"I'm no a hero, Gel." He looked away from her. "I'm more of a...a coward."
"A coward! Arguis I'd never call you that."
"It's true, Gel."
She sighed. "I'd still like it if you told me the story."
He sighed. "I suppose we shouldn't have any secrets."
"Nay, we shouldn't."
"It's not a pleasant story and one I like to forget but if you insist on knowing—" He leaned back in his chair. "When I was a wee lad my ears were afflicted. They would bleed, and puff up like a blow fish. The pain was so intense, I was rendered completely deaf."
"I don't remember that. Well I do remember you were very quiet."
"You didn't pay any mind to anyone back then except for Bridie ... I think. You two were always together. Anyway, a wise woman healed my ears and suddenly I could hear. I could hear everything and not only the usual stuff but all sorts of things."
"What ... sort of things?"
"Things that normal people cannot hear. Did you know that a bee sipping a flower sounds like grass being ripped from its roots and the heart of a dying man sounds like the wind of a cave? Once I heard the prayers of a holy man on a ship that was sinking in a storm!"
Geileis listened with rapt attention. "That's amazing," she said.
"I thought so too, at first. With every breath of sound, I would rush to find someone and explain what I was hearing. They believed me, or I thought they, did but then something happened. A man had fallen from a cliff. I said I knew where he was and that his wife should follow me. When I led her to the wrong place entirely...well...he died. After that I was labeled 'Crazy Ears'. I became an outcast, though still allowed to live among our tribe. I was shunned or simply ignored."
Geileis heart clenched. "That's awful," she said. "You were just a little boy. Why did they shun you?"
"For fear I would tell them something they didn't want to hear. Then one day your father took pity on me. He invited me on a hunt and I was thrilled. It was my job to cook and man the fire while the men hunted for game. One day, while they were gone, I heard something I'd never heard before, a sound so rhythmic I was in awe of the shear melody of it. I heard the drums."
"War-drums, and the sharpening of blades and axes, piercing shouts of blood-lusted warriors, even the caress of dyes on men's skin. I heard it all."
"But surely you warned the hunters."
"I couldn't. I didn't know where they were. They'd been gone since sun-up. At first I thought about looking for them but as the day went on I thought I should be here when they returned. So I could tell them what I heard. Then I started to hear voices, real conversations among men and references to the name of Uisneach, I knew I could not have been imagining it, but by this time, half the men had gone off to hunt including your Da. Soon it was too late and I told no one."
"Oh God!" Her eyes blurred and her throat felt closed. She remembered that day. Her father's white face, the hole in his chest, his body still and lifeless slung upon his horse. She remembered wondering why her little friend Arguis had not returned with them, though the grief over the loss of her father had prevented her from asking questions. "Arguis, you survived. How?"
Click Follow to receive emails when this author adds content on Bublish