The Cast of Delevan House #7

Mairi Pivona (Voni) McQueeney was born under a crescent moon on a Wednesday.

At the time, no one celebrating the birth of the screaming girl knew precisely how much woe she’d be capable of.

Some of her Traveller family whisper that knots must have been left tied during her mother’s pregnancy. They were a proud and superstitious bunch of Summer Walkers and lived among the most unsettled and unsettling groups in the Highlands.

Others say it’s because her mother, Eilidh Stewart, married beneath her status, choosing the love of darkly handsome outsider Jack Mc Queeney over tradition and honor within her community.

The child was never sick or unwell, yet she often screamed incessantly at night; a dark force called to her. Wands of protection were frequently reinforced around the Stewart/McQueeney caravan, yet the girl’s screams continued until she could speak.

Voni would tell terrible stories of monsters reaching towards her from the sky, earth, fire, and water with such conviction the old and wise ones avoided eye contact with her during times of song and dance. There was something off about the girl with her strange imagination and rapidly blinking dark eyes.

Growing up, Voni was cherished by all. The girl’s bright eyes and fierce disposition drew attention, both good and not so, to her antics almost every day, and there were few rules other than the traditions they steadfastly preserved. She thrived under the watchful eye of the women, as it was the responsibility of her tribe to ensure that children were allowed to experience the world around them and push boundaries.

As time passed, Voni made boundary-pushing her art. More intelligent, prettier, and more-wild than the other children she grew up with, she often wandered far beyond the established edges of an encampment, making her way deeper into the trees, then laughing when panic ensued from the others, fearing she’d been carried off by an animal or worse. Fearless and unforgiving, there was something unnatural about her, as if she moved in a peculiar bubble of protection or under the wings of the black crows she adored.

Voni preferred the creatures of the woods and her beloved corvids to the company of humans. When it was time to move from one place to the next, depending on necessity, weather, or opportunity, she’d beg to stay behind every time, promising they would look out for her because she believed she was one of them in spirit.

Some of her people would find unusual ways of earning money during the lean months. An unfortunate misunderstanding led to Pivona’s arrival and a subsequent short stay in the rural village of Badb.

While packing up to relocate for the winter, her mother noticed Voni was missing. The young ones knew not to wander off in a village or town, as some would try to take advantage.

Jack had gone ahead a day before with a group of men to find the perfect spot and set up camp. Eilidh told Voni’s older brother, Kayven,  a surly young man with all the chips on his shoulder, to find his teen sister. He was fond of the girl but ran with a rough bunch, and instead of scouring the village to find her, he chose to get physical with a local girl he had a one-nighter with for a final fling.

There was a tricky practice of leaving behind a young one, usually only for a few hours, never longer than day or night, as the tribe’s snake of caravans headed out of town. Someone would quickly return to claim a ransom or retribution after accusing a villager or townsperson of trying to steal one of the members for work or as a partner.

Kayven MaQueeney had an ulterior motive, as he owned some gambling debts for a dice game and had no intention of finding his sister immediately. He knew she’d be fine for a night and planned to claim extra cash from an unsuspecting villager.

He told their mother he’d find Voni and catch up, as she and the other woman were ready to leave before dark, but his selfish plan backfired on both him and his sister, Voni.

Kayven was caught in a smithy’s barn with his pants down. The young woman’s father and brothers threatened to tie him behind his horse and drag him through the fields and out of town if he didn’t make haste and leave. Always looking out for himself first, Kayven mounted up and left, not giving a second thought to his sister, who was cowering behind the dumpster in the back of The Rowan pub in Badb village.

Rather than face the wrath of his parents and the others, Kayven decided it was time he strike out on his own, heading in the opposite direction from the rest of his people, leaving Pivona behind.

Several days passed, and the McQueeneys assumed, or rather, hoped, that Voni was safe with her formidable older brother as the weather turned terrible, preventing them from crossing back over the mountains that surrounded the village to see for themselves. They would reunite with Voni and Kayven when the time was right.

Kayven was long gone.

Voni was strong but not mentally equipped to withstand her abandonment, and part of the teen was broken, never to be the same. She survived, despite her desperation and despair, with the murders of crows who took refuge in Badb as her companions and confidants. Using her wits and will, the girl fed herself, taking advantage of the kindness of a few villagers, and carved out an odd niche as a semi-reliable source of gossip and entertainment.

Arlen Morven, whose mother, Minerva, owned the The Rowan, was fond of the flighty yet resourceful girl and eventually found her a home and a way to make a decent living under the watchful eye of his mother’s keeping.

Pivona is one of the most unique and tragic characters in our story Delevan House, Although her physical presence may end in Book I, much more of her story is coming in Book II and beyond.

Nothing about the House or the Village is predictable.

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