Mar 12, 2010

Dream State

The hour was growing late.

She had been watchful for several hours now and listening for the sounds of his horse's hooves. The last bit of sunlight was turning a gorgeous shade of pink as she sighed and turned from the window. After Seamus had built the fire in the large stone fireplace, she had told him that she would be fine and he should retire to the care of his family. He bobbed his head and smiled as he left.

Sìleas - her given name - had the stew of lamb and vegetables simmering on the cook iron, and had placed another pot filled with fresh water on to boil. On the table near the fire she had placed several clean cloths and a decanter filled with whisky. She knew that if this skirmish with the MacDonalds had gone as he had predicted it would go, he would most certainly be in need of all these things. The threats against several of the young women of the clan were not to be tolerated. The Frasers and MacDonalds had been strained neighbors at best, and this was most certainly not the best.

Her husband rode out with 6 other clansmen shortly after
Sìleas' father, the Chieftain, had been told the story of the bold-faced MacDonald boys who made lewd and dangerous threats against the girls (none of them more than 14) as they walked along the stream this morning. She crossed herself, whispered a prayer, and was thankful that the girls had been in so large a group when they went out picking berries today. Thinking of what might have happened had these coarse young men met with only one or two was more than she could tolerate.

Just as the last rays of light faded into night, Gawter came through the door. Moving slowly, but under his own power, he smiled softly at the sight of her. She met him halfway across the great hall.

"Come, Mo Shearc. Let me help you."

She led him to the fireplace and assisted him out of his armor. First the sabatons and greaves, then the cuisses and poleyns. He had already set his helm on the floor near the chair as he moaned settling into the cushions she had so thoughtfully placed.

She tenderly touched his bloodied face and turned to the fire for the kettle, poured the boiling liquid into a large basin of cold water she had placed near his feet.
"Well no obvious injuries to your feet or legs...that's good." she said as she helped him lift his feet into the warm water. His eyes were closed already, and the luxury of the warm water on his legs and feet warranted another soft moan from deep in his throat.

Smiling, Sìleas then set about the business of getting the rest of his armor removed. She carefully untied and removed his gauntlets seeing the large gash across the palm of his left hand. "Tried to stop a blade with your hand, did ye?" she asked as lightly as she could manage. The gash was deep, but thankfully it was well-clotted and no longer bleeding freshly.

"I'll do, A Ghrá mo Chroí [the name he nearly always called her]," he said softly, " had naught but that choice at the time."

He watched as she unfastened the breast plate and each
rerebrace. Her face was full of emotion with each revelation of horrid bruise, knot, or slash of flesh, though he was sure that she hoped he would not notice.

Next she took up one of the cloths, dipping it in the water and began washing his battered face. The nose was bloodied but did not seem to be broken this time - though it had been several times before in either battle or pub brawl. He also had a large cut under his right eye. Carefully she added boiling water and some whisky to a small bowl, dipped the cloth into it, and began cleaning the wound. The alcohol stung like a fire brand - even diluted in the water - but he merely made a Scottish noise in the back of his throat as all his muscles tensed.

After she completed tending the wounds on his face, she began work on his dear hands. Hands that had held her own, and counted the tiny fingers of their first born. The right was not bad at all, but the left had the large gash. She cleaned it with the alcohol mixture, handed him a dram (or more perhaps) of the whisky for drinking, and excused herself by kissing the top of his head.

He knew she was headed for her little herb room to mix a poultice for his wounds.
Shortly she returned humming a little tune. Gawter knew the tune well and a smile crossed his lips. They had danced their first dance to that tune a mere three years earlier at a ceiledh that her father hosted in the great house. It seemed to him that she hummed that tune both in times of happiness and of worry, as if the song that had brought them together would somehow repair the things causing any concern. Although given the nature of the women in her family, he should not be surprised. They did seem to have magical abilities.

Sìleas applied the poultice to his wound and packed it with clean lint. She then tore strips of cloth from an old chemise and bound it fairly tightly. Once she had convinced herself that she had attended to all his injuries, she handed him a bowl of the stew and settled herself on a cushion near his feet eating there with him by the fire. Not for the first time did he feel a bit uncomfortable with this type of arrangement. "Mo Chroí, it is I who should be sitting at your feet. I am more humbly born than you - a Chieftain's daughter. I should be caring for you."

"Och! A Stór, you hold yourself to meanly in mind. You take care of me, your family, and clan daily. You are the best of men." she returned.

"No. Just look at that pile of metal you have pulled from me tired body. It is all dented and worn. So much the opposite of those men in shining armor that would have had your hand, had your father not given in to your whim of loving me." Gawter said softly.

She arched her left brow and smirked very mildly as she began her answer to him - a look that by now he knew very well. He could not help but smile at her upturned face. "My pa never in his life "gave in" to a whim of mine unless it suited him to do so. He saw in you, what I see in you, me brawny ruadh man. He saw a man who loves his daughter more than he loves his own life. He saw a man of Honor. He saw a man who would not be pleased were his armor to remain shiny. He saw a man, YOU, my Gawter, Mo Shearc, who would fight to protect me."

At this he held out his hands and she rose onto her knees. He pulled her to him and kissed her soft, full lips.
Sìleas touched him gently knowing just how battered and bruised he was, but leaned onto his chest hearing the strong 'lub dub lub dub' of his heart.

"Aye. May I always be here to protect you, mo Chroí. May I ever have dented armor on your behalf."

At this I awoke. It was almost as if I had come to a part of the story of my many-times-great grandmother and grandfather that was too intimate for my own heart and the mind to allow me to share. I laid in my bed smiling to myself, humming a little tune and thinking that even though I am a dab hand with a sword (and mightily independent), I will always choose the knight with the dented and well-worn armor, too.

Lamia by John William Waterhouse

Some inspiration from The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon, Mrs. Brown by Jeremy Brock, art by John William Waterhouse, and my adventures in SL.**