Mark your diary, because every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious well researched journey.
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:
Return to Rhonan: Chapters 11 & 12
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Letter from Muriall to Lady Brianna.
The Lady Brianna of Rhonan
Thank you for your most welcome letter. I read and reread it. I am so pleased that little Felicia is happy with her new doll. It took Aunt Flavia weeks, stitching and embroidering the tiny clothes. Then she spent so much time searching for a suitable tea set for her. The small porcelain cups are quite exquisite. Uncle grinned when he watched Peters pack Edward’s drum and drum sticks. The little hussar uniform was delightful. He must look very handsome in it.
Nevertheless, as you say, dear Brianna, the money for the toys should have gone to the tenants. Do not feel guilty; there is nothing you could do. However, the money you sent will provide clothes for the impoverished cotters’ children. I want to say toys, but we need every penny we can get for food. However, I have a thought here; I could raid the attics for some. I know we put so many of our toys up there over the years.
I am sorry my letter upset you, as I know you have such a tender heart. Our visit to the cotters was tragic. It breaks my heart when I think of when we were children. I remember the number of times we would steal away to the cottages to listen to old Patrick’s stories about the fairies and the mermen. You were on his knee and me and Robbie at his feet. It used to be so cozy with the turf fire glowing. It never went out, did it, summer or winter?
Alice is putting on a little weight now, as is Robbi. We stood together and cried. I am terrified, Brianna, terrified of what is going to happen here.
We have to find more help. The hierarchy stopped the road works, saying the practice is useless and of no importance. The only ways left are those to the farms that are track, really. I am appalled and ashamed at the poverty and misery in which our poor friends exist. Honestly, at times like this, I wish I were a man. I could do so much more – bully the landlords into helping the cotters, not evict them.
I hate this inequality – women have very little power. As such, our efforts are insignificant. We cannot even suggest anything at the meetings. Oh no, it is up to the men, sitting on their arses pontificating instead of doing anything. Dorothea and Aileen are now doing their utmost to persuade their papas to help the tenants. However, with little success. Like us, they are ferreting food out at night, inveigling trusted servants to guard them. So between the three of us, we are looking after about thirty families. Yet sadly, it is not enough; our beloved friends are suffering. On other estates, some are dying. Duncan and our darling Guy, are both working like slaves to help. However, that bloody Max, is a bastard, selfish – corrupt. I wish I could horsewhip him. Only the other night, he dared to enter my bedchamber without permission. I do declare I felt threatened, and with good reason, I found out. Nevertheless, I evaded his insulting intentions and with a whack across his head with my hairbrush, sent him packing. I dare not tell Duncan, blood would be shed.
More landlords have received death threats. Although I love Duncan, I am fed up with him following me around. He insists he is guarding me. For God’s sake, I match him in swordplay, temper, and shot. Why do men treat us as if we are porcelain dolls? Honestly, Brianna, women are stereotyped as witless, fragile, fainting at every hint of excitement. It is only the stupid corsets that bring that about. At least you and I are one accord on this. Meg does not help either, moaning at me as usual for wearing breeches and frockcoat. Well, why not? Other women are standing out for what they believe. Tis just tradition has subjugated women. In earlier times, we were equal. Men were devoted to the Goddess, to the Great Mother. However, with the advent of Christianity and that misogynist Paul, it changed.
One day we will wear trousers, have a say in politics, and have the right to own land. I mean that twit Lord McCarthy has married an heiress with a fortune of fifty thousand pounds. She also has an estate with a manor house, but it is his to do with as he pleases, As soon as she married, she lost her right to everything. Ridiculous – insane. What is wrong with these women? If I say anything, they back away and shudder in horror at my boldness. They twitter on about ‘women must know their place.’ We do not even have the right to write or publish a book under our names. Meg was affrighted at my speech, as usual, well bollocks to that.
I have read of German authors who freely curse and yet write so adroitly, women who are free to be natural. They do not have to the insane rules of polite society, a society that enslaves women treating us as though we are little more than animals. Uncle respects his horse more than he does, Aunt Flavia. Alas, though, the man is so frail and can scarcely walk without his cane. He now suffers a hacking cough and has gout to add to his discomfort. Only last week, he took to his bed for over four days. Aunt Flavia was affrighted and called for the physician. He protested heartily at being bled but gave in with ill grace.
Duncan has no time for him now in his complete indifference to the suffering of our poor tenants. It breaks my heart, Brianna. As I said above, our dear friends are suffering. Alice and Robbie and their young family will be forced to move to the Coast without food or shelter until they build a home. But of course, Duncan, myself, and other willing volunteers will help them. I wish we could help them all.
Oh dear, I hear Aunt Flavia calling me. I have to go; John is waiting for the letter. I shall write to you again, poste haste. There is more to say.
I am your devoted Muriall.
‘Exorcism? For God’s sake. Don’t be so damn stupid.’
Nathan’s eyes narrowed. ‘If you want people to work here, then we’ve got to go through with it.’
Douglas’s nails dug into the palms of his hands as he paced the marble hall. They needed more staff desperately, but this was superstitious nonsense. It would only aggravate the situation further. A draft swept through the cavernous space lifting the edge of an ancient tapestry of medieval knights.
‘You’re insulting Father O’Reilly here. I’ve pleaded with him to help us, and then all you can do is mouth off at him. People in the district refuse to work here; they’re too damn scared. We should be opening in six weeks. We can’t afford for anything to go wrong now. Listen to sense.’ Nathan stuffed his hands in the corduroy trousers, creased and stained with what looked suspiciously like cow dung, the elbows of his tweed jacket threadbare.
Douglas’s dress taste now ran to the Italian look of the designer jacket complimented with a silk tee shirt contrasting with Nathan’s country farmer style. ‘Don’t tell me how to do my job. You stick to the domestic farming and the grounds. I’ll see you at the hotel.’
‘We’re partners here, so I do have a say in the matter. We’ve only got a few more weeks before we open – we’ve got to get more staff from the local people – we can’t afford Edinburgh rates. Come on, Douglas; this makes sense.’
‘Sense? Do you call this sense? It will lower the prestige of the hotel.’ Douglas paused, looking up at the head of a stuffed stag; the eyes seemed to glisten as if watching him. ‘I don’t remember discussing or agreeing to any of this with you.’
‘Stop playing the big brother with me. I don’t think I have to inform you of every decision I make. Father is doing us a favor. Seeing as we’re part of the church.’
‘You might be. Four weeks and suddenly, you’re converted. Last month it was Buddhism.”
‘At least I’m not a bloody atheist.’
‘Agnostic. Nathan. I don’t have any religious inclinations. Just listen to yourself, man, an exorcism? We’re not in the middle ages. Next, you’ll be telling me it’s incense, bells, and candles.’
‘So, how the hell d’you think you’ll get staff from the villages then?’
‘You’re showing the world we have a bloody ghost. The American woman and her cousin friend are arriving after we open.’
‘I thought she was Canadian?’
‘No, she has homes in Canada and America – New York. But what’s that got to do with it?’
‘You told me yourself. George said she’s a psychic who’s terrified of seeing a ghost if that’s not weird enough. If she catches any hint of this, she’ll cancel. She’s booked the Mermaid Suite for God’s sake for a month, her dog’s arriving soon, and she’s also rented a studio. She’s a multi-millionaire, and we’re talking about thousands of pounds here.
‘There’s no way she could find out; you’re getting hysterical – calm down.’
‘Hysterical? I’m not a bloody girl. It’s you; you’re damn well obsessed with ghosts. Just because you’ve heard gossip−.’
‘For fuck’s sake−‘ Nathan stopped abruptly. ‘Sorry, Father, I got carried away.’
The priest shook his head, the white hair forming a crown around his natural tonsure. Showing grey stubs of teeth, he said, ‘Tis the devil you’re inviting in here with your quarreling.’ Taking a small flask from his pocket, he noisily swigged down the contents. Smacking his lips, he said, ‘I’m after having a hot toddy, for the arthritis. Tis like an ice house in here, to be sure, an ice house.’
Nathan opened his arms, pleading, ‘Father, what would you suggest?’
The priest rubbed his pockmarked nose, ‘Tis not up to me to come between brothers. But, I warn ye, it might take more than an exorcism to shift these ghosties. Don’t be insulting them now, or they’ll be after your soul.’
Douglas glared at Nathan. ‘No – it’s not going to happen. That’s final – no exorcism.’
Nathan sprang from his seat. ‘Don’t tell me you haven’t experienced it. Look me in the eye and tell me that you haven’t heard or seen anything.’
‘No, I haven’t.’ thundered Douglas. ‘We’ve been living in the bloody caravan for the past year and a half.’
The priest took a pipe out from his cloak, fumbling around for the packet of tobacco. Carefully filling his pipe, he turned to Douglas, speaking quietly. ‘There’s something here. Been quiet for some time now, but it’s returned. Can you not smell it? The smell of the seaweed? Tis Muriall – so it is.’
Douglas stopped short, sniffing the air. His heart leaped just a little, as he smelt ozone. Then he laughed. ‘We’re near the sea Father; it’s just the wind blowing this way.’
The priest lifted his pipe in resignation before putting it in his mouth. Sucking away, he smiled, a smile like a vine creeping around Douglas’s heart, squeezing. Maybe he’d heard the odd sigh, the odd word, seen the wisp of a silk skirt disappearing through a door, but it could be just the draughts. Their funds did not run to complete double-glazing; many a room still had the leaded light windows, the creaking stair.
His mind flitted back to a night only a week ago. He’d been sitting right here; his chair was drawn up to the marble fireplace, a whiskey in hand when he’d felt tapering fingers flit across his cheek. He’d started up, felt the hairs on his neck rise. His eyes trained into the shadows of the vast expanse, shadows deep, and dense wavering in the firelight. It was then he smelt the ozone, imagined seeping black seaweed slithering across the floor from the door.
He remembered rising from his chair, heart hammering, chest tightening, on hearing the sigh, long and drawn out. His heart leaped into his throat as his eyes fled to the massive doors, shuddering as one slowly opened. Tomkins couldn’t have shut it properly. But, then, he thought he would yell out as he saw a scarlet skirt disappear into the darkness of the night. The flickering light caught the marble statues of Zeus and Hermes, playing upon muscles that seemed to move. He shook his head, looking at ancient tapestries of medieval battle scenes, the fringes lifting in a draught. That was it; the skirt was just the tapestry moving in the antique black flecked mirror. That’s what he told himself – only light flickering, reflections, draughts, and creaking doors. But, he did not return to the cozy chair. Neither did he stop to take the whiskey with him, as he strode urgently from that fearful space.
Nathan’s voice brought him back. ‘Come on, Douglas; an exorcism won’t hurt. At least, it will satisfy people. The Father’s greatly respected throughout the district.’
The priest coughed, tapping his pipe out over the hearth. ‘I think maybe I should be going. It will do no good to keep arguing like this. Twill only makes the haunting worse.’
Nathan sprung forward, ‘No Father, we need to do this. We have to hammer it out. Please stay.’ Turning to Douglas, he said, “You know we’ve lost time and money with builders leaving. Even the village kids wouldn’t enter the grounds, not even for a dare. And, that’s saying something. You know what kids are like; little demons will break in anywhere, especially old decrepit houses.’
Douglas frowning conceded. “Yeah. Strange. But, rumors build up into legends, all over a bit of nonsense. If this is what you want, so be it, but keep it short.’
Calmer now, Nathan sat down again in the button-backed leather chair, ‘You can’t tell Father to keep it short. You know what the solicitor said, generations of Rhonans have fled the damn place – the last one stayed a week – we’re not allowed to sell it – no-one will rent it.’
Douglas glowered, punching one fist into the palm of his other hand. He knew he should meet Nathan some of the way. They’d spent the last eighteen months renovating the manor. The castle would have to wait. With the gardens, a small animal farm, and some exotic animals to add interest to the park, it took over two million pounds. A terraced row of newly built luxury cottages along with semi-detached and detached houses providing accommodation for the upper management positions took another million. However, the fully fitted chrome kitchens, the wood floors, and minimalist design with lower than average rents did not tempt the local people to apply for the vacant positions.
On top of that, they converted the stables into luxury one bed and studio apartments for holiday self-catering. ‘Damn stupid nonsense. Get it over with if that’s what you want. Don’t expect me to believe in all this hocus pocus.’
The priest glowered at Douglas. ‘This is blasphemous. You are insulting the Holy Roman Catholic Rites. Have ye no idea of what you’re dealing with man?’
Douglas looked at Nathan’s face, drained of his usual high color. He realized this was not really about the ghost; it was the future of the hotel. His voice grated, like gravel over tin, ‘Well, as long as you don’t think I’m taking part?’
Father O’Reilly”s stepped away from the fireplace, interrupting, ‘Ye have to – you’re the oldest Rhonan blood – to be sure they’ll obey you, but not your young brother. Now I shall be explaining all the blessed objects we will be using in the Holy Ritual. Then you will be cleansed before we start.’ Douglas jerked his lip into a grimace. ‘Surely you don’t think I need an exorcism?’
No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved
Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here: