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Sixteenth Century Ireland
“What is it, old woman? Why have ye summoned me?” He was civil though to anyone that knew Dougray Fitzpatrick, they would have known that he was not pleased to be beckoned forth in the middle of the night.
Neala, the woman of the glen was not a fool. She was well aware that this man was strong enough to crush her with one powerful blow. Yet she was not afraid. She knew him better than perhaps he knew himself. He would grumble and threaten, but he would never raise a hand to do harm. Her high-pitched cackle was proof enough that she feared him not. “Milord, ye speak gruffly, but I’ll forgive ye. Come follow me, so only ye can hear what I have been destined to reveal.”
Dougray could not help but roll his eyes wishing that he had stayed back at the castle where he was nice and warm with the fire burning hot and his goblet filled to the brim. He sighed, knowing if he didn’t let the old crone speak her mind, there would be no end to this charade. Reluctantly he made his feet move to follow her.
She waved a crooked finger at him, so that he would lean ever closer.
“Well, woman?” He threw up his hands. “I lose patience.”
“Then listen well, young lord, for ye will have to keep the wits about ye, when ye are cast from this place and time.”
“What are ye babbling about?”
She shook her head, but continued determined to make him listen to her. “Ye will be sent to another place and time for it has been written. Learn what need be so that ye can save yer future born.”
He was about to give her an unpleasant retort but she silenced him. “I have more to say to ye before ye go wagging yer tongue.” He gave her a rather unpleasant snort letting her know just how annoyed he was with her prattling. When she folded her arms against her chest and narrowed her silver-gray eyes at him, he finally gave in with an irritated harrumph, nodding for her to continue. “Ye will meet a lass that will believe yer tale. She will be the vision, a dream. Do not rush what should not be. Listen to yer heart, and ye will find yer true love. Do ye understand me Fitzpatrick”
“Aye, aye,” he said with impatience to be gone. He wasn’t one to believe in fanciful tales, and most especially if they involved matters of the heart.
“Ye will do well, young lord.” She placed her gnarled hand on his. “Please pray ye will not tarry long in this other world.”
Tarry? Dougray couldn’t help but chuckle. “How is it, old crone, that I will be thrust from this time and place?” Neala was well aware that he was just humoring her, but all the same she felt it was her duty to answer him.
“A mist like no other will appear covering ye like it were a woolen blanket. When ye finally come out of its heaviness, ye will be where yer destiny has sent ye.”
Once more, Dougray’s deep vibrant chuckle filled the night air. “I’ll take heed, old crone. If ever I see such a mist, I’ll do as ye bid. Now if that is all,I would like to get back to the warmth of my fire.”
“I have spoken.” With a wave of her hand, she turned away from him with her dismissal.
He shook his head wondering why he allowed her to give him orders. He straightened his mantle and strode back to his horse thinking no more of the old woman’s prediction. “Magical mists!” he exclaimed. “Dar Dia!”
Murrough didn’t miss the Lord of Dunhaven’s scowl. He had known the man long enough to realize that he was not troubled but rather perturbed. Obviously the old witch had not given him bad news, only information that thoroughly irked him. “So what did she say of our meeting with the Butler?”
Dougray shrugged his shoulders. “It seems, my friend, that we were summoned out here for no reason at all. She had no news. Rather she wanted to warn me of a magical mist.”
For a moment, Murrough just sat there upon his horse wondering if he were joking. Neala was known for peculiarities, but this? “Milord, surely ye jest.”
“Ah, that I were. It seems the old woman has dipped into the spirits this night. She babbled about me finding my true love.” He chuckled, though it was the troubled laugh that Murrough recognized all too well. Neala may have been talking nonsense, but she had hit a sore spot. Dougray had been married once to the beautiful fair-haired Ella, the daughter of his now hated enemy, Fingham Butler the Lord of Castlehold. It had been a good match for the clans, ending the petty quarrels that had plagued the land. The marriage was even approved by the Tudor King bestowing favor once more to the inhabitants of Dunhaven. By the stars, their love had been of youth’s strong devotion, but tragedy befell Ella only a few weeks after the blessed nuptials. Dougray vowed that he would never love again. As far as Murrough knew,he was holding strong to that promise. As for Ella’s father, he blamed Dougray for her death, and was determined to avenge her. The raids and skirmishes were now a weekly occurrence to that pledge. Tomorrow marked the anniversary of Ella’s death, and Fingham summoned a meeting. He proclaimed that he just wanted to converse, but Murrough didn’t trust it. He had the men well prepared in case of trickery. If only he could convince Dougray to finish the deed, but his friend wouldn’t force Fingham to the death. He still insisted that they try to find peace.
“We best head home.” Dougray clicked his mount into motion.
They rode in silence for a while before Murrough sparked a conversation wondering if Neala wasn’t right to have spoken of a new love. “Are ye ever going to open yer heart to another?”
“Why do ye continue to ask me this? You know Ella was the only woman for me.”
“Aye. Ye loved her, but she is gone but one year now. You need to think of the future. What of an heir?”
“An heir can be sought without love. When the time comes, I will choose someone that will make do this task.”
Murrough shook his head. “Do ye not think that a woman would want more than to lie down and take your seed?”
“Perhaps.” He chuckled at the way Murrough was so concerned over his personal life. “Maybe I will ask Fiona to do the honors. She has been more than willing to give in to my needs without promise of more.”
“Aye, and she is willing with half of the keep.” This won Murrough a sideways glare, which he chose to ignore as he continued, “Maybe this mist would be a godsend.”
“Don’t tell me ye believe the old crone?”
Murrough sighed not knowing if he believed it or not. Neala was of the old ways and was known to have a second sight. “Stranger things have happened.In ancient times, an O’Donoghue of the Glens was supposed to have gone over to the fairies. According to the legend on May Day, he glided over the Lakes of Killarney on a white horse. And the unearthly music could be heard while his troops of spirits scattered flowers.”
“Dar Dia! I would loathed to go into battle, worried that my back was not covered because ye were looking for the wee folk, or worst this mist the old woman speaks of.”
Murrough’s red, bushy brows furrowed with irked displeasure. “I must tell ye that I take offence to that statement. Have I ever let ye down?”
Dougray hadn’t meant for his teasing to offend him and immediately tried to make amends. “Never, my friend. Ye’re the only one that I have ever trusted. I know without a doubt that I would never have to worry as long as ye’re at my side.”
“Good. Now tell me Murrough, why have ye not married?”
“I am not cut out for marriage. Women are of a troublesome breed.” He said this with such venom that it caused Dougray to laugh.
“Ye had another argument with Rhiannon, didn’t ye?”
“Bah! The woman has a bite. I’ll tell ye. She was put out because I had forgotten to take home the shirt that she had made for me. Come morning, I went straightaway to her door, and the foul woman nearly spit in my face. She said that I didn’t love her, that I didn’t care a wink about her feelings. Can ye believe this? Me?” He pounded his chest. “I do everything, but kiss that woman’s…well ye know what I’m saying.”
“Bring her some flowers and she will surely welcome ye back.”
“I’m not crawling back to her. I’ve done so much groveling, that my knees are near worn thin.”
Dougray let his friend vent, but he already knew that Murrough would be at Rhiannon’s door as soon as they returned to the keep. It was Murrough’s way. He didn’t like any dispute to last more than a day’s time, and unfortunately Rhiannon also was aware of this. She’d pout for a while then she’d forgive him. He was sure that come tomorrow’s light, when they rode out to meet the Butler, Murrough would be wearing a satisfying grin.