Tales of Cathair Cothrom – Sneag II


Sneag Cogadh Lan, 2 Feb 825

Sneag turned around a few times in front of a mirror, trying to decide which one of the dresses she was given by the Mian Lans would be the best. She no longer felt so weird in anything else than armors she had always worn, but still did not have the fashion sense her hosts seemed to be gifted with. She was not informed how much of this was in their blood and how much in their upbringing, but… did not the folks wonder the same about the battle skills of the Cogadh Lans?

She heard footsteps, and then the door to her room opened and in came Morag. The younger daughter of Banrion Aimil had shouldered the entire weight of taking care of the guest for the entire month Sneag spent in house Mian Lan. Now Morag seemed quite irritated and just sat down on the bed instead of taking care of her peer’s blood red hair.

Cogadh Lan started plaiting her hair herself while staring at Morag’s beautiful hair-do. She finally chose a red-and-black dress her servants had sent her from her house and put it on.

‘Do not forget about the dagger’ Mian Lan said quietly.

Sneag looked carefully at her companion upon this extraordinary comment and saw her fingers twitching nervously.

‘I am never separated from it’ she said equally quietly ‘after all, I am a Cogadh Lan’

‘Be careful. Not all in the house are your friends…’

Her thoughts immediately wandered towards the eldest son of the house, Solamh. In the month she spent in house Mian Lan, she had seen him several times only. It was said he had an argument with his sisters about a girl he’d kept, and consequently moved out.

‘Are you?’ she asked seriously.

The cleric of the Life-Giver didn’t answer for a long while.

‘You can trust me’ she said at last.

Sneag was silent. After a long while, she took out a piece of parchment and a quill. She wrote a short message and then called for one of her own soldiers. He saluted and left. The man returned half an hour later. He was carrying an elven chainmail possessed of light weight – or rather, its parts. The young Banrion started to put it on. The rings of the chain shirt were almost invisible, covered by her dress. Then she put on footless leggings. The elf-woman stretched her body, making sure that the armor doesn’t make loud sounds and that it isn’t noticeable after she put her long black boots on. Pleased with the results, she turned to face Morag. Mian Lan cringed – it seemed she didn’t like wearing armor under one’s dress.

***

A few days later, Sneag was dancing at a ball Banrion Aimil had organized. The Mian Lan made up most of the participants, but there were several servants with uncommon beauty. It was said it was Morag who chose beautiful commoners for her servants.

Cogadh Lan kept watching one of the men. He could have been the model for the tapestry which gained her attention at her first visit – he had the very same brown eyes. His silver hair was a clear sign that the blood of the house Mian Lan runs in his veins – maybe he was an unacknowledged child of one of the nobles?

The man approached her, moving as though he were dancing. She wondered if the grace is innate or trained. He extended his hand to her. The woman let her eyes take in his entire form. He was handsome, but her mind was more inclined to check whether he has hidden weaponry or not. Having decided he is not dangerous, she accepted the hand offered and allowed herself to be led into a dance.

She did not know the steps – in spite of Morag’s earlier instructions – so she let him lead, meanwhile wondering where Solamh Mian Lan is. When the dance was finished, the man performed an elegant bow. She replied in kind.

The music became more violent, faster, more rhythmical. Many dancers, including Sneag, walked aside. Morag, her two brothers, a young servant with black hair and the mysterious man remained in the middle of the hall. Cogadh Lan sat down on an ornate chair, putting one leg over the other.

Ceanag Mian Lan, holding a wine glass in her hand, leaned over her. The stem was made as an image of some plant from Faerie, the ancient homeland of the elves.

‘Who do you think will win?’ Ceanag asked.

Sneag shrugged and set her crown – which she wore this evening as a reminder of her position – straight.

‘Who can know, if not you?’

The older elf-woman burst out laughing.

‘You really believe this rubbish that I can read thoughts?’

‘Morag and Airril say you can foretell the future also’

Ceanag smiled crookedly.

‘Darling, all you need is a bit of cunning. I foretell my brother shall win’ she added, pointing her glass at the dance floor. When the dancing ended, the older woman smiled.

‘See? I won’ she said, pointing at the brown-eyed man who was the winner.

‘This is your brother?’ Sneag asked, surprised.

‘Indeed. Solamh has always been a good dancer.’ she added.

Sneag lifted her eyebrows. So he was Solamh Mian Lan! While she was watching him, Ceanag’s brother suddenly rose into the air and stayed there for a few moments, before he glided down in a graceful way.

‘Sola is a mage in addition to his being a warrior’ Ceanag added.

‘Are you a mage too?’

‘My abilities are of a somewhat different nature’ the woman smiled mysteriously.

***

When she left the ball, Sneag Cogadh Lan felt the fine hairs at the back of her neck rise. She saw a shadow moving in the corridor. She reached for the knife, when the shadow started approaching her. The man smiled in a way that was to suggest he’s harmless.

‘I saw the way you looked at me’ he said.

The she-warrior lowered the dagger and looked intently at him. She was able to see his brown eyes in spite of poor light.

‘Solamh Mian Lan?’ she asked.

The man she addressed nodded and kept on smiling. Cogadh Lan did not sheath her weapon, remembering Morag’s warnings well.

‘Have you seen the tapestries in my mother, Banrion Aimil’s throne room? I was a model for one of them…’ his voice drifted off.

Sneag smiled at last, remembering the impression the particular work of art made on her.

‘I’ve noticed’ she admitted.

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