i've been very very very bad. i have the 4th-6th chapters outlined (have for months) but just haven't written them. i feel so very cruel. so this, which is what my actual dream was about, got written second. i'll post it and then when I finally write the other chapters i'll chuck 'em in where they belong... this is actually chapt 7 so there would be a bit of explaining to do. but i feel bad and this is what i have so now you have it.
Midsummer's Night Reality
It's late, nearing dusk, but it doesn't matter for it's midsummer. We've ridden all day and are nowhere near home. The bonfire of yew and rowan can't even been seen, though the pile for it was large enough to supply a house with heat for an entire winter. We crest the nearest hill and he turns his pony back towards me and points to a dull light shining in the window of a cottage, half hidden by a tower of rocks at the bottom of the next valley. A small pond bubbles nearby.
"Tiergan left the light for anyone coming this way tonight as one of us was bound to be. We'll go tie up the ponies and eat. Sound good to you eh?"
I grin and shake my hair out of my face. My cheeks are windblown and chapped and my thighs ache from riding but I've never felt better. "Sounds wonderful." I clap my legs to the pony's sides and shout "Faugh an ballagh!" as we canter down the hill.
A small fire, nowhere near real midsummer bonfire proportions, is soon flickering in the hearth and he begins boiling water for tea while I break out the energy bars and a few thoroughly bruised apples. It's poor fare, but it's midsummer and no one eats a lot on midsummer when they're drinking… which we're quite planning on doing later.
After we've eaten I clean up our few utensils, toss the apple cores out back and sit back in the rocking chair on the front porch. The sky is so bright here as the nights are so black. The Milky Way stands out like a line of thickly clustered freckles across the sky even as the sun is setting. I sit there feeling small and insignificant wondering idly where Fiachra has gone. Soon enough he joins me carrying an oddly shaped package under one arm and wearing a blue and grey tartan kilt.
"Wha's tha'?" I inquire while giggling at his get-up. After only a few weeks here I've already begun picking up their speech patterns and the traces of their accents. We've even begun short Gaelic lessons, the simple pleasantries and common objects that will get me through a conversation, if painfully, with another Scotsman.
He grabs me by the hand and tugs me along behind him, his eyes sparkle as if he's been elf-touched, but I know he's just in another one of his moods where's he's as childish as Arten and as wild as a wee folkling himself. "I want t' play m'pipes fer you!"
"But you already did tha'!" I reply, confused.
"Yeah, but that was in the barn, sounds bad all locked up like tha'." His voice is scornful. "Follow me. You'll hear how the pipes're supposed to sound. You'll like it," he pauses a second and tucks a piece of my hair behind my ear while looking me in the eye, his gaze eager and slightly strained. "I promise. C'mon!"
I scramble after him, suddenly filled with a strange feeling of how many midsummers I've missed out on. This is how they're supposed to be spent, I tell myself, on the heath moor with ponies and a red-haired Scotsman and bagpipes and magic and men who think they're wee folk.
When we finally reach the top of that godforsaken hill, made more of scree than dirt or rocks, he settles on a rather large boulder to arrange the pipes and fit his fingers to the chanter and I sit behind him to tie traveler's knots in his hair, which eventually turn into plain elf-knots since I'm too busy looking out at the hilly landscape before me, already lit by the stars and the molten glow of the moon.
Slowly but with little ado, he begins his recital. He starts with King of the Fairies, a tune I'm at least familiar with, having played the shorter version on guitar, but the music quickly evolves into an eerie keening that rises and falls with the whisper of wind round the corners of rocks and matches the pulse of my heart. My veins feel infused with an elfling kind of magic that urges me to run free and wild with flowers in my hair and bangles on my ankles, dancing the illusions of glamour for unfortunate mortals. I don't move and I swear I don't even breathe but for the duration of his song I'm elsewhere and he's there with me, orchestrating nature to the tune of his pipes. The music swells and leaves my skin tingling, I feel a sudden urge to jump off the hill, not through any want of death, but on the slight off chance that, doing so, I would find myself flying. His fingers over the chanter are nimble and light and he's playing with his eyes closed. Eventually he finishes his song and as the echoing winds down he turns to me a smile playing across his lips and begins to ask, " Did you like-"
He's interrupted by my lips on his and I pull him to his feet to whirl with me through the darkness until the stars overheard seem to dance along with us. We collapse back on the boulder and kiss once more, out of breath but laughing any way. Swept up in the moment, fire is in my blood and the glamour is lifted for a moment and the world I see is more beautiful than any magic could ever be.
We clamber down the hill, half sliding half falling and having more fun than the situation would normally merit. Fiachra heads inside to get undressed and while I'm sorely tempted to go with him, that strange elfling magic still swelling in my veins, I remain outside and begin to pile wood for our own private bonfire. Fiachra reappears and as the sun goes down we light the bonfire and breathe it into full life.
Once the flames are dancing about the wood we go back to the small cottage and break out the alcohol. Teine Féil Eóin ale is what the family calls it, though it's more likely to be beer than ale. Even the youngest are allowed a sip on this, the merriest of nights. We stand near the fire and spit the first sips on the wood, gasping and watching the flames. Once they get high enough, Fiachra takes off his shoes and shirt in preparation for the ritual jumping over the bonfire's flames that used to bring luck and nowadays is a simple expression of bravery.
"You be sure t' back me up when Saeran asks ya iffen I did it this year. I've managed it ev'ry year since I was 14 and on'ly ever got burned once. I blame that on Rylee." He lifts his foot to show me a small puckery scar on the bottom of it. "Blighter got in th' way of m' landin'. He got payed back for it though. Once I was dun howlin' 'bout it."
I nod in what I hope seems a serious manner and chuck another few pieces of wood. He bows several times to his invisible audience then runs and with a leap I doubt even my brother could match, clears the pile of burning wood.
"One." I clap and he bows again and then scowls at me, "One?" He raises his eyebrow and tsks his tongue.
"Aon." I correct myself and smile as he claps in return.
The second pass is even easier and he lands with one foot in the air as if doing some sort of jig. "Dó" I recite and we each applaud the other.
The third pass is slightly more entertaining. While in midair, a bit of sap catches fire and the wood pops, throwing sparks into the air. Several land on his pants and another on his foot. His yelps would make a pubescent boy blush and make me laugh. He lands rolling and attempting to brush out his pants as well.
"Trí! Ádh mór or!" I call and rush over to make sure he's not actually on fire. He isn't, though his pants are singed. "Good luck for you this year, although that apparently doesn't apply to your pants."
"Silly American." He grins, eying me mischievously. "Everyone knows that it's when the pants are off that the good luck works."
I roll my eyes and give him a hand to get off the ground.
"You try it."
"I rather fancy my pants where they are, thanks."
"No not that. Well, yes that, but not now. I meant the bonfire jumpin'."
"What about it?" I stall, knowing exactly what he means.
"Jump it. C'mon, I can't have all the good luck this year."
"I'm quite fine with you being a little selfish this year. Honestly, I understand."
He works his tongue between his teeth and shakes his head at me. "I shoulda figured the American would be scared. More's th' pity."
I whack him on the shoulder, pretending to be offended. "You're not to be guilting me into this. Iffen I do it, it's cause I want to. "
"Then do it then."
"Fine. But my shirt's staying where 'tis." I kick off my shoes and, quite childishly, stick out my tongue at him as I walk over next to the fire. "And I'm only doing it once."
He crosses his arms, considers and replies, "Fair enough m'lady, onwards!" then strikes a mock heroic pose.
I roll my eyes again, mutter a quick "I can't believe I'm doing this" and leap over the fire. My feet pass through the blaze the way one passes their hands through a candle flame and it's over before I can be afraid.
I pick up his shirt, shove it at his chest and pick up my beer with a giddy grin. "What was that about the American which you were sayin' earlier?"
"I don't recall…" he murmurs with fake innocence. The Scottish are devilishly good at that.
"Good." I reply shortly. "I would hate to have to make you take it back."
I stand in front of the fire and he comes over to wrap his arms around me as we stare at the fire and go through several bottles of beer. The night passes in a companionable way and we're both giddy and wild and slightly drunk. At one point he brings back the bagpipes and we dance around the fire like the heathens we almost are, shouting and making up songs in the few words of Gaelic I know.
The night is clear and calm and while back at home the weather would be considered comfortable, the Scotsmen call it hot. Perhaps we indulged in a few too many Midsummer Ales but we're too busy chasing each other and snatching kisses to notice the sun come up and the fire going out. Finally we collapse into bed and sleep the entire day through.