As the two of them rode slowly past the villagers, Corraidhín kept an eye out for Elder Áedh or any warriors that might be looking for him. He suspected Áedh might let it go. The glutton probably hadn’t been able to resist temptation any more than Corraidhín had, transporting those cakes back and forth every day. Why, he’d probably eaten at least a dozen by now. Comforted, he lay back against a sack of grain and looked over at Cadeyrn. “So. I’m staying with your family again tonight? I know I frustrate your mother sometimes.”
Cadeyrn scoffed. “She can deal with it. It’s not like you have anywhere else to go, and you help around the cottage. Usually.” He raised an eyebrow and Corraidhín smiled sheepishly.
He was an orphan, but he wasn’t miserable. He didn’t think about his parents, because he’d never known them. He’d grown up like Cadeyrn’s brother, staying at his cottage almost every night and wandering the streets together all day. He probably would’ve felt sadder about it, except he had no reason to. The villagers treated him like any other insolent village boy, giving him a good beating whenever caught him stealing, and he was happy with Cadeyrn’s family.
As they rode past the bath house, Cadeyrn chuckled. “Boudicca and her friends look especially fine today.”
Corraidhín glanced around at the young girls who were sitting outside the building, talking. They looked up as the cart with the two boys passed. They giggled and waved. Cadeyrn waved back, grinning broadly and smoothing his hair back with the other hand, but Corraidhín was frowning.
Among the girls who he’d known all of his life, flirted with and teased, was a small girl with light brown hair, who he had never seen before. He stared at her, confused. Corraidhín knew everyone in the village. He knew every one's names, where they lived, who their family was, and what they looked like.
“Cadeyrn.” He whispered, not taking his eyes off the girl. “Who’s that?”
Cadeyrn looked at him with a funny look. “What do you mean who’s that? Who’s who and what?”
“It’s not funny!” Corraidhín snapped. “The brown haired girl in the center. Who is she?”
“Who is she?” Cadeyrn asked incredulously. “Aren’t you the guy who claims to know every one's name, where they live, who their family is, and-”
“Yeah, yeah. Don’t make fun of me. I’m serious. I don’t know her.”
Cadeyrn shrugged. “Alright, if you insist. It’s Caecilia. You know. My cousin?” He smirked, clearly thinking Corraidhín was kidding with him. But Corraidhín just stared. Cadeyrn’s cousin? Cadeyrn didn’t have a cousin! He parents were both single children. What was he talking about?
He looked back at the girl, this Caecilia. She smiling at him. He narrowed his eyes at her. She winked. Just then, the cart rounded the corner of a house, and the group of girls was lost to view.
He turned to face Cadeyrn angrily. “That’s not your cousin. You don’t have a cousin! Who is she?”
Cadeyrn looked at him, rather alarmed. “You feeling alright? Maybe we should see the healer...”
Corraidhín made a noise of frustration. But it sounded like Cadeyrn really didn’t know what he was talking about. Corraidhín glanced back over his shoulder. Why did he not recognize her? Was his mind just failing him? No. He turned back to Cadeyrn. Maybe she was a sorceress, who had cast a spell on the village. It was rather far fetched, but there had been sorcerers in the town once. They had lived peaceably for a while, but things went badly in the end. People shouldn’t mess around with magic. There was a great fight, any all the magic users were either killed in the fight, driven out, or executed after the battle. It was a possibility.
He forgot the girl in a moment as they neared the duke’s castle. “Cadeyrn!” He hissed, ducking down behind the edge of the cart.
“What?” Cadeyrn asked blankly, glancing around. He laughed. “Looks like Áedh decided you were worth his time. Oh, you’re in trouble now.”
Outside of the castle stood Elder Áedh and the Duke himself. Corraidhín listened hard to hear what they were discussing.
“But my Duke!” Áedh protested in a frustrated tone. “That boy has stolen for the last time, I tell you. He continues to disrespect us, and you. Please, help me put an end to it- Duke, are you even listening to me?”
“I’m sorry, Áedh. But I cannot think about this right now. I have a very important visitor, who is arriving any moment, and I cannot be distracted. I- Oh. Oh dear. Here he is now.”
Corraidhín swiveled his head around in the direction the Duke was looking. A tall stranger was walking down the street. His clothes were odd, and he had a long mishapped stick strapped to his side with what looked like rope. The man looked completely different than anyone Corraidhín had every seen before
Corraidhín nudged Cadeyrn. “Let’s check it out. Sounds interesting.” Cadeyrn shook his head, eyes wide. Corraidhín shrugged. “Have it your way.”
“Corraidhín, no!” Cadeyrn hissed, trying to grab his friends arm as he jumped from the cart. “You’ll be caught!”
“Don’t worry.” Corraidhín chuckled, as he started to back away from the cart. “I’ll tell you all about it.”
Cadeyrn made a half irritated, half worried grumble, but didn’t try to stop Corraidhín again as he turned from the cart as it turned another corner, and ran back towards the castle.