Breaking the News

(OOC: Set during and after the Gathering 1111, written by Russ Phillips and Dorian Grey)

“Give me a bottle of your honey cordial as well, love.

“So, when’s your mama going to do the proper thing and marry that outlander she’s been seeing?”

Deirdre quietly went on wrapping Bríd’s purchases and smiled insincerely at her. “Well, you know, Bríd, that’s really up to her. I’m not my mama’s keeper,” she said.

“Yes, well, people are beginning to talk. It’s been over a year, now, and it’s not like she’s some giddy girl. She’s the High Priestess and she needs to do things properly.” Bríd nodded firmly. “You tell her that. Tell her people want to see her settled.”

Deirdre sighed. No doubt Bríd meant well, but… “I’ll tell her,” she promised.

Connlaí suppressed a groan as he saw Maureen bustle into the Temple Hall. He knew what was coming. Sure enough, after she’d placed her offering on the altar and spent a few moments in prayer, she made a bee-line for where he was standing near the garden door.

“Is your mama here?” she demanded.

“I’m afraid not,” he replied. “She’s away for a few days.”

“Hmph. Gallivanting again. Playing the fool with that outlander, I suppose. He’ll never marry her, you know. She should get back here where she belongs and find herself a nice Armengarian man. You tell her that, boy. And tell her I want to see her.” She bustled off again, leaving Connlaí no time to respond. He sighed, and reminded himself that she was a good, pious, dutiful woman who only wanted the best for those around her.

“She’s a narrow-minded, interfering, bigoted old busy-body,” someone said near him. He jumped, and turned to see Molly grinning at him. “You were trying to convince yourself that she really means well, weren’t you?” she added.

“Trying,” he agreed. “Not succeeding very well.”

“Ach, I daresay she does. But she’s still a nasty old bat.”

“Naoise! I haven’t seen you in ages! Where have you been hiding yourself?”

Naoise eyed Peig suspiciously. Now what does she want, he wondered. “I’ve been busy,” he said shortly.

“Oh, of course – working with our ‘new citizens’. I do think you’re brave, you and your mama, championing them the way you do. And how is your dear mama? Still seeing that outland fellow of hers?”

“My mother’s love life is none of my business. Or yours. Excuse me.” And he hurried to catch up with Antonius, who was waving impatiently.

“Stopping to flirt, so early in the morning?” the older man teased as he came up.

Naoise rolled his eyes. “Spare me. That was one of the local gossips, trying to pump me about my mother’s love life.”

“Not even your own? For shame. And you such a fine young man. Maybe she has her eye on you, hmm?”

Naoise shuddered.

***

The familiar surroundings of the Armengar circle faded into view, and Fionnuala turned to Elrood with a smile. “Welcome to your new home,” she said softly.

He smiled back. “Thank you. So…now what?”

“Well…we’d better tell my family first, I think.” She looked about, and as if summoned, Marcus bounced up.

“Carry yer bags, Lady Fionnuala, mam?”

“No, thank you, Marcus,” she replied. “We’ll manage for ourselves, this time. But I’d like you to take a couple of messages, please.”

“Sure thing!”

“Can you go find Deirdre, and Naoise, please, and ask them to come see me. Oh, and Ciara as well.”

“You want them to come now?”

“Yes, I think so. Thank you, Marcus.” She gave him some coins and he ran off.

“Well, let’s get going – or the family will be there before us.”

Fionnuala found herself unexpectedly nervous as she welcomed her family, settled everyone in comfortable seats, and offered refreshments. Fidgeting with her necklace, she looked at Elrood, hoping for inspiration, but before she could say anything, Naoise forestalled her.

“I suppose you want to tell us that you’ve got married.”

Fionnuala blinked, and then laughed as everyone else exclaimed at once.

“You did?”

“Why didn’t you tell us before?”

And rising over the other two voices, Deirdre’s indignant “How on earth did you know?”

Naoise smirked at his eldest sibling. “It was obvious. There isn’t anything else she’d want to tell all the family at once, as soon as she got home.” He turned back to his mother. “I hope you’re going to tell everyone else soon, too. Then maybe Peig will stop bothering me about you.”

“That reminds me,” Deirdre said with a grin, “Bríd told me to tell you that you ought to get married.”

“Maureen, on the other hand,” Connlaí chimed in, “said to tell you that he’ll never marry you and you should find a nice Armengarian man.”

“She will, no doubt, never forgive us for proving her wrong,” Fionnuala said dryly. “And to answer your earlier question, Connlaí, we didn’t tell you before because we didn’t plan it. It just sort of happened.”

“I asked your mother to marry me,” Elrood said, “and when she finally decided to say yes…well, there didn’t seem to be any reason to wait. So we didn’t.”

Ciara got up and hugged both of them. “Congratulations,” she said. “And if you behave in any way like that misbegotten Conall,” she added to Elrood, “I will personally push you off a cliff.”

Elrood gave her an odd look, then nodded. “From what I’ve heard, that’d be an entirely reasonable reaction.”

“Nervous?”

“How did you guess?”

“I’m going to lose feeling in my fingers soon.”

Fionnuala giggled softly and slackened her grip on his hand slightly. “Shh – here it comes.”

At the front of the Temple Hall, Connlaí had reached the part of the evening rites where announcements of interest to the congregation were made. After some discussion earlier, they’d all decided that this would be the quickest and easiest way to let the people of Armengar know that their High Priestess was now married.

“And finally,” Connlaí said, “it gives me great pleasure to announce that the High Priestess of Armengar, Fionnuala Ní Ríain, was married at the Gathering of Nations to Elrood Brond of the Order of Celestial.”

No-one paid much attention to the final prayers that evening.

Once they were a discreet distance from the temple, Maureen turned to Peig. “Our High Priestess, married to an outlander. What is the island coming to?”

“On some foreign land, too,” replied Peig. “Not a proper Armengarian wedding at all.”

“Actually, I heard it was,” interjected Bríd. “I heard Fionnuala say the king performed the ceremony, and he is Armengarian, after all.”

Maureen shook her head firmly. “He’s only Armengarian by adoption. It’s not like he was born here. I tell you, it’s not right.”

“Oh, give over,” Bríd said. “Sometimes you make me tired. Can you not just be happy for Fionnuala? I think it’s lovely.”

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