The sun shone in the azure sky on beautiful summer midday. Her back arched as he trailed feathery kisses over the soft skin of her throat down to the curve of her breast. Her auburn waves were spread over the tender grass. She trailed her fingers on his back, tracing the scars of a warrior. A moan escaped her lips, hips moving restlessly against the wrap around her.
Arlene jerked awake, the dream still titillating her senses. “Who are you!” It was a low frustrated whisper.
The night was cold, reminding her that the summer was over in the highlands. For more than a month, Arlene had been dreaming about the man. The dreams never bothered her before. As a descendant, Arlene had the power of second sight. She had witnessed many dreams and nightmares predicting the birth of her brother’s children, the ice storms, the attacks and invasions.
The Vikings were invading every settlement, mercilessly killing and capturing them. Many Lairds* from Albion and other places were killed trying to fight the Vikings. It was a disaster all around while she dreamt of making love to a warrior. Arlene clutched the locket of trinity knot trying to calm her mind. If only Granaidh* was alive. She would have explained the dreams to her.
“Ah dinnae ken!*” Arlene replied for the tenth time. Her youngest brother wanted to know if Arlene saw the Vikings. With seven brothers, she was the only girl child in the family, and the only one who had the gift of sight. Suddenly uneasy, Arlene decided to visit the Dark Goddess.
The rush of the waves in the Loch na h-Airde*, the cool breeze from the trees gave her peace. Soon, it would become too cold to walk this way. Winters were brutal in the Isle of Skye*. Arlene took a few steps inside the cave and tripped over a body. A hoarse moan resounded around her. Despite the shining sun, the cave was dark.
“Are you alright?” Arlene gasped, her fingers tracing the form in front of her.
“Aye*,” It was a low whisper. Heat radiated from him, burning her skin in contact with his body.
“Oh no!” Arlene scrambled to stand. He was badly wounded near the abdomen. Arlene knew it could be one of the injured Vikings. But she couldn’t leave him alone to die either.
He muttered something unintelligible. There wasn’t much she could do without light. But, if he could walk, even crawl into the clearing inside the hills, light glinted through the gaps in the rocks above.
The place hummed of mystic power. Arlene always felt it flowing through her whenever she visited Goddess Scathach’s* place of worship.
“Try to walk.” She urged. He grunted, gripping her hand. Arlene sensed his strength immediately. Here was a wounded warrior at her mercy. Bits of her dreams flashed before her eyes.
“What’s yer* name?”
“Rory.” The rumble of his voice made her shiver.
Together they made it to the clearing. If it wasn’t for all the farming work she did every day, Arlene wouldn’t have been strong enough to support his weight. Taking out the herbs from the pouch she carried along with the dagger, she set to work.
There was a lot of blood loss already. The wound was infected. She realized it was a miracle he survived that long. Arlene invoked the power of the Dark Goddess. They were in her realm, after all. She cut open his tunic to create a bandage. He had no plaid* of his clan.
Gaelic chants echoed in the cave as her fingers worked deftly. “gu bheil do bheò air a shàbhaladh*,” she said at last. Once, he stared at her before lapsing into sleep again. Arlene froze at the depth in his amber eyes. His dark hair formed a halo around his chiseled face. She knew him.
Blood dripped from her fingers. Her dress was splashed with drops of red. Everywhere around her, Arlene saw dead bodies. She cried out in horror. The nightmare shook her to the core.
It was too cold for her to venture out onto the hills. Was he going to be responsible for the death of others? Or was his life in danger again? Who was he?
The beauty of the red-gold dawn was lost on Arlene was she raced up the hill to check on Rory only to find the cave empty. She used powerful spells, but it was too early for him to be healed completely.
Tears of frustration pricked her eyes. Angry at herself, Arlene walked back home to find her father tensed. “Lassie*, they’re sayin’ the Laird’s son has been killed by the Vikings. No one has found his body yet.”
Arlene said nothing. She went to help her mother prepare breakfast. As the most important meal of the day, they had a hearty breakfast consisting of fried eggs, bacon, sausage, black-pudding, baked beans, grilled tomatoes, and deep-fried bread. Working the farms and mines wasn’t easy.
A fortnight passed in terror. Arlene continued to dream of death and the warrior alternatively. She went to the cave every day hoping to see him and prayed for the safety of him and her people. Her family was worried about their future. They asked her to tell them what she saw. But, Arlene had no intention of scaring them with her doubtful dreams. She missed her Granaidh.
Finally, the news arrived in the form of her oldest brother. “They surrendered. We won.”
Arlene attended to his wounds. Her brother was a part of the army fighting the Vikings. She, along with a few other women was called to the makeshift centers to heal the injured men. Arlene could save all of them. She thanked Goddess Scathach for being at her side in the hours of need.
“Bonnie*, the Laird wants to meet yer. We are going to his castle tomorrow.” Her father informed that night. He thought the Laird wanted to award her for healing the men.
Arlene was too exhausted to think about it. She felt he needed her to check the future invasions. She would try again for the villagers’ benefit. If Granaidh lived, she would have trained her well. Her heart still longed for the mysterious warrior.
“A chumail sàbhailte*,” She murmured into the moonless night.
Arlene dressed carefully, collecting her wavy mass into a bun at her nape. Along with her father and a brother she went to the castle. She loved the stonework and the carvings on the wood. Symbols and emblems were an integral part of the Celtic life. The shield knot was engraved on the castle door. It was for protection.
“Fàilte*,” The Laird greeted them with a wide smile. He did not look like a man in mourning, Arelen thought bowing to him. They were taken to the large room where the festive lunches and dinners were arranged for the public. Arlene skid to the halt when she saw Rory.
“Tapadh leat*,” He murmured, reaching out to hold her hand. The plaid proudly adorned his shoulder. She could see the lines of strain around his eyes.
Arlene tried to control her speeding heart. She was relieved that he wasn’t an invader. But, her dreams confused and scared her. She was a commoner despite being gifted with second sight.
“My heir wishes to have your lass as a bride.” The Laird announced. Her father was shocked. He accepted the offer with a bow. Arlene was sixteen already. Marrying a Laird’s son would be an honor for her and the family.
Arlene felt oddly sad. She knew she had no say, but yearned for something special. The dreams should mean something.
Rory suddenly asked to have a word with her. He led her to the adjacent gardens. “Pòs mi*, lassie. If it weren’t for yer generosity I would have been dead by now. Yer emerald eyes haunted me since that day. I was determined to fight the Vikings and ask for your hand.”
“Chan eil fhios agad mi*,” Arlene whispered.
“I do, lass. You have the greatest heart of all. Even when you thought I was an invader, you were determined to save my life. I believe the Dark Goddess brought us together.”
“How did you find out about me?” Arlene asked.
“Yer bràthair* has yer eyes,” He replied, smiling at her.
The couple tied a knot in the handfasting* ceremony with 13 colorful ribbons each depicting a vow. Handfasting was traditionally valid for a year, after which they had to renew their vows if they found each other tolerable.
Rory vowed to love her with all his heart. Arlene knew they would be together for the rest of their lives. In a strange way, she learnt how to trust and interpret her gift of sight.
- The story is set during the times of invasions in Scotland. The Viking invasions were followed the Norse invasions after which the Christian invasions took place.
- The language spoken was almost entirely Gaelic. But, I did use some Scottish English as well.
- Second Sight is a phenomenon in which a person gets flashes, dreams of future events. Those could occur anytime though I’ve used exclusively dreams for the story.
- The Celtics (Irish, Scots, Welsh, Cornish, etc.) were and are a superstitious lot. Magic, spells, symbols, Gods/Goddess/ supernatural beings/traits are considered common by them.
- The Isle of Skye- The largest and northernmost of the major islands in the Inner Hebrides of Scotland.
- The most powerful clans on Skye in the post–Norse period were Clan MacLeod, originally based in Trotternish, and Clan Macdonald of Sleat.
Laird- A genric name for the owner of a large, long-established Scottish estate
Loch na h-Airde- Lake on the Isle that was later connected to the sea by the Vikings.
Trinity Knot- A Celtic knot symbolizing infinite feminine power of Mother, Crone, and Maiden.
Ah dinnae ken- I don’t know (Scottish English)
Aye- Yes (Scottish English)
Goddess Scathach – Celtic (Irish & Scottish) Goddess of healing, magic, fighting arts, prophecy. Called the Shadowy One, She Who Strikes Fear, and the Dark Goddess, she was a warrior woman and prophetess who lived in Albion, possibly on the Isle of Skye and taught fighting arts. Variants: Scota, Scatha, Scath.
Yer- You (Scottish English)
Plaid- a long piece of tartan worn over the shoulder as part of Scottish Highland dress.
gu bheil do bheò air a shàbhaladh- may your life be saved (Scottish Gaelic)
Lassie/ Lass- girl (Scottish English)
a chumail sàbhailte- Keep him safe (Scottish Gaelic)
Fàilte- Welcome (Scottish Gaelic)
Tapadh leat- Thank you (Scottish Gaelic)
Pòs mi- Marry me (Scottish Gaelic)
Chan eil fhios agad mi- You do not Know me
Handfasting- Handfasting is a wedding or rather a pre-wedding ceremony that is valid for up to a year. The couple ‘tie a knot’ (this is where the phrase came from), in the presence of their parents or elders. A contract was signed and entered by the parties involved.
The one year duration is for them to decide if they are compatible with each other and learn to adjust. Most of the couples would end up getting married after or before the year was over. The procedure was misused as well.
The colors of ribbons held different meanings.
- Red: passion, strength, lust, fertility
- Orange: encouragement, attraction, kindness, plenty
- Yellow: charm, confidence, joy, balance
- Green: finances, fertility, charity, prosperity, health
- Blue: tranquility, patience, devotion, sincerity
- Purple: Power, piety, sanctity, sentimentality
- Black: strength, wisdom, vision, success
- White: purity, concentration, meditation, peace
- Gray: neutrality, canceling, balance
- Pink: unity, honor, truth, romance, happiness
- Brown: earth, grounding, talent, telepathy, home
- Silver: treasure, values, creativity, inspiration
- Gold: energy, wealth, intelligence, longevity
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