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Seas Of Erin > Tir-Nan-Og > Down through the wreckage and the ruins
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 7 2007, 08:16 PM
It was full dark by the time Meg, exhausted, left her sister's side with a basin full of pinkish water balanced on her hip.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 7 2007, 08:21 PM
Marcello jumped up from the spot where he'd kept vigil, thoroughly soaked and a bit blue in the face-- and fingers-- except for where the skin around his eyes was a raw, bruised red.
He held both hands out, offering to take the basin. "How is she?"
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 7 2007, 08:25 PM
Morgana took a step away from him, pulling the basin to her far side. "Don't touch!" She let out a small, tired sigh. Her hair tickled the side of her nose but she didn't dare touch her face to brush it away. "We had to drain blood out of her lung. She was . . . drowning."
Carefully, so as not to spill it, she picked a low path through the mud to the trees at the far end of the camp, where she poured out the basin and stood with her back against a trunk, taking brief respite from the downpour.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 7 2007, 08:27 PM
"Was?" Marcello asked hoarsely. He followed after her, picking his way through the mud. "And now? Please, I-- she said she was-- and no one will tell me anything."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 7 2007, 08:32 PM
"Resting." She closed her eyes. "She's resting. Priestess La'shaara purged her." The woman gritted her teeth, clenched her fists. Her head dropped. "It's the plague!" she burst out. "It's the damn plague! It's the same as the one in Oireachteigh!"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 7 2007, 08:37 PM
Marcello shivered. "Oh, God," he said quietly. "So it wasn't poison? It was-- what do we do? Everyone-- we can't let all these people die."
"She's safe, then?" he asked in a whisper. "She-- I want to stay with her. We still don't know who's responsible for the poison, it could be any of these people."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 7 2007, 08:46 PM
"I don't know if the trul can carry it," Morgana replied in a husky voice. "They regenerate so quickly . . . All I can think to do is leave her with them until she--until we know, one way or the other."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 7 2007, 08:50 PM
"But it's already in the camp," Marcello said quietly. "I was with her, you were with her, all those guards were with her..." He shook his head, knitting his fingers together.
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 7 2007, 08:54 PM
"The tallfolk don't catch it." The woman's voice was flat. "They knew that in Oireachteigh. But the guards, Moira and me . . . we might better keep an eye to His Majesty as well. This is . . . it's as if someone set a fire to dry tinder; it's as if it knew where to come to . . . " Her voice broke, but she did not cry.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 7 2007, 09:01 PM
"Well, you and I both know the plague ended the moment Lady Bride was dead," Marcello pointed out darkly. "But if we're going to pretend this is natural, rats carry plague. Maybe the rat in Niabheara's tent was the culprit, not the poison." His throat was sore, his voice came out thin and scratchy. Then he took a deep breath. "If I can't catch it--" he said, sounding a touch hopeful. "Please. Tell me what I can do to take care of her. Or-- if anyone else falls ill. I can't--" He had to stop speaking to breathe. "And Moira's been-- there's something wrong with her."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 8 2007, 04:44 PM
"I am not pretending this is natural, Marcello. There is nothing natural about it. And the biggest rat in this island happens to be wearing the crown." The woman's hands twisted together as if they would rather be tearing apart something more substantial than thin air, something perhaps that would squeal and writhe when she dug her fingers into it. Her face was miserable with impotence. "Two days from an assassination attempt? No. I don't believe in this 'plague'. She sent something into this camp and let it get near to Nialla, be it a rat or something larger. If it was Moira, I'll--I don't know what I'll do. I'll strip her bands myself. With a rusty razor."
Morgana forced her hands apart, took a deep, shivery breath to get herself under control again. Her throat clenched nearly too tightly for speech. "If you want . . . I gave her amaranthe before we drained her, she won't be exactly in her right mind, but you can see her. If it is the plague . . . I can't risk catching it. There's too much . . . not even for her. My daughter . . . " She pleaded to Marcello with her eyes, willing him to understand.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 8 2007, 04:52 PM
"If it is Moira, she might not know exactly what happened," Marcello said quietly, shutting his eyes tightly against the possibility.
When he opened them, he nodded, swallowing, and held both hands out. "It seems like now I'm asking everyone if I can hug them," he said apologetically. "Are we still allowed, with the sickness? Do you want me to say anything to her?"
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 8 2007, 05:02 PM
As if she had merely been holding back for the excuse, the smaller woman nearly lunged at Marcello, wrapping her strong arms around his middle and shaking her head against his chest. "I don't know, I don't know. Tell her I love her. Tell her I'll be back with her as soon as I can, as soon as . . . tell her that Mother's coming." Morgana choked and fell away from Marcello, rubbing her tight throat. She managed a wry half-smile and a chuckle. "No, don't tell her Mother's coming. No sense in letting her lose hope. I'll route out the bard."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 8 2007, 05:12 PM
Marcello shot her a weak smile. "I know it's a magic plague, and we can't help how it spreads, but in Italy, when the plague comes, they make the Pope sit in between two fires and stay apart from other people as much as possible. And they've never lost a Pope from the Plague yet," he said, biting down on his lip. Then he gave her a weak smile. "Do you even think her guard is going to let me by now? They acted like I was the one who hurt her."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 8 2007, 05:25 PM
"I'll tell them allow it." With her fingers wrapped around the rim of the empty wooden basin, she started back into camp. "You must understand, you are--" She tried to speak with some delicacy. "You're tallfolk. You understand by now what position that leaves you."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 8 2007, 05:32 PM
"That my asking to see her is akin to an overgrown puppy nosing at her door," Marcello answered, a little derisively. "That it's perfectly well to have me as a plaything. And I'm too big and covered with fur."
He looked a little unhappily at the woman. "Is there anything else I can do? For you? Or for her? I'll carry messages, if there isn't a risk I'll spread it."
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 8 2007, 05:43 PM
Morgana's features closed up at the comparison to a dog; her lips pressed tight. "Not to anyone who matters," she responded curtly, and stayed quiet until they reached the trul encampment.
At the door, Morgana stayed Marcello with a hand and spoke quietly, if firmly, to the posted guard. Then she turned back and nodded to him. "If I think of anything, you shall be the first person I come to." She meant it; if there were any suspecting the bard now then her options were limited.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 8 2007, 05:47 PM
Marcello nodded. "And I'll send someone for you if anything changes," he assured her, reaching back to give her another tight hug. "Ah," he said, glancing down at himself. "Can you have someone send clothes and water?"
Posted by: Morgana Northsbane Nov 8 2007, 05:54 PM
Morgana nodded and squeezed him hard. The kiss intended for his cheek ended up better suited for his shoulder. "There's water. The priestess called up a spring inside. Please just look out for her."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 8 2007, 06:00 PM
"The priestess--" Marcello sighed, shaking his head, then bent down and kissed the woman's hair with a smile. "I will," he promised. "I'll do my best."
He gave Morgana one more tight squeeze before steeling himself and ducking into the tent.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 9 2007, 08:02 PM
The Italian stepped into the tent, standing back far close to the door, his arms wrapped around him, tentative, quiet, not wanting to disturb the girl who lay there. He just watched her, quietly, very slowly taking a few steps forward, his face still drawn and gray with worry.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 9 2007, 08:11 PM
There was, in fact, a spring inside the tent, bubbling up from between two set stones and swept away into some hidden reserve within the earth.
On a woven reed-mat on the floor, Niabheara lay very quiet on her back, her hand limp on her stomach, one knee bent beneath the sheet bunched at her waist. A matched sets of glossy stitches, one line to either side of her ribs' arch, glistened with a pungent greenish salve. Her breath came steadily but with the slight undercurrent of a raspy rattle.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 9 2007, 08:17 PM
Marcello took off his jacket, stepping first to the spring to rinse off his hands, and then swallowed, stepping over to the girl, dropping to sit at her shoulder with a careworn look on his face.
His eyes, large and shining, moved from her hand to her stitches to her face, his expression a mix of worry and relief, and he reached out to touch her hair, trying carefully not to disturb her.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 9 2007, 08:21 PM
Niabheara squinted up at him, shifted her head out of reach, and immediately started in with a slurred stream of Tuathalli invectives, which, Tuathalli being what it was, made her sound like a drunken chipmunk. Attempting to roll onto her side, she winced, went still again, finally dragging her eyes closer to fully open. "Ah. You sheared your face," she said.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 9 2007, 08:25 PM
Marcello smiled weakly and rubbed a hand over his clean-shaven face. "I'd done that before," he answered softly. He moved around a little bit so that she could see him better. "How are you feeling? Morgana said you should be much better now."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 9 2007, 08:28 PM
"They put sticks in my chest. It was . . . very cold." She sounded more thoughtful than concerned. "They knocked you down. I'm sorry. I told them not to. I don't think they listened to me."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 9 2007, 08:32 PM
Marcello smiled, leaning over to kiss her forehead. "They didn't, but it's all right now. Morgana made them let me in. Are you still cold? I can see about getting you some blankets. Anything you need, just say the word."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 9 2007, 08:43 PM
"Not cold. Tired. They really should listen to me," she added, rather crossly; "what is the entire point of being countess if no one listens to me when it's really important? Stupid. I wanted you. But perhaps they just didn't know. Couldn't tell them. Coughing." She coughed a little now, experimentally. Her eyes were nearly solid black pupil, wide and glistening. "And you really should not be in love with me," she went on, as if this was part of the original point. "It's embarrassing."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 9 2007, 08:48 PM
Marcello flushed a dark, furious red. "It is not," he answered. "You could have died and I wouldn't have been there with you."
Now his eyes were welling up. He looked away, up at the tent ceiling instead of at her. "If you're tired, you should sleep. I'll still be here when you wake up."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 9 2007, 08:55 PM
"But I didn't." She reached out for him, and missed. After two misses she grew irritable. "See? Now you're embarrassed. You really shouldn't say things if you're only going to be embarrassed about them later. I just don't . . . never know to do about it. You didn't have to tell me. I knew before. Which is why I didn't ask you to go to bed with me. It would have been taking an unfair advantage." She carried on as if continuing a previously interrupted conversation. "It's like. Like with the stones. You knew I would have to do it. It came down between Cnoch-na-Niall and myself, and so there was no contest. You knew I would go through with it. That's an unfair advantage, knowing in advance how it all would come out. But you go on watching."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 9 2007, 09:02 PM
"I'm not embarrassed," Marcello answered, biting down on his lip. "I'm-- I love you. I'm-- you said I'm embarrassing," he said quietly, numbly. "And I don't want to-- I mean, I'd be happy if-- this isn't-- I--"
And then the conversation seemed to completely take him by surprise. "What are you talking about, the stones? I don't know anything about any stones. I'm not-- what do you think I'm watching?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 10 2007, 06:18 AM
"The stones," she repeated insistently. "The circle. They said he didn't know what was happening, but I looked in his face just before and he did. I never knew just where they stole him from. He must've been a sailor. I think perhaps it was meant to be you. But you came just after." She seemed to have been distracted by something going on just over Marcello's shoulder. "But he came to me just before we killed him, and he was there in Ravensdale as well. He thinks I don't remember him, but I do. He watches to see what happens. There's something he wants to happen and I don't know what it is so I can't avoid doing it. He did the same thing with Jochy. He just wants to see what happens." Her voice was full of aggravation.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 10 2007, 06:26 AM
Marcello was looking worried now, shaking his head, uncomprehending. "Niabheara, I think you're too...you're tired, cara."
He put a hand to her shoulder. "Come on, now, rest. We can talk about the stones and the man watching tomorrow. Do you need anything? Are you hungry? Thirsty?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 10 2007, 06:41 AM
"I'm neither. I don't need anything. And I'm not tired, it just that this . . . stuff is going to make me fall asleep either way." She tipped her head back and muttered. "This is worse than the rock-wine."
Then she peered back up at him. "You always call me that." She shut her eyes. "I think you should leave. If Judith comes. You should go with her. The only trouble is that I set the Admiral after her. But she can handle him. There's no one who can touch her. You'd be safe there."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 10 2007, 06:51 AM
Marcello smiled faintly at her. "It's all right," he assured her. "Tired or not, if you need to sleep, sleep."
"It means precious," Marcello replied, pursing his lips, looking wary, afraid that if he told her what it meant she'd tell him to stop. "Or dear."
And then his expression faltered. "I don't care about being safe," he answered. "I care about being here. Why do you want me to leave this time?"
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 10 2007, 05:30 PM
"Because you hate the weather here," Niabheara replied reasonably. "Everyone does. It's going to stay cold and damp forever, and you're going to grow black mould everywhere, or else sprout mushrooms. She could take you to Cecilia. She's a very good captain." The girl added, in a tired voice, "I worry about you when you're away."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 10 2007, 05:40 PM
"Then don't tell me to go away," Marcello replied. He curled his feet beneath him, bending his knees into a knot, reached forward, but then thought better of it and leaned back on both palms, hesitant to keep touching her when she was entirely bare, as if it would be breaking the bounds of propriety. "It's silly, if it would only put us both to worrying. But now I'm staying here," he assured her. "You don't have to worry, and I-- well, as accomplished a liar as I am, I still don't think I could say that I like the weather, but I'm growing to accept it as a small price to pay. And I like the mud," he assured her cheerfully. "And I want to see snow, and if I sprout mushrooms, at least I'll never go hungry."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 11 2007, 07:01 PM
"You are a terrible liar, and it's going to catch up to you," she warned him soberly. "I've been sending everyone away. The only people who stay . . . and I don't know if I'm sending them away because I'm afraid of what will happen to them or because I don't know what will happen to me. You were better out of it. You should have stayed away. Any proper prisoner would have run away by now, considering all the opportunities I gave you to do it. I was hoping you would at least try." Now she sounded reproachful. "I shouldn't have told you any of this. But I was afraid of him. I thought at least . . . "
She trailed off, shaking her head delicately, as if it were sore and swollen. "I go through people. I use them up."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 11 2007, 07:16 PM
"I'm not lying," Marcello answered. He gave up his attempt to keep his hands away, and set to stroking her hair, more like one would stroke the hair of a small child with a fever than one might touch a lover.
"I don't think you do that," he assured her. "I've never seen you do that. But maybe I haven't known you for long, if you want to tell me why you think that."
He was so careful with the way he phrased his sentences now, so that she wouldn't have to obey an order. "And I want to know what you thought. But I know why you want to send me away. You send everyone away, and that's not fair to people who want to help, and it leaves you vulnerable without their help. I don't know why you ever thought I would run away."
He swallowed, rasping a little. "I know you're not going to like what I have to say, but Moira made me promise this...before I ever had any reason to question her. She made me promise that if you were ever in real danger, that I'd try to convince you to leave with me. I don't-- the sickness you had is the same one Titania sent to Oireachteigh to kill Lady Bride. Someone tried to poison you. I think you should consider it. The one at the most risk of being used up is you. I don't want that to happen. So. The only way I'll agree to leave is if you're leaving with me."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 11 2007, 07:30 PM
Niabheara coughed a bit and touched her sticky ribs. She gave Marcello a pointed scowl. "I won't leave Cnoch-na-Niall. There's nothing left after that. I could make you go, you know."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 11 2007, 07:35 PM
"And I could make you go, too," Marcello pointed out quietly. "But I won't. This isn't about Cnoch-na-Niall. This is about you. And you may be Cnoch-na-Niall, but Cnoch-na-Niall isn't you. I could wax poetic about Italy, about the warm sun and how I could put you somewhere where you could stop being sick and how I'd get some chickens and cook for you every night, but it all comes down to this: if you want me out of harm's way, you'll put yourself out of harm's way as well."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 11 2007, 07:45 PM
"There's nowhere for me to go." She gritted her teeth. "Why won't you understand this? There is nowhere else to go."
She turned her face away from him. "Fine. I'll go with you. I'll go. But only if there's no hope for this."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 11 2007, 07:58 PM
"One thing I can tell you with no uncertainty is that there are always places to go," Marcello said reassuringly, a faintly wistful tone to his voice. "And that's fine. That's more than I expected to hear." He didn't waver when she turned away. "Your mother's going to be here. If she'd take me, she can take the both of us. If we need her to."
Then he pursed his lips. "I don't know what we do next," he said quietly. "I don't know how long it takes for you to heal and recover. The plague very well may have spread to the rest of the camp. We don't know what the trouble is with Moira. I told Morgana I'd stay with you, because she can't risk it, but-- your soldiers are going to need reassurance, at the very least, and medical care at the most."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 11 2007, 08:10 PM
"Then it's already o'er," she said faintly. "I've taken them all out to the woods to die, no matter what Meg says. She's won. I should've struck her to her face when we found Tristan dead. No matter. At least she would have been dead then, no matter what happened to me after. But you were there. She would have killed you first."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 11 2007, 08:19 PM
"Shh," Marcello said softly. "You see now why I want you away from this. You haven't-- there's always a way, always. It just may not be the most obvious one. There are a lot of things I didn't do, Niabheara, and wish I had. We need to think on what we do now. And I'm not sure what, not when you're hurt, not when the camp's threatened like this."
He gave her a questioning look. "I don't know what Meg says."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 11 2007, 08:34 PM
"Meg?" She gave him a fuzzy look. A look of blank terror stole over her features. "Oh gods, Meg. She's only going to kill me. What are you doing here?" Suddenly she struggled to sit up and pull the sheet over herself at the same time, babbling an incoherent-if-vehement mess of Tuathailli. "I closed the portal, you ass! What did I tell you?"
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 11 2007, 08:38 PM
Marcello blanched, looking around nervously for a moment before he reached for the girl's shoulders, forgetting his earlier timidity. "Come on, cara, lie back down," he said worriedly. "I don't know-- It isn't good for you to be up. And Meg told me to stay with you," he assured her quietly. "She knows I'm here. Come on, now."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 11 2007, 08:44 PM
"I don't care!" What should have come out as a shout lost some of its sting as a hoarse pant. "You never do anything I tell you, you're as bad as the other one! You need to go home, damn you! I love you! You're wrecking my life! Stupid, jealous, stubborn men . . . " She allowed herself to be lowered; she was too limp, really, for anything more than a pretended struggle. "I hate men. I really do. You're all hands. Women are much more gentle in my experience."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 11 2007, 08:53 PM
Marcello gritted his teeth, swallowing back any anger or frustration he felt at her outburst, until her last statement, blinking when she said it, and wondering if it had meant to sound the way it did.
He shut his eyes for a moment, then took his discarded jacket, rolled it up, and lay down on his side beside her, using the jacket as a rather damp pillow. He hesitated again before answering, unsure of how to take her comments. "I love you, too. I'm not-- this isn't the time or place for an argument, Niabheara. You-- it's the exhaustion talking. And I'm afraid you're stuck with me; I'm the only one besides the trul who can't catch it. So if I'm being too clumsy, just tell me so. I can try to be more gentle."
And he bit his tongue, hoping that she hadn't meant her bit the way it sounded to him.
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 11 2007, 08:59 PM
"Even Deirdre was a better kisser than you were," she muttered to make her point, even as she snagged a handful of shirt and drew herself close to him. "Bastard." Her face nuzzled under his chin.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 11 2007, 09:15 PM
That statement gave Marcello pause, but not enough to distract him from the girl's motions. "Now I know that's the exhaustion talking," he teased softly, tilting his head to bury his face in her hair as he moved to touch a hand to his cheek, testing it to make certain it wasn't chilly, before he put it-- very gently-- to her back, just below her waist to hold her close to him. "And if there's any truth to it at all, you can coach me when you're well."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 12 2007, 06:16 AM
"It's the truth." Her lips found his collarbone beneath his shirt. "And I didn't hear you objecting much to the taste of blood then. Ow." She winced and squirmed uncomfortably when her weight rolled onto the fresh stitches. "Ow. Ow. This stuff doesn't work." She made no visible move to relocate herself, however; the effort of actually changing positions was currently more difficult than simply putting up with the pressure. "You are such a bastard," she repeated, snuggling in tighter. "It's never love with you."
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 06:28 AM
Marcello started worriedly when she protested at her stitches. "Niabheara, love, come on, now," he said softly, re-adjusting himself around her to get onto his back, trying to nudge her to lean back against him instead of on her side on the ground. "You've got cuts in your lungs, for heaven's sake; you can't risk those opening again."
"And those are some harsh words coming from someone who said being in love was embarrassing just a moment ago," he pointed out, pressing a kiss to her temple. "I don't know--" but he could tell she was delirious, he wasn't going to question everything she said. "You know I love you. I just-- you're sick."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 12 2007, 06:46 AM
Fortunately, the drugs seemed to make her complacent to being shifted about, especially when she did not have to put any effort into it. "Sticks," she corrected vaguely. "Put sticks in 'em. Doesn't hurt that much." Right now she was more interested in being warm; she grabbed one of his arms and dragged it over her. "Mother's going to hate this. Last thing she needs is another excuse to--" Niabheara yawned hugely, cutting herself short.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 06:52 AM
Marcello actually laughed, then, understanding exactly what she wanted his arm for, completely gave up on propriety and reached for a spare blanket as he slid onto Niabheara's mat, pulling her sheet and then the blanket up around them both to keep the warmth in. "Of all the things to worry about now, I don't think being afraid your mother won't like me is very high on the list," he assured her. "I'll charm her, promise. Come on, now. Sleep."
Posted by: Niabheara ni Dowd Nov 12 2007, 07:11 AM
Safer--and warmer, for the first time in what felt like ages--she burrowed closer. "Oh, you'll care when she chews out your throat. She's like . . . a badger. Doesn't let go. This isn't going to work. Bad idea. How should I tell him? I've tried to tell him. He doesn't understand. And it's not as if . . . "
She was asleep.
Posted by: Marcello Basciano Nov 12 2007, 07:21 AM
Marcello let out a deep sigh of relief, looking untroubled by the talk of Niabheara's mother as he kissed her squarely on the forehead and then on both cheeks, lovingly tucked the blanket around her, and bundled her up in both his arms before letting himself rest his head against hers and shutting his eyes.
"This would be everything I want," he whispered, quietly, so as not to wake her, "if I didn't know how much pain you must be in."
And then, finally, and with great exhaustion, he let himself fall asleep as well.
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