Scottish Highlands 1735
“Morgan why did you name your bow Abbey?” Ula asked looking a little shocked.
“Erm…my mother said it was her mother’s name.”
“That it was love. Her name was Abigail.” A tear came to Ula’s face and Sloane quickly moved to put his arm around her shoulders. Of course, I had momentarily forgotten that Ula was my mother’s sister. “Is it ok. I mean calling my bow Abbey?” I asked hesitantly
“Oh, yes love. She would have been honoured for you to do so.”
“Are ye well lass” asked Sloane. “I thought that ye would prefer this ere machine to some of ye bows and arrows. Some of ye bows are mighty big lass.”
Ula said. “Morgan, you will be able to hide the cross…er…Abbey under your cloak.”.
“Oh, but I don’t have my brace for carrying her.” fearing I may not be able to take her after all. I couldn’t very well just carry her around. It would be too easy for someone to snatch her out of my hands. Abbey was far too precious to lose.
“Ye mean this ere thing lass.” Sloane said handing me the leather brace beaming with a smile.
“Yes, that’s the one. Uncle you have thought of everything.” I wasn’t sure if where we were going was dangerous, and I had no doubt after everything Ula had told me about Conall training as a warrior for my protection that I would be safe. Still I felt so much more at ease to be taking Abbey with me.
“Do you want me to help you with the brace Morgan?” But before I could answer Ula. The quiet one stepped forward.
“I’ll do it.” Conall took the brace from me and quickly untied my cloak. Without saying anything further he set about fitting me into the leather brace, which sat on my back with arm slings. It buckled up the front of my midriff with three heavy set buckles. There were metal spring loops on the brace were Abbey could be attached easily. I could pull her out of the brace over my shoulder without having to take the whole thing off, and slip her back in just as easy.
Conall took Abbey and set her into the brace at my back. Bringing my cloak up and re tying it. Abbey was hidden well. He attached the quiver to his own belt so it hung down his side. The quiver was closed by a leather thong, holding the bolts safely inside.
Ok now I was a baffled. How did he know how to put on my brace and attach Abbey to it, with decisiveness? I made the brace myself and no one had ever seen it. I had only worn it a couple of times in the training room to get the feel of it, and make myself capable of attaching, and disengaging Abbey quickly. I eyed Conall with some incredulity. He disregarded me pulling Sloane by the arm out the door. Away from my glowering stares.
“There’s a bit of time before you have to leave. I’ll make a pot of tea before you go?” Ula said, putting the kettle on. Honestly the way she drank tea it was a wonder she didn’t spend more time in the bathroom. It was the same at the store, the kettle was forever on.
I nodded. I was worried about travelling back in time. Not to mention that I would be travelling alone with one huge confounding highlander. Ula reaffirmed Conall would take me to see the Cailleach whom he knew, and who would help to restore my abilities. So, had Conall been to 1735 before? It would seem he had.
The time came to leave. I was exceptionally nervous, maybe a little energized at the same time. This was a lot more adventurous than working in my store. Ula had taken the box and packed it into the tapestry bag. The larger box and my mother’s items she placed in the wardrobe for when I returned.
“Oh, shite!” I exclaimed just now remembering that I was the owner of Duffy’s Antique Emporium.
“What is it Morgan?” Ula said rushing to come to my side.
“My store aunt, what am I to do with my store?” Thoughts were running through my head of the store being broken into, and damaged by Joe and his cronies, to orders and shipments due.
“It’s alright love, all is in hand?”
“Morgan all is well. I have the keys and I will make sure the orders go out on time, and take care of the Turkish shipment coming in next week. Sloane is going to come in and help. Well at least to make sure the braggart brigade can’t get up to any mischief.”
“I don’t know what to say.”
“No need love, it will be fine. I have everything under control.” she patted my hands. “I have packed some food for the journey into your bag.”
She had tears in her eyes which she quickly swiped away, but not before I had seen them. When it was time to leave, with what felt like a hundred pounds of clothing, and Abbey strapped to my back I hugged her and Sloane the best I could.
“Are ye well lass?” asked Sloane.
“Aye uncle I am, do ye no ken that?” They all laughed. Well Sloane and Ula did. Conall cocked his head with a wry half smile.
“Right then we’ll be off.” Conall said with finality. Taking me by the arm he launched me towards the door of the cottage. I only just managed to grab the tapestry bag on my way out. No nonsense Conall strikes again. I waved over my shoulder at two very sad looking people still standing in the middle of the room, arm around each other waving back.
Conall led me around to the back of the house to stand next to the stone seat. He turned me around to face him. I was somewhat puzzled as to why we were standing here. I didn’t know what I was expecting. Maybe jumping in a car and driving back to 1735? Now that is just ridiculous I thought to myself. But how did one travel back in time. That bit had not been discussed.
Conall took the tapestry bag and placed it between his feet. “Lass I need ye to put ye arms around my neck, tight like.” he said staring down at me.
“Lass I need ye to do as I say.” he demanded.
Ok I’ll bite, surely this couldn’t get any stranger. I reached up and did as he asked. My face was up against his neck. His scent made me dizzy. Beneath the hint of sandalwood and heather, was the ingrained male marker of who he was. It was enticing. He put an arm around me pulling me further into him, my lips crushed against his skin. I was overcome, no shocked with a desire to taste him. I didn’t, but damn I wanted to.
Conall took hold of his pendant and called out. “beannachadh dhiathan.” Then put his other arm around me. “Hold on lass.” was the last thing he said as my head began to swim.
Grey fog swirled and eddied around us blocking out our surroundings. It was as if I was gyrating around a cyclone. I couldn’t catch my breath. It felt as if the air was being sucked right out of my chest. I don’t think I passed out, I couldn’t really say. I pushed my face further into the crook of his neck, hanging on for dear life. Whatever was happening he was coming too.
I still had my eyes closed when I felt his finger stroke the line of my jaw. “Ye can let go now lass, we are here” he whispered in that dusky chocolate voice. I opened my eyes to find him staring down at me, a smile edging at the corners of his lips. I let go quickly. Not wanting to give him any thoughts that I was relishing being clutched against his body.
We were standing in a small cottage with a compacted dirt floor. The room felt dark and dank. The only light came from the glowing embers in a small hearth at the centre of the wall. I turned in a full circle. A pallet sat under a tiny window to the left. No sheets on it, just a bristly looking blanket, that had seen better days. To the right a table and two chairs. The chairs made from gnarly lengths of branches.
“Where are we?”
“This ere be a hunting lodge.”
I looked at him disbelievingly. “A hunting lodge?” Whatever the cottage was it certainly didn’t look like any hunting lodge I had ever seen. Several old copies of ‘Hunter Trader Trapper’ had passed through my hands at the store, and I could honestly say none of the hunting lodges ever looked like this. Most had animal heads on walls and an assortment of rifles and ammunition stored within. Then again, we were supposedly in the year 1735 so anything could be possible, I supposed.
“Nay.” he smiled “tis old Gil’s hoose, he is no doubt out skelping his dinner. He should be back soon I expect.” Conall went to the window and looked up to the sky.
“Rain is coming” he said as he strode to the hearth.
Hmmm, so he was a weather man too. “Gil is your friend?” What is he going to think of us being in his cottage?” I asked as I watched him stoke the fire.
“That he is. He dinnae mind us being here.” He looked as if he was about to say something but decided not to do so.
“What were you going to say?”
“Well Gil is a wee bit different than most folks.” Conall frowned. “He’s no bin the same since his da was executed in Preston in 1715. He took it hard ye see.”
“If we are in 1735 then that was twenty years ago?” I understood the trauma of losing a parent, but after twenty years the loved one is not forgotten, however, the pain grows easier to tolerate.”
“Aye t’was, but Gil was a Jacobite. If it was naught but for a wee young farm lass he would surely have been caught. She hid him away. He managed to sneak into the dungeon where his da was being held, with help from Mary, his lass. It was no a pretty sight. His da, ye see had been beaten to an inch of his life and flogged so that nary a piece o’ skin were left hanging.”
“That’s awful. The poor man. I can only wonder at what he- “
Conall cut me off. “Ye’ll nay be saying a word to Gil. It’s no something he needs to be reminded of lass.”
All I could think of was what the poor man, seeing his father in that condition did to him. It was a wonder he wasn’t placed in a mental institution. Oh but of course no such thing existed in 1735.
The door of the cottage suddenly flew open, banging hard against the wall. Stood in the doorway was a slim built man with dirty matted blonde hair and a beard, just as dirty that fell near to his waist. Sword in hand, positioned ready to attack. Seeing Conall he relaxed lowering his sword.
“Ock Conall, tis only ye. I thought tae robber’s ha come.” I knew he was smiling not from his mouth, it was hidden under layers of a muddied beard and moustache, but by his eyes. His eyes where the lightest blue, like the sky on a clear day. Then he noticed me.
“An who’s the wee lassie ye have Conall. I’ve nay e’en seen ye with a lassie afore an a bonny one to.” he said giving me a low bow.
“Gil, this is Morgan. Have ye been oot hunting? it’s a fine day for it.” Conall said, as if Gil needed no more information regarding me other than my name.
“Aye a couple of wee rabbits fer me dinner, hangin oot side. It ha been a long time since I’ve seen ye Conall. I saw Haig no more an a sennight ago checking boundaries. He did no say ye would be visiting. An no with a wee lass.” Gil continued not taking his eyes from me.
“Tis nice ta meet ye milady. Have ye travelled far then? Welcome to me humble home.” Gil uttered winking at me and totally ignoring Conall.
“Er, yes rather.” I eyed Conall for some support.
“An ha ye seen much o’ our bonny land then lass? The locks and doons as such. Heather is a might bonny tha noo.”
I shook my head, still waiting for Conall to jump right in and take over. He didn’t, but the look on his face was one of irritation. I wasn’t sure if it was aimed at me or his friend Gil.
“Ack then I hope ye will consider staying awhile. There’s a fair bit to take in. I can see ye doon to the lock if ye have a mind to be washing, it’s right bonny doon there. I’ll hold ye clothes if’n ye wish to swim. I oft swim skuddy meself.” He said with a wink.
“That’s very kind of you Gil, but I am fine thank you”
“Well if’n ye change ye mind just say tha word an I be ready.” Gil grinned and I noticed that he was missed quite a few teeth.
Conall stepped forward and bustled Gil out the door. “I’ll be having a wee word with ye oot side Gil, if’n ye don’t mind.” Conall hadn’t given Gil much say as he literally pulled the man outside slamming the door shut behind him.
Now what was all that about. The poor man was only endeavouring to be pleasant before Conall had vehemently hauled him outside. Not knowing how far this cottage was from civilization the Gil probably didn’t get many visitors. Within a few minutes Conall returned with a solemn look on his face, and went to stoke the fire once again.
“Is…is he alright. Gil that is?” I asked unsure of what the fuss had been about.
“Aye he’s gone to get the horses from the paddock nearby. We need to leave and heid to Sutherland land.” he answered without looking up. He continued to crouch seemingly deep in thought.