Star Dreamer

Chapter XXIII: Nearly at Full Strength

[Beud]

The girl shot Rudolpho a surprised and annoyed look when he asked “are we there yet?”, and hissed, “De ye went more company – that tis whet chatter shell buy ye.” She led them through dank corridors, that stank of refuse and animal leavings. Occasionally a rat would startle as the group went past. Beyond the pipes echoed eerily.

But despite the phantom pipes the silence of the corridors managed to wrap itself around the three. Rather like the cloying, thick fog that came with the Spring. Nor was the stillness dispelled as Beud cautiously pushed open a door, and revealed the flickering light of the kitchen fireplace.

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Chapter XXII: Poison and Treachery
... and a blessing for Rue

[In the great hall]

Within the hall many of the warriors were settling in for some long drinking, and were already pulling a server to their lap. The sound of voices and hard laughter seemed to reach to the very wafters. Amidst the noise Measail turned to Daron and said, loud enough to be heard, “Good Lady Daron, you look to have been deserted by your comrades. Please allow myself and good Teth to escort you from the hall.” He seemed to have already ruled out Jacques as a man who’d found his place for the night.

“Yes,” Teth said, studying the girl from head to toe, “When these lads get enough to drink they might not recognize a lady from the wenches. I’ve had it happen a couple of times myself.”

“And they’re walking worse for wear,” Measail added with a chuckle, leaving the issue open as to the reasons for the declining condition.

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Chapter XXI: A Knife at the Back

[Laurelyn]

[Laurelyn/etc.]

Three different journeymen had offered a selection of five epic tales, but finally the High Bard Naomha signaled his bards to follow him from the hall. At which point Acair stood and declared the feasting at an end. Quietly he signaled Laurelyn and Thomis to follow him.

[Thomis]

As he followed Acair and the others from the hall, Thomis turned his head slightly to remind himself of those who had remained. Only Jacques and Daron of their party were still left, and he had no doubt that the jester would soon find himself a place to spend the hours ‘til dawn. The serving girl, Bronwyn, already had dodged two or three groping hands, softening the rejection with a smile each time, in order to work her way back to the gaily dressed man.

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Chapter XX: A Flexible Sense of Honor

[In the Hall]

As the sounds of restlessness began to fill the hall Acair stood and declared that now was time for the hour of the bards, and with these words he signaled the High Bard Naomha forward. The High Bard stood, looking regal in his multi-colored cloak of feathers, with a tall headdress over his elaborately-done black hair. His voice was bold and clear as he declared, “In honor of the return of our Chief’s daughter, Laurelyn, who travels on her own quest with stelwart allies my bards shall tell of our clan’s own quests.”

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Chapter XIX: In the Hall

[Laurelyn]

As the bards approached the massive doors to the feasting hall were pulled open, and the bagpipes began sounding in earnest. At this signal Acair, Chief of the Hillrover clan, took the lead, followed by the High Bard Naomha and his entourage. Laurelyn signaled her companions to wait till the bards had passed – then indicated that her party was to join the processional as it wound its way around the plank tables. Acair took his seat at the high table, with Naomha on his right, and much to the sound of whispered astonishment – he seated Laurelyn to his immediate left, with Thomis next to her. Two other high-ranking bards sat next to their teacher. And on Thomis’ left was Gairge’s father, Geill Hillrover, who was Acair’s first cousin.

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Chapter XVIII: Preparing for the Feast

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho was torn. He wanted to go off and explore this strange new place and all its wonderful people, but Laurelyn was right. He should probably help Maeve and Fionn. It would be hard to do, since they didn’t seem to want him around. Or at least Maeve didn’t. Fionn hadn’t said anything either way. He scratched his head and decided. He would check on them and perhaps find some interesting things that way. Rudolpho darted off quietly to find Maeve and Fionn. He hoped they hadn’t run into to trouble already. At least not without him.

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Chapter XVII: Walk Warily

[Laurelyn]

As they approached the Dun of Bro’n Laurelyn found herself listening attentively to the silence – and fearing that she would hear the faintest of strains from a phantom bagpipe. She also found herself studying the trail to the legendary site, since she had never been there. All she knew of the Dun was from the tales of the bards, and the clansmen’s personal stories of blood and valor. And her mother’s curses at such foolishness and the knowledge that her lover’s head might one day “grace” the walls of the Fort of Sorrow. According to her mother it was one thing to pit your wits and strength against the trickiness of the sea, and the law – and another to be forever fighting over a pile of rock that brought neither bread, meat, nor coin to the hearth. And now, more than ever, Laurelyn had to agree with her Ma. It was indeed one thing to know that you had survived the relentless sea and wind, and no shame in the losing. But another matter entirely, to be forever squabbling over a wee bit of land.

Though, sadly, she knew it was more than that – blood called for more blood as the need for vengeance grew. She had seen it happen – the hill clans had had centuries of bloodshed to become addicted to the violence.

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Chapter XVI: The Milk of Human Kindness

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn could feel the tension in her shoulders as she led her companions along the track that took them farther into the mountains, and again she was deeply grateful that Thomis rode with her. A solid friend – though the memory of their first and only kiss told her there could be more, particularly with tingling in her abdomen that came with the memory. But not even that memory overrode the knowledge that they were riding through MacLenan territory, and she offered a prayer to the gods of sea and stone that they made it through safely. The only blessing she knew that they had was that the trail was over open slopes, with no place for an ambush; a double-edged blessing, since such a large party as theirs would be easily seen by look-outs.

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Chapter XV: Was it the Oatmeal?

[Laurelyn]

Laurelyn had awakened at dawn, and had slipped from the manger to start a fire for breakfast and organize her thoughts. She wasn’t overly hungry – not with thoughts of what they could be riding into for company. The MacLenan clan held the nearby territory and they had been the Hillrovers’ blood enemies for at least a century and a half; a situation made worse by the MacLenans murdering Great- Uncle Seol, the clan piper before Brion, when he had been their prisoner. All because they were upset that he had played his pipes to warn his Chief that the fort had been re-taken by its rightful owners. Matter-of-fact, the road that her little group needed to take ran near that hillfort and she sincerely hoped they didn’t hear Uncle Seol’s ghost – he only played to warn Hillrovers of danger. All of which was why she needed to talk to her group. She knew that most of them had decided to seek the Star Dreamer, but that didn’t mean they had to ride with the daughter of the Hillrover chief.

Laurelyn kept a watchful eye on the fitful fire and was grateful she had put away some dry wood the night before. The smoke from a badly-ventilated fireplace wafted into her face while she waited for her companions to stir within the shepherd’s hut.

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Chapter XIV: Strange Meetings and Awkward Pauses
It's like a clown car in here!

[Rudolpho]

Rudolpho tilted his head to get a better view of the woman and the child. He had scented the man as he passed by to get to know him by scent …j ust in case. He waited till the woman settled and was a little surprised as she handled the baby not roughly, but without great gentleness. He had seen many mothers and had been almost envious when he saw the loving caresses they gave their children. There was very little of that here.

He slowly got to his feet, so as not to scare the woman and approached her. He stuck his snout close, without actually touching and sniffed at the babe. He then sniffed at the mother and looked up into her eyes. He wondered what she must be thinking.

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