Cali McKinnon's

Fae Chronicles

Wounded Hearts

1. Reliving the Past

Ghildor awoke abruptly from a sweet, satisfying sleep.  He remained lying quietly beside Arianna who was deep in sleep, as it was still early morning.  He felt the sadness wash over him, a silent, accepted tide of misery growing stronger and closer--invading his preternatural senses.  If he waited, he knew he would feel it fading again, the total duration would last about ten minutes unless he willed otherwise, then it seemed have no end.  At least he’d felt no end to it the few times he had chosen to sense it, to reach out and probe its depths. 

The unintentional intrusion upon his senses happened almost every morning, and had been going on for all the months he’d been returned to Ardmuir, on every morning but the most inclement.  He knew its source; he just hadn’t decided what, if anything, to do about it. 

He had been aware that his moving here to this location might force him to deal with it eventually, but he had chosen this location for Arianna.  Until they had physically moved into the house he’d had constructed for her, he wasn’t aware of the depth to which it would bother him, would eat at the compassion he had developed for some humans--a special few.  Maybe today, he thought.  Maybe I will resolve this today or at least offer some solution to ease the anguished soul.

He rolled over and kissed Arianna as the feeling of sadness began waning, blurring back into the white noise of emotions that would constantly barrage his delicate senses if he didn’t shield himself from them.  She snuggled up to him, practically purring with contentment.  He watched her intently and considered his options carefully--weighing her happiness against what possible affect the other issue might have on her should he become involved.  Oh Ghildor, what a mess this could become, he thought to himself. 

Arianna’s lips moved gently, a motion not unlike a sleeping babe, and then her eyelids fluttered faintly.  A dream, perhaps?  Should he intrude, join her in the land of slumber? 

Resisting, he projected a calm and loving embrace to her instead, and watched as she smiled slightly in her sleep.  He loved that he could make her feel happy and secure.  Then he felt guilty, knowing that he had hesitated too long to deal with the other issue, knowing it would sadden her if she was aware it existed.  If she thought there was anything she could do to alleviate the sadness and bring happiness to that life, she would take immediate action.  Yes, today I must do something, he decided at last.

 

It was early afternoon when Ghildor approached the small simple dwelling.  It was about fifteen miles from the area that had once been named Ardmuir, in a large, secluded glen, far off the road.  If he weren’t Ghildor, or hadn’t known the place was there, he might have missed it.  There was no sign of any habitat visible from the road. 

He noticed there wasn’t a doorbell, so he knocked on the doorframe, keenly aware that the owner was at home.  It was only a few minutes before the door opened.  In the doorway stood a tall man, standing just a fraction under six and a half feet tall.  He was fit and very well-muscled, with dark hair and icy blue-gray eyes that were similar to Arianna’s, only colder.  He was in his late thirties, barefoot, wearing well-worn jeans and a white t-shirt.

Ghildor winced inwardly at the numerous vicious scars along the powerful forearm the man rested casually on the doorframe.  As the man stared coolly at Ghildor, the sith’s thought was that the scars outside were nothing compared to the scars inside. 

The man observed him silently for a few moments before asking, “May I help you?”  His voice was deep, mellow, and carried a noticeable Scottish burr.

“Perhaps.  May we talk?”  Ghildor asked, expecting rejection unless he used a gentle nudge of his sith powers of persuasion.

Again, there was a long silence accompanied by the icy gaze.  Finally, the man asked, “About what?  I dinna think I know you.”

“I am Ghildor, and I know you.  You’re Caedmon Keir MacDugall.”  Ghildor also knew that some of the man’s military buddies and friends in high school had given him the nickname Cad because of his amorous reputation during that period of his life.  He also found that incongruous since he knew the man had been the pursued, not the pursuer, when he had earned the infamous nickname.

“Aye, but anyone who has watched a recent triathlon or remembers any news from a few years ago would know that.”  The icy gaze didn’t lessen. 

Ghildor had hoped this encounter would be easier, but understood the hesitancy, the desire to be left alone.  Finally he said, “I just wanted to talk to you about someone we both care about.”  He paused, giving Cad time to think about that before he said, “Her name is Arianna.”  Cad’s jaws tightened almost imperceptibly, but Ghildor also sensed a rising turmoil beneath the cool facade.  He pressed on, “Yes, it’s a name you have not mentioned, that no one here and now in the twentieth century should know.  And no, I’m not another of the psychiatrists sent here to play mind games with you about that part of your life.  May I come in?”

Cad opened the door hesitantly and showed him into the living room.  It was sparse in decoration and had only a few pieces of furniture, but it was absolutely spotless.  It opened onto a room full of elaborate and expensive gym equipment.  Cad had an uncommonly fit and imposing body for someone his age, the room made it easy to see why.

“May I get you a drink?” he offered politely. 

“Yes, spring water would be nice,” Ghildor replied, knowing Cad would have plenty.

When he returned with the water Cad asked, “Now, what were you saying about someone named Arianna?”  He handed Ghildor a tall glass of cool water and sat down in a chair across from him, sipping from a similar glass.  Everything about him bespoke a calm disinterest in the subject.

“She was your daughter, and I know something of her.  However, I’d like to discuss the whole story, before I tell you more.”

“What story?  For that matter, what daughter?”

Ghildor knew Cad had not breathed a word of her, nor of his wife Sigourney, during all the testing, probing, and debriefing they had done since he returned over three years ago.  But he also knew it was something Cad needed to discuss.  He just couldn’t decide how to tell this man that his daughter was alive and lived just a few miles away, but was older than him now by about four or five years.  Time can be so cruel, he thought wryly. 

“Let me start the story, then,” Ghildor offered as he leaned back and made himself comfortable.  “You were at NASA, performing tests in a new gravity simulation chamber when something went wrong.  Something transported you back to the eleventh century, into Norway.  You fell in love with a beautiful red-haired Norse Viking named Sigourney, and you married her.  On a journey to Ireland, your ship was sunk, but you saved Sigourney with that remarkable talent you have for swimming incredible distances.

“In Scotland, Sigourney gave birth to your daughter, Arianna.  She was a beautiful little girl who inherited your dark hair and blue-gray eye color, but her other features resembled her lovely mother.  You lived near here, in a glen near a small village named Ardmuir.” 

Ghildor paused and took a few drinks of the water.  His senses told him that Cad was becoming anguished, concerned that he had spoken of these things during the debriefings, or that maybe they had used drugs and an amnesiac to get the information while making him forget they had done it.  Ghildor heard him thinking, “Damn them!  Will they never leave me alone?”

“I’m not one of them,” Ghildor assured him, pressing his sith power of suggestion lightly.  He knew Cad had become almost paranoid about the administration’s curiosity over what had happened to him.  How could he do otherwise?  He had disappeared in the chamber one afternoon in a full spacesuit, and then reappeared there twenty-four hours later.  Only he was about eight years older, had hair almost to his waist, was dressed in a kilt, and was armed with five daggers and a broadsword.  He was also scarred with an array of scars that had taken years to heal.  The clothing, weapons, and coins he carried had been verified, authentic to the eleventh century.  There was no sign of the elaborate spacesuit he had been testing when he disappeared.

For days, he had begged them to try and send him back, and then he shut them out, refusing to say anything else during almost a year of intense debriefing and psychiatric probing.  Afterwards they had forced him into a year of convalescence, where they watched him constantly.  Finally they released him and he moved to Scotland, hoping to come to terms with the remainder of his life, and to get away from the torment. 

Now here I sit, Ghildor thought, knowing and speaking to him of things he knows he never said consciously--things that no one living should know.

Cad finally broke the intense eye contact and glanced away.  Again, Ghildor saw the tensing of his jaw muscles, the only visible acknowledgement of his inner anguish. 

“What do you want from me?” he asked reluctantly.

“Just your friendship.  I just want to let you know that I care, that I have a reason to care, and that I will listen, although I already know the whole story.  I’m someone you can talk to.”  Again, he projected trust with his sith powers.

“You said, ‘I’m not one of them,’ earlier.  Of whom do you speak, and why did you say that?”

“One of whomever it was you were referring to when you thought ‘Damn them!  Will they never leave me alone?’  I can only assume you meant the government or the shrinks.”

Cad was curious now.  He knew he didn’t say that aloud and he realized that this Ghildor had said he thought it.  “How could you know if I had thought that?”

“I have the power to read minds, but no, before you ask, that’s not how I know your story.  That phrase is the first I have sought to read of your thoughts, honestly.”

Ghildor waited, while Cad contemplated the situation.  He had just had a summation of most of the time he was in the past presented to him by a total stranger.  Obviously this stranger knew quite a lot of that past, despite his efforts to keep it a secret.  The thought crossed his mind that Ghildor was a writer and planned to sensationalize the most private part of his very personal life.

“I’m not a writer, nor will I speak to anyone of your life without your permission.  My only reason for being here is friendship, because I have a reason to care, because of Arianna.”

“You dinna beat around the bush about meddling inside someone’s head, do you?” Cad asked sarcastically.

There was no sign of contrition from Ghildor other than a shrug of his shoulders.  He thought it only fair to read Cad’s thoughts since the early morning workouts had been waking him for months.  Why Cad chose to run past the place every morning despite the mental anguish it caused him was beyond Ghildor.  But Ghildor knew the anguish never went away, never lessened regardless, even when the man slept.

“Okay.  Assuming I accept you for what you claim to be, and that you just want friendship, why should I tell you more?  That sounds like a fairly good tale as it is.  It certainly has the ring of a nice little fantasy.”

“Shall I finish it for you?” Ghildor challenged Cad, knowing he was being so cavalier in an attempt to shield himself from verbalizing the nightmares of his past. 

Cad didn’t answer, aware that the rest of the story was the part that tormented him the most. 

Ghildor continued, knowing Cad would remain silent.  “You lived there happily with Sigourney and Arianna.  You were warlord for Alisdair MacDugall who thought of you as a true brother, you even saved his heir’s life, as well as his own. 

“You had to travel a lot for Alisdair, and when Arianna was about three Sigourney took her to visit Moira, the Druidess healer who later became Arianna’s mentor.  On their return to the castle, they were attacked.  Sigourney fought them, but there were too many and she was mortally wounded.  The men took Arianna hostage as had been their intent. 

“When you found Sigourney she was barely holding on to life, compressing her femoral artery until she could tell someone that seven men had taken Arianna and threatened to cut off one of her fingers each day until you came to them peacefully.  She was wounded too severely to survive, so you removed her hand from the artery so she could die quickly and at peace in your arms.  She had asked you to leave her, to go for Arianna first, but you waited with her, dying inside a thousand deaths because of your helplessness.” 

He saw tears streaming down Cad’s cheeks, knowing he had been strong for Arianna after that, and that he had locked the sadness and memory of losing Sigourney inside ever since it happened all those years ago.

Ghildor continued, “You took Sigourney’s body to Moira’s place, then went after the men who had taken Arianna.  It was a brutal slaughter.  The three sentries were dead before you entered the camp, their throats cut so that they couldn’t cry out, their stomachs opened so they were left to die slowly, as they had left your beloved Sigourney.  You were merciful though, carefully severing a femoral artery, leaving each man to choose the speed of his death, the length of his anguish. 

Then you entered the camp so stealthily that you were able to take Arianna before repeating a similar vengeance on the remaining four men.  The retribution for Sigourney’s death and the threat to maim Arianna was so atrocious that for years afterward the tale was that some demon had done it--that the area was cursed.” 

Ghildor paused, slowly taking another drink.  Cad now just sat stone faced, staring not at him, but somewhere closer, or perhaps further, in time.

Again, Ghildor continued, “You quit working for Alisdair, fed up with fighting and killing and wanting only to be alone and to care for Arianna, which you did until she was five, nearly six.  You had made arrangements with Alisdair to see to her safety, and had given him instructions for her, should anything happen to you.  Part of that arrangement was that when she was old enough, Moira would be her mentor.  Another was that she would be given the place at Ardmuir for her dowry. 

“Then, one afternoon when you were riding to Ardmuir for supplies, always heavily armed, as you had to be since serving as the MacDugall warlord, you just disappeared.  Arianna was almost six then, and Betha and Liam, her older foster sister and brother, took her to Alisdair who convinced Moira to move to your place at Ardmuir and see Arianna raised and educated as a healer.” 

Cad’s gaze was now back and focused on Ghildor, who took another deep drink of water before continuing.  “You were suddenly thrown back to the twentieth century, back into the gravity simulation chamber--except you had only been gone twenty-four hours in this time, not almost eight years.  You begged for them to try to send you back.  You wanted to take care of Arianna, to finish the life you had started there, but they had no way to control what happened.  They knew you had traveled time because of the irrefutable evidence of how you had changed, and the clothing and armament, but you would never talk about it, and haven’t before this day.” 

He paused, and then said, “So you see, I know the whole story.” 

Ghildor had decided to leave him to his private thoughts during the story, and even now he blocked all thoughts, not reading what Cad was thinking.

It was a long time before Cad said, “It’s a sad story.  It even brought tears to my eyes, but it has nothing to do with me.”

“You are quite obstinate, Caedmon,” Ghildor scoffed with frustration.

“Most people call me Cad.”

“Not any who have ever truly cared about you.  In fact, you don’t like the name you just accept it as a part and parcel of this time.”

“I think you should go now,” Cad said, standing and turning abruptly toward the door.

Ghildor remained seated and said, “You haven’t asked yet.”   

“Asked what?  There is nothing to ask.  You are some misguided soul who stopped by to tell me a tragic tale while you drank some water, and now you are leaving.”  By the tone of his voice, it wasn’t a request, it was a demand.

“You haven’t asked why I care about Arianna.”

Cad remained standing, but dropped his head in exasperation, “Okay, if it will convince you to leave, why do you care about Arianna?”

“Because, she lives with me, she is my soul mate,” he said, observing Cad carefully, but still not listening to his thoughts.

It took a few minutes, but Cad sat back down.  Ghildor obviously knew the story, but then he should also know Arianna had lived and died almost a thousand years ago.  Did he know of her heredity, something Cad had said he would never seek?  Was he married--no he had used the words soul mate--to one of Arianna’s great, great, great, God only knows how many greats, granddaughters?  In almost a whisper he asked, “You said the Arianna in the story lived in the eleventh century, you must mean one of the offspring of her future generations is your soul mate.  And why would I care about that, even if this bizarre story was mine?” 

He was watching Ghildor intently and caught the flash of dark inhuman black that flared, and then disappeared, in his eyes.  It was frustration, but mild, as Ghildor realized this last question was evidence that Cad was closer to acceptance.

“Because my Arianna is your daughter.  I travel time, and I brought her here with me.” 

Cad laughed outright at that.  Ghildor thought laughing suited him much better than the dour countenance he usually wore.

“Let me get this straight.  According to your story, you believe that my daughter from the eleventh century has skipped time into the twentieth century with you, a time traveler named Ghildor who reads minds.”

“Exactly,” Ghildor said, nodding solemnly.  “You must admit it is no less likely than that you went to the eleventh century, lived there about eight years, and then returned here where only twenty-four hours had passed.”

Cad’s icy blue-gray gaze fixed on Ghildor.  “I could na prove the story--were it mine.  Can you prove yours?”

Well, as far as Ghildor could see the man wasn’t lacking in intelligence.  “I can prove it, in any of several ways.  First, I could take you for a brief journey in time, or I could just introduce you to Arianna.”

It only took a few minutes for Cad to ask, “Could you take me to the time just before Sigourney was attacked?”

Ghildor’s eyes flared black instantly, anger at his sudden awareness of the logical mind he now faced.  He was annoyed that he hadn’t foreseen that question and stopped it before the false hope was given.  He calmed himself and said, “No.  You can only live your life once in any time, Caedmon.  That time took another path.  You were there, but in a different location from Sigourney, and it’s past and can’t be changed for you.” 

“Then I’m na interested in whatever it is you think you have to offer.”  He chose not to meet this supposed Arianna, thinking that surely she wasn’t his daughter.  As to time travel, he believed it existed, knew it existed, but not that it could be done at someone’s bidding.  If he couldn’t go back to save Sigourney, then why should he bother?

“Don’t you care to ask how things went for Arianna, how she grew up?  Why she’s here?”

“Perhaps.  But first I want to know how it is that you can travel time.  Do you have some device that you use?”

Ghildor smiled, wondering how much to tell him.  So few people could accept what he was, could this obviously intelligent man who had experienced time travel bear the truth?  And what would happen when Cad realized Arianna had a son by a sith?  Oh well, now he knew why he had waited so long to decide on this issue--complications, twisting, intertwining human complications. 

“Well?” Cad asked, growing impatient with his guest.

“I’m exceptional in that I have special powers such as reading minds, moving objects by thinking about it, traveling time.  And no, I don’t use any device, I merely wish it and it happens.”

“Why are you here, with someone you claim to be from the eleventh century?  Why did you choose this time?”

“Arianna was in danger.  She became a powerful Druidess, a healer as you wished her to be.  Then the Christian mania hit our community and they came to take her to trial as a witch, to see her burn.  I knew they would continue that insanity for centuries, so I brought her here.  I knew this time would be safe for her.” 

Ghildor didn’t tell Cad about his and Arianna’s son, Cainnech, and his wife Jennifer, and that she was another reason they came to this time.  He didn’t care to share that knowledge yet, knowing that it was Arianna’s place to make that decision.

Cad thought about the likeliness of such a thing happening for a long while before asking, “If I agree to meet this woman, will you leave me alone afterwards?  My life has been disquieting to say the least, and I would like some peace.”

“Absolutely,” Ghildor agreed, knowing at last that he’d achieved the hardest part of what he had set out to do.

“One last question, though.  How did you find me, I mean, what made you come here to see me?”

“Well, one of my powers is an extreme sensitivity to certain feelings in others.  When you run past my home each morning, you remember your life there, and the sadness you feel wakes me.”

Since Cad ran fifteen to twenty miles each day that he could, that was a lot of territory where this Ghildor might live.  “If you will tell me where this place is, I will avoid it so that I dinna bother you with my feelings,” he suggested sarcastically.

Ghildor smiled and shook his head.  “Then avoid Arianna’s home in the glen, for she lives there now, on the same property where she was born in the eleventh century in the home Sigourney’s Viking friends built for the two of you while they were visiting.  Her old home was destroyed over the years, so I had another built for her.”

Cad turned, tread silently down the hallway, and retrieved some shoes.  Upon returning, he motioned to Ghildor, “Let’s go, I’d like to be rid of you as soon as possible.”

He knew the house well because he ran past it almost daily.  He had been sad when the new home was built there a little over a year ago, thinking his glen had been spoiled and that he could no longer slip down to the stream that he and Sigourney had thought was magical for them.  But, he was still too practical to believe the woman living there would be his daughter.

“Would you like to ride with me?” Ghildor asked as Cad locked the front door.

“Do you have time to bring me home?  I’ve already run my distance today, so I would prefer to drive if you can na bring me home.”

“Yes, I will bring you back,” Ghildor said, knowing it would be best. 

On the way Ghildor warned him, “Two things, Caedmon.  One, she doesn’t know about you yet, so this will be a great shock to her.  Two, remember you have changed less since she last saw you than she has changed since you last saw her.”  Cad said nothing, so he continued, “Also, she is older than you.”

“How could that be?” Cad asked.  Arianna’s age was something he hadn’t thought about.

“Time is funny like that.  About forty years of time passed for her before I brought her here, but by coincidence, you have only lived about four years since you left her there.”

“So this woman, Arianna, is in her forties and several years older than me?”

“Yes.”  Ghildor wasn’t reading Cad’s mind, but he sensed a sudden sadness in him.

“You seem to care a lot about this Arianna of yours.”

“More than anyone, other than perhaps Arianna, will ever know.”

Cad was silent for a while before he asked, “Why would you risk introducing me, if the story is true?”

“It has taken me a long time to decide that.  As you know, our home has been there over a year and every time you have run past while I am there, I have had to consider that question.  Today, I decided that she would want this if she knew about you, so I came to see you.  Now, I just hope I’m right, that it’s worth it.”

As they turned into the drive, Ghildor felt overwhelmed by Cad’s silent anguish.  Today had been difficult for him because Ghildor had purposefully dredged up his past, to make him face what he had locked away so carefully several years ago, to let him know someone else knew, and cared, that he didn’t share the burden of his past alone.  He stopped the car, and waited a few minutes before asking, “Are you sure you don’t want to think about this a while?”

“Nay, let’s get it over with.  I dinna believe in shirking my responsibilities.  Once I decided to come, it was as good as done.”

“Okay,” Ghildor said.  He drove on up the lane and parked near the house where they got out of the car.  It was late afternoon, not quite dusk, and the house was dark and quiet.  “I imagine she’s around back, in her garden,” Ghildor said, knowing exactly where Arianna was, and exactly what she was doing. 

At the moment, she was on her knees, picking some choice tomatoes from a bush heavy with fruit.  She heard the car doors close and turned to look in that direction, knowing Ghildor would come to her in the garden.  He’d been gone all afternoon, but that wasn’t unusual since he frequently went to Cainnech’s for sword practice.

When he walked around the corner of the garage, she said, “Hello, love.  I have been wondering when...” she stopped mid-sentence as though stunned.  Slowly she stood up and took a step forward, looking past Ghildor intently as she quietly asked, “Da?” before she slumped to her knees, her face drained of color. 

Cad never saw Ghildor move, but in an instant, he was supporting her, speaking softly near her ear as he embraced her tenderly. 

“Is she okay?” Cad asked as he knelt and clasped Arianna’s hand gently.  He was dazed, not believing what he was seeing--a slightly older version of his Sigourney.

Ghildor nodded his head, “She’s fine, just a bit shocked.  Would you bring me the pitcher from the table?” he asked, pointing to the patio. 

Cad quickly retrieved the pitcher and poured some of the water on a dishtowel that he had taken from Arianna’s gathering basket.  He handed the towel to Ghildor who gently wiped her brow and cheeks with the cool compress. 

“Arianna, love, it’s me,” Ghildor said, in almost a whisper. 

Cad watched silently as Ghildor held Arianna close and kissed her forehead then became very still with his eyes closed, just holding her as if willing her to wake.  Whatever else he might be, this Ghildor clearly loved the woman gathered in his arms.

After a while Ghildor sat back from her and Cad could see that her eyes were open, staring at him in disbelief, and that she was his daughter, Arianna, without any doubt.  He saw the loveliness of Sigourney in her, the high beautiful cheekbones, the slender straight nose, and beautifully curved lips set in a strong Norse face.  She had grown up despite the loss of her mother, and then him leaving her alone at such a young age.  Alisdair, Bonnie, and Moira had seen her raised. 

Now she was crying, and he reached out and gently blotted away the tears.  “Dinna cry, my little Angel, it will break my heart.”

Arianna remembered he used to say that to her when she was little.  “It is you.  How can that be?” she asked, and then looked suspiciously at Ghildor.

“Yes, love, I brought him here.  Rather, he was here and I brought him to see you.  It’s a long story though.  Can you stand yet?”

“Aye, I think so,” she said, allowing Ghildor and Cad to help her to her feet.  Ghildor let her go and she embraced Cad so hard it took him by surprise.  “Oh Da, I have no idea how this came to be, but I am so thankful to see you again.”  She was afraid to say she had thought him dead, almost forty years of her lifetime ago.  When she was older Alisdair had told her he had just disappeared without a trace.  The horse he had been riding retuned to the stables and Liam had said it was healthy, not even in a sweat.

Ghildor went to the patio and sat down.  He realized both Arianna and Cad were in tears and felt it best to give them some privacy now.  It was difficult, but he did his best to block all sensations and thoughts coming from Arianna.  He knew they had been close, and each had given the other up forever, so this was a difficult time for the two of them.  When they started talking freely, Ghildor went inside and started cooking, thinking they would come in later and be hungry.        

 

It was almost two hours before Arianna came through the door, with Cad in tow.  She was laughing and Ghildor heard her say, “Aye, he’s the finest grandson you could imagine.”  They stopped and Arianna’s eyes lit up, “Ghildor, you cooked dinner, and my favorite, too.”

“Yes, love.  I thought I would make myself useful.  You two wash up and I’ll set out the serving dishes.”

Arianna showed Cad briefly around the house and then met Ghildor in the kitchen.  “I am na sure how, or why you did this, but thank you.”

“I might have thought to do it sooner, but you never mentioned him, and I was concerned how it would affect you.  It was bad enough as it was,” he said, remembering that he had had to resort to shielding her and projecting total calm and security to her in order to calm her as she recovered from her feinting spell.  Her mind just couldn’t accept what her eyes were seeing. 

Arianna kissed him and then said, “He asked me to thank you for caring.  Then, he said I was lucky to have such a wonderful man who cared so much for me.  That means he does na know about you, does he?”

“No, though he knows I have special powers and I’m certain he will accept the rest.  He’s very intelligent, despite the belligerent shell he built around himself for self-protection.  Now, let’s go have dinner, I’m hungry.”

During the meal, Cad was relatively quiet, and Ghildor knew he was being assessed although Cad rarely looked at him directly, but instead watched and listened to Arianna intently.  Arianna told Cad about her life while growing up and how Alisdair’s son, Duncan, came to be a friend and taught Cainnech swordsmanship and riding. 

“And what of Alisdair’s heir, Brian?”

“He died in a battle in France that Duncan barely survived.  Duncan became laird,” she said, without recounting that she had saved Duncan from a severe infection in the wound he had received during the battle where his brother died. 

Ghildor was aware that Cad had once saved Brian’s life, but he could sense no distress in him brought about by the news of Brian’s death.  Since Cad’s acceptance that Arianna was indeed his daughter, Ghildor had only sensed a peaceful calm from him, closure at last.

After a while Cad asked about Anna, Betha, and Liam.  Arianna told him that Anna had married and was living in Ardmuir.  She had just become a grandmother when Arianna and Ghildor had vanished.  Betha had married and moved away to a small town in the northeast Highlands.  Liam had gone to work for Alisdair and had married.  He and his wife had two children and worked for Duncan before she left.  Cad smiled at the news, glad that things had turned out well for the young sisters and brother that he and Sigourney had taken into their home.

As they were having dessert, Ghildor asked, “Will you be coming back to visit us sometime, Caedmon?”

Cad looked up, smiled almost shyly, and replied, “If you’d like, especially if you continue to feed me so well.  This pie is so delicious I’d be a fool to say I would na visit again.” 

His smile was genuine, and, to Ghildor, he appeared to be years younger than he’d been when he first opened that door.  The best part was that Ghildor no longer sensed the deep despair radiating from him.

“Thank you,” Ghildor beamed proudly at the praise for his cooking.  “It’s one of my specialties.  Now, I have a question of pure curiosity.  How will you two refer to one another?  Since you are so close in age it will be awkward to explain to people that you are father and daughter.”

Arianna was glad Cainnech wasn’t there as he would have given Ghildor some sharp remark about his insensitive comment.  Instead, Cad answered with a smile.  “Arianna and I discussed it while we were outside.  We decided that around strangers we will have to behave as brother and sister.” 

“Aye, although it does na feel right to call you my brother, I will,” Arianna added quietly.

“You may call me anything you wish, so long as I have the opportunity to spend time with you again.” 

At first Arianna had been upset about the nearness in their ages, but Cad had lovingly assured her that it just made her more beautiful, that she now looked a lot like her mother. 

“Well, it’s late now.  Let me help clean up after this wonderful meal, and then I should be returning home.”

Since Ghildor had cooked the meal, Arianna and Cad cleaned up the dishes.  Ghildor sat and watched them, thinking that he had made the right decision today.  Now, he just had to sit back and let them work out the rest.

 

On the drive back to Cad’s home Ghildor asked when Cad planned to meet his grandson, Cainnech, and the rest of the family.  Instead of the quick reply he expected, he got silence.  After a long lapse of time Cad responded, “I have na decided yet.  Arianna told me about them, but agreed to say nothing until I decided.”

“May I ask why you need to think about it?”  Ghildor was sincerely perplexed at his response, and was now wishing he had been reading Cad’s thoughts before he had asked the question.

“Because of Cainnech’s wife and Connell.  Ghildor, who, other than yourself, knows this tale that you told me today?”

They were already on the driveway to Cad’s house and Ghildor felt he might not have the time to solve this new dilemma before they parted company.  “No one knows, not even Arianna.  She only knows what she remembers, or what others told her long ago.”

“And you, knowing the truth, why did you still come to see me?”

“I don’t understand why you ask.  As I said before, I sensed your feelings, and knowing who you were, I realized Arianna would want to know that you were here, alive, and not suffering.”  Ghildor stopped the car in the drive and they got out.  He leaned against the roof, watching Cad who was standing on the other side of the vehicle.  Tilting his head in earnest concentration he said, “If you don’t want me meddling around in your head, you need to talk to me if we are to communicate.  What are you going on about?”

“My past, Ghildor.  I dinna think your son’s wife would be verra happy to know you brought someone like that into her home, around her young son.”  He watched Ghildor but saw no sign that he understood.  Actually Ghildor knew what he was getting at now but was unsure how to respond.

A standoff occurred and lasted almost five minutes before Ghildor asked, “Are you the homicidal murderer some people in this time might accuse you of being?  Does Jennifer have anything to fear from you?  Would you harm her or Connell intentionally in any way?”

“Of course na, at least to the last two statements.  The first, I dinna know.  Before the last seven men, I always tried to work things out peacefully, only fighting in self-defense, or as a last resort.  Seeing them, I could na define the word peaceful, nor bring myself to try.  By today’s laws, I should be in prison for what you and I know I did.  The first three of them were na self-defense, they were retribution.”

“Perhaps.  But they did stand between you and the life of your daughter,” Ghildor offered consolingly.  “And they aided and abetted in killing Sigourney.”

He seriously considered how Jennifer might view this.  Since Cainnech had grown up in the earlier era, nothing about Cad’s response to the threat he had faced would have surprised Cainnech, he probably would have done the same.  Had Jennifer lived there in the past long enough to accept and understand as well?  What would she have done if she had Cad’s skills and had seen Cainnech die as Sigourney had, or if she had faced the threat that Connell would have his fingers cut off one by one or be similarly mutilated or killed?  Could she retain the morals of her twentieth century upbringing?  Could anyone born and raised in this century understand or condone what he had done in the eleventh century, in a time when women were crushed under chains or burned alive after being condemned by their neighbors as witches for merely being independent, pretty, or intelligent? 

Ghildor pushed those thoughts aside, deciding to pursue them at a later time.  “You still plan to visit with me and Arianna though?”

“Aye, as long that’s acceptable to you.”

“Okay.  That will suffice for now.  She was the reason I came to see you anyway.  Good night,” Ghildor said, opening the door of the car. 

“Good night, and thank you,” Cad said before turning toward his house.

* * * * *