Niall felt a jolt as the swing of his axe struck the log. The temperatures were dropping and most of the leaves had fallen off the trees. What were left were dangling, waiting to fall at the smallest blow of a breeze. He knew he would have to get as much wood chopped and in storage before the night was over. Snow was announcing its advent by the faint smell in the air.
Swinging the axe helped him ease the frustration he had been feeling recently. Each night, he found himself pacing the floor with anxiety trying to grasp the feelings inside. The firewood was piling high with every swing of irritation. He began to search through the logs, locating the driest piece of wood to split into kindling. With the smaller hatchet, he knocked off splinters of the log that would eventually help him light a fire.
While he sliced the log, he noticed his brother’s legs approach his splitting log.
“What do you want, Ian?” he asked with disdain.
“I love you, too, little brother,” his sibling smiled. “Do I not get a hug?”
Ian laid his pack on the ground and sat on it. “What’s your problem?”
Niall blew out a puff of impatience and grasped his hatchet firmly. “I’m busy.” He let the hatchet fall on the working log.
“My boy, it appears that you need a visit to Rosali. She would take care of what ails you.” Ian’s mouth lifted on one corner.
“I don’t want Rosali.”
“Ah, well, I’m sure there are other women that wouldn’t mind taking care of your needs. Maybe, the sweet little Margaret.”
Niall looked at him with disgust. “I don’t want Margaret, either.” He put the hatchet down and retrieved his axe and a large log to split.
Ian grunted. “Then you wouldn’t mind if I have a go at her.”
Niall stood straight and pointed the axe at his brother. “You touch Margaret and I’ll kill you.”
Throwing his hands in the air in surrender, Ian withdrew. “Whoa! Sorry, brother. You know how I am. Freedom of the trail and the warmth of a woman in my bed. If you don’t want a woman, I’m sure that there are men in the village that would give you the time of night.”
Anger surged in Niall and he stormed towards his brother. He felt Ian’s hand shoot out and land on his chest, stopping his forward movement.
“You don’t want to do that, Niall. Instead of getting angry with me, why don’t you discern what’s bothering you? You have everything you want: Land, shelter and the open sky. The only thing left to have is companionship and you say you don’t want that. Maybe you left whatever it is you want in Scotland.
I’m gonna set up a bed on your floor by the fire. I’ll bet there’s even stew.” Ian retrieved his pack and headed toward the house.
Niall began the task of stacking the firewood. What was it that he wanted? What was it that he needed? Would he ever know?