The red tails of his leather cloak flipped and clapped in the wind. He did not realize just how far he had walked before he arrived at the door of Widow Magaidh. The sun was feathering along the rim of the mountains. He looked up at the chimney to watch pittering grey smoke curl and puff, reaching thin fingers to the jackdaws that circled and cawed above. He could hear the slap of leather against rough terrain. He checked himself, aware that Fearchar had followed him out from Seonaid’s house. He was at least a solid hour walk from the gloomy rock monstrosity of the Daleroch estate that caused his skin to burn, his heart to desert him, his lungs to convulse. He should have just said no before going out there to torture himself. Three weeks later and the tension that knotted at the back of his ribs had yet to abate.
“Oye!” Fearchar ran up to him, trying to regain his breath. He bent over slightly, pulling in deep gulps of air, his dreadknots sweeping forward, the beads clattering together. “Wha’ was that ’bout?” he demanded. Eoin waived him away and turned around, leaving Widow Magaidh’s rock hovel. He wasn’t ready to face Magaidh. He realized though that he’d be hounded by the man with the dazzling ginger hair till he returned. Fearchar kept up with his long gait as they made their way back to Seonaid’s home. “Daleroch said to make sure you knew that they want for you to come to Hogmanay to celebrate as compensation for helping her boy. Will he get better with what you gave him?” Fearchar asked.
Eoin nodded his head, burrowing his hands under his cloak. He didn’t feel like talking. It was enough that the mask hid the tears that rimmed his eyes. Heat swept across his cheeks as he tried to keep the salty drops from rolling down his skin. He swallowed hard, trying to stall. He began counting the rocks and outcrops of the hills on the familiar path. Fearchar continued talking, but Eoin had stopped listening.
He fixated on a spiraling column of seabirds, their feathers flashing brilliant white in the gleam of the setting sun. “…and putting up a plague notice would make it unquestionable,” Fearchar said.