Margaret raised her head to listen to the noise upstairs, but it was uncommonly quiet, and she took the pile of paper and rushed through the hallway and then up the stairs.
“Where are you guys?” she called out after she found the empty bathroom with two wet towels carelessly spread on the floor.
“My room!” she heard Siobhan’s voice, and, sure enough, there they were, sitting side by side on Siobhan’s bed.
She looked at Patrick. “Let me comb your hair,” she said, amused by the mess that resembled his hair.
“I already did, Nana!”
“Yes, I can see that, Patrick. Let me just make some tiny adjustments. Okay?”
She went back to the bathroom, picked up a brush, and, after another long and tedious discussion, Patrick allowed her to touch his hair.
“Now, that looks much better,” she said when she observed her work.
“It was fine before, Nana!”
“Cut it out, Patrick,” Siobhan intervened. “I wanna hear a story now!”
“What are we gonna read, Nana?” she inquired.
“Well, actually… I will tell you the first story you will hear tonight, and after that I will read you a story of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. But first, I will tell you about a young man by the name of Annachie Gordon.”
“Are there any dragons in there?”
Margaret smiled. “No, Patrick. No dragons in this story.”
She sighed. “Just be aware that this is a sad tale. After all, you had asked me for more adult stories. And that is what it is, just a story, a story that has been told over and over again for a long, long time.”
“The original title,” she continued, “is ‘Lord Saltoun and Auchanachie,’ and it is a Scottish folk song. The lyrics are just wonderful… But it is a long song, and I will give you the short version.”
Margaret closed her eyes for a moment and, slowly, opened them again, as a mental preparation for the performance to take place. It had been many years since she had last told ancient stories to an audience, and tonight’s little soiree had churned up long-lost memories and emotions.
“Once there was a young woman,” she finally began, looking first at Siobhan and then to Patrick, assuring she had their attention, “and her name was Jeannie. At her father’s insistence, Jeannie was to be married to a wealthy man, Lord Sultan. But Jeannie was in love with a young and handsome man by the name of Annachie Gordon, who had no money or land, and who had been away to sea. Against her resistance, Jeannie was being dragged to church where she was being married to Lord Sultan. When Jeannie refused to sleep in the same bed with Lord Sultan, her father ordered her maidens to undo her gown, but Jeannie collapsed at his feet, and she died of a broken heart.”
Again, she glanced at Siobhan and then at Patrick.
“I told you, dark and sad stories, but it gets worse.”
She sighed and took a deep breath before she continued.
“When Annachie returned soon thereafter, the distressed maidens told him that Jeannie had died of a broken heart. Young Annachie asked the maidens to lead him to the chambers where his love laid, and then, having kissed Jeannie’s cold lips, his heart turned to stone, and he, too, died of a broken heart.”
Margaret and her audience of two sat silent for a minute.
“Wow!” Patrick finally sighed. “That is quite depressive!”
Siobhan looked at him disapprovingly. “The word is ’sad,’ Patrick, not ‘depressive’.”
“Nana, what are you gonna read to us?” Siobhan asked.
“Well, as I mentioned earlier before, this is about King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table.”
“Are there any dragons in there?”
“Patrick, no, there are no dragons. Sorry. Just listen to the story. It’s such a beautiful language.”
Margaret took the pile of paper, and, taking seat right next to the children, she put the first few sheets aside.
“I will skip the dedication,” she explained. “Let’s just dive directly into the story.”
The kids nodded in excitement, and Margaret started reading.
“Leodogran, the King of Cameliard,
Had one fair daughter, and none other child;
And she was the fairest of all flesh on earth,
Guinevere, and in her his one delight.”
For more background information on Annachie Gordon see see my post Which Woman Wouldn’t Die For Annachie Gordon?
About Painted Wings and Giants' Rings
Roger Wilkinson is in a coma after a car accident on the Massachusetts Turnpike. The doctor describes his condition as being in a dark place. Roger's children, Patrick and Siobhan, decide to rescue their father from the dark place and bring him to Never-Neverland, because, in their view, nobody dies in Never-Neverland. They try to find their father through their dreams, and in these dreams they travel to the island of Sodor and the land of Honalee, but without success. Soon, they realize their father can't be in a children's place, and they need to enter dark, adult places like the Island of Shalott and the Isle of Frozen Souls. They meet the Lady of Shalott, who ultimately dies after seeing Sir Lancelot, and Annachie Gordon, whose heart turned to stone after learning that his love, Jeannie, had died. Patrick and Siobhan survive these dark places by remaining what they are: Children. When they ultimately find their father, they must apply the full power of childhood against the dark forces of adulthood.
Painted wings, childhood’s great defender,
And giants’ rings are such great splendor.
Keep these treasures, don’t grow old
In a world of tears and full of cold.
- The Faery’s Silly Song
Painted Wings and Giants' Rings is due for release in November 2012. For more updates see my website or feel free to "like me" through the Facebook icon on top of this page.