioned it. A clearing of his throat came with a change of subject, "I think the tea is ready. Are you hungry at all. I've some butter biscuits Hazel wrapped up." Rising from the squatted stance as his legs protested for being bent too long. He was over to get the mugs while stretching his legs. Back again but he didn't crouch down, he had pins and needles as it were.

She was idly stirring the kettle, glancing around the room and noting a few things that needed tidying up. She would do so before they left, as her form of thanks for the cabin's existence and the people who tended it. Eyes returned at his sudden comment, and she would have snickered, had he said it in a joking way. He often teased like that, but this time he didn't have that playful spark in his eye. Blink. Unbidden, a rosy flush crept up into her cheeks if only at the visual images that evoked! And she had no idea what to say to that, she couldn't even snicker and joke back because he hadn't seemed to be joking. At least he changed the subject quickly, and she too rose from her crouch. "Aye, biscuits sound good." She used a spare cloth to lift the kettle from the fire, pouring steaming tea into both mugs once he set them down.

Luckily he didn't add about the Indian way and those of the mountains, it meant sleeping naked under the covers for the best way to keep warm in winter. Spooned up against each other. Matthew had a few adventures before he finally reached Heathfield. As she filled the mugs, he got the biscuits which were two large ones rolled up in a cloth and buttered already. Mouth watering delicious as he was back over to offer her one. He was getting tired and once his tea (non caffeine) and biscuit were done, he would be getting some sleep. He would bolt the door to the cabin which was left unlocked once the anyone making use of it moved on. "I still think Hazel is one of the best cooks I've had the pleasure of eating her meals." Rightfully spoken before taking a bite of his biscuit.

The kettle was replaced to the hearth in case they wanted more later; it would keep warm enough on the embers. "Thank you," she said as she took her biscuit, which smelled delicious even if it wasn't completely fresh. Certainly it was fresher than their food would be as the journey wore on. She perched on the edge of her bed to eat, mug in one hand, biscuit in the other. She made short work of the latter, chewing the last buttery bite slowly. It was washed down with some of the tea, which was soothing with its warmth and herbs. She too was growing sleepy, and once her mug was empty, she rose to turn the blankets of her bed down. Lucky for Matthew being a male he could strip off his shirt to sleep, but she would have to sleep in her dress. Which didn't bother her much, being it was well worn and fairly loose-fitting so it was comfortable.

There was something to be said for peasant clothing. It was on the norm far more comfortable than the courtly attire. Once his tea and biscuit was done, he was up to rinse out the mug and leave on the counter before he was heading back to the bed he'd be using, stripping off his shirt as he went. Matthew was not muscle bound like some but he was muscular for all the wood splitting and work he did around the tavern. It kept him fit. There was hair on his chest and the way the pants fitted, he had a good rounded arse, muscular too as he hurled himself on the bed and sunk into the quilt. The cabin was a cozy warm that he probably would not need to use it. "Good night Maggie, or morning, I will see you in a few hours." Knowing he would sleep at least six and have them on their way by late morning.

She was curled up on her side in bed by the time he crossed the room to his own bed. She couldn't help but look, or maybe stare as he pulled off his shirt. The way his muscled bunched just subtly with every step, showing strength he had earned through hard work. He was not carved like a Grecian god like, say, Anhur but she liked his look better, for some reason. It seemed more real, less daunting. She blinked to break the gaze when he spoke. "Good night." Her blanket was pulled up past her hips and she rolled onto her back, pillowing her head with one bent arm tucked beneath it. Matthew might fall asleep quickly but it would take her awhile. Her body was physically tired and aching from riding so long, but it took some time for her mind to quiet.



Date: 09-23-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 10

The Trip to Bogton
Matthew was having strange dreams that mingled with reality. There was a scratching at the door and a clattering of collective birds that finally brought him from his sleep. Next he was wrestling with someone that turned out to be his quilt and he ended up half off the bed and onto the floor, one leg still caught as he gradually woke.

It had taken her awhile but eventually, she had fallen into slumber... one deep enough to make waking a slow business. She'd slept for enough hours to have her subconscious stirring, knowing she ought to wake, but it wasn't until the sounds of a ruckus that she actually opened her eyes. She sat up quickly at first, startled, then looked to where Matt seemed to be battling his blanket. She blinked the sleep from her eyes and looked at him strangely, her hair all tousled from the pillow. "Are you alright?" Then with a glance toward the shuttered window, "what time is it?" It was disorienting sleeping through most of a day.

He stopped struggling as he woke with a thud of his head against the floor and let out a good laugh. "To think my advisory was winning too.." which it was by the looks of it. He quickly untangled himself and was up and over to the window with a squinted look outside up to the sky. "Not yet noon and we should be on our way." Turning as he spoke and making his way back over to pull his pants on that laid at the bottom of his bed. "Are you hungry or prefer to wait until a break along the way," hopping on one foot as he pulled a boot on then hopping on the other as the mate was pulled on.

She winced when he banged his head and asked again, "Are you alright?" But it ended in giggling when he laughed, himself. Noon, he said.... disorienting! At his question, she pushed back her blankets and out of bed, tugging on her skirts to rearrange them. "Perhaps I'll have one last mug of tea now and then we can eat a bit later." She raked the thick hair out of her eyes, combing through it with her fingers as she crossed to pour herself a mug of tea from the kettle which had been left warm on the hearth. A small cup of tea just to wake her up, and then she could get ready.

"That sounds like a good idea." A cup of tea would have them on their way with a meal later when they fully woke. He had his tunic pulled on and over to pour himself a cup. Once they were done he would clean up with her help having everything go quickly and smoothly. They worked well as a team but they had some practice. He discovered, as he was out the door with the saddlebag over his shoulder, what all the scratching had been. The raccoon rushed in going between their legs and off under one of the beds. The door was closed behind them but not locked. He was sure the rascal had a few means to get in and out. The chimney being one that could not be used for the fire in it last night. What remained was stoked down into the ashes safely. Making his way around the cabin to the horses, he saw to feeding them from the feed bags before he attached the saddle bag back onto his.

True to her promise, she was tidying up a few last things on the shelves, but the impromptu entrance of the raccoon put an end to any dawdling. She yelped and leapt sideways just in time to have it sweep harmlessly past her and into some unseen nook. Laughing some at her own reaction as she stepped quickly out behind Matthew and shut the door. "He's probably angry we stole his home for a night." Once her saddlepack was secured back onto her horse, she mounted smoothly and adjusted the reins.

"I think so, or the last one to occupy the cabin before that made it a pet." They were tricky rascals but many made them pets. Some even befriended the skunks, they were lucky it was a raccoon. Wry smile came fleetingly before the nudge of boots against the sides of the stallion started them on their way. The field look different in sunlight with flowers still blooming and the dance of butterflies, bees and various other bugs had it alive as they passed through. Soon enough they were out on the road heading north again. They would stop for a meal when hungry but otherwise pressed on. A small barn was used on the vineyard lands of Darren McCullen that was prearranged. They had hay to sleep on and blankets left on purpose for their use. The dry hay had a sweet scent that Matthew actually enjoyed. This night they slept through most of the night and started again on their journey at the break of dawn. He didn't want to mess up their sleeping habits too badly. They had to go northeast some to avoid the river and lake as well the mountains as much as possible. This, their third day, they crossed over the border between Ballicastle and the Wild Lands. Well, not quite as he chose to bed down in the forest before continuing on in the morning of which then they officially crossed the border.

It had been some time since she'd been out in open fields and wilderness like this; she'd frequented Crystal Gold lake during the summer, but it was so near to town, it wasn't quite the same. These wide open spaces made her want to breathe it in deeply, and she filled her lungs and eyes with it. Despite the uncertainties and the solemn purpose this journey held, she was actually enjoying it. The scenery was stunning and she always got along well with Matthew. Even getting to know him a bit better along the way which she enjoyed. She especially liked the night spent in the McCullen barn; the hay smell reminded her so strongly of her childhood that she said as much to Matthew, though didn't share many more details than that. It put her in a good mood which lasted the day but inexorably, dissipated as they drew further north. The headache began with the familiar pulsing in her temples, easy enough to ignore and she had long practice. As the third day dragged on the pulsing became throbbing, but she smiled and chatted much the same as before. When the throbbing became stabbing pains she couldn't laugh much anymore, and by the time they had found a camping spot in the forest, she hadn't spoken in a couple hours. Now as they rode out from the border she sat her horse in the same silence, her face drawn in a way that suggested she hadn't slept much. They were about a day and night's ride from Bogton.

He well noticed the difference in Maggie once they crossed the border especially. Something that had been growing and certainly getting worse. Still they pushed on and for once he didn't plague her with questions like: are you all right?, but kept silent, watching her instead. She might feel his eyes upon her (for her extraordinary senses) and pulled away when she looked. This would go on quite a bit as he would managed to know just that second before she would look his way. His concern grew when she could no longer even smile, something more than the situation they were headed into. The look of pain was on her features, not just the painful situation. "What is it?" Pausing along the trail as he needed a few moments to rest their horses. Up ahead was the crossroad, the west road would take them to Slocum Hollow and Luneberg beyond that if one kept going over the mountains. The road heading east would eventually take them into the far end of Kildare. Straight would keep them on the road that would wind up along another river and a lake where Bogton laid not far from where bogs had been, where bogs still were too. They supplied peat for many along with other ores, including clay needed for mortar. They were half way there from the border and could camp in the woods again if she needed to rest.

She was deeply grateful that Matthew didn't seem much inclined towards conversation today. Much as she enjoyed it she couldn't have mustered up the will to chat. It was all she could do to sit her horse with eyes open. She felt his gaze on her every once in awhile, and felt his concern too. She couldn't help the wince that sat on her features but at least he hadn't asked about it.... not until now. When he drew up, she tugged her reins to bring her own horse to a stop. "My head hurts." An understatement, but even talking hurt, so she kept her words at a minimum. "I didn't sleep much last night, I just need to rest." Her feet found the ground, she took a moment to get her balance once on her own two feet then moved to a nearby tree. It was littered with fallen autumn leaves below, but had a broad flat trunk, and it was here she sat. Her hood was drawn up as shield against the sunlight. "Just for a moment."

He looked about as she dismounted. No one was in sight but that didn't mean that would last or who might come along up here in what was considered the Wild Lands. There were a lot of small bandit groups, poachers, no goods that would swoop down on anyone that might be in distress. He dismounted too, taking up the reins of both their horses. "Can you make it to over the embankment here?" Not one too inclined to make it overly difficult but probably enough not to have anyone to bother that didn't need to. "We can find a place to rest a few hours, you can use me as a pillow and get some sleep." That way her head would not be directly on the hard ground. He had water he could add some of the herbs to which he also carried. "You can nod a reply..." realizing how her words had been strained.

"No." Strained her voice might be, but she was firm in her answer. She wasn't talking about going over the embankment, either. "Not a few hours, let's keep going." The only thing worse than her current agony would be prolonging it. She knew in her gut that the pain wasn't going away, not until she faced whatever it was she had to face. It had been a disturbing epiphany to realize that this was exactly what had happened last time, with Richard. The pain had gotten worse and worse as they traveled, drawing them to stop in Bogton where he had disappeared... but she wouldn't let that happen with Matthew. Pale of face, she pushed resolutely to her feet once more.

"At least have a drink of water and we can ride slow." They didn't need to push the animals anyway. It had been a long road for them too. He poured some water from his canteen which had a touch of lemon in it, added the powdered herbs to swish in dissolving before he was the few steps over to offer it up. "You let me know if you have to stop."

The headache had her queasy, so she hadn't eaten much the past day, nor even drank much water since it made her empty belly cramp. But she accepted the drink he brought her; anything to help take the edge off. She was obliged to latch the fingers of her free hand onto his arm, just for a moment as she drank, vertigo briefly washing over her. The water tasted strange but it was good for her and she swallowed it all. A faint nod to his words and then she was over to her horse.

He was there to support her and would purposely let the minutes drag on. Everything in him screamed that he should carry her back off home but he knew this would not go away, this would follow (or try to) into Heathfield and there would be a clashing of wards, there could be some getting hurt. Lips pressed together to not say his thoughts and worry her. Matthew could only hope he could help her and he would be doing his best, he just might not be a match for whatever this way, not like a Druid would be. Once she was done with the bit o' water, "let me help you up," at this rate she would not make it seated upon the gentle mare she rode. Once she was up and seated, certain she was not going to fall over the other side or the like, he was over to put away the cup then mounted up. "Ride close to me," as he was over to stay close as two horses could be, by her side in case she fainted. Falling from her horse was not going to be an option.

She still had the strength to hold onto her horse, or at least she found the strength somewhere deep down within herself. Settling herself on the saddle, she nodded again slightly to Matthew and waited for him to mount up before speaking quietly. "Matthew." She met his eyes, able to see clearly there how guilty he felt for not being able to do more for her. "This isn't your fault. I'm glad it's you who is here with me." She even managed a smile, faint but truly meant. Then they were off again. Matthew had them going slow, true to his word, and their progress was crawling but steadily north. As they approached the bogs, the road became more and more narrow, and mushy underfoot. It wasn't swampy enough to get the horses' hooves stuck, but definitely damp, and there was that faint alkaline smell of the marshes in the air. It didn't help her nausea which only worsened along with the headache. The day seemed unbearably long and it was a relief when the sun began to set, taking its warmth and too-bright light with it. She was hunched and drooping in her saddle by the time it was of an hour to begin finding a campground for the night. It would be difficult locating a dry place in this environment, but suddenly she drew her mare to a stop. "I can't," she whispered, the first words she'd spoken in hours. Strong she might be and stubborn at that, but such agony sucked her earlier determination to keep going right out of her. Her head felt as if it was being devoured from the inside by a thousand swarming, biting, fire ants. Each subtle swaying of her horse's hips was torture and she simply couldn't take it anymore. Indeed she looked closer to fainting now than she had earlier.

Her smile appeased him greatly and it could be seen in the light that kindled back in his eyes. It fortified him to be the best he could be. Perhaps there was going to be a few surprises in store. "So this is what that smell was that I noticed since we cross the border into these lands and only getting stronger." More mussed as they moved along a trail that only got narrower. In his mind he decided this place was probably a step to hell or a doorway there. By the time she was slumping, he had his arm around her to help steady. "I am here for you. We can do this. We have come this far. We can find a room at a Inn in town." If one could call it a town. It was but not like descent towns they were use to. Where they stop was swarming with tiny bugs, gnats, that were very bothersome. "We cannot stay right here. Let us press on to the town at least."

She wanted to moan and say no, she couldn't take one step more. She wanted to fall from her saddle and lay down right here in the bog and close her eyes. Wanted it fiercely... but somehow found it in herself to nod, swallowing the helplessly weak tears that clogged her throat. And they started off once more, awkwardly slow as their horses were forced to walk so close together, but she needed that arm around her shoulders to tether her to earth. Their horses' hooves made slushy sucking noises in the mud as they followed the trail, around a bend in the landscape, and got their first view of Bogton. By then stars were dotting the dark sky overhead, competing with the tiny balls of light that belonged to the town's meager collection of buildings. It was a poor, run-down place, as any village located in the bogs might be expected to be. They passed farmsteads at first, where they grew no crops but instead harvested peat for the fireplaces of other kingdoms. The 'farmhouses' were mostly just shacks that seemed to be sagging into the bogs they sat upon. As they entered the town proper, the footing became more packed and steady; clearly they had drained this area, but that fetid swampy smell remained. Maggie wasn't exactly looking around or offering comment; her eyes were squeezed nearly shut. But Matthew may notice that amongst the clutter of ramshackle houses and shops, it was a tiny place with only one Inn. Its sign swung askew, hanging by only one hinge with the other hinge broken. The words were faded and cracked but read The Musky Mug. It seemed a tavern on the bottom with rooms atop, its boards weatherbeaten and even one of the windows cracked. Definitely nowhere near like the Thistle.

On top of the bugs and alkaline stint to the air, they moved right on into being downwind of cows or cattle that were kept on one of the farms. Manure at its richest craps. He was starting to feel queasy! "And to think that some can get use to this," once more mussed under his breath as he kept her close, pulled her cloak's hood down more to ward off the smells. It certainly must be what hell on earth was like. Eyeing the shacks and people poorly dressed, rags on the little ones, dirt on their attire as it would be impossible for them to keep or stay clean. He and Maggie were eyed warily by most for many came through that would murder if they thought they could get a pence off the poor, some for the fun of it. Being they kept moving on in a steady place, hands relaxed from the hilt of a hunting knife or eating dagger. Once to the only Inn in town (and that was questionable), he drew them in. Steadying Maggie before he quickly dismounted. The two saddle bags were quickly detached and over his shoulder as nimble fingers flew in the rush to undo the straps then over to catch Maggie on her way down. There were a few around watching them. Waiting. Calculating. Wondering. All various emotions written on different individuals. He only glanced, said nothing while ushering Maggie inside. They had peat burning in the building and some kind of incense that at least made the air within more tolerable. The Keeper eyed them as warily as the others outside as Matthew spoke up. "Do you have a room?" The answer was curt, "no, all taken," which Matthew knew was a lie. "My wife, she is with child and feeling ill, Sir." Appealing to another side if he had one buried there. There was no mistaking the pale look to Maggie that supported the idea as the Inn Keeper finally gave a nod. "I might have one. Joan, go see if that room in the back is finally empty." Which the barmaid quickly went to see and came back with the 'right' answer. "Aye, it is Sire." Which gave the idea that this bartender, tavern owner, was as a king in this place.

Her headache wasn't the only painful thing in her mind, now that they were back in Bogton. So many memories flitted there too. Richard settling her into bed, his quick smile over his shoulder before he vanished out the door of their room. Richard in a dark alley with flying demons tearing at his clothes and hair. Real memories and imagined ones tangled with each other in her fevered mind. The pain made her feel like she was being pounded into unconsciousness, and she felt herself falling, only this wasn't imagined. She would've tumbled from her saddle if Matthew hadn't caught her. That swooping feeling of falling at least roused her enough to be able to walk inside, with Matthew's support. And she didn't have to act to substantiate his words to the bartender. Her face was ashen but Matthew might notice her skin felt hot to the touch. She was easy to guide when they were finally moving into the back room. At least it wasn't the same one upstairs she'd stayed in with Richard.

Matthew had a noble look about him that the worse of the ordinary would recognize, even smell some say. Craig, was the owner's name which he got to hear when a woman appeared by his side with lowered words betwixt. It was this older, rather plump but craggy looking woman that noticed Maggie being feverish. Only a few words were heard, the woman at first didn't want them in if they were bringing a fever with them but when the man explained, 'pregnancy', the woman nodded knowing and disappeared. Craig then turned to Matthew as the barmaid was off doing her job in serving the few customers within. "It'll cost yea bloke, a full silver and non o' that paper money some try to pass off." Matthew went through the means of looking shocked at the amount, that would portray he was not rich even if he smelled like a noble. "I need a room so me wife can get some rest," so that was that .. he would pay anything right now even if he really didn't have it. The older woman was back as she elbowed her husband not to push this ruse and was off to get some clean water for the room and tea for the woman. She had a few babes herself and so there was compassion in one for Maggie at least. Maggie was sagging more and more as he finally had to lift her up into his arms while her head lolled in against his shoulder. Craig indicated his wife's plump form waddling away for them to follow and that was exactly what Matthew did. The room was not really all that bad considering the town and tavern. It was surprisingly clean and the woman turned out to be surprisingly kind, willing to get whatever was needed to help the pregnant wife.

She did notice that Matthew kept saying 'wife' and then heard the word 'pregnant', and for some reason that struck her as quite silly, funny even. She giggled slightly just before that moment when her eyes rolled up and her body began to go limp, but Matthew caught her again. This time it was a moan that passed her lips as the movement smacked her with another pang of agony. Her head did loll to rest against Matthew's chest, eyes closing briefly to shut out the light as she was carried.... somewhere.

She was placed on a mattress bed with homemade quilts on it. He was beginning to think this was not one of the ordinary rooms in the place and later would find that was a good guess. Someone had put love into the stitches of the quilts and homemade afghans. The cushions on the chairs, the lace tablecloth on the small table use to dine upon. The curtains in the window were homemade too by someone with skill. Someone who had probably made all such in the room. The woman poured the tea as she wrung her hands studying Maggie. "She be poor with child," meaning she could lose the child in the way she looked. Matthew gave a solemn nod, "thank you for all your care Ma'am. I will see she drinks the tea once she rests. Sleep is best?" The woman nodded knowing that some things could not be changed and only fate the key. She took her leave saying she would be back in an hour or so with some soup and bread for them both. "Thank you," seeing her out as he closed and locked the door behind the woman, not against her but anyone else that might be roaming about that didn't have the same kind of heart.

Another moan sounded as she was laid on the bed, her head nestled against the pillow, gently but enough to cause new pain. She was dimly aware of both Matthew and the woman, who seemed kind, buzzing around.. but was beyond taking any notice of the room or the fact that it was strangely well-kept for a place like this. Sweat lined her brow as she fought against the agony that tried to best her, but it was an uphill climb and each moment harder. No escape from it and she turned restlessly on the mattress. After the door had closed she giggled again faintly. "Am I having a baby? I don't remember that... thought I would remember that.." Hard to tell if she were joking or actually far gone enough to wonder.

He didn't like lying but certainly Maggie was afflicted with something and it wasn't some black plague. Had those here thought she might be so afflicted they would run them out of town if not outright kill them and burn their bodies. Dump what remained in the sucking sounding bogs where their bodies would disappear forever. Such thoughts! He shook them off but this place seemed to nourish such kind. He was over to sit on the bed next to Maggie, taking her hands in his. "Aye, what I told the woman so please remember that is why you are feverish, you may be miscarrying." Although he got that chill up the back of his spine in wondering if she had gone insane. Which he would then have to deal with if that were the case. He'd first get her out of here that fast one could not blink and they would be gone.

It seemed more like she was delirious, with the pain and fever. It was difficult to keep her grip on reality, and she almost didn't seem to hear his answer. This would go on for some time, as she tossed and turned, sometimes moaned and other times murmured some random question or comment. She drank some tea and he even managed to get some soup down her as well but it was a long while before she grew quiet and still. It seemed a slow downward spiral into unconsciousness as she finally fell asleep.

Date: 09-25-10
Poster: Maggie Callahan
Post # 11

Spur of the Moment Impulse
After the tea and soup, of which he ate for it was actually good, Matthew settled Maggie into bed with a blanket around her before laying next to her. Pinning her down so she couldn't get up and roam without first throwing him off the bed. Both had their clothes on but he had taken her shoes off as well his. He laid awake listening to her breathing and finally fell asleep long after she fell into an unconscious type sleep. Dawn would break before he woke unless she woke first.

Even after she fell into such a deep sleep she seemed restless. Her body burned and breath was shallow as she moved against Matthew occasionally, sometimes nestling against him and other times seeming to be trying to pull away. Her dreams were very strange. At first she saw herself, standing and looking at herself in a mirror, a hand on her huge belly... then she was holding a baby and he had eyes she recognized, hazel green and gold... but she couldn't remember how it all happened. This was all likely from Matthew's concocted story about her condition... but her dreams grew darker. It was the same as the nightmare of before, with the ice and rushing snow, Richard standing in the middle. Only this time she thought she knew the place... Maggie's sleeping body gave a twitch and she woke with a gasp. If not completely pinned by Matthew she sat up quickly. The sickle moon hung high overhead and there was no hint of dawn on the horizon, yet; perhaps only a few hours had passed.


He had one arm and leg slung over her from when she had nuzzled. So, when she bolted up, the momentum sent him to the floor where he had a very rude awakening, "wha??" being quite disoriented or the fact he'd been in the bed with her at all. It took a few seconds to pull it all together in a very tired mind, one use to assimilating things far faster. He bolted up and to her side, viewing her face, her eyes, to see if she was even awake.

She was already throwing the blankets aside and swinging one leg out of bed by the time he pulled himself together. "Matthew, we have to go." She seemed awake but a bit... strange. Her dark hair was tousled everywhere, her eyes huge with the images she'd just woken from. She was trying to pull on her shoes, but so hastily that she had to keep tugging to get them on right. She was almost shaking with the need to go, hurry, hurry. "Come on, we must go!"


She was still running a fever and not even physically capable of putting on her shoes! "Maggie," trying to still her hands, "it's all right, you're running a fever and need more rest. It's the middle of the night still. It can wait until morning or when your fever breaks." What else was he to do? This obviously was fever borne than any rational (or supernatural) demand.

"No." She pulled her hands away once, then more sharply when he caught them up again. "No. We have to go, Matthew, listen to me." A tone of insistence came into her voice as she stalled the hands that tried to soothe her once more. She sought to meet his eyes, holding his gaze until he seemed ready to listen. Her eyes were fever-bright yes but there was something lucid in them, and begging him to listen. "I think I know where Richard is. Please."

Perhaps there was something deep inside Matthew that recognized what was down under the fever-bright eyes. "Aye, then," going on instinct than logic as he helped her put her shoes on then got on his own. At least she was allowing, asking even, him to come with her considering their last argument where he talked her into letting him come along. He was quick about everything being he was fully awake, putting her cloak about her as well getting his on. Weapons from the saddlebags hidden beneath his cloak and anything of value taking with him in case they didn't get back to the room, leaving the saddlebags themselves there, food left in them. Although he stashed away some beef jerky into both cloaks. He was to the door which he bolted then was over to a window to open instead, they were on the first floor so it would be no problem in getting out undetected.

She was in such an agitated rush, it was a good thing Matthew was so calm and collected. She might have forgotten her cloak and everything else had he not done it for her. As soon as he finished the clasp, she was moving toward the door, but paused at his hushed beckon behind her. Over to the window instead, she slipped out with little difficulty, feet finding the ground with only a slight stumble. The moment Matthew was out she seized his hand and started moving quickly, leading the way. They were moving toward the other side of town, not that a village of this size really had many sides... but her feet led them away from the inn.


Once through he pressed the window closed, one that was obscured for the brush and trees, looked locked though it was not. They would have to break down the door to discover they were not even inside. The thought had Matthew smirk. This was not the first time he had to escape. Why he kept a level head and knew everything to do and quickly too. He let her lead but he kept her close, both with their hoods up that left their faces in shadow if they came across anyone. There were ones around, up to no good or ones just coming out of a stupor, most likely having been robbed. He kept them to the shadows, kept them as much to be unnoticed as possible while moving swiftly the whole while.

She wasn't thinking in terms of being stealthy or keeping hidden, in fact she barely saw what was around them except as impressions. Her face was pale but the features set, her eyes large and seeming to see somewhere else... and if she turned her face into a shadow, they would almost seem to glow. She was nearly running in her haste, sometimes sliding to a halt, looking around, before plowing forward again. Here was a maze of alleys and back corridors, and the stink of the bogs was strong, an occasional distant shout or the breaking of glass able to be heard. They veered around a pile of bones belonging to some unfortunate animal, turned a sharp corner and stood at the mouth of another alley. This one was shrouded in mist but there was a figure standing midway down, just a dark shape in the fog and she skidded to a stop.

There were a number of curses that went under his breath when she slipped from his hold (loose as it were so she could lead him where she wanted to go) to run out into the street and look around. His heart would leap to his throat those moments and he'd be right out there to usher her along their way, in the direction she would decide again. He had no clue and the streets (of what they had for a small town) were a bunch of lattice work. He's seen someone tuck back inside a door or corridor, certainly as suspicious of them as they would be. He wondered on how far fetched this decision was, letting her go and going with her in this mad race. They were fast pace and when they finally halted at the mouth of a misty one, something triggered inside that this was no ordinary mist. "I think we should be careful here, Maggie," words so low by her ear as he kept her close. His free hand going to the hilt of the dagger beneath his cloak.

Standing close to Matthew, she turned her head slightly towards him to listen while he spoke... but her eyes were trained on the figure. The tall figure moved some, as if about to walk away, and she broke away from Matthew to take an impulsive step forward. "Richard?" But what had been the beginnings of joy on her face froze when the figure turned around. It walked, no, drifted towards them through a path that parted in the mist. It appeared to be a man, tall and straight and thin as a willow, so thin that it seemed impossible there was any meat on his bones at all. Yet he carried that air of daunting power about him too. He was swathed in robes that swirled steely gray and white, the colors of a winter stormcloud. As he drew nearer they could see that his hair was thin and straight and pure white, but his eyes were what chilled the marrow. It was hard to tell whether they were blue or gray but if cold had a color... that was it. They seemed to register little emotion as they turned on Maggie.
"I've been waiting for you, Margaret."

Matthew was not liking the looks of this at all. It was hard for him to still any words knowing it was better not to speak. As Maggie stepped away, he stepped back to her side. The eyes told him a lot as his hand eased from the dagger's hilt, it would be useless here. A better weapon would be his wits. He held to his promise too, not to interfere unless it was clear there was harm meant upon Maggie. In that moment his own eyes grew brighter, more blue than the bronze color they usually were, more blue, more blue white to be precise.

Maggie felt as if a strange sort of pull was drawing her towards the stranger, and yet it was this same thing which repelled her. Her head and heart pounded in tandem as a shiver crawled slowly down her spine. She was aware of Matthew beside her and grateful for it, but couldn't seem to take her eyes off the man. "Who are you?" It came out a whisper.
The man smiled. But it was not a gesture that would warm anybody. It had a chilly quality to it, his teeth as white as fresh fallen snow. "A friend, if you'll have me. I already know your brother." That smile made the hairs lift from the back of her neck. The cool and quiet way in which he spoke about 'knowing' Richard... sent sudden panic through her. "What have you done with him?" The wraith-like figure held up both skeletal hands to reassure her. "Do not fear, I have him somewhere safe. You can come see him right now, if you wish." It was then that those icy eyes shifted to Matthew. "This is not another sibling," he observed, murmuring dryly as if speaking to himself. "What is he to you, I wonder?"

Matthew's mind was in a whirl. If he said husband most likely the one would want him dead instantly for he'd be a liability and there was no rings on their fingers. He most likely knew enough about her family to know he was not a sibling. A friend would probably not get him killed necessarily but certainly out of the way. A cousin would share the same blood, for he knew there was something there this creature wanted and it would at least keep him with Maggie if she was taken to her brother. "I'm her cousin and here to stay at her side." Boldly answered as a cousin would escort.

"No... not that either..." his voice was like brittle leaves blowing across the ground. "Nor husband," he eerily seemed to read Matthew's thoughts, as a near-pupil-less gaze held his. "Nor lover even... though perhaps he wishes to be." Again that faint chilly smile before he turned attention away from the man and back to his prey.
Maggie was almost holding her breath when the figure turned its attention onto Matthew, subconsciously drawing closer to him, lest the creature attack him then and there. But when the stranger in gray spoke last about lover... her eyes flicked only briefly to Matthew, feverish cheeks flushing as she strengthened her voice to demand, "What do you want?"

He didn't like someone probing around in his head without permission so he played the man's game, one of his abilities was coming to the forefront. "We have slept together." Which was true and in his mind there was a steamy sexual scene that would seem hidden and very real-like. Might even have the old coot pause there for a bit! He wasn't sure where this was going but he was subconsciously drawing on that other part of one's self.
What the?! What had happened last night? She felt a moment of disorientation, remembering her dreams of the last few hours... holding Matthew's baby in her arms while he held her in his arms... the real mixed with the imagined enough to give her vertigo. Her eyes flicked again to Matthew, but she glimpsed something there in his eyes... as if he had some sort of plan. Confusion held her tongue.
The wraith's smile vanished as he studied Matthew for a few moments. But his expression gave little away. Those bleak eyes narrowed slightly, holding on Matthew before turning back to Maggie at her question. And he smiled his frosty smile again. "I've been watching you for a long time, Margaret. You look so like your mother, did you know that?" His voice was almost silky. "Perhaps you don't remember her face, you left her so young. But I remember everything. I know about that child, the one you revived when you were so innocent yourself, you did not realize what it meant. I watched when you resisted that lordling boy whose family you worked for, afraid to get too close lest your powers be... unleashed." He leaned closer to her, his frigid breath raising gooseflesh on her skin. "And I know that you are wasting your gifts. I want to change this." Her head still throbbed and her thoughts were a mess, almost as tangled as her emotions. A great rush filled her when he mentioned knowing her mother, enough to make her want to trust, to listen, even if instinct told her otherwise. But when he began to recall those deepest, most personal memories as if pulling them from her very mind, fury rose to join the mix.

Matthew didn't like this man one bit, felt he was dangerous and knew he'd be right on that guess but the man knew a lot about Maggie. About her family. About her years growing up. He kept quiet at this point and listened instead. He was use to being around ones with powers, witchcraft, druids and so on so that didn't even get a little surprise out of him which would support being intimate and would have the guy wondering about his own ability faltering that he didn't see it at first.

Date: 09-25-10
Poster: Maggie Callahan
Post # 12

Maggie had to swallow a lump in her throat to speak again. "What do you want with Richard? Why do you have him captive?" That made him laugh, if it could be even called that; it was more a mirthless sound like icicles shattering. "I know you are not truly so stupid as that, Margaret. I want nothing to do with your brother. In truth, I was most disappointed when I summoned you and got him instead." It was that word, summoned, which stalled her breath. What did he mean, summoned? She had not been called to this town, it had been merely a random stop along the way, a happenstance... Seeing her confusion, the wraith lifted a hand to brush her temple ever so lightly with cold fingers. Whispering as her blood pulsed beneath his fingers. "The pain drew you here... didn't it?"

Matthew stayed quiet but instincts told him something unnatural was going to happen as he was that close, a hand moved up under Maggie's cloak as fingers curled around her arm in a firm yet gentle grip. She was not going anywhere without him as he too picked up on that word summoned. And the fact, the man had miscalculated there, he was not perfect. Flaws were starting to show. Something else well hidden was not detected.

And because Matthew had his hand on her arm, he'd be able to feel the way that she jumped, in that moment when the man touched her. It sent a spike of agony through her head that left her breathless. "You. You are doing this to me? The pain, the.. the dreams..." It didn't make complete sense but made her furious nonetheless. "I nearly killed myself falling from a roof! If you wanted me, why did you - "
"I would have never let you die, my dear." He interrupted to protest in almost hurt tones. "It was for your own good. To awaken your natural abilities, to bring you here to me, who can teach you. All must suffer to do what must be done..." His pale empty gaze moved to hold Matthew's once more. "Isn't that right?"

"She would have died. You have no real powers in the lands she was in but you have her brother, that is what brought her here." Not answering his trick question but adjusted what was said to the truth. He knew Maggie wanted to turn back because of the pain not want the pain.
Bitter cold filled his expression. This was his only reaction to Matthew's words. "It seemed to work." He observed softly. Then his attention was fully back on the wisp of a girl who stood there, this strong young woman who had run from her fate for so long. But fate was something that nobody could outrace. "Your choice is simple, Maggie, Faith. Give yourself over to my teaching, and your brother walks free. Refuse... and he is mine, forever." Until now he had had a silky soft quality about his tone, but now it ran frigid, his gaze on Maggie inescapable. "Uselessly powerless he may be, but I'm sure I could find some other use for him." Again he reached forward to brush her brow, and at his icy touch, she was astonished to feel the pain vanish and the fever ebbing away. "I want your head clear to make this decision. Return to this place, tomorrow eve at this same time. I will expect your answer then." He turned away and seemed to disappear unnaturally fast. The swirling mist obscured him and he was gone in mere seconds.
Even when he was gone she didn't move, nor could she tear her eyes away from the place he had vanished. Her temples no longer ached, but it made the choice presented no easier. She realized she was shivering and hugged herself tightly.

He kept his mouth shut for a few minutes as he put his arm around her. Leaving her to settle into the soothing warmth he offered. "It is your decision if you want to go with that thing but know that you can have a better suited teacher. I feel it is not the being taught part as this thing will use you for his own purposes but to rescue your brother."

"What does it matter, what he wants with me?" She whispered as she turned her eyes up to her companion. The blue of them no longer glowed but now they were full of shadows. "How can I walk away and leave my brother in that creature's grasp?"

That soothing warmth would penetrate even the deepest chill to chase it away as she might notice that there was light around them both as the mist formed a protective circle having them seem to be whisked away too. "It matters greatly to your friends what happens to you. It matters to destiny in what you become, how you use the ability you were born with." She might notice his voice was changing, a luring healing warmth to it that attracted those of the light. "Aaric came to me concerned for your welfare, feeling you needed a teacher to train and offered his services. It was when Matthew came to me that I knew there was more, the feel this entity I've met on the astral plane trying to sneak into our lands, setting off the wards, is this same one. He was after you and the purity that you are and the purity of your powers lying dormant. He would like to twist them to the darkness, to the cold void that he exists in." When she looked up she would see Matthew's face turn into one she had never met but would feel she knew, knew like a brother as one on that level he was brethren and more. Golden light that shone from all around him, golden hair that was shoulder length, noble Fae features and eyes a piercing blue that held a deep rooted compassion. Almost god like in the tranquility and healing elements that flowed from his very being. "I am the one known as the Druid Prince Andrew. Matthew felt you were up against something greater than one unskilled in their power. Had you known, he would have read your mind as he cannot read mine no further than what I let him see. Matthew awaits you back at your room. I switched places when you went out the window." One of the reasons it was chosen; not that she knew at the time. "Matthew is under my training. Not that this is generally known but something you can know." He awaited her response to all this as he kept them secured away. In fact they were now outside that window but she would not see this just yet for the wall of mist he kept about them. They had moved without moving.

It was all very... overwhelming. One moment she was under Matthew's arm in a cold, foggy alley, the next she was in some other place that did not seem a solid place at all, but more a feeling. What was it? All she saw was light, and felt the warmth. When he began speaking she looked up into his face, puzzled, not quite understanding his words. But then his face was shifting and changing before her very eyes. At first she thought it was some trick of the wraith, and reached out to grab his wrist, as if to tether him there... but her fingers fell away in shock when a stranger appeared. She was instinctually wary of strangers after all this she'd been through... yet it was only a moment before that feeling passed, and somehow she wasn't afraid. Her head tilted slightly to study this Druid Prince Andrew, confusion flickering across her features as she absorbed all he said. "I.. have heard your name but did not.." thought trailed off as she looked around again but all she could see was mist. "Have you been... with us all along?" At this moment the only thing she could sense was that this man was very powerful. What his powers were exactly... that she did not know.

"I have been watching and when you decided to take your leave in the middle of the night to confront the one, I knew this in Matthew's mind, so switched places for your safety. Matthew knows his limitations presently and did not wish to chance something terrible befalling you. This is still your decision but I will say what he holds against you to sway you will not be long in his possession. Although on the same note, you have to be willing to do all you are to gain back what is yours and become the woman destiny will see to if you take this step." He hoped not to confuse her but he felt down deep she would know what he spoke on.

She was silent once more, soaking in his words. It was a lot to take in... everything tonight. Her eyes held his, indeed felt trapped there to his gaze when he spoke of destiny. Something deep, dark and long repressed flickered in her eyes... probably as easy to read as a book, for one like Andrew. In her heart of hearts, she knew he was right, knew what had to be faced. But she suddenly felt indescribably weary. The only thing she could do was nod her understanding and acceptance of this trial.

He saw the flicker and read it correctly, possibly more but reassured her with a smile as he lifted his hand. The mist instantly dispersed as they stood just outside the window she had climbed through. Matthew was back inside pacing in front of the hearth. "What you need at this moment is sleep. Sleep you shall find this night without dreams. Deep, restful sleep." As he lifted his hand again, his touch was electrical that traced over where the other entity had touched her, wiping it away along with any connection. It was not needed. One answer or another, she would be meeting him there on the morrow's eve. "Matthew anxiously awaits." Which would draw her attention to the room and when she looked back, Andrew would be gone. It would not due to linger and possibly be picked up upon.

She took a moment to find her balance when she found herself standing on solid ground, and in a familiar place. A glance through the window caught sight of Matthew, and relief washed over her. Eyes moved back to Andrew when he brushed her brow, and while her headache had been removed by the stranger in gray, Andrew's touch lifted a heaviness she had not known she had borne. For now. There was still a lot to think through. Her brother was alive.. but how to save him without sacrificing herself? It would not bear thinking about until she could get some rest. His touch also brought a brief feeling of electricity, something noticed then forgotten in the same breath. When Andrew spoke of Matthew she looked inside once more, and when she glanced back... only empty air surrounded her. She drew a breath, wondering if and when the druid might reappear... then turned back to the window. She slid it open soundlessly and climbed inside. "Matthew," she said his name softly, perhaps to not startle him with her appearance, and went to him immediately.

Matthew spun on a heel and was quickly over to her, bringing her into his arms. She'd see the concern written all over his features and the relief there too she was all right. "You met Andrew." What she didn't see was the trace of golden dust on her brow and temples where the Druid had touched her. "I knew you were with the best but it still didn't sate my worry. Tell me all that happened?" Drawing her over to where he had fixed them both a cup of tea, gave him something to do while he waited.

She was wrapping her arms around him in the same moment, and holding tightly for a moment. Taking a deep breath in, his scent was familiar and comforting, and when she released the breath, things seemed a bit less bleak. She hadn't known she missed him until finding out that it wasn't him with her at all, but a stranger. Nodding to answer his statement of meeting Andrew, she finally pulled back from the hug to let him fiddle with the tea. She didn't really need any but perhaps it had made him feel better, having something to do with himself. She seated herself heavily in one of the chairs by the hearth, feeling as if she hadn't slept for days, which in fact.. she really hadn't. "Richard is alive." She spoke quietly, watching as he moved around. "He is held captive by a man who seems a... a wizard or sorceror of some kind. A man who has been waiting for me." It gave her a chill to repeat his words. "He offered me a choice. Give myself to him and his 'teachings'. Or... he keeps Richard."

He was over with the cup of tea to hand her. "Have this first to settle your nerves then you should get some sleep." Lots of sleep. "The only reason you would go with this wizard is to get Richard back. I hope the answer is still no or first ask to see your brother before you answer to make sure he is alive. You wont let him keep Richard." That was a sure thing in his mind and really hoping she would not consider turning herself over to such a one. That would be worse than Richard's death and she might know that too. "What would Richard want you to do?" Which he had a good idea of the answer. A bit of a sheepish smile with his confession. "I didn't tell you about Andrew for if the situation was not such as it is, he would not be needed but after the argument I barely won allowing me to come with you, you would have really been against a stranger even if one like Andrew is not really a stranger. It is because I was afraid for you and afraid my abilities would fall short and they would."

She took the teacup into both hands to warm them, nodding her thanks to Matthew and watching again as he sat opposite her. It was a sort of relief to know that he didn't expect her to simply abandon Richard to save herself; he knew her well enough to know she'd never do that. But she still saw no good solution, and her brows drew together, troubled by the question of what Richard would want her to do. She didn't know anything, any more. She was saved from answering it though when he went on, explaining about Andrew. A soft smile came to her lips as he finished. "It's alright, Matthew, I'm glad he came here." Now with the situation at hand she'd need all the help she could get. She was quiet a moment, studying him. Recalling how Andrew had mentioned that Matthew was a student of his, as well. All this time she had never suspected that the handyman had hidden abilities, just like her. Part of her wanted to ask why he didn't mention it earlier. But she knew the answer already. It was the same reason she had never spoken of it herself. Some things were just too raw and deeply buried. Instead she said softly, "I wish I had known. Of your abilities." Something else they could have shared all along.

"I'm a novice learning. I have learned mind connect," then he shook his head as it was neither here nor there at the moment. His tea finished as he had one with her and took her cup once she was done. "What you need right now is sleep and that is what we shall do." He would sleep on the bed too, on his side and with all his clothes on except the boots. "We can talk more when we break fast tomorrow." Which would probably be sometime in the afternoon.
She was curious to hear more, yes but he was right. She was dead on her feet for lack of sleep. She let him take the cup from her hand and it wasn't long before her shoes and cloak were removed and she was in bed. She hadn't exactly expected Matthew to join her, now that she was no longer raging with fever.... but she was glad for it. Not a word said in comment but she did give him a faint smile to show her gratitude. She said her good-nights and curled up beneath the blankets... and if in the night she ended up snuggled against him, head tucked against his shoulder, that could easily be attributed to something done thoughtlessly in sleep. Thanks to Andrew her sleep would be dreamless for once.



Date: 09-26-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 13

The Next Morning

Thanks to Andrew her sleep had been deep and dreamless, so heavy she barely moved throughout the night as her body got the rest it needed. But this also made it difficult to pull herself away from slumber, when the sun crawled high into the sky outside their window. She woke slowly, aware at first that she was not alone in the bed. That was strange... her head was pillowed on his chest, one hand atop it as she lay sideways against him. Then she realized it was Matthew and memory returned in a rush. The journey, her terrible illness, the feverish nightmare that had led them to a misty alley. A man all in white and gray, with eyes as cold as ice... her impossible choice. And Andrew, reminding her that she must delve into the abilities she would much rather ignore... that word destiny. Her mind was a whirl but she didn't move for long minutes after she woke, keeping very still to avoid disturbing Matthew. His heart thumped regularly beneath her ear, his breathing slow and steady, a soothing natural rhythm in what had become a very complicated world.

She wasn't the only one sleeping deeply as the serene look on Matthew's face probably gave a hint of what he looked like as a boy. Unfortunately, he was so in tune to her and her welfare that once she stirred it tugged at his conscious mind and in the next split second his eyes flew open. A little unfocused in that first split second and the next... clarity. "Maggie, you're awake," stating the obvious as a smile lifted. "Did you sleep well?" Gradually becoming aware that she was nestled against him, had managed out of her covers and into his arms. He didn't move or try to get away nor act like he didn't like it. No,he was just as comfortable right where they were.

She felt the shift in his breathing and the slight stir his body gave, and knew he was waking. No longer could she just lay here and pretend that everything was alright. "Aye, only just," she murmured back to reassure him that he hadn't overslept or anything. "I slept very well, deeply." She wondered if he was completely thrown by the fact that she had snuggled up next to him in the night and had made no attempt to move. She was almost afraid to glance to his face, knowing that he was probably looking slightly baffled or maybe even repelled. Only a peek was dared up into his face, her own face close where it was resting on his chest. "Did you? sleep well?"

"Good, that you did, you seem a lot better." Her voice, the clarity of her eyes, the fever gone and now she could make good decisions compared to when delirious. He cleared his throat as he became unsure about being comfortable to lie there if she was not. She might well be embarrassed no matter how much he enjoyed it. Yet, it would not be good to say anything, like how would one? Oh, sorry we must have rolled into one another. No harm done. Worse. Of course there was no harm down, they were both fully clothed. Instead, he eased up, without much adieu, "I slept very well after knowing you were safe," for now but Andrew was around so felt safer for her welfare. "Would you like some tea?" He had left the pot to warm in the hearth. It was then a pounding knock came to the door, being it was still bolted. "Supper," which was really lunch to his thinking. They could hear the tray being set on the floor and the sounds of steps retracting.

That safe comfortable bubble was completely popped the moment he moved away. So much for imagining that nothing had happened, that they were at home at the Thistle, that things were how it should be. It was just as she had thought.. he was probably completely put off by her close contact. What must he think of her? Even if it had felt nice to Maggie.. now she was embarrassed. A slight nod given when he spoke, and she adjusted herself in the bed, pushing up to sit with knees against her chest beneath the blankets. She still had an almost hungover feeling about her, but at least her head was clear and she thought she could even eat some.

He was back over with the tea to hand off one mug to her then to the door which he unbolted. The tray retrieved as there was none in sight down the corridor before he shut and bolted the door again. He was once more over to her to sit on the bed with the tray between them. It smelled good, soup and bread, slabs of Irish bacon, some vegetables and fruit sliced up. He noticed she was embarrassed as he finally spoke up, "I can't regret on my end having you wake in my arms but I am sorry that such embarrassed you as that is not something I would want." So went his apology as best under the circumstances.

She watched him as he moved around the room, trying to read the expression on his face, his body language. It was hard to tell but he seemed as wordless as she. At least there was something to occupy her hands, when he brought the food over. She reached for some bread, ripping off a piece and dipping it into the soup, nibbling on that... until he spoke. Large blues lifted to meet his, once again trying to read deeper. "No, I.. I'm sorry. I don't know how it happened but I know it wasn't... proper." Since when did she care what was proper? She didn't even sound like herself to her own ears. Her voice quieting some as she went on, "I guess I just wanted someone to.. hold me. As if everything was going to be alright." That sounded silly but at least it was genuine. Eyes moving to his again with a faintly sheepish half-smile.


"Aye, but no harm done and I like holding you. You needed to be held." No one would be the wiser to waggle a finger at either of them to say it was improper. Usually the ones that did had been improper themselves or wished they had someone to be improper with. "Do you need someone to talk to now?" He had put off asking her on it while they ate but as they both were pretty much through the food left, it was time to broach the subject. It could not be put off too much longer considering they would have to meet the cold dipstick in a few hours.

No harm done.
Right. She nodded slightly and gave another one of those smiles as the subject was closed. Now it was time to put some food in her belly. She did not have a huge appetite still, but knew she would need her strength, so made sure to eat a little of everything. She was nibbling some melon off its rind when Matthew spoke,and indeed, that was exactly what she needed. Silent a few moments longer while she finished her food, and her thought. "I don't know what to do." That was the crux of it, and what put that deep taint of anguish in her eye. "I do not know what that.. thing wants of me, but all I know is he has my brother." Arms hugged her knees gently as she gazed off a few moments. "I think I have to go with him. To wherever he dwells. He will have Richard there, it's the only way I can try to save him." Though there still remained the very big question of how.

"I could tell you what he wants of you but I think your instincts have already told you. In short, bad things." Probably to any extreme she could imagine and then more. "Seems you have such a gift wanted he went through this extreme. The first thing we need to do is get to where Richard is to see him with your own eyes before you agree to anything. I will go with you."

Aye, she already knew that this man offered no kindness to her... even if he had billed it as 'teaching' her. She felt no warmth or promise from that creature, only dark omens. She nodded slightly, knowing that she would have to venture to that place... wherever it was... though her eyes lingered on Matthew when he spoke of going with her. A brief pressing of her lips showed her worry about that, but they had already argued over that subject one too many times. "When I was a little girl," she spoke quietly, almost to herself, "a friend of mine fell from a tree, broke her neck and lay dead. I knew by then that a brush of my fingers could revive a withered flower... so I decided to try it. When I lay my hands on her head, my friend opened her eyes... I felt such joy. But then I looked up, saw the faces of all the other villagers as they watched... and the look in their eyes.." recalling it still made her shudder. "They were afraid, they were horrified. I have run from that look in their faces for so long but it seems... not far enough." It seemed there was nowhere left to escape it. Her jaw clenched some for just a moment. "I never asked for these abilities, they are a curse, not a gift. I'd give anything to be rid of them, anything." If only that were possible. She wondered if there was any way Andrew could do that, somehow suck all of the 'abilities' out of her...

He watched her as hand soothed by rubbing her back as she talked. The tray having been removed to the floor now that they were done. "I think in this we will have to take it one step at a time. One decision at a time even if many of the decisions to be made this evening will be on the very spur of the split second. You are going to have to rely on your instincts. Whether you want to keep this gift or not is not the point for it is in you and you cannot let this wizard have it. He will use it to destroy others or bring the dead back to life that have been long dead and the world better rid of such ones. He could turn a real terror onto the world and make it his slave along with everyone in it and if they don't corrupt, they will be destroyed. He will eventually destroy you if not converted. Richard. Myself." He could go on but he stressed his point well enough he felt. "I think how something is used makes it a curse or a blessing.  Not the gift. The norm of society is brought up to turn a blind eye to such things and when faced directly, they feel the fear of the unknown and automatically condemn it for lack of knowing. They are the infant minds of the world and not capable of expanding beyond the box they live in."

She let him talk and only listened, absorbing what was said. The gentle rubbing of his hand against her back was soothing even if their subject matter was so dark. He was right... there was no sense in fantasizing about somebody whisking her powers away. They were hers to bear for better or worse. As for whether they were a curse or a gift, well... only time would prove which it was. Perhaps a bit of both. Though she was still inclined to thinking it a curse she wished she'd never been born with. There was more to it too, but this she could not tell even to Matthew. The world that Matthew painted was a terrifying one indeed and she could only nod, solemnly. What if it was not enough, her powers even combined with Andrew's and Matthew's? What if they failed... that was what she wanted to ask. But there was no good answer nor sense in the asking. "I'll do what I must." All must suffer to do what must be done, the wraith had said... the words echoed now.

"Do what you know in your heart, follow it and it will come out right." In short she had to seek the answers within and not from anyone else, she had to know them for herself but talking to others would help her get there. Even the cold dipstick, knowing his words to be lies helped her to know the truth. "We will need to get ready." As the hours seemed to pass quickly in sharing a meal and conversation.

Date: 10-07-10
Poster: Maggie Callahan
Post # 14

To Face One's Fears

Maggie had vowed to do whatever she must, but even now as they walked through the dark streets and a building drizzle, she wasn't sure what exactly that was. The icy sorcerer had exuded such an aura of raw power... it seemed impossible that she could fight him. Though, she wasn't alone. A glance was shifted up to Matthew as he walked along beside her. Always there, always ready to protect her. Made her wonder what good deeds she had done in past lives, to deserve such a friend. "Matthew." Her voice was quiet, almost blending in with the ambient sound of the nocturnal crickets and frogs as they walked. "I know that we spoke of this before. But I want you to promise me you won't do anything... rash." Eyes lifted and found his. "Anything to put yourself in harm's way."


There was a serious look upon his face, a set look, determined, as they were out and on their way much like the night before for her. The walk not too fast nor too slow but certainly brisk. Dipping a glance her way with only the hint of a smile, "I will not do anything rash. If push comes to shove, Andrew will be there and can do what I cannot to protect you but I am here to protect you as much as I can as well moral support." Which was just as important in his book. "So rest assure and worry more on this icicle man, what you need to say and that we find Richard alive." Steps had slowed then started up to resume the pace first set.


His words reassured her many worries, somewhat. She nodded slowly to accept them. He was right, there was always Andrew, though after surprising her with his existence last night she hadn't seen so much as a glimpse of him. Somehow, she had a feeling he'd be there when needed. Glancing up once more, she gave him a resolute look. Not quite a smile, but something deeper, a mutually exchanged expression of strength and determination. And they continued walking. This time they knew the way (or at least she did, since it hadn't been Matthew last night after all), and it wasn't long before the labyrinth of alleys and dark corners led them to that one eerie lane. As before, it was shrouded in thick white fog streaked with dirty gray shadows, only this time, it was abandoned. Maggie took a few tentative steps further down, looking about herself carefully, but it seemed they were alone. "Last time he just... appeared," she told Matthew uncertainly, her voice a hushed whisper.


What she didn't know was that Andrew was showing him the whole of last night as it happened. One of the reasons he paced, seeing it and feeling helpless to do anything. He might have mentioned to her that he developed mind connection under Andrew. This time he was walking it for real and seem to know each turn she would take and where it landed them at that one ally that was still filled with the dirty fog. "Have patience Maggie. I'm sure he will come." Words low that almost seemed to fade in the fog.


She took another step forward, nearly holding her breath and resisting the urge to speak again. Patience was more easily said than done. What had happened? Had he decided to revoke the choice completely, and seize Richard forever? It didn't seem likely that such a man could be simply 'late'... and just as she was wondering, the fog thickened. The streetlamp that had lit the alley with dim yellow light was extinguished with a sudden burst of chill wind. And impossibly, they would feel themselves falling. The cobblestones seemed to have vanished beneath their feet, sending them swirling into a vortex they could not see, blinded by the fog which seemed to be solidifying with each moment. The wind ripped mercilessly at their hair and clothes and she blindly reached out, grabbing for Matthew though her fingers closed only on air.

When she took a step forward, he naturally took one with her. Hand curling around her upper arm in a protective gesture and one to keep them together. First the fog thickened which was a good indicator the one was near, the blast of cold air that doused the lamp light to follow, confirming the first. Everything went quickly from there as they started falling, the hold on her upper arm was not enough for something like this so he quickly slipped an arm about her waist, drawing her in against his chest. Her back pressed there as the hold was secure. "I got you." Came low by her ear to reassure her that he was there and she hadn't lost him yet.

Relief swept Maggie when she felt Matthew strong and warm holding onto her, though nothing else was solid anymore. There was nothing to hold onto and nowhere for their feet to land, as they were twisted and spun and tossed by the icy wind. It was enough to suck the breath from their lungs, much less words from their lips and it felt like a very long time that they were battered by the vortex. When they did land it was a harsh impact, nearly smashed against what would feel like solid rock but was actually snow. Tumbling to a stop, she was tangled up in his arms still and lifted her face, blinking quickly and coughing out the snow that clogged her nostrils. All she could see at first was white, white, everywhere and she endeavored to disentangle herself from Matthew while helping him and herself up from the ground. Where were they?


One arm then both as the winds swept harder tossing them as he tucked his head against her shoulder from behind. It was a way to keep them as one no matter how they flew through this vortex. Eyes closed so the wind didn't tear at them until the sudden impact that had them jarred open as they hit solid ground, or somewhat solid. Far better the snow that would give than rock. Rolling with the roll, with her, until they slowed then stopped. The wind was knocked out of him by this time but regained with a sharp intake of air. "Are you all right," proceeded the inevitable coughing to follow, his voice strained yet the question needed to be asked. He wasn't sure where they were but the chill that was going up his spine was not from the snow alone.


She too had to gasp her first few breaths to regain lung power, though the air was so cold it stung her throat like needles. And it seemed rather hard to breathe here as if the air was somehow thinner. Struggling to her feet, she nodded to his question. "You?" Eyes searching him swiftly to make certain he was alright - a relative term for they'd both be bruised up and down from that fall. Once assured he was alright she moved forward some to look around, though kept a hand on his arm, unsure of what might happen next. Gaze swinging this way and that, she couldn't see much because... there was not much to see. They were standing on a plane of snow overlaid upon solid ice. Not a single tree nor bush nor single weed broke the featureless white terrain. A merciless wind gusted, blowing snowflakes across the surface of the ground. It was the most barren, lonely and dead place she could ever imagine.


"Aye, I'm all right," to reassure her, "we'll be bruised good by morn." Saying it like he expected to see the morning's light after this night. "I would not move too quickly," as once they stood and had taken two steps. The area could give way again without warning as they had no idea what they were standing on in what it was upon. The fact they went through a vortex, nothing was stable compared to the earth that all liked upon a hardened surface.


They had taken only two steps when a thick bank of icy mist rolled in and seemed to release the sorcerer to walk towards them. He appeared as before, tall and ghastly thin, face bloodless and pale. His eyes may once have been blue but now they were nearly the same color as the snow all around them. His thin lips pressed into a smile as he drew forward to greet them. "Welcome. I apologize for the rather... spare furnishings here, but I find it suits me. Have you made your decision?"

Maggie took as deep a breath as she could manage and lifted her chin to look the creature square in the face. Rather than answering his question, she countered with one of her own. "Where is my - ..." At the moment she asked it, the sorcerer stepped aside so she could see what stood behind him. It was the only feature in this vast white desert, a huge block of ice, craggy and battered on the edges but very thick. There was something inside of it, some dark shape, someone curled up in a frozen sleep... Her eyes widened in horror when she instantly knew it was Richard.

Words barely out when the ice man came. Matthew immediately went silent as part of his promise. Her question was followed by the appearance of the huge block of ice that had not been there before but there after the ice man appeared. The question was.. was Richard still alive in such a state? Preserved was one thing but dead was dead. He waited, not drawing attention to himself.

Maggie couldn't even get the question out, but the sorcerer guessed it and spoke again. "He is alive. But only just. Your decision, Margaret. It is a simple matter. Join me here, or..." he did not need to finish with words what he could show with actions. Lifting a hand nonchalantly, there was the muted high-pitched sound of creaking ice, as that giant block of it behind him became spiderwebbed with cracks. It almost seemed as if the ice was compressing, squeezing the man trapped inside...

"Stop!" Maggie almost yelled that, taking a step forward. The ice man dropped his hand, and she glanced behind her to Matthew before giving the sorcerer the full measure of her blue gaze. "You told me that I've been forsaking my powers, ignoring what ought to be used for something greater. You are right. All my life I have denied the gifts I was born with, afraid of their powers, afraid of what others would say of me. But no longer." The ice man was listening intently, looking at her with predatory triumph. "I want to learn. I want to feel the magic coursing in my veins." It had occurred to her between one moment and the next. A memory had flitted through her mind, from when she was a very small child. She had loved to lie in the fields, running her fingers along the blades of grass, delighted when she found she could coax flowers to bloom with that touch. Here in this bleak tundra, there wasn't so much as a single dead weed... not above the surface, at least. She knelt down, holding the sorcerer's eyes all the while, and pressed her hand flat against the stinging surface of ice.  A sudden energy seemed to sweep her, making her catch her breath with the thrill of it, eyes blinking rapidly as the sensation was undeniably electrifying. At first the ice beneath her hand only began to melt. Then it began to  crackle, the sounds coming from deep beneath the surface. A single snake of a root, vibrant green, pushed its way up through the snow to curl between her fingertips. It was followed by another, and another, a splash of color in this featureless plane.

The sorcerer had been watching with a look of chilly amusement, but as the moments passed, his eyes narrowed. Then widened at that first glimpse of green. "Foolish child!" He barked and strode forward.

In the meantime, Matthew had become as a shadow. A skill he had learned 'invisible' as he gave off that thought and certainly with all concentrated on Maggie doing her thing, he had managed to draw closer to the block of ice that contained Richard, precisely at a corner that left him unseen still if it even dawned on the sorcerer that he was gone.

Yes, Matthew had been forgotten in his swell of rage. Feet crunching across the plane of ice, he moved directly at Maggie with deadly intent. One hand lifted to flick in a meaningful gesture as he moved. From out of nowhere, birthed suddenly from the horizon came one, then two, then three of them... those same little icy demons that Maggie had seen in her nightmares. Like flying jackals they were, their back glistening with spikes, their teeth and claws honed from razor-sharp ice.

They swarmed Maggie, zipping in one or two at a time to claw at her hair and clothes. Letting out a cry, it broke her concentration, but only for a moment. Even as the claws ripped at her skin, she waved her free arm to beat them off, keeping the other hand pressed firmly to the snow. The vine was growing rapidly now, the stem gaining width and height with each second, and now leaves were budding from it, uncurling every few inches. She winced as one demon flew in and slashed its teeth along the bare skin of her arm, and acted by instinct. She thought about the vine whipping one of its stems up at the monster, and suddenly it was acting, the vine whipping the creature with a lash that sent it spinning off howling.

Before the ice beasties came, Matthew was positioned behind, at the corner, of the ice block. The fissures snaked throughout were to his advantage as he slipped out the shard of crystal Andrew had given him. One that came to a chisel point which he slipped into one of the fissures. The crystal itself had been charged with Andrew's energy. Pinpoints of white lights started traveling along the fissure lines, splitting up and multiplying as they laced their way to Richard within. Life giving energy of a kind that could rouse him and have his body heat increase, almost feverish at first that would aid him in breaking free. Matthew knew Andrew would not come unless absolutely needed for he was told that this was Maggie's trial. But, he was able to help even the odds as they were unfairly tipped.

Seeing how that worked, Maggie caught a breath and made the burgeoning plant smack another ice beastie away, and another offshoot strangled the other monster until it squirmed away and flew off a ways. Her eyes were blazing blue now, glowing with an inner light and defiance, as she stared up at the sorcerer from within a growing tangle of plant life.

But the icy dipstick only laughed mirthlessly. "Oh, what fun. But surely you are too old for child's play." He lifted a hand abruptly and there was a sudden whoosh of wind, audible, and able to be felt as a drop of pressure across their bodies. He threw that wall of wind at Maggie, along with hundreds of tiny crystals of ice. They were as sharp as they were beautiful as they surrounded Maggie, the torrent lifting her feet from the snowy ground and tossing her up into the air for the icicles to bite at her. His arm lifted to control that tornado, the sorcerer failed to notice what Matthew was doing behind him.... failed to notice, too, that all around, the frozen earth was beginning to crack. There was the hushed murmurings of more roots coming to life, sprouting from the source where Maggie's hand had touched, thin baby roots that thrust up through the snow and began to take shape.

During the entire time of his capture within the block of ice, Richard was unaware of time passing or that he had been imprisoned. As the heat of his body began to increase, awareness also began to return though slowly. Warmth spread quickly through him and in turn, began to work at the block of ice. At first water ran off in small trickles, then the ice began to crack, widening those small fissures created before. Though he could not move as of yet, Richard was starting to wake.

Matthew was actually a touch nervous but stood his ground knowing he had help if needed. He split his focus between watching Maggie battle the ice prick in keeping his full focus and that upon Richard. It was possible she had an idea of what he was doing but no time to think about it and certainly the ice tart had too much on his hands to even consider Matthew had something up his sleeve. The crystal enlarged acting as a pick that helped divide the fissures and break Richard free. From the back as the bit of crystal which had a few qualities to it was then stuck in a fracture to give off an image that Richard was still frozen in the block while Matthew helped him out the back of it.

The Ice Prick was not amused by what he saw happening within his frigid tornado.


At first Maggie could only try to shield her face with her arms as those ice crystals struck her a hundred tiny cuts. The relentless sting of them made her cry out, half in pain, half in anger, and that surge of emotion had the blood in her veins heating. Closing her eyes against the crystals, suspended and being turned about mid-air by the wind, she blindly threw her hands out and sent the heat out too. Those miniature weapons of ice shrunk rapidly, melting and finally evaporating into nothing. The wind still held her trapped but at least it could not cut her. Maggie had seen Matthew creeping towards Richard's block of ice but at this point, had no idea what was happening. She did know however that the sorcerer's full attention was on her, which was terrifying, but good. That would keep Matthew safe for now.

His nearly all-white eyes narrowed and he lifted his hand, sending Maggie higher up in the air, suspended by that whirlwind dangerously high above the ground. Even giving her flashbacks of falling from that roof as he allowed the wind to begin to slip.. and she began to feel as if she would fall. "Don't be so brash to believe you can beat me, Margaret. Your choice has changed, now it is join or die."

As awareness returned fully, he couldn't understand where he was. The landscape was desolate and cold, and at first he couldn't move right. A man he didn't know helped him from the ice that seemed to have encased him. Heat still kept him from feeling the cold for the moment. He looked at Matthew, his confusion obvious. "Who are you?" His voice sounded oddly hoarse to his ears. "Do you know where my sister is? If she's all right?" Last he could remember he was trying to find help for her.

First he would reassure this Richard. "You were captured by an ice wizard who is presently battling your sister. While he is occupied, I got you freed. You are one that is precious to her. I am a friend, here to help." Words were low and quick as he kept an eye on the battle. He wasn't sure if Richard had any abilities but what he was seeing had him extremely worried that Maggie was in big trouble even after getting through the others. He called out to Maggie. "Call his name if needed," bolting away into shadow again far away from where Richard was behind the block instead of in it like it showed on their side of it.



Date: 10-07-10
Poster: Maggie Callahan
Post # 15

Maggie had a moment of immobilized terror when she was flown high above the ground. Straining her neck to look down, it seemed as if the wind holding her was very fragile and the ground, very far away. It took her breath away but she fought it, battling it down until it no longer overwhelmed her senses. When that invisible suspension of wind vanished from beneath her, she was ready for it. Her body began its free-fall and as the air whipped her hair and skirts up, she reached out, towards one of the plants straining up away from the ground. At her gesture a stem shot from it rapidly, growing as it moved until it was the thickness of her hips. It whipped out and just moments before she would have hit the ground, it curled around her back and knees, catching her as human arms might.

Call his name? Before he could ask what Matthew meant, the man was away. Ice Wizard? He could hear something going on and peered around the block of ice. What he saw had him staring in disbelief. And just as he was about to yell out Maggie's name, she was saved from hitting the ground. He narrowed his eyes as he tried to study the wizard who somehow seemed familiar.

He kept moving with the shadows, keeping an eye on Maggie and Richard alike as well the Ice prick. Andrew had warned him that Maggie had some obstacles to get over that had to be done on her own. It was hard not to charge in and the fact he had promised made it only a little easier. If Maggie needed real help, she had only to call Andrew's name. Perhaps that was part of the challenge, not to.

The impact knocked the wind out of her but she regained it with a gasp. The vine set her to her feet, retracting some to curl around her ankles, as she turned to face her foe. The wind was howling now, whipping her dark fire-streaked hair all around, and her eyes glowed noticeable, a brilliant blue above cheeks stained red with blood. The sorcerer was moving rapidly towards her again and this time, she acted first. "I choose neither!" Her voice blazed as she threw her hands out, directly towards the wizard and the vines that were around her feet shot out, slithering like green cobras towards the wizard.

They were nearly upon him when he parried, pointing a long bony finger at the vines, from which shot a stream of ice that coated the vines and froze them to a dead stop where they were. Before Maggie could so much as blink he lifted that finger and shot the same ice directly at her. It slammed into her somewhere between stomach and ribs, throwing her to the ground, prone for a moment. He took that moment to step forward, over the worthless frozen vines. "I see you are the type to demand harsh lessons. So be it." Now he hovered the flat of his hand over her body.

The ice had felt like a punch to her gut by an armored fist, taking her breath away, but when he lifted his hand over her the sensation was replaced with cold. Worse than the cold they had felt since coming here... this chill was beyond unbearable, seeping into her skin, her bones, her marrow. So very frigid she could barely breathe or move and felt as if she might never be warm again. She strained on the ground against it, trying to fill her veins with the heat of before but all of that fiery passion was being battered away by that numbing chill.

"You need only say the word, one single word, and it will stop."

"Maggie..." He didn't know if she could hear him, but if there was the slightest chance ... "Fight him." He put all his strength behind those words as if he could help her by will alone. Physically, he didn't think he could do much yet but there was a knife in his belt and soon, it was in his hand.

That was when Matthew flew from the shadows to blindside the Ice wizard in a tackle and probably break the icy finger spell. Surprise alone was on his side and the fact he was very strong for his size.

The Ice Prick Dipstick kept his hand above Maggie, but spun on a heel when a new voice rang out. Not Matthew. His eyes narrowed on the block of ice, seeing the brother still locked inside. Likely it was that moment of distraction which lent strength to Matthew's surprise attack. With an enraged yell, the wizard was tackled and knocked to the ground by Matthew, losing that connection over Maggie.

She was still shaken by that spell, shivering deeply but took that moment to clamber to her feet. Was it possible she had heard Richard's voice? Turning to look, she saw Richard still stuck in the ice... but from around that block of ice, peered his face, awake and very much alive. Her spirits soared and it infused her with new strength. She turned back to the wizard and Matthew and saw that the ice man had set his snow beasties upon Matthew. They were flying at him and attacking him with merciless teeth and claws. Maggie looked around and saw, with a sense of awe, the multiple plants that had sprouted from nothing. This was the moment. First, she sent a series of vines to lash the beasties away and off Matthew's back. The moment they were gone she yelled out, "Matthew, move!" She lifted her arms and in a rush of energy that thrilled her to the core, she sent every root, every stem, every vine on the move. The green snakes slithered swiftly as one, right towards the wizard, who had his back turned to her as he hollered at his beasties to get them to keep attacking Matthew.

At least he had provided a distraction. Wobbly legs held as he watched, leaning against the ice block briefly for support. The heat from the earlier spell had dissipated, and he was beginning to feel the cold. Still, he could feel his strength returning. Enough that he let out another yell to try to break the wizard's focus on Matthew. He was as of yet, unaware of the illusion in the ice.

It was a chance he had to take, to put his life on the line. He had not hesitated even if he was now besieged by the beasties. Fighting them the best he could but they were not something he could continue to fight and win. There was a split second they were gone along with Maggie's yell and so was he in a roll out of reach and a leap into shadows as he gained his feet. The beasties would be chasing shadows if they continued.

He growled when the ice beasties squealed in pain at the lashing plants, allowing Matthew to escape out of sight for the time being. Then again came that yell from a different voice - Richard's. He spun quickly, but what he saw had his milky features paling even further. The plants were streaming towards him, not one but dozens of separate vines, almost audibly humming with life and power. He shot more ice at one vine, and then another, but they were too many. The first one wrapped around his ankle and tugged hard, yanking him to the ground. Then the rest were upon him, climbing up his legs, wrapping around his calves and thighs and then his arms, pinning him like iron shackles to the icy ground. He yelled, and struggled, zapping them with ice (to little avail) right up until the moment his hands were trapped.

The magic was building rapidly and as it did, this winter world was falling apart. The ground beneath their feet shifted, and earthquake that rolled beneath them. The solid ice was becoming slush, losing solidity, melting away and streaming as water into the cracks that expanded in the ground. Even the gray sky seemed to be dissolving all around them, the pale colors seeping into glimpses of vibrant blue. Maggie kept the vines entangling the wizard but now she was running, bandy-legged strides as the ground twisted and heaved beneath them. She went to Richard first, and grabbed his hand, then looked around frantically for Matthew. "We have to get out of here," she yelled above the din of noise. This entire plane was disintegrating rapidly.

He had stepped away from the ice block in time as it seemed to melt into nothing. "Maggie, what ... aye, out of here." His questions would wait until they were where the ground wasn't shaking and the entire world changing. "I'm not sure where he went. How do we get out of here?" That question was necessary!

She answered truthfully as the ground shook harder and their feet were plunged into cold slush water, more and more vines emerging from the icemelt to cover the ground in green. "I have no idea!"

Maggie had won her battle as it stood. The proof in the ice world that was dissolving beneath their feet. Before it broke away completely, to send them plummeting after the wizard, a door opened up, shards of bright light came in a flash from yet another dimension as she and Richard were pulled into it. She would recognize Andrew as he helped them. Matthew, his prodigy, had another opened up where Andrew knew he moved as a shadow, seeming to swallow that up as the ice vortex disintegrated. In a flash of light they would find themselves at the mouth of the alleyway except the mist had completely disappeared. Probably the first time in many years.

It was a few moments later when Matthew was spit out to roll on the ground caught in motion that continued to the alleyway. His clothing all tore up from the attack of the ice beasties but the blood had also dried and the wounds closed by this time. He was to his feet in the next moment dusting himself off and trying to regain his dignity. "I have still to learn how to move through those doors," this angled at Andrew.

"You will in time, Matthew." A hand coming to rest on Richard's shoulder a moment to start any healing he needed. "I will see you back in the lands." This addressed to all. Maggie and Richard had a lot to talk about and Matthew as well. As before, Andrew then winked back out through the same door he had taken them before it closed but it was redirected where he needed to be.

The last thing she saw was the vines swarming over to cover the sorcerer's face, trapping him in a steely living cage for all time, before they were whisked away. She held Richard close during the short voyage and, just like that, they were back in the alley. Only this time, it was just an ordinary alley, free of that strange fog. It seemed very quiet after the chaos of the winter world, silent but for the song of crickets. Landing with a stumble, she shot a quick glance up to Richard to see if he was alright then looked around quickly for Matthew. In those moments when they were alone, her heart literally stopped, afraid beyond thought that he had been trapped on that other plane, perhaps to meet the same deadly fate as the wizard. Then Matthew appeared to quip at Andrew no less, and her legs went weak with relief. Maggie herself was spattered with bruises and cuts, some deeper than others. Her skirts and bodice were torn and tattered, her hair a tangled cloud of red and black around her face. But her cheeks were vibrant with color, her eyes wide and very bright blue with the energy that still coursed through her and made her touch feel hot. Turning to Andrew, she had time only to nod her mute thanks before he was gone. And she could finally throw her arms around Richard in a tight clinging hug.

He had been certain they were about to die when they were pulled through to another place. His head was near spinning with all that had happened but he was fine otherwise. Andrew would find he would need little healing. He watched as Matthew appeared, in as rough a condition as Maggie, then nodded at Andrew before he disappeared. As Maggie hugged him tightly, his arms went around her. "What the hell just happened?" He asked in a voice thick with emotion. He was very, very proud of his little sister.

"Let us get out of the street." It was early morning so some time has passed while they were down there or wherever it was in relation to where they were now. "Tell me she always looks this way before her first cup of coffee in the morning." Trying to lighten the subject as he started off in the direction of the inn where there things were in that room. He hoped Maggie did a lot of explaining before the reached the place or he could be in hot water again.

Richard's blunt question and Matthew's remark following it had her laughing, a tearful sound as she pulled back from the hug to look up at her brother, soaking in his features. "I thought you were dead," that choked statement would begin an abbreviated version of everything that happened, as they moved together through the predawn seedy town back towards the Inn. She told Richard that over six months had passed since last he'd seen her. How he had vanished, leaving her to think him robbed and murdered in the street, how her wanderings had brought her to a land called Heathfield. She told him about working there at a tavern then, before he could narrow his eyes at her (suspicious of all the opportunities for flirting that job could bring) she went on to tell of the headaches which grew so bad, they drove her back here, to where that illness had first begun. "Matthew works in the tavern too, and he came with me to help. He.. we posed as husband and wife to lessen suspicion as we traveled." And now she was very much aware that this was her over-protective big brother here, and that he'd probably be staring daggers at Matthew even if the man had helped save him!

He listened of course, barely believing so much time had passed. It was impossible. He remembered nothing and yet, the season was different. He eyed Matthew a long moment then looked at Maggie again. "If it was necessary... " Letting it trail off. He had a lot to think about, including the fact that Maggie had been on her own for six months and had survived. "Hopefully the headaches are gone." He looked at Matthew again. "And usually her eyes are near closed until that first drink. Her hair's about right though." No point in making an enemy. Yet.

That was the point for certain when they got back to the room, there was only one bed and their things strewn together just about. "No need for us all going in, I can get our things and pass them out to you." Which lastly he would unbar the the door and give the Innkeeper the money owed him for the few days saying his wife was feeling much better and time they set out again. "Are they now.." to the comment on Maggie's eyes when half awake in the morning and her hair being wild. They'd both see the grin before he tucked in through the window. The saddlebags packed and tossed out to them before the space of time that it would take to do the rest and come around from the front. "Ready?"

"It was necessary." She told Richard firmly to discourage him from any suspicions. "It was all very.. proper." Except for that night when they had woken in each other's arms... her gaze flicked to Matthew then quickly away, feeling new color heating her cheeks for a different reason this time. Then Richard made that comment and she slapped his arm, but she was smiling. He was back, he was here, alive and whole and teasing her as if no time had passed. "Good idea," she agreed with Matthew quickly, sharing his thought that the less Richard was able to visualize their charade of being husband and wife... the better. While Matthew ducked inside, Maggie lingered outside with Richard. She still had a hand on his arm, having not let that grasp go and loathe to relinquish it just yet. "I've found a life in Heathfield, Richard... a good life. There's opportunities for everyone there, you too. You could continue your training as knight or do... whatever you wish, really. I was hoping you would be willing to settle there, too?" There was a hint of uncertainty as she proposed that big change to her brother, then looked to Matthew when he came out. "Aye. Let's get as far from here today as we can."

Had he time to think about it, he might have been scowling but he was still taking it all in. He looked at Maggie and smiled, patting her hand. "It's all a bit much to take in, Maggie. Let's see how things go after we get there, all right?" He rubbed his forehead with his free hand before continuing. "It still seems like the same day I went looking for help. I think I'll be needing some time."

He got their horses from the stables and talked the man into selling him another for Richard. Probably was Richard's old horse that was left and taken as compensation. Once back he attached the saddlebags. Far as he was concern, the sooner they were out of here the better. "You're going to love Hazel's cooking," and most likely, Hazel would be nursing Richard back to health by her cooking and remedies. He was up into the saddle once all was ready, waiting on them before he started them forward.

Maggie nodded, understanding Richard's disorientation. While silently vowing that she would cajole, demand, and plead as much as she needed, to get Richard to stay in Heathfield with her. It was alot to take in. She still had that buzzing sense of unnatural energy about her, but that was rapidly fading as they moved away from that realm of magic and into the real world. It left her drained, but each time she thought about it, there was that strange sense of thrill that pumped her heart a bit faster. It had been terrifying and yet... more exciting than anything she'd ever felt before. Like she had just discovered she had wings and stretched them in a first flight. It had been so many years since last she'd used her powers, and it had been nothing like this. Maggie had never dreamed she was capable of such things but it had come as naturally to her as breathing. What did this mean? Could she put the magic to bed forever now... or should she continue to exercise the newfound abilities that had felt so right? Thoughts which turned her quiet as they mounted up and turned towards the land she now thought of as home. Certainly Richard's little sister had grown up a lot since last he had seen her.



Date: 10-12-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 16

Back to the Norm

Matthew had a lot of work to catch up on after a good night's sleep. They had made it back in record time as all three didn't wish to linger. Richard was given a room and probably had luxury for the first time in a long time. Warm meals and a room with a comfortable bed. At least he no longer had to worry (or so hoped) on Maggie sleep walking and taking dives from the roof. The cot he had in the hall had been removed and put away when they left. It would not be needed again. Luckily not something he's have to explain to Richard either! He left the attic go for now, concentrating on getting more wood cut and stacked. There had been no more incidences of the wood pile being scattered or bed legs being broken on the third floor. All had been quiet as if the Thistle itself held its breath for their return. It had gotten chillier out as more leaves covered the ground in a colorful blanket. Matt was wearing a variegated brown quilted vest over a cotton shirt. Heavier brown pants and boots lacing up mid calf. Arms were full of firewood as he came in through the side door heading for the hearth.

Maggie had been caught off guard by the way her heart soared, when they came back into view of Heathfield. Truly this was the first place she had thought of as home in many years, and she was relieved and thrilled both to be back. Even if Richard had not yet pledged his desire to stay here, she felt sure that in time, he would come to love this land as much as she did. Besides... she wasn't going to let him go again, not after battling wizards and ice demons to get him back! After a good long sleep, Maggie was settling back into her usual routine. Everything that had happened sometimes had her eyes distant and her voice quiet, losing herself in thought... but overall she was cheerful. The constant pain in her temples that had plagued her for long months was magically gone and with it, a great weight lifted from her shoulders. Tonight, like Matthew, she was back on the job. Wearing a deep crimson dress with a scooped neck and elbow-length sleeves, a very autumn-ish color, her hair was tied back in its usual messy bun as she stepped out from her rooms. Tying her apron around her waist, she greeted Alex warmly, then looked around the familiar tavern contently. It was good to be back. And there came Matthew in through the door. "Do you need any help with that?" She crossed quickly to take a few logs off the top of the pile for him. Maggie would forever be grateful to Matthew for all the help he had given her. She had not missed the way he had thrown himself at the wizard during the battle, saving her from that bone-chilling spell and turning the tides in their favor. She could only hope some day she would find some way to repay him.

There was still a lot for Richard to take in, but he couldn't deny that time had passed. The leaves had changed and they were heading into winter again. He had no regrets on leaving Bogton either. He said little for most of the trip but assured Maggie he was just tired and still taking it all in. Up at the crack of dawn, he had wandered the city for nearly the entire day, discovering what he could about this new land. While he had to admit, it was a thousand times better than what they had left behind, he was still uncertain what his future would be here. Finally, hungry and not wanting Maggie to worry, led him back to the Thistle.

Matt stopped as he heard her voice but ended up dropping the firewood when catching sight of her. That crimson dress, ahem. Next moments he was trying to get all the wood that scattered and place on the pile by the hearth in easy access. "Is that a new dress," glancing around to assure himself no else had seen his fumbling. Last time this had happened was when there was a curse on him. That was no longer and for a moment there he worried it somehow had returned.

"Oh! I'm sorry..." She thought maybe she had startled him by popping up so suddenly. Quickly kneeling to help gather up the firewood, her hand bumped his as they reached for the same log. "Oh - sorry - " she said again, feeling uncharacteristically flustered. She piled the other logs atop the pile, blinking at his question and glancing down along herself. "This? No..." Perhaps he just hadn't seen her in it for awhile? Her cheeks near matched her dress but she jumped to her feet when her brother came through the door, smiling. "There you are! Have you been exploring? Are you hungry?"

"It compliments your hair." Sounding very lame even if it was true. Bumping hands, almost bumping noses in the awkward grappling of logs. "The streaks in your hair.. have you noticed?" They were redder and more of them or he hadn't noticed before? "Sorry," came to as fumbling hands bumped again, then laughed as it sounded like an echo. Except there was another to arrive that turned Maggie's focus from him and his from her as well. He placed the last of the logs as he moved to stand and around. "Evening Richard," whew. At least he had not walked through minutes earlier. Although, how long had he been out on the porch? Much could be seen through the windows. Weight shifted from one foot to the other before he decided he was done for the night and over to get a glass of potcheen.

The streaks in her hair? She'd always had them, those burnished tones kissed by the sun... she looked bemused when he mentioned them as if he'd never noticed them. Smiling some then laughing under her breath when they parroted each other's apologies. Bump, bump. And then there was her brother and she was straightening, brushing her skirts off of the dust collected from the floor she'd been kneeling on, already ready to go fetch him some food once he answered her questions.

Long enough though his expression was blank as he answered Maggie first. "Aye, I've been exploring some." He did smile as he added, "and I'm very hungry." He had eaten breakfast and had grabbed something from a vendor though it took a minute for the woman to figure out his coins were real. "Evening, Matthew." He looked from him to Maggie and back but didn't say anything about what he had seen. "Seems you've both been busy." Wait. That didn't sound quite right. "Working."

"Aye, there is a lot to catch up." Then quickly amending, "not that we mind," all had been for an obvious good cause and seemed like a lifetime ago. Quick glance between the two before he was set to working a splinter from his finger.

"What did you think? Did you see any sights?" Maybe if she kept talking she would be rid of the strange buzzing awkwardness that had come over her. "Ahh, yes, it's.. busy here..." Except the place was almost empty at this hour!  "Well, there's baked ham tonight, or venison pie, or chicken and dumplings, what would you like?" She could only hope Richard had been away long enough to fail to notice how strange she was acting... A glance over to Matthew, noting that he was picking out a splinter but not daring to mention it at this moment.

It didn't feel like he had been gone long at all. He couldn't remember being in the ice so yes, he was noticing how she was acting. It felt awkward, almost like she was nearly a stranger. "The chicken and dumplings sound good." He headed for the bar. "You okay, Matthew?"

"Good. They are good." Okaaaaay Mags time to take a breather. Turning away from them both, she winced at herself, and stepped off quickly to go put in the order at the kitchen window. She'd linger there, ostensibly waiting for the plate to come up.


"Oh," looking up with a slight wince, "just a splinter from dropping the wood." Well, more than one but he'd work them out. "Chicken and dumplings are really good tonight," realizing he wasn't sure which Richard had gone with. "There are a lot of interesting places to see in these lands and sister lands, such as the racetracks in Ballicastle. There is a good blacksmith in the commons. Even performers at the square. Is there something in particular you are interested in? I know just about everyone for being here so long."

"I was mostly just seeing what's in the city itself. A few folks told me about some different places but I didn't see them all. The folks here are pretty nice too. Not suspicious like some are other places." He scratched at his chin, thoughtfully. "You know where the spar field is? Heard some youngsters talking about it. Is anyone allowed there, or do you have to be a knight?" He could do with some exercise. Six months lost and he felt out of shape.

Maggie got hold of herself and was relatively poised once more when she turned back around, Richard's plate in hand. Crossing over to the bar, she set it down before him, casting a smile between them both. She was secretly thrilled to hear her brother talking positively about Heathfield but she wasn't going to push too hard. Yet. "I could show you the spar field, but I'm not sure if anybody can practice there..." Glancing over to Matthew in question, likely he knew better than she.

He nodded at that and would wait for the answer if Matthew wanted to take care of the splinter. The food had his attention however and he started in on it. After the first few bites, he looked at Maggie and grinned. "It is good."

"There's no reason for them to be suspicious. No one needs to steal from them when a meal can be gotten free here. The spar field is open to everyone, the king's field is only those in training. Some of the knights you'll find in the spar hall and field, especially to work out on Sir Lancely's gauntlet. Something that is never the same, he changes the timing."

"I told you. Hazel is a genius." Maggie beamed at Richard and pulled out a stool, taking a seat next to him. She'd even steal one of the dumplings from his plate when he wasn't looking. Grinning innocently the moment after, of course. She took up a spare rag and began polishing and drying a stack of newly-washed glasses. "Wait till you see the Lake. Oh, and you can come to the races, you'll love that." Maggie the tour guide! She fell quiet when Matthew spoke up.

There was a pause, "do you wish to become a knight? You're too old to be a squire," grinning a split moment, "I'm assuming you had training already?" Giving a nod to what Maggie had to say about certain places.

He knew what she had done but just smiled to himself. Then as each spoke up, he looked at them. Swallowing, he nodded at Matthew. "Aye, I've had training. I was a jack of all trades too." He gave Maggie a quick wink then smiled. "I'm looking forward to seeing it all."

She just beamed again, content with that answer of his and his smile. Speaking up on her brother's behalf, she told Matthew, "He's being modest. He was a wonderful squire and would have been a knight if - we had stayed long enough." Ahem, she glanced to Richard than away. That was a rather sensitive subject still.

"That's how I ended up here, jack of all trades and master of none," although that might not really be the total truth and his background had still not been addressed. It would need to be just as Maggie had recently addressed hers. She was smart in getting it done quickly. Then again, his situation was different. "I can introduce you to a few of the knights or even one of the horsemen if you'd like?"

"I don't know about that, but I'd like to try to be one." He looked at Matthew and nodded again. "I'd like that."

"You can be Richard, you'd be great." She had every faith in her big brother. A grateful smile was cast to Matthew when he offered to introduce Richard around to the knights. Certainly that would help his prospects, to make those connections.

"Best way to find out is to give it a try. At least here if you're rusty they're not going to beat you into the ground but will spar you in a way to bring out your talents." Giving a glance to Maggie as she had said he would be great, had confidence in her brother's abilities.

Though, it meant he'd be making a commitment. He wouldn't mention leaving if Maggie didn't. Then again, there was no guarantee he'd actually be accepted when they did spar with him. He just smiled at Maggie then went back to his meal. He wasn't about to miss out on the food.

Maggie was going to just act as if Richard was staying and that was that. And feign deafness if he said anything different! How could he leave his darling little sister? She let Richard eat, stealing another dumpling from his plate and popping it into her mouth before reaching for another glass. "Did you get those splinters out, Matthew? You could try soaking them in warm water...  Your hand, I mean, not the splinters..."

"What other odds and ends do you do?" Curious being he'd done just about everything in his life during the curse. Had to keep moving and had to keep changing jobs until his feet landed him here. The chuckle came easily hearing Maggie as bronzed blue eyes turned her way, bluish tonight. "I got them out, used my teeth." Which was true as he could get a grip with them.

That comment had her laughing, especially since he said it so matter-of-factly. "Are you secretly a woodchuck then?"

"I cut trees. Did some farm work. Carpentry, poorly. Roofing. Worked as a handyman though I wasn't a very good one." He looked at Maggie and smiled. "Doesn't look like one. What else did I do, Maggie?"

"Ah, let's see.... you did muck out the stables for awhile." And how she loved to remind him of that! An impish grin was given to her big brother. "And I have been a seamstress, a laundress, a lady's maid..." she ticked off the various occupations on her fingers. Then gave Matthew a wry smile. "We have traveled quite a few places."

Which he did the best he could to set his two front teeth over his bottom lip which he then pursed, puffed out his cheeks and crossed his eyes for a fleeting moment. There and gone but if one caught it, left a lasting impression.  "Aye, I know what it is like to be on the run, never a place to stay in more than a couple of months, some barely a day. You'll find your calling, Richard. For once you can contemplate staying where you can make a home for both you and Maggie. Although Maggie has made her home here," now she got the serious look that had the color of his eyes like champagne, brownish with a touch of green.

Oh she caught it alright and burst out laughing! But sought to quell it when Matthew went on as if nothing had happened. Smothering the giggles behind her hand, it was hard to take him seriously after that! Though she did sober when he cast that look, and offered a gentle smile in return. He was right... and she thought by now that Richard had probably noticed that.

If he had, he didn't give a sign. Instead, he pushed away his empty dish and covered a yawn. "I think I'm going to head up to bed." He stood and opened his arms so he could give Maggie a hug, and plant a kiss on the top of her head. "You won't be up much longer, will you?" He knew how hard his sister worked.

She stood too and raised to her toes, the better to give Richard a big hug. Her cheeks dimpled with the smile that came to her face at the kiss. "No, I won't." She reached up again to give a peck to his cheek. "Sleep well. Maybe tomorrow, I can show you around a bit more."

"I'm heading to bed myself." Kicking back his drink before pushing away from the bar with a good night to Alex. "I will make the arrangements tomorrow, unless you are to be shown around." Which he would defer such time to Maggie to spend with her brother. "Or.. I'll leave word here of a time to head to the spar hall, both of you?" He was sure Maggie might want to come and watch and he would too.

She most definitely wanted to come along on that outing. If only to see Richard's face light up as he watched the knights training... as she knew he would. Smiling brightly to Matthew, she nodded. "That sounds good, or maybe we'll meet up at breakfast." Then they could plan the day together. She supposed it was time she got to bed, as well, and set down her rag on the counter. "Goodnight, Alex. And goodnight Matthew." Her smile pressed her lips upward, sparking a light in her eyes for just that brief moment.

"Well, if you like, I can get us horses and we can take a trip about the lands and I'll point out the various places you have not seen either, Maggie. Sometime," giving a shrug as he was only trying to be helpful having been around longer. Another time if not soon, realizing there were probably places she'd like to see too.

"Both of you rest well." He smiled as he turned to Matthew. "And thank you for everything you've done. Good night Matthew. Night Alex." And he hugged Maggie again. "And good night, Maggie." He would be out as soon as his head hit the pillow.

"I would love that." Her smile bright and warm for Matthew before hugging Richard once more. And as he headed up the steps, there seemed nothing left to do but to take herself off to bed. "Goodnight," she said to Matthew, laughing slightly as she realized she was repeating herself. And before she could say it one more time off she went!

"Good night Richard, sleep well." He was going to sleep like a log with all he had to do this day and there was much more waiting. Then there was the Attic. He was in her wake, "good night Maggie.." grinning before he took a turn to the left and into his room.



Date: 10-18-10
Poster: Brian MacMillan
Post # 17

Royal Guard
Brian was seated at the bar with parchment in hand that he went over again. One of those reports that you didn't want to miss anything being the recommendation came from Sir Trevor Cairns. Alex had assured him that Richard Callahan was still staying within the tavern although he wasn't sure exactly where the man was presently. Not that Brian expected him to know but if anyone was to know, most likely it would be Alex. More than likely the man would be back soon as he usually ate his meal here rather than out. So, in the meantime he read over the report again before tucking it away. With the colder weather, he wore the official hooded cloak with the emblem of Heathfield on the back. Although not an empowered sword, he wore a special made one at his hip that also had the Heathfield emblem embedded in the hilt. One he was inducted as Captain of the Royal Guard with. Wavy dark blond hair was tied back neatly. Tunic of a deep purple was worn over black pants. The gold stripes under the emblem over his heart denoted his status. A great responsibility rested on his shoulders even if his position wasn't as glorious as others, he took it seriously and actually preferred the more anonymous position. Black boots laced up to just below his knees. All neat in appearance.

Maggie was bustling about as per her usual; like a dragonfly she was, never standing still for long, and tonight she was dressed as bright as a dragonfly's wing. An emerald green gown hugged her figure, simply but becoming as always, the rich color unadorned except for a cream-white ribbon around the waist. Half her hair was pinned up atop the crown of her head, leaving the rest to fall free in burnished black waves. Having not yet greeted the man at the bar she approached with a smile. "Good evening. I'm Maggie, can I get you anything tonight?"

Richard had explored earlier in the day and when it began to drizzle, he headed back. He had been upstairs in his room, reading when his stomach reminded him needed to eat. Closing the book, he checked his appearance. Hair was brushed back, and he wore an Aran sweater in dark gray, black pants and knee high boots that he had to pull back on. Luckily they were only a touch damp. He made his way down the stairs and into the common room, grinning when he saw Maggie but he'd greet her once she was done with the gent there.

He had been focused elsewhere before mahogany eyes turned upon the woman that spoke up. Blink. Not often was one like Brian to be taken by surprise or was it her beauty that had it so? The appreciation shot through darkening the color a split second. If one could read eyes. "Good evening, what would you recommend?" He had not taken a look at the menu for he had not really been hungry but he'd eat anything this lady suggested was exceptional this evening. "We have not met before.." certainly he'd remember as he easily stood from the stool and introduced himself. "I am Brian MacMillian," not needing to say his position most likely but he'd would if asked. By then another had come and by the looks of it, most likely Richard. "Richard Callahan, I presume?" Looking beyond the beautiful lady to the gent.

It seemed she had surprised him, from the way he blinked at her, and she gave a quick smile of apology. "Sorry to sneak up on you." And then the question of what to choose. "Well, the colcannon bake is my favorite. It has potatoes, cheese, leeks, cabbage... all of the best things," she added with a wink. Nodding to the introduction, she would have added her own surname, but then she heard a noise on the steps and glanced back to see her brother. A quick smile appeared, but then she was looking at Brian quizzically. "You've met my brother?" And then the name clicked. "Oh! You're Brian MacMillian, of the Royal Guards." And perhaps Richard and he had arranged this meeting without her knowledge? Dark brow arched at Richard before her smile returned to Brian. "Lovely to meet you."

He smiled when he heard his sister apologize then when Brian looked his way, he nodded and crossed the room to him. "Aye, I am." He gave Maggie a slight shake of his head. He hadn't arranged anything! "It's a pleasure to meet you, Brian." Offering his hand once he reached Brian.

Which had a good chuckle as dark eyes shifted back to the lady. "Aye, I am he and I am here to meet Richard. It seems you both know each other. I am pleased to meet you Maggie, else I'd be calling you Aphrodite for certainly the moon and stars pale in comparison.." and then he halted with a quick look to Richard, "please tell me she is not your Lady and I will have to profusely apologize." He stepped away in that moment to take up Richard's hand in a good handshake. "You come highly recommended by Sir Trevor Cairns," which in the way he said it, it was a high compliment.

Which made her laugh. "No, no, I'm Maggie.. Callahan," she added with another laugh, "Richard's sister." She beamed with pride when Brian mentioned the recommendation from Trevor. Flashing Richard a smile. "Can I get you gentlemen some drinks while you talk? Or perhaps some of that colcannon?" Anything for the man here to give her brother a job!

He cut a glance toward Maggie, barely suppressing his laughter. "A drink would be grand, Maggie and aye, the colcannon." He looked at Brian again, "Sir Trevor tested me. I'm pleased he found me worthy enough to recommend."

"I will have the same. A good stout to go with the colcannon." A shot of the pure might come along a little later after the meal. "It comes with a bit of relief with you being Richard's sister," said with a wink. It was rare for him to compliment as he did tonight but he was inspired. It would have been such luck had the first he'd done so end up being on another man's wife and not appreciated at all! "Let us move to a table in sharing a meal and if you haven't eaten, Maggie, please come join us if you're allowed." Which having vacated the stool already, he crossed over to the table across from where he was standing, drawing out two chairs before he took the third.  "We can discuss it all over our dinner."

"Coming right up. And thank you, I may join you in a bit." Giving the 'men folk' a chance to talk... man things first. Tipping Brian a smile, and Richard a quick wink, off she went to place their orders. And she'd wipe down a few tables in the meanwhile till Hazel finished cooking.

He winked at Maggie in return before joining Brian at the table. He was glad Maggie would be joining them and since it was a fairly quiet night, she shouldn't be long.

Slight of hand had the sword off to the side as he sat down, something that came without thought at this point. "Trevor highly recommends you for you exhibit very fine skills, a little rusty but then you are well aware of that. Rusty will only take a short time to be gone. The days are long, filled with time in practicing with your peers and time on the job. The Royal family is important and this position is one that in the line of duty you are willing to put down your life to keep them safe. Of course, the ideal is that you will be better than good so it never comes to that in keeping them safe. You will be introduced to them all or at least pointed out for it is also best you know each of their faces to be able to protect them. You're not allergic to hard work and long days? You will have time of your own to spend however you want," glancing to Maggie as he was sure Richard would spend some of that time with his sister, then back to the man. "You will have a room in the castle especially being single.  Those that get married usually move out to a small place of their own close by." Pausing here for Richard to catch up and present any questions or affirmations.

Once Alex finished pouring the drinks, she whisked them over to the table they'd chosen: the stout for Brian, a good crisp ale for Richard. Setting the drinks down before each, she lingered a bit, hoping to overhear what was being said... but not wanting to be too obvious, she turned away again after a moment to go about her chores once more!

He smiled his thanks to Maggie, lifting the tankard for a drink as he listened. "I'm not afraid of hard work, or long hours, no. In fact, I'm happy to be kept busy." He frowned slightly. "What if one of the royals decide they would rather not have me there?' Always a possibility. "Any training will be welcomed."

"Thank you Maggie," dark eyes lingered as she moved away. Thoughts miles away in reflecting how long it has been before he took time to spend time with a lady. He had a few after him long ago but all that was put aside when he immersed himself in his work. He took everything he did seriously and intensely at times. "I'm surprised your sister is not married. Such a pretty one that someone hasn't pursued to win her heart." More mussed but certainly his words were true and at the same time a compliment. "You shall have your wish then, Richard. The Royal Guards are quite a step above the Guards. You need to be better than most and the position is parallel to a Knight's. Mostly the difference being is they ride out to war while we secure the fortress and the Royal family, ensuring their protection. If there is no royal family left because the Royal guards were not good enough to protect them, then the Knight's job is mute." Stressing the importance of the Royal Guard. "You will have a cloak issued to be worn, not that it is required all the time but when on duty. Something to be worn with pride and the cloak is warm. It has a fur or wool lining that can be attached for the winter." then giving a moment to quench his thirst before he continued, "do you have a sword? If a royal doesn't want you with them but you are assigned by the King or Queen, then you do your best to trail them and alert the king or queen of their defiance."

"We had been traveling for some time before Maggie came here. Didn't really stay anywhere long enough for any courting." He had watched Brian's face, smiling slightly. That could change if they were to stay here. He wasn't sure how he felt about that yet but would think it over later. "It will be a honor to protect and serve the Royal Family." He paused a moment, then nodded. "I do have a sword though it's old and not very fancy. But I keep the blade sharp and oiled." He knew Maggie wanted to get him one but he didn't want to ask if she had seen to it yet!

Luckily they were no longer talking about her, by the time she came back over, a heavily laden plate in each hand. The colcannon was steaming and there was also some of the potato farls and some of Hazel's famous bread. Setting the plates down on their table she did catch the last words from Richard, "And he'll have a new one soon. I went to the smithy yesterday to have one made." That was added more for Richard as she shot him a smile. The emblem she'd had Rhett carve on the hilt would be a surprise. "It should be ready in a week or so."

"That is good to hear, you take care of what you own and not let it fall to the side waiting on something fancier to come along." So that was a positive answer to a question that was more than it seemed. Words barely out and Maggie was over with their meals and saying he was getting a new one! Had him chuckle. "Well, if the new one is made by Rhett Shawnesey then that is another matter. He can make them fancy and he can make them plain but they will withstand the most brutal clash in a battle." And that mattered very much, one might say good bye if their sword broke by another's." So on to the next part, "do you have a horse?"

His smile was warm and fond as Maggie spoke out. His stomach growled at the sight of the food. "I have one but he was a bit thin when I retrieved him after a time away." He could explain that if Brian asked. "He's filling out nicely now though."

"A horse will do at times if you ride out to keep one of the royals safe. If one of more speed and training is needed then you will be granted one such for the importance of our duties." Which he took a moment to taste his meal now that it cooled some. He closed his eyes a moment savoring the taste, "I forgot how excellent a cook Hazel is." More to himself before he ask more of Brian to fill in what Trevor reported on. "Tell me in as much detail as you feel comfortable of your training up to this point, even if there were lags between."

He took a few bites of his meal before answering. "Well, I learned the basics of course, then each level to advance, though it was with different teachers and styles. Learned the bow and practice that on my own too." He had gone hunting some times when they didn't have an inn to sleep in or get a meal. Learned the use of knives too, though not so well. I was a city guard in one place and had to break up a few fights." He grinned as he added, "learned to use my fists early, in our village." Mostly taking care of any lads who said anything about Maggie.

Maggie was content to keep buzzing about her duties, but she had not had her dinner break yet, and the hour was growing later, with few here... and Alex was giving her that 'look' which meant, take a break! So she fetched herself a dish of colcannon with some bread and butter on the side, along with a glass of water and then went back to their table. "Mind if I join you?" They had offered earlier, but she wanted to make sure they weren't talking on anything they might not want her overhearing.

"Are you good with the bow?" A bowman was always good to have, although all his skills would be utilized. Eyes were like a magnet to find Maggie as she moved about, here and there glances that came off naturally even if for Brian it was not necessarily natural but drawn.  He stood as Maggie approached with a smile to actually grace his features, "by all means, please do."

He stood as Maggie approached, and grinned. "Of course we don't mind." Once he saw to his sister, he sat again. "I think I'm pretty good. I did a lot of hunting while we traveled. Sometimes to feed us. Sometimes to use as to barter." Though he had to be careful he wasn't breaking any laws.

She hooked her foot around the leg of a free chair, pulling it out that way and seating herself with a smile. "He's very good," she put in. Wasn't it her job to speak for her brother who was far too modest sometimes? "He could shoot a squirrel at twenty yards. Though I never did much like squirrel," she added with a slight laugh. They'd eaten such fare only during the harder times. There had been plenty of nights spent curled up under their cloaks in the woods, but at least Richard almost always was able to catch them a meal.

"Really?" His smile broadened as a glint lit up dark eyes. A hand to her chair as she got seated then took up his seat again. "I will test him out. There are times our charges go to the market or even more, the port market and it is good to have an archer stationed where he can shot down anyone that tries to attack them." As much as the royals like to think everywhere was safe or that the people loved them, which they did, there was always the chance someone about was not from these lands and held a grudge or wanted to make himself famous for a bad deed done.

He hadn't shot a man but he was sure he could if he had to. He smiled at Maggie, a bit sheepish. He knew she was proud of him but in his own opinion, he had just done what he did to keep them alive. "Have you had many problems here? "

Her own smile was a little wry as she returned it to Richard. She knew she had the tendency to brag about her big brother... but she had thought him dead for the past half year, after all. She couldn't help being thrilled that he was here now. And certainly his absence had made her appreciate him in ways she never had before. Allowing the two of them to chat, she speared a small bite of colcannon with her fork, blowing gently on the steaming casserole before popping it in her mouth.

"No, not really as our men are that good. Most were stopped as they started. The men hauled away, sometimes a woman. So far they were of ones not of these lands and it happened at the port." Taking a few more bites to be washed down with the stout, "can you start tomorrow morning, Richard? King's field. We use the left end." Focus then to turn on Maggie. "What of you Maggie? Do you have a beau to see you about the lands, have you seen much of them?"

"Aye, I can. I find I'm awake before dawn no matter the time I go to sleep." Which... once his meal was done, he would likely be heading for bed. Full belly and tired, he'd be asleep in no time. "This is delicious." His lips twitched at Brian's question and he stuffed more of the colcannon into his mouth.

Big blue eyes grew a bit larger at the question, as she finished chewing her bite, smiling a bit as she glanced from Brian to Richard. Even if she did have a sweetheart.... she couldn't exactly speak of him in present company! Luckily she had no reason to lie. "No, I've no beau, but I've seen a lot of the lands... the lake is one of my favorite places. There are a few places I've yet to see, but I suppose there's always time." Giving another smile as slender fingers tore off a piece of bread.

"Would you have some free time tomorrow, early afternoon." As he would be seeing to his men on the field and giving out orders for the different shifts. Mostly to the three in command under him. "If you would like to see the field where your brother will be training and a tour of the castle and its immediate grounds?"

He kept eating, giving Maggie a look as he did. Of course he wouldn't object but he'd tease her likely. And maybe ask a few questions.

It was all proper in the asking and in fact, not behind Richard's back but right in front of him!

He could still tease her!

He would not be a proper brother if he didn't!

"Um.." Again she found herself looking between Brian and her brother. Here was a conundrum. Richard was notoriously hard on any boy who came a-courting her... but this one was to be Richard's boss! Not to mention the way her thoughts went elsewhere for just a moment. But that seemed something that may not ever come to be... and so... why not. Giving Richard one last look before she nodded. Maggie would never have been so shy if her big brother weren't sitting here! "Aye, alright. That would be nice." And a smile dimpled her cheeks to prove her words.

Which had his smile deepen, bring out an elusive dimple with it. "I shall come here to pick you up around one. If anything came up," being he had that kind of position, "I will send word." He had finished his dinner down to the last curl of potato as well to drain his stout, not needing another. "I should get back as I need a certain amount of rest." Although there had been times he'd go twenty four hours or more without any. Her acceptance pleased him more than she'd ever realize for a few reasons. One being she was so pretty and another being he'd not socialize with a lass in far too long. He rose from his seat at that point to take his plate and empty tankard over to the bar to set off there. No, he didn't have to but he had two good hands.

He stood as well, his meal finished and gave Maggie another look with a wiggle of his brows. He wouldn't expect her to go sight seeing if she didn't like the man. "I think it's time for me to get some sleep as well." He leaned over and planted a kiss on her cheek. "Night, Maggie." She might be up when he rose and they could break fast. He'd miss staying at the Thistle but knew Maggie was safe here.

My, but wasn't he very... what was the word? Assured and self-possessed. They had met within the hour and now she realized they had a date set for the morrow. It was a bit shocking but there was something undeniably attractive about a man who knew what he wanted and went after it. At the very least.. there was no reason not to say yes and just see... right? Nodding to his words, a smile reappeared as she accepted Richard's kiss. Since they were both up and leaving, she rose to her feet as well. "I suppose I will see you tomorrow, then," she told Brian with a light smile, "Safe journey home."

"Indeed you will, Maggie. It has been a pleasure I am pleased I will have more of tomorrow. Have a good night, sleep sweet as an angel you are." Giving a slight bow before his farewell to Alex and off he went taking the side door as an easier way back to the castle.

And as soon as he was gone, she turned to Richard. That 'angel' comment had her brows arching and she just knew her brother was probably stifling laughter. She gave him a look. "Not a word."

"Good night, Brian." He chuckled and looked at Maggie, holding up his hands though he close to laughing hard. "Not a word. Thoughts however!" He lifted a hand to Alex and near ran to the stairs. "We'll talk tomorrow, if I'm not ready to collapse. Night, sweet angel." He just had to add that!

If she had had anything in her hand, she would have thrown it at him! As it was, she harrumphed and then just smirked. "Night. And good luck tomorrow!" It would be his first day on the job, she remembered, so she threw that in more genuinely. Shaking her head to herself, she cleaned up after their meal, and once the place was neat and tidy, she'd take herself off to bed. Apparently... she now had a big day tomorrow. Hopefully Rosy could cover the rest of lunch hour for her.



Date: 10-19-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 18

The Thing in the Attic


Matthew was working on one of the cabinets that had been sticking while the scullery maids were about their duties gabbing away. "Oh, did you hear?" One exclaimed to the other. "Hear what?" came the reply. "Miss Maggie is going on a date with the handsome Royal Guard Captain!" That's when the giggles started and when Matthew hit his thumb with the hammer he was using to tap the nail back in the hinge. A mumbled curse under his breath had the two stop to look his way. They had forgotten he was there because he was usually around like a familiar piece of furniture. The two shrugged it off as they lowered their voices and moved into the pantry to continue their chores, gossip and speculations. A frown started as he wasn't sure how he felt about this news, or was it rumors? Hard to tell with the scullery maids for they embellished on stories and even made them up on here-say. Besides, convincing himself, she had every right to go places with others but on the flip side of that thought, it certainly had him thinking. There were those moments when helping her, that left questions in his mind but maybe it had all been one sided and he just imagined them? More questions left unanswered.


He needed a distraction but not of the kind he would injure himself as once he finished the cabinet door, making sure it worked perfectly, he put the hammer away deciding to head up to the Attic and finally get to work there. It had been neglected since they left and even since their return. He'd be away from any more conversations or be around when Maggie was picked up this afternoon by the Captain of the royal guard. Up the three flights he went to the last set of steps bringing him to the locked attic door, soon unlocked and left open while he was up there. Sunlight made its way from the side windows in slanted shards that showed sparkling bits of dust that floated about. If one thought that air was clear, they were wrong. Even clear air had countless bits of particles moving about such as seen in sunlight at the right angle. It was mind boggling to think that besides what could be seen there was far smaller things that the naked eye could not even see. He stood there a moment watching the floating particles, the fact they sparkled more than what was considered normal went right over his head. Instead he left his mind drift away from other thoughts to near blank before he drew back and started to work.




That was when he noticed that the space they had managed to clear out, was now loaded up again as if someone brought more things up, things that wouldn't even fit through the attic door or someone had moved things from other parts of the attic. He pressed by the lot of furniture only to find the attic was still as full as it was before, as far as the eye could see. This was odd. Very odd as another frown formed. He made his way back and out from the attic, going down the three flights of steps on a thought and into the room on the first floor that held all kinds of furniture for anyone in the lands to make use of, or donate. "Ah ha!" There was a large space open that had not been before so he went to talk with Alex, except Alex assured him that no one had need of furniture and the room not been used in a month's time. Of course Matt would ask next if some of the things had been moved to the attic, that was a negative too as there would be no reason to move anything to the attic as they were actually trying to get everything out of the attic. So Matthew brought Alex up to the attic to show him his find (proving he wasn't crazy) and leaving the Thistle Tender just as bewildered. Someone was still pulling pranks.


Frustrated some, Matthew returned to the attic to start bringing back down that which he could. After a couple hours and with the help of Tommy and two of his friends, the space started being freed up again. The larger items were moved off to one side as he made room there from items before to be sorted, some saved, some burned. Now it was a matter of more sorting through clothes and items as he could see to this by himself, leaving Tommy and friends to get back to doing their chores or waiting on someone needing their help. How they earned most of their coins. Another hour passed as he filled a large bag with things to burn and stacked in a pile that which would be saved and brought down. Taking a break he set to wander the maze of items still in the attic to get a mental idea of how much there was still to do. That's when he saw the little man. One of those blinks as he was standing on a chest of drawers then leaped down out of sight. Matthew, of course, gave chase. He heard what sounded like a door slamming shut a distance behind him as he backtracked some to turn down another isle (as much as one could call pathways around and through junk piles). Just as he did something either fall or swung down, hitting him in the head. Blackness. The split second didn't really allow much comprehension as he was knocked unconscious on the far side of the attic.



Date: 10-19-10
Poster: Brian MacMillan
Post # 19

Date with the Captain
Brian was on time to the Thistle to escort Maggie on their excursion out. It would give him time to get to know her better, as he felt she was worth getting to know, and for her to get to know him aside being boss over her brother in his new profession. Brian being Captain of the Royal Guard. A long earned title since he came to the lands. He was attired in a leather vest, poet's shirt of maze beneath, brown cotton pants as the day proved to be a slightly warmer one. Yes, off duty attire as this was not something part of his duties. There had been times when he was requested to escort someone, usually a lady, about the castle grounds and castle itself. "How have your days been since you first came to the lands, Maggie," starting off another conversation, as they walked towards the castle, after the more platonic of noting the weather, the color of the trees whose leaves had more on the ground than on their branches at this point. That scent in the air that only autumn held. "Are you prepared for winter?" Two questions sufficient to start with as they reached the castle grounds. The first they were to set foot on was the front courtyard, after going through the inner fortress wall gate, where various carriages and those on horses were coming and going. He was sure to keep her safe from such passing.

It seemed that the whole tavern population knew about her date by the next morning, though she hadn't thought anyone besides her brother had actually witnessed the asking. But news traveled fast in a place like this. It seemed they were all eager to tease her or offer hints and advice: everyone that is, except Matthew. She'd seen him only in passing this morning, so briefly she didn't have time to tell him about it... and the rest of the day, she felt a little strange that she hadn't. Not that she was 'required' to tell him about it... but their friendship had grown to such a closeness, she felt she ought to. Still, he didn't reappear and so she was off without saying goodbye when Brian showed up. Her friend Suzette, one of the chamber maids, had helped her get ready for the outing. Suzette wanted her to wear her fanciest garment but Maggie opted for something simpler, a sky-blue dress that almost matched her eyes, with delicate white lace trim along the scooped neckline, a few shades fairer than her skin. A lacy shawl was in one hand but not needed yet as the sun shone cheerily. Glancing up to the man accompanying her, she drew a breath to answer the first question, then paused when he went on. "My days have been.. well, eventful," she answered the first question with a light laugh, for it was rather broad! "And I suppose I am as yet as I will get for winter. Though I much prefer summer. I always miss the green and growing things when the land becomes buried in snow." This was Maggie's first 'official' outing with a gentleman in... well, a long time. At times she felt a little awkward but she was trying. "What of you, what's your favorite season?"

Yes, it was rather broad but her laughter pleased him by reflecting with one to emerge with a dipping glance her way as they moved along. "Eventful is better than uneventful save no news is sometimes good news." Depending on the circumstances but he figured she knew what he meant. She might notice the salutes given him even when he was not on duty, the overall genuine respect as certain men and certainly the royal guards greeted him by name or title. All were noticing the beautiful woman on his arm too. He would be less teased than she would for no one wanted to endure any wrath that might come of it. Light teasing or general curiosity as to who the woman was would be appropriate. He as taking a moment to reflect on her question. "I would say late spring when the days finally warm up but not quite as warm as summer will bring. When life is renewed and the earth has that clean scent to it of new life. I find it the most invigorating sans the time myself and a few of the men went polar bear swimming." Which was another story in and of itself. The gates were open to them by the guards stationed there as they passed from the courtyard in the leisurely stroll they adjusted to. This is where the hanging gardens were found and though most flowers had gone back to the earth for the winter, there was a riot of colors of various mums and marigolds that thrived in the cooler weather until too cold. There were no bugs to bother them and only a few about that weathered the colder days but not for long either. The hanging gardens got its name for how the hills were left and tiered upwards to provide the color of flowers at least ten feet up at an angle. There was ivy whose leaves were varying colors that climbed up the castle walls as well the trees whose roots snaked down thorough parts of the tiered beds. "This is a sight in mid summer when the roses are still in bloom as well as many other flowers." He was not a gardener and only knew some of the plants over the many species growing here.

Maggie did notice the salutes he got, and noticed too the way many of them cast her curious glances, wondering who was accompanying the Royal Guard Captain... so she inclined her head towards them in return. Then her head tilted lightly towards Brian to listen as he spoke, and his words of spring brought a light smile to her lips. Then he mentioned polar bear swimming. "You mean when you jump into a freezing lake in the middle of winter?" She'd heard of such things; Richard and his pals had even done that come a winter in Wales. "That sounds..." well, she would be honest, "miserable! To each their own though I suppose..." casting him a gently teasing glance, but her attention shifted when they came upon the Hanging Gardens. She actually gasped aloud when she took it all in, the masses of vines and plants of all different sorts. Many of them were dying this time of year and part of her itched to touch them, but she carefully kept her fingers aloft the wrinkled leaves. "I can imagine.." she answered his words about summer, and indeed she could see it in her mind's eye, how breathtaking that would be. "I'll have to come back to see it when spring comes."

"Yes, exactly. To be precise you dig a hole like one does for ice fishing but big enough for a few men to fit. We take precautions with having a rope to use in drawing oneself up from the freezing water." Which he halted here as if in indecision then decision to follow in telling her like it was being she seemed to know about it, "there is a steam house built near the lake. You steam up stark naked then run out and jump into the hole you made earlier. Sometimes there is a light icey crust already forming in those few hours. You get in and you get out and back into the steam hut. It is a very invigorating experience but not something I would recommend for a lady," especially since the naked part. "It is not something that is required of the men either but many of them practice it. As I said, I prefer late spring so having done the polar bear swim, I've not need of it again." He was pleased with her gasp for the hanging gardens were a sight and the ivy so thick in parts, they formed little huts behind them along the ground base. Rabbits and smaller critters made their homes there. By this time they were coming around to the back where there was another courtyard but this was one with gardens. All kinds of flowers grew along the walls and railings, up along the walks and in circles with fountains in the middle. There were trellises that formed doorways between garden areas that morning glories or trailing roses grew over. Some areas were vegetable gardens with flower gardens as walls to enclose them. Rows and rows ran the length of a field that now held the dying remains that would soon be tilled back into the soil. This was also where the prize rose bushes grew in one section as well ones scattered throughout the various gardens. Small covers of brush and tress with green lawns within had benches and fountains that offered privacy for one to steal away to read a book or meet a lover if one had such romantic notions.

She shivered at the picture he painted. "It sounds, ah... exhilarating. But I think I'll leave it to your men." A smile winked on her face with that admission, and for the next few moments she was content to stroll along. Her eyes seemed even larger than usual as she swept her gaze around the gardens, from one thing to another, as if she couldn't get enough. Which indeed she couldn't. The place was huge and would take days to fully explore, if one were so inclined. "I feel I could spend hours here." She glanced up, briefly to meet his eye with a smile. "It really is lovely. Like its own world, leagues away, but it's right in the middle of town."

The comment had a low chuckle come with a smile, a pleasant thing to see and hear from Brian. "What is the one, if you can narrow it down to one, point of summer that you like the best?" Figuring there were a lot of points or reasons, one liked a certain season. He took his time strolling through the courtyard gardens for it was even more to take in being more expansive. "The 
 last of the gardens these lands have to boast on is the Celtic one but it is a distance away from the castle itself." Obviously unlike these two. His smile warmed as eyes met and held hers in a suspended moment. Tracing over her features in almost a caress before he caught himself and continued their walk. He headed for the back door from the courtyard gardens once they had done the circuit. A guard posted there immediately stepped to open it up and there was another guard within posted there. She probably noticed the posted guards at strategic points and then some walking about the place. Like the back wall that had a gate opening to a field beyond where castle bred horses roamed. Beyond the field was the stables for the riding horses. Many kept in case a brigade had to ride out. One's sight needed to adjust once inside the hall as the Guard there saluted his captain adding the extra Miss to the greeting.

The one thing about summer that she liked the best. She had to think about that one for a moment, her eyes very blue as they trailed over the landscape. "Do you know how, when there have been many days of sun, the earth soaks it all up? And even once the sun sets, you can lay in a field and feel the day's warmth in the soil... warm against your skin. It feels like.. a hug." That sounded a little silly but the best way she could think to describe it. "And the earth smells so clean and rich.. with stars clear overhead." She paused before she went on with too much poetic imagery. Such thoughts often flitted through her thoughts but she rarely voiced them. Stealing a glance up to Brian, she wondered if he thought her a bit silly. "I suppose that's the kind of summer moment I love best." As they stepped towards the doorway, she nodded to the guard who welcomed them immediately, knowing she shouldn't be surprised at the admittance - she was strolling with the Head of the Royal Guards after all. The guard who greeted them got a quick smile and nod of her head as they stepped inside. "You must know every nook and cranny of the castle, having the  job you do."

Her words brought him back to a time long ago, a pleasant memory from the past where there were other memories not so kind. "Yes, I've laid in a field with the grass and warmth beneath with the stars above to watch over the night until the sun rose in a glorious display of new day. I can see where your description fits." Giving a nod as a smile was quickly to rise again. Obviously he didn't think her silly or he'd be thinking himself silly right along with her. "Aye, that I do, and need to. Your brother will most likely too depending where he ends up stationed." From the hall he took another turn that brought them to steps for them to climb. Circling around as up they went .. and went... and went until finally he stopped at a door which he opened up to the North Tower View room. This one was used by some but was not used as living quarters as the West Tower was for instance. They would have no public access there. There were four large windows. One to each compass point. South showed a view over the castle and another courtyard within its belly. Beyond that was the ocean to stretch out as far as the eye could see. One could see ships in the far distance they could not see from below. East showed the lands split by the port area and the Lighthouse on the other side. West showed the vast expanse of land and coast as far as the eye could see, then the ocean byound as the lands curved north. North looked out over the commons and far beyond of green fertile lands and forests. Mountains in the distance.

He earned himself a smile when he expanded on her description of the perfect summer's eve. At least he hadn't laughed. She wondered where Richard might end up being stationed, but realized he would probably be moving around most of castle at some point. Having never set foot in the castle before, she was content to let Brian lead, falling into step behind him when they entered the narrower stairway. Up and up it wound, and she picked up the ends of her skirts so the hems wouldn't tangle around her ankles. By the time they reached the top she was a bit short of breath, healthy color flushing her cheeks as she let her skirts dropped and looked around. "This looks like a good place to think..." and the views were incredible. Wandering over to one window her eyes were quickly captured by the sea. A subtle sound of appreciation passing her lips as she gazed out across the ocean, and the ships as distant and delicate as bird's wings. Having soaked it in, she turned back around to lean against the windowsill and regarded the captain. "MacMillan... are you of Scottish heritage, then?"

Brian would not be the type to laugh at a lady, especially one that intrigued him. As she took a position in front of the south window, he came up behind her placing the warmth of his hands lightly upon her shoulders, fingers curving around them in a gentle embrace. His voice a deeper baritone came lightly by her ear. "The scenes are each individually beautiful. I thought you might like to see such views." The warm touch of his hands lifted away as he stepped over to the East window to point out the Lighthouse. "There is another place you'd like to see then if you like getting a good view of the ocean and that which sails upon her." Turning back as she had turned as well too in facing him. "Aye, Scots and Irish, a nice blend I like to think it as. Are you Scots or Irish?" Hard to tell by the surname other than Celt.

That was... unexpected! When he came up behind her and was suddenly very close. A quick glance was shot up when he laid his hands upon her shoulders... a strangely familiar touch for one that was still virtually a stranger. But not wholly unpleasant. It did not linger long, as his deep voice brushed her ear almost like music and then he stepped away. Nodding to his words about the lighthouse, she recalled its keeper, whom she had met in the market a long time ago. He had seemed a friendly fellow if a little quiet but she never had gone to visit his place. The conversation was picked up again as a smile lit her face quickly. "Irish and Welsh, actually. I was born in Wales, but my Da was Irish." Was? Is? She had no idea and it dimmed the brightness of her eyes for a moment, before the smile returned. "A nice blend," she agreed.

"That too is a good combination," turning another smile her way before the bend of his arm was offered. "I could linger all day here but there are other parts of the castle I would like to show you before the sun goes down and duty will have me once again. Hold onto me as needed for it is far easier coming up the steps," even if it left one winded not use to the steep incline," than it is to go down them." He would make certain she didn't falter for he was quick and strong staying right by her side. They didn't go all the way down but took another door that had them on the second floor. This was where the solarium was located. That would be their next stop as all was in full bloom in this room, like walking into a summer garden, much like her best season.

She nodded gratefully as she took his arm, turning her face away briefly to hide her smile. Maggie was fleet of foot and naturally graceful... and not the type of girl to fake a stumble, merely to have a strong fellow put his arm around her. Still, the politeness was appreciated and they descended without incident. "Where are you taking me next?" She asked, but her question became moot that next moment when they walked into the solarium. It seemed like magic to have such a lush garden here in the middle of autumn; perhaps it was, for she knew some of the royal family had those inclinations. It was so lovely she was quiet for the first several moments, just looking around. "This is wonderful," she finally said, though the adjective seemed inadequate.

How about gather her up into his arms and up against the breadth of his chest if she stumbled? One that would bring them very close together and lips a breath away. Unfortunately that was not to be even if the thought flitted through his mind. He was a normal red blooded male. Once within the solarium her hand was released from its place upon his arm so that she could wander at will. The center focus was the great oak tree against the one wall, ceiling was obviously higher with strong beams to support it. The side facing the gardens outside had panes from floor to ceiling with the very upper ones left open so that the birds could come in and out as they pleased. "I'm pleased you like it, many do within the castle. Many of the royals such as Solarina spend a lot of time here." There were others milling about but most kept to themselves for that was the idea of coming to the solarium. She might get a glimpse of the princess and possibly her brother, Leoric.

Her eyes swept the solarium up and down, breathing it all in. It even smelled green here and she filled her lungs with it, releasing the breath almost reluctantly. Her eye was drawn by that enormous oak tree and a moment later, so was she, moving across the courtyard to lay a hand upon the bark before she could think twice about it. It was almost like a magnet that drew her hand there and she closed her eyes a moment, fancying she could almost feel the tree.. breathing? If that made sense... but there was a definite energy coursing through it. When she pulled her hand away she noticed that there was a tiny knob there that hadn't been before, the baby start of a new branch. She quickly turned to face Brian once more. A slight smile was offered as she glanced around, then whispered, "Am I allowed to be here?" It was half in jest.. but part of her was wondering if 'normal' citizens ever got to see this place, with the royals who liked to frequent it. It seemed a rather grand place for a barmaid.

He had wandered in her wake to come up as she laid a hand upon the bark of the tree. "It is said these old oaks hold great wisdom if you learn how to communicate. Or, if they choose to communicate with you." The baritone of his voice a bit huskier as he spoke low between them. Hopefully she would not find him strange in saying so but many were druids here and certainly it was one of the things that had drawn him to these lands. With her question he gave a nod, "you will be allowed to come here. Not everyone is but it is not entirely closed off to guests." Obviously he would have her name on the guest list. She may have noticed the two guards outside the entrance and there was another two out of sight within. Mainly because of who came in here a lot. Members of prominent families were recognized and allowed to come if they wanted to. "I would bring you to see the library and gallery but it is late and I must have you back as well myself for I've a meeting this evening." One that would introduce Richard formally to all the other guards, they would come in shifts as during the change, he and Richard would be in the Hall that he would meet the others. "They are open to the public so I'm sure you will get to see them when a need. I hope to spend more time with you, Maggie, when we both have more to spend." Wondering if she would like that as he offered his arm to escort her back, "unless you wish to remain here for a while? I will see to another guard seeing you back when you are ready." Although he hoped to take the walk with her back to the Thistle, allowing him some more time.

She arched a dark brow at the thought of her being put on some 'guest list'. She had never really thought herself the type to be put on such a list! Even when living in that castle as a lady's maid, she had traveled in those noble circles only because of the lady she served. Those memories were none too sweet and so they were set aside. "Aye, I've been meaning to visit the library, and the gallery," She told him for many who came into the tavern had mentioned these places as worth seeing. The library especially since she did love poetry and could use a few new ones to read. Nodding when he mentioned his meeting, she recalled that Richard had mentioned the same meeting, so she understood. Taking his arm once more, she offered a smile. "I think I will allow you to walk me back," that was a gentle tease and accompanied by a dimple in her cheek. Taking his arm once more. Much as she loved the solarium she felt it might be awkward being here by herself, rubbing elbows with nobles and royals she did not know. "Thank you, for the tour. I've never seen the castle grounds before.. I enjoyed it."

Which had a smile quirk as he rested his other hand over hers, savoring the gentle contact. "I am honored to be allowed.." giving a wink as mirth glinted in golden brown eyes. "I am pleased to have your company this day, Maggie." She might noticed he liked saying her name as he escorted her out, guards saluting which he responded with a slight dip of his head for most of his focus was on the lady at his side. The walk would be pleasant for it was late enough for the temperatures to plummet yet but the breeze was starting to pick up indicating it would be a windy cold night, much as autumn offered.

She did catch that hint of mirth, mayhap the first sign of such she'd seen from him... and it made her smile deepen, setting those dimples back into her cheeks. Nodding slightly to his words she answered, "It was a pleasant day." And would be a nice and easy stroll back to the tavern. With the cooling temperatures she wrapped her shawl loosely about her shoulders as they headed for the Thistle.



Date: 10-20-10
Poster: Matthew Myers
Post # 20

All Tied Up


It had been a little strange when she returned from her outing last night and Matthew still hadn't been seen for some time. Worry set in the next morning, when she came to the kitchen for breakfast and the handyman was still nowhere to be found. It wasn't that strange for him to miss an occasional meal or two, but for him to have missed yesterday's dinner and today's breakfast and to have no sign of him in between... she couldn't help the feeling in the pit of her stomach. That something was wrong. "Are you sure you haven't seen him?" She asked Hazel for the second time. "Maybe he's sick.." She couldn't ever recall him getting ill but that could explain it. So after swallowing a few bites of oatmeal she was up and going back down the hall, knocking softly on his door. "Matthew?" When there was no answer... she opened the door slowly to peek in and look around. There wasn't anything terribly out of the ordinary in there, except that Matthew himself was not there, and the bed looked like it hadn't even been slept in. That was when she really began to worry and quick strides brought her back out into the kitchen. "He's not in his room, it doesn't even look like he's been there since yesterday. Where was the last place anyone saw him?"

Alex had come to the kitchen at this point, being it was time to have his breakfast before he started the day. There was concern in the aging man's eyes but he remained even keel instead of jumping to conclusions as easily, "aye Maggie lass," which was his way of speaking fondly, like a father image, "let's not get upset too quickly. He may have eaten out last night at Sibios." Which many did on occasion. Maggie had gone out on a date when it seemed she and Matthew spent a lot of time together. Certainly there were the scullery maids that put them as a couple until the date with Brian. Brian, too, was well respected and Alex was not judgmental that way. "He could have gone to bed late and gotten up early and left again." Being no one was Matthew's master that he had to answer to in where he went, as long as he got his job done which he always did. There was always the chance something was amiss too. "Last I had a conversation with Matthew was yesterday evening a bit before you returned. He was working up in the attic and talked on the oddity of furniture from our storage room down here being found up there. He had Tommy help him from that point in getting some of the things back down."

Alex's words were reassuring as he meant them to be... but not quite enough to assuage her concerns. Maybe she was overreacting but she just had this feeling. Biting her lip gently as Alex spoke, she nodded, eyes lifting towards the ceiling and the attic which was there a couple stories overhead. "Maybe he just started working there again early this morning." It seemed the logical place to start. Resolved, she pulled her long hair out of the way over one shoulder. "I'm going to go up there to have a look." She had worked up there a few times alone, though neither Alex, Matthew or Tommy seemed to like that idea. The place certainly had a strange feeling about it but it had never scared her. And so she was off to climb the stairs, all the way up to the attic door. She turned the knob but it wouldn't budge. Another try still found it locked. Regarding the door a moment, she blew out an exasperated sigh. Maybe Matthew wasn't in there after all. Or maybe... there was something odd going on. All she could do was follow her gut and she jogged back down the stairs, calling out as she did, "Alex? It's locked, do you have another key?"

Alex had just sat down to start his breaking fast with a mug of coffee when Maggie came in again. Duly noted was her concern which he would not dismiss as overreaching. "Most likely he is not up there if the door is locked. He leaves it wide open, propped open if needed when up there." That way he could hear if anyone called him or needed to be reached as his job was of that kind. "Have you checked the wood pile? He usually chops wood in the morning and stacks them along with the help of Tommy and his friends. The key, however, is out behind the bar," which he continued to tell her exactly where it was. He didn't worry for there were guards set to watch the tavern being owned by the Royals. One was out there presently and at night when the place was closed up. Two were in the back and another that wandered the grounds and through the place to keep all secured and safe.

"I know.." She answered when he explained the logic of it. She knew that it would make no sense for Matthew to be inside the attic with the door locked but something was screaming at her to go up there. Perhaps it was her extrasensory abilities or maybe just some other instinct. She gnawed her lip when he mentioned the woodpile but usually they could hear the faint muffled sounds of wood chopping from here, or Matthew would be back and forth carrying the logs... somehow she just didn't think he was out there. At least Alex didn't try to dissuade her from going up there, and she nodded to him, a quick grateful nod as she was zipping out again. Slipping behind the bar to grab the key, she was moving quickly back up the stairs. A bit out of breath by the time she got all the way up there, Maggie slid the key into the lock, turned the knob and pushed the door open. "Matthew?" She was immediately calling his name as she stepped inside, blinking about as her eyes adjusted. Was it just her.. or did the place seem MORE crowded rather than less so?

Matthew was still out but in a groggy sort of state. He was to the far end (towards the front of the attic in relation to where the door and steps were leading in) of the attic at the right corner junction wall. He didn't hear her call his name but perhaps she might hear the faint groan. There were many pieces of furniture as well clothing and such odds and ends in what seemed an endless pile from where she was and where he laid prone on the floor. An area unlike the rest of about eight feet square that was all cleared. He was not only covered in a light sheen of sparkling dust but he was tied down like the man in Gulliver's Travels where the little men had contained the Giant. The small nails just outside the eight foot square area that held him in place by hundreds of strong rope type string. There was a good size goose egg on his forehead too that happened when initially knocked out but certainly the groggy state was more than the goose egg would have him.

This was very odd, she saw some bits of furniture and clothing that she could have sworn they had cleared out before their trip to Bogton? "Matt-" she started again, and that was when she heard the groan. Now she was moving quickly to maneuver around armoires and boxes and piles of moth eaten coats. This place was a labyrinth but luckily, she had been up here many times before so that helped her to navigate. Pausing at one 'crossroads' she listened again but what she heard was not a groan.. but a slow ominous creak. She turned just in time to see a big heavy iron and wood coat rack falling, in a way that would have had it knocking right into her... had she not gasped and thrown herself out of the way. The coat rack fell with a shaking crash and she stared at it a moment, then looked around quickly. Something was going on... but she had to find Matthew. Moving around to the left she had to stop dead when a box seemed to slide right into her path having her nearly falling into it. She climbed over it instead and kept going til she almost felt like she was going in circles. It felt like a long time before she finally rounded a huge wooden chest and saw that clearing... with him in the middle of it... tied up with tiny ropes. What on earth? Her eyes widened and she surged forward, but just then, a broom swung down from out of nowhere and tangled in her feet. She stumbled, tripped, and ended up falling, right into that clearing and practically falling atop Matthew and all that rope. "Oomph."

If Maggie had not been so concentrated on finding Matthew, she may have noticed the bit more of sparkling particles in the area she went before the coat rack came crashing down. Done so that she had the split second timing to get out of its way. Had she not been so focused she may have heard the scurry of small feet too which would have been harder to notice than the sparkling particles. Both muted to the ordinary human senses. There had been no straight path to where Matthew was tied down, for this was a created Labyrinth that their cleaning would destroy. For whatever reason it belonged to the small man they both had gotten glimpses of but not any real good look. Yet. One could argue if the little man was trying to keep her from finding Matthew or was leading her to him in his maze. As soon as Maggie fell into the spot, it jarred what was rigged once that much more weight was added. The square fell, the flooring had always been a dumb waiter for brining up or down the bigger furniture. It was rigged to give away as the strings and nails were forced from their embedding with such a jarring, setting Matthew free even if he was not totally conscious. It stirred the Fae dust on him having him take in a deep breath only to find pressure on his chest as the world gave out beneath him. The dumbwaiter went down two floors only to have the patch in the hall ceiling open up on the main floor, having them dangle there a foot above the floor. No one had noticed the barely seen seams in the ceiling.

Au contraire... Maggie had noticed those seams when cleaning the ceilings for cobwebs, but had never really thought much about them. She did notice those bits of sparkling particles in the air too but it wasn't the foremost on her mind as she maneuvered the maze with one purpose. All of those incidents along the way were definitely strange... but nothing could have prepared her for that. When all stability seemed to vanish beneath them she put her head instinctually down on his chest, stifling a shriek there as she waited to hit rock bottom. When the plunging feeling stopped her heart was hammering and she had to tell herself to take a breath. Looking up carefully she realized they weren't dead. And they were in... the commons? A torrent of dust had accompanied them, forming a cloud that made her cough as she quickly looked down at Matthew. Was he awake? Was he alright? "Matthew?" One hand laid along his cheek and jaw while the other moved to rip him free from all those little strings, eyes meanwhile intent on his face and full of worry.

The jolt coupled with the shriek, had him awake and in those few split seconds as the floor went out beneath them, he had his arms around her tight. Holding her to keep her safe as even a groggy mind would not deter his instincts. He had no idea what had happened since his last conscious thought he was trying to find the wee man running round the attic. Then nothing until now. "Maggie?" Easing his hold as bronze blue eyes stared up into hers. He could feel the throb from the goose egg on his forehead too. "What happened," and blinking as strings fell away from his chest, which they seemed to evaporate right before their eyes leaving a bit of sparkling dust in with real dust that clouded around them for a few moments. The crashing sounds, though luckily not onto the floor itself in the hall, had Alex and Hazel out to the tap room along with the kitchen maids and chambermaids on the main floor. What a sight, Maggie on top of Matthew in a compromising position as if lovers. Her face was so close to his, his lips a breath away that she could feel the warmth of as he could of hers. A dizzying moment or was it the dust that still held him or the lump on his head? He was not able to move yet, well duh, she was straddled atop him!

Alex was the first out into the tap room and almost skidding to a halt just before the hall way entry. Astonished there was a dumb waiter right there and the position to find both Matthew and Maggie in. His accent was thick when he conveniently stated, "I see you found him, Maggie." His humor never abandoning him.

She blinked when the strings, which had felt very much real, suddenly vanished into dust in her fingers. Eyes flew back to Matthew's face when he spoke, and relief flooded her so strongly she felt almost faint. Holding his eyes, her free hand lifted to cup his other cheek, cradling his face tenderly and close. And who knows what might have happened if the entire population of the tavern hadn't come hurrying in at that moment. She caught a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding, and looked up from her position practically atop Matthew, blues swinging from the maids to Hazel and Alex wordlessly. How to explain this? She clambered off Matthew carefully to not hurt him any further, sliding off the suspended platform til her feet found solid ground, but she didn't move far from Matthew's side. "He's been hit in the head," she told them but mostly Alex. The rest could wait while they made sure Matthew was alright, "Could I get some ice in a cloth, Alex and some of that tea you used to make me, please?" He'd have a wicked headache from the looks of that goose egg. There was one last moment when she could hold his eyes before the others would surely be clamoring.


Matthew also saw all the faces swarming much like his head felt. "It's that wee man again," oops! He had not told Alex about him in particular yet. Luckily they would think it was the very fact, and becoming obviously so with the goose egg on his head, that he'd took a good knock. Once Maggie was up, he gingerly got himself up to a seated position on the dumbwaiter but as it jerked, he was stumbling down to his feet.

Alex was quick to grab Matthew up as the dumbwaiter was headed back up through the ceiling to the Attic most likely. "Aye Maggie, some ice and some tea. I'll get him over to the couch." Then with a look to the chambermaids and kitchen maids, "yea lassies should be about your work now, all is done here and mind your wagging tongues or there will be other bits to get out." Which was a bit of blackmail but the group knew they all had their little secret dealings and shouldn't be talking on others, not when Alex had a say in it! Amazing how fast they scattered, near colliding into each other before gone while Hazel helped him get Matthew over to the couch. Seating him there. "It seems we have a bit to talk about once your head stops swimming as certainly it has to be right now." Hazel was off to get the salve made by Andrew to put on the goose egg to help it heal faster.

Maggie nodded when Alex spoke, and while he and Hazel got Matthew over to the couch, she crossed to the bar to fetch some ice to start while the tea was brewing. Her gaze lifted to swing around the others as they stared, a few even after Alex had sent them on their way. Some of them were Maggie's friends, but others were less than friendly and far more eager to gossip than to find the truth of a situation. Giving an imploring look to Suzette and Rosie, two of her closest friends on staff, Maggie could only hope they might try to tame the exaggerated rumors that would take root tonight. Then Matthew had her full attention once more. Going to the couch where he'd been laid down, she perched on the edge of one of the cushions, and very gently pressed the cloth-covered ice against his goose-egg. "Here, I know it's cold but it'll help.."  Eyes flicked up to Alex once more, knowing that there was plenty to be explained (and then some)... From what she'd seen, there was far more going on in the Attic than just a bunch of old stuff needing to be cleaned out. But that could wait.


Most likely the ones that liked to waggle their tongues inappropriately, such as some of the scullery maids, not the kitchen ones under Hazel but the ones that cleaned, washed dishes and a lot of the 
 menial work, would not last. There was a new lass, with big blue eyes that were wide for the whole scene but she gave a shy sympathetic smile Maggie's way before hurrying off to see to her chores. Maggie's life at the moment just hit complicated! What mattered was what Alex and Hazel thought for they would rein in those wagging tongues and put fear in the ones' hearts to mind their own business if they wanted to judge. His vision was finally clearing up as well his consciousness becoming sharper again. Words went lower as Maggie approached, putting aside the fact she was dating another man, "it was that pint size man again." That's when he stared at the hall entry were the dumb waiter had stalled and started up again to disappear thorough the ceiling completely, the trap part folding back up once through. "Do you think he wanted us to find that? That's how they got those bigger pieces of furniture up there." There was a sharp intake of air as cold hit that goose egg, "owww.." which made him laugh, which made him go "owwww" again.

Alex looked between the two now that Maggie was back. "We'll talk soon but get your senses fully back about you Matthew. I'll be in the kitchen with Hazel and see to a few lasses there.." so the law was going to be laid down, nipped in the bud, before anything got out of hand or some would have their walking papers. A slight nod and he was on his way.

You better believe she wasn't thinking about any other man with Matthew lying there hurt. Her brow creased as he mentioned the little man again after mumbling something about him a few moments ago. "I don't know..." she answered him honestly, wincing in sympathy when he cringed at the cold. "Oh, sorry.." She tried to be very gentle as she lifted the cloth from his head a moment then moved it again slightly, fingers brushing his temple along the way. Maggie glanced up when Alex rose with those words, giving her boss a mutely grateful look for taking care of her reputation at least as much as he could. Then she was looking back down to Matthew. Honestly the entire thing in the attic had given her a bit of a scare but she was relatively calm. "Was he the one who did this to you? The little man?" Hazel had brought the jar of salve over too, so Maggie set the cloth aside and scooped up some salve on her fingertips, dabbing it gingerly onto the bump on his head. "Something, or someone was up there, and it didn't want me to get to you." She wouldn't say that she'd been nearly knocked out too along the way!



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