The Sagas of the Irish Laigin:  The Ribbon Tree—Battle Plans, Chapter the Fifth

Author’s Note:  The characters of the Clan Lindsay in this story are   purely fictional.  Any resemblance to any past or living Clan Lindsay member is  strictly coincidence.

You can not follow your heart if you do not have one.”     Crenneth, a swan maiden of Laigin.

Elisabeth was studying her maps  and notations.    Looking closely at the Google map she had downloaded,  there was one of those stone crosses  on the other side of The Family’s Castle, she had started calling it,  that lined up with the one she had found in Stratford Upon Avon.  Apparently, The Family had done just fine.  Money did not seem to be a problem.

There was the old section of The Family’s castle, built around 1300, she had read about on line, complete with now defunct moat and a bit of a drawbridge, but the tower was still livable.  Renovations for the little stone tower, she cleared her throat and rolled her eyes,  were courtesy of all the money that was made taking “the tour” of the gardens and castle. Proudly this was in bold print at the bottom of the page.

“Yes, like we all have a little stone tower we can charge people to tour.”

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And then there was the “new” section, built in the early 1700’s.   Money must have been plentiful.  It was a darling minature that was featured.  Apparently it had made the rounds of all the museums back in the day and now resided proudly back in “the Lindsay Manor house.”

mock up of the smihsonian castle, not red

Seemed the present day Earl knew  a little bit about managing money, because it was still pretty sweet looking.  Okay, she could understand about not taking her calls…he must have relatives crawling out of the woodwork and wanting to know what piece was theirs…or maybe it was just her uncles who operated like that…

….but damn, if you lived in something that looked like that, would you not at least have a secretary who would send you a picture post card of the place and maybe, write on the back, “Nanny, nanny boo boo, I live here and not you.”  Or maybe again, that was just her uncles.

So, she was taking this on to Plan B.

By booking her appointment with Court of the Lord Lyon, several weeks out, she had an appointment to meet with someone’s  under secretary, under secretary in Edinburgh in two days.

Having sent letters to  the Earl of Lindsay several times, without any response, she wanted to fume,  she was hoping that she could make her case to the esteemed Court of the Lord Lyon.   Her Granny Woman wanted their own coat of arms, *(1) assigned specific and relevant differences recorded by the Lord Lyon, “to our family”, Granny woman would stress.   Everything all nice and legal and official.  If the  Lord Lyon did not agree with her, and dismissed her out of hand, then  if Elisabeth had to  track the Earl of Lindsay to the ends of the earth, and drag his Earl of Asshole, the head of The Clan,  down to Edinburgh to make this happen, then she would.

Flexing her fingers, she had not hog-tied a calf in a couple of months.  She was sure she had not forgotten how and she would be more than happy to show the Earl of Lindsay how that was done.  Then toss his ass into the boot of a car and haul his ass to market.

“Or,” she laughed, “ I could just strap him to the hood of the car, just like you do doing deer season.  Boom!  Shell right between the eyes.

The Earl of Asshole messes with me, he is going to find out just what an American b-i-t-c-h is.  I am not taking no for an answer.   My   Granny Woman deserves this and this she shall have.

Shame on old Angus for keeping everything a secret. Whatever the reason was, I hope it was a very good one.  But I could sure enough kick his ass, right about now.”

Elisabeth paused as she stopped to admire the  tartans  in a window. Then she saw it!  Damn!  It was a Renaissance dress done in the Lindsay tartan!  As she stood there drooling, she thought about how much money she had left to “get to the bottom of this”.

Leaning her forehead against the window, her eyes lovingly caressed the dress.  She did not own a dress.  Not one.

The shopkeeper came to the door smiling  and said, “Kettle is on.   Come on in.  It does not cost anythin’ to try it on.”

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The train ride north was very pleasant.  Elisabeth decided that she could live here.  Damp, earthy smells of a land well tended filled her soul.  She had always felt at home on the ranch.  She liked the clean, if sometimes just  a bit  malodorous stuff that you could step in.  But man oh man, one thing you could say about horse poo was that it was just that….poo…you recognized it the second you smelled it.  And just like with all other poo, you had options.  You either leave it in the barn to be tracked everywhere or you cleaned it up and felt better about yourself for doing, so.

Shoveled shit, well hell yes, she could put that on her resume and be damn proud of it!

Oddly,  she felt at home, here.  She was beginning to wonder if it was the ley lines.

On her map, for the past hour, she had been tracking the old crosses in the fields.

“Yes,” she smiled as she compared her map to what was out the train window.  “There are the two crosses lined up on the old abbey tucked in between those two buildings.  That is the ley line.”

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When Granny Woman had explained to her about ley lines and working the farm according to the signs, she could understand.  But seeing it actually plotted out and marked, this made sense to her on all levels.

Pouring herself another cup of tea, she watched the country side slip past her.

Tonight and the next couple of days she was going to spend at a B&B in York. It was owned and operated by a husband and wife with the last name of Lindsay.  Which is why she had picked it.  With her hosts help, she would  take a look at her info about  Castle Howard and plot out her day for tomorrow.  She had already reserved one of those  little mo-peds and  would spend her time out in the countryside.

Ley lines….she knew what they felt like and what to look for.  It was time to do a little investigation of her own.

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Six Chimneys B&B was a quiet respite and Sylvia and Charles  Lindsay were charming hosts.  They had a mo-ped to rent her whenever the taxi let her out at their front door.

Bringing in her luggage, they fed her lunch, gave her a small picnic to go and the key to her ride.

“Do be careful in your out and about, dearie,” Sylvia smiled.  “There are wolves in the woods.  Last month a couple of tourists got off track and were given a bit of a scare.”

“I’ll be careful,” she smiled.  “I’m just going out to Castle Howard.  That is  close.  I read on line that one of the best known ribbon trees in all of Scotland is not far from there.  I downloaded the map of how to get there.  That was one of the reasons I came this way.”

“What?” Sylvia smiled.  “A pretty thing like you.   You are not needin’ to say a prayer at a ribbon tree for a man.  Your smile should just do the trick.”

“Thanks,” Elisabeth smiled back.  “but it is not for me.  My Granny Woman gave me a red ribbon before she died and said to stop off at one and say a prayer for her.  So, I am headed that way.”

“Well of course,” Sylvia smiled.   “But still, stick to the well marked roads.  Phones don’t always work as they should.  Grab a paper map on the table as you go out the door.”

Following the directions, Elisabeth scootered through the neighborhood and out into the country.   Her first stop was the ley line that would take her to the ribbon tree.  Getting off the bike, she walked up the hill and then saw the cross catching the smallest amounts of light and glistening…like it had been rained, on.  But obviously, no rain had fallen here, today.  Through the trees,  there was the   occasional ray of sunlight making its way to this piece of carved art…that also happened to be a ley line marker.

“Wow,” she said as she walked up to inspect it.    “Looks like you have been struck by lightning, or…” she stopped as a parade of monarch butterflies went fluttering past.

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“Now, that,” she raised an eyebrow, “is something you do not see everyday.  You guys are a little far from home.  I have read everything I could about Scotland and no where does it mention Monarch butterflies.  Those are not native to here….” As she watched them, fascinated as they danced along.  They were all traveling in a straight line and making their way over the rise.

“Now there goes a mystery.  Nothing to do but follow,” she smiled.  Taking the steps up, she paused at  the top of the hill and admired the scenery.  Following the ley line, she went down the hill and into the woods.  There was no missing the tree.  It was stunted and had moss growing on it along its limbs. There were several dozen red ribbons tied in neat bows adorning it.

As she approached it, she could feel the vibration.  It was like a shimmer of light, reflecting off a quiet pool of water…something warm…and perhaps she could hear an audible hum.   Something in the lower frequency range…not  a voice but it was….a musical note, perhaps.  Sounding like it was coming from a tuning fork.

Admiring the surroundings, light streamed down on what was suppose to be the rock mound of an ancient Scottish king.  “Please,” she eyed the pile of rocks.  “No need to get up.  I do not think I am what you would call a lady.  I just bought my very first dress  a couple of days, ago.”    Carefully, she placed one hand on the rock that was chest high on the mound.  Feeling nothing, she then placed her other hand on the rock above it.

The humming sound increased, just a bit, as did the warmth that spread through her body.

“Yes,” she nodded.  “I believe they buried you, my king, on this ley line.  Please do not get up,” she chuckled.  “I can find my own way.”

Looking around, she found a small rock.  “If this is a ley line,” she said to the small missile, as she picked it up, “then you should be right at home, here.”

Walking it over she laid it on the fork of a limb of the ribbon tree and was intently staring at it, to see if it gave off the slightest bit of movement.

“Caw,” was called out as she jumped and knocked it off the branch.

“Caw,” she called back to the bird as he landed in the top of the tree and watched her.

“A double blessing,” she bowed her head to the crow.  “My Granny Woman would very much approve.”

Laughing, she tied the ribbon to the limb’s fork, said a prayer for her Granny Woman and started back to her mo-ped.  Coming out of the trees she glanced about in wonder.  “When did it start to get dark?”

Looking back down into the trees, the forest was quiet and still…waiting she knew not for what…and watching.  There were eyes following her, she could feel them as the heckles rose on the back of her neck.

“Yes, wolves, got that,” she said as she picked up her pace and wished for her shotgun.

Then she was down the steps and onto  her mo-ped.  Before she put her helmet on, she took one last look around.  “Ley line,” she said to herself.  “Granny Woman said sometimes they hold time or speed it up.  She was not kidding.  Never had anything like this happen on the ranch, though.  Other weird stuff, but not this.”

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Sylvia was waiting for her at the door.   “I am so glad you are back dearie,” she came out as Elisabeth took off her helmet.  “You can just park it there.  No one will be botherin’ it.  Someone has actually been attacked by a wolf this time.  At the ribbon tree before you get to  the Castle.   I was so worried for you,” she fussed at her.

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“Really?” Elisabeth said. “I just came from there.  I did not see anyone else or…or hear anyone.”

“Those with your coloring always know,” Sylvia said.  “You stayed on the ley line…” it was a statement, not a question.

“Yes,” she replied.   “I did not step off of it until I reached the scooter.”

“Very smart and also very dangerous,” the older woman replied as they stepped into the foyer and she closed the door and bolted it.

“Tonight is the first of the triad for the quarter moon.  The first night of a new moon phase, ‘tis just best to stay inside and let things get settled.  Folk put such stock in a full moon.  Pshaw!  With each new moon phase you need to be mindn’ your p’s and q’s  around here.

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We’ll stay inside.  But tomorrow night, I want you to see the little old  cemetery.  It is just out past the gardens in the back of the house.   Walk around it a bit tomorrow, get your bearings, then we’ll take a stroll through it tomorrow night, if you are interested.”

“I’m interested,” Elisabeth said.

“Good, now I have a fire goin’ and a bottle of Drambuie and we’ll sit and talk and pass some time.  Tell me about your Granny Woman, Miss Lindsay, she sounds like family.”

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Elisabeth spent the next day strolling through the family plot.  There were a lot of Lindsay’s buried here.  Generations of them.  As in hundred of years of generations of them.

Sylvia noted the great respect that the young American had for each Clan member resting easily, here.

“Aye,” she came and stood beside her.   “The Clans believe that if you have the same last name,  you are some type of distant relative.  So these would be your kin as well, laid to rest out here.”

“But there is one that does not rest easy,” Elisabeth said, looking around.   “I can feel it.”

“Aye, you are a Lindsay, all right,” Sylvia smiled. “Care to hazard a guess?”

“It is over here, this way,” Elisabeth said.  “It’s…it’s…” she stopped in mid stride.  “It is the one flanked by the two ley line markers,” her voice dropped in surprise.

“Yes,” Sylvia replied, reverence  in her voice  as she nodded towards the  marker.  “Some one felt the need to flank his marker, with two of the ley line crosses.  I can not state for a fact, why, but I could hazard some guesses.”

Elisabeth eyed her.  “You think that when he died, it  was to keep him walking the earth on a  path between those two markers, only?  Or is it to keep him in the ground?”

Sylvia laughed and  replied as they continued walking towards it.  “Oh, you are family all  right.  When we come out here, tonight, someone will have left luminaries and if we are lucky, you can see the fae dancing around his marker.”

Elisabeth was close enough she could read the tombstone.  “He…he is not buried here…nor is it known when he died…he just disappeared, the summer of 1723.”

“No,” Sylvia replied, “he is not.  And for all we know, he walks the earth, still.”

“Lucius Leviticus Lindsay,” she read carefully.  “But, that, that is the present Earl’s name,” Elisabeth was intrigued.

“Yes,” Sylvia replied.  “The name is passed from father to son.  This son, well apparently he had a way about him…and not a very nice one.”

“Yes, my uncles, I am sure, take after this guy.”

Sylvia watched the newest member of The Clan Lindsay.  “You still wanna’ walk out for a bit, tonight?  There has been once or twice I have seen things.”

“Sure,” she smiled.  “Look at this on his tombstone, they just come right on out and say it….his damnation is of his own making.  No body,” Elisabeth chuckled,  “on Face Book would friend this guy.

“Exactly,” Sylvia replied.  “That is why I think he comes around to light his own candles.”

“More than one?” Elisabeth’s eyebrow went up.

“Yes,” she replied, “as in more than two or three.”

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The day was spent exploring the house and taking pictures.   The original part of the house had been built in the early 1500’s.  At one time the bad boy Lindsay who was not buried out back, had lived here.  It was one of his hunting lodges that were apparently all over Scotland and England.  Most were still owned by the present day Earl, whom if a Lindsay went to a Clan Rising, you could meet, Sylvia explained.

“So, he’s approachable?” Elisabeth asked over tea.

“Not really,” the older woman replied.  “His father died about five years, ago.  He came home from his job in Malaysia to be the Earl.  I don’t think it is somethin’ he cares for, so much.  But he does his duty as the head of The Clan and he actually does it very well.”

“But he won’t see me,” Elisabeth said.

“Aye,” she laughed, “out side of The Risin’, he won’t see me either.”

“Oh good,” the young woman smiled.  “I thought he just hated Americans.”

“No,” she laughed, “there is nothin’ that special about you Yanks.  That would just be everyone he dislikes.”

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That evening , with each lady caring a glass of their favorite sip-able, they walked past the luminaries that were lit and sat by LLL’s tombstone.

“And you or Charles did not light those?” Elisabeth said in a hushed whisper.

“No,” Sylvia whispered back.   “But  when family comes to stay, they are always lit.  It does not matter what time I come out.  One day, I brought me mum out.   It  was after tea-time and they were lit.

Now, we’ll walk down and over and sit on a bench that is next to great grand Ian Lindsay.  And we will watch for the fairy lights.”

Once they were settled, Elisabeth’s eyes adjusted so that she could see in the partial moonlight.  “I can see the luminary lights, flickering from here,” Elisabeth said.  “How long for the fairy lights?” she asked.

“I do not always see them,” Sylvia replied in a hushed whisper.  “But I brought the bottle to ease the pain of waitin’.”

“Damn woman,” Elisabeth chuckled, “that is good thinking.”

“Damn woman,” they heard repeated and they both jumped and squealed, just a bit.  Damn woman was then followed by a “Caw!”

“Crow,” Sylvia chuckled.   “I guess we woke him from his rest.  The crows associated with all of the  Earl of Lindsay’s  properties are great mimics.”

At that time Charles appeared.  “I heard the screams,” he said.

“We are fine, we woke a crow and he had to have the final word,” Sylvia smiled at her husband.  “I think we have made enough noise, if we were gonna’ wake the dead or the fae, they would be here by now.  Let’s go sit by the fire.  I can feel the chill in the air.”

“Good idea,” Elisabeth responded.  “I am going to meet this ass hole in real life, I don’t need his great great’s ghost of Christmas Past giving him any warning.”

As they turned and headed back to the house, the quiet of the dead seeped up out of the ground.   The crow slept, with one eye open, because he was nobody’s fool, and lights began to shimmer in the air as one lone butterfly appeared on a luminary and then another and then dozens, before they lined up into a single file and started their journey along a ley line.

gravestone with candle and butterfly Lindsay

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The next morning, Elisabeth boarded a train for Edinburgh.  It was time for her Granny Woman’s wish to be granted.

Getting off the train, she took a taxi to her hotel. Her appointment had been pushed back until tomorrow.  That was fine.  Gave her time to see the sights and make sure she was well rested and looked presentable.  First impressions and all that.

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Simon Undercliff, a Lyon clerk, had reviewed all of the documents he had in regards to the American, Elisabeth Stewart Lindsay, presenting for Angus L. Lindsay and following generations.  He had referenced it with past correspondence he had received from Miss Lindsay’s grandmother, Rebecca Stewart Lindsay and  was getting ready to take a meeting with Miss Elisabeth Stewart  Lindsay.  All he had for her was bad news.

Meeting her at the door, he led her in and sat her down and started with:

*(2) In Scottish heraldry there is no such thing as a family coat of arms. Junior members of a family are assigned specific and relevant differences to the armorial bearings of an ancestor.

Scottish heraldry operates under the proposition that all those who share the same surname are related, however distantly. Consequently, where a coat of arms for the head of a family already exists, new grants of arms to individuals with the same surname will generally be variations on those arms.  

We would like to be able to grant your grandmother her wish for the variation.

But, sadly, Miss Lindsay, there is no Angus Leland Lindsay in the genealogies.

It was not unusual for people to leave here for England’s many colonies and assume a new name and identify.  The Lindsay name is an old one and much revered and borrowed.”

Elisabeth was listening carefully to his words.  Granny Woman had left her a boatload of money to make this happen.  This guy had no idea what he was up, against.

“However, your mother and grandmother are a Stewart. With the information you have provided you can prove the lineage  of the women’s side of your family.  You could certainly put the Stewart herald on your grandmother’s tombstone.”

Elisabeth gave him her best meeting with her Dean, look.

“Mr. Undercliff, I appreciate what you have done and I understand how things appear.  But I  just met a Lindsay in York.  I have the gift.   She said all the Lindsay’s had a touch of the gift.   But my great, great-grandmother had swans and the family motto engraved into all of her dowry furniture.  They paid to bring that to America and they had it shipped by rail out to Oklahoma, over a hundred years, ago. Out in the wilds of nowhere, they were not going to impress anyone with who they were.  But there was  a lot of pride in being a Lindsay.    Angus never spoke about his family.  Was he a thief, maybe.   A dishonored younger son, probably.   But he was a Lindsay and he came with money.   He carried with him  the pride of the family name and owning land.  Because someone did not add his name to your roles just provides a bit of a mystery that needs to be solved.

I thank you for your time.  When I get this unraveled, with some proof, I’ll be back your way so you can add his name to your list.”

“Miss Lindsay, I can understand your desire, but the archives are closed to the public.”

Elisabeth gave him her best shit-eating-grin.  “Sir, you have to understand.  This was my Granny Woman’s final wish.  My job is to make that happen.”

Rising, she extended her hand.  Shaking it, she left.

Simon watched the young woman walk out the door.  That was some grip she had.  Most men did not have a hand shake that firm.  The red-headed young woman  with the curls  that could not be contained or soothed into place, he was sure, would be back.  She wore her Lindsay tartan  jacket and hat with pride…and an ease and grace like she had done so her entire life.  Just like she had been born to the  Lindsay Manor and just what exactly that meant.  Just like she knew who the fuck she was and what exactly she was doing and by god, she was not stoppin’ until things stood her way. Was she a Lindsay?   He would bet on it.

Picking up the phone, he punched in a number.  “This is Undercliff.   Please tell the Earl,” he said, “that the American is on her way.”

*1,2—http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scottish_heraldry