First Fridays: Chapter Six

Another Friday, another behind-the-scenes look at a chapter of Changelings: Into the Mist, this time, Chapter 6. If you’re new, you can start with Chapter One, and if you haven’t yet, be sure to pick up your copy of Changelings  so you can follow along!

 Six

20141207_140911~2The sounds and smells of Carrickahowley Castle met them a good half-mile before they reached the stronghold itself. What was deserted in their time – with only the occasional fishing boat for company – was bustling with life. Nearly twenty ships filled the waters of the inlet, and the noise from their crews was rivalled only by a small market doing brisk business in the harbour. Overseeing it all was the stout stone tower. It glowered at them, even as it offered its protection.

Tomás manoeuvred his cart alongside a rickety dock and hailed two men standing close to the pier. They stopped their chatter and waved back. He turned to Sean and Maureen.

“Here we are. Hand those bundles off to young Owen over there.” He nodded his head at the younger of the two men as he approached the cart.

They scrambled out, eager to repay him – for his lack of interest, and the ride. Tomas tied off his pony’s reins and strolled over to the other man.

“No, that’s all right, lass. No need to strain yourself,” Owen said to Maureen as he took the sack of – well, of what, she was not sure. It was heavy, though. She handed it off and reached for a smaller pack.

“Ah now, you’re a bonnie bit of a thing, but breeches or no, the lad and I can manage this.” The young man laughed and sauntered off with two bundles under his arms. Sean looked at her and shrugged, but followed the other boy anyway.

She made a face and contented herself with unloading the cart and stacking its cargo close to the gangplank Sean and the boy had used to access a large ship. That was one mercy, at least. The gangplank was a flimsy thing, balanced precariously between the pier and the boat.

A shudder roiled her shoulders. Water, boats and swimming – these she did not mind. Heights, now? Heights made her legs weak.

Word of the Day

Gangplank: a movable plank used as a ramp to board or disembark from a ship or boat. Granted, as this NGram shows (and oh my god, aren’t NGrams the greatest thing ever for word nerds?!?)

D: I think that might just be you, A.

A: I don’t think so. There must be others. There’s a whole blog, called “Not One-Off Britishisms,” that uses it as a reference.

D: Okay, so you, and that guy.

A: Yeah, well – still not ‘just me,’ then, Druid.

D: Pedant.

A: Kill joy.

D: Fair enough. Let’s move on, shall we?

A: Right, where was I before you interrupted me?

D: Explaining why you used gangplank to describe the flimsy ramp between the dock and the boat when the word wasn’t even in use in 1584.

A: And the answer is simple: Maureen is describing the scene. To her eyes and ears, gangplank is a perfectly common, suitable word.

D: Scintillating.

A: Indeed. Cheers, D.

Devil’s in the Details

Tomás Conroy is the ultimate messenger. In addition to being the resident blacksmith, he is a storyteller with a strong superstitious streak, which predisposes him to accepting strangeness, even as he is willing to tell all and sundry about it. Most quest archetype stories need one (heck, most stories no matter where they fall on the paradigm need one) and Tomás is it. Not only does he deliver Maureen and Sean to the action, he conveys important messages to a variety of characters, and to the readers. Because I use a limited form of 3rd person narrative, messengers such as Tomás are necessary to keep things moving along.

Historical Footnotes

Carrickahowley Castle, photo via WikiCommons, uploaded May 2007 by Brholden

Carrickahowley Castle, photo via WikiCommons, uploaded May 2007 by Brholden

Carrickahowley Castle, today known as Rockfleet Castle, was just one of several strongholds held by a one Grace O’Malley/Grania Uaile, Pirate Queen of the Irish Seas. Carrickahowley is a tower house, built in the mid sixteenth century. It has four floors and is over eighteen meters in height. I took liberties with the location of the inlet, as currently the tower appears to have been built in the sea – at high tide, it is difficult to get into or out of the main door. Owned by an American, several years ago the castle was restored using traditional building methods and materials (Ref. Wikipedia).

On with the show

A: No, D. Don’t do it.

D: What?

A: Don’t make me choose between you.

D: A?

A: I mean it, D. This is work.

D: But I—

A: No, I mean, they pay me. I have to.

D: But–

A: It’s the Show, D. I have to go; I’m scheduled.

D: A, you can find time.

A: You don’t understand, D. It’s. The. Show.

D: . . .

A: Bead&Button. The Show.

D: I don’t think—

A: The Bead Show, D. The Bead&Button Show, the biggest in the world.

D: But why?

A: I’m in customer service, D. It’s expected. There’s a registration desk with my name on it. It is my duty.

D: Oh, duty! Well, then A, forgive me. I didn’t understand. Under the circumstances, I grant you dispensation.

A: You’re not the pope, D.

D: And you’re a heathen, A.

A: . . .

D: . . .

D: Enjoy the night off, A. I expect two times the words and effort out of you tomorrow, however.

A: Um, about that. . .

D: Tomorrow, too? All right then, fine. On Thursday–

A: Yes, well. . .

D: And Thursday?

A: How do you think I keep myself in flash drives and bandwidth, D?

D: Flash drives and what? I will never understand you. Fine, abscond from your duties. I’ll just go hunt down some unsuspecting—

A: D, behave yourself. No unsuspecting anything while I’m gone.

D: Impossible woman.

Good, she’s gone. If you are a beader, this show is very . . . well, I’m not a beader. I’m not even sure what a beader does. Does it involve a loom? My mother did beautiful loom-work. Well, hello, A. What are you doing back so soon? Forget something?

A: Yes, you apparently. Don’t bore the good people, D. Tell the tale and be done with it.

D: Task-master. I feel honored that anyone deigns to read these words, and now it is your turn to honor the special people in your life: Green Embers now features song dedications, and Petite Magquie has something she calls Poetrics, which are lovely.

A: In that vein, visit Andra at the Accidental Cootchie Mama and read her series honoring her journey back to see her Grandmother’s home. It is beautifully written and poignant.

D: Say, A. Do you know how to do anything poignant or artsy?

A: Um, I can sew a button or, you know, write. But beyond that? Bead? Loom? What?

D: Maureen makes so much more sense now.

“. . . Grania has enough to do without playing nursemaid to a lass who doesn’t need one. She did try to teach me spinning once, but that was a miserable failure.”

Sean laughed. “Spinning? You mean, spinning wool? You?”

“It was a bit of a disaster.” Maureen made a face, remembering. “I felt a little bad that I was so awful at it. I think spinning is the one domestic thing she really enjoys. The sound is soothing enough, I suppose. She did hint that if I wanted a life after seafaring, I might want to learn something domestic.” She looked up, meeting Sean’s eyes. “I think I’d rather take my chances convincing Grandfather about University . . .”

The history lesson

. . . Although she had been a captive, she had been safe – protected from a superstitious crew by a near-crazed nobleman. Grania and Sean had risked everything in the attempt to rescue her, and the reward was Bingham’s increased campaign to destroy native Irish power in the west. Word had already arrived of the sweeping changes he intended to make, changes that would rob Grania’s son-in-law of his rightful claim as leader of the Burke clan. The reward for their courage had been paltry, and more was to come, she knew it. Maureen felt a deep anger at the injustice . . . 

D: And did it? Did more come from Bingham?

A: Um . . . Well . . .

D: Come on, I didn’t stick around. I want to know what kind of havoc we wreacked.

A: You always wreak havoc, D.

D: And your point. . . ?

A : (Eye roll) Yes D, more came from Bingham. He . . . he really wasn’t all that pleasant, so far as Grace O’Malley and her cohorts were concerned.

D: Well, they were pirates, A.

A: Her son wasn’t. Her son-in-law wasn’t.

D: I think I may be sorry I asked.

A: He got his way in the end. He was responsible for her son’ murder and fouled up the leadership system – he was generally disruptive. It wasn’t pretty. But! He was sent to Flanders for his pains.

D: You mean, he was caught?

A: Not so much caught as the Irish started taking offense at his tone. They filed suit after suit against him—

D: And I thought American’s were bad.

A: Well, we do have lots of transplants.

D: Figures.

A: Of course, Bingham managed to put himself back into power, and even managed to thwart the Queen’s edict that Grace get her fleet and cattle back.

D: So everything he worked for, everything he set out to do, he got.

A: Almost. Grace was pretty canny herself. She kept her hand in until the day she died. She and Bingham – they were chess partners.

D: You make it sound almost nice, A. Sounds more to me like Grace was a pain in the arse.

A: Same could be said for Bingham.

D: Aye, but you’re the only one among us that has an O’Malley in her family line.

A: That’s not tr—

D: Spoilers, A! As I was saying, I’m starting to see the family resemblance.

A: Oh! Thanks, D. That’s the nicest—

D: A – A come on, I didn’t—

A: No, D. That really was swell. Thank you.

D: I have my moments.

A: Yes you do.

Introducing the D&A Shout out

D: The what?

A: Shout out.

D: What?

A: Shout out, D. Accolades, introductions, etc.

D: . . .

A: Oh come on, D. You are a druid – I can only imagine that Bard training was part of that.

D: You imagine correctly, for once.

A: And that means you tell the tale, Druid. We are telling the tale.

D: . . . Okay, you have me there. Tell away, A.

A: Well, we have The Community Storyboard. This place is excellent, and there are some really lovely writers and poets sharing their talent. Check them out! There was a weekend prompt on pearls . . . I even thought up a quirky little tale for that one.

D: Am I in it?

A: I only wish you were in it, D.

D: I don’t think I want to know. Don’t forget the Rome Construction Crew (RCC). . . did you really have to tell people why you failed at writing for 10 years?

A: Yep. It’s all about support D – in order to do that effectively, one must be honest.

D: I suppose . . .

A: And, there’s the MisAdventures of Vanilla – there’s a call for characters if any writers are interested. This is a great on-going story and everyone really should check it out!

D: And finally, we have awards, but as ever, Miss A is tardy and has nothing prepared. I think we’re making a page. Don’t worry, I’ll mentally torment her until she gets it done. I’m good at that sort of thing.

A: Thanks, D. In the meantime, we’d like to send a huge thank you to Mike at The Eye-Dancers and Patty at Petite Magique for the “Tag , you’re it” award and the “Most Influential Blogger” award. Thank you so much – you are all so very kind and wonderful!

D: Is that it?

A: Yes, that’s it – now, to commemorate the holiday, work in the garden and celebrate.

D: What are we celebrating? Can I come?

A: My birthday D. 33 this year.

D: You really do like 3s, don’t you? Weirdo.

A: Cheers, D!

A picture is worth. . .

Temporary LogoD: Who is that in the bubble?

A: Not telling.

D: It’s supposed to be me, isn’t it?

A: Maybe.

D: I’m not sure how I feel about this. Hey, wait, why do you look so. . . I don’t know. . .

A: Unhinged, crazed, ready to tear out my hair?

D: No, that seems normal for you. I was actually going to ask what was in your hair.

A: Oh, that. That’s a pencil.

D: And it’s in your hair because. . .

A: Defense.

D: . . . Really?

A: Yup. I keep ‘em sharp, see. Sure, having one in my hair means I can hang up my hat as a pencil stealer, but D, they’re not just pencils. They’re mini implements of death.

D: . . .

A: I have the scars on the back of my head to prove it.

D: I’m surprised you’re allowed to leave the grounds of the asylum.

A: You and me both.

 . . .The clanging of metal on metal overwhelmed Dubhal’s words. Bingham, taking advantage of the distraction, struck Dubhal’s sword with his own. Dubhal growled wordlessly but managed to retain his grip on the claymore.

“That woman is afraid to fight me, eh?” Bingham sneered, dancing lightly around Dubhal, taunting him with his blade. “Well, how about I just cut through each man she throws my way until she’s ready to fight? How many of you can there be?”

“How many of us are willing to fight for Grania Uaile?” Dubhal’s tone was amused and he gave Bingham a jaunty bow. “You may have to go through the breadth of Ireland to find out, m’lord. . .”

Many thanks to the child (hereafter known as TC) for putting up with me and posing for an impromptu photo shoot. TC isn’t D, but he does a pretty good job looking like a moody Druid in a hood. Thanks, kiddo! For more pictures from the shoot, visit the D/A Facebook page.

Bring out your dead

“. . . Good evening to you,” Maureen began, her voice ringing out in the stone church, cool and authoritative. Grania had taught her well. “I trust you are well. Was that you in the graveyard?”

It took a few seconds for the newcomer – his dim outline all that they could see of him – to change tact and acknowledge Maureen’s question.

“That depends on who you are, and why you want to know.”

“I’ll take that as a yes, then,” Maureen countered. Together, she and Sean moved from behind the altar and gained the ground between the pews and its raised dais. 

“It isn’t that we care, particularly,” Sean put in, intuiting the direction of Maureen’s challenge. “It’s just that as you are likely not supposed to be out there, and we are obviously not supposed to be here, it would seem that your question is a bit presumptuous. Unless, of course, you want the authorities involved.”

The young man chuckled and started towards them. Sean stepped in front of Maureen, wary.

“I like how you think, but how do you know that I’m not one of these authorities you mention?”

Maureen snorted lightly. “Because you would have begun with that, Master Gravedigger . . .”

D: Master Gravedigger? Really, A?

A: What? She just came from the 16th century.

D: It’s not that, I like the name; I’m picking on your use of a gravedigger in general.

A: D, he’s a Fenian, and he’s digging up the guns he hid in the cemetery – which Sean and Maureen will discover soon enough.

D: Digging up guns in a cemetery – that’s macabre, even for you, A.

A: It’s not macabre, D, it’s sensible. Little-used cemetery = perfect hiding spot for decrepit guns that are just as likely to kill their wielder as the person said wielder is aiming at.

D: Sensible, huh?

A: Hey, I didn’t sink the Aud! I’m just telling a story, D.

D: I know, but it just seems to me that the female pirate was better equipped than these boys.

A: She was. But, despite that she defied the Crown by aiding a number of rebellions, she didn’t have annual parades held in her honor. Grania sparked imaginations, D, but these boys lit the fire – or rather, their deaths lit the fire. I understand they weren’t too popular during the Rising.

D: Causes are dangerous, A.

A: Depends on who is following and why, D. You of all people should know that. What cause were you fighting when–

D: Now, A – that was 1300 years ago.

A: And yet, we’re still finding reasons to kill each other.

D: With decrepit guns hid in a cemetery.

A: Exactly, D.

“. . . Runaways? Again, Sean?” Maureen ground out between her teeth. He shrugged. It was a useful lie.

“Enough,” she muttered under her breath. Sighing with a mix of exhaustion and frustration, Maureen stepped up to the young man.

“Seeing as none of us should be here, perhaps we should make this a bit more congenial. I’m Maureen O’Malley and this is Sean McAndrew. And you, Master Gravedigger, you are?”

“I’m Eoghan Ballard. Pleased to meet you, Miss Maureen, Sean.”

Maureen’s heart sank. She knew that name. . . .

It’s all in your head

“. . .You’re sure it’s tonight?”

“Aye. I’ve counted the nights, Maureen. It’s tonight.”

“Well, I guess it’s a good thing we’re in port, then.” Maureen looked at Sean and mustered a grin. She didn’t feel really glad. In fact, she had argued with the Dubh in the letter on countless occasions, citing this reason and that why they did belong in 1584 – 1585, now . . .

D: Is this a thing?

A: Pardon?

D: A thing, you know. . . a thing.

A: . . . .

D: Gods help me, I’ve been in your head too long, and I’m starting to express myself like you.

A: You say that like it’s a bad thing.

D: . . .

A: Fine, I’ll stop being me. I understand, but I don’t know what thing to which you are referring.

D: It’s Maureen. She’s arguing with me. In her head. Is this going to be a theme for you? Are you trying to spread the crazy around?

A: I would think you’d feel honored, having someone else chat with you in their head.

D: It’s not that, A – I’m just wondering if I’m going to have to start taking appointments.  How many more people are going to be requesting an audience? Shall I hire a PA to take the calls?

A: . . . If I have to stop being me, could you stop being you?

D: Ha!

A: And no, it’s not a theme, and I’m not feeling lonely for other crazy company (that’s what I have you for, after all). Maureen has little recourse but to argue with you in her head – you disappeared, remember? Remember how you left them with the pirate, in the 1580s, with just the one instruction to wait 4 months before they tried to get home? What is with you and leaving them to their own devices? What happens next is your own fault, D, just remember that.

D: Oh, I do, A. I do. . .

. . . Sean wasn’t eager to leave either, not eager to go back and be a grocer’s apprentice, his days ruled over by the sisters of St. Cormac’s parish. He did not want to leave Grania and her men; he did not want to miss the respect he saw in his fellows’ eyes. Yet, what he told Maureen was true. Dubhal – Dubh – had said to go back to 1958, had said that they did not belong in the sixteenth century. In Sean’s innermost heart, he believed Dubh. He knew it was true.

Sean rested a hand on Maureen’s arm, jostling her ever so slightly.

“It’s time, Maureen. It’s time to stop arguing with that letter. We have a life–”

You have a life.”

Sean snorted derisively. “Aye – shop boy.”

“That’s only until next year, Sean. Then you’re going to University, and I’m . . .”

The bunnies made me do it

A: I think I should go outside and write.

D: No. Bad idea. I think you should stay inside.

A: But it’s spring, D. The flowers are blooming, despite the fact that it was snowing just the other day, and the birds are chirping, and the bunnies . . .

D: Which is precisely why you need to stay inside, A.

A: Because of the bunnies?

D: I think you misunderstand me on purpose.

A: Maybe.

D: No A. No birds, no flowers, no springtime – you need to focus. Stay inside. You’ll also burn under the sun and I’m not going to have you writing under the pain of sunburn.

A: I’ll wear my big hat—

D: Besides, springtime means Beltane, bonfires, merrymaking—

A: D? Calm down, D. First of all, this is America. This is Puritan country; they don’t do bonfires and Beltane, or merrymaking. . . not until Memorial Day.

D: Not even little bonfires?

A: Well, we have fire pits for our backyards, and barbeques.

D: And the merrymaking?

A: Do yard games count?

D: . . . No wonder you need me in your head. Puritan country, indeed. I don’t even want to ask about Beltane.

A: I wouldn’t. You’ll just get depressed.

D: Fine. Go outside. But if you get a sunburn—

A: Yes, D. Whatever you say, D. See ya, D!!

“. . . Careful with that one, I nearly had to kill her to get her off the bloody ship; she bit me!”

“Oh, poor lad; what do you expect, cavorting with pirates and rabble? Do you need the surgeon to look at you? Is it likely to fall off?”

Maureen kept her eyes closed listened intently. Both men were speaking English, but only one was familiar. Galen had been aboard Grania’s flagship; she had avoided him every time she saw him, and luckily had never shared work duties with him. She didn’t like how he stared.

“Bugger off, Jamie,” Galen cursed, somewhat moodily. “Just make sure she’s bound before she comes to. I’ll not be the one responsible for her attacking the Governor of Connacht when he comes to inspect her.”

Jamie was gentle enough as he bound her arms and legs to the small stool where Galen had dumped her, and Maureen had a feeling he knew she was awake.

“That should hold her – don’t worry, Gale, you and Sir Bingham are safe from the wee lassie, now.”

“Galen O’Flaherty,” said a voice. Maureen held her breath. “Not only did you not warn us that Grania O’Malley’s flagship travelled with two galleys, thereby outnumbering us, you also saw fit to snatch a lass in Grania’s care, and expose yourself as a traitor in the process. That was not the plan, boy. . .”

The importance of blending in

“. . . My lady,” Dubhal intoned. Sean could hear the respect for their captain in his voice.

“Master Dubhal,” Grania returned. She turned her attention to Sean. “I’m sorry, Sean, Maureen was not on either ship. Both had been abandoned by the time we reached them, anyway – all vital crew had been evacuated and Maureen wasn’t among the survivors . . .”

D: Why are they calling me that?

A: What?

D: Dubhal. It’s not my name.

A: It’s an assumed name. You’re a time-traveler; blending in is important. I felt Dubhal was better suited for the 16th century than Dubh an Suile.

D: But–

A: And it means something close to “dark stranger. “ I thought, what with the lurking, and the general weirdness that is you, that it fit.

D: You are ridiculous.

A: Thank you.

D: Wait! Wait, wait . . . what are they going to call me in Part 2?

A: Commander Declan.

D: . . .

A: Blending in, D, you’re blending in.

D: You are still ridiculous.

A: Cheers, D.

 . . . Sean realized that Grania’s news only confirmed what he knew in his gut. “They took her with them,” he said, his voice low.

“Aye, that may be; she wasn’t among the dead, either.” Grania paused, and Sean could see she was trying to form her words as carefully as possible. “But we don’t know why; they may have misused her, or they—“

“By taking her, they’ve misused her,” Sean said hotly. He felt Dubhal’s restraining hand on his shoulder, forcing him back and Sean realized that he was nearly on his feet, his hands balled into fists . . .

Lost in translation

A: I’ve thought of another one! Flibbertigibbet!

D: Pardon?

A: Words, D – inspiring words.

D: Oh, I thought you were describing yourself again. . .

A: Nice–

D: Speaking of words, what does “Éadaí Baintrí” mean?

A: You don’t know?

D: I’ve been in your head for over 13 years; I’m rusty. Humor me.

A: “Widow’s clothing.” You know, Widow’s Weeds?

D: . . . Seriously? . . .

A: What? Grace O’Malley buried one husband and divorced the other – and she outlived that one, too! I like to think she had a sense of humor about the whole thing. She was a pirate after all – I don’t think you succeed at that without having a little sass.

D: . . .

A: It’s funny.

D: (Shakes head) Poor taste.

A: It’s freakin’ hilarious, if you’re me.

D: Precisely.

“. . . Aye, well, the Venture has her orders to remain just a bit out of reach in open water. At midday, provided she has not been engaged, she will begin the trip to Galway.”

“And if she’s engaged?” Sean asked.

“She’ll still make her way to Galway, lad. She’s a ship worthy to be Grania’s flagship, were Herself not so fond of the Éadaí Baintrí, of course.”

“And speaking of the Éadaí Baintrí…?”

“She is in Bray, in a safe harbor,” Grania answered. “I don’t have many allegiances this side of the Pale, but there are a few, so long as I am discrete.”

“And speaking of discretion, my lady Grania.”

“No, Liam. Whatever it is, no.”

“But how—”

“Whenever you start something with such deference, I know I’m not going to like it. I’ve known you since you were in skirts, Liam O’Neil, and have had the honor of your allegiance for these last ten years. Deference does not suit you. Speak plainly. . .”

Is that all you care about?

“. . . I don’t know what you will face on that ship, but you must be prepared to either fight your way out of there or sacrifice your lives.” Grania said this directly to Sean and he looked down at his feet.

He knew she was right. . .  In the end, if Maureen wasn’t free, if she were used as a cudgel to beat Grania, then the fighting and dying weren’t worth it. Sean took a deep breath and met Grania’s eyes without flinching. He would make sure it was worth it.

“Aye, my lady Grania, we understand.”

Sean felt Dubhal put a hand on his shoulder.

“Although, we’ll do our best to avoid it, if it’s all the same to you,” Dubhal said, humor coloring his voice. He motioned to the sack slung across his back. “I have a few extra… surprises if things start to unravel on the Excelsior.”

“I like the way you think, Master Dubhal. I shall leave that to you, then.” Grania turned to the rest of the crew. “You all have your orders, then. Let’s break camp. Phalen is expecting us in the harbor before the sun sets – make haste. . . ”

D: Oh man, I am awesome.

A: You have your moments.

D: No, seriously, I have smoke bombs. I rock!

A: 1300 years of life experiences, culture and wisdom, and that’s all you can say: “I have smoke bombs. I rock!”??

D: What’s your point?

A: Nothing. You’re the one who likes to remind me that you impersonate a god, but it’s the smoke bombs that really get you going?

D: Okay, okay, I’m 1300 years old, I impersonate gods and I get to save the day with smoke bombs. What part of that doesn’t spell awesome?

A: . . .

D: You wrote me.

. . . No one had remained to guard the hold, and Sean helped Maureen up the last rungs of the ladder. His arm around her shoulders, he was about to guide her to the side where their dinghy was tied when a terrific sound and wave of noise rocked the boat. The force of it pushed them to their knees.

When they looked up, smoke was billowing from what was once the stateroom. The wind was rising and in the clearing smoke, Sean spied a single cloaked figure standing at the ragged hole, highlighted by the weak fires left in the wake of his destruction. Sean stared at Dubhal, entranced. Even Maureen was gaping – the entire ship seemed to stop, hold its breath and wait. . .