Rite of Passage

I've gotten good at assessing situations in a different perspective. I thought this would be a good thing. I could be helpful to my brother, who was the leader of Inis Eala. As helpful as it is, it makes me even more of a target. I'm Fallon, daughter of Bran and Liadan, and I would never betray my family.

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1. Chapter 1

Chapter 1

                I was so late. I was supposed to be home before dusk but I got sidetracked. I rode as fast as I could, leaving my horse in the very capable hands of our stable master. I snuck in the back, hoping that no one would notice my absence. Fintan was leaning against the door.

                “You’re late,” My brother commented. I rolled my eyes at him. He’s only a year older than me. He doesn’t get to chastise me.

                “I know. Are they here?” I asked, jogging up the stairs to my chamber. Fintan followed me. I sifted through my clothes.  I settled on a red and gold dress. It happened to my new favorite that mother had sewn with me.

                “Just arrived. Johnny’s going to die when he sees you,” Fintan said. I straightened my dress before turning to look at him.

                “What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked. Fintan shrugged. I picked up the nearest object and threw it at him. He ducked out of the way.

                “It’s been over a year. You’ve gotten older, more lady than girl now. Can that get any tighter?”

                “It’s the way it we sewed it,” I snapped. A feeling of self consciousness slipped over me. I turned back to my clothes, searching for something else. I almost wanted to cry but held it inside.

                “I didn’t mean it like that. It’s just…you’re my little sister and I don’t want to see you get hurt,” Fintan relied. I stopped sifting through the clothes to look over at him.

                “How does this dress hurt me?”

                “It doesn’t. It makes you look beautiful and that attracts attention.” I realized then what he’d meant about Johnny. My eldest brother always had an escort of men with him. Some of them knew me, others didn’t.

                “All of his men are trained,” I stated, pulling a brush through my hair then scurrying out the door behind Fintan.

                “Not to handle you,” Fintan retaliated. We reached the council room just as Mother did. The first thing I noticed was how Gareth was watching Johnny, the second that the rest of his men were staring at me, and thirdly that Cormack was definitely taller than me. When Johnny finally looked over at me, I thought his eyes were going to pop out of his head.

                “It’s good to see you,” I smiled, giving him a hug.

                “It’s a bit bold isn’t it?” He commented.

                “Don’t be ridiculous. You look lovely.” Cormack said, embracing me next. This is why he’s my favorite. He’s two years younger than me, but at fourteen, he had the most open mind. He left to go to Inis Eala at a very early age so it was really just me and Fintan. It made us close. It’s also how I learned that I had a keen ability to assess a situation in a strange, but effective, perspective. Cori, our cook, announced that dinner would be ready soon.

                “Cormack, why don’t show them where they’ll be staying,” Johnny said. Had we been anywhere else, his men would have stayed with him. But here at Harrowfield, he gave them more leave. Cormack offered me his arm.

                “I think you almost gave Johnny a heart attack,” Cormack commented as we ascended the stairs.

                “You’re still my favorite,” I replied.

                “I get to have the prettiest sister around. Why shouldn’t I compliment you?” He asked. I laughed. He was the most fun loving of us older children. Coll, being only 11, didn’t have very many responsibilities; therefore he made it his mission to have fun all the time.

                “So who are the two new men?” I asked. I knew Gareth, Cathal, and Aiden, but two others were with them.

                “The one behind you is Declan, and the other man is Emmett,” Gareth spoke. He’s been in Johnny’s band for a while and I quite liked him. I wished they’d brought Kalev with them. He had struck a chord with me. “How did the negotiations go?”

                “As well as we could have hoped. They didn’t like having to give up so much in return for protection but a fair bargain was struck.”

                “All thanks to you we hear,” Aiden commented. I looked back at him and smiled a little. I had no other response but to blush and look away. I didn’t like when Mother sent word to Johnny and made me sound like I’d saved the entire negotiation.

                “So are you seeing anyone?” Cormack asked casually as I sat on his bed. Everyone was washing up for dinner.

                “No. There’s this one chieftain that Fintan keeps pushing towards. He’s awful.” I replied. Cormack grinned at me before going over to the bowl of water that had been left for him.

                “Waiting for Kalev then?” He asked. He splashed water on his face. My mouth dropped open. He shouldn’t say things like that. Someone could have heard him. “Relax, Fallon. You’re secret is safe with me.”

                “Fallon, may I speak with you?” Father asked, entering the room. I felt a blush rise in my cheeks because there was no way he hadn’t heard that comment. I shot Cormack a look to which he laughed and grinned at me. I then followed Father out to courtyard. Johnny was waiting.

                “I received a letter from Sean a few days ago. He’s requesting you to help with negotiations being held at Sevenwaters soon,” Father said. More negotiations?

                “I…why me?” I asked.

                “I can’t be there and Sean values your council as we do. We can take a different route to escort you to Sevenwaters but I have another mission that requires my attention,” Johnny said. I gulped. I knew Father never went there. Eamonn was a threat to our family and was out for blood.

                “I would never ask this of you lightly, Fallon. The looming battle with Northwoods hinges on this alliance,” Father said.

I understood how important this was.  The problem lay in the faith that they were placing in me. I’d never had to deal with something of this magnitude, nor had I had ever been in a negotiation with someone I did not know. It’s one thing to speak my heart to my family.  I had a choice. Neither Father nor Johnny would force me to go but the importance of this outweighed any excuses that came to mind. I had to go, for my father, for my brother, and for my uncle.

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