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Started by Welsh Wench, May 12, 2008, 07:28:47 AM

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Captain Jack Wolfe

The camp was broken down in about a half hour's time. Dishes were washed, bed rolls rolled up and strapped to the horses and utensils in duffel bags.
Jack rode in the lead, followed by Rafferty and Flannery riding side by side. Fiona and Honour rode behind and a bit back.

'What are you two talking about?"
"Girl talk, Rafferty. Not for your ears."
Fiona turned to Honour and asked, "Alright, lass, come clean and tell me all. Aggie told me that you and Jack were separated for a time. So this has to be some tale. Are you going to be forthcoming or will I have to ply you with the spirits tonight to get the truth out of you?"
Honour laughed. "No, that won't be necessary. Truth be told, the only other people who know the absolute truth to the story is my sister Megan. Oh, and I am sure her husband Daffyd. And I forgot....a pirate named James Blake."
"You confided in a pirate?"
Honour whispered, "James at one time, before I met Jack, was a bit more than a friend. But I digress. Jack and I were married a month and then our ship got attacked by Spaniards. A dastardly Spaniard named Mendoza. He and Jack had a grudge against each other. We 'won' if you can call it that. But Jack took a bullet in his shoulder and I had to dig it out. After that, he changed. He was aloof to me and I took it personally. But it was the damage to his ship, his pride and that journal that consumed his thoughts. He believed some tavern talk and pulled a gun on me. I kicked it out of his hand and ran off. I realized that anything could set him off so when he went to Martinique to get the journal, I foolishly ran away. And for a very good reason."
"You were going to have a baby."
Honour's eyes grew wide. "How did you know?"
"I am a mother. We will do anything--ANYTHING--to protect our bairn."
"I booked passage with said Captain Blake--but Jack must never know it was him that spirited me out of Barbados. I went to Wales and had Zara."
"Did Jack go all the way up to Wales to find you?"

She shook her head no.
"I came back to Barbados to tie up some loose ends and obtain a divorce. But as fate would have it, Jack and I were in the same tavern. He 'kidnapped' me, we went looking for the journal together and reconciled."
"I think there is alot more you are leaving out, dear."
"Ah, Fiona, that is a tale for another day."
"Well, Jack is very charismatic and I can see why you took him back. And I am glad you did. You tamed him."
"Not exactly. We are here in Scotland, aren't we?"
They laughed and then their horses ran into the back of Flannery and Rafferty's horses.
"What the HELL are you doing? I almost pitched over the top of my horse!" Fiona complained.
"Hush! We have trouble."

Jack's horse stood still, pawing at the ground. He swung the horse around to block the path as he heard a voice say, "STAND AND DELIVER!"

Four men, each with a kerchief tied to cover their face, had emerged from the bushes to block the narrow road. One of them held a pistol levelled at Jack.

Jack kept his eyes on the interlopers, particularly the one with the pistol, but with his right hand hidden from their view, he made a fist, then opened it and held it palm down for a moment.
"He's got something in mind," whispered Honour. "We need to stay put for now."
Fiona looked at her in mild surprise. "You two have seen some scrapes together."
"Never a dull moment," said Honour with a shrug.

"You lot realise the King's road is about a hundred miles thataway," said Jack as he pointed to the south-east.
"What of it?" replied the man with the pistol.
"You're the ones out here playing at highwayman. I thought you might be lost."
"We ain't playin' at nothin', you bampot! This here is our road, and we'll be takin' your valuables as toll."
The other members of the little gang laughed greedily in response.
"What's your name, then?" said Jack.
"Do what? You don't need my name!"
"If I don't have your name, then who am I supposed to say robbed me? You can't strike fear into travellers if your victims can't tell them who to be afraid of. Didn't they teach you than in highwayman's school?"
The leader and his comrades looked at each other in mounting confusion.
"Oh, come on! You have to have a catchy name if you're a proper highwayman. Sir Humphrey Kynaston, Claude Duval, The Nightmare, Sam Swift, something that sticks in people's minds."
"What if none of us got any names at all?"
"Well, that's just rubbish, isn't it? Names are everything." Jack swung down from his saddle and began walking towards the men. "Take mine, for example."
"Yeah? What is it, then?"
"Jack Wolfe. Better known as the pirate, Mad Jack Wolfe. Want to see my card?"

Before any of the men could react, Jack had his sword drawn and began advancing on them.
"A lot of people die every day," he said with quiet menace. "This is your last chance not to be part of the tally."

Jack had his sword drawn as the tall man circled him with the skinny lad going counterclockwise.
"Oh, bollocks! A little help here, Raff....oh God, no! Honour! Fiona! You stay out of it!"

Honour was creeping up behind Fiona. Fiona had a large kettle in her hands.
"Now!" Honour shouted. She kicked the lad's legs out from under him as she crunched him in the back of the knees. He fell to his knees. At that moment, Fiona shoved the kettle over his head and smashed it over his nose. He crawled on his hands and knees, then sat up trying to pry the kettle off his head.
"Fiona! Heads up!"

Honour threw a serving spoon to Fiona as she wielded a ladle in her hand.
Simultaneously they began to bang on the top and sides of the kettle, giving it everything they got!
"Awa 'n bile yer heid, ye feartie-cat!" Fiona shouted.
"Mae dy fam ti yn ast salw!" Honour yelled.
Fiona paused. "What?"
"Welsh. It means 'your ma is an ugly belch!"
They resumed beating the kettle as the man rolled on the ground, trying to stand up.
"Doaty dobber!"
"Pric pudin' "
Fiona stopped. "Now THAT one I understood!"

The rhythm of the beating spoons became even more fierce, enough to rival that of a jungle love song.
The lad finally staggered to his feet, running into a tree as he tried to escape. He fell backwards, rolled and scrambled to his feet.
"Fergie! I need help!"
But Fergie was trying to function with Rafferty on his back and Flannery boxing his ears, pulling Fergie's cap over his nose.

As they ran off, Fiona ran after them.
"Hey! Give me back my pot!"
Jack grabbed her around the waist, her arms flailing and her feet kicking.
"Fiona! FIONA! Stop! I will buy you a new pot when we get to Newcastle!"
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Jack marched over to Honour. The look on his face told it all.
"Honour! What the HELL were you thinking of, jumping into the fray?"
"You needed help."
"Like hell I did!"
"Oh. Battling two men at once. On uneven ground, I might add. You could have slipped and landed on your sword. Perforated yourself."
"And you could have gotten shot or skewered. Why could you and Fiona not have hidden behind the trees or those rocks over there?"
Fiona retorted, "Cool it, Jack. We were helping out."
He turned to Fiona. "And you--YOU!--a mother of five boys. Did you want to leave them orphaned?"
"Hey, I am out one kettle and a ladle that Honour threw at his back. How are we going to eat stew now?"
"Don't worry about that. What worries me is that you two recklessly joined in a fight that could have had very serious consequences. Rhiannon Conaway Wolfe, what do you have to say for yourself?"

Rafferty and Flannery looked at each other and mouthed, 'Rhiannon??"
"What do I have to say for myself? I say Fiona and I fought just as well as any man. Maybe even in a more ingenious way. I am betting they have to go to a silversmith and get the kettle cut off his head. Fiona jammed that on that idiot's head right tight."

Jack threw his hat down and glared at her.
Honour threw her hat down too but she balled up her fist. Jack caught her as she was about to swing at his face.
"We will not have any of that again. The last time you did that, my head was swimming for a good three days."
"Served you right, getting drunk with your brother and worrying me half to death."
They looked over at Rafferty and Flannery who had their arms crossed and was watching the spat with great amusement, like a tennis match.

Suddenly Honour threw her arms around Jack and buried her face in his collar. Her muffled sobs could barely be made out.
"I don't know what I would do if I lost you, Jack. I guess this was a flashback from Mendoza's attack. But I can't keep doing this. I can't wake up and wonder if this will be our last day together."
"Hush, now," Jack said softly and smoothed her hair as he held her against his chest.

Fiona whispered, "Come on, let them have some space."
The three of them wandered over by a wall and sat down.
"What was the 'Rhiannon' Jack was referring to?"
Fiona shrugged, "I don't  know. The name 'Honour' really didn't sit right with a Welsh lassie. I guess she has a reason for going by that name."
"Maybe Jack's pet name for her?"
Rafferty shook his head. "Not really an endearing name. I guess we all have our little secrets."
Jack had steered Honour over by a tree and gently sat her down on the ground.
"I'm sorry I got upset with you, Honour."
She blew her nose delicately into her handkerchief.
"I am sorry, too. I wasn't thinking. But I want to go home."
"Are you homesick? Even though you have me and Zara here?"
"I miss my kitchen. I miss my bed. I miss the sun and the seabreeze and I miss Megan and Mrs. Avery."
Jack nodded. "Alright. I swear by this time next month we will be on that ship headed back to Barbados."
He put his arm around her and she leaned into his chest.
"Thank you," she whispered.
"It's the least I can do. You've gone along with enough of my wild schemes."
She held his face in her hands and kissed him tenderly.
"I swear when we get home, I will make it up to you. Thank you."
"Shall we join the others?"
Honour nodded. "I just want to get this done before Zara really does catch a selkie!"
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Jack dished up another serving of stew.
"I swear, Fiona, this has to be the best stew I have ever eaten."
"Only because you worked up an appetite."
"Fear will do that to you," Rafferty said.
"I thought those days of close danger were well behind us," Honour said as she moved closer to Jack.
He drew her close and kissed the top of her head.
"An unfortunate occurrence, love," he replied.
Flannery asked, "How did you manage this delicious stew if that ruffian ran off with your kettle?"
"I saved my best kettle for this. No way was I going to let him run off with this one," she nodded towards the cooking tripod on which a kettle hung.
"After all, Honour and I are but mere tinkers' wives. Of course we would have more than one."

"Do you think they will be back?" Rafferty asked.
Fiona laughed, "Not after the trouncing Honour and I gave that brat.. I am betting he won't hear out of his ears for a month! Not to mention the headache that goes with it."
"Especially when his compadres have to pull that kettle over his nose to get it off!" Honour joined in her laughter.
"Cowards, the lot of them," Jack said. "That type always use intimidation and their brashness as weapons. This time it backfired on them."

"I'll be glad when we get the distillery off and running," Rafferty said.
Fiona asked, "You three were very secretive on it. No details. Do you care to give we ladies the lowdown?"
The three men looked to each other.
"Well, I don't know..."
"We really shouldn't involve them..."
"It's really none of their business, you know...."
Fiona picked up her ladle. "I have another pot. and it is smaller. I could jam it on your head, Jack Wolfe, and it would take bear grease to get it off. Honour wouldn't come near you for a month. Jackals would stalk you and--"
"Alright, alright! But I don't want Aggie to know. Not yet. She may not approve."
"Approve. Are you kidding? You know how Aggie loves her whiskey."

Jack and Honour exchanged glances.
"Do you think I should?"
She shrugged. "It's up to you."
He opened up a bottle of whiskey and took a drink, passing it to Flannery.
"Alright. But what I tell you is in strict confidence."

"I am offering whatever is necessary to get this enterprise off the ground. All I ask in return is a fifteen percent stake in the business. That fifteen percent will be paid annually into a trust that benefits one Aggie MacGregor. I don't want to see one coin of it."
Fiona's mouth dropped open. "That's mighty generous of you, Jack. Exceedingly so. Are you sure this won't be a burden?"
Jack shook his head. "No burden at all. I'm happy to do it."
"We guessed you were well off. But I never dreamed you could make an offer like this without so much as consulting a ledger. I have to ask; where does all this money come from?"
"You may ask," said Jack with his best disarming smile.
"And you're not being honest," she retorted.

Jack sighed heavily. "Fiona, what does it matter? I have a chance to help my family in a way I never could before. If the money came from the sweat of my brow, from gambling, from taking a Dutch treasure ship, or from begging on the street, what does it honestly matter? You know what they say about gift horses."
"You're right, Jack. I'm sorry for pressing."
"That's all right, Fiona. No harm done."
"Wait a moment. Do the Dutch have treasure ships?"
Jack took back the whiskey bottle and gave it a good tug. "I honestly wouldn't know."

"Honestly being a key word, I see. But I won't question you anymore."
"I don't want you to think of this as charity, Fiona. It's not. Rafferty and Flannery are going to be working hard to get this off the ground. They already have on a small scale. A backyard enterprise, if you will. I am just merely investing in what looks to be a promising and profitable distillery. A leg up. And I do worry about Aggie. She took three almost virtual strangers in on the premise of familial loyalty. And there is just one other thing."
"What is that?"
"Donnell (need to check on Fiona's husband's name) is renting us one of his warehouses dirt cheap and we are cutting him in for ten percent. That leaves the boys here with fifty percent of the profits."

Fiona jumped up and hugged Jack around his neck.
"Honour, is he for real? He really is, isn't he? Oh, he's a real saint, this one!"
Honour almost choked on the tea she was drinking. "Saint? Not hardly. No, Fiona, dear. He's a pirate and I wouldn't have it any other way."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Jack laughed. "I've had my moments. Me and my best friend Briggs. Oh, you'd love Briggs!"
"Briggs is like this angel that would sit on Jack's shoulder." Honour mimicked a falsetto voice, "You really don't want to do that, Jack Wolfe." "Have you thought this through, Jack?"
"Ye married a tavern wench just to bed her?"

There was dead silence.
"Oh, dear, " Honour said.
Fiona, Rafferty and Flannery sat there in stunned silence.
Fiona broke the silence.
"Now, this has to be the story to end all stories!"
"Some other time, Fiona," Jack said quietly.

Fiona shoved a fresh bottle of whiskey into Jack's hands and said, "Oh, no you don't! This has to be a story that has to be even better than Gran's selkies. Now out with it!"
"Some other time."
Rafferty and Flannery joined in the chant. "We want a bedtime story! We want a bedtime story! We want a bedtime story! We want---"
Jack covered his ears. "Alright, alright! If it is alright with Honour."

They all looked expectantly at her. She reached over to take the bottle out of Jack's hand and took a deep swig.
As she coughed, she said "Only if I am allowed to correct his facts...and pinky swear! Aggie will never find out!"

"Yes, pinky swear!" said Jack. "It was hard enough getting back in Aggie's good graces. I'd hate to lose ground over a campfire story. "
"Well, on with it then," said Rafferty. "After seeing you in action with those robbers, I'm anxious to hear many a tale."
"And I'm anxious to see why Honour is still blushing," added Fiona. Jack took a swig from the bottle and cleared his throat. "All right, then. Once upon a time, long ago—"
"'Long ago'?" said Honour. "Who are you? The Old Man of the Sea?"
"A few years ago," he continued, "My crew and I sailed into Barbados after a particularly rewarding voyage. We made port at Bridgetown,--"
""--it was St Lawrence, dear."
"--right, as I said, St Lawrence-- ready to celebrate our good fortune. I happened into one lively public house where I found my lovely bride-to-be running a gam of cards."
"Wait a minute. It was a respectable...tavern. I wasn't running the game, I was merely dealing the cards."
"What was the name of the place?" Fiona asked.
"'s irrelevant."
"No, I think it is." She looked at Jack expectantly.
"The Varlet and Vixen."
Rafferty and Flannery bumped into each other as they hooted with laughter.
Fiona retorted, "I think it is a darling name! Go on, Jack."

"Well, I and my boatswain Josiah Briggs were enjoying our drinks and making future plans, when an irate sailor started complaining about being cheated. And Honour was the accused party."
All eyes turned to her.
She held her hands up. "I was innocent. He was a lousy player. Not my fault if he couldn't handle his cards or his money. But I was out of patience with him after he hit me."
"What??!!" said Fiona. "I hope you kicked his jewels up where nobody will ever find them again!"
"I've never seen anyone pull a knife so fast," said Jack.
"Who? The sailor?" said Flannery.
Jack shook his head and pointed at Honour.
"Oh," said Rafferty as he and his brother shifted uncomfortably in their seats.

  Honour held her hand up. I want to say one thing in my defense."
"You scared him?"
Jack shook his head. "She used it."
Honour sighed. "It's not what you think. He called me a few names, I told him he probably was lousy in bed. That seemed to upset him."
Flannery asked, "Well, was he lousy?"
Rafferty elbowed him and Fiona glared. Flannery blushed. "Sorry. Not my business. Too much whiiske I guess."
Honour smiled, "No problem, Flannery. I wouldn't know..But I threw my knife down and nailed him in the foot."

Jack said, "What caught my attention was how fast she pulled the knife out."
"From her boot?"
"From her pocket?"
"No. She kept it close to her....heart."
"You mean....?"
Honour took a quick swig of the whiskey and delicately wlped her mouth.
Jack answered, "Between two of the best places I have ever visited!"
Honour smacked him on the arm. "It was a safe place."
"And lots of room to hide one."

"You can sleep in a tree, you know," Honour warned.
Fiona laughed as she took the bottle back. "Honour, are you sure you're not a MacGregor? It's no small wonder you fit in so well with us!"
Honour gave a slightly wobbly curtsey.
"Being a proper gentleman and all," continued Jack, "I wasted no time in seeing if she was all right after the ordeal."
"More like you wanted to introduce yourself to the liveliest lady in the pub," said Fiona.
Jack gave Honour a mock puzzled look. "Funny, for a moment I could have sworn I heard Josiah."

"Josiah has always had your best interests at heart," said Honour.
"Quite right. He's always been a fine man, an outstanding seaman, and exemplary mother hen."
"And how often did you listen to his advice?" asked Fiona.
"About once out of every five times. The rest of the time, I relied on my own personal philosophy."
"Which is?"
"Fortune favours fools, little children, and ships named El Lobo del Mar."
"That sounds too risky," said Rafferty.
Honour rolled her eyes and nodded in agreement.
"But back to the story at hand," said Jack. "I struck up a conversation with her, and to my surprise she was already acquainted with the tavern tales about me."
"I wish there were tavern tales about me," Flannery said wistfully.
"Only later did I discover that Jack had started the majority of them," said Honour.
"A little trick I learned from a good friend long ago. There's going to be stories about you, good and bad. You might as well be the one telling them."

The cousins erupted in laughter.
"Little did I know Honour would use them to seduce me," said Jack with a wicked smile.
"What? Me? Seduce YOU? You were the one buying all the whiskey!
"The next morning I woke up to a man in my bed. How he got there I was a little fuzzy on.  But the answer was on the piece of paper on the dresser."
Fiona laughed, "A marriage license!"
Jack smiled in reminiscence. "Oh, it was quite a wedding night. And morning. And late morning. And mid afternoon. And late afternoon. Then the night came and then..."
"Jack, I don't think we need to bore them with the details. And I do think it is time we go to bed."
Jack stood up. "Quite right. Trip down memory lane and all..."
Honour smacked him on the arm.
"Now help me up. This whiskey is bringing back all those old feelings."

As they turned to go to their tent, Rafferty asked, "About those tavern tales...."
Jack laughed "It was said Mad Jack Wolfe never left a ship unscathed."
Honour added, "Or a woman unsatisfied."
Fiona looked up at Honour with amusment. "Well.....?"
Honour winked, "I'm still here, aren't I?"
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Rafferty passed the bottle back to Jack. Fiona stuck her hand out.
"Give it over, brother dear. Big sister wants a swig."
He reluctantly passed it over to her and as she took a deep drink, she wiped her mouth and passed it to Honour.
She took it but said, "I'm only having a small sip. I'm not one for drinking spirits much."
Jack burst out laughing. "If it wasn't for your drinking spirits, you wouldn't have ended up married to me."
Honour put her finger to her lips and whispered, "Jack...shhh!"

The three cousins leaned forward.
"Now this is a story I just HAVE to hear!" Fiona exclaimed.
Honour looked at Jack. "Well, you've done it now."

Jack intoned, "Once upon a time there was this tavern wench...."
Honour felt her face getting hot. "It wasn't like that....well, alright so it kind of started out that way...."
Jack interjected. "We were in St Lawrence. A port town in Barbados. I was celebrating the taking of a ship."
"He was ALWAYS celebrating."
"This tavern wench was dealing cards that night. She had the bluest eyes and the most heavenly body I had ever seen."
"But there was a mishap."
"Right. She got into an argument with this big lug and threw her knife down into his boot. The idiot was thrown out but not before he slapped her."
"You have it wrong. He slapped me first and then I stabbed him."

The cousins' eyes were like saucers.
"Regardless," Jack continued, "I walked over to offer first aid and comfort to the poor lass."
"Some comfort. You plied me with whiskey so you could drop my pantelets on the floor."
Rafferty and Flannery tumbled backwards with laughter. Fiona took a sip of the flask and fanned herself.
"I have to ask...did she?"
"Well, in a roundabout way. She wouldn't. 'Not without a ring. Those were her demands."
" thing I know we are standing in front of the magistrate. Drunk as can be. I woke up the next morning in a bed. Without my pantelets."
"But with a smile on your face."
"And a marriage license on the dresser."
"Which was a surprise to us both."
Fiona grinned, "It was meant to be!"

Jack took the last drop of the flask, stood up and held his hand out.
"Shall we repair to my tent?"
"I didn't know it was broken."
"We will see you all in the morning."
As they walked arm in arm to the tent, one of they yelled out, "There goes the pantelets!"

Jack looked back, put his finger to his lips, and winked.
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Back at Aggie's cottage...

Aggie wrapped the afghan around her little granddaughter and held her close to her in the comfortable chair by the hearth.
"Legend tells us that a Scottish queen was given a ring by her husband. But she gave it to a handsome soldier and the king found out. He came across the soldier asleep by a river bank, took the ring, threw it in the water and challenged his wife to produce the ring. St Mungo miraculously returned the ring by catching the right salmon and finding it in its stomach.
"Ewww!" Zara exclaimed.
"Yes, but---"

There was a knock on the door.
"Now who could that be?"
Zara jumped down and opened the door.
"It's Auntie Maura-Laura."

Maura laughed. "It seems to be the name the wee lassie has given to both Laura and me. Yes, Zara, it is Auntie Maura-Laura."
To Aggie, she said, "At least I came before Laura!"
"Well, I am one of the very few who can tell you apart."
"Really? And how so?"
"You have a tiny scar on your left earlobe."
"I didn't think you would notice it."
"It's hardly noticeable."
"Laura hit me with a fish hook that was Da's when we were little. Mama had to cut the hook and take it out that way."

Maura sat down and looked quietly into the flames of the fire.
"What brings you down this way, Maura dear?"
She sighed. "Just..."
"Missing your man?"
Maura nodded. "Laura volunteered to stay with the bairn and I wanted to see if you had heard anything."

"No, my dear. But then I didn't expect to. One way or another, they will be back by the end of the week. With or without the Stone."
"But Laura and I are afraid for them. The region is rife with highwaymen."
Aggie poured Maura a hot cup of tea to which she added a splash of whiskey.
"Maura, Jack Wolfe was a p-i-r-a-t-e."
"PIRATE!" Zara piped up.
"Now, how do you know that word, lassie?"
"Da would say it after Mama spelled it. It is the only word they spell."
"Zara, you are too smart for your own good."
"Da says that too."

Maura laughed and put Zara on her lap.
"Rafferty and I need a girl. All these boys....both from me and Laura."
"Aye, but boys will look after you. Protect you. Like Rafferty and Flannery do to their old Gran."
"Aggie, you are ageless."
"Nevertheless, Jack Wolfe did not survive this long by his wits alone. The man is a fighter. He commanded a ship. And he is shrewd. And his wife is not one to trifle with. Jack told me one evening after everyone had gone to bed how she defended herself with the sword once. Seems she split a tree in two. And then there was an incident. No details, just that she defended herself rightly against a man."
"I know but..."
Aggie went on, "Rafferty and Flannery are no slackers. They will defend what is theirs. Look how they took on the Campbells at the last ceilidh. And you girls did yourselves proper too."

"Did Rafferty and Flannery tell you about the plans for the distillery?"
Aggie shook her head. "Not in so many words. I was only half listening."
"Donnell is letting them rent a warehouse and taking 10% of the profits. Thirty percent goes to Rafferty and thirty percent goes to Flannery."
"And that leaves Jack with thirty percent."

Maura shook her head. "I feel you have the right to know. Jack is leaving his thirty percent to you."
"What? No investment return?"
Maura said, "No one has ever said anything but..." she looked over but Zara was fast asleep so she continued.
"No one said but I think Jack is more well-off than we realize."
"From ill-gotten gain, I imagine."
Maura shrugged. "I cannot say for sure. But I feel Jack is trying for redemption. Not trying to earn a place in heaven but he feels he can put that money to good use and make our lives better. More comfortable. And if the distillery is a success like the boys think it will be, we can send our children to the university. Make a name for themselves. Let the MacGregors shine for a change."

Aggie looked intently into the fire, almost as if she was talking to herself.
"It would be nice to not worry about the cold and the chance of the rain coming through the roof. Wondering if there is enough wood to carry us through a brutal winter...."
"And having Rafferty and Flannery work at a trade they love. Jack has even offered to set Maura and I up in a little enterprise of our own."
"And that would be...?"
"Dying woolens in exquisit colours. He has access to the finest dyes and tints from the Mediterranean."
Aggie smiled. "Then truly it is a blessing that Jack came back into our lives."
"I had best go home. Thank you for the chat, Gran."

As Maura gently handed Zara over to Aggie, the little girl stirred and said sleepily,
"I can spell a bit. But Mama won't let me say one word."
Aggie looked warily over Zara's head to Maura.
"What word is that, lassie?"
Zara motioned Aggie closer to her and whispered that one word...
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Early the next day, Fiona and Honour were riding behind the men as was their usual formation. They were comfortable enough to know that Rafferty and Flannery always had their backs. As it were.
Their talk usually consisted of raising children, cooking and men.

Of which both were experts.
Fiona reached up and picked a few leaves off an overhanging branch.
"Mmmm! Smell this!"
Honour took the fragrant leaves with the blooms attached.
"Oh, this is marvelous! What is it?"
"Honeysuckle. It grows all over the countryside."
"I would love to take some back to propagate it in our garden back home."
"What sort of flowers do you have down in Barbados?"
"Oh...hibiscus.The flowers are quite large and you can wear them behind your ear. Then there is the gardenia. Jack and I planted a few under our bedroom window. The scent is indescribable."
"Jack gardens?"
"Well, let's just say he likes the ideas and I supervise. I don't mind getting my hands dirty though. Something so satisfying about being one with the land."
"Are you sure you aren't Scottish?"

Honour laughed.
"No, Welsh through and through. My father is Lord Rhodri Conaway, if you can believe that."
"You are landed gentry? Lord have mercy, how on earth did you ever end up with a pirate?"
"By falling in love with him, I guess."
Fiona looked at the men in front of them.
"I guess there is someone for everyone. Look at Rafferty and Flannery, married to the O'Hara twins."
"That was their name before they became MacGregors. Their father came from Ireland."
"That explains the exuberance."
"What I also want to know that may need an explanation--how does Jack know where to look for the Stone?"

Honour sighed. "The man's mind is like a steel trap. He got up before anyone else this morning and by the light of the campfire, he spread what rudimentary map he had on a flat rock."
"I thought I heard him talking to himself."
"I've never seen anyone with a mind like Jack's. It is constantly working. And fast as lightning. He spent that time going over calculations in his head. I heard him talking in his sleep. Just muttering numbers."
"That must be very disconcerting."
"As long as he doesn't whisper another woman's name, I am used to it." Honour laughed.
"How did he come by this talent for figures and numbers?"
"Probably started working with his father as a shipwright. If his father had lived longer, I have no doubt Jack would be the premier shipbuilder in England. He used to follow  his father around when he could barely walk.He can take a ship and redesign it to increase cargo area, speed and not lose an inch of its dimensions."
"You are very proud of him."
Honour smiled widely. "Yes, I am. I have never known a man like him in my life."
"And I am sure he has never known a woman like you either."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

Jack let his horse slow to a stop as he retrieved his book of notes and a compass from a saddlebag. He flipped through a few pages, checked the compass, and abruptly closed the notebook with a snap.
"Bollocks!" he grumbled before referring to the notebook again.
"Jack, what's the matter?" asked Honour.
"Everything," he sighed. "What do you see?"
"A shallow ditch, then a slope down to the riverbank. What is supposed to be here?"
"A wall, for one thing. More importantly, there should be a milecastle - or what's left of one - right in front of us. But there isn't anything. No stone outline for the foundation of the milecastle, not even a depression where it might have been. And certainly no wall. Just a ditch where the wall should be."
"How can there be a depression where the wall was, but not the milecastle?" asked Rafferty.
"I wish I knew," said Jack. "The locals could have taken the blocks to make barns or blackhouses. The Stone could be somebody's hearth for all I know. Maybe this was a wild goose chase after all."
"What if the directions are off just a bit?" said Flannery. "We could be closer than we think."
"Even if we were right on top of it," said Jack, "Where's the bloody wall?"

"You're not thinking of giving up, are you?" asked Fiona.
"No. No, not yet. But something is off. I've made a mistake and I need to sort it out; otherwise, we're just wasting time and energy."
"Speaking of energy, this would be a fine spot to rest a spell and have something to eat," Fiona said.
"Aye! I could eat," said Rafferty.
"Rafferty MacGregor, you could eat in your sleep given half a chance," she laughed.
"All right," said Jack wearily. "This is as good a place as any. You lot have a bite while I try to get my bearings again."
"Oh, no you don't, Jack Wolfe," said Fiona. "You need to eat like the rest of us."
"I'm really not hungry, Fiona—"
"And I say you are. Now sit down, get your nose out of that book, and let your head clear."
"You'd better do what she says, Jack," said Honour. "After all, when in Rome..."
"All right! All right, I surrender," said Jack. He took a seat on the ground with Flannery and Rafferty who were already passing a flask.

"You know, that's a funny thing about the Romans," said Flannery. "Their roads and temples and even their language survived after the empire fell, but everyday things like money and measurements didn't."
Jack choked on the swig of whiskey he had just taken. "Wait, what did you say?"
"Just that nobody uses Roman standards anymore, mainly since there's no Romans around to make them do it."
Jack looked up at the sky and laughed.
"What's so funny?" Honour asked.
"Flannery, you're a genius!"
"What's in that flask, anyway?" said Fiona.
"Roman miles!" said Jack. "They based their mile on one-thousand paces, each pace being five feet long. Five-thousand feet to a mile."
"Ah! But we use furlongs now," said Raftery. "For measuring acreage and the like."
"And horse races," added Fiona.
"Each furlong is six-hundred and sixty feet long, and there are eight furlongs to a mile," continued Flannery.
"Five-thousand, two-hundred and eighty feet versus five-thousand," said Honour. "The farther we traced along the wall, the more we overshot the mark!"
"Oh, beauty and brilliance. I'm such a lucky man!" said Jack. "When in Rome, indeed! That has to be it. That has to be the answer."
"They used Roman miles for the riddle," said Flannery. "I never would have thought of that."
"Flannery, you did," said Fiona.
"That's right, I did!"
"Yes, cousin, you did! Let's finish up and get mounted again," said Jack. "We've got backtracking to do."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

The band of travellers found themselves looking upon a section of the wall they had ridden past earlier that day. Compared to the rest of the wall they had seen, this portion was relatively intact. Time, weather, and human hands had reduced its height significantly, the tallest part was no more than four or five feet. Some parts had been pulled down completely to make openings. But many of the large stones of the wall were still there, just as they had been placed by Roman hands centuries before. Jack dismounted and shook his head slowly as he surveyed the expanse of ruined wall.

"Things are looking up. A part of the wall that looks like it could have been a wall," said Fiona.
"According to the course correction provided by Honour and Flannery, this is the place," said Jack. "To think we rode right past it."
"I'd call this promising," said Flannery.
Rafferty gave a low whistle. "Compared to the rest of what we've seen, we're spoilt for choice now."
"Good. No spooky temple in sight. I can do this," said Honour under her breath.

As the others dismounted, Jack began rummaging through one of the bags attached to his saddle. Within a few moments, he produced a cloth pouch and gave it a satisfied shake.
"Those don't sound like coins to me," said Flannery.
"Because they're not," said Jack. "They're much better than coins for our needs.
He untied the pouch string and help up a long iron nail. "These are what will help us find the Stone."
"How is a nail going to find one particular stone out of all these?" said Rafferty.
Jack started handing each of them a nail. "Many of the oldest stories say that the Stone fell from the sky. That it was strangely heavy and dark as a storm cloud."
"And that any blade that struck it rang like a bell," added Fiona. "It doesn't sound like any stone I've come across."
"Agreed," said Jack. "I'm convinced the Stone isn't a stone at all, but a meteorite."
"What, you mean a shooting star?" said Flannery. "You've lost me, cousin."

"All through history," said Jack, "There are tales of knives and swords made from metal that fell from the heavens. The Royal Society have published papers on the nature of meteorites, that they are made of solid iron, or a mixture of iron and stone. That's how civilisations that didn't know how to make iron managed to come up with an iron blade or two. The Babylonians and Egyptians made use of meteoric iron. Some say that Excalibur itself was forged from it. And I truly believe that the stone that roared out of the ether over the Isle of Skye is an unusually large, immensely important meteorite."
"I've seen Saint Edward's chair with my own eyes," said Honour. "What they say is the Stone is pale, like chalk. I never understood how the legends say one thing and the Crown another."
"Because the Crown will never admit Longshanks got duped," said Fiona. "So we each take a nail and start tapping on any large, dark stone that would fit the arse of an English king?"
"No, we tap on any large, dark stone stout enough for the arse of a proper Sottish king," replied Jack. "Here, a nail for each of you. Take a second if you're feeling ambitious. If you're not certain if you've struck metal, try scratching on the surface. I'll bring the compass to confirm whether or not it's made of iron."
"Because the compass will point at a block of iron rather than north," said Rafferty.
"Exactly! Now off you go."

Over the next three hours, they tapped on stone after stone, none of which sounded like anything other than stone.
Flannery rubbed his eyes wearily. "Raff, have you already done this lot?"
"Who can tell? All these rocks look the same now. Sound the same, too."
"Jack, over here!" called Fiona. "I might have something!"
"Leave it to her to find the damned thing," grumbled Rafferty.
Everyone converged where Fiona stood over a grey-black stone that seemed to match the dimensions of the legendary Stone. It was still attached to other blocks, part of a badly crumbled section of the wall. Jack pulled the compass from his pocket, flipped open the lid, and brought it close to the stone's surface.

The needle steadfastly pointed to the north.

"Damn it," Jack muttered. "That makes three."
"Maybe there's something wrong with the compass?" offered Flannery.
Jack shook his head grimly. "No. The compass is fine. I've trusted it with my life more than once."
"We followed the rhyme as closely as anyone could," said Honour. "Where does that leave us?"
"One of three possibilities; we're searching in the wrong place, someone already found the Stone and used it for heaven knows what, or the damned thing was never here in the first place." He stood and slipped the compass back into his pocket. "I'm afraid I've led you all on a wild goose chase."
Fiona shook her head. "I think we all could use a spot of rest and something to eat before we start making declarations. I know I'd much rather stare at a bowl of stew for a while rather than another rock."
"I like the sound of that," said Flannery. "I'm starving!"
"And when are you not?" said Fiona.
"Right after dinner, of course."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Captain Jack Wolfe

"Then I trust you'll be quick about gathering firewood while you've still got the strength. Rafferty, I'll need a ring of small stones for the fire. Surely you can find some nearby?"
"I'll see what I can scare up," replied Rafferty.

Jack stood off by himself, staring at the remnants of Hadrian's Wall. He scarcely heard Honour as she came to his side.
"You tried your best," she said as she leaned her head against his shoulder. "It's not like they made it easy for you, like planting it somewhere on a forgotten island maze."
He could not help but laugh. "I suppose that impossible island helped to set my expectations too high."
"I've always thought that some things need to stay hidden. Otherwise, they lose their power to spark our imagination. They lose their magic and become ordinary. And the world becomes that much less wondrous."
"I am forever grateful for one thing that didn't remain hidden from me. You. The woman who saved me from my self."
Honour took a deep breath. "Well, since you're in a mood for finding out new things, I--"
"Jack! Oh, Jack!" called Fiona. "I'll be needing your striker. These two are useless at starting a fire. We'll starve before they manage to make a spark."
"Hold that thought," he told Honour. "Duty calls, and I am hungrier than I realised!"
Honour watched as he hurried off. "That's fine. It will wait, but not for long..."

The next morning, the adventurers enjoyed a hearty meal before breaking camp and starting the long ride back to their village. Thoughts of a warm hearth and a soft bed had everyone eager to get back onto the road, and home.
Jack and Rafferty rode at the front of the procession, with Honour and Fiona behind them and Flannery guarding the rear. Rafferty took note of how unusually quiet Jack seemed and sought to break the ice.
"You're taking this well, not finding the Stone," he said.
"What? Oh, that," replied Jack with a wry smile. "Not the first time I've been wrong. I'm sure it won't be the last."
"At least now we know the rhyme and the Stone are just fables," Rafferty added. "I suppose I never put that much stock in any of it, to be honest."
"Really?" said Jack. "I had no idea we were so infallible."
"What do you mean?"
"All we proved is that the interpretation of the rhyme we chose to follow was wrong. Or it was right, and someone beat us to it. The Stone itself? I don't think it is a fable at all."
"And what makes you so sure?"
"Selkies. Kelpies. Whippety Stourie. Bean-Nighe. All right, never mind the last one. These are fables we all outgrow, yes?"
Rafferty nodded.
"But not the Stone of Destiny. That one permeates everyone and everything Scottish. I suppose some part of us would like it to be some grand load of bollocks designed to dupe Longshanks, but I don't believe it is. Not for a moment. It's the beating heart of Scotland. And I have no reason to think it's locked up in London Towne. It's here, somewhere. Where it belongs."
"Then, you think it will be found, someday?" said Rafferty.
"Maybe," said Jack. "If it wants to be found."
"Now you're sounding like Aggie."
"Oh, such high praise! I'll take it."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

I can't believe this is our last night before we head back, " Fiona sighed.
"Well, we went into this not knowing for sure if we would find it," Rafferty said.
"There was always that chance," Flannery replied.
"I feel so disappointed," Jack said as he poked the fire with a stick.
"But one good thing came out of it. We got to spend time together.," from Rafferty.
"Maybe that is what Aggie wanted after all."
"I keep replaying it in my mind, wondering if we missed a clue," Jack admitted.
"This was an adventure we never would have had."
"One to tell the boys. How we all went on a quest."
"And pass the story down to their bairn,"
"And how we defeated highwaymen,"
"And then there was Fiona and Honour shoving that kettle over that idjit's head."
The men started laughing as they passed around a bottle of mead."
"Jack, I need to..."
"Fiona, pass that bottle over to Honour,"
As she did so, Honour shook her head no.
"I don't really feel...."
"I really miss Maura and the boys."
"I miss Laura and the lad."
"I miss my tribe, too," Fiona said wistfully.
Jack quipped, "I miss Zara."
"Jack, we need to..."
"Just the one wee lass, Jack. You and Honour will have to get busy."
"We plan to, when we get back to Barbados."
"Jack, really, I have to...."
"Barbados sounds lovely," Fiona said.
"When we get back, you all will have to make plans to come visit. Honour and I plan on coming back every few years to visit and check on things."
"We are really going to miss you, Jack. Honour and Zara have been a delight."
"Jack, can we just..."
"I know Zara is going to miss all of Aggie's fanciful tales. But Honour has been writing them down in a journal. Haven't you, darling?"
All Honour could do was nod.
"That way when Zara gets married and has a family of her own, she can tell them to her children."
"I wouldn't have missed this adventure for anything, " Rafferty said.
"How long has it really been since we saw each other, Flannery?"
Flannery took a sip of the mead and passed it to Jack.
"Oh....we must have all been around fifteen. And remember that ceilidh with Elspeth? Jack couldn't take his eyes off her."
"Honour, this is a tissue of lies. I wouldn't believe a word of what they are saying."
Honour nodded miserably.
"I really think it is time we go to...."
"And then the Campbells always messed it up."
"Whatever happened to Elspeth?"
"She married a McIver. Has a bunch of bairn."

"If you see her, tell her I said hello."
"And then there was the time we got into old Tommy's hooch."
"And we got so sick..."
"..and Aggie gave him hell for it. He didn't know what it was about."
"And the three of us staggered into the kitchen and Flannery threw up outside...."
"Jack, please...we really have to..."
"And what about the time we went fishing and all three of us slipped in and fell in the water at the same time?"
"Jack, PLEASE! For the last time...."
"And what about the time..."

Honour closed her eyes, took a deep breath and said softly, "Jack, I am going to have a baby!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Captain Jack Wolfe

The campfire chatter came to an immediate halt. Jack Looked at Honour, then at the bottle in his hand, then back to Honour.
"Um, what?" was all he could manage.
"You're going to be a father again. Zara gets a little brother or sister."
"I'd say that's better than finding some old stone!" said Rafferty.
"Honour, you'll forgive me not pouring you a cup, what with the wee bairn and all," said Fiona. "But this calls for a celebration!"
Flannery gently pried the bottle from Jack's grip. "I'll watch over this for you, cousin."

Jack gently stroked Honour's cheek. "Another baby? We're having another child?"
"Yes, Jack. I hope you're happy about the news."
"Happy? I'm overjoyed! How long have you known?"
"A few days, for certain."
"Why didn't you say anything before now?"
"Oh, I tried a few times. But you were so fixated on the Stone. I couldn't wrest your attention away. Now that you've decided to abandon the search, it seemed a good time to try again."
"I'm glad you did! My God, another child? Honour, that's worth ten Stones. Twenty! And this time, I get to be there for the birth."
"Yes, you do," said Honour. "I like to know who I'm swearing at and trying to bite."
"I'll be sure to wear my heavy woollen great coat. I'm good with the swearing."
"You know me so well."
"You're not cross with me for taking your attention away from the Stone?"
Jack lovingly stroked her hair. "My finding the Stone simply isn't in the cards this time. Someone will, I'm sure. But it won't be me. And that's fine. Finding the Stone would be one more secret to keep. Another child? I get to brag endlessly!"

Fiona approached them with two cups. "Here, this one is for you, Honour. Apple brandy. Weak as a newborn kitten, but it will warm your insides. And Jack, naught but hard whiskey for you. If this one is half as sharp as little Zara, you'll need it."
"And if it's a boy?" he asked.
"I think that's what they call 'just desserts'. Aggie has mentioned more than once what a handful you were."
"Me? No, I was positively angelic," said Jack.
"Using your horns to prop up a tinsel halo doesn't fool anyone. All the same, I couldn't be happier for you both," said Fiona. "And for Zara! She gets someone to boss around. What a grand feeling that is."
"We heard that," said Rafferty.
"Aye, because you're busy eavesdropping instead of gathering more firewood like I asked!"
"Told, is more like it," said Flannery.
"What's the difference?" Fiona shot back. "Unless you'd like me to tell Laura and Maura how you sat idly by whilst the women did the heavy work."
Grumbling under their breath, the brothers got busy finding more firewood.

"I think Zara should spend more time with her Aunt Fiona," said Honour.
Jack chuckled. "Well, there goes the Wolfe patriarchy..."
"I'm not sure about people anymore. They're responsible for some pretty nutty stuff. Individuals I'm crazy about, though." ~ Opus

Welsh Wench

Flannery had enough listening to Fiona and Honour talk about cooking, husbands and childbirth.
"If it is all the same with you ladies, I think I will  join Jack and Rafferty."
"Yes, go on, tell your tall tales. See who can outdo the other," Fiona retorted.
"You will be alright back here?"
"Have you forgotten who threw the kettle over the head of the punk highwayman?"
The women giggled to themselves. Flannery shot them a look and rode ahead of them.
"Don't worry about us, Flannery. We won't let you out of our sight," Honour called out.

" I was saying, I read all of Kyla's diary and what a sad story it was."
"I would have loved to have seen the harpsichord."
"It was simply beautiful. I would love to somehow retrieve it before it gets destroyed by the dampness. Thank goodness, Jack has no scruples about fetching it for me. One time he...."
Her voice trailed off. "Do you hear that?"
"Hear what? Honour, your imagination--"
"Hush! Listen!"
There was no sound coming from the woods.
"Maybe it was a chipmunk?"
"I guess my mind is playing tricks on me...STOP!"
They reined their horses in.
Flannery looked back. "Do try to keep up, lasses."
"Fiona needs to adjust her rein."

Honour grabbed Fiona's rein and whispered, "Listen carefully. When we are riding, I hear a rustling in the woods. When we stop, it stops. Chipmunks don't do that."
"Maybe you had better tell Jack."
She nodded. "Flannery? Fiona is having trouble with her rein. Can you see to it?"
As he came back, she quickly rode up to Jack.
"But the Stone---"
"Jack, I need to talk to you."
"Of course, sweetness. Are you not feeling well? Do we need to slow down?"
"No, I am fine. But riding behind, I hear something in the woods. Something bigger than a squirrel. We are being followed."
Rafferty frowned, "Maybe it is just a pregnancy thing, Honour?"
"Don't be ridiculous. When we stop, it stops."

Jack reined his horse in and listened closely.
"Show yourselves, we mean no harm."
But there was nothing but silence.
"See, darling? Just your imagination. Besides, we will be home in less than three days."
"And it can't come a minute too soon. If I never go camping with you again, Jack Wolfe, I shall rest easy all my days."
"And by two weeks time, we shall be setting sail for Barbados. I just have to get Rafferty and Flannery all set up with the distillery."
"I can't wait to get back to the sun and the sand. Scotland is beautiful in its own wild and remote way. But it's not home."
"And we have the wee bairn to look forward to."
"Do you hope for a girl or a boy, Jack?"
"Doesn't matter to me as long as you are safely delivered and the child is healthy."
"Renee will be over the moon with another godchild to spoil."
"Auntie Renee. Who would  have thought?"
"Gran will want us to stay till the bairn is born, you know."
I never did ask you when we can expect the blessed event."
"As near as I can figure, in the winter. Another reason why we need to leave here. A harsh Scottish thank you!"

"Anywhere I find myself with you, I can bear whatever weather comes our way," said Jack. "But I too miss the turquoise waters, warm breezes, and even the stars of home. Worry not, love. We'll be homeward bound soon."
"Even sooner than two weeks?"
"I'll speak to the ship's captain. I may be able to persuade him."
"I know the ship's captain well. Maybe my persuasions would be more effective?"
Jack met her eyes and broke out in laughter. "Ten days, it is."
"That was too easy," said Honour."
"Maybe so," said Jack. "But I'm not cheap."
"Oh, fine," she said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. "We'll discuss terms, but only when there's a proper bed to be had."
"Have I ever mentioned that I love you?"
"Once or twice. You'll remember, I always get the better of you in such negotiations?"
"And have I ever complained?"
"Not once."
"It's a shame these horses don't have sails. Three days seems like an eternity now...""Anywhere I find myself with you, I can bear whatever weather comes our way," said Jack. "But I too miss the turquoise waters, warm breezes, and even the stars of home. Worry not, love. We'll be homeward bound soon."
"Even sooner than two weeks?"
"I'll speak to the ship's captain. I may be able to persuade him."
"I know the ship's captain well. Maybe my persuasions would be more effective?"
Jack met her eyes and broke out in laughter. "Ten days, it is."
"That was too easy," said Honour."
"Maybe so," said Jack. "But I'm not cheap."
"Oh, fine," she said with an exaggerated roll of her eyes. "We'll discuss terms, but only when there's a proper bed to be had."
"Have I ever mentioned that I love you?"
"Once or twice. You'll remember, I always get the better of you in such negotiations?"
"And have I ever complained?"
"Not once."
"It's a shame these horses don't have sails. Three days seems like an eternity now..."
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

"Be careful of the flour, Zara. We need to add it....oh dear. A bit at a time."
"Uh oh Gwan."
"That's alright, darling. We just scoop it out and add it as we go. Shortbread is really easy and forgiving."
Aggie popped a piece of the dough into Zara's mouth, then into her own.
The two of them closed their eyes, wrinkled their noses and said, "Mmmm!"
Then they laughed.
Maura and Laura and their brood were in the yard planting flowers by the door.
"Do you think the blue or the pink go better by the door?"
"What do you think?"
"Isn't blue your favorite colour?"
"No, it is pink. I thought blue was YOUR favorite colour."
"You think?"
"Maybe. I don't remember."
Then they burst out giggliing.

Adam, one of the boys, stuck his head into the door and said, "Zara! You need to come see the frog that Donald caught!"
"Ewww! No!"
Adam whispered to Donald, "I TOLD you she wasn't going to come out. She's a girl, alright!"

Zara whispered to Aggie, "Don't wanna see a frog.""
She whispered back, "I don't blame you."
"Selkies are better."

Zara glanced out the window and suddenly she shouted, "MAMA! DA!"
She jumped out of her chair and went flying out the door.

Around the bend in the road came the weary travelers. Honour trotted her horse faster, bypassing the rest of them. She threw her reins down and jumped off her horse.
"Honour! Watch yourself! You don't want to hurt---"
But Honour was running towards her little girl, bending down and scooping up an armful of Zara.
"Oh, darling! How I have missed you!"
Zara flung her arms around Honour's neck.
"Oh Mama! I saw a brownie! I did!"

Aggie, Maura and Laura ran to the travelers.
Maura and Laura each ran to their respective mates. Aggie stood with her hands on her hips and in affectionate exasperation said, "You two! You always try to make us think that you don't know who belongs to who but we know better! The proof is in the pudding."

Jack scooped Zara up off the ground and hugged her. "And what have you been up to?"
"Gwan and I made shortbread."
"I can see, by the amount of flour in your hair and on your dress. You look like a ghost!"
He tickled Zara and she squealed with laughter.

Aggie gave each of them a hug and a kiss.
"You all look like you can use a hot bath, a hot meal and a decent night's sleep in a real bed!"
She looked over at the (what is that word?) and saw it was empty.
"Ah, well, ye had to try, dinna ye?"
Rafferty, his arm draped around Maura, said, "An adventure for sure. And best told around a table."
"Aye, for sure. Ye all come over for supper in an hour. Dinna be telling a story without telling all of us."
"Fiona, Donnell and the boys are due to come over for supper tonight anyhow because---"
A tall man came out of the house, rolling up his sleeves.
"Because she has unexpected company?"

"Thomas!" cried Jack. "It's really you!"
"You were expecting a kelpie?"
"No one would mistake that face for a kelpie."
Jack ran and embraced his brother.
"When did you arrive?"
"Two days ago," said Thomas. "More than enough time to ingratiate myself with my darling niece, with no plumed hat or ship's panther to cause a ruckus. She's a sweet little girl. You must be proud of her."
Jack looked over at Honour and Zara and smiled. "More than I can possibly say. I went for years certain I would never have a family of my own. Now I can't imagine life them."
"Life on the narrow path agrees with you, brother. Though Aggie tells me you still have a taste for adventure."
"I could never pass up a good riddle. A small vice I learned from you."
Thomas chuckled. "It's always best to discover the big vices on your own. And how did the treasure hunt go?"
Jack sighed and shook his head. "Scotland's hidden gem remains stubbornly hidden. The research was sound, the site fit the lore. After leaving literally no stone unturned, it wasn't there. I really thought I could find it, Thomas. I was sure of it."
"Do you plan to try again?"
"No. The ship will be returning in a few days, not to mention Honour being homesick. Now, if you wanted to give it a go..."
"No thank you! The Navy stifled my sense of adventure long ago. But there's this; perhaps it isn't ready to be found. Have you thought of that?"
"Why, Thomas! You're sounding more and more like an old sea captain, spouting such philosophy."
"Old is relative, my brother. As I reckon, you made captain before I did, though through unconventional means."
"I took a more unintentionally direct route, as it were. But since you're so willing to call me the senior officer. I'll accept it. "

"That'll be enough out of ye both," interrupted Aggie. "In this house, no one outranks me. Now shift yer arses and get cleaned up for dinner! That goes for all of ye!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....

Welsh Wench

Honour came out from the anteroom in her dressing gown and toweled her hair.
"Oh, that bath felt so good! I thought I would never feel hot water on my skin again! Where's Zara?"
"She wanted to help 'Gwan' with the dinner. I think she was going to cut out the biscuits."
"You know it will be hard for her to leave Aggie. Those two have a strong bond."
"And it's given Aggie almost a new lease on life. I know she loves the grandsons but the great granddaughter...that was something special. She can pass on her lore and her love of cooking. And Zara has the imagination for it."
"It's your turn for the bath. Do make it a long one. You have about two weeks of grime to get off."

Jack pulled out his razor and began to soap up as Honour came in.
"Oh..I DO love to watch a man shave."
He smiled at her through a soap-filled face.
"And here I thought you liked my pirate look."
"I do. But I also like to see a lot of your face. I know your Gran does. It kind of takes the sting out of you being a pirate. And speaking of which, isn't it odd that Thomas is here?"
Jack shook his head.
"No, not really. Periodically he comes to visit Gran. Keeps an eye on things and helps her out with money when he can."
"With the distillery, Aggie won't have to worry about anything anymore. Do you think she will move?"
"Aggie? Move? Scotland would fall."
"At least she can do some improvements. Of course she will never give up that stove."
"And the roof won't leak. And she can garden to her heart's delight."

Jack toweled off his face.
"Much!" She patted his cheeks. He drew her into an embrace and patted her stomach.
"Why aren't you showing yet?"
"Jack, I am only about six weeks along. We have quite a few months to go."
"Is the baby moving yet?"
She tried not to laugh.
"Jack, did your parents tell you ANYTHING?"
"Well, I know when the dog was in the family way, her stomach would sometimes jiggle."
"I don't intend to 'jiggle'. But when the time for movement comes, you will be the first to know. Oh and by the way....I talked to the others and they were sworn to secrecy. We can tell Aggie our big announcement during dessert."
"Zara will be jumping up and down."
"As long as she isn't expecting a selkie. And we really need to start planning on our return trip. I don't want to be lumbering around the ship with a stomach out to here."
"I promise. This baby will be born in the glorious sea air and sunshine of Barbados. Now...are almost ready to go downstairs? Mind you, there will be a ruckus and lots of talking over each other."
She kissed him. "It is what your family does best!"
Show me your tan lines..and I'll show you mine!

I just want to be Layla.....