Here is just a wee taste of what takes up alot of my spare time. This is from a story that Mielikki and I have been writing over the last year. It is nearly done and the 2nd (yes the story continues) one is well on its way. It is just a small snippet of a romance in scotland in the 15th century. Believe it or not there is "fighting" bits and pieces in the story as well. I have even invested in a book or two about medieval sword fighting, yes, I am a silly woman, and your point??
It was a beautiful cool highland morning kissed with a soft mist and gentle falling rain. All who wandered outside would find in the air the scent of salt from the ocean, mingling with the fresh scent of the forests. Two such wanderers, having broken their fast, ventured out into the inner bailey. Hannu and Fynn looked around at their new surroundings. The tall Finn had to agree with his sister about the Scottish countryside being a better place to live. Hannu was also impressed with Carrick, as the castle seemed to be run better than most businesses he had seen. Everyone seemed to have a share in the efficient running of the keep. And although the final say in most matters was the currently absent Alistair MacLeod’s, everyone had a voice. But Hannu was quick to realize that the day to day running of Carrick belonged to Mistress Minna Sinclair. Finola’s mother was a very organized and a strong willed individual with a strong sense of how things should work. The woman could read, write, and figure sums. She also made sure that all of her daughters could do the same, stating that she found those skills apart of the ‘domestic arts.’
Since the visit of the tinker’s cart the day before Fynn had wanted to try out his sling shot all morning. Hannu had not the heart to take the toy from the boy as he knew it was probably the only ‘toy’ he had ever had. He was sure that Berit had never allowed the boy to be a child. He quickly shied away from such thoughts not wanting to spoil the day. Hannu knew it to be safer for the boy to practice with his new sling shot out of doors. Before the boy could use it on some poor unsuspecting victim Hannu said, "Come, let us see if we can find you a more suitable place to practice." Hannu smiled at the boy’s enthusiastic grin, "If ye can pay attention well enough, I will teach you the proper way to fire that thing, aye?"
The pair wandered out to the outer bailey and walked over toward the smithy which was across from the stables. Hannu saw that the same stone that constructed the keep made up the stable walls. ‘Wise choice,’ thought the Finn, for the stone would protect the horses from fire. He noticed a bale of straw next to the wall of the stable. ‘Surely a stone wall would be a safe place for a boy to practice his sling shot,’ thought Hannu. As he instructed Fynn to gather small stones in a similar shape and size, Hannu moved the straw bale into a better position.
He then started looking around for something to act as Fynn’s target when a soft voice came from behind him, "Ye will be needin’ these for a target, aye?" Both Hannu and Fynn turned to see Finola standing near by holding several old pieces of crockery in her hands. Hannu felt a now familiar shiver in his soul as he looked upon the woman. The dark haired lass was dressed simply in a gown of dark blue, graced with her plaid. Her plaid was woven in rich colors of deep red with shades of green, blue, and white. A flash of a silver penannular was all that held the plaid in place on her left shoulder. With a smile she said, "Here, I will place them atop the straw bale and then ye can place a line in the dirt tae stand behind, aye?" Hannu and Fynn watched as the petite Scotswoman place the pottery, "Tis old pots and pitchers that have become cracked or too old tae use. They have always been saved for target practice." Finola then took the heel of her shoe and made a line in the dirt. She took Fynn gently by the arm and placed him behind the line. "There now, have ye gathered wee stones lad? Make sure they are of like size and rounded as possible."
As Fynn went to load his sling shot, Hannu stepped forward, "Here son, like this . . ." After a few minutes of gentle instruction the boy fired his first shot hitting the straw bale but missing the pottery. Fynn looked up at Hannu with fear in his eyes, "I . . . I missed, but I will do better, I swear."
Hannu did his best to cover his anger at the boy’s fearful display, cursing Berit under his breath. He placed a reassuring hand on his son’s shoulder saying, "Easy pikku apina, that is what practice is for. No one can get it right off. It takes days and days of practice."
"And it is tae be fun lad, nae work at all, aye? Here we can add a funny face tae the pot to give ye something tae aim at," said Finola as she walked over to the smithy. Greeting Hamish with a smile she put her finger in some of the cold ash he had placed in a pile when cleaning out his forge. Approaching the pots, Finola grinned, "So laddie, what shall we draw on the pots, eh? Shall yer villain have a mustache or maybe a wicked scar on his face?" Hannu watched as Fynn giggled at the faces Finola smeared onto the pots with the ash. She swiped her finger on Fynn’s nose and left a small smudge of ash making the boy smile. Laughing she glanced up at Hannu and caught her breath at his intense blue eyed stare. She shivered as she rose to her feet and walked with the boy to stand behind the line.
On a whim, Finola looked up at Hannu and smiling, swiped her finger down his nose and cheek, leaving a smudged trail of ash in its wake, "Ye need tae have a wee bit o’ fun too, aye?"
Hannu quickly reached out and caught her hand in his and taking his thumb, rubbed her index finger removing the soot. "Aye, maybe I do," Hannu said, gently rubbing the left over soot from his fingers down each of Finola’s cheeks, the warmth of his gaze causing another shiver to run down her spine. He smiled, and turned to his son, giving Fynn instructions and telling the boy to relax and focus on his target. The rock flew making a ‘tink’ as it clipped the pottery. Fynn’s face glowed with happiness, "I did it! I hit the target!" As the adults were laughing and praising the boy, Fynn again took up a small rock and let it fly. The face with the scar was hit squarely on the big nose, much to everyone’s delight.
"Of course he takes after his Auntie Tuula, fine aim and all!" said the Finnish maid as she came down the path from the inner bailey toward the little group.
Finola’s eyes twinkled, "Would ye care tae back up that statement lass? I just happen tae have a spare sling shot here, aye?"
Tuula laughed, her dimples showing as she accepted the offer, "So Fynn, shall we have a go at it? Let us add some more pots, aye?" Fynn offered to show Tuula how you could add a face to the pots. Tuula went to pass by Hannu to help herself to the ash in Hamish’s smithy when she noticed her brother’s nose, and Finola’s cheeks. Laughing, she said, "It seems you have all been painting more than pots today! The three of you look like your starting a Pict tribe of your own." Fynn chuckled and when Tuula bent down to scoop up some ash, he dotted her cheeks for her, as well.
As aunt and nephew took turns drawing the scariest and ugliest picture they could on the pots, Hannu and Finola stepped back to sit on another bale of straw watching the pair and their shooting match.
Hannu looked down at the small woman sitting beside him saying, "Mistress, I owe you my thanks." Hannu swallowed as Finola turned, her soft gaze making it difficult for him to think.
She smiled and he thought his heart would stop. "If ye dinnae stop calling me Mistress I shall be forced tae get cross wi’ ye. I am Nola tae my family and friends and would be honored if ye called me by that name, aye? Now as tae thanking me, weel tis I who must thank ye for I have become verra fond of Tuula and would nae wish tae see any of ye leave." With these words she placed her hand on Hannu’s arm and smiled again.
"Mistr . . . Nola, I thank you for your kindness to I and my family. I . . ."
"Look out!" came a cry from Tuula. A stone that had been fired by Fynn had gone rogue and ricocheted off the stone wall flying back at Finola and Hannu. Thinking quickly, the tall Finn wrapped his arms around the Scottish maid holding her tightly to his chest and then let his body fall backwards over the bale taking Finola with him, his large body both shielding the woman and giving her a soft landing.
Hannu felt the woman’s body shaking and thought something had gone wrong until he heard a giggle well up from the petite woman, "That was grand! Do ye think we could do that again?"
She looked at Hannu’s surprised face over hers and dissolved completely into a fit of giggles.
Finola then reached up and wiped the smudge from Hannu’s face, enjoying the feel of his skin beneath her fingers. He hardly dared to breathe as he felt her gentle caress on his face as he held her close. He smiled when he noticed the pulse at her throat quicken. Hannu’s hand of its own accord, reached out and brushed a strand of dark hair from Finola’s face. His hand stilled as he heard her breath catch in her throat. “Are you sure you are not hurt? Is my sword sticking you?”
His only answer was another gurgle of laughter from Finola as she answered most archly, “Surely Master Vasala, I would hae noticed that . . . and I doubt it would cause me pain.”To prove her point she shifted her weight against him.
Hannu eyes widened in surprise at the cheekiness of the woman in his arms. He stifled a groan as he felt his body start to respond to the intimacy and closeness of her body. Swallowing hard, Hannu quickly started reciting math calculations in Finnish.
"Is anyone hurt?" asked Tuula, rushing over to the bale with Fynn. She grinned wickedly as she saw the position her brother was in with Finola draped across his body. Hannu’s sister was quick to note that her brother was now reciting the driest verses from Finnish texts of the Kalevala.
"I am sorry Papa! I did not mean to hurt anyone," the anxious voice of his son roused Hannu from the daze he was in from the maid’s touch.
"It was an accident Fynn, no harm done. Mistress Finola is unharmed, aye?" said the Finn, his eyebrow arched at the woman still lying across him.
"Ach, Aye, I guess that is my prompt to get up," said Finola as she carefully moved off of Hannu. Standing, she reached down her hand and offered him assistance up.
The tall Finn merely looked at her with a look of amusement, "I think I can manage, thank you." Finola smiled and then turned to Fynn to reassure him that no harm had been done, telling him that these sorts of things did happen on occasion and to just be a bit more careful.
The foursome continued with the practice for a while longer when the bell was sounded for the noon meal. Tuula linked arms with her brother as Finola and Fynn walked ahead of them, hand in hand.
“Oh brother mine?” She smiled as she heard her brother sigh. “Why were you reciting the most boring verses of all the Kalevala?”
Hannu felt his face flush in embarrassment. He began in Finnish, “Tuula, your friend, Nola . . . Finola . . Mistress Sinclair is . . . well she is . . .” As Tuula started to chuckle, Hannu turned to his sister, “She is as brazen and cheeky as you!”
Now it was Hannu’s turn to chuckle at the look of surprise on his sister’s face. Both brother and sister dissolved into laughter. Too long had it been since Tuula had seen her brother unbend and laugh heartily. Finola and Fynn stopped and turned to wait for the pair of laughing Finns. Finola smiled as she saw young Fynn take hold of his father’s hand and then the hand of his aunt. But before he would continue up the trail he turned to his father, “Papa, take Mistress Nola’s hand.” Hannu looked askance at Finola who smiled and placed her slim hand in his as they moved forward toward their destination. As they were crossing the bailey going towards the castle a horse entered from the drawbridge entrance. Hannu recognized the large black gelding as it trotted in wearing the Graham colors.
Tuula’s hand instinctively went to the dagger at her belt. Fynn, seeing his aunt’s reaction picked up a stone for his sling. Hannu looked at his sister and son in puzzlement, thinking, ‘Surely this man had helped them on the road saving them many miles of walking to look for Tuula, they should be grateful not defensive.’ Then he noticed Finola who placed her one hand on her dirk and the other on his arm. His puzzlement grew as she inched closer to him as if to shield herself from Graham’s view.
Donnan Graham looked down at the Finns and scowled. He did not like what he saw, his woman next to that foreign interloper. ‘Obviously,’ he thought. ‘I was not clear eno’.’
The meal bell rang again and Finola glanced back at the castle.
"I am here to speak with yer athair child, go and fetch him," said Donnan in an attempt to sound important.
"Ye can bluidy weel go tae the devil and fetch him yer own self, and a bigger fool ye will be tae interrupt his meal. And listen weel Donnan Graham, dinnae let my size fool ye, I am nae a child tae be told what tae do." Standing now out from next to Hannu the small woman challenged the mounted highlander. "Ye had best leave now Graham," she said firmly.
Donnan growled at the small woman and opened his mouth to bring her to heel when Hamish walked over to the group. The huge blacksmith had two hammers in his meaty hands as he addressed Finola, but looked at Donnan, "Mistress Sinclair, the meal bell has rung, is there a problem here that I can help ye with lass?"
"Aye, Master Graham is leaving and has forgotten his way. Would ye be a dear Hamish and show him the drawbridge," said Finola who then turned on her heel and walked quickly to the castle to seek the refuge of her family.
"Come let us away also," said Hannu to Tuula and Fynn.
With his sister and son walking in front of him toward the castle, Hannu glanced at Hamish and Donnan. As he was about to turn and follow his family, Donnan raised his voice to Hannu, "Ye stay awa’ from my woman Finn or ye will live tae regret it! I will take what is mine and hurt anyone in my way.
Hannu’s face darkened with anger, "I owe you a debt for helping me find my sister but that does not entitle you to threaten me Master Graham.” The tall Finn was confused at the animosity between Finola and Graham but sided with the young woman without hesitation. He still had yet to understand just why Graham thought that he had any interest in Graham’s betrothed. As far as Hannu could tell, he had yet to even meet the woman, Finnie. The gaze that held Graham’s was unwavering and stern. “I strongly suggest you leave as Mistress Sinclair asked you to,” the hair on the back of Hannu’s neck suddenly bristled. For some reason he felt that Finola was in danger from this man. “Leave now or I may find that I owe my hosts an apology for staining their grounds with your blood." The tall Finn placed his hand on his sword, his stern eyes giving no doubt to his ability or will to carry out his promise.
“Aye, the Mistress Sinclair told ye tae leave,” said Hamish as he stepped forward to stand off to Hannu’s side, his muscles bunching as he raised his hammers to waist level.
"A curse on all of ye!" snarled Donnan as he wheeled his horse and road back out the way he had come.
Hannu let out the breath he didn’t know he was holding and turned to a grinning Hamish who said, "Weel now laddie, nothin’ like a good fight tae work up yer appetite, aye?"
Hannu laughed as he and Hamish made their way into the castle, thinking, ‘Tis a strange country I have come to.’ Then he thought of the soft and delectable dark haired lass that had been draped across his chest just hours ago and had stirred him. He smiled, ‘Aye.’ He thought, ‘What a country.’