laoch = warrior

Part One: Chapter Six, Part Two

Head to the table of contents to find previous and subsequent chapters.

November 1st, 1744;
Somewhere between Inverness and Lallybroch, Scotland.

Claire.

The channel crossing was uneventful to say the least. Jamie spent the entire voyage passed out drunk on his bunk, and Julia joined him in peaceful slumber for most of it. The overland leg of our journey was proving to be more of a challenge.

“Stop. I can’t take this,” I said, reigning in my horse and dismounting in one movement. “Please, Jamie, give her to me.”

Jamie brought his mount up next to me and handed down our screaming daughter. He was handling her tears about as well as I was, his face drawn in concern. “I’m sorry, Sassenach, I canna settle her.”

I had made sure she was fed and dry when we left the inn, but the combination of irregular movement, inclement weather, and increased tension was enough to tip Julia right over the edge of colic and into the chasm of complete and utter despondency.

I sat down on a wet boulder, back to the road, and loosened the blankets she was bundled in. Taking a swift look at her nappy, I found it still dry. She had just eaten and wasn’t acting hungry, but loosened my stays just in case. Julia wasn’t even the slightest bit interested in nursing. I held her hands in mine and checked another item off the list: she wasn’t cold. The weather was stereotypically Scottish, rainy and chilly. We had taken great pains to shelter Julia from the elements, but, still, November was not an ideal month for an infant to travel.

Not wet, not hungry, not cold.

“What is it, darling? Will you please show me what’s wrong?” I begged my infant daughter, pulling my earasaid tighter around us both.

 I tried everything I could think of. I rocked, I patted, I walked, I bounced: everything that usually worked and then some. After ten fruitless minutes, I lowered myself back down on the rock and joined Julia in her misery, my hot tears warming chilled cheeks.

Jamie knelt beside me and took my face in his hands, “What can I do, mo chridhe?”

“I don’t know,” I sobbed.

“Then let me tell ye what I ken, aye?” He wiped my tears away with his thumb, caressing my cheekbone.

He was calm. How in bloody hell could he be so calm when his daughter had been for over an hour and showed no signs of stopping?

His voice was low and even, steady and sure as the massive boulder I was sitting on. His eyes were clear and bright, never straying from mine. His gaze loosened the stronghold of panic on my heart. It always did.

“I ken I love ye more than life itself and, in spite of all the heartache I’ve caused ye, I ken ye love me too. I ken that ye are the most beautiful woman this side of heaven. I ken ye are a wonderful mother to our bairn and ye are doing everything in your power to make sure she is well and happy.”

Julia let out a shriek that told her father just exactly how far from happy she was, making Jamie smile at the perfect timing. “I also ken that she is your daughter and canna resist speaking her mind.”

I couldn’t help but smile at his wry grin, “Oh, my daughter, is she? She’s a stubborn Scot if I ever met one.”

“Oh, aye. I ken that too, Sassenach.” He brought his face close, his nose nuzzling my neck. “But I ken it’s her stubborn, warrior’s spirit that will keep her wi’ us.”

“That’s what Master Raymond called her. Did I tell you that? He said she was my petit guerrier.”

“Aye, ye did and she is that,” he agreed as he gently took Julia from my arms. “Let me have a turn wi’ mo beag laoch.”

“Leoch?” I raised an eyebrow.

He smiled and shook his head, “Nae, but it sounds close, Sassenach. Laoch is a warrior or hero.”

With that, he rose and began his usual calming routine.

The two of them had become inseparable in the weeks after Jamie retuned to me. They had their own secret language, similar to the whispers of motherhood, but something indescribably unique. He tucked her up firmly against his chest, swaying gently, murmuring Gaelic reassurances in her ear. They walked back and forth in front of me. With each pass, Julia became less and less distraught. Soon, Julia settled into contentment and was silent. Jamie stopped pacing in front of me, grinning from ear to ear.

I glared back up at him, “That’s not fair.”

“Aye, well, dinna fash, Sassenach, I think ye had her most of the way there. Do the two of ye want to try the wagon with Murtagh?” He helped me up from the rock and lead us back towards the horses.

“No,” I responded immediately, shuddering at the thought of bumping along in a poorly made wagon on deeply rutted roads with a colicky three month old. ”I think she should ride with you again. You seemed to have charmed her into silence, maybe you can get her fall asleep.”

Jamie apparently took my suggestion as a personal challenge, for less than twenty minutes later, Julia had settled into a shallow slumber as we plodded thru the dripping Scottish Highlands. The road, more like a path at this point, began to discourage side-by-side travel, forcing me to fall in line behind them. Fergus had joined me in the saddle when we remounted and seemed to be dozing as well. He leaned heavily against my back, arms loose about my waist.

I watched Jamie turn this way and that, taking in the beauty of his homeland. I could hear him speaking, but the wind swept away his words before I could make out what he was saying. His voice was animated, and I could only imagine the stories he was telling Julia. Heeling my mount when the road finally allowed, I pulled up along side him.

“How’s she doing?” I asked nervously. I knew she wasn’t crying, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t unhappy.

He peeked under his plaid and smiled down at his daughter, “She’s found her thumb, Sassenach. All is well.”

Ravens and Crows Part 2: An Ivar Imagine

Part two of my request from @lyra-stark99 about Ivar meeting a mythological creature in the woods as a child. Apparently I can’t contain this and there will be a part 3. I did my best with the mythology but if it’s inaccurate I apologize!

Part one can be found here: https://underthenorthstar.tumblr.com/post/161676333060/ravens-and-crows-part-one-an-ivar-imagine

Laoch beag- little warrior

Eire- Ireland

Aoife is pronounced Ee-fa

****

Ivar grew.

And as he grew, he learned. He learned about his gods, how to please them and honor them. He learned how to use a sword and a bow. He learned how to sit back and observe, to store up information and then best decide how to use it to his advantage. Most important of all, he learned what it was like to have a friend.

For that is was Aoife came to be to him, over the years. Always by his side, in public as a cat and in private as whatever form she chose. She talked to him of many things, of creatures and gods and a world so very different from his own.

“I am called a puca,” she told him one day, not long after she had first come to him. He had scrunched up his nose at the funny word.

“A what?”

“A puca. A spirit, a shapeshifter. I can choose my form, whatever I please. In my land, Eire, there are many of us. Some choose to harm humans, others, like me, choose to help them.”

“So you are here to help me?” Ivar had frowned. “With what? Who sent you? Are the gods in Eire? Did Odin send you?”

Aoife had laughed. “Does your All-Father bless the people of the Green Isle? No, he cares only for the Northmen. As he should. My people are cared for by their own gods. I will teach you about them. Along with many other things. It will do good for you to know.”

Ivar had asked why, but all she had said was he would find out when he was ready. He did not particularly care to know about other gods, but he was desperate to know what secrets she was keeping from him. So he listened.

She taught him of the Morrigna, of the three sisters called The Morrigan, Babda Catha, and Macha, who gave prophecies and determined battles. She taught him of The Dagda, the “good god”, who fathered the beloved Brigit, lady of poetry. She taught him of Eriu, Mother of the Land. She spun stories of kelpies, leprechauns and fairies. He did not want to be interested, but he found himself captivated by her tales. Eire seemed like such a lush place, a place of old power and strong blood. He longed to see it with his own eyes. He was surprised to find it was easy to believe there was more than just his gods. Of course, the gods of his people were superior. But he supposed it was plausible every people had their own gods to look after them.

She also taught him her lilting language, the strange words heavy on his tongue at first, but gradually getting easier. They spend many afternoons in the forest, Aoife patient as he attempted to make conversation in what she called Gaeilge. He was surprised he liked the way the words sounded from his mouth. He found himself speaking Gaeilge to himself when he was at home, Aoife purring and batting her paws against him proudly when he would say things correctly.

She never left him, save for a short period about three years after she had decided to stay. She told him she had to return to Eire for a while, and was gone for almost a month. He felt morose while she was gone, and he was more snippy and angry than usual. It wasn’t the same without her constant presence, whether as a girl or cat. He was deeply afraid she would not return to him, that she had grown tired of his temper. It was then he realized that she had actually become a friend. His first friend. The thought made him almost….happy. When she was there, he no longer felt the weight of crushing loneliness, and on days when he just wanted the pain to end, her stories and her presence kept him from total darkness. When she finally came back, it felt as if a weight was lifted from him. She had returned. His friend. His companion. His Aoife.

“You will not leave me again,” he told her, eyes blazing. “You are my friend. No one else’s. If you have to go back to Eire, I will come with you.”

Aoife smiled at him, and something strange shone in her eyes. “Oh laoch beag, I cannot promise that I will not leave again. But I will say this: you will have a different companion one day, and the tether between your hearts will burn so hot and so bright the sun will pale in comparison.”

He did not know what to say, and she did not offer any more.

It was then, upon her return, that the dreams started. Dreams of crows and ravens, circling him. Of a terrifying but beautiful woman, covered in blood, crying out to him from amidst a desolate battlefield. An old man, shaking a maiden’s hand, dislike but understanding on both their faces. A pretty young girl, blue flowers in her hair and freckles across her nose, humming softly as she stirred a bubbling pot over a fire: He always awoke with a sense of longing in his chest, like he was aching for something but he did not know what. He asked Aoife what they meant, but she refused to tell him.

Until the day his father returned.

He was sitting out in the woods, contemplating what the return of his father meant. He hated the man, hated him for leaving. But yet he loved him, deep down within his often hurt heart. He wanted to go to England with him, to prove his worth to Ragnar, but he did not know if it was what he should do.

Aoife appeared then, in girl form. She never aged her appearance, always stayed the young girl of about six years old. The girl with the familiar face he still could not quite place. It was odd to think of himself keeping company with a child. But, then again, she was not really a child.

“You will go to England,” she said, without preamble. “You need to see what happens there. It was foretold.”

“You are always telling me things are foretold,” Ivar grumbled, not in the mood for her cryptic words. “Yet you never tell me what actually you mean. You have told me many times I will learn when I am ready. I am a man now, am I not ready? I grow tired of your riddles!”

Aoife sat beside him, her tail curling to brush his hand. “You have learned many things, laoch beag. You have conquered many fears and become a clever and sharp man. There is still a ways to go. But England will change that.” She sighed, suddenly looking very ancient despite her youthful face. “I think it is time.”

Ivar’s eyebrows shot up, surprise written across his features. “Time?”

“Yes, Ivar,” Aoife’s voice was steady, sure. “It is time you know what was foretold about you, why I came to you in the first place. In truth, I was sent by the one who forsees all, who looked into the future and saw a man with twisted legs and a keen mind. Who gazed across the sea and saw you.”

Ivar’s heart missed a beat. “The Morrigan.”

“Yes,” Aoife nodded. “The Morrigan.”

I looked into the future and saw him. A man without bones, but tall and proud. Blood in his teeth, fire in his heart. He will come with a vengeance, he will conquer and claim and make Eire his own. His All Father smiles upon him. We will meet him, and we will fall at his feet. We will give him our daughter, our Meara, blessed with the gift of the craft. His seed with quicken in her womb, and a child of great deeds and power will emerge. Two bloodlines, forged together. Strong. Iron clad and unbendable. The Northman and the Daughter of the Isle. Make the preparations. Speak to the All Father. Send the child a guide. He must grow and learn, he must endure and he must sail. I have seen it, and so it shall be.

We will await your coming, Ivar the Boneless.

*****
Hope you enjoy! Have a good day or night, my dears ❤️

@belle-scarre
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