Lady Mairghrec inghen Ewen
Lady Mairghrec at her knitting. Copyright Mike WIlliams/Einarr Aldhund, 2008. Used with permission. Companion of the Falcon's Heart
Order of the Leather Mallet
Order of the Leather Mallet
Award of Arms
So, ye be wanting to hear an old woman's life tale, do ye?

I suppose its as good as a cup of warm milk to sleep by. Since it will save me the trouble of putting down my handwork, I'll commend your thriftiness and ramble on until I see ye nodding. Mind the fire and wrap your cloaks close as ye get comfortable......

I was born in the winter of Our Lords year 947 in a cot near the village of Kincraig, which hugs the easterly bank of the River Sprey. I say easterly because little here in the Highlands of Scotia, formerly Dalriada, formerly Alba, gives a whit about the cardinal points of a compass.

The River Sprey flower northeastward between the Monadhliath Mountains to the north and west and the Cairn Toul Range to the south and east. It runs parallel to the River Ness and its famous loch where long ago St. Columba met a water monster. Our Sprey is a respectable river, filled only with fish.

Malcolm was king when I was born. Seven kings have followed him in my lifetime. Kenneth the Second reigned as long as the other combined, and so it would have been a time for peace but for the north men in their dragon ships who have plundered, and now seem intent on settling, our shores.

Seven kings, seven smiths of war, whose hammers or lack of protection has crushed the lives of my kinfolk, including my husband and most of our seven sons. True, they fought proudly and fierce, for does not the blood of Kenneth McAlpin, king of Dalriada, who drove the Picts into obscurity, flow through our veins?

Sadly, my mother-in-law and I must share the guilt in the deaths of our husbands. I was an alliance bride, married to her son to unite our clans against the maraudings of lesser houses. Niora made me welcome and we grew to be great friends as I gifted her with grandchildren. Her husband, Aedh, however, was as ill-tempered as she was gentle. Finally, Niora's patience met its end. I was there, setting the warp and helping to pass the weft on a new cloth, when her weaving words turned finally from blessing to lamentation and curse. I confess I did not dissuade her for this cantankerous lout had recently mocked my own mother, calling her a Viking raid whelp (as if his own blood were not Pict-tainted).

At first I murmured works of protection, this curse would only light where it was intended, but after I saw him cuff my youngest without cause, I joined Niora wholeheartedly in the chanting of ill wishes. Soon after, the northmen returned to attack the priory at Kingussy. To our dismay, the price for our weaving words was near half the men of the clan, including Aedh, my own husband Colin, and three of my sons. Secretly, I burned the ill-wished cloth.

We made confession to a somewhat sympathetic priest at Kingussy and began the first of many pilgrimages as part of our penitence. The priest and I agreed the Norse were at least partly to blame, but a haunted look never left Niora's face after.

Together, after fostering off my youngest children, we have traveled to Iona, to the graves of St. Ninian and other Scottish saints. Bitten by a love of travel, Niora unearthed a cache of gold the miserly Aedh had told no one but her about, and we began our journey to Compastela and Jerusalem. Niora, well up in years, died and was buried in the Holy Land, except her heart which I brought back home.

Now, with this third King Kenneth on the throne, I have settled my estates on my oldest living son, saving a bit to dower my daughter, should she find a man who could both win her heart and best her in battle, for she will not settle for less.

Excepting for the worlds end (as some say, it soon will), I hope to travel a little more and then retire to a friendly priory and tend to the gardens and my needlework.

Ach, dearly me. flying ember has cracked your eye back open with its loud crackling. Let me brush it back into the fire while I reminisce about the seven kings I was telling you about earlier. Malcolm; then Indulphus; Duff; Colin, like my own sweet lord; the Kenneth the Second, of the long reign; followed by Constantine the Third, of a very short reign; and now another Kenneth, may he live long and prosper. (Good luck with .)

Good night, dears.

Copyright 2009 Mairghrec inghen Ewen/ Brenda Ward