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Old 04-04-2011, 11:48 PM   #1
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Rites of Passage Redux (Armphid & Haremfaery)

This post is for information

((Tip of the hat to Langshanks for starting this with me, so sorry he's not around to continue. I love this too much to let it rest.))

Aine Nic Magnus, daughter to the Chieftain and his only heir.

Tiernan Mac Gowan, son of Gowan Mac somethingorother, who is the best warrior of the clan barring Aine's father, the chief.

Magnus Mac ??? Chieftain of the clan
Muireen Nic Cearbhall (Carroll) Wife to Magnus, mother to Aine

Kynthelig, Leader of the druids.

Roisen Nic Doughal, one of the girls of the clan.

Cahan, Tiernan's cousin

Molly, Aine's maid

Emir Nic Donal, Tiernan's mother
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Old 04-05-2011, 12:24 AM   #2
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"Mother, you must speak to him!" Aine balled her hands into fists at her sides. "I will marry anyone, anyone. But not him. I hate him with every fiber of my being. I hate his face, I hate his eyes, I hate his clothing. I hate the very ground he treads upon." Aine paced the Great Room like a caged animal.

"Stop acting like a child. You have known for some time this match would be made. It brings honor to both our families. Your father has given his word. You shame us with your behavior."

"And you shame me by giving me to a man who loves me not!" She shouted. Aine spun to face her mother again. "I renounce my place. Let Morag have him." Morag was her cousin and a second choice for joining the two families.But Aine was the heir. Her marriage to the son of the clan's best warrior, next to her own father, that is, would ensure the cohesion of the clan. Her husband would rule until their child was able to take control.

"Don't speak nonsense. Done is done. You will marry the son of Mac Gowan. You do not have to love him. You do not have to like him. But you shall be civil to him and do your duty as a wife. Run his household, rear his children, and someday when your father steps aside--touch wood that it is no time soon. Your son will rule the clans."

Aine let out a screech and put her hands to her ears. "Don't speak of him touching me!"

Aine's mother went to her and pulled her hands away from her ears. She pulled her daughter into a seat by the wall and smoothed the girl's hair. "I am sorry you have no choice in this. But you must accept it. The marriage will take place, will ye or nill ye. I am sorry that you have never dallied with any of the youths, then you would know the pleasures to be found in your marriage bed."

Aine wiped a tear from her cheek with the heel of her hand and gave her mother a defiant look. "He ignores me. I am nothing to him but a stepping stone to being Chieftain."

"It could be far worse. He could be old and ugly." Her mother said. "If all you were was a means to an end, he would have been courting you all along. Trying to find ways to get between your legs."

"Mother!"

"If he were as handsome as Angus Mac Og, God of Love, I would still detest him." Teagan said. It wasn't the lad himself that she disliked. Not really. It was the idea of all of this. That everyone assumed since before she could remember that they would be wed. She knew it was her duty to her fine (extended family) and to her clan. She was raised, as everyone in the clans that one must do one's duty. Individuals weren't important, the clan was all.

And yet...and yet it stuck in her throat like a fishbone. He paid more attention to the other girls. He never teased her. Never complimented her. The two of them ignored each other as much as possible as if to recognize the other would make their betrothal true. She was sure he would take a concubine as soon as he was able. That would be a good thing. It would keep his clumsy hands off of her.

"Don't be bringing the gods into this now. Angus may hear you and decide to teach you a lesson. The young man has done nothing to warrant your attitude. You make conflict where there is none. Sometimes I think you crave it like the flowers crave the rain." Aine's mother stood and went to her weaving. "Enough of this, have you checked the stores? Beltane will be here and many from surrounding clans will come to celebrate the festival and your handfasting. I put you in charge of this because it's good practice for when you have your own household."

Anything to get away from this conversation. If Aine didn't think about it, wasn't real. She nearly bounced out of her seat and in a rustle of skirts left to go around back and see to servants.

((I found this online and some of it was helpful. http://www.greyhawkes.com/text/celts.txt))
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Old 04-05-2011, 01:29 PM   #3
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The forest was in jubilation of spring. The flowers had started to blossom and peak out; though many yet awaited the true coming of the season at Beltane. The trees were all budding and some had, in premature but naturally exhuberant bliss, already put forth leaves of a shocking green after the long muted browns and grays of winter days and early spring rains. Life was on the move again in the land. It was bright and vibrant and every heart in those bright days of the fullness of spring was lifted, if only a little, by the bounty and turning of the circle.

To Tiernan Mac Gowan, the spring day seemed pale and distant, as if it were only the first days of the season and the touch of winter still clung to the world. This was a day whose coming he had long known but had hoped somehow to avoid. Perhaps another path would be chosen, perhaps the chief's wife would present him with a surviving son yet, he had thought. But in his heart, he had known it would come to this.

He was a tall and strongly built young man; powerful without bulging and being blocky, remaining agile as well. He was young for one who may come to be a king, having marked his nineteenth year at the festival of Imbolc some months ago. He was handsome, strikingly so, his features strong and yet not rough, well defined and carved as if by a master's hand. His hair was a lustrous auburn, more brown than red, though as spring blossomed into summer, the light of sun would bring more and more red out. His blue eyes were keen and bright most times but now were troubled and grim.

He grunted as he stepped forward and swung again his iron sword, the clack of the blade on the dead, rotten tree had already sent any nearby creatures scattering. He had come here, in theory, to practice with his arms for after Beltane the raiding time would be close upon them and he would ride forth with the other warriors. He was skilled and highly praised as a man of arms but he could get better. He was not yet the match of his father or the chief. Not yet.

But the truth was that he had come here to escape and to think. His doom was finally upon him.

He had been told at dawn's waking that it was done or would be. He knew his father well enough to hear when a decision was iron clad and unbreakable. He also knew that it was a good decision; best for the clan and especially for their fine. Their status, already high, would be lifted to that almost of the High King himself. And there was a chance that he himself would be king for a time, until he and Aine's son came of age.

If there ever was such a son. He would not take a woman by force and he doubted that she would ever let him touch her. Though his fortune was to be made in this, he was sure he was looking out over a joyless life to come. He struck out again, his blade flashing, and blows rained upon the dead wood. There was a mighty snap and a creaking, rippling cracking sound and the once fine timber fell and crashed to the ground. A small cloud of wood dust from the rotten thing flew up for a moment. As it settled, a man stood just behind where the highest point of the tree fell. He was tall but lean and his hair and long beard shone brilliantly white in the spring sun that slanted down through the trees. "Good day to you, Teirnan Mac Gowan of Clan Soghain," he said. His was a voice that could roll like thunder or whisper like the wind in tree branches.

Tiernan stood back and inclined his head. His teacher had many gifts and talents but foremost among them was knowing how to make an entrance. Even if the most crowded gatherings, he would just suddenly seem to appear as if from nowhere. "And to you, Kynthelig. How fares the day?" The man had his surname and fine, of course, but he was a druid, the chief of the clan's druids and thus stood apart to be neutral in all legal disputes.

"The day is as days are, young Tiernan," the druid said as he approached. "The good and the bad in them comes from us." He glanced at the fallen tree. "I need not ask what you think of yours."

Tiernan recognized the rebuke for what it was. He simple turned and walked over to the stump where he had left the little gear he had taken with him on this excursion. The druid followed him and stroked his beard, "I am surprised, I thought you wiser than this, even for your youth. You knew this day would come."

"But not so soon."

"And you know that you are to be wed to the richest woman in all of the clans and an heir to the king." The old man smiled a bit, "And, were I younger, I would also think that she is among the most beautiful and well shaped girls ever to grace the clan."

Tiernan slid his sword into it's scabbard on his belt and lifted the bags he had brought over a shoulder, "I don't know that I will have time to admire that when I have to duck crockery every time I enter our house." He shook his head and began to walk, the old man's long strides keeping pace beside him. "She hates me. And I am hardly fond of her."

"I didn't know you spoke enough to one another for that," the druid replied.

"Is that not enough?" He shook his head. "Whenever I pass under her gaze, I can feel knives in her eyes. And when I have had occasion to speak to her, she has treated me as though I were lowly and filthy in her presence, a test for her to deal with and endure only at greatest need." He grimaced, "I cannot imagine us living together a week before it ends in murder."

Kynthelig quirked his brows but said only, "The handfasting is tonight but you will not be wed, I think, until Lugnasad. It will be an auspicious day. And should give you and your bride to be time to learn that there are more pleasant ways to pass married time." He looked over at the youth. "But that is not why I have come to you this day, Tiernan Mac Gowan."

The young man slowed his pace and looked over at his old teacher. He didn't speak but the question was obvious in his gaze. As was a thread of concern; when the druids came looking for you it was not always good.

"Beltane comes." The old lore master stopped, Tiernan doing the same, and looked directly into the younger man's eyes. "As the fires burn brightly, the God and Goddess must take their vessels and with their union bless our clan."

The younger man turned his head to one side slightly. A suspicion had crept into his mind but it was impossible. "What has that to do with me?"

"You are of age to now to take part in the festival, and you shall. More than any other. You have been chosen by the goddess Brigid herself."

Tiernan's eyes went wide. His face paled and he shook slightly, "You cannot mean..." The druid nodded. The young man blinked. "I am to be...and to lie with the goddess?" He was thunder struck; standing rooted and amazed.

"With her vessel," the druid corrected, "but yes, lad. It is a momentous thing, and a great honor."

He shook his head slowly, "I...know better than to wish to become entangled with the gods. And this...I am to be handfasted tonight and pledge my troth, only to break it not even a week hence?"

Kynthelig frowned. "You skirt close to an accusation, Tiernan Mac Gowan. Take care of what you say of the gods. I do not know why you were chosen for this. But you have been. You may refuse, of course, but this rite is sacred and necessary for the survival and thriving of the clan. Do not forget your duty, Son of Mac Gowan!"

Duty. That he understood. "I remember. So be it, Kynthelig. I will do this."

"Good." The old man smiled for a sudden moment, "While this too is not of your choosing, Tiernan Mac Gowan, do remember that it is a celebration, and your onerous task is to lie with the avatar of the Goddess. Such a chore may well turn out to be rather enjoyable."

Tiernan again sensed the teasing rebuke and inclined his head in acknowledgment. The druid's smile became a grin before he drew himself back to a steady expression. "I must go and speak to the other avatar then, if you will excuse me. Do not stray too far or long; the handfasting is at sunset!"

"I won't," Tiernan replied. "But, Kynthelig, the other, the Goddess' vessel-"

"Will be unknown to you, now, then, and after," the old man said as he strode on past Tiernan. "As you to her. Fare well for the moment. If you would listen to your teacher one last time, I would tell you to accept what the gods have laid out for you and embrace it."

Tiernan did not reply but watched the old man walk away into the woods. He sighed and shook his head. "They didn't give you fire to embrace, old man," he murmured, thinking of his bride to be.
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Old 04-06-2011, 03:44 AM   #4
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Aine was busy counting the stores making marks on a stick for the purpose. She concentrated on her task so much that she did not hear the druid come up behind her.

“Aine Nic Magnus, I require a word lass.” The old druid said.

Aine jumped. “You’ve stopped my heart. Sneaking up on me like that. Or did you just appear out o’ the air?” She gave her old teacher a smile. “Are you here to see father? He rode out this morning. He should be home at dusk.”

“I am not here for your father, Aine. I need to speak to you. Privately.” Kynthelig began walking toward the herb garden so those at the storehouse could not overhear.

“About the wedding?” Aine made a little face as she followed behind him.

When the druid decided they were out of earshot of anyone he turned to her. “You are the image of your mother at this age. Did you know she did not wish to marry your father? I see from the look on your face that you did not. She was in love with another young man. But she knew her duty. And she did her duty. She brought honour to the clan. Your parents grew to love each other.”

“I will never grow to love Tiernan.” Aine balled her hands into fists.

Kynthelig gave her a stern look and opened his mouth to speak but Aine, disrespectful girl that she was, cut him off. “I promise I will do my duty to my clan. I will not bring dishonor on my father’s house.” She assured him sharply.

“I am relieved to hear it. But Aine, I have another matter to speak to you about.”

She had no idea what else they needed to speak of. Everything these days revolved around the weeding, the handfasting, the dowry...

Kynthelig looked at Aine, “Beltain is nearly here. You are now of age to join in the festival. However, the gods have decided you are to play a more important role in the festival than simply a participant.”

She gave Kynthelig a puzzled look. She knew what the Festival of Beltain was about. It honored Brigid and the promise of Spring and the wedding of the Goddess and her God. There were bonfires and singing and dancing the Maypole. She had also heard the older girls talk of secret rites. But they were only trying to tease the younger girls by pretending they knew more than they could say. Weren't they?

“What role?”

“You are to be the Bride of the Earth, the avatar of the Goddess.”

“And what must I do as Bride of the Earth?”

“You will join with the Lord of the Hunt and that will ensure prosperity for the clan.”

“Who is the Lord of the Hunt?

“That you cannot know. Everyone wears masks to keep the identity of the Lord and Lady secret. You will stand between worlds and channel the Goddess, as the chosen man will channel the God. You will lie together and the gods will smile on the clan.”

“Lie together? Lie together?” Aine sputtered. “But I am the daughter of Magnus, Clan Leader. And soon to be handfasted. You of all people know that.”

“So you are and you shall bring great honor to this rite." Kynthelig said calmly.

“But, but. Am I expected to lie with two men within weeks of each other? I am not a cat in heat.” She was pacing again. “Why does the Goddess hate me so?”

“Child. That is why masks are worn. The avatars could be any of the eligible in the clan. The gods have spoken and through signs have made their choice. You must obey.”

Aine paced four steps away and turned back. “What if this avatar of the Lord gets me with child? What then?”

“Merrybegots are blessed. Should that happen, so much the better. Your child would have a special blessing from the gods. You could always lift your skirts to Tiernan fast on the heels of Beltain, so there truly would be no way to tell who was the father. perhaps that is why you have been chosen to be the Goddess's vessel.”

“Thank you for that reassurance.” Aine spat.

Kynthelig smiled. The lass was a spitfire like her mother, too. “As I said, through signs the gods have chosen their avatars. Prepare yourself.”

Aine sighed. “What have I done in my short years on earth to deserve such attention of the gods? Fine. I will do my duty for the good of the clan. What else can I do?”
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Old 04-06-2011, 07:38 PM   #5
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Tiernan walked but not back to the village. His feet carried him on paths, some well known and some to only a few, around and to the lands of his fine. His family was a wealthy one, though not nearly as much as the king's, and much of their wealth was in land. The king had by far more cattle, party due to generous gifts from Tiernan's father after successful raids, but Tiernan's fine had more land. A cow can give milk for it's life, and in need it can be eaten once but land will give bounty for all the lives of the people and it's harvest can be eaten every year, so his father said.

While it was worked partly by the fine, must of the work was done by freemen who lived on the land and gave a large part of their produce to the fine in payment. But all of the fine worked there at times, to keep them humble and honest, his father said. He wondered for a moment if this was one of the reasons Aine looked down at him so. Did she see him as a farmer rather than a noble and a warrior?

He had thought long on his round about route but all of his thought had brought him no peace or comfort. Grim and dark, the future seemed. His role would be a noble one it was said, and a rich one. Yet for all purposes, what was he to be? A prize bull for show and for stud; to make an heir for the clan. And what of that? Any man could make a child and yet as it seemed, that was all he was expected, all that was wanted of him.

He leaned on a fence and looked in on the cattle grazing there. Far off he could see a bull in a separate paddock pawing the ground as it smelled his male scent on the wind. Tiernan frowned as he looked at it. The comparison was not encouraging.

"Hail, young Mac Gowan!" He turned his head at the call. In a field across from the pasture, the freeman who lived on this parcel of land was leading a small, stocky horse with a plow into the field, two of his sons with him. The older man instructed the boys for a minute and then walked over to Tiernan. "Good afternoon, young lord." Behind him the youths began to plow the ground. "Haven't seen you on the bounds here for a time."

"Hail as well, Llano son of Lleu." Where exactly the freeman and his family were from, he did not say. But he, his wife, and their oldest two children had come to the lands of the clan when Tiernan was a child and had become a fixture. "You seldom need as much looking after as some others."

The older man laughed. Llano was lean and rangy, almost looking like a man made of sticks that clothes had been draped on. "Kind of you to say, young Mac Gowan, and maybe our luck's been better than some." The old farmer eyed the auburn haired youth for a few long moments. "Your shoulders seem bowed a bit, young lord. Is your bag so heavy?"

Tiernan shook his head. "It is thought that weighs so much on me. I have had a day of it and it has brought me no answers or comfort." He sighed, "Just more troubles and worries." Normally thought brought both to him.

"Hn." The older man's eyes were shrewd for a moment and Tiernan wondered what guesses he was making behind his lean face. "News'll be coming then, I see. Well, young lord, I'll leave you to your heavy thinking. For we've heavy working to be done to get this field ready for Beltane."

He nodded and turned away and for a moment Tiernan watched him. Then he smiled and unslung the bag from his shoulder, "Llano, wait." The old farmer turned as the tall warrior hopped over the fence. "When minds are in knots, knot muscle to loosen them." Another of his father's sayings. "Let me give you and your sons a hand."

The old farmer smiled, "Ah, and there, more luck for us. Well, let us then. There's a stone you and I shall need to move before the lads break my old plow on it."

They went to work and it was hard and dirty. Soon Tiernan was sweating as he and Llano cleared the field of stones and bramble and branches. It felt good and at least for a moment, the pressing now of preparing for planting took the forbidding future away from his mind.
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Old 04-06-2011, 09:35 PM   #6
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Aine returned to the storehouse. "What did the Druid Kynthelig have to say?"

Aine was still distracted by the druid's words. "What? Oh. He wanted to speak to me about the handfasting. I cannot believe how quickly it has come upon me."

One of the servants, a girl only a little older than Aine, grinned and said, "Nor will you believe how fast your husband will come upon you on your wedding night." She laughed.

Aine blushed. "Cait, you will not speak to me in that manner."

"Pish. You know I mean no disrespect. But I know that you've always thought yourself above all the boys, and now you'll be handfasted--have you even kissed a boy?"

Aine's blush deepened. In truth, she had little experience. She had kiised a few of the boys, and done a bit more with a few. But any brags they had made about it went unheeded, as no one would believe she would even let a boy get so close as to even catch the scent of her hair. One summer, she let a stable boy handle her naked breasts, and use his hand to make her squirm. But she could not understand why women thought it so wonderful. It was not horrible when he touched her that way, but he had not made her tremble and call the gods as she thought it was supposed to do. She had returned the favor to the boy using her small hands to stroke him until he squirted his seed on the ground. By the end of the summer she had even used her mouth on him. She made a face at the memory of the bitter salty taste.

She took Cait's wrist and pulled her away from the others toward a bench at the side of the building. "I know some things to do with the ways between a man and a woman. I do not think it so great a thing as others say."

Cait giggled. "Then you are in for a surprise, I hope."

"With Tiernan Mac Gowan? I doubt it very much."

"Roisen Nic Doughal says Tiernan is a fine...kisser."

"Roisen Nic Doughal says every boy is a fine kisser. I care not for that gossip." Aine snapped, then softened her voice. "Tell me truly what it is like to lie with a man."

Cait smiled. "It is the most wonderful feeling, living proof the Gods love us and want us to be happy."

"Yes, but--I want details. What was it like your first time? It makes you bleed, doesn't it? Doesn't that hurt?" Aine pulled Cait down so they could sit together.

"It hurts for some, and some bleed more than others. But if your man takes his time and makes sure you're ready," Cait gave Teagan a little grin. "It may not even hurt at all."

"How does he make sure I'm ready? What if he's a bumbling idjit?"

"Kissing helps, and caresses. He can use his fingers to stretch you and make sure you are wet enough before, you know." Cait giggled again.

"His fingers..." The stable boy had used his fingers to rub her and then had put one inside. But a cock?

Cait laughed out loud now. "Tell me you never put your own fingers there!"

Aine wanted hole to open in the earth that she could fall into. "No!"

"Then I suggest you try it to get a taste of what awaits you in your marriage bed. Though a cock is far larger than you finger, and praise Angus Mac Og ((Celtic god of Love and Youth)) that 'tis." Cait laughed again. "You've still plenty of time to try it. Or come Beltain pick any of the boys and let him show you." Cait grinned broadly.

Aine just blinked for a few moments. "You'd best get back to the storehouse. I'll be there anon."

"If you find you have more questions--do let me know." Cait giggled before heading back to the other servants.

Aine pondered what Cait had said. If it were possible, she was even less inclined to experience marriage or the ritual. Maybe she would slip into the river and drown. Better yet, she would push Mac Gowan in. But that didn't solve the problem of the ritual. She huffed a sigh and stood up.
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Old 04-07-2011, 11:56 AM   #7
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With a great heave and a grunt, the boulder rolled over once more and came to rest perfectly in the gap that had been in the fence of the field. It was large, about three feet round, and had taken much effort to roll out of the course of the plow and to this spot.

Llano patted it, "A fine fit to mend the fence, don't you think, young lord?"

"I think," Tiernan grinned, "that with your luck, I am glad you are a farmer." All warriors trained and practiced to hone their skills and prowess. Many of the games men played and that were competitions at festivals were actually training. But luck was stronger than the best training in the world.

Which made Teirnan feel a bit uneasy about the upcoming raids that summer. AS far as he was concerned, his luck this day had been poor.

The lean man laughed and shrugged, "That makes two of us then." Then he squinted and pointed. "I think someone's come to collect you, young lord." A horseman, leading a steed with no rider, was coming up the road that led to Llano's farm. All present watched the approach carefully, hands finding tools or weapons near at hand. Tiernan walked back to the other fence where he'd left his bag and sword and picked the blade up, holding it ready. It was likely as Llano said; but none here were fools.

"Danu's mercy," the rider moaned as he stopped by the field gate, where Tiernan had come to meet him. "Your mother's going to have my skin for a new rug." He was tall, though shorter than Tiernan but broader and stockier of build. His hair was a muddy blond and he had a short beard on his face. "What have you been doing, Tiernan?"

"Working, which you may not be familiar with," he replied with a grin. "And you, Cahal?"

"I was wooing sweet Roisen Nic Doughal and was about to be transported to a world of delight when I was sent on an errand to fetch an errant lordling home for the most important ceremony of our family's history to this point." The burly man leaned forward on the horse, "Tell me, dust cloud, have you seen him?"

Tiernan laughed and felt a bit abashed. He should have known that when he didn't come back right away this would happen. "I have some knowledge of him, yes."

"Then you know his sire and dam, and know that if he, and his most noble seeker and escort, return too late for him to be cleaned and...make that thoroughly cleaned and dressed properly, they shall both forfeit their asses and lives, in that order."

"I do." Tiernan turned to Llano, "Luck stay with you, Llano, and a good harvest."

Llano inclined his head, "Blessed be, young lord, and congratulations, if I do not read these events wrong." Tiernan swung himself up onto the horse and inclined his head but said no more.

The two men rode towards the village and the house of Tiernan's family. Though it was more like a compound, really. With many buildings of residence and many of work and craft as well. Cahal looked over at his younger cousin, "What on earth were you thinking? On the very day of your handfasting?"

Tiernan grimaced. "It was that or seek the nearest river and hope to find the embrace of one of the Fair Ones."

His kin and friend rolled his eyes, "Oh, yes, I had forgotten. Your awful fate. To be wed to the best shaped girl in the clan, oh, and the richest, and the daughter of the king, which will...I forget, oh, yes. Make you king in need, and your son king for certain."

Tiernan gave Cahal a hard look, "That part I have no trouble with. It is who that girl happens to be that I find dire." He shook his head, "I do not doubt that our...estrangement," it was a better word than emnity here, "is almost as well known as our eventual betrothal."

"Then woo her, boy," the other man said with a shake of his head. "As fine as wench as she is, I'd always been surprised that you haven't before!"

"If I try, I expect the daggers in her eyes to spring into her hands and then at me," he answered.

Cahal grinned impudently, "Why, cos, would you want it to be easy?"
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Old 04-09-2011, 03:59 AM   #8
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Aine finished at the storehouse and left to return to the big house. She had to get ready for the feast. Not that she wanted to rush to do it, her fate would be sealed at the feast when the betrothal between Tiernan Mac Gowan and herself would be announced. She was resigned to do her duty, but she didn't have to like it.

She walked through the great hall and found her father home from his outing. "Aine, mo choi!"

"Father." She took his hand.

"Get thee hence and prepare for your groom." Her father smiled warmly. "Young Tiernan will be here with his family at sunset. We cannot have you looking like a scullery maid." He kissed her forehead. "Though, a fine fair scullery maid you make as well. With no dowry to your name, you would still be a prize."

Aine smiled at her father's flattery. "I was just on my way, father." She was about to say something else when Tiernan's own father entered the hall. She bobbed a curtsy at the man. "Sir." And left the room.

Once in her chamber she flung herself on her bed. She didn't cry. Not tears. But she sobbed and pounded the pillow in frustration and anger that the boy she loathed most in all the world was to be her husband. "Angus MacOg," She said to the God of Love. "I hope you are enjoying this joke, because I am surely not. I hate Tiernan Mac Gowan. Would that I loved him--or even liked him...please. I want to do my duty to my clan. And I will. ...ah, Angus, the poorest among us has the power to love where they will, but not I. Help me. I know not even know what boon to ask. But I should like to know true love ere I die."

Aine rested on the bed for awhile longer before her maid came in to help her get ready.
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Old 04-09-2011, 11:27 AM   #9
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It was perhaps an hour and a half to sunset when Tiernan and Cahal rode up to the house of his family. The house itself was long and sturdily built, as were the many outbuildings. Fine members and some of the associated families and freemen where busy about the grounds and the outer structures and all looked up as the two warriors passed them.

Normally, there would have been a few calls or shouts; teasing, flirting, challenging, but not today. There was a notable tension in the air as the two young men drew their horses to a halt and a stable boy ran up to take and tend to the beasts. The lad smiled but didn't speak or wait, pulling the horses off and hurrying to the stables.

Glancing about, Tiernan noticed that most everyone else had similarly disappeared. "Ah." His voice was subdued and unusually worried. "I'm a dead man then."

"I think she'll wait until after the handfasting," Cahal said in a light tone, though he too was glancing about uneasily. "After all this effort, it would be a waste to just haul a corpse there."

Before Tiernan could reply, the door to the main house flew open. At first sight, the woman who came storming out could not have moved the heavy wooden and iron barred door with such force as to make it bang and rattle against the wall of the house. She was small, barely five feet high, and had a plump, well rounded form that came from a fine figure ripened by child bearing. She had the same hair as Tiernan's in color, though hers was a bit redder, where it wasn't graying, and far more curly. Though she was far smaller that the two men, they steeled themselves for her approach as though she were a giant.

She stopped dead as she caught sight of the two of them and then seemed to seethe and swell. "Tiernan Mac Gowan! You rogue! You irresponsible, worm eaten brained boy! What in the names of all the gods have you been doing? Look at you! Do you have any idea what your idiocy has done!"

"Mother, I'm sorry-"

"You don't know the meaning of the word yet, boy," Emir Nic Donal glared up at her son with blazing eyes. "A walk and some practice, you said, and I should have known better, but then you drag in looking like a clod of dirt with feet." Her fierce eyes flicked to Cahal, "And you couldn't find him before he did this...this...insult to our family and the king's?"

Cahal shook his head, "I'm sorry, Aunt Emir. He was at Llano's farm and the old man was having a bit of trouble. Seems my cousin felt he should help out."

Emir gave her son a sharp look. She was silent a few moments. Then she sniffed, "Llano's a good man and a good tenant. A landlord should help those who work his lands...but not on the day of his handfasting! Do you know what could have happened? If you showed up looking like this before the king...well, don't stand there now, boy!" She swatted his behind and pointed to the small building used for the washing and bathing, "Get in and get clean! I'll have this lummox bring your," she stressed the words, "new clothes and finery to you."

Tiernan winced. The new garments were fine and had cost the fine in time and resources. It was a sharp reminder of his obligations. "I'm sorry, I'll clean myself to shining, I swear."

She sniffed again and turned away, then looked back. "Llano needed help, did he? Well." There was a great deal in that one word; continuing anger, some pride, and a bit of grudging acceptance. His parents had taught him that a noble gave succor to his tenants at all times. "Go on then."

He nodded and gave a half bow. Then he all but jogged to the washhouse, where a pair of servants were already waiting with a large tub, two steaming buckets of hot water, and soap.
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Old 04-13-2011, 10:43 PM   #10
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Aine snapped at the servant helping her prepare herself for the feast, albeit a small feast for her betrothal. It wasn't that Tiernan was old or ugly, it was the simple fact that she was expected to marry him. Had her father given her a choice, picked three of the young men that he thought would make the best husbands and lead the clan until the heir she birthed could take his rightful place as leader of the clan, she might face her marriage with more grace. Had she been given a choice, she might very well have chosen Tiernan. He was strong and handsome and was the son of her father's best warrior. But to have their union bandied about since she could remember, she would have at least preferred the illusion that she had some choice in the matter.

All their girls swooned for Tiernan. It was known he had been with many of them. She heard them talk. He never so much as paid her a compliment. Her ego was hurt. She thought Tiernan was smug. Secure in the knowledge that he would have her some day, so he need not bother to woo her at all. The other youths in the clan fell over themselves with flattery to try and get under her skirts.

Her maid said something and giggled. "What is so funny?" Aine demanded coming out of her reverie.

"I should be all smiles if I were you." The girl repeated. "You'll soon have Tiernan Mac Gowan in your bed. Ach, he can use my bosom as a pillow whenever he likes." She made an exagerated sigh.

Before Aine even knew what she was doing her hand flashed out to strike the girl. She clutched her cheek and cried. "Oh, Meggie, I'm so sorry." Aine hugged her. "My nerves are rubbed raw with all this. My betrothal, my first Beltain, my handfasting. Each falls fast upon the heels of the other." Aine rocked the girl. "Believe me, if you could be Tiernan's bride in my place--you would have my blessing." Aine sighed. "Finish my lacings, I can hear them all down there and I daren't delay so long that my mother or father come to fetch me."

Aine touched her hair, the braids were too tight and made her head itch. She sighed again. "Time for me to go." She went down the steps and into the great hall. Her mother went to her and took her hand, to keep her from running away, no doubt.

Aine felt all eyes in the hall turn to look at her. She knew general opinion called her comely. Her hair was braided with green ribbons. Her choice of dress (made by her mother) was designed to seal that opinion. Deep green velvet and brocade set off her red hair and pale skin. The lacings held the dress tight to her torso, before flaring at her hips to show her body to advantage. She was still young, but her body held much promise. Anyone looking at her mother could see the fine woman she would become.

Conversation momentarily halted at her entrance. Her cheeks went pink at the attention. Aine spotted Tiernan with the men of his fine and looked away. Her mother drew her on to where the women were sitting. Tiernan's mother rose to greet her, she kissed her on both cheeks. Aine smiled, she ahd always liked Tiernan's mother.

Conversations re-started . Aine wondered how long before the actual ceremony began. She found herself looking Tiernan's way again. Was he as nervous as she? He was stepping up in the world. He would sire a king and perhaps become one himself. She touched wood that her father live a long a vigorous life.

Aine took a goblet of mead from one of the servants and sipped it. Father was sparing no expense for this.

"How lovely you look, Aine." Tiernan's mother said. "I am so happy to soon call you daughter."

"And I shall be happy to have you for a mother-in-law." Aine squeezed the woman's hand. Yes, she knew she could do far worse than this. Emir Nic Donal was a kind and sympathetic woman raising a brood of unruly sons. Aine would be able to talk to her of many things, but not that she loathed the idea of marrying the woman's son.
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Old 04-16-2011, 01:52 AM   #11
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The house of the king was always splendid and his table had the highest reputation of all of the nearby clans but it was clear that this time he and his fine were holding little back. The richly carved beams gleamed, gold and silver shone, and the air was laden with the tempting smells of the feast set upon the groaning tables. It was meant to impress and it certainly did so, the message clear. Though Aine was marrying into Tiernan’s family, and would be beneath him as wife, she was rich beyond reckoning.

Tiernan has arrived with those of his fine that were attending the handfasting as the sun just kissed the horizon. It was half-sunk outside now and the sky was awash in reds and oranges that faded into richer blues and then slowly to purpling twilight at the very height of the heavens. The men and women had mingled, talking happily and eagerly for the most part. The two families were old allies and, for the most part, very friendly. Many kings had to watch their greatest warriors as their most likely attempted usurpers but there had never been that fear here.

Tiernan stood now with the other men, more listening to the talk than participating, as was his wont. There was already much teasing about the engagement and the further wedding to come but he endured it with a smile and a nod for the most part, now and again slipping in a perfect riposte or sally that brought a roar of laughter. He had cleaned up well; his auburn hair was freshly combed and arranged about his shoulders and his fair skin was clean and smooth. He wore a new tunic of a fine linen that was dyed a vibrant blue, his trousers of a much darker hue, and bound about the waist with a belt of red leather taken from a Viking raider two years ago. A golden torc was about his neck, rather than his usual silver one, and gold armlets were on his upper arms, bracelets of silver and copper about his wrists. He had wanted to bear his sword in its fine scabbard, or at least a dagger, but had been persuaded against it. Bad luck, it was said, to go to meet one’s future in-laws with blade at hand. In his hand he held a wooden box, handsomely carved with knotwork and stoutly made; it and the item within a gift.

“I have made a good choice,” said a voice to his right. The young man’s eyes widened before he turned and faced his future father-in-law, king of the clan, the Lord Magnus Mac Bran himself. The king was close enough to Tiernan in height that many would argue over which was taller and had a powerful build. His eyes were keen and it was said that he saw more in a moment than most men in an hour’s study. “I learned the value of listening and then speaking when I wore many more years than you, my son to be.”

“Lord Magnus,” Tiernan bowed with his hand on his breast, though he felt a slight flush of frustration. Was everyone going to sneak up on him today? “I do not know if it is wisdom or nervousness that makes it seem so, but I will take the one if it looks like the other,” he said with a hint of a smile on his lips.

The king chuckled, “Then you also know another lesson of lordship; whether you know or not, look as if you do.” The older man regarded the younger a moment, “Yes, I am sure I have chosen well. You and I shall be much together in the months ahead, Tiernan, lad. We have much to discuss and plan for the future of the clan. The raiding time is coming soon and you will have to take your place in the lead of some raids, I think.”

Tiernan nodded, though he felt worry at that. He was sure of his own skills and wit but to lead others to battle and risk their lives was not something that he thought of lightly. The king went on, “But that is not why I have sought to speak to you,” he said, drawing Tiernan a bit aside from the rest of the men. “We will talk much of the clan soon; it is my daughter of which I wish to speak.”

The young noble felt a brief stab of concern at that. Was this to be a warning or a threat? Yet he’d never had such before from the king. “Of course, I, my lord, I hope you know that I will be a dutiful and loyal husband to Aine. I know the import and weight of the duty that falls on us both.”

Magnus surprised him, snorting dismissively, “Not that. I know her and you that well; your dedication to the clan is unwavering or I would never have allowed this. But for a few moments now I speak not as king and liege-lord but as a father and the friend of yours.” Tiernan’s surprise was clear on his face but he nodded and turned all his focus on the great king. “I know you will both be dutiful. But a selfish old man also wishes that you both will be happy.” He sighed, “And I am not blind enough in the ways of women or of the young to not see that is far from sure as things are now.”

Tiernan grimaced. This was not a talk he had expected or even one that could not be useful. But he also found that he didn’t want to discuss it. It felt…childish somehow. He felt he should say something but what he did not know. It would be a lie to say that he was fond of Aine. And it would be unwise to even try and explain why he felt the way that he did. However, there was something he could say. “Thank you, my king.” The older warrior looked at him a moment. “For thinking of our happiness; I did not believe anyone had.”

“I am sure Aine feels the same,” Magnus said. He was silent for a few moments. “You two shall marry and do your duty, and on that I am as iron. But I do also want happiness for her, and for you.” He took a breath, “I have watched you all your life, lad. You are not one to seek others out; they come to you. This has been true with the girls especially. You compliment them as they merit it, but you do not flatter or tease, or give gifts, or the other things that most boys do. You are young and strong and handsome and so the girls have courted you until now.” He shook his head, “That will not work with Aine. You will have to reach out to her, to talk to her and make that effort. Otherwise she will continue to hate you; sure that you do not see her value.”

Tiernan lowered his head and looked up Magnus. His voice was still courteous and pleasant but there was a fire in his eyes. “I know she is the most valuable person in the clan, lord, and that to even be considered as a possible husband for her is a great honor and privilege. Despite how,” he cut that sentence off. It would do no good. She was his daughter and therefore blameless. Even though she looked down her nose and sneered at him. “I know that.”

Magnus nodded once more and Tiernan wondered how much of his thoughts the king guessed or knew. “I am sure. But does she?”

It was then that Aine entered. Late enough so that all could witness, Tiernan noted. But even though he still held dislike for her, there could be no denying her beauty. She was fair and her hair was like solid, spun fire about a face both noble and lovely. Her cheeks were faintly pink, adding a demure and innocent quality to her striking features. The dress perfectly flattered her; her form already curvy and pleasingly proportioned, only to grow more so with age. He found it difficult to move his eyes from her, even after she had purposefully looked away from him and been drawn on to the other women.

Her looking away galled him. It felt like a deliberate snub. His hand tightened on the ornate box he held and his eyes narrowed. The king had returned to speak to the older men, apparently feeling he had said what he needed to. Tiernan looked at the man’s back. All well and good to tell him how to act, but what of her? It took two to court and be happy in wedlock. And as far as he could tell, she still thought him not worth her time or notice. Though perhaps he was wrong. Perhaps she was simply as nervous about this, and as unhappy with it, as he was.

Before anything else could go on, Kynthelig’s voice rolled out over those in the hall. The old druid stood at the head of the hall, on the raised dais there. “Hear and bear witness, now, for the time is upon us for the merry event for which we are gathered. Let the families and lovers be arrayed, what we may hear their troth and they may be handfasted before men and the Gods.”
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Old 04-16-2011, 04:08 PM   #12
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Aine tried to pay attention to the proceedings, if only to keep her eyes from going to Tiernan. She caught Eoghan Mac Cashel leering her way then speaking in Tiernan's ear. Probably bawdy talk of their wedding night.

Her thought's drifted to the druid and what he had told her of her part for Beltain. Aine had thought to be a virgin on her wedding night for she hadn't met any boys who could persuade her that a tumble in the hay was worth the bother. None stirred her heart. And soon she would be drawing down the moon and acting as the Goddess's vessel, and vessel for the seed of the God, and finally for the seed of her husband. The thoughts stuck in her mind.

"Aine Nic Magnus, come forward." Kynthelig called out. "Tiernan Mac Gowan, Come forward."

Aine was roused from her reverie at the sound of her name. She reached for her cup and took a sip, too late realizing it would look like she was sending a toast to Tiernan as his name was spoken and the men set up a din pounding on the tables.

Aine's mother took her hand and squeezed it, a bright smile on her face, as the girl stood and walked to stand before the druid. Back erect, Aine looked like a young queen.

“Clann Soghain,” Kynthelig began, “I call on you to bear witness to the betrothal of one of your sons and one of your daughters.” He took their hands in his and murmured a brief prayer in the old tongue. He then took Teagan’s hand and placed it in Tiernan’s, who took a slow deep breath. Gioll gave both of them a small wink before reaching for a strip of white cloth.

Aine was proud of herself that she did not flinch when her hand was put on top of Tiernan's. Had Kynthelig actually winked at her? Were all men's minds stuck on the idea of her wedding night?

As the druid began to wind the embroidered cloth around the couple’s hands he addressed Aine. “Do you Aine Nic Maghnus, vow to take this man, Tiernan Mac Gowan, as your betrothed husband? That you will love and obey him? That you will well keep his home as lady of his house, and be mother to his sons?”

Aine kept her eyes on the old druid not daring to look at Tiernan. Love? Obey? It was all she could do to keep from harrumphing. Did Tiernan have to swear to love, or obey? Why did she? How could she make this vow? Kynthelig spoke the words and waited for her to answer. Everyone was waiting for her to answer. Was her hand trembling, or was it Tiernan's. She took a deep breath. Aoengus help me, I am swearing a vow I cannot keep. "I will."

Kynthelig turned to Teirnan. “Tiernan Mac Gowan, do you vow to take this woman, Aine Nic Magnus, as your betrothed bride? That you will protect her honor as your own, and provide for her a new home? That you will be lord of her house and father of her daughters?”

((We are fast approaching the time when I will actually have to think of and write all new posts ))
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Old 04-17-2011, 11:47 PM   #13
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Tiernan tried to focus on the old druid's words as he announced their purpose to the clan, not that anyone didn't know it, and began to speak the words of the oath they would take. He was not at all noticing how soft and warm Aine's hand was in his, or that it was trembling. Or that his was. Was he really that terrible to be near and to touch?

He also was not noticing how the light of the torches behind Kynthelig made her hair look almost like fire itself. Or that she seemed to be holding her breath.

When she spoke, he wondered at the sincerity of her words. He had no illusion that her view of him had changed at all. He knew she still thought of him as poorly bred and of little value, unworthy of her time beyond a sneer and her temper. But she did take the oath. What would that mean?

His came next and it was a far simpler matter. To protect her and honor her; he would protect any woman, and indeed, any man of the clan, fine or no. And honor her? Married to such a woman, what man would need to stray? Assuming that Aine allowed him to touch her, of course.

In the moment before he spoke, Tiernan recalled the king's words. He smiled; neither at the druid or Aine. It was a small, strange little smile with more than a little ruefulness to it. "I will," he said in a clear tone that carried across the whole of the great hall. But as Kynthelig opened his mouth to continue, Tiernan went on, "But any man taking any woman to wife would say this. As I am to wed the jewel of the clan, I must say more. I will honor and protect her, be lord of her house, and father of her daughters, but also will I make her the happiest woman in all the clans, with all my power and heart."

There was something of a stir around the great hall. Tiernan's parents looked at him in open wonder and there were even a few uncertain and faintly uneasy looks. While the sentiment was fine and all, Tiernan was not a druid to put new words into a handfasting. Lord Magnus face was composed but his eyes were bright. Then Cahal let out a whoop and clapped his hands. The cry was taken up by the other young warriors, loud "huzzahs" and whistles and applause rippling forth from the crowd and growing to a deafening whirl of sound.

Kynthelig quirked a brow a Tiernan and then at Aine as the ovation carried on. He then stood up to his full height and lifted his hands up, the noise fell lower almost immediately, "The bond is sealed, and their troth pledged before us all!" Then he murmured in a voice that carried only to Aine and Tiernan, his lips barely moving, "Kiss."

Kiss? Crows. She'd bite his tongue out if he tried such a thing.

But now it was expected. He turned to face her and smiled as best he could. Maybe this could work in his favor. He was a good kisser. Perhaps this could be the start of...not hate between them. Tiernan took a deep breath and breathed, "If you will honor me," and then moved his lips to hers.
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Old 04-18-2011, 01:19 AM   #14
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Aine looked at Tiernan in shock when Tiernan spoke his own words. What arrogance was this? Yet he called her the Jewel of the Clan, and what? Make her the happiest woman? Then his heart should stop and he should fall over dead. She stopped her thoughts. She did not wish Tiernan dead. Besides if she wished such a thing it would come back to her three time three. And _she_ had no wish to die.

But why would he say such a thing? The man who never showed her any interest? Who dallied with all the lasses of the clan save her? What was in his mind that he would say such a thing? To please her father? To please Kynthelig? To please her?

Aine raised her free hand to rest on Tiernan's chest as they drew together for their kiss. It might look like a gentle, sweet gesture on her part, but she meant to keep him from turning a light kiss into anything more.

The entire clan held its collective breath in anticipation.

Tiernan was tall so Aine had to tip her chin up. She refused to go on tiptoe, he would have to bend down to her. She would kiss him. She would not shame her clan by rejecting Tiernan now. Her fate was sealed.

His lips were soft and warm. His free hand went round her slim waist. She closed her eyes. His tongue slipped experimentally between her lips. She did not forcefully refuse, but she would not open her lips further. Tiernan held the kiss for a moment and finished by kissing her lower lip before he pulled away. She blinked up at him. She felt breathless. How could one small kiss do that? It was her nerves, having to kiss in front of the entire clan. That was it.
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Old 04-18-2011, 09:33 PM   #15
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Her touch was unexpected and not unpleasant but he knew it immediately for what it was. An unspoken statement, a demand even, for space and that this kiss was nothing but a ceremonial nicety. A pity, that, but he understood. He did feel re-assured though, that she wouldn't bite him.

Not convinced, but re-assured.

He bent down to her and their lips met. Hers were so soft and smooth and warmer than he'd expected. Tiernan did his best to make it a good kiss, while not infringing to the point that she felt a need to counteract him. His tongue brushed her lips and he noted she tasted spicy though, of course, she did not open her mouth to him. He pressed another, fainter kiss on her lower lip as he straightened and looked down at her.

There was a loud cheer that rocked the hall. But Tiernan's face did not turn to them, he studied Aine. She seemed shocked, her eyes wide and blinking, and her breathing seemed to have quickened as if she needed air. Not a bad start, perhaps. It had been a good kiss; if she ever responded or kissed back, it might be something to sing about.

The cheers resounded again and then died as the druid lifted his hands higher and then let them fall, "The Gods bless now Aine and Tiernan," his hands now resting one on a shoulder of each young person as they turned to face the gathering. "Long live Clan Soghain!"

"Clan Soghain!" The cry shook the rafters and goblets were raised and clashed together. Tiernan saw Aine's mother sighing, her eyes wet. His own mother was at his father's side. Her eyes were teary but proud and she gave her husband, the tallest man in the clan, a hug. His father was beaming.

"Clansman and soon to be my kin!" Lord Magnus stood and his voice carried even above the noise and was met with another joyous roar. "To celebrate the union of our children, and the festival soon to be upon us, feast and be merry!"

Tiernan moved to walk into the crowd and take his place beside his handfasted bride to be. But Kynthelig's hand tightened on his shoulder and he hesitated a moment. The old man spoke in a low voice that only he and Aine could hear above the din. "The gods ask more of you both. Though your marriage is to come, you must keep yourselves unknown to one another until at least the end of Beltane. Despite the tradition to do otherwise."

Tiernan wanted to say something, though he wasn't sure what, but then the families were upon them. Aine was hugged and kissed by the women and Tiernan was sure he would have bruises from his shoulder and back being pounded again and again.

Slowly, the two made their way to the high table and took their seat. It was a bit strange, maneuvering and doing things with their hands bound together, but Tiernan knew how his body moved and Aine was graceful and quick. They sat down and food was served and their goblets were full of wine. Talk and laughter filled the hall, along with snatches of song. Tiernan felt a moment of quiet anger at them all; one would think they were all the ones getting married the way they carried on. And yet, was that not ungenerous of him to think? If this made his family and his clan this happy, who was he to be so displeased with it?
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Old 04-18-2011, 11:13 PM   #16
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When Kynthelig spoke the words meant only for them, Aine thought he was an old goat for saying such a thing. Her cheeks burned while her eyes narrowed in distaste. At least it meant that he was recommending that Tiernan not try to get under her skirts any sooner. Although she doubted he would try such a thing.

She was relieved when Tiernan led her to the long table at the head of the hall. Again there was awkward maneuvering as people came to congratulate them thumping Tiernan's back and kissing her cheek. She tried to keep her composure, but it was impossible to ignore the ribaldry of Tiernan's friends. She thought her cheeks would be blushing for the rest of the feast.

Sitting at the table wasn't nearly so difficult a feat. But as the food was passed, Aine wondered how she was to eat bound as she was to Tiernan. How apt that it was not a metaphor. Yet she would play the vessel for the Lord himself ere Tiernan ever climbed on top of her.

No sooner had they settled themselves than someone began a chant of "kiss! Kiss! Kiss!" Aine again smiled with only her mouth and presented her cheek to her husband-to-be. Her father laughed and leaned over to Tiernan, "There is no time like the present for you to assert your will over your future bride. I am looking forward to many grandsons." He nudged the young man and toasted the pair again.

Aine stuck her tongue out at her father behind Tiernan's back. Then reached for her goblet pulling his left hand with it. She bit back an obscenity. "Sorry." She reached with her left hand instead and drank a quantity of wine. She would have to eat with her left hand. How annoying. It was going to be a long night.

((And from now on I will have to come up with brand new posts *grin*))
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Old 04-19-2011, 06:49 PM   #17
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Tiernan did not smile at the king’s words but did incline his head, “I would not force my will on any woman, least of all one of such lineage.” He kissed the offered cheek and did whisper low, for Aine’s ears alone, “Your kiss was very good, if you wondered. But it gets even better when you kiss back.” He’d thought she’d enjoyed it; that had been her reaction physically it had seemed. But perhaps he had been wrong or perhaps her loathing of him was being forcefully reasserted by the fiery haired girl.

His left hand jerked suddenly as Aine reached for her goblet and then muttered an apology. It was the first time she’d spoken to him directly. The first time in months, actually. The tall youth shook his head, “It is awkward. If there’s something you’d like to do or grab with this hand,” he pressed his fingers lightly against hers, “please say so and we can do it together.”

Before she could respond, and in an attempt to forestall any of her usual sharp tongued, cutting retorts, Tiernan pulled the wooden box he had brought from his belt and offered it to his new fiancée. “This is for you; the box as well as what is within.” The box itself was made of lovely wood and had been carved and decorated with elegant knotwork. “This broach was given to my father’s mother by my grandsire on the day of their handfasting. I know you have many such pieces of jewelry but I hope that it will please you a little, at least.”

He felt bad, in a way. She must be very confused by his actions. It was simple, however, on his part. Their fate was sealed. To rail against those who’d promised them or against one another wouldn’t do anything but make them miserable. They would still marry and both their parents would still demand grandchildren; the clan needed an heir. After a moment, he added, “If nothing else, take it as an offering of peace between us.” He kept his voice low; he did not truly care if he was overheard but he was saying these things for her, not for other ears.
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Old 04-19-2011, 11:45 PM   #18
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There were boos and catcalls at the caste kiss. Aine resisted the urge to make a face and stick out her tongue at the nearest oaf. She wsa to be a married woman soon and Bride of the Earth even sooner. She must have some decorum.

Magnus nodded in agreement. "I did not mean physical force. But you must stand up to her. I am afraid I have been far too lenient with Aine. You must let her know you intend to be ruler of your home, else she will walk all over you as The Morrigan walks on the bones of the dead." He turned away to shake the hand of one of the clansmen coming to congratulate him.

"I have kissed a lad before." Aine sniffed. "I do know how."

Why was Tiernan being so solicitous? Perhaps he was bowing to the inevitable, as she should be doing. She sighed. She was about to thank him, but she stopped when he presented her with a carved box. She opened in to find a broach inside, old and of fine craftsmanship. It was gold and nestled in the center was a polished stone of amber.

She knew the box must have been carved by his own hand. It showed care and skill. Aine ran a finger on her free hand over the stone. "It is lovely. I thank you." She sounded genuine and looked him in the eye for a moment. Then she signaled for her maid. The girl dashed ot the side of the hall and back again.

"Since we are giving gifts..." Aine reached to take what looked like some folded linens from her maid and pulled Tiernan's hand again. She bit back a curse. "Sorry." her cheeks flushed. She awkwardly handed him the bundle tied with ribbons. There were three linen shirts sewn and embroidered by Aine's own hand. It was a tradition that a wife make her husband's shirts for him so matter how highborn.

She picked up her goblet remembering to use her free hand. She raised it to Tiernan. "To peace between us."


((I found out that gold was actually more plentiful in Ireland than silver, so they used gold for many things.))
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Old 04-20-2011, 01:20 AM   #19
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Tiernan blinked at the fine garments. The cloth was good and the weave excellent but it was the embroidery that surprised him. Not the skill, he had no doubt Aine was a fine hand at many crafts and tasks, but that she would have them. Such embroidery took time and care. Had she made these for him? Or were these for her father or another and now repurposed? If she had made them for him...what did that mean? He had thought she despised him and wished no part of this yet this gift may show otherwise.

He nodded, meeting her gaze, his honest astonishment and appreciation clear on his face. "I thank you. I will wear them proudly and with care." He lifted his own goblet to her, "To peace." He drained the cup and was glad for it; totally unsure of what he could have said to follow up this strange turn of events.

The entire day had been strange. He had given little thought to the druid's visit earlier but now it came to his mind again. As had the old man's parting words at the hand fasting. Did he mean to keep Tiernan pure until he met the Goddess' vessel? Yet he had known women before.

From one of the other tables came a cry, "Kiss!" Others took it up as well, "Kiss! Kiss!" And a lone male voice rang from far back near the doors, "And do it right this time!"

Tiernan grimaced and looked down at Aine, seeing much the same feeling in her eyes. "Peace is one thing and what we are supposed to be another...but I think that if we were to kiss more...well, I think that we might be able to shut them up for a while, at any rate."

He leaned in and lifted their joined hands to his own cheek, making this look far more intimate, "May I kiss you, Aine? I will be more chaste than earlier, if you wish, but I think lips are all that will appease now."
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Old 04-21-2011, 01:00 AM   #20
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Tiernan seemed pleased with her gift. She was proud of her work. She would not have her husband seen in a shirt with eratic stitches. It would reflect badly on her. She was vain enough that she would not have herself brought down by an ill-dress husband.

"It is a tradition. I will make all of your shirts now." She was sure that Tiernan, like most men, had no idea of all a woman had to do to care for hearth and home.

Aine drained her own glass feeling the slight burn. A servant was there at once to refill their glasses. She felt a warmth settle on her limbs that made her feel well disposed toward the gathering and even, a little, towards Tiernan. he had not acted like the oaf she thought he was.

"Kiss!" The chants began again. Tiernan was right, they would have to make it an actual kiss if they had any hope of making the throng stop.

Perhaps it was the honey wine making her feel content and magnanimous. "Yes." Would he be like this on their wedding night? If so, perhaps she could stall the inevitable for weeks. She would blame her maidenly shyness. Which was also true. The thought made her smile brightly at Tiernan.

Aine leaned closer. "You may kiss me." Her lips parted slightly. She was very curious to see if this kiss would make her feel the same as the last one.
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Old 04-23-2011, 01:44 AM   #21
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There was something in Aine's smile that made Tiernan uneasy and feel as though she has some plan turning in her cunning mind that he would ultimately not like. But it was true that she was a lovely young woman and when she smiled she became far more so. It made his heart swell a bit; with pride that he would be married to such a woman and with sadness that such a woman did not and likely would never actually care for him. If only her personality were as comely as her shape!

But he did smile genuinely at the thought of kissing her once more. The first kiss had been good. But now, with her possibly kissing back, what would it be like? One could tell a great deal about a person from their kiss.

He lowered his head, tilting it just slightly, "Thank you," he whispered. Then their lips met. He pressed a bit firmer and more intently this time, and Gods, she was so soft and so warm!

The hand joined to hers moved to hold her smaller hand in his own and gave it a light squeeze as he deepened the kiss, holding it longer than their first. That kiss he'd meant to make a silent invitation and impression. Now, he still wished to make an impression, but also simply for them both to enjoy.
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Old 04-23-2011, 04:29 AM   #22
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Why did her heart pound so much? It was not as if Aine had never kissed a youth before. There had been Eowyn, a few years older than she. He had died of the fever just this winter past. They had exchanged kisses. And touches. A man's body was not _totally_ alien to her.

Tiernan gave Aine a genuine smile.She wasn't sure if he was winning her over or if the wine was just going to her head. Perhaps she could learn to tolerate Tiernan. Now that the inevitable was here, he finally seemed to be making an effort.

Aine closed her eyes. Tiernan's lips met hers and he squeezed her hand. He was more forceful this time and his tongue slipped between her lips. She did not resist. If they wanted the clan to stop insisting, they would have to perform a proper kiss.

Aine was the one to break the kiss. She was not sure if this one was better than the first, but she did not have that lightheaded feeling like before. But still, Tiernan was a good kisser. He should be with all the practice he had gotten.

The clan roared and clapped and stamped their feet at the kiss. The harpers struck up a happy tune for a circle dance.

"Go and dance, you two." Aine's mother called.

Aine looked at Tiernan. "I suppose we should." She took another sip of her wine and made to stand up. Having their hands bound together for the evening was a tradition that was annoying Aine more and more with each passing minute. Perhaps if she drank enough wine things would bother her so much. It always seemed ot work for her father. Copious amounts of wine or ale never failed to make him jolly. She took another sip and tugged Tiernan along to join the spiral dance.
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Old 04-25-2011, 09:35 PM   #23
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She was a good kisser. And think, almost no one had kissed her. What would she be like with some practice?

Gods, maybe there was something to this marriage thing.

Of course, that took into account that she'd let him ever kiss her when it wasn't ceremonial like this. Which was probably far from possible. The gift of the shirts had surprised him but then she'd explained it. He hadn't known about that tradition and no matter what she thought of him, she would not want to look like a bad wife.

"Dance?" Damn. He should have expected that. He grimaced but Aine had already agreed and drained her goblet once again. "I'd rather not...but you're right." Of course they'd be expected to dance. After being expected to kiss, it was the other thing most people wanted from a handfasted couple. Well, and that, but there was no way that would happen. Now, if ever.

They moved into the end of the spiral dance to cheers and calls from the onlookers. It wasn't a complex dance but performing it tied to Aine was awkward at best. Especially since she kept trying to move just before he did, or just afterward. They bumped and jerked about; drawing more than a few laughs from the crowd.
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Old 04-25-2011, 10:37 PM   #24
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"You don't like to dance?" Aine asked. But when she thought about it, Tiernan was never one of the first to dance. If she remembered correctly, he needed some liquid courage before he would venture a step.

"How can you be so skilled with a sword and not be able to put one foot next to the other in a dance?" Aine said. She was not happy to have people laughing at her. She needed more wine, perhaps then she might find it amusing when Tiernan stepped on her toes.

The spiral dance wound around so that the line of dancers folded on itself so that they passed everyone in the line face to face. Men and women leaned forward to speak their well wishes for the couple. Some kissed their cheeks as they passed. And of course, some of the young men gave them bawdy encouragements which had Aine's face flaming by the end of the dance.

The dance ended. Aine was happy to return to her seat. Tiernan and she had to negotiate the room again. Aine sat and called for more wine of which she drained a goodly portion.

((Don't know what else we need to accomplish here at the feast...Then we need to decide when Beltain is...three days hence? Longer?))
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Old 04-29-2011, 01:11 AM   #25
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"You're doing no better but at least I'm still a good swordsman," he retorted. His words were not spoken with rancor or heat but there was a faint fire in his eyes when he said them. He had been courteous this night and spoken fairly to her. And this was her response?

By the time ended, Tiernan felt like punching someone. Aine's apparent unwillingness to talk to him but to instead drink as much wine as she could did not help. If anyone noticed the darkening of his mood, no one spoke openly of it.

The time drew nigh, hours later, for the feast to end. Many of the guests had gone already but a goodly number still remained. The two families bid their farewells under the eaves of the king's house. Tiernan's father and the king were speaking quietly together as Aine's mother unbound the hands of now betrothed youngsters, "This ribbon I will keep for now, in trust."

Tiernan inclined his head to the woman, striking and lovely still, a renowned beauty and the picture of what Aine could become in many ways. "You have my thanks, for many things."

He was standing beside the steps that led up to the house, Aine on the brief porch of it, so that for the moment they were the same height. He looked at the quite tipsy young woman for a moment and then stepped close and kissed her, not asking this time, full and firm on her plush lips. As he stepped back he gave her soft, plush butt a pinch through her dress. He didn't speak but bowed to her then and turned away.

Now why the hell had he done that? Probably unwise. Felt good though.

~~~~~~~~~

The young noble rode out early the next day, just as the sun was rising. No matter his feelings on the matter, he was engaged. And that meant that the wedding would come. And his bride would need a home to live in. Their home; not his family's, nor hers.

He tied his horse to a tree on a stretch of land a good ride from his family's home, ever further from the king's, and drew from his belt a long wooden case that held several rolls of vellum. Tiernan laid them out on a flat rock and looked over them as the light quickened into the brightness of morning.

For years, he had been drawing and revising. He always knew the time would come to build his own house and he wanted it to be something...great. Not necessarily in size, but to be a fine and noble house, greater than his father's, greater than the king's, if he could manage it. He knew it would be shared with Aine but in his heart he had dreamed he would build it for a woman he loved and let that flow into the planning.

He looked up at the high hill he was at the foot of and nodded. It would make the construction harder but it was a good place. High and commanding, easy to see far from the top, easy to defend, and yet large enough for a great structure and stout walls.
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