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liorán

(l-ior-aan)

ADJECTIVE Persistence and resilience to the point that all obstacles are exhausted or broken.

His strength could not match her liorán resistance.

NOUN The trait of one who defeats their foes by tiring and annoying them to exhaustion.

The lion may have had size, but the fly had liorán.

Anglish Synonyms 

indefatigable, incessant, importunate, moxy

Notes

Understanding the concept of liorán is important to understanding Gaellician culture. There is no direct translation of the word to Anglish or any other language. It is best understood and taught through examples. Imagine a fight between a heavyweight boxer and a small, yet agile individual. The boxer throws all of their power and strength into every punch while the opponent does their best to avoid being hit altogether. When they are hit, the opponent is quick to repair themselves and return to their feat. In counter attacking the light fighter only slaps the boxer, but in strategic locations. In this scenario, the boxer tires themselves out before the lighter opponent, leaving themselves unable to adequately counter a sudden lightning attack where the light opponent has channeled all of their remaining energy and force.

The term has its origins in the mythical heroine Líorna who is said to have led successful resistance to the Aroman invasion of Adrarus through persistent yet small-scale acts. Her exploits are documented in a popular ancient poem which went on to have significant influence on the Gaellician national identity. Gaellicians view their nation as liorán in the face of adversity and hardship. It is common thinking that one must face challenges in their life with liorán.


Excerpt from the Graham Crichton Gaellician Cultural Dictionary, 10th Edition. Copyright 2017, Loriet University Press.

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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Chapter I: Meet Cute

Merida grumbled as she walked. Precariously, she was calculating sums with pencil and paper on the back of a stack of folders whilst navigating the winding halls of the treasury ministry. Automatically she rounded a corner. 

BOOSHK!

“Feck!” She swore. “Watch where you’re going. No, I meant that for myself. I’m so sorry I’m a fool. Feck sorry for swearing. Feck I did it again.” 

She got on her arms and legs and scrambled to pick up the mess. She had walked right into another person. 

“It’s quite alright. I’ve heard worse, believe me.” Said a masculine sounding voice. 

Merida became aware of the presence of someone joining her on the ground. ‘Swip. Swip. Swip.’ The sound of paper being scraped off the floor and being slotted back into the folders. Soon nearly all the papers were back in their homes. Merida’s hand went to the sum sheet she’d been working on. She felt something like an electric shock as the man’s hand went to the same paper. She flinched and retracted her hand while looking up to actually see who she’d bumped into. A naval officer in his service dress uniform, peaked cap perfectly aligned on his head. He had stunning green eyes like the sea. 

He smiled. “I wish I could help you with these sums” he tapped the sheet of paper “but I’m afraid my math strength lies in geometry and trigonometry.” The officer handed her back the sheet of paper. 

Merida blushed. “Oh you’ve helped enough already.” She winced, worried as if she’d come across as ungrateful or cold. “Really thank you, I’m sorry for making such a mess.” 

“It’s really no issue. A good day to you madame.” He touched the brim of his cap before picking up his briefcase.”

Merida stammered before managing to get out, “And with you.” 

The officer rounded the corner while Merida swore to herself. She looked back down at the sheet of paper feeling another electric feeling. The answer to the sum had come to her. She jotted it down furiously. 


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Margaret McGillis typed aggressively, shaking her head as she highlighted large sections of text before striking it through. Working hard, she paid no mind to the workmen around her moving and rearranging filing cabinets, tables, and desks. Boxes of files were being packed and unpacked, paintings and decorations hung on walls. Somewhere a hammer banging a nail could be heard. McGillis and her laptop were perched on the corner of her desk. The rest of it was covered with files as there wasn’t a cabinet to store them in yet. 

Despite the office chaos and disorder, McGillis herself was immaculate. Her shirt and pants were precisely smoothed without wrinkles, her hair too was styled as if for TV. She was interrupted from her work by the cough of her secretary Cathal Sheen

“Your 11 o'clock is here ma’am.”

The new Treasury Minister typed a final sentence furiously before shutting her laptop and standing. 

“Which one is that now Cathal?” 

“The Naval Liaison you requested. Ceannasaí Eoin Dundas.” her secretary replied while helping her into her matching suit jacket. 

“Cathal can we get these workmen an early lunch. Difficult to make introductions when ya can hardly be heard.” 

“I’ll see to it ma’am.” He responded officially. 

As Cathal spoke with the workmen, Margaret thumbed through one of the stacks of papers on her desk. Each pile was squared and arranged immaculately, much like her dress. She pulled the documents she was looking for, placed them in a folder, and stepped from behind the desk. 

“I’m ready now. Thank you Cathal. And thank you gentlemen.” She nodded in thanks to the workmen.

As the secretary and the workmen exited, a tall, broad shouldered man in a crisp naval uniform entered carrying a briefcase. He saluted informally before removing his cap and tucking it underneath his right arm. 

“Welcome Ceannasaí.” McGillis extended her hand. 

Dundas awkwardly placed his briefcase on the ground before shaking McGillis’ hand. “A pleasure to be here ma’am.”

“Please come take a seat.” She motioned to two arm chairs positioned nicely by the office’s window. At least this part of the room seemed more or less workable. “I apologize for the mess. We’re still getting settled in here as you can see.” 

“It’s no worry ma’am, really.” 

“Oh please. Call me Margaret. And I should call you?” 

Dundas paused for a moment before answering. “Eoin is fine ma’am, I mean Margaret.” 

“We’ll work on that.” McGillis chuckled. “Now you’re probably keen to know what this posting is all about eh? Before I tell you more, let me emphasize that this assignment is confidential. I’m told that you can be discreet Ceannasaí, Eoin” 

“Indeed, I can do that. If I may…” Dundas searched for the right words. Not nervous, but treading carefully. “May I ask a question… Margaret?” 

“Well I certainly hope so.” McGillis ribbed. “That’ll be your main task while here.”

“I was requested specifically. Why is that?”

“Well Ceannasaí, this assignment will be all about finding the truth, no matter how uncomfortable. In the spirit of that, I’m going to be completely honest and blunt. I’m using you for your family lineage, your last name. I’m hoping that it will insulate you somewhat on this assignment. You’re gonna be ruffling feathers, taking names, asking questions that people won’t like. On top of that though, I looked at your file. You’ve got quite the impressive career under your belt for a man of thirty four. Top of your class at Tipperary, earned the golden marlin spikes* on your senior Ruaraidh cruise, geltic football team, got your name on a published paper. All of this while still in the academy. You got yourself promoted fast. Lefteanant-Cheannasaí by your late twenties. Two commands, including a missile boat. War college. Glowing recommendations from the majority of your COs. Liaison with the Armada Iverica just last year, so you’ve got good people skills. I could go on but I think you get my point. You didn’t get here just from your name, you’ve been making like you have something to prove. I need you to channel that fire into this assignment.” 

*A special honor reserved for only one midshipmen at the naval academy per year. It is awarded to the midshipman who displays beyond exceptional seamanship and marine navigation aptitude in addition to leadership of their peers. It is awarded at the completion of the third year (senior) midshipmen's cruise aboard Ruaraidh. The award is worn with most dress uniforms as two golden spikes pinned to both ends of the officer's collar along with a small ribbon above the officer's left breast pocket.

Dundas nodded. “Understood.” 

She handed Eoin the folder. “You can dive through here after the meeting. You’re going to be auditing the Navatorm. The Revenue Commissioners, in the midst of an audit of a marine parts seller and maintenance contractor, flagged something for our attention. The firm was overbilling. Charging for more work hours than it was providing. The difference was being funneled into a separate account. An account that we’ve observed being drawn from by naval officers.”
“Sounds like quite the conspiracy.” He quipped dryly before continuing. “With all due respect ma’am, I’m no forensic accountant though.”

“Oh I’m perfectly aware. I’ve seen your Academy Economics grade.” Dundas tried and failed to suppress himself blushing. “You’re going to be working alongside one of my people. I wish I could have a whole team on this, but for now it needs to remain small. This is a preliminary audit. What might you call it in the military? A reconnaissance mission? Anyways you have to be quiet so that we don’t draw too much attention. All you’re doing is determining the scale of financial impropriety, and if you can, an idea of what the funds are being used for. Once you’re done with that, Revenue will take over with a proper audit appropriate to the scale of the issue. Your primary role here is to find answers to questions that a treasury employee would not be able to easily answer. Technical questions regarding naval and military matters. As for questions, do you have any?” 

“I’m sure I will after viewing the report, but the assignment itself is clear to me.” Dundas bowed his head politely. 

“Excellent.” McGillis stood. “Cathal!” The secretary opened the office’s double doors and stepped in. “Cathal will show you to your office and introduce you to your partner in this endeavor. Good luck to you Eoin.” 

“Thank you ma’am. Margaret I mean.” Dundas said while standing. 

McGillis chuckled. “Like I said, we’ll get it right... eventually.”

Dundas followed Cathal out of the office and down a series of corridors, mulling over the task before him. 

***

OOC: Special thanks to @Iverica for all his help with figuring out the economics parts.

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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  • 4 months later...

Chapter II: Vocabulary Lesson

After winding down and down to the bottom floor of the building, Cathal and Eoin finally arrived at their destination. Cathal opened the door to a dark, square office. A squeaky ceiling fan provided most of the light, with a single, barred window for a small amount of natural light. The window was seated where the ceiling met the wall, directly across from the door. The walls perpendicular to the door were mostly empty bookshelves and filing cabinets. Two metal desks lined the far wall with a wastebasket in between them, on top of each sat an aging computer. In the middle of the room was a well-loved wooden reading and writing desk. To the right of the door stood a coat rack and to the left a single lonely plant pot.

Dundas removed his hat and placed it on the coat rack while laying his briefcase on the writing desk. “I suppose I know what desk is mine.” He gestured to the empty right computer desk. A stack of papers was already accumulating on the left desk. “Certainly an older setup down here.”

“Indeed. I’m afraid that computers are in short supply. Projects that get more up-to-date hardware tend to draw attention. The goal is to keep it low-key.”

Dundas nodded. 

“Now you will notice that the shelves are rather sparse at the moment. You’ll fill them up over time. We’re leaving it up to you and Ms. Menzies to figure out what reference materials you will need. The computers have access to a comprehensive database of records. Some are available electronically, while others you will need to acquire physical copies. For physical copies you can put in a request for delivery, but be wary, it may be more discrete for particular files to go to the archives and make your own copies, no doubt where Ms. Menzies is currently. That should about cov-…”

“Why don’t you mind ya own business, ya nyaff? Swear, can nae do anything in government without jervos sticking their nose in your files.” Merida Menzies grumbled while pushing the door to the room open with her back.

Cathal cleared his throat. “Ceannasaí, meet Ms. Merida Menzies. Merida, meet Eoin Dundas, naval liaison to this project.”

Menzies, standing in the doorway clutching a stack of files, flushed red with embarrassment. “Pleasure to see you once again Ceannasaí,” her hands full she half curtsied awkwardly, “and to learn your name this time.” She smiled unconvincingly.

Dundas stepped over to Menzies, helping her with her stack of folders. “Pleasure is mine.” He nodded his head humbly.

Cathal raised an eyebrow, “You two already know each other?”

The pair spoke over each other in response, with an explanation of their earlier encounter discerned.

“It is written, then.” Cathal stepped towards the door. “You two have my secure line of course should there be concerns. Good luck to you both, and good hunting.” He exited and closed the door behind him gently.

There was a reserved silence for a moment as the two remaining took in their surroundings. Finally, Dundas coughed, “Would you like a hand sorting these out?”

Merida replied in the affirmative, “That would be appreciated.” The duo spread the folders on the center desk. “Should be rather easy even for fresh eyes. Match colors together, letters on the tabs in alphabetical order.”

The pair began to make quick work of the files. Very soon, orderly stacks began to form. “So what knowledge is contained in these particular files?” Dundas went about sorting his share of the folders tactically, grabbing a handful and spreading them flat before sorting them into their necessary stacks.

Menzies worked quickly and methodically. She would grab a stack of folders, flip through them, and fan them out in their respective piles like a letter sorting machine. “A variety of things. Really, most of them boring. It's materials necessary to understand a general overview, so Navatorm and military budget breakdowns, muster rolls–” They had sorted all the folders into the respective piles. “Look at that. Goes much faster with an extra set of hands. Alright, so each shelf will have different sections labeled, just put each stack with the matching labels.” The duo got to work storing the files on the shelves. “As I was saying– feck!” She swore as a stack slipped out of her fingers. She blushed as she realized that she’d sworn again in front of her new colleague.

Dundas scooped up the pile and looked for its correct home on the shelves. “Well, at least the vocabulary around here is familiar, even if the rest of the assignment is new.” He chuckled then paused. “I can’t find the shelf for these.”

“Let me see. Oh, they should go here… and it looks like I mislabeled this one. Put that stack here while I fix it.” Menzies rummaged through one of the desk drawers. “Today is not my day, aye. I keep dropping things, misplacing shi- I mean stuff. And I keep swearing like a…”

“Sailor?” Dundas chuckled again as he put away more files.

As she relabeled the errant shelf with a label maker, she quipped, “Maybe that’s the real reason they gave me a Navy fella. They knew you wouldn’t be horrified by my vocabulary.”

All the shelves were now arranged neatly. Dundas smiled, “Here’s to a fruitful, fecking partnership.”

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter III: When a Benny Flaps its Wings

It had been a little more than a week since the formation of the Special Advisory Mission to the Treasury Minister, as it was officially called. Merida and Eoin had taken to calling it the mountain climbing job in honor of the mountain of paperwork that they had to sift through. Though it hadn’t been long, the pair were already getting used to each other. An assignment like this exhausted pleasantries and small talk within the first few days. They were dangerously close to depleting their supply of ‘getting to know you’ questions. There wasn’t really anything else to do other than chat and sort through papers.

Occasionally, often mid-conversation, Merida would hold up her finger and furrow her brown. At first, Eoin would get tripped up by the gesture, but he came to understand it as one of her quirks. It was automatic for her. She needed her full concentration when she stumbled across something while reading that didn’t add up. After reading intensely, she would either flag the offending paper with a post-it note, or if it turned out to be innocuous, she would file it normally. 

On Wednesday, approaching midday, Eoin found it was his turn to be befuddled. While struggling with a particularly dense financial statement Merida had asked him to look at, he found some excuse to check his phone. 

Noticing that her coworker was not currently working, Merida made a request lightheartedly, “Since you’re clearly formulating your plan of attack for those statements, would you mind filling up my cup?” She held up her metal thermos. Up one level, at the end of the hallway, there was a break room with a coffee machine. 

“Be delighted. Just a moment, though.” Eoin shifted his jaw in an away that somehow looked very martial.

Merida was worried something had happened. “Everything alright?” 

“Yes, nothing to be concerned about. It’s just… well, I’ve seen something that got my interest. It doesn’t quite add up.” He handed her his phone so that she could see. A Wittier thread. 

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Merida scrolled, trying to nod as if she understood before relenting. “A… plane? What’s special about it?” 

Dundas tried to suppress his dorkiness before unraveling. “Not just any plane. That’s a W1-B variant of the Parthian. The original Parthian was a Gaellician design before the design firm was bought out by an Iverican company and put into production. This W1-B variant has a lot of new features and fancy kit, but the important thing about it is the short take-off and landing ability, something previous aircraft of the type couldn’t do. I suppose the air force could be experimenting with distributed ASW missions. Fly a plane from a forward or improvised air base, perhaps, but I don’t think so.” 

Menzies watched him, having lost the thread entirely by now. Normally, Dundas was not much for words, preferring action. But here the words were flying out, even if some she didn’t have any idea what they meant. Menzies didn’t hate it. It was endearing, actually. Even… cute? A gesture of her hands was enough to convey, ‘What’s your point?’

Seeing that he’d lost his audience, Dundas reeled it in. “All of this is to say, that’s a Navy bird. If it is really Iverican aviators on some kind of liaison mission, then only their Navy flies Parthians. With that variant in particular, it’s optimized for operating on carriers.”

“Carriers? Like a ship? An aircraft carrier?” 

Eoin spun around and began the finicky process of starting up one of the ancient desk top computers. “Yes exactly. Of course, the Navy doesn’t have any aircraft carriers. Well, not any operating ones. Our fleet carrier was retired nearly 12 years ago.”

Merida crossed her arms. “You’re getting all of this from a Wittier post?” 

“I am! Well, no but yes.” The computer bonged loudly. “I identified the aircraft from the Wittier post. The rest, well, I just know.”

“So what are you getting at? Is the Navatorm getting a plane it can’t use? Is that a way for someone to move money around?” 

Eoin paused and turned towards her, slowing down and leveling with her. “Honestly, I don’t know. It just stands out. I think it needs a closer look. It could be nothing, or it could be a lead.”

Merida nodded and uncrossed her arms. “Well, that I can understand.”

She walked over to one of the shelves and pulled files from a spot designated Legislative Approvals and Special Expenses, flipping through to a spot she’d previously flagged with a post-it. The duo were silent as they concentrated.

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  • 1 month later...

Chapter VI: The End of Autumn Market

“And so these officers have made Torre-Arcon their central meeting point, whether he is aware or not. None of them are playing to win, though I’m sure they don’t mind the money. The card games are just a cover for officers to meet who normally wouldn’t. A good cover really, as it’s something deniable yet underwhelming once you figure out what they’re all keeping so low key.” Eoin Dundas finished delivering his field report, after completing an investigatory trip to Adrarus over the weekend.

Treasury Minister Margaret McGillis, her office now much more tidy and orderly allowed herself to take this information in before opining, “Nearly a conspiracy. Sounds like a productive visit to the rock.”

Dundas responded, “I think it shows us that we are looking in the right direction, certainly.” 

“The presence of this Iverican officer could complicate things. A foreign national at all connected to an internal matter. Maybe his presence doesn’t need to go on the record.” McGillis took a long sip of tea before pivoting. “Anyways, nice work. Merida I understand you’ve done some digging as well?” 

Merida Menzies stammered out excitedly in response. “Aye. Eoin sent me some names that came up while he was on the island. Well I looked into them, and what do you know. Each week they’ve been depositing money, in varying amounts, not in their own bank account. Take Alexander Macoilearnach, one of the officers at the party you talked yourself into right?” She looked to Dundas for confirmation of the name. 

He responded encouragingly, nodding, “Aye, Sandy was there. Won 1000 dram or so at Baccarat.” 

“Well funny that you mention that, because this week he deposited exactly that amount in one of the accounts.” 

“And this account connects to other ones?” Dundas asked, unassured. 

Menzies explained in a measured tone. “Imagine a series of funnels. If you pour some sand into the hopper at the very top, eventually the sand will make it to the large tank at the bottom of the chain, but first it has to pass through all the other funnels. The account the officers are depositing into is a hopper, likely one of many.”

“And the tank as you call it?”

“Essentially a big pot of money. Something with enough cash that you could actually charge expenses to it. Large expenses I mean. There’s at least two pots. There’s a pretty modest one, it’s been receiving the difference from that marine parts seller that got caught over charging, the one that started this whole thing. Then there’s a larger one, at the other end of the chain from the hopper I was talking about. The one the card players are depositing in.”

McGillis, intrigued, queried. “Can you identify other points of deposit?”

“Aye but it will take time. Whoever has been managing these accounts, their work isn’t necessarily discreet. Instead they hide through obfuscation. There’s a whole web of entangled accounts. Paper companies connecting to paper people connecting to real people and then back again. It’s not sophisticated, just complex.”

“Whoever is overseeing this is likely not a financial wizard. Navy?” The minister speculated. 

Dundas interjected noncommittally, “Hard to say just yet.” 

The minister thought for a moment, visualizing all of the information so far. “And you two got on this track because you saw a plane?” 

Dundas responded, “A picture of a plane. Iverican Navy on exchange.” 

“Are they?” The minister let the question hang in the air. Involved?

Menzies explained authoritively. “No. The Iverican squadron is legitimately funded. Approved in the Dáil. Their presence just got us looking in the right direction.” 

The minister thought a little longer before complimenting them both. “Nicely done. The both of you. Keep up the good work.” 

Before the minister could dismiss them, Menzies interjected. “There’s something else. Nothing concrete yet, but just something I’ve noticed nearly the whole time as we’ve been working on this.” Dundas and the Minister motioned for her to continue. “There’s been a lot of spending in one town in particular. Inbhirchùil.”

“Oh?” Dundas couldn’t help but ask. 

Absentmindedly Menzies responded, “I’ve mentioned it before. Why the interest now?” 

Sheepishly Dundas caveated. “Our current line of investigation hadn’t set in yet.”

Menzies smirked at him skeptically. The reality was that he probably hadn’t been paying attention. There were a lot of financial details whizzing by in the first few days. 

The minister prodded Dundas. “What’s special about Inbhirchùil? Isn’t it in the highlands?”

The Ceannasaí tried to explain. “On the highland coast. There’s a naval base there, well, really a storage facility. It’s where the reserve fleet is based.”

Merida asked genuinely. “And how does that make it different from a normal naval base?”

Dundas took a second shot at an explanation. “The reserve fleet isn’t really a fleet. The ships are laid up and uncrewed. In various maintenance states as they call it. There are sailors and staff, but their job isn’t to keep most of the ships in fighting condition. The ships are sealed tight to the air and just kept afloat essentially. A few are kept in better condition, but still lack crews.”

Frustrated at a lack of a clear and immediate answer, Menzies asked the room, “Why would they want to spend money on some old rust buckets?” 

“That’s our next question to answer, isn’t it?” The minister buttoned the question with tact before continuing. “Well nice work. Seems like the both of you are making good time. We can reconvene-” The minister paused, noticing an air of discomfort. “ Merida is everything alright?” 

Menzies shook her head apologetically, “It’s just… it’s nothing really. I’m just being a numptie.” 

“There’s obviously something.” Eoin tried to provide some encouragement. 

Menzies continued reluctantly, “Well… I feel like I was reckless. One of the accounts I just told you about, I wasn’t able to just look in like all the others. I had to file a request. Anyone from the other side that was paying attention would be able to see that I filed for access.” Blank looks, there’s more. “Well and this week, as I’ve been walking back from the metro… this is ridiculous… I feel like I’m being followed until I get home to my flat.”

“What makes you think that?” The minister asked for the both of them.

Feeling silly, Menzies squeaked out the last part, “Well I’ve been seeing the same man behind me, even when I’ve been arriving at home at different times. It’s silly.” 

Dundas tried to bring some comfort and assessment, “That could be a new neighbor, or it could very well be someone keeping tabs on you or even trying to intimidate you.” 

The minister on the other hand, not wanting to spend time speculating, took action. “Eoin where do you live?” 

“Marian circle.” He answered immediately. Quick answers being a virtue drilled into him throughout his military career. 

The minister proclaimed wittily but officially, “Well Merida, if your new shadow is not a mere coincidence, you’ll have a naval escort on your way home until further notice.” 

Menzies tried to stammer out an excuse. “I live in the opposite direction. That’ll be too inconvenient for him.”

Dundas kindly rebuked her excuses. “Where do you live?” 

She answered reluctantly, “Portobello district.” 

Dundas tried to encourage her kindly, “Oh that’s easy. That’s not the opposite direction, that’s perpendicular. And don’t you have the deifomaid this time of year?”

Menzies bowed her head shyly and replied, “Well the festival itself has ended, but the market itself is still going. This is the last week for it though.”

His mind made up, and knowing what an order was, Dundas committed himself to the market. “Still, won’t be long til the Geimreadhèis. And you still have the better markets over there.” 

The minister finally brought the meeting to an end, while creating some new travel arrangements for her employees. “Great it’s settled then. Of course Eoin, more will be added to your travel stipend to account for the additional commute distance.” 


The metro train’s wheels squealed as it whooshed through the dark tunnels beneath Penzance. The silver and brown train was crowded with the evening rush hour. 

“Thanks again for uhh accompanying me on my commute.”

“It’s not an issue. But if you don’t mind, can we stop by the deifomaid?” The deifomaid was an end of fall market. Multiple could be found throughout Penzance in fall and November, but the longest lasting one could be found in the Portobello district. The market lasted from the third week of October to the third week of November. The week leading up to November 1 had additional festivities as part of Samhain. 

Going to the market without a plan could be overwhelming for the inexperienced. A guide was advisable for the first time. Eoin liked exploring and experiencing new things… especially when Merida was there with him. 

“Sure. I can show you the good spots.” Merida was tired but she felt showing her coworker the market was the least she could do in exchange for the peace of mind he brought. Also, deep down, she liked having a reason to spend more time with him. 

The train whined to a stop and commuters began to pour out onto the station platform, forming neat lines at the escalators on either end of the platform.

“This way. For the market we want the avenue entrance.” She led the pair leftwards towards the south side escalators. 

The red line stations were iconic for their 70s brutalist style. Despite being underground, the station felt roomy with its great vaulted concrete ceiling, with coffers pressed in all around the tube. Any conversation was interrupted as the graffitied train spooled up its electric motors and howled into the northbound tunnel. 

As they passed through the concourse and to the triple escalators out of the station, Eoin prattled excitedly. “The stations on the red line certainly are more impressive than those on the green. On the platform it felt like being under a great vaulted cathedral ceiling, only made of concrete. The green line stations are claustrophobic in comparison.” 

Merida smirked. “You know I hadn’t thought much about it, but I do certainly feel less claustrophobic when on the red line, even at rush hour. Suppose that’s something the Preachan government did right.” She turned to face Eoin who was on the step below and behind her on the escalator. 

He squirmed for a moment before asking tentatively, “Aren’t you a Talamh member?” 

Merida chuckled as she stepped off of the escalator and onto the street. An odd concrete and glass structure covered the pit they emerged from. As Eoin stepped to walk beside her she explained, “I am yes, but that doesn’t mean I’m a fan of every government to bear the party name.” 

“Better than what followed afterward though, right?” He watched her face searching for any potential giveaways. What one thought of the governing party in the 1980s, especially the Taoiseach in that period, said a lot about your beliefs.

Deadpan she responded, “Isolde you mean? Our greatest taoiseach. An even better Ríog. Shame she’s not here to lead us now. She carried on the tradition of the gaelic warrior woman.” Merida watched as Eoin tried and failed to remain neutral. His normally stoic face flushed white and contorted as he tried to appear aloof to the political opinions of his colleague while, at the same time his brain short-circuited. Finally she couldn’t keep up the act any longer and burst out laughing. Eoin’s face flushed red with a combination of good humor and relief as he realized that she’d been putting him on. He stammered out a laugh and a statement confirming that she’d fooled him. “To answer you seriously–cross this street and round the corner and we’ll reach the market–to answer you seriously, I’m not much for labels. If pressed I’d say I believe the government has a responsibility and a significant role to play in guiding society while still protecting and respecting the personal liberty of the individual.” 

The pair rounded a brick building and found themselves lit by the warm light of the famed Portobello deifomad. The avenue stretched into the distance, with brick buildings flanking either side giving the impression of being in a delicious smelling and colorful trench. String lights weaved back and forth between cast iron street lights. The avenue itself was filled with different market stalls, with only small walkways for patrons to traverse. Ground floor shops all along the flanking buildings offered even more options and a respite from the cold. 

The pair began to stroll. Merida turned her head to Eoin and smiled mischeviously before asking a forbidden question. “So Ceannasaí, who did you vote for in the last election?” 

He scowled at her good-naturedly. “You know asking a question like that could get you expelled from a wardroom aboard a ship. XO would assign you the watch at the darkest part of night and your meals would be restricted to soda bread, water, and gin.” 

“Well last I checked–” Merida stopped at stand with a yellow and white canvas cover. She handed the scarf wrapped merchant a stack of coins and in return received two wax paper wrapped morsels. “Thank ya!” She turned back to Eoin and continued in cheeky defiance, “Last I checked, we are not on a ship. In fact I am not in the navy! We are on nice solid land. Now try this. It will blow your mind.” She handed Eoin one of the packages. 

He peeled back some of the paper to reveal a hot golden brown pastry, distinctly pinched at the top. He looked to Merida skeptically. “I’ve had puilaráns before. Even empanadas, when I was in Iverica.” 

“Just try it.” 

Dundas took a bite of the pastry. To his regret, Merida was entirely right. It was hot and fresh, fried. With each bite the bread and filling practically melted in his mouth. It was mostly a standard flavor pairing, but done with great care and expertise. Shredded chicken and thyme, lightly glazed with honey. There was something else too. A flowery vanilla taste. “Do I taste… fried mustard seed?”

Merida nodded while smiling triumphantly. “Aye indeed you do.” She took a bite of her own and the two continued walking through the market. “Do you have anything in particular you want to pick up?” 

Eoin nodded his head thinking. Between bites he admitted, “You know I haven’t a clue. I just wanted to see it.” 

“That’s alright. We’ll just get you something for tonight. You can do a proper shopping spree another time this week. Follow me.” She extracted a canvas shopping bag from her purse, unfolded it, then led Eoin through a maze of different booths. Eoin’s nostrils took in the scent of walnuts, ginger, allspice, and cinnamon as they hoofed it to another booth. “Alright we’re here. Do you trust me?”

Eoin nodded affirmatively. 

“You’ve already had meat and bread, now you need something green. Pick out some cucumbers and spinach then meet me back here.”

Dundas did as he was told, strolling past the various tables until he found the cucumbers. The last breaths of fall were lingering but approaching winter could be felt in the crispness of the air. A few stubborn colorful leaves hung onto tree branches but they too would soon be bare. 

Eoin returned to the front of the stand to find Merida accosting the merchant. “Ya must be out of your gourd if you think these are worth over 30 dram. They are good beets, but not triple the typical price good.”

“Price ‘sa price. If you d’na like it then there are other stands.”

“We both know that is not happening. I’ll give you 12 dram.”

“D’na insult me lassie. Ya ken prices are high dees days.” 

“D’na act like ya got un ya knees and grew em yourself! You are just the seller.” 

“Th’seller with the best quality veg. 25 dram for th’beets.” 

“I was’na born yesterday. And do’na inflate yer self so much that y’explode. Best root v’g’t’bles and legumes aye, and good spinach, but d’na try to sell me on what ya call fruit. 13 dram.”

“Oh y’dog. Fine. 20 dram.” 

“15 and that’s final.”

“Sold.” 

Eoin handed the merchant the necessary bills before Merida could. She scrunched her nose but allowed him to buy his own groceries. The two began walking further uphill. 

The merchant called after them, “See ya next week lass!”

Merida waved back with faux relentment. “One more stop and ya should be good to go.” 

Dundas looked back and commented in bemusement, “You’re quite the negotiator.”

“Eh, I coulda gotten him down to 14, but you were standing there. I didn’t want you to have to wait all night before you could make yer dinner.” She smirked at him. “Ah here’s the place.” She stopped him at a truly tiny little stand, sheltered by just a scrap of cloth. The display was filled to the brim with fruit. Pestil (fruit leather) hung from a wire, dried oranges and apricots, fresh apples and more filled all available space in the tiny stand. “Ya just want these for tonight.” Merida handed the merchant some coins before putting a pomegranate in the shopping bag with the other goodies. “And that is all you need for your dinner. If we keep going up this hill we’ll reach my flat, and beyond that you can catch the streetcar home.” 

“Well thank you for taking me shopping.”

“Yer welcome. I figured a simple salad would be good for home. What seem like more simple ingredients are really where you benefit from shopping at the deifomaid.” She smiled contentedly. 

“I have to ask.” Dundas gestured to the avenue around them, “Why is it called the portobello? I don’t see any cows?” 

Merida snorted, “It’s a historical name ya numptie.” She pointed to divots evenly spaced along the avenue. “See those? They used to put fences in along this avenue. Used to herd cattle along t’avenue bringing em into town.” 

“Ah ha. Makes sense. I suppose this district is the ol’ city? 

“Aye, tis.” 

The pair reached a concrete tenement building at the top of the hill. Looking back, they could see the bustling autumn market sparkle in the evening. There was a lull as they looked to each other’s eyes, both reflecting the sparkling market. 

“Well. Here’s my flat.” She gestured to the tenament. “Thanks again for accompanying me.” 

“Of course. By the way, did we ever see your shadow.”

“I do na honestly know. Maybe you scared em off, if he was even real.” 

“Well I’m glad we got you home safe. Is the streetcar just this way?” 

“Aye. Just down the hill and round the corner.”

He waited for her patiently to enter the building before turning and heading towards the streetcar, whistling Iveric ladies as he went. As soon as she was in her building, Merida allowed herself to blush bright as the beets purchased earlier. 

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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  • 3 months later...

Interlude

“So I’m blindfolded, my vision blacked out, and I have to trust these men as they guide me. My internal geography is put to the test as they lead me deep down in the ship. Down several ladder wells as my guides have to coax me down them. As we got close to the destination, wherever it was, I could hear water pass neath the ship’s hull and feel the thrum of the engines. You know I like to think I’m a good officer, that I treat men right, but at that moment I wondered if I’d missed one of the many Armada customs and was now to be offered up to Sant Cristoval as punishment.” Eoin Dundas paused his anecdote to take a sip of beer, his eyes twinkling as he gauged the interest of his audience. 

Sitting across from him in the dining booth, Merida Menzies laughed and leaned in closer, enthralled by the story, or perhaps more accurately the man telling it. Her friend Lyra Aiton smiled bemused, though not as taken by the naval officer as her roommate. It was a Friday evening in Penzance. The trio had met up at a local restaurant in the Portobello District, Drover’s Rest.

“I thought I’d made it to the end of my mission without incident. At least not major incident, but that’s a story for another day. But here I was, obviously having made a major transgression right at the end of the tour. Just my luck. I was led up a pair of short steps, and then they finally took the blindfold off of me. There was a surly looking plumbers mate who asked us for a password. One of my escorts provided it and the plumbers mate turned, shielding my gaze with his back, and twisted a little gauge or some such. After he did that, a panel popped out and slid and I was led through a low passage to the ultimate destination.” Eoin took another sip. “It was not an alter or a execution chamber like I feared. Physically it looked like a metal machinery space, like you’d expect in the bowels of a ship, but the atmosphere was more like here.” Dundas gestured to the restaurant. He added,  “More of a kip than here. Rougher around the edges.” 

As it was Friday evening, the small restaurant was bustling. A fireplace crackled warmly opposite the large windows that faced the cobbled streets. In the corner to the right of the fire, bartenders worked hard pouring drinks and balancing the needs of regulars and new patrons alike. Opposite the bar, beside the front door, a three-man band played inviting tunes. The constant din of conversing customers spoke to general satisfaction with the place.

Lyra glanced to Eoin’s left out the window and smiled. Light snow was beginning to dust the street. There wasn’t enough to stick, but how it floated through the air gently enhanced the cozy evening atmosphere.

She turned back to him and asked quizzically, “So where did they take you? A surprise party?” 

Eoin grinned. “Something like that. It’s what they call the ‘Rankers and Ratings Club.’ Every Armada vessel has one. Usually, it’s only for enlisted sailors. Suppose they decided I didn’t count as a full officer as I was visiting from another Navy. Aboard this ship, it constituted the size of a small cafe, smaller than this one. A dive bar at sea.”

“So they had a bartop? Booths?” Merida asked. 

“Sort of. It was more ad-hoc. Sea chests for tables. Old ironing board draped with worn flag canvas for the bar top. The wares were secured in some old galley shelves cradled in cargo netting. Don’t want the grog to go shattering on the floor in a heavy sea state.” Dundas described. 

“It sounds very spare.” Lyra quipped.  

“It wasn’t elaborate, but sailors are ingenious when they have to be. The lighting was kept dim for one thing. Someone had fashioned mood lights out of battle lanterns and bounced their beams around at the most pleasing angles. There were plenty of pieces of sailor art done up along the walls. Also plenty of posters of ladies in, to put it politely, risque poses and situations. Dating from the 1990s to the present.” Dundas blushed. 

Merida, sighting an opportunity for mischief, butted in. “So they don’t have lady sailors in t’Armada there?” 

Dundas, knowing what she was up to, answered matter of factly. “They do! Just not aboard the ship I was hosted aboard. The Armada separates crews by gender.” 

“Huh. Interesting. Maybe they should make the whole Navy like that. Ours too.” Merida smirked.

He shook his head and moved on. “Among other decorations, I saw a wall with what appeared to be various souvenirs or prizes won by sailors. I thought I made out a traditional officers sword mounted with them. One of the Tenientes had been desperately looking for a ceremonial sword he’d paid a pretty penny for and from the glance I got of it, it seemed to match the description. However, I didn’t mention it.” Dundas chuckled. “The most impressive bit of decor though was the torpedo suspended from the ceiling. No idea how they got it in there. I was too afraid to ask if it had ever been live.”  

“I guess in a rigid military setting, any outlet for individuality and expression is seized.” Lyra mused. 

“Well, I’m sure that’s part of it, but I’ve also gotta imagine being so far from home and loved ones creates the need for a distraction,” Merida answered. 

Dundas nodded. “When I was first brought to the club, the enlisted I’m closest with aboard, Audante Canonier Cuadras, hands me a tot of Governadorcillo 5. This is not a petite man. If he were a mountain, think Amutia and not our highlands. When he says drink, you do as you're told.” 

“Not the greatest rum. Was there water added, at least?” Merida queried. 

“Ha, I wish. Not in a tot. Not from sailors.” Dundas answered. 

“Speaking from personal experience on that there rum, fish?” Lyra teased her friend. 

“At least I can handle a little vigor, unlike a featherweight I know.” Menzies retorted.

Dundas tried to mask his laughter with another sip of beer. 

“Let’s put it to the test.” Before anyone could protest, Lyra had been to the bar and back with shots. 

Without asking what she had brought them, they downed their shot in unison. Their faces all twisted and winced. It was nasty whiskey, harshly forged, and it stung the drinker's tongue and throat. 

“Whatever you brought us was foul.” Merida choked. 

“Was that Lux Black?” Dundas retched. 

“Aye. Twas.” Lyra answered smugly. 

“If you’re trying to test our constitutions, least you can do is bring us something less foul to the palette. Hang on, I’ll be right back.” Dundas hopped up from his seat. 


“I put the glass down, managing to not tremble. By now me and El Brau both have considerable towers of glass. Bigger than our ones here.” Dundas gestured to the collection of upside-down shot glasses in front of himself and his companions. 

By now the three had moved from their booth to a standing table, the best way to keep one’s drunkenness in check. Eoin and Merida both had considerable structures of shot glass. Lyra’s structure had been abandoned after two, and now she was “refereeing” the others' drinksmanship with considerable bias towards her friend. 

Eoin continued. “So anyways, I suppress the trembles, but I can feel my neck and cheeks flushed hot. My damn Gael genes betraying me.” 

“Damn, your fecking genes!” Merida heckled, less sober sounding than she thought. 

“Damn indeed! But El Brau, he manages to place ‘is glass down with a bit too much oomf. He’s concentrating very hard, keeping his face straight. The sailors around us are silent in anticipation. Then his eyelids flutter, and he collapses into his comrades behind him. The sailors let out a roar. The kind only sailors let out when in their packs.”

“Roar, matey!” Lyra gnashed her teeth and held her hands up like claws, imitating some kind of creature, prompting the other two to laugh much too long and loud.  

“ACA Cuadras, he pats me on the shoulder like he’s my boxing trainer.” Dundas did his best to imitate a West Vasqqan accent, “He says, ‘Ceannasaí Liason, there’s nothing left to prove. Your honor is secure.’ But of course I'm not satisfied yet. I’m a stubborn fecking Gael.”

Merida turned to Lyra and exclaimed loudly while pointing at Eoin, “Yes, he fecking is! Wouldn’t fecking write his write-ups right until I proved my way was better!”

“Better for the context of this particular assignment! Not better all around.” Dundas countered before he took a sip from his second pint of the night, growing redder, before continuing. “But back to my story. I’m representing the Navy! The nation! The Dundas name! I cannae call it quits! So I shake my head to Cuadras. Sailors see and they begin to make that general rabble noise sailors love to make. Then they get silent. Their rabble parts some and everyone is looking to one man. It’s the Audante Primo. Grey, weathered man, square head. Not huge like Cuadras, but he’s got gravitas.” Dundas did a little swirl gesture with his hand on the last word, like a court servant announcing the arrival of an esteemed figure. “The Audante Primo is silent, contemplating for infinite time. Ultimately it’s his bar you see, even if he doesn’t concern himself much with actually running it. Then finally he speaks. ‘Let’s test if he’s really related to L’Crocodilo Polar. Bring the head.”  

Merida turned to Lyra and pointed at Eoin again. “He’s related to the Crocodile Catcher y’know! Irwin? Eoin? Same Dundas!” 

“Shut up! Ain’t that top craic! Shoulda led with that, Navy boy!” 

Dundas did his best to imitate his cousin’s famed accent, “Crikey! How’s it going sheilas?” before winking. 

Lyra giggled. 

“Did you do that on the boat? The boat bar?” Merida asked blearily. 

Dundas smiled and answered. “Don’t quite remember, but I certainly remember thinking crikey. The sailors began to stomp a beat, a pretty good one considering, and they started this shanty I’d never heard. I’d try to recreate it, but the lyrics are gone from my mind if they ever even entered. But it was something about a shipwreck. The surviving sailors engaging in battle with a horde of Atenic crocodiles before they form a crocodile raft and escape. But anyways, they’re singing the song, and some of them part and these two Indiense fellas come through the parting and plop the head on the table.” 

“Oh dear. What was it?” Merida asked with dread. 

“It’s a crocodile head, well a skull. An Atenic crocodile skull. They’ve fashioned the beast’s cranium into a cursed container and filled it with ship's brew. Thankfully, they took mercy on me and only filled a fraction of its volume. Still, those beasts are so large, that it was a daunting challenge. So the men are cheering, and I hoist this head up, meeting its eye… err eye socket. And I can’t tell you why, I really can’t, but the urge took me, and I gave this croc jug a smooch.”

Merida and Lyra exploded with laughter, meeting each other’s gaze. Merida in particular drew red, though Eoin was too drunk by now to notice that detail. 

“Did you winch it?” Lyra asked incredulously. 

“Of course not! Still had teeth dinnit. Just gave it a peck, right below the nose. The sailors thought that was worth a cheer. Then I lift this fella and I begin to chug as much of the wretched brew as I can handle while the sailors chant their drinking song. I really don’t know how much I managed to down, there was still much left, but they cheered me anyway and stood me up. I was utterly and totally malkied. I think the next morning I was the sickest I’ve ever been, all while having to go through the send-off formalities. I’ll spare you the details, but I’d rather be keelhauled then be that hungover again.” 

Merida and Lyra giggled excitedly. “Here here! Good work sailor man, representing our nation!” they cheered. 

At that moment, the bar band began to drum the tune that all patrons knew the meaning of. Last call. 

“I’ll go settle up. You two get ready to trek home.” Lyra offered. 

Dundas clumsily removed a bill from his wallet and placed it on the tabletop. “This enough? T’be honest, I cannae read it right now.”

Lyra smiled sweetly. “That should be good, I’ll cover the balance. My idea after all. I wanted to meet Merida’s coworker she’s been spending so much of her time with.” 

Merida reached out feebly to try and josh her roommate in the arm, but the more sober Lyra was quick on her feet and already heading for the bar. Approaching an amount of red that even Dundas would notice, Merida began to babble on about Iverican purses or some such as cover. 

Pretending like he understood, Dundas nodded along blearily. Then he grew conscious with concern as he saw the color drain from Merida’s face. 

“Eoin…” She patted the side of his arm with the back of her hand and whisper screamed. “Dinnae look. But that gawker over there, that’s the blackguard. My shadow.” 

Dundas immediately turned his body to see the character. His sober brain catching up to his body, he clumsily tried to pass off his looking as himself examining a wall decoration above the fireplace. 

“Ya’ijit. Turn back around!” Merida chided hoarsely. 

Eoin whispered back. “Honestly, I can only make out his shape. Ain’t blind, but I ain’t exactly sharp right now.” 

“Ya warmer! Yer supposed to be me bodyguard, don’t ya know?” Merida hissed. 

Dundas, knowing he didn’t have much excuse, whispered back, “Bodyguard? I commute with ya, in a gentlemanly way. But more importantly, yer the one who wanted ta challenge me to a drinking game.” 

Merida leaned in closer and whispered back, “Ya shoulda let me win then, if yer so gentlemanley.” Looking past Eoin she added, “He’s still there. By himself. Eating at a restaurant alone on a Friday night! He’s an absolute skyrocket!”  

Lyra returned from the bar, and looked to the two of them without noticing anything amiss. “Ready to git movin' you two fish?”

Eoin and Merida locked eyes before they both turned to Lyra. 

Edited by Gaellicia (see edit history)
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