Since it’s Saint Patrick’s Day, I thought I’d let you all have a short peek into “Lady of Eyre,” the third, and final, part of the second Minivandians book. It’s with alpha readers now, so I expect to have it out by the end of April.
Ruarin awoke to the sound of men’s voices in the corridor outside the room she shared with her father. She had fallen asleep before sunset the night before, and the soft mattress beneath her felt wonderful. A day of rest and food had done much to restore her strength, but she had decided against spending the evening beside one the fire to listen to tales and song.
She lay her head back down and closed her eyes. Sleep did not return, though, because a cacophony of barks and baying erupted in the quiet night air.
The Lady of Eyre sat up at the sound, then rushed to the window. In the torchlight, she saw a large pack of hounds, with shaggy ears flopping and long tails wagging, approaching the tavern. The night watch shouted as the vanguard of the noisy band made its way into the courtyard and halted in a cloud of dust in front of the stable.
Ruarin grabbed her robes and bolted for the door. It was then she noticed that her father, Mael, was no longer in the room. Everyone in the house seemed to be trying to get down the stairway at once, but when the men noticed a noblewoman trying to make her way downstairs, they stepped aside and let Ruarin pass.
Waiting for her outside the door was a troop of armored men and women, none of them taller than the ladies hips. At their head, Tomultach stood with his knobbed walking stick in one hand and the reins to his mount in the other. His beast was a large brown and white hound, several hands high at the shoulder, with one ear that stood up and one that flopped down over its eye. The dog’s tongue hung out of his snout as he panted from his run, but his tail was held high and wagged back and forth furiously at the ladies’ approach. Tomultach bowed low to Ruarin when she walked out of the tavern.
“Ah, but it’s good to see you, my lady,” he said in his deep voice. He wore leather and bronze armor which shone in the light of the rising moon, and he carried a sword in a jeweled scabbard at his belt. A leather helmet set with an iron band covered his head, and a small shield rested on his saddle.
Ruarin returned the small man’s bow. “Greetings, old friend,” she replied. “Father tells me that you’ve been most helpful.”
Tomultach made a dismissive gesture with his walking stick. “T’was nothing,” he said. “I hadn’t spoken to Echrad in too long, anyway.” He shared a smile with Ruarin over that.
Behind them, they heard someone shouting and turned to see what the commotion was. King Seanagh and his lieutenants, including Ruarin’s father, came out of the building, some already dressed for battle.
“What in hell is going on?” he demanded. His eyes were bloodshot from lack of sleep, and Ruarin noticed that several of his nobles looked as if they had been drinking.
Tomultach bowed low to the king, although not as low as he had to Ruarin. “King Seanagh, I am Tomultach mac Eoghan. I’ve come here, with my family, to pledge our support in your fight tomorrow.”
King Seaghan did not return the salute. Instead, he looked about in amazement. The tavern’s yard was filled with hounds, each with a warrior upon its back. The air was no longer filled with the sound of their baying, but the occasional yip and growl did filter through the murmurs of the gathering crowd of Eyrischmen.
“How do you know there’s to be a battle?” he finally asked.
Tomultach looked up at him with one eye squinting. “Well, majesty, I doubt you got dressed up like that for a ladies’ tea,” he replied.
“How did you know the king would be here?” one of the noblemen accompanying the king demanded.
Tomultach looked up. “Lord Murchadha, is it?” he said gravely. The man nodded.
“Well, my lord, there’s not much that happens in this land that we don’t hear about,” Tomultach replied with a wry smile. “For example, last night, you had yourself a nice meat pie, half a jug of the tavern’s best beer, and a slap on the face from Master Donagh’s eldest daughter for dinner.”
This brought a rumble of laughter from the other lords, while Murchadha looked furious at having been made the butt of a joke. He sputtered for a moment before a raised hand from the king quieted him.
“Master Tomultach, I accept your service, but I must ask, what will your clan provide?” Seanagh asked once his men had stilled themselves.
“Why, only one hundred fifty of the best riders in your lands, majesty,” Old Tom replied. He gestured to the mob of hounds behind them.
“The legends say that your folk went to battle on the backs of fire drakes,” the king said.
“Well, now, that’s a sad tale, your majesty. A sad tale,” Tomultach said with a shake of his head. “You see, one of your ancestors, he was a great holy man who banished all of the serpents from the kingdom.”
“I’ve heard the story,” Seanagh said. “And now?”
“Well, your majesty, when the snakes fled, so did the drakes!” Tomultach cried out indignantly. “So, we had to find ourselves something else to ride.” He patted his hound on the flank. The dog, delighted at the attention, reciprocated with a lick that pushed his master to the side.
“Well, then you’re doubly welcome,” King Seaghan said. He suppressed a yawn, then called out. “Let’s all get some rest. Tomorrow promises to be a long day.”