A Hope for Rauri Ch. 03byTaLtos6©
***Landing in Scotland, Wes & Shauna hit the ground running. This chapter will be a bit busy, I’m afraid. I’d planned it differently and it came out to only 2 Lit pages, sooooo...
I’ve elected to leave well enough alone as far as the character’s accents, only adding things where I felt it was needed.
Oh and somewhere near the end, you get to meet the namesake of this and I give her a voice to say a few syllables. ;)
I do want to make mention of a little something, ... well a few of them.
There are a few twists coming in this little tale, and some are a little subtle. ~chuckle~
More than anything, I hope that the reader will enjoy them.
Shauna missed her toenail and almost painted a stripe of her nail polish onto the dash as she snapped her head around.
“We have to hunt down a Banshee? Wes, I’m an Irish girl; as in, I was born there before we came here when I was small. My Da loved to sit and tell me this stuff for hours. But even I don’t believe any of that shit.”
She watched the slow smile come to his face as he spoke, not taking his eye off the road as they negotiated the complexities of finding the airport parking, “I got a retainer of fifty Gs. For that kind of money, I might make one up if I have to. Why are you painting your toenails now? We’ll be there and walking for miles in about another minute.”
Shauna rolled her eyes, “The words ‘airport’ and ‘about another minute’ are mutually exclusive. Don’t worry, these’ll be dry long before I need them to be. So who was the lady that you met?”
“That’s what I’ve been wondering ever since I figured out the bullshit name that she gave me.”
He began to tell her everything about the day a few days past, leaving no detail which he could remember out of it, since he knew that Shauna hated to have any omissions possibly come at her from out of left field. By the time that they were at the gate, she was silent, thinking and chewing on what she’d heard. He liked that about her.
By the time that they were airborne, she was already lost to him as she sat scouring the net with her laptop open next to him, scribbling notes to herself as she went. They only spoke very seldom and quietly during the flight. There were times when she closed the PC and leaned against him to doze, but he knew that her mind was already whirring even then. It always did at times like this.
It was one of his many favorite things about her.
They landed at Glasgow and rented a Range Rover for the drive to Bannockburn. Wesley cursed and muttered about the strangeness of driving on the wrong side of the road to him.
“I’ll drive if you want,” Shauna smiled, “Hey, just think of it as your other ‘right’, ok? How were you thinking of trying to find her?”
Wes was a little slow to answer as he tried to read the roadsigns on the shoulder next to him, “From what Cleena said, this banshee seems to be drifting away from the rules a little.”
“That doesn’t make sense,” Shauna said, “Not that any of it does in the light of a twenty-first century day. From what I know, a Banshee is what she is and that’s it - well, that’s assuming that she even exists at all.”
She felt his hand on hers and she looked over.
“And given the nature of the lovely and supposedly mythical or imaginary creature which just made that remark ...”
She smiled a little and nodded, “Yeah. You’re right. I can’t go calling the kettle black either, can I? So what did you have in mind?”
Wes shrugged, “Well if she is branching out, it might work to our advantage. I obviously won’t know where to be when I’m looking for her, since I won’t have any sort of handle on who might be dying at any given time. About the only thing that I’ve been able to think of so far is to try to use this drifting thing that she’s started, according to Cleena. She’s also started to go to the funerals.
She never interferes and always stands well away from everyone. From what Cleena told me, she’s a slightly tall woman in long black clothes with a dark shawl pulled close over her head who stands and weeps, but won’t ever speak to anyone - even to answer the simplest question. It must creep a fair number of people out, to my way of thinking.
Anyway, I might not be able to predict a death, but I can sure as hell read about it in the online obituaries of the papers on the web, and if one happens not too far from where we are, ...”
Shauna nodded as they pulled into the hotel parking lot, “Not bad for a start.”
She fought a little to stifle a yawn, “This jet lag thing is nuts. It was late in the afternoon when we got to the airport and we had to wait forever, and then it was just getting light when we landed. Now we drive out here and it’s like lunchtime, but I’m already about on my ass.”
“Hang on then,” Wes smiled, “We’ll check in and we can nap until suppertime. We’re still a day early for me to call Cleena anyway.”
Out under the trees at the edge of the open parkland adjoining the parking area, someone watched as they were met by a porter who took their luggage and guided them inside.
She noted the presence of the other person in the vehicle and stared cautiously as Shauna walked inside with Wesley. She should have thought about it beforehand and specified that he come alone.
The next day, Wesley was looking more like an interested tourist as they walked out of the visitor’s center and began the trek to Bothwell Castle. Shauna watched him with interest for a while. “Why do I see you looking a little like you weren’t here, Wes?”
“I was,” he smiled, “I just don’t remember it being this ... friendly-looking then. All I saw around me were grim and worried faces. Everybody knew that the ones making our decisions made them with no thought to the outcome for their own army. They were just here to try to gain a little glory and live through it if they could. Not a lot of forward planning going on inside their helmets at the time, like what to do about it if the Scots didn’t just run away.
I saw the king as he watched a bunch of Scots come out of those woods over there where there weren’t supposed to be any to block him. They got to their knees to pray for a moment as they often did and the idiot said that they were asking for mercy. I knew right then that it was all just going to be a clusterfuck, and I was right.”
Walking through Bothwell Castle later on, Wes just looked around and smiled, “I was never in here. I was out there, waiting for a whack of screaming big guys to climb over the wooden fence to get at us. But I’d had enough of it by then.
The king ran off long before that, along with most do the rest and I hopped the fence and headed for the trees. I had to kill a few that I ran into, but that was all the foot-soldiering that I needed to experience. I could eat better just looking after myself. I wasn’t there for king and country anyway. I was just poor and hungry.
The only difference was that by then, I wasn’t the same as I’d been when I got here seven years before.”
They’d just finished their meal when Cleena found them in the dining room, looking surprised and delighted as she walked over, “Hello Wesley. Who’s this beauty that you’re sitting with this evening?”
Wesley stood up and indicated a chair, “This is Shauna Kavanaugh, my associate and business partner. For the work that I was given and it’s. ... unconventional nature, I thought that I’d likely need the brains of the outfit.”
“A wise choice, perhaps,” Cleena smiled, “and some rather fortuitous timing on your part, I might add. There is the town of Stirling not four miles distant from where we sit. Our Bean Sith was heard the night before last from as far as we are away now.
An elderly man by the name of Feargus MacAlpine has passed in that place and the funeral is set for tomorrow at 2. It might be that he’ll have a mourner that he never knew in his life there, if you take my meaning.”
Shauna nodded, taking it all down on the little pad of paper that she always carried, “Gotcha.”
As they chatted, Cleena saw Shauna as what she was, a female werewolf sitting in a hotel dining room as Shauna asked about the way that she saw this sith changing roles.
“Well, it isn’t really a huge jump,” Cleena said, “A Bean Nighe is a type of Bean Sith anyway. The difference is that historically, a Bean Nighe was always a human woman to start with who had most often died during childbirth.
The Sith - or Sidhe would take her and she’d be what she became until the day that she was supposed to have died, if her death hadn’t come as a result of her labor. So it was supposed to be a temporary thing after which, her spirit could rest in her grave once more.
“So, there’s a way that a regular person could become one of the sidhe?” Shauna asked.
Cleena nodded, “So the legend goes, at any rate.”
Shauna wrinkled her nose a little, “What’s that smell?”
“Anyhow, I must go.” Cleena said, standing up, with Wesley standing a moment later, “I only wanted to see that you’d gotten here safe and sound.”
“Wait, Cleena,” Shauna said, “I’d like to have your phone number if I could. There were no numbers on the card that you gave Wes a few days ago.”
Cleena looked surprised, but then she rattled off her cell number as Shauna wrote it down. At her suggestion, Shauna gave Cleena her own and the woman entered it and saved it to her contact list in seconds.
“It was good to see you again,” Wes said, “I’ll be in touch after the funeral.”
Cleena thanked him and said goodbye, already walking away. When Wes sat down again, he saw the expression on Shauna’s face.
She nodded once in the direction of Clenna’s exit, “Wesley old friend, I don’t know if it’s just a female thing or what, but that girl as I saw her, was anything but what she tried to look like to me, and I can tell you right here that she’s not pleased to meet me here, either. I think that she wanted to have you come here alone.”
He sat digesting it for a moment. “What do you mean ‘as you saw her’?”
“I dunno,” Shauna said in a thoughtful and quiet way, “She puts on this front of a middle-aged woman who was beautiful in her day, but what I saw after a few seconds was that if she’s old, it’s only in years.
She looked like the most beautiful queen that I’ve ever seen in my life. Princess Grace never looked that good on her best day.”
She grinned a little after the next few seconds, “Hey, do they have skunks here?”
He shook his head, “No, though she sure smelled like she’d met one the hard way, didn’t she?”
Shauna nodded and they both began to laugh.
Long after they’d returned Wesley’s room, they’d sat together comparing notes and trying to plan so that they might have at least some eventualities covered the next day...
Long after they’d admitted to each other that neither one now felt tired because their systems had managed to decide that back home, this was the start of another day and they shouldn’t really be feeling tired ...
And long after they’d shared a little quiet love together, just because they’d wanted to ...
A figure walked through the passageways inside of a mound now far away indeed from the nearest living humans, since none lived near anymore. One even had to walk quite a way to come to the remains of any places where humans had once lived before the call of modern work had lured them all away from the hardships of living out here long ago.
Outside on some days, one could hear the swooshing roar of the flying mechanical mounts which today’s human warriors rode. Every so often, one might see groups of their current warriors as they practiced making war in ways that she almost couldn’t understand.
But for the most part, the land around here was empty of them, other than the very few who came because they liked to tramp for miles over a wild and free countryside and told themselves afterward that it had been a grand experience.
She chuckled a little at that thought. They wouldn’t think that highly of the rugged land out there if they HAD to do it in order to survive and feed their loved ones.
After the first slight thrill at not having to stay quite so hidden anymore, the figure now wondered if it was really all that good a thing.
She looked at the walls of her hall and admired the swords and shields of the warriors of the Aos Sí - what were left of them, anyway. After a moment, she gave out a quiet call and waited.
Another figure appeared a little later and walked toward her, bowing low as she drew near.
“I have seen that you are no longer content to only weep and wash clothing. I see also that soon, it will also not be enough for you to only scream out your sadness as you pretend to care about the ones that you know are to die very soon.”
She regarded the other one for a long moment.
“Next, can I expect to have to watch as you jump further? From Bean Nighe to Bean Sith to Leannan Sìth? Do you expect to be queen yourself one day?”
The other one looked up, “I have no words for my thanks for what you have done for me. After so long ...”
“After so long a time spent nursing the pain of your loss long ago,” the queen nodded, “Sadly, what I have watched is not the slow mending and healing which I had hopes to see one day. You still carry this pain as though it is a cherished thing.”
“The memory, my queen,” the other began, “I try to hold the memory of him.”
The queen shook her head for a moment, “Really? Is that why?”
She stepped over to her throne and sat on one of the armrests to look back. “Very well. So tell me then, weeper, ...
What was his name?
What was the color of his eyes, can you tell me?”
The other one stood in a moment of shock. It gave way to minutes of desperate attempts to force her mind to recall. At last, she seemed to crumple a little and sank to her knees weeping for herself again.
Clíodhna stepped over and placed her hand on the other one’s shoulder very gently, “You whip yourself over something very small.
I took you in to save you from the cruelest sort of death for a female of any sort of thinking race. Even Tuatha Dé Danann can ache for their broken hearts to stop beating. We are not different in that way.
But you began as close as can be to a human, and human hearts, while they burn so brightly, were never meant to burn so long.
The best and wisest thing now would likely see me give your death to you. But though it would end this for you, I cannot see the good in it. To have kept you among us for so long only to die as you would have anyway and to no purpose is an even colder and more empty feeling to me.”
She sank to her knees in front of the other one and held her face in her hands to softly kiss her before she sat back with a warm smile, “I now work to a different plan; one where I might see you happy for once.”
She looked around the hall for a moment and laughed a little, “Such a thing might cause the walls to sunder for the shock of it.
So for now, I will allow you to continue, but I want for you to think of leaving this way. The danger is that as Leannan Sìth, you will cause much suffering on your own, and if you are allowed to go the final step, what then?
I can say that perhaps the unhappiest among us are the Baobhan Sith, who are not really even mine to guide much anymore as they seek to cause harm out of no other need than their hate of others who have and know love and warmth. That is something that I will never allow you. I would kill you first to keep you from that fate.
Before you go to think on these things, hold another thought in your mind.
The one that you fail to name anymore loved you for perhaps three winters and you counted yourself fortunate for it.
I know of one who has never forgotten your face for over seven hundred years and he lives still, just as you do.”
The red-haired one looked up in shock, “Truly? Thi-this is so?”
“I may be Tuatha Dé Danann, but that does not mean that I am one who enjoys causing hope and then snuffing it out.
Be patient,” the queen smiled, “and go your way.”
It looked to Wes that this MacAlpine hadn’t managed to amass all that many people who might have wanted to come and pay their respects if the small number who stood there waiting a little impatiently in the late April rain was anything to judge by.
The day was a dark and dreary one, he thought, just about perfect for the one that he had in mind to mark his own passing whenever that came about.
The minister was out there, giving it a good go as he worked to earn the contents of the envelope that he’d already been given, as much as the spring downpour threatened to soak him to the skin as he droned on over the man’s travails and troubled life.
Wes barely heard the shutter on Shauna’s camera as she stepped around watchfully, taking the occasional very discrete shot of the proceedings.
For himself, Wesley was standing there in a light overcoat and holding his umbrella, and getting just as wet as everyone else as the wind shifted sometimes now and then, as if it was intent on making sure that everyone got properly soaked on both sides.
He tried hard not to stare, but she was there, just a little ways off, a slightly tall woman weeping quietly in the rain.
Now that he’d been warned about it, he made sure not to neglect his own ability to see past things if they were being hidden to a degree. He was still kicking himself to think that he’d missed seeing Cleena in a more informative way.
He began to move a little then, just sidling off to one side a bit as he pretended to be interested in the eulogy of a man he’d never met in his life.
He glanced over and then he saw her again - that woman. The same one who’d asked him about her husband all of those hundreds of years before. She still looked the same to him, still just as sad and as enigmatically beautiful as she had that day when he’d asked her if she might spare him an onion or a turnip.
She hid it well, he thought, but he could see past the dark cloth which wasn’t really there. He could see right past that to the dark green heavy velvet dress that she wore. Her face was lovely, though her long auburn hair was dripping from the rain.
Shauna looked past the woman at the slight rise of ground there behind her.
What she saw at first was a bit of a dark spot in between two of the many decorative shrubs growing all around them in this tastefully planned-out cemetery. But after a moment, she saw that it wasn’t just a dark spot and it wasn’t a shadow either, since the overcast sky left the sun no way to play tricks such as that.
Shauna bent forward a little, wanting to shield her camera from the rain as she swapped lenses for a longer one. Raising the camera to her eye once more, she pretended to be trying for a shot of a large headstone nearby for a moment and then swinging slowly just a little to the right. She saw something and it wasn’t a shadow. Not with a leg underneath a shoulder like that.
But then it was gone.
Shauna began to walk then, moving around the funeral party to begin to walk up the rise as though she was just wandering for a moment or two. When she stepped sideways through the space between the two shrubs, shuddering a little over the way that the wet fronds and branches transferred their cold water to her, she heard the low warning growls begin.
She turned toward the sounds and she found herself in a small square ringed with shrubs and paved with flat stones. In the center, there was a raised reliquary which she supposed contained the remains of somebody or other. In the corner diagonally opposite to where she stood there was that shadow again, a large smudge darker than the rest and darker than the day by a wide margin.
She stepped slowly closer a foot or so at a time and the center of the darkness appeared to turn, preparing to go.