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Padraig looked dazedly at the apparition on his doorstep. She was only as tall as his shoulder, and he wasn't all that tall, and she wore a simple green dress, a travelling cloak, and a wide brimmed hat, much like his own. She was sodding wet from the rain.

"Hello," she said, with a sardonic smile, "your town seems to be all shut down and sealed up -- I cannot find an open inn, or even a pub, and it is very wet and cold out here. Might I take a rest in your barn?"

Something about her fascinated him; her smile and humour were like a cool wind, soothing to his raw state. Obviously, she was a doer of things -- a woman alone on the road has no time to wait for things to be done. Recalling that he'd just put up a stew, he invited her to come in and have supper with him.

"My name is Morrigan," she said, as she stepped through the door, "and I come from Hambolshire." She let him take her wet cloak and hat and hang them by the fire.

After a pause, he replied, with some surprise, "Hambol is a long way from here, small one. You've travelled quite far." He paused. "Forgive my manners, I am Padraig, and my mother was buried today. It's why the lodging options are so bleak out there." His face twisted into a masque of disgust. "No one paid her any mind until she was dead," he snarled, "All of Cambry mourns for a woman they never took the time to know -- except the girls, i suppose. They're not mourning at all. They came to --" and here, he sneered, "--to comfort me. They all thought I'd need them when she died; that I'd pick a wife from among them, right there at the graveside! One of them even asked who would darn my socks for me now! Like I can't do for myself..." He slumped in a kitchen chair. "I'm sorry, it's been a day. I don't mean to burden you."

Morrigan opened her mouth to declaim his apology, but before she could speak, he leaned back tiredly, letting his hat fall to the floor. She noticed that he had two small horns jutting from his forehead -- looked rather good on him, in her inexpert opinion. "Oh," she said, "I had wondered...About the hat, I mean..."

Padraig sat bolt upright as the implications came to him, and a horrified look crept across his face. She'd seen his horns! Surely she would...would...well, something bad, no doubt. In his suddenly muddled state, he could no longer coherently imagine the consequences. He froze.

"What?" Morrigan asked innocently, "I rather like them. They add a certain charm."

"You know I've had roosters with a lighter load," he smirked, resignedly, "but thanks for the sentiment."

"Your shite rooster and I maintain no semblance," she replied, with a droll look and a dry smile gracing her face, "as I am not full of shite. I really think they're an appealing addition to your countenance."

He shook his head.

"Forgive me if it's none of mine, but I gather from your reaction that your neighbours don't know about those?" She gestured at his stubby horns. "I'd also suppose that you think they'd not approve."

He smirked at her. "Is it that obvious?"

She grinned.

"But that's chant enough about me," he said with a weary smile, "What brings you out so far from home?"

next week: Morrigan's Quest

Maerklon's Story | Ophandir's Beginnings | Padraig's Younger Days

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