Tuesday Critique: Uilleam’s Call

Here’s a first excerpt from Sons of Alba, book 3: Son of Courage.  Uilleam, the son of middle daughter Ealasaid from Daughter of Spirit, is contemplating his future:


After his grandfather died, Uilleam waited crouched under the eaves of the house for the better part of the day.  He watched the comings and goings, saw a rain storm sweep down the mountainside, unload its burden, and pass away to the north.  He was not sure what he waited for, but he knew the time would come soon to speak, to act.  
Mamaidh came out of the house – somehow Uilleam had known she would.  She needed solitude, as he did, especially in time of crisis.  He watched her pass, absorbed in her own thoughts.  Did she know he was crouched there?  Did she guess the silent trouble that he bore?  Some things the fiosachd told her, and others were dark to her.
He had known all his life about his mother’s gift of prophecy.  She did not speak overmuch of the fiosachd, but he knew it troubled her from time to time.  He was beginning to understand, himself.  But he was not sure if he was ready to tell her, if she did not already know.  
Perhaps she did know, Uilleam thought suddenly, watching his mother turn her steps toward the mountainside.  Perhaps she only waited to hear the words from her son.  He stood with decision and followed her.  As he walked, he crushed the heather underfoot, releasing a pungent fragrance, reminding him of the smell in Seannathair’s chamber that morning.  But that perfume had been like nothing he had ever smelled – and he was sure he could never find its equal on earth.  
Uilleam found his mother seated on a rock on the hillside, watching him approach as though she had known he would come.  
“Hello, a mhac,” she said with a wistful smile.  Uilleam wondered, not for the first time, how much he resembled his father.  With his tall, broad build and shaggy blond hair, he was nothing like his slim, black-haired mother.  He often felt as though she was seeing someone else when she looked at him.  
“Hello, Mamaidh,” he replied, sitting down beside her.  
“Do you know,” she began without preamble, “This is the very spot where I received the Calling to go to the Church?”
“Is it?” Uilleam inquired, interested.  He loved to hear the story of his mother’s life, and the idea of the Calling held particular interest for him now.  “How did you know?”
“Oh, I saw myself leaving,” she answered, gazing off toward the dun’s clustered houses.  
“Was it hard to leave?”
Mamaidh turned and looked at him hard and long.  “Yes,” she said simply.
“Do you ever wish . . . that things had been different?”
“Different?” she asked blankly.  “You mean if I had ignored the call?  If I had not been taken into slavery?”  Uilleam nodded.  Mamaidh took his hands firmly in her own.  “Never.  For then you would not have been.”
“Do I remind you of him?”  Uilleam said carefully.  He longed to know more of his father, but he knew memory of him pained his mother.
“Yes, and no,” she said, turning away.  “You look very like him – I’m afraid I didn’t give you much of my own looks.  But he was handsome, in his way.  You are like he was at the end – kind and strong.  But he had not your quiet spirit.  He was restless, and sometimes volatile.  But he was good, in the end.”  Mamaidh trailed off into silence, lost in memories both disturbing and dear.  
“I suppose I do have some of you, Mamaidh,” Uilleam said.  Mamaidh looked up at him sharply, searching him.  
“Of course, you do,” she said.
“I mean . . . I knew,” Uilleam struggled with the words.  “I knew Seannathair would die.”
“We all did, a mhac,” she said, her voice thickened with grief.
“No, I mean, before he was ill.”
Mamaidh’s eyes widened, and her hands around his clenched tightly.
“So, you have it too?” she asked in a hushed voice.  “A Dhia, I never would have wished it on you.”
Uilleam saw in her eyes all the regret he felt – she understood what it was to see some evil thing coming and not be able to stop it.
“I went into his room to make certain he was alright the night I had the dream,” Uilleam said, reliving the moment again with all the terror he had felt.  He had slipped into his grandparents’ chamber and listened to Seannathair’s breathing, thanking God that he was alive and well.  “When he took ill, I thought there must have been something I could have done – that I should have told someone.”
“There was nothing, a chuisle,” Mamaidh said, putting her arm around him compassionately.  “We cannot cheat death.”
“I know that, now,” he said, remembering the perfume that had surrounded him as Seannathair had spoken his last blessing on him.  He had seen a glimpse – just the barest glimpse – of the beauty awaiting Seannathair, and had known then that death was only the threshold of eternal bliss for those hidden in the Criosd.  
“It is never easy for us who have the fiosachd,” she said, gazing toward Dun Na Cloich.  “Sometimes, a vision is given to us to change what might come.  But mostly what we see is for comfort – to know that God is still caring for us.  And there are things you may face, as I did, that will make you doubt that.”
Uilleam shivered and pulled his brat closer around himself.  He could only imagine the things he might face on the course plotted out for him.  
“I’ll be finding out soon enough what it feels like to leave,” he said simply.  There was no easy way to tell his mother he would be parting from her.
“I know,” she said, expressionless.  “I’m going with you.”


As always, feel free to tell me honestly what you think!  🙂

2 thoughts on “Tuesday Critique: Uilleam’s Call”

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