It’s all down to this

“Do you want that?” she’d asked him before, expecting his answer to be no, not realizing that he would rather die, would rather be a sacrifice. “I have a friend in there – a dear friend that I betrayed – and I can tell you, he doesn’t want that. He didn’t want this. He would rather live. He would rather be far from this and live in peace.”

“Then he is already dead. There will be no peace so long as–”

She slapped him. He stared at her, silent, gingerly holding his cheek. Maureen clutched her stinging hand and fought the urge to shake him, make him see. 

 “And that is why you failed.” Her voice was low, savage. “Angry boys die for your vision, your lie. Sean will not be one of them; you don’t deserve his sacrifice.”

D: I was not expecting that.

A: Nor was I.

D: Did she really? I mean, wow.

A: Yup. Big grown-up moment.

D: I’m wondering if I recruited. . .

A: You picked the right one, D. But she needed her character arc early in order to serve as Sean’s witness.

D: Sure, character arc. I wonder how well she handles a sword.

A: D, where are you going? D?! You leave Maureen alone – you’ve done enough!

D: What? Oh. Certainly, A. Don’t mind me. . .

A: Watch it Druid, I control the delete button. . .

D: Empty threats, A. Empty threats.

The Druid Tells the Tale:

A: CN Faust has author services – and they’re awesome (A, what are you doing in my accolades? Stealing them, D. I want bookmarks! Then finish the bloody book, A! Fine…)

D: This one is mine! Epic poetry and mysterious beasts are my favorite things, and so I highly recommend the Bestiary of Blatherhorn Vale.  These are some spectacular poems. Get them!

A: A curious experiment is underway . . . . . . we joined up, because what could be better than us participating in some mysterious blogosphere experiment?! Not much, I say. Not much. (A, I’m scared. Oh, buck up, D.)

Stealing the spotlight

. . . There was no moon, no sun, no point of reference. Only the mist was alive with light and movement, revealing his way even as it sought to disorient him.

Dubh walked faster, slicing a path through the haze. Although more than five hundred years had gone since he had passed this way, he remembered. He remembered the hut – a mere speck on the horizon – and he remembered the girl.

She was waiting. Niamh had grown to womanhood in his absence and she was waiting for him.

“Dubh an Súile,” she announced lightly. At the chime of her voice, the mists – the all-pervading mists that shrouded this world, that softened that which was not soft – bloomed with color. Golden yellow, blue and green danced within the current . . .

D: Oh, A. I knew you could do it!

A: Do what? Wait, do I want to know?

D: That scene – it’s new! I like it.

A: Gee, thanks, D. I think.

D: No, I really do. Finally!

A: You seem rather more excited than I would have expected. What’s up?

D: The sky. Birds. Is that a plane?

A: Helicopter. They’ve finally found me.

D: What?

A: You get to be obtuse and I get to be random. It’s a thing.

D: I thank the gods that you write better than you speak.

A:  You and me both! I repeat, what has you so excited, D?

D:  It’s a scene. About me. I mean, being a “god impersonator” is all well and good, but I’m looking for a little depth, A. Some substance. Gravitas!

A: Does personality count?

D: . . . Not as much as you’d like it to.

A: Believe me, D. You have gravitas. Even a little panache. But this scene is to introduce a smidge of background. I couldn’t have you showing up as Commander Declan—

D: Still hate that name.

A: You don’t have it for long; Maureen will recognize you.

D: Thank heaven for small mercies.

A: Can I continue? I couldn’t have you showing up as Commander Declan without a little bit of history – not real history, your history. You were a bit too mysterious to me, so you were an enigma to the story.

D: Well, enigma no more, I have a back-story!

A: Oh, that was bad, D. Even for you. It’s not funny, and I don’t think it makes sense.

D: I know; I picked it out of your brain. You’re welcome.

A: That’s just swell.

“. . . But first you must find them,” Niamh repeated, taking her hand away and rising. Her insistence struck a deep chord in Dubh’s belly. “You must bring them home, before–”

“Niamh, since when are you concerned with the fate of mortals? I know my duty, and I will do it, but this urgency . . .”

“They must be tucked up in their little convent school before he acts. They are a risk – your history is not safe with them blundering about out there. You led them through, Dubh; it is your duty to finish it.”

“You know where they are, don’t you?”

“I do, and I wonder at how they got there. . .” 

Monday, Monday

Is this the true face of D??

D: Oh no. No, A – who is that?

A: What do you mean, D? Can’t you tell?

D: You must be joking. A, please tell me you’re joking.

A: Does this mean you don’t like it?

D: If you mean to tell me that this is m—

A: (Giggling) Sorry, D. I couldn’t help myself. (more giggling . . . now it’s laughter. . . minutes pass . . . still more laughter).

D: Thank heavens. Hello? A? You can stop that now, A.

A: I’m sorry, D. I needed that. No, that is me. With a mustache. At my birthday party.

D: Before or after the sangria?

A: Before. . . just.

D: . . . I fear for you.

A: Thank you, D. Your concern is touching.

D: I see you’re not writing tonight (ahem) . . . do you have a reason for calling me out of the ether?

A: Goal setting.

D: You? Do you have goals?

A: Lots – and most of them are none of your business, Druid! I mean writing goals. I failed at most of them this week. Holiday weekends tend to do me in.

D: Okay, I’m listening, what are your writing goals?

A: Well, last week, I wanted to complete Part 2 by my actual birthday (which is really this week). That’s not going to happen because I realized my entire mechanism for getting Sean and Maureen to Dublin from the west coast was flat-out wrong, and had to re-write two chapters to make it right.

D: I could have told you that.

A: No, you couldn’t; you weren’t even there, D. If you had been—

D: Okay, okay, I get it. So no Part 2 – did you do any writing this weekend?

A: I did; I wrote two small fiction pieces based on prompts and a short story about Sean and Maureen, that are on the Community Storyboard, fixed the two chapters and drafted two other short stories. It’s been very productive, just not in the direction I intended. This week I’m making focus my keyword, and perhaps moderation, too. I want to finish two more chapters, which will put Sean and Maureen in the heart of the conflict in Dublin.

D: And?

A: That not enough for you, D?

D: . . .

A: Fine. I have to update this blog with some added features to keep things organized and maybe write some more things that aren’t part of the Out of Time universe. Writing for the Community Storyboard was fun. I haven’t done that in a very long time.

D:  Congrats, A. Expanding your universe and reasonable goals that might not make you crazy . . . er.

A: Cheers, D!

D: Are we going to do our accolades tonight, A? Or are you still recovering from sangria?

A: Cheeky. Nope, I wanted to congratulate  Charles Yallowitz for the publication of his book of poetry, the Bestiary of Blatherhorn Vale.  Fantastical creatures, beautiful poetry and incredible cover art – this book has it all. Check it out.

D: Since poetry is more my venue than yours, A, allow me to share the Community Storyboard’s poetry prompt: creature creation.

A: Are you sure that’s not my territory? I could call you the creature or monster of my mind.

D: Nice, A.

A: I do what I can. And that is all for today. I’m going to say goodbye to my long weekend with an hour of British spies. Good night!

“. . . When Eoghan confronted us – when he said his name – I knew where we were, Sean. It was a deep, complete knowing. I know this time, I know this war–”

Sean snorted. “Yes, you do.”

“Politics aside, Sean McAndrew, I knew what we had to do.”

“What’s that?” Curiosity overruled his frustration.

“Save him.”

“What? Maureen, you’re mad–”

“Hear me out, Sean. If I’m right, that boy out there goes to Dublin soon and gets himself killed fighting in the uprising on Easter Monday. He had a family here, probably a sweetheart. The Ballard farm doesn’t exist in our time . . . they—“

“Maureen, that happens. Say we convince him to stay. What is to stop him from joining the movements in Galway? He could just as easily die there, too. Besides, no one knows why he went to Dublin. I don’t think we should interfere . . .”

Bits and bobs

“. . . And you, love, what do you do?”

Maureen stared at Jenny Mallory – Mrs. Mallory to her and Sean – barely comprehending the question.

“What do you mean?” she asked, trying to be polite. It was only ten in the morning, but it has already been a long day.

“I mean lass, what do you do? You brought us Eoghan’s parcel, and for that we’re grateful. It’s just that I can’t see allowing a convent school chit and her young man to become involved in what we’re doing.”

Jenny Mallory was small and pleasantly round. She was Eoghan’s contact in Dublin, and he had assured Maureen that Mrs. Mallory would be amenable to the change in plans. Thinking the only thing pleasant about Mrs. Mallory was her plumpness, Maureen decided Eoghan may yet get himself killed, if only because he was a very poor judge of character. 

“We’re sixteen,” Maureen lied. It was almost true; Sean would be sixteen in only a few days. “We have information, we know–”

“Maureen!” Sean hissed. She closed her mouth and shot him an evil glare. He wasn’t supposed to be hovering; she wouldn’t be able to convince Mrs. Mallory properly if he was listening. . .

D: That’s it, A? That’s all you’re going to write today?

A: Well … I’m writing now.

D: Talking to the character in your head and writing it out doesn’t count, A.

A: Translation counts, D.

D: Don’t make me scold you A. You wouldn’t like me if I scolded you.

A: You assume I like you now. And it does count – my world, my rules, Druid.

D: . . .

A: I’m distracted. It’s Monday. It’s beautiful outside. I have no drive, D.

D: Come on, A, just 400 more words . . . on Part 2. You can do it. You didn’t get up at 4:00 this morning like you promised yourself; do it now and then you can play outside.

A: . . . Fine. I’ll put the blog away. I’ll write. I think I have an idea, anyway. But before I do, can I give a shout-out to a dear lady who had some real inspiration?

D: I’ll allow it.

A: Gee, thanks, D.

The lovely Ionia at the Readful Things Blog has started The Community Storyboard. As she says, whether you are a reader or a writer, the site promises to have what you are looking for. It will ‘showcase poems, short stories and anything else that falls into the category of writing.’ Check it out, submit your work and enjoy – it promises to be a fantastic place. I know I’m very excited.

D: Oi, Miss Fancy-Pants A, what am I, chopped liver?

A: D, just because I’m excited about that doesn’t mean—

D: No A, you should say we’re very excited. Don’t leave me out – I’m excited too!

A: Smoke bombs and storyboards, right D?

D: Yep!

When in Rome

female-writer-sepD: What is this, A? Why am I in a box? Is this your idea of a joke – mad man in a box? I find your Dr. Who references to be very inappropriate. . . . A? A, where are you?

A: It’s just for a moment, D. I need to get something off my chest. I need to explain why I took to the blogosphere to exorcise – I mean celebrate – our wonderful relationship.

D: A? I don’t think I like where this is going, A.

A: Tough, Druid. Buck it up.

D: . . .

A: D is a figment of the imagination. I know this. The only problem: it’s not my imagination.

I gave him a place to play, yes. I’ve encouraged his growth, gave flourish to his ego, and even (gasp) appreciated his finer points and smoothed some of his rough edges. But he is not mine.

D was given to me over 13 years ago. The Irishman who would one day have the distinction of becoming my ex-husband read my book and said, “Sure, it’s great. (Liar.) But I see someone else in it.” He told me about D. He was a blond then, a Celt and a Druid. His eyes were still blue but he was actually far more taciturn and far more forbidding. He couldn’t stay in my head for 13 years and stay that way, though.

Hearing his description of D, I agreed. He had a place in the story and I went about writing it in. It wasn’t bad, but it certainly wasn’t great, and I couldn’t read it without cringing in places. The story didn’t sit well with me, so I went to write another one.

It wasn’t until I was half-way through the outline that I realized that D had a place there, too; it was the tale of his beginning. I knew too that if this was his beginning, then he had his own story to tell, and lucky me, I was the one to tell it.

There was a problem, however: I didn’t like him much.

Worse than that. I couldn’t see him.

I’m a visual person. I watch a movie in my head when I read and I’m fascinated by the visual interpretations of books on screen, even if they are often semi-comic/tragic interpretations.  For me not to be able to see D was a big problem. His story is actually one I enjoy (even if he drives me crazy), and I felt like I let him and the story down.

Then, life got in my way. Not only that, but the world changed.

Facebook, twitter, ebooks – it exploded!

I had a website – 3 actually – back in the Angelfire days. One, as I mentioned in our “award” dialogue, was connected to NBC for a brief time. I chatted with Irish, Scots and Basque Nationalists and will never look at the Blue Bunny the same way again.

There are many similarities between that world and our own, but when you’ve been gone – working, raising a child, paying too much attention to the mundane details of life – getting back in the game is daunting.

But I knew I had to do it. I now work at a magazine publishing house. I know how this goes. I know I need to make myself marketable. But I’ve struggled with how. For over a year I’ve been exploring my own brain (scary place) and wondering just how to market myself when asking an avid train enthusiast to buy the latest “Railroad Maps” special issue makes me cringe.

How can I do that when the foundation for my books ticks me off and remains elusive?

So, ten years passed without a word written. Rather, I wrote, but on conservation subdivisions, water gardens and the economics of land conservation. I blocked D off. I ignored him. Friends called, said they were dreaming about D, and could I please write something, maybe?

I tried. I had inspiration. I blocked out the new outlines for a revised Book 1 & 2 that made sense, outlines that seemed right.

But I couldn’t write them.

I didn’t understand, but I knew that one day, I would. I let the frustration go, and just let it be.

Then, it was TC’s birthday. We celebrated his birthday and the world not ending by going to a movie. It was lovely; I still listen to the soundtrack. Every day. My nearly-teen son teases me. I still listen.

This is not D, but TC and I still had fun shooting the pictures anyway!

This is not D, but TC and I still had fun shooting the pictures anyway!

After the movie, I had my celebratory glass of wine (or rather my I-survived-20-hrs-of-labor-and-100-extra-pounds glass of wine). I started thinking about D and the story (because not a day went by in 10 years that I didn’t think about D and the story), and the movie.

And there he was.

In all his glory. It slapped me across the face, gave me goose bumps and made me pay attention.  He had a face. He had a voice. He had a presence that I could see and understand. He was mine. He had marinated in the morass that is my mind long enough, and he was mine.

And so I wrote. I wrote and I blew through the 3-chapter barrier. As we neared the end of part 1, re-writing the entire thing as we went, I realized that the camaraderie I had built with D was something ‘else.’

It might even be something others might enjoy.

Something marketable.

Something that wasn’t me exactly, but was the story, was D, and was faintly entertaining in its own right.

So I blogged. And amazingly, I loved it! I still think Twitter may be Dante’s 8th circle, but it’s kind of fun. I even think I could have another blog (more on that later. . . I might also be crazy!).

My trouble is staying on task, focusing. I need to maintain a healthy disregard for D, otherwise these posts may become a bit of a love-fest, and that’s no fun! I also need to write Part 2, which is hard because I’m not a rabid nationalist anymore. I’ve switched sides, become Sean and I think I might have to OD on Braveheart in order to do Maureen’s idealism justice. The rest of the story is lovely and it’s spinning itself together in a way I had never before considered. I can’t wait to get there.

And then there is D. We do chat. He has a nice baritone, so conversing is lovely. It’s not that I dislike him anymore – I have a very healthy respect for him – but honestly, try living with an overbearing Scot with an ego as big as he is old. Respect, entertainment – it all goes flying out the window eventually.

This is why I’m in Rome. This is bigger – so much bigger – than I had anticipated. But I want to do it. I want to tell the tale and I want to be marketable. D is my brand. Having the support of like-minded people is incredible. And I am so thankful to be a part of the Rome Construction Crew.

D: So, if I’m your brand, does that mean you’re going to stop talking soon?

A: Yes, D – get ready to shine!

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.

Happy Anniversary

A: Happy Anniversary, D – join me in a toast!

D: Pardon?

A: We’ve been official for 30 days.

D: Official.

A: Yup, I even announced it on Facebook, which totally means it’s real.

D: A, your abuse of your language continues to hurt my sensibilities. Could you not speak in jargon for a moment, and put this into terms I can understand, please?

A: Pedant. Fine. I have been writing and posting our conversations on the internet for 30 days – it’s called blogging, D. A whole 30 days have passed since I announced to the world that I talk to you in my head while I’m writing.

D: Just when you’re writing, A?

A: Shut up.

D: Oh yes, this relationship is going so well. I can see why you want to celebrate.

A: I could just go back to ignoring you . . .

D: . . .

A: Alright then. Would you believe that people, who are in no way related to me, know me at all, or have any connection to me beyond the fact that we share the blog-o-sphere actually follow me? Do you know how incredible that is?**

D: I do – and I fear for our planet.

A: Cheers D . . . hey, are you going to drink that?

**I really would like to send out a big ol’ thank you to those who follow this blog. The fact that anyone clicks on that little button makes me ridiculously happy – giddy, actually. So, thank you. I hope that D and I will continue to amuse as we share our journey. Also, Happy Mother’s Day to all the Moms (in whatever guise) out there.

I’ve posted this before, but it’s D’s words, the first germ of him that’s made me keep going: 

I sat in the grove of my own creation and stared out at a world and a people descended of mine own. As I watched, trees gave way to stone and the many lost their claim to the priests of the One.

Then the wheel turned. The sacred trees grew around this effigy of stone and the many came out of hiding. I sat in my grove and watched a world outside my imagination, willing it to see.

She saw. She, my kin only by remote design, saw me. She saw me with uncanny green eyes, the green eyes of my mother and her mother before her: witch’s eyes.

A joy rose in me. It was time; time to join the world after years of solitude, time to act after centuries of stillness.

I closed my eyes and reached across the barrier, to touch my future and my past.

Storm warning

. . . Sean put his hand out, staying Maureen when she made to rise, whether it was to flee or face the noise, he wasn’t sure. Maureen grabbed his arm and jerked her head towards the altar. Behind it, he knew, was the sacristy where Father Rathborne and Sean’s fellow servers prepared for the mass. From that room was a door to the outside, and freedom. . .

A: You know, I was an altar girl once.

D: You? Ha! (Howling laughter . . . minutes pass . . . still more laughter).

A: D. D, you can stop that now. . . Oi, D!

D: I’m sorry, A. I am. I needed that. Thank you. That felt good.

A: I’m so glad.

D: Wait, no, not done . . . (more laughter).

A: D? Come back, D.

D: Okay, okay, I’m better. I am. Or n–

A: Knock it off, D.

D: I’m sorry, A. It’s just . . . well . . . do they allow people like you up there?

A: . . .

D: You’re a heathen, A. I was at least born to apostates and a learned Druid, but you . . . well, I think there was a lightning risk allowing you up there.

A: But I was nine. I think that’s before you’re lightning-fodder.

D: Seven is the age of accountability, A.

A: Oh.

D: You put the entire congregation at risk from a conflagration of God’s wrath.

A: You’re at risk from a conflagration, Druid.

D: Oh, come on, A, laugh with me. You’ll have fun. I promise.

A: Sigh.

. . . Sean realized that once he would have been aghast at using the sacristy as a means of escape, just as he had been horrified when Maureen suggested they search the tabernacle. But, considering they were sprawled in front of the altar, having just careened through time using some sort of supernatural gateway, Sean’s notion of sanctified was experiencing a radical shift. . .

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. . .”