“Grandpapa tell us a story.” The five-year-old girl pleaded with her great grandfather.
“Aye. I’m barely part o’ this worl’ now so I’ll tell y’ what I see in th’ shadow of the last world. We live in this shadow right now and tonight I’ll tell y’ what lies on th’ other side.” The old man sat in a large bent wood rocking chair covered in animal skins, lit only by the light of the fireplace.
“It won’t be scary will it grandpapa?!” The girl’s four-year-old brother looked scared and excited.
“Only if you’re of a small heart and a weak mind, boy,” the thin, wrinkled man said with sparkles in his eyes.
“Okay, Grandpapa. I’ll be brave.” His mother patted him on the head and sat quietly on the log bench behind him.
“I know y’ will, lad.” He adjusted in the chair to sit leaning forward slightly so he could see the children sitting on a great bear pelt that covered the floor.
“What y’ must know is that th’ last world is here now wi’ us in this room. There.” He pointed past the children and beyond the wall with a craggy and worn finger extended. “Across the glen I ca’ see her now, the young Kairn. She stoops to tend th’ crops now.” He stared out as if through the wall of the cottage. The children turned to look.
“But, Grandpapa, I don’t see her.” The boy said with a disappointed tone.
“How can we see her, Grandpapa?” The girl asked the question the old man longed to answer.
“Y’ will see, lass. When y’ need to, y’ will see. Now just listen and I’ll tell y’ the tale as it plays in front of my eyes.” The children settled in on the rug. Their father joined their mother on the bench by the table. All listened intently and tried to see as the old man did. The old man, clearly near death stared beyond the walls and told the story.
“Kairn was a bonny lass and in th’ prime of her flowering youth. She was a good girl all of her fi’teen years, doing wha’ her elders bid her do. She tended t’ everything about the farm with joy. Owing to her many sisters ‘n brothers and many other families neigh them she worked many long hours. Never wa’ there aught but a smile and a song on Kairn’s full pink lips. Blazin’ bright red-orange hair shone in th’ sun like her head was afire. Whether sun shone or rain fell she sang an’ applied herself t’ her duties. She ne’er believed, as is clear on her face even as I watch her now, that she was put upon. Ne’er did she regret her lot ‘r have an angry feeling to anyone who depended on her.
“As time went upon it’s way, as time does, one misty day she wa’ in the field tending to the potatoes and radishes. Kairn had a large, fine basket full o’ them and was at th’ far end o’ th’ glen when a large band of raiders came upon her home and family. She was so far off around a bend and near th’ forest, tha’ th’ smell of the fire reached her first. It overpowered th’ sweet smell of th’ trees and musk of the earth. She first wanted to run straight an’ see what help she could be. She saw in th’ distance all th’ horses with large men on their broad backs, armed with axes and swords. Some waived torches. Though th’ sound of th’ fire and their voices wouldn’t pierce the fog o’er th’ glen to meet her ears, she could see plain enough they were laughing and riding around like drunkards.
“Kairn was a sensible girl, y’ see. As is plain t’ my eyes peering through th’ mists now between our worlds, I ca’ see sweet young Kairn hid in th’ forest until she was sure th’ men had gone. It was near dark o’ night before she dared return home. Only then, as evening wa’ falling hard upon, did she return t’ what remained of her home. Tears streaked th’ dirt on her face as she ran back t’ her clan, but no wails nor cries escaped her mouth. She arrived to find smoldering logs in th’ sod walls where her home had been. Kairn’s father wa’ killed by a blow from an axe. Her wee brothers both lay dead by th’ villains’ hounds. Kairn wandered, numb of cold and sorrow ’til she found her mother tied half naked to a post, abused by the criminals. She was alive, but only barely as much as I am. She can see me sitting here now as well as I see her through th’ veil.”
The boy quietly murmered, “I’m being brave, Grandpapa.”
The girl repeated him.
“Very well,” the ghostly pale old man said. “Kairn’s mother wa’ on her way t’ journey from her time into all o’ time. The woman used her final breaths to say to Kairn, ‘Be o’ brave heart, an’ good cheer, sweet Kairn. I ca’ tell y’ now that I see there are many a good, kind, strong men and women to come. They are here now. An old man who’s t’ join me shortly smiles on y’ in a chair there across the glen. Y’ are the chieftain of a great tribe now. Fear ne’er anything. There is more hope an’ beauty in what y’ can’t yet see. Y’ will always be cared for.’ Her voice faded to a whisper as she finished her time.”
“And then what happened, Grandpapa?” The girl’s face showed she would not accept a short version.
He smiled a little, his gaze even farther off in the distance. “She buried them all at th’ edge of th’ forest. It was just there where the four big oaks stand.” His hand pointed to the wall behind him. He appeared to be able to see them as though he had eyes on all sides.
“Yes, Grandpapa? What happened next?” the boy joined his sister, demanding to know.
The old man’s eyes slowly closed as he spoke. “Kairn met a man only a year older than she, an’ holding th’ land she had her own dowry. They wed and raised a fine family, never traveling far from th’ glen here. They lived here until she finished her time t’ share all o’ time with her mother. She lives yet, here in Glen Feirnaugh. I see her now raising every crop by her own hand, with her grace and joyous song. That is why y’ still can taste her sweet song in every vegetable y’ put to your lips. Remember her and tell her tale as I tell y’ of her now—as I see her yet there in th’ glen.”
“I think I can see her, Grandpapa.” The girl had turned to look toward the far end of the glen.
“Aye. She can see you, too, my dear young ones.” He sat back and let out a long, slow deep breath.