The Madness of the Wicked
"The work looks good,
Dhugal," Kelson commented as he observed the crenellations being
added to Transha's walls on its vulnerable approaches. "Do you
still plan to extend the outer wall?"
"Aye, though not for another year or two. " Dhugal returned, leaning over the wall to examine the mason's work from the exterior side. One hand pulled distractedly at his bushy mustache as he squinted at the joints. Satisfied, he stood up and grinned. "Ha'e tae recover from this wee expense, first!"
"Why not take it from your Cassan or Kierney income?" Kelson asked, leaning on one of the crenellations.
"No MacArdry would stand to have his castle maintained by an outsider. 'Tis better to wait, since there are no current threats."
Snorting, Kelson shook his head. "Borderer pride!"
"Self sufficiency!" Dhugal retorted.
"Alright, alright!" Kelson chuckled. "This lowland upstart humbly begs apology!"
Laughing, Dhugal slapped the wall. "Ailín was right. It is a sorry day when the upstart admits he's an upstart!"
Still chortling, Kelson pushed himself off the wall. "This upstart wonders if the MacArdrys would take in an orphaned Cassan upstart."
"You mean the outlaw lad you brought back?" Dhugal chewed thoughtfully on his mustache. "He is not a fellow borderer, so it depends on how he behaves. My clansmen would gladly take in a misfortunate orphan who is willing to shoulder his load, but if he tries anything beyond the usual boyish antics, that welcome would quickly sour."
"If it sours, then I can send him to Druimfada. He has been ill-treated, though, and I think Transha would be better for him. It has done wonders for Ailín."
"Aye, that it has," Dhugal agreed. "Let us see if he can make a home in Transha, then."
"Laird Dhugal!" a woman's voice shouted from below. "Dhugal, come quick! Ye must come quick!"
The coppery head spun, seeking out the voice's owner. "Caldreana! What is it?"
Caldreana. Kelson hadn't seen Dhugal's twin-no, aunt, he corrected himself-since they were children. They could still pass as twins, with the same burnished hair, freckles, and golden eyes. It didn't seem to be the time for reunion greetings, though. Caldreana was flitting nervously, near panic.
"Come, Dhugal! There is a terrible row in Ailín's chamber!"
"Geoffrey!" Dhugal muttered under his breath as he jogged for the open wall stair. "Wha' is happening, Caldreana?"
"I dinnae ken," Caldreana said. "I dinnae dare gae in, but there's an awful din an' clamor"
"Damn!" Dhugal exclaimed, continuing to mutter in his border tongue. Kelson sighed, following his blood brother down.
"Lady Caldreana," he bowed his head when he reached the yard. "You have grown up." He continued to tail Dhugal, never waiting for her reply. She had to jog to catch up, and he caught a glimpse of a frown before her eyes grew wide.
"Sire!" she exclaimed, hesitating as if she were trying to figure out how to curtsey and run at the same time.
"Never mind!" Kelson told her, picking up his pace to keep up with Dhugal, who was flying back towards the keep.
"Father, I cannot order Dhugal to do anything!" Ailín screamed. "I will ask him to help, what more do ye expect me to do?"
"You would see us impoverished?" Geoffrey returned, just as loud and much more menacing.
Still holding tiny Caulay, Conor glanced between the two. Oh, God, his father was making a mess of this. *Please, Father, can you not see that you are only making matters worse? Ailín, why do you provoke him so?*
"No," Ailín said, not quite a scream, but close. "Of course I would not want to see my brother lose his inheritance."
"Your brother only! You ungrateful-!"
"Aye, Father. Ye were kinder to your dogs and horses than ye ever were to me. I am grateful to Dhugal for taking me out of your house. Tell me what I have to be grateful for from ye! Tell me!"
*Oh, God, no, please!*
Caulay started to fuss again, wriggling as he made tiny vocal complaints. "Ailín!" Conor begged, holding the child to her in fervent hope that she would be distracted from angering their father even further.
"Here, give him to me," Ailín acquiesced, approaching her brother to take the child. While she had been diverted, Geoffrey was not.
"Happy I am to be rid of you!" Geoffrey growled.
"You cannot be happier than I, Father," she returned, scooping her hands under Caulay. Conor looked up and gasped in horror as his father raised his hand, pushed beyond breaking.
Story also located at the Author's website - Brenwell Manor
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