She became a swan to avoid marrying the evil Pheland. Rory became a fox to restore her to womanhood. He risked his human existence for all time that Fionna would not have to remain a bird.
|Publisher:||Wings ePress, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 1.25(h) x 9.00(d)|
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My Uncle Elidor was as dear to me as my own father. My mother's brother was a kind and unusual man. He'd studied many years to become a Druid and was a master of his craft. When my dear mother died, he returned to our island to help my father raise my brother and me. When we were very young he kept a close watch on us. As we grew older, he provided us with an education that could not be obtained anywhere outside of a Druid tutelage.
Elidor was my uncle, my friend and my most trusted confidant. He was always able to answer questions I dared not ask of my father. We talked long hours of my mother's childhood. To speak of mother to Papa wounded him so; I did not trouble him. But Elidor was more than eager to tell me of his sister's childhood exploits. You could tell he and his sister were very close as children. It seemed he regretted the time he spent studying, away from his sister. Uncle believed family was the most desirable structure for the preservation of all that is good in mankind. He revered all life, human, animal, even the plants were held in high esteem. If he were to come across an injured animal he would tend it carefully until it was strong enough to return to its home. Though he cared for many animals, none were caged. They knew they could rely on Uncle Elidor to do his best for them. Passing his love of creatures on to Sully and me, he taught me how to communicate with the birds and oftentimes I could get them to sing along with me.
Times were becoming meager for us. The loss of a full year's wool and Mrs. MacTaggert's accounts were straining on our family's finances. When Mr. MacTaggert handled all the funds and we had a slim year, he would extend fundsagainst the following year. Mrs. MacTaggert, however, was not so generous. She hoarded every penny. It was my belief she told her husband she extended the same courtesy, as did he, then pocketed the difference herself.
Papa worried that he could not provide for us as he always had. I was of marriageable age and he thought to find me a husband who could provide for us all. Not considered a beauty, he sought out older men, who would not be offended by my unusual coloring.
We owned three quarters of the land at the rim. The remainder belonged to a man new to Scotland. He was a Briton of some royal heritage and my father thought him to be a fine match.
I did not like the man. He frightened me. When Papa told me he had betrothed me to Laird Arwan Pheland, I fled to the comfort of my brother and Tag. Surely, they could come up with a remedy for this terrible mess.
The boys were fishing at the edge of the island's rocky coast. As I approached I heard Sully taunt his friend, "So you think my sister is pretty? Jeeze, I love her, but that white hair separates her from the beauties."
Tag turned abruptly and cuffed my brother. "Don't you say another thing about Fionna. She's perfect just as she is. Her white hair does not separate her from beauties; it elevates her. She has a beauty that surpasses all others."
Though I was truly upset about my betrothal, Tag's words made my heart sing. To know someone treasured me was some comfort. I loudly cleared my throat, to alert them of my presence. When they looked up at me Tag's face quickly turned crimson.
Even as I smiled at him my tears began to flow. Soon I was consumed by my crying. They both rushed to me. My brother, angered, wanted to murder the one who'd harmed me. Tag however made the quick assessment I was not physically injured, merely gravely offended.
He rushed to my side and placed his arm about my shoulders. He rubbed his sleeve across my face wiping away my tears. "What happened? What have you been told that alarms you so?"
"Papa wants me to marry Laird Pheland."
"Pheland, that pig?" Tag replied. "He's so old and ugly in a strange sort of way. Why would he offer his daughter to a man old enough to be your father?"
I let myself slide to the sand on the narrow beach and covered my eyes. "We're so poor. He needs the bride price to pay off our debts."
Tag looked truly puzzled. "Why are you poor? My father pays you no matter if it is a good year or bad."
Sully gently lifted me from the ground and brushed the sand from my skirt. "Yeah, your father did, but that witch won't and she is the one in charge now. Since your father has been ill, she even refuses to allow us some mutton from time to time."
"But why? What is one sheep more or less? Through the bounty of the valley we have more sheep than any other herd in all of Scotland." Tag shook his head. It was clear the witch had reached farther than the manor with her evil.
"Did you tell Papa how you feel about this man?" Sully knew Papa would do nothing that did not please me. However, I knew it was my duty to save our family, so I said nothing. I had no other choice.
"When?" Tag asked, "When does this foul thing take place? How much time have we?"
Struggling through my tears and hiccups I replied, "After the herd is taken to the summer grazing."
Tag nodded, closed his eyes and pounded his fist into his palm. "We need a plan and a way to hide you."
"Hide me?" I cried, "Where can one hide on an island? There are no woods or vast structures that no one inhabits. It would be impossible to hide here. Though no one could find me if I stayed with the sheep, how would I eat? Where would I find shelter?"
Tag paced up and down along the beach. Finally he turned and said, "You will stay with me. I can hide you in the stable and bring food to you every evening. No one will find you there. I trust the groom, and Hagga hates the place. She says it is putrid."
Spring all too quickly blended into summer. The time for the sheep to be taken to the hidden pasture drew near. Sully and I spent long hours pondering how to save his sister.
I'd been able to convince Da to turn the business accounts over to me. As time passed and he became weaker, he relied on me for the truth of the state of his company. Hagga resisted at first, but when Da told her as a woman, she would not be permitted to conduct business she acquiesced, albeit reluctantly. Each evening as I visited my father he seemed to grow smaller. His once broad shoulders now were thin peaks of bone and his eyes were sunken. He dared not eat anything Hagga prepared for him and sometimes had to wait until I returned from the island before he had any proper food.
Fearing her scheme to poison my father might be completed, I created a business relationship for my father with the groom. Though Hagga questioned the presence of the man at the manor, she did not confront the groom nor forbid him into our home. She feared my wrath and the condemnation of the servants. Always aware of servants' tales, she was careful, lest she give them fodder for their gossip mill. When I was unable to bring Da's food, the groom would sneak bread and mutton to him.
As I fed my father the evening before the lambs were taken to summer grazing, he smiled wanly and pushed away the spoon.
"No more, Rory. It is done."