Chapter 2: Stories Untold, Lovers not Known
The Keep was in sight as she said her good-byes to the land and continued on, toward their home. There was much work to be done. She would not be there to wash his body once it fell and there would be no one to bring him home…and her job was to see to it that there would not be a home left here.
Pausing in her walk amongst her familiars in the wood, she screamed at the wrongness of what was to take place. It was in her power to destroy this place and so she would. The anger welled up and flowed with more mighty force than that of the tay! The war mongers and the greedy were not content with the portion of the tax that they sent…and so it has come to this! They were coming in force to claim what they rightfully thought was theirs!
Ruttay felt the frenzy bubble around her. She would pick the bones of those that flattered and sickened all that they touched, wanting without working. Those that dealt in intrigue and exploiting the innocent. Eternity now spread out in front of her. The future now held all that she lived for. Their future. And in her next body, she would come back to this place and curse their graves, finishing in life what they had dealt her in death.
By the time she had reached the Keep she was no longer screaming her anger. Which was good. Clearing her mind, she focused on the task at hand.
There was no sleep that night, or the next. Prowling the Keep, she kept checking and double checking what had been put in place. When light began to push back the night she heard popping sounds as the dove coot burned.
The beehive shape of stone that had housed the pigeons was the last thing to be torched before the Keep itself was put to flame. Fruit trees and berry bushes had been dug up and moved. All the livestock had been butchered and smoked or salted or just spirited away. They had collected enough water to last them and stored it in the cistern. With a curse on her lips, she then poisoned the well.
Hearing the midday call to Mass, she made her way down the stairs into the cellar. There was comfort to be found being in the womb of the great earth mother. With a practiced hand, she struck the flint and lit more torches and took the key off her belt and opened the cupboard. Lovingly, she touched all the things she had gathered from the land of their house that she had used to heal.
Pulling up a cask she sat down and let her memories drift one more time. The tears fell as she mourned the passing of this life and all those that she loved. She reached for the linen towel that was on her table. It was one of the old diapers she had used on her sons. Drying her eyes and blowing her nose she rose and started carefully selecting the herbs.
Where her heart had been, there was now fire and ash. The best thing to do was to keep herself busy mixing the potions she would need. It would take less than two days before their home was betrayed. Her beloved’s death was imminent.
By nightfall, she knew, her lover was no longer in this world, but watching her from the next. For word to reach back that he had fallen would take two days. Ticking off the days she knew there would be a full moon the night they came for her and rightly so, for her heart was full of love for her Willsson. There was now no looking back. Only looking forward. To the next time when she would see him, hold him, love him.
Time to get to work. Hmmm, a little hemlock was good, a lot of hemlock was even better. The wax from the comb would hold the poison. Eventually the comb would dissolve. Those fools who had no concept of God would soon be seeing Him face to face.
Their house was famed for their larder, their storerooms, their cellar. These goods would be confiscated and passed out to those that were currently in favor, and who knew, perhaps a barrel of wine or beer and certainly the whiskey would make its way forward. After all, no one could brew better than this witch. And indeed, they were right.
Her beloved trusted her to hold what was theirs, only this time, their legacy would be in what was taken and it would all be taken and then what was left burned to the ground.
She would see to it that the death bell rang for months for all of those who drank their wine while not blessing their name in health; the death specter that would follow in the wake of his and then her murders and her final act would cause the ground here to be salted, what was left of the keep torn down, and those that passed their lands would make the sign for the evil eye. Aye, she would hold this ground with her heart, forever, for here he had loved her in the stream, the field, the forest. Under summer’s sun and winter’s howling snows. In the leaves of autumn and on a bed of the first spring flowers. For when the storms would rage, so would they.
Their lovemaking knew no boundaries and was certainly not confined to the hall. And if there was a storm brewing, she wanted him inside of her. He instinctively knew this, remembering it from many lifetimes past when they had loved together.
When he had come to her father’s house, that first time, seeking her, it had been in such a storm. She had been awake, listening for him, feeling him even in the distance as he approached. Knowing in her heart that they were once again going to be together and that this time of loneliness was soon just going to be a shadow. She waited each lifetime for this moment and he always came for her.
And she was never disappointed. That night, she was roused from her bed to see to the newly arrived guests. She did not even bother to pull on her dressing gown, why muddy it, she laughed to herself. So in her chemise she went to great the great laird that had entered their hall. It would not have mattered if she would have been nude…nothing would matter except for what he sought in her eyes.
She heard him, that voice displacing all other things, it was a roar above the storm. “Not this daughter, either,” his voice filled with disgust, his temper rising, “where is the one that I have heard rumors of, the green eyed witch, of which everyone whispers.”
Laughing, she took her time approaching and finally stood in a spot and fixed the image of him, searing it into her soul. For she loved the first time that she saw him.
The fire was roaring and torches had been lit and the great table had been moved from the side back to the place of honor in the hall. There someone had brought food that was going unnoticed, much to the chagrin of cook. She saw her sisters and several other serving girls cowering against a wall, some sobbing as he forced their faces up to look into his. Somehow the terribleness of the storm had taken up residence inside their home all embodied in this one man.
Poor, Anna, she had green eyes but they were full of tears; she could hear her oldest sister gurgling in misery and fear. Ruttay stood quietly, there in the shadows, watching him with her eyes and her spirit.
Her height had belonged to her great grandmother. The dark hair and skin and green eyes was purely her Pictsh great grandfather who had passed to her more that just her looks, but the magic as well. And it was this magic she now road until her want for him could no longer be contained. She let loose her desire for him and unleashed on him what he was spewing out into the universe. He jerked around in that moment and fixed his gaze in her direction.
The laughter escaped her and then she saw his aura come back under control; it no longer expanded out into the room, searching every cranny. But it was still radiating a few feet out from him. As she approached him, their gazes locked. He had stared down any and all, but not her. The more he deepened and fought for control with his gaze, the more it fed and delighted her.
Until they finally stood nose to nose.
“It is terrible to be this alone,” he whispered to her, as she rubbed her nose against his.
“It is terrible to be this alone,” she whispered back.
Thunder shook the hall and she laughed aloud, as he picked her up and was out the door and into the pounding, driving rain. Under the massive oaks he carried her and when he set her down she pushed him hard against one and started her assault on him. The raging of the storm forming the backdrop and seemed only as a lullaby compared to what they were doing to each other, not only physically, but spiritually as well.
She climbed up him, he supporting both of them as she finally wrapped herself around him and he tore not only though her chemise, but her as well. Through screams and song and poetry she came and came again, his words whispering of home and children how soon their babies would be suckling at her breasts.
It was, she laughed aloud at the memory, at a much more sedate step when they entered the hall and looking at her father her beloved called for the priest. They were married in a midnight mass service.
Ruttay took down another bottle and pulled the stopper and sniffed. When they came for her, these would be the memories that she would have fixed in her mind. Those of their beginning. And because she was his and the boys were safely away, she would not go without a fight. No, there would be death and destruction when the priest betrayed them and let them in through the priest’s door.
Those that were left to guard the Keep would do so and then set it on fire with the torches.
All volunteered to stay behind and kill as many as possible. For the ones that stayed had a touch of the gift as well. Like is drawn to like and old friends to old friends. She could feel them all through the hall, even now. Each one placing a small cache of arms peculiar to their taste and skill. In that belief they all stood together and welcomed the opportunity to kill as much evil as possible, before they themselves were called home.
Smiling, she went on about the business of poisoning the larder and let herself remember that first time with him in this lifetime: with each word and promise that he made about their future together, there in the pounding rain, he brought her to climax, making her feel more like the great earth mother, giving life to all and nursing all at her breasts.
Willsson was gone and she would be soon. But he was magic and he made her soul sing. And he would again…..
The wheel turns and it turns again. Sons and daughters were born of Willsson’s and Ruttay’s blood.
The stories were lost but to a few…and the Pict continued.
Ruth was a free lance journalist. She didn’t make a lot of money but she always sold what she wrote. She had created a niche for herself in the “literary world”. Floral and fauna in haunted places was her calling card. Be it some long lost family Civil War plot in the South or on a slope in Ireland where sheep moved nimbly up and down the hillside.
Most folks avoided places that were said to have haunts and those that did venture there were generally respectful. Haunted places were great places to seek out “the old timey plants” that would be left undisturbed to grow and reproduce. She had photographed some plants that had been thought to be extinct. Yes, the more haunted the reputation, the better chance she had of making a discovery that would perhaps one day help her put enough money together to run electricity to her most humble domicile.
Death and flowers were a little something that she knew enough about to write and no one really questioned her authority. Past lives, future lives, spirits, things that go bump in the night, all these things fell within her writing domain and the plants that could be found there. She wrote about what she knew and in these areas she knew plenty. There were no scientist to dispute her and she didn’t have to reference her work. Which was nice…as well as living in a time when they no longer burned women as witches.
Life was simple and bittersweet. Her small log cabin that had been built overlooking the Tahlequah River had been left to her by her grandmother. It had been the original family dwelling. It had been built in 1900 by her great-grandfather when he had migrated from Georgia with the family, her grandfather walking to Oklahoma behind the wagon the entire way.
Ruth had a great fondness for the place. With a bit of imagination, she could color in places of the past…put a waddle fence down by the road.
And if her heart was breaking or full of joy, out of the corner of her eye a strawberry blond headed Viking…was not best to linger there for long, but at times, those memories called to her and she would not keep them silent.
The original family homestead had been her home for five years before she had saved enough money for her greatest luxury. It had been a real day of triumph when a propane tank and gas line had been run for the new cook stove and heating stove. Good by to the good old days, hello modern appliances. She still burned both fireplaces in the winter, thankfully, no longer her only source of heat. She still hand pumped water in the kitchen and trudged out to the outhouse. Brrrrr, boy, that north wind could waft up your nether regions. She was a girl who liked her creature comforts and electricity and flush potties were high on her list. That was what she was saving for next.
Mail was a big event. Waiting on the porch, she could hear when the post lady drove up in her Jeep. Mrs. Hurst arrived at just the right time of day. Ruth would put the kettle on at 4 and by 4:10 she would be inside fixing a pot of tea and opening her mail. There was great comfort in the ritual and she looked forward to it every day. There was always the chance that it was payday until she opened the envelopes and was either rewarded with a check or not.
But this day was different! It was the letterhead on the envelope that caught her attention. Really! She had read the letter twice and then went out to her front porch and sat down. This happened to other people, never to her. Carefully, she read the letter again and wanted to bash her head against the wall. She didn’t want to go but the money was just too good. All expenses paid as well as five-oh-my-gawd-thousand dollars. Ruth was many things, but a coward was not one of them. Scotland, well shit. Just when you thought it could not possibly get any lonelier, well, hell, of course it could. Shit.
From Heathrow to Edinburgh and a train to Perth. The train ride was rainy. Well of course it was, it was Scotland. It had nothing to do with the tears that she felt forming in her eyes.
A taxi to the hotel and then work…and so now, here she was…once more. Her heart would not allow her to call it home.
Oddly, the nights had been restful.
Morning light was seeping into her room. There were cows mooing and on the wind Ruth could smell the sheep. Coming up from a deep sleep, she was momentarily lost. The air smelled right and she reached for the man that should have been beside her…when her eyes opened she was indeed back in Scotland, just hundreds of years later. Get out of the past and into the present. Shower, breakfast, work. She was paid to do a job, do it, she would.
It was a new day and after a wonderful Scottish breakfast she made her way here to this lovely hillside. She had started wearing her raincoat and now she simple had it tied around her waist. Not really rain, not really a mist, but something in between. It was Scotland. Picking black berries along the way she followed the path that brought her to Kinnoull Hill, overlooking Perth. Her heart sang for joy! How she did love this place and yet she was so lonely she wished for nothing more than to turn to water and be absorbed into the ground so that she would be lost and all this loneliness would no longer be hers to bear.
For the past two days, she had been photographing ruins. While wondering the Scottish country side in Perthshire, she could still pick out remnants of the Roman roads. Best purchase of the week had been the book The Romans in Perthsire, by David Woolliscroft and Birgitta Hoffmann at the very small, but exquisite, Perth Museum and Art Gallery. It was the equivalent of the Michelin guide she needed and enjoyed reading it immensely.
This pair had not documented all the ruins, of course, but the diagrams gave her a good bearing of where she was and the specific places that she was looking for. Much had changed, of course, but the view from the hills continued to make her catch her breath. You could not change the hills and the river Tay, which continued to course through the valley, that powerful river absorbing the rain and mist just as it had done for thousands of years. The view was still spectacular. From here, she could see the two bridges.
There had not been one, the last time she had passed this way.
Today, she admired what was left of the old growth forest and stopped to run her fingertips along what appeared to her to be the oldest oak there. It seemed to sigh and rustle its leaves in recognition. Leaning in, she placed her lips against the bark in a brief kiss. Acorns dropped on her and her smile gave way to a small laugh.
Her biggest wish, of course, was that the Stone of Destiny still resided in the wild. That would certainly make things a lot more interesting and make it a lot easier to seriously search for the ring of standing stones that the Picts had buried. When the Scotti from Ireland had landed here it was only a matter of time before they would overwhelm the Picts.
Eventually, Scottish and Picts united to help defeat the Vikings. With the unity came the revelation of the stone. The stories of power were not lost on the Scots and it became their Stone of Destiny. They moved it to Moot Hill, where was built Scone Palace and where the Scots crowned their kings. It resided there until 1297 when it had been captured and taken to Westminster Abby by Edward the First.
In 1996 the stone was returned to Scone Hill. It could now be found in the Earl of Mansfield’s garden. Eventually, she would have to put down her money and take the tour of the Earl’s palace and gardens so that she could once more gaze upon the stone.
According to the locals, the Earl did not take kindly to anyone trespassing on his land. This morning, she had been over run by a group of Hashers and told her that they did not doubt that the gardener had orders to shoot anyone on site. Apparently, the Hashers had thought their trail had included his maze.
An honest mistake, one Hasher had said as they went running by to the sounds of the horn and “On On”.
So, it would not do for her to go “exploring” on the Earl’s land. Pay she would, as she had no desire to have buckshot pulled out of her hide.
As she walked the familiar hills, her eyes were constantly searching the ground, the trees, the sky. Ohhh, there it was. Tucked in behind those rocks was the plant that she sought. Lying down, she began the shoot. The rain had stopped but there was still mist coming up from the ground. The sun and shadows played upon the rocks. This was, she told herself, the money shot.
Finally, she was able to stretch and got up off the ground. The shot had been a tedious one but worth every aching muscle in her body. The borage was in full bloom and the bees were busy. A small chuckle escaped from her. Here and there she saw small reminders of times past.
The last time she was here, it had not been called Kinnoull, named for the 9th Earl. Nope. Not even close…she could still feel the sun beating down on her that day so long ago when The Green-Eyed Witch of Green Hill had battled her way out of their home and onto the top of this cliff.
The ass hole that had called himself a king had sat somewhere on a horse, in the trees, fearful of entering their threshold himself. You could hear his voice as he ordered his men in to drag her out. The men were fearful as well. Stories abounded about what she did here and that she had a dragon to do her bidding. Who knew what other unholy terrors were kept inside.
When his men had stopped at the gate and refused to enter, King Asshole had ordered his archers to shoot them. Blood had been spilled and the first of it was English, so ordered by their king. Such was the man who proclaimed that he was God’s emissary here on earth. Ruth had cursed him then and she did so now one more time, just for good measure. The battle had raged most of the morning and as her people fell or fled, they set fire to the place where she had loved her Willsson and raised their children.
At the time, she had known exactly what they had in mind. They had forced her up the hill and were going to, in triumph, set fire to her and throw her off the top. That was a favorite way of the king to deal with any and all witches he found in his realm. Fighting as she went she used the weapons that had been stashed along this route. She led them on a merry chase. She had felt as though she did her husband proud.
That her Willsson was watching over her and guiding her hand she had no doubt. When she had come to the edge of the cliff she had been run though and her dying thought was to take her murderer off the edge with her when she fell.
Looking around, Ruth, could still remember falling and hearing the sickening cracking of bones as her attacker hit the rocks. That did not seem to be her fate. Instead, there were two arms entwined about her. She had opened her eyes into his eyes….that startling shade of blue that always took her breath away. He rubbed his nose against hers and she settled into him as she watched her life pass before her eyes. If this was the angel of death, she would be his through out eternity. And so that life had ended…