Maire is asked for a favour

10th July 1103


Darina knows the way to barter

10th June 1103


Maire wishes she were anywhere else

6th May 1103



Arran says the words

6th May 1103



Darina is needed

24th April 1103



Engin sees something he does not understand

25th December 1102



Darina has a Christmas visitor

25th December 1102



Engin realises the danger of pointy ears

“I’ve got to be thankin’ yew that much fer comin’ to see us Hepsie, we’ve been that worried over this I’ve been barely sleepin'”, Darina’s voice grated like the spinning wheel clicking rapidly between her legs.

Engin was well and truly sick of the creaking sound that damned contraption made. Lord knows Darina was at day and night, the wheel endlessly turning, her nimble fingers pulling the thread through with an soft, dusty dragging sound that made the hairs on the back of Engin’s neck stand on end. He was actually glad to get outside collecting the meager harvest they managed to get planted before it turned cold last year. Anything to get away from that confounded noise.



Lyiss is only Lyiss

Lyiss tentatively gazed over at the men who were standing chatting together and warming their hands before the blazing midsummer fire. She felt awkward and self-conscious and was beginning to wish she had not come. If it had not been for Nyawe she probably wouldn’t have.


She was what they called one of they unlucky few. The girls and women who had not had a husband when they came to Mhalwae. The men where scarce and there was not much chance of making a good marriage. There was barely any choice as it was. And for woman of her status there was not one man. She would marry beneath her if she were lucky enough to marry at all. And she was sure she wasn’t, she was only plain Lyiss. Who would want her compared to the other girls? She gazed over at them giggling together and felt even more sure. Soon she would be the only “unlucky one”.


Her brother turned to her and murmured gently, “Are you really sure you want to go along?”


She appreciated his concern but she had already agreed to go along with the other girls and it would have humiliated her even more to back out at this point.

“No… it’s fine I…”, she began softly.

“Of course she wants to come along silly… don’t you Lyiss dear?”, Nyawe was suddenly beside her crowing.


“It is ever so much fun and who knows who she may dream of. To be sure I never dreamed it would be you Garald”, she chuckled throatily.

Lyiss shrank beside her, feeling more plain than ever, her dusky freckled skin fading away next to the pale glory that was handsome Nyawe.

“So perhaps we might not be putting so much faith in it after all”, she mused, “but it is a good laugh anyway”.

“Alright then Lyiss… if it’s what you want…”, Garald muttered but was interrupted by the sudden appearance of Kelgar.

“Ladies, ladies, ladies”, he cried with a flourish.


“It is I who is to be your guide and guard on this dangerous journey of yours tonight. But never fear, I will lead you valiantly to success in your mission and who’s to say by the end of the night perhaps one of you lucky ladies will be a husband richer”, he jeered with a wink.

Lyiss flushed, unable to forget that Kelgar was one of the only unmarried men on the island.


The other girls had begun to giggle helplessly.

“Yer to be our guard good sir… but yer one of them very husbands we may be dreamin’ of tonight if yer bein’ that lucky”, Maire cried boldy while Igrayne snickered beside her.


“Oh I’m not bein’ the only potential man out there for you lovely young ladies. Why just over there by the fire stands our friend Arran Barran and what a fine young man he is isn’t he girls?”


He pointed in the direction of the fire as Arran began to shift nervously from foot to foot, aware that they were discussing him.

“So I think I have a bit of competition eh?”, he wiggled his eyebrows suggestively at them.

Lyiss began to feel sick and faint, the blush in her cheeks spreading helplessly over her neck and breast. Oh why had she agreed to this. She should never have come.

“If yer could excuse me fer bein’ so daft good sir but if yer to be bein’ our guide tonight then whose to be protectin’ our maidenhood from the likes of potential husbands such as yerself”, Maire cried in mock outrage while Igrayne tried not to giggle beside her.


“That’s where I fit in my dear ladies”, Nyawe chuckled stepping up beside Kelgar, “I will be your chaperone tonight”.

“So you see my lovelies… tonight you’ll be well protected”, Kelgar chuckled, “both from the dreadful beasties that be creeping outside the castle walls and the other beasty that be hiding in a much closer location”.


“A closer location hmmm…”, Igrayne mused, “perhaps we should be playin’ hide and seek and findin’ out that location. I think I be havin’ a fair idea where that beasty is a’ hidin’ I do”.


Lyiss was shocked by their brazen words. They were hinting at things she could only vaguely grasp at, things that were not to be spoken of. She was ashamed to be part of such conversation with her brother standing right beside her. She could feel his body growing rigid beside her as he flinched with embarrassment at his wife’s behaviour.

“Come now ladies… enough of this mindless chatter. Save the hide and seek for later when your in possession of a wedding ring. I believe it is time that you stopped speaking altogether. It begins now. I don’t want to hear a peep out of you or you’ll have to begin all over again”, Nyawe commanded with a hearty laugh.


Maire and Igrayne looked at each other in despair. Lyiss too was wondering how they could manage to stay quiet for the entire time. It would be a much less difficult feat to find seven different flowers than for them to hold their tongues for even an hour.


Lyiss felt her brother’s worried eyes gazing at her. She tried to smile to reassure him but found it all but impossible.

He opened his mouth to say something but was interrupted by Nyawe.


“Come along now sister dear… it’s a husband we’ll be finding for you tonight”, she grabbed Lyiss firmly around the waist herding her in the direction of the other girls.


“Oh but wait… I must be getting a kiss from my own husband first since I’m lucky enough to have one!”

She thrust herself forward, all hips and breasts and lips. Lyiss watched as her brother arched his body away from his wife’s and turned his face so that she collided with his cheek instead of where she had been aiming.


“Alright ladies, that’s done. Let’s be going then”, she said loudly and turned on her heel leading them away from the fire to hide her blushing face.

For a brief moment Lyiss actually felt pity for her sister-in-law. But it quickly faded as she trotted awkwardly behind.


Steen is that scared

“Alright lads… I’ll be countin’ to three and then yew all got to be pushin'”, Noah’s voice rang out.

Steen braced his back in preparation, glad to have a distraction. It was Hepsie’s time and each moment his mind strayed over that thought he panicked and forgot how to breath. It wasn’t a pleasant sensation and so he was happy to focus his breathing on moving the heavy stones into position.

“Alright then… one… two… three… PUSH!”


“Yew need to be movin’ it a bit to the left there Sermak”, Engin’s voice whined from behind Steen, “And Arran, yer not pushin’ hard enough… put yer back into it lad”.

Steen was once again glad that he was distracted, otherwise he would have been unable to fight the strong compulsion that was growing in him. He wanted nothing more than to plant his fist right in the middle of Engin’s over-sized nose.

“Okay… now be lettin’ go… well done lads”.

“It be lookin’ a bit crooked from over here Noah… yew might need to be doin’ it again”, Engin said pompously.

Now that Steen’s hands were free he thought perhaps he would just give in to the urge. Just a little bop on the nose couldn’t do Engin that much harm and it would do Steen the world of good.

But as he turned he saw Juzzine standing a little away, gazing at them nervously, waiting till they had finished what they were doing.


His heart was in his mouth, so that he was choking on it, his tongue bouncing around as it thumped and thumped so that he couldn’t manage to say anything at all.

“Er… Steen dear… I think yew better be comin’ with me”, Juzzine said delicately.


Steen managed to untangle his tongue from the wet-meaty lump and blurted out, “Hepsie… she.. I… we… Hepsie…”

Juzzine looked shocked when she realised what he had thought, “Oh no… oh no… she’s bein’ just fine… it’s just well… yew really best be comin’ then”.


“I… the baby… the baby… what about the wee baby?!”, Steen heard his voice growing more and more high pitched until he thought he was shrieking in a rather womanly fashion and tried to compensate with a deep growl.

“The baby”, he finally settled on.

“Oh… it’s not here just yet love… it’s just… well really… yew gotta go there I be thinkin’. We sorta be needin’ yer help”.


In an instant Steen was running through the courtyard, leaving Juzzine and the men behind, scattering chickens in his haste. He ran towards the small room in the west wing where he and Hepsie were staying until their cottage was finished.


The door began to open and he skidded to an abrupt halt, and a chicken that had been desperately running before him gave a relieved squawk and toddled off to the side.

It was Hepsie, her swollen belly swaying beneath her flimsy underclothes as she waddled hurriedly through the door. Gena was following behind, feeling her way along the door frame as quickly as she could manage.


“Please Hepsie love… yew got to be comin’ back inside. Babies comin’ it is”, Gena trembled, reaching her hand around trying to find where Hepsie was standing.

Hepsie looked up and saw Steen standing rooted to the spot, unable to think straight. Wasn’t she supposed to be lying down. Steen didn’t really understand how the process worked nor did he really want to as it terrified the pickles out of him, but he was pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to happen here in the courtyard in front of anyone who walked past.


Hepsie’s face suddenly changed, her brows coming together in a ferocious frown, her lips curling down as she glared directly at him. He almost looked behind him to check it wasn’t aimed at someone else, but he felt fairly sure the only living creatures around were the chickens and he did not know what they could have done to provoke such a face.


“Yew!”, she shrieked, and rushed up to him, pounding at his chest ineffectually with her tiny fists.

“Look a what’ve yew done to me yew big ruddy fool!!”

Steen looked around in a panic, but he couldn’t see anything that was different, nor imagine how he could have been responsible.

“Yew put this thing inside me yew big damn oaf and now I got to be bloody well gettin’ it out again now don’t I!!”

Steen didn’t think he had ever heard his good-natured little wife swear before and now she had the mouth of a common fishwife.


She poked him again hard in the chest and was about to do it again when she crumpled over in pain.

“Oooooh… “, she clutched at her heaving belly as Steen hovered before her unsure of what to do.


When the contraction passed she looked up at him, the anger gone leaving behind only the face of a frightened girl.

“I don’t want to be doin’ it Steen… it be hurtin’ that much and I don’t think I got the strength to do it. I don’t want to anymore… can yew just be takin’ me home now and we forget this whole baby thing? Please Steen… can’t we just be goin’ home to our little cottage? I don’t care that it’s only bein’ half built. Please?”.


Her lower lip was trembling as she looked at him, tears forming at the corners of her eyes and threatening to spill down her flushed cheeks.

“Well I dunno love, but I be guessin’ there ain’t much in this here world that’s gonna be stoppin’ that wee baby from comin’ whether yew or I be likin’ it or not”.

“And if I ever knew any woman that was bein’ strong enough it’s bein yew Hepsie… yer just about the strongest woman I ever been meetin'”.


“And surely since yew been bringin’ that many littl’uns into this world yew can be doin’ it fer our own. Just think love… soon we’ll be havin’ our own little son or daughter. Our very own and we can take the wee thing back to our cottage and be startin’ our own little family”.

Hepsie was gazing sadly at the ground, all the anger gone out of her, her shoulders drooping wearily.


“Yew just got to be doin’ this one thing now and yew got to be bein’ brave fer yer old Steen and that littl’un who’s bein’ so desperate to be comin’ out an meetin’ his Ma. And I know yew can Hepsie… yer just about the bravest woman I ever knowed”.

And then she flung herself into his arms, clinging to him like she never had before.


“I’m bein’ that scared Steen”, she whispered in his ear.

“I know love, but yew’ll be alright. Yer strong and brave and from all that kickin’ I been feelin’ these last months so’s the littl’un”.

“Now give yer old Steen a kiss and be off with yew”.

He pulled her gently to him, kissing her soft lips and tried not to let in the thought that perhaps this would be the last time he ever would. He ran his fingers through her long black hair and felt her warm body pressing against his. She was strong. She was brave. They would be alright.


“Ooooh… damn… bloody hell!”, she drew away, shouting obscenities as another wave of pain rushed through her body.


Steen rubbed her arm until it passed.

“I guess you gotte be goin’ real soon then love. Seems like it won’t be too much longer”.

She nodded and allowed herself to be led away by Gena.

Darina was waiting at the door, coaxing in an uncharacteristically gentle voice, “Come on then dearie… best to get it over with. Won’t be too much longer then”.


“I love yew Hepsie”, Steen called after her.

“I love yew too Steen… ooooh”.

And then the door shut and as Steen thought of the room beyond he realised he was “bein’ that scared” too, but he was glad he had not told her.