A Parting of the Ways

Brigid ran a paw over her swollen belly. Only she knew the precious cargo it carried; she hadn’t even told her husband Nechtan of the kindle of kittens that she could feel turning and tumbling inside her. For the first time in her life she no longer had a desire to fight, or go to war, all Brigid wanted to do was to protect her own family; her husband and their kittens.

Nechtan had been away for nearly two months, fighting alongside Brigid’s father, King Cruithne and his troops, to put down a rebellion in the distant clans. Now he was on his way home to her, and Brigid’s fur tingled with the anticipation. As the energy within her grew she knew her beloved Nechtan was nearing her. She felt the power bubble down her arms and into her paws, and she smiled as she looked down them, they glowed a warm golden glow, her talons shoots of iridescent light.

She ran to the top of the Broch and stood on the edge of the roof, her eyes searching the distant horizon for some sign of him. A glint of metal caught her eye and squinting Brigid could just make out some small figures on the horizon. As she watched the figures slowly grew closer, and finally she could make out her father on horseback riding out in front and beside him, his ginger fur standing out against the black stallion he was riding on, was Nechtan. Brigid turned and flew down the steps of the Broch and along the cliff edge towards her husband. Seeing her running towards him Nechtan geed his horse and set off towards Brigid, a smile breaking out and transforming his face from weary warrior to husband yearning for the love of his wife. As he reached Brigid, Nechtan leapt from his horse and bundled his wife into his arms, spinning her around as they both cried. Pulling away from her, Nechtan looked quizzically at Brigid.

‘You’re pregnant?’ he whispered.

 Brigid nodded and laughed as Nechtan whooped with delight, gathering her close to him again.

‘I’m going to be a father,’ he mumbled into Brigid’s fur, ‘I’m going to be a father.’

They were both laughing and crying as the other troops reached them. King Cruithne leapt from his horse and landed beside them. He kissed his daughter on the forehead and drew her into a hug.

‘My little baby kitten a mother?’ he smiled, ‘I’m so happy for both of you,’ he said, rubbing Brigid’s ear affectionately. She leant in close to him and purred.

Cruithne turned to his troops, and called to his son Talroc, who had remained seated on his horse throughout the conversation.  

‘Talroc, call a moot, I have an announcement to make,’ he called, turning to Brigid and kissing her again on the forehead. He looped his arm around her and walked back towards the Broch.

‘Of course, father, anything you say.’ Talroc mumbled, watching as the happy trio lead the soldiers back towards their home.

The moot three days later was a noisy and raucous affair. The kitchens were bustling with serving cats as they prepared dish upon dish for the guests. Roasted chickens lay alongside fresh poached salmon and samphire, platters were heaped with rabbit and wood pigeon. When all the food had been eaten and the spiced cream had been drunk Cruithne stood up and called for quiet.

He held out his paw to his wife Eithne and taking her paw in his they stood in front of the assembled guests.

‘Friends,’ he began, glancing at Eithne, ‘we are happy to see so many of you here tonight. We have known each other for many, many years. You have watched my little family grow up to become the strong and wilful warriors you see before you tonight,’ he glanced over at Brigid and a ripple of laughter rang around the room, ‘but now that they are adults with their own lives I feel the time has come for a great change.’ A quiet murmur ran around the room. ‘The Cailleach’s foretold of this moment many years ago and my beautiful wife Eithne and I thought now was the perfect time to fulfil the prophesy. From tonight Eithne and I will be stepping back from ruling over the lands of Alba, and as the Cailleach forecast the Land of the Cats will be divided into seven regions, one for each of my kittens.’

The room was quiet, everyone was listening to Cruithne speak, wondering how it would change their world.

‘Firstly, for my beautiful daughter Ulfa I gift you the region of Fotla. You are wise and will see that your people remain healthy and peaceful. For my son Drostan you will have Circinn, I think their temperament will suit your personality.  For my son Aengus, you will rule over Fidach, I know your beloved hails from there and the two of you will make a strong dynasty. Leithenn, my youngest son, your love of water, although unusual for a cat, seems to fit well with the region of Fib, where you will rule over the fisher cats and farmers of that region, do well. For my warrior son Talroc I gift you the region of Cataibh, where our ancestors first settled to claim this land in the name of all cats. You will guard our legacy well. And finally, my strongest warrior and beloved daughter, wife and soon to be mother of my grandkittens Brigid, I gift you the region of Ce, the home you have always known and ancient seat of our Clan from the beginning of time. My hope is that you and Nechtan will live here in peace as we have done for many years. I bless you all, so be it.’

 Cheers and applause rang around the room as the assembled cats congratulated Cruithne and his kittens. Relieved that Alba would remain a peaceful and prosperous land.

Talroc looked over at Brigid and stifled a guttural growl that was forming in his throat. He could feel his hackles begin to rise along his spine and squirmed in his seat so no one else could see. Brigid had done it again. She always had their father wrapped around her paw and here she was, being given Ce, their stronghold, where no doubt she would expect to reign over all her siblings, and where was Talroc to be? Out in the wilds of the edge of their world, just mountains and heather for company. He scanned his brothers and sisters, they were all hugging, congratulating each other. Talroc could feel the bile in his throat and swallowed it down with some cream. He pushed his chair back and stood up from the table and without a backward glance made towards the doorway. From behind he heard Brigid’s voice ringing out above the din.

 ‘To my father and mother, I thank you and love you. To my siblings, may we live in peace and always be there for each other, and to my beloved husband Nechtan, may we be strong and wise rulers together forevermore.’ Brigid raised her glass to cheers and yowls from the gathered cats.

Talroc shook his head and let the door slam behind him.

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