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Warrior of the Realm

Written by Shannon Curtis

Chapter Eleven

Luke shrugged out of his jacket as they rode, and yet again, Nieve waved it away. “I am not cold, Lugh.”

“Take it. Someone in your father’s home set you up. Let’s make sure you do meet your father before that person learns you’ve returned.” He tossed her the garment, and she caught it. She draped it over her head, and they trotted down the hill, across the short valley and up the next hill.

Luke edged his horse between Nieve’s and the sentries, then waved at them casually. Two men stood at the very large doors set in the stone wall and nodded at him when he approached, eyeing the rider at his side with curiosity.

“Who seeks entry to the Hall of Tara?” the man on the right asked. He spoke in a lilt that was stronger than Seamus O’Dwyer’s, but Luke still managed to understand him. He didn’t answer until he got close enough to see their faces. The flickers of light from the old-style torches above their heads revealed them to be twins. Tall, broad shouldered, with dark hair and eyes that could be dark blue or brown, Luke wasn’t sure.

“My name is Luke Storm,” Luke said, “and I—”

“Lugh?” The man who spoke rolled the last letter, roughing it against his tongue.

"No, Luke," he corrected, frowning. He'd never thought his name was so difficult to pronounce, but now he just gave up trying to correct them. For some reason, in this place, in this time, people would call him Lugh. His shoulders dipped with acceptance.

“Oi, he’s pretty one,” the other one remarked, folding his arms.

“I’m hoping you can help me,” Luke responded, trying to look as nonthreatening as possible. He wanted to get the woman by his side to her father as quickly and as safely as possible, and that started with getting through the front door.

“Do you, now? And just how might that be?” the first brother asked.

“Here, look at his clothes,” the second brother commented. “Fancy rags.”

Luke rubbed his arms. Filthy jeans and a dirty T-shirt weren’t fancy in his book, but Nieve had also been fascinated by his clothes. Of course, he hoped she was as fascinated by what lay beneath as he was with her. “My sister and I haven’t eaten in close to three days, and we’d like some shelter…?” He gazed up at the high stone walls. Inside he could hear muted laughter and singing. Sounded like a party. A well-fed, well-liquored party.

The first brother eyed him carefully, and there was no missing his curiosity. “From where do you hail?”

“Chicago.”

The brother’s eyebrows rose, and he turned to his twin brother. “Corin, have you heard of this Sheecargoh?”

Corin shook his head. “Nay, Dorin, I have not. Is he Fomorian, ye think?”

Dorin looked at Luke closely. “I think not. Too pretty.” Dorin’s lips quirked. “If he was Fomorian, I’d open the door myself to Balor’s army and get friendly-like with a maid.”

Corin chuckled, then shrugged as he turned back to Luke. “We know no Sheecargoh. Be off with ye.”

Luke frowned. They were tired, they were hungry, and this was Nieve’s home. He was half-tempted to reveal her identity, but from their conversation, he wasn’t sure who they could trust.

“We’d like some food and a place to sleep,” he insisted. “Please,” he added as an afterthought.

Dorin sighed, not hiding his exasperation. “King Nuada is holding counsel tonight. Only the masters are allowed in, and you—” he looked Luke up and down “—look like no master to me.”

“A master?” Luke repeated.

Corin nodded. “Aye, a master. Only the best of the best are allowed within the hallowed walls of Tara. Are you good at something?” Corin eyed him doubtfully. “Anything?”

So he just needed to convince them he was good at something. He straightened his shoulders. He was the negotiator. He could do this. Easy. Right?

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