Saving The Laird
Would ye mind showing this ere weapon to me blacksmith? Perhaps ye can also show some of me archers how ye make the bolts too.” Haig continued as he ran his fingers down the bow. “She’s a mighty fine weapon. It’s a wee bit smaller than our bows but ye shot a perfect target at such a range.”
“Laird Sutherland, I would be happy to.” I answered with pride.
“Conall ye’ll see that Lady Morgan meets Douglas.” Haig handed me the bow back and I slipped her into the brace with ease, Causing Haig to drop his mouth once again. He looked wide eyed at Conall waggling his eyebrows as if Conall had not seen me glide Abbey into her holder on my back before.
I thought I should probably take Abbey inside now as it was clear there was a discussion coming up about what Haig and Aiden had discovered at Gil’s. With so many men about I didn’t feel the need for her security at the present. I had just reached the door when several men yelled in Gaelic, at the same time my pendant began heating. I turned to see Brollachans emerging from the shadow of the trees swords swinging. Haig’s men were quick to respond. Swords clashed as Conall, father, brothers and men crashed into the assailants.
Without thinking I pulled a bolt eliminating a Brollachan that had come up behind Haig, while he was clashing swords with another. Bringing an end to his opponent he turned to see the one I shot behind him drop to the ground, the bolt firmly lodged through the back of his neck. Haig nodded at me before returning to the fray.
Before the last Brollachan went down I had taken out six of them. Conall rushed over to me as I stood with Abbey still loaded, rigid and shaking.
“Lass lower yer bow.” he said calmly placing a hand on my arm. I was frozen. I could hear what he was saying but I couldn’t let go. I had never killed a man before. It didn’t matter they were Brollachans, they were breathing. Sweat poured down my face, my mouth set firm into a hard line, I breathed rapidly in short pants through my nose.
“Morgan, look at me. Put down yer bow.” he repeated.
Tears whelmed in my eyes as I turned to look at him and lower my bow. Conall took the bow releasing the bolt placing it back in the quill. He picked me up and took me into the cabin, sitting me on the bed taking hold of my hands.
“Lass ye did well, ye saved my da.”
I looked at him still struggling with taking lives. The shock of it must have showed on my face. He moved to sit on the bed and lifted me into his lap wrapping his arms around me.
“To take a life is no an easy thing an one that stays with ye. But ken that what ye did also saved lives. In the Highlands, a man is no a warrior until he makes his first kill in battle. Tha men here think that ye are a true warrior.”
Then I cried into the shoulder of my protector. He held me tight and kissed my head cooing at me in his Gaelic. It settled me and the tears stopped, my breathing slowed.
“Lass let ye tears be fer those ye saved and no for the ones ye took down.”
What he had said was right, I knew that. Sitting on his lap was becoming a penchant. I had calmed down, Conall had that effect.
Murtagh rushed in through the door. “Connie!” Conall gave him a derisive stare. “Begging ye pardon Lady Morgan, bràthair da wants ye and Lady Morgan to come the noo.”
“Connie?” I said as I got up of his lap. He ignored me. I asked him to leave so I could clean myself up, before I joined them outside. He left shutting the door softly behind him, no words spoken. After washing my face in a bowl of cold water that someone had left sitting on the cupboard, I felt better.
I wondered if my ability to heal myself also encompassed my psychological mêlées. My thoughts had strayed from being overwhelmed with taking lives to how his arms felt around me, his soothing chocolate voice and the scent of him. Leather, earth and, well just him.
A few deep breaths I was ready to face Haig and his men. Conall was another matter. The thoughts of killing another person still swan in my head. I know they are Brollachans but still it was not easy to digest.
Making my way outside men stood around the fire, some sitting on the logs talking in Gaelic. Although I couldn’t understand their words their animations were easy to read in how they had just fought. It reminded me more of how sports fans behaved when their team had just won, discussing the feats of the players during the game.
Some of them were injured with one wrapping the arm of another. There were no losses, thank goodness. At my appearance they stood, placed their fists above their hearts, and yelled their war cry. It startled me. They were giving me their loyalty and oath as Conall had done in Ula’s kitchen. My breath caught, uncomfortable with their riposte. Their veneration of me felt unjustified.
Haig made his way to the front of me, and wrapped me in a bear hug. “Thank ye for saving this old Laird.”
I felt like crying again but held back the tears, Haig’s bear hug felt the same as Sloane’s. How I missed him and Ula. I had nonetheless, had done no more than what any of the men had. I could only nod at Haig. He pulled me over to the log and sat me down handing me a canteen of whiskey. I drank greedily if only to help compose myself.
Conall sat beside me. The conversation turned to Gil. Haig said they had found Gil’s body, also another body close to where the horses had been kept. It seemed that the other had spent some time with Gil before Conall and I had arrived. Aiden believed that the Brollachan had ownership of the said man and when Gil told him who his guests were, the Brollachan left that body and jumped into Gil’s. The conjecture of everyone was of the same belief.
Haig stated that they would have returned a day earlier but thought it best to summon a preacher. The burial of the two men needed to be done. It was no fault of their own that they had become Brollachans. It was a shame though that the two men had to lose their lives. I couldn’t shift the feeling that I was accountable for their deaths. However not one person sitting or standing around me saw fit to show any regard of such.
I had a burning question that needed answering. “Haig how do you know that none of your…er…men are not one of these…er…Brollachans.”
Haig’s bushy eyebrows lifted before he laughed loudly. “Ock, lass a Brollachan can no occupy the body of a Sutherland. Conall did ye no tell the lass?” Haig questioned Conall only to receive a shrug of the shoulders.
“Oh, why?” I questioned confused by that fact.
Haig gave Conall an impatient look and a tsk before addressing me. ”Weel when yon Tuatha an Picts formed an alliance, the Tuatha imparted on the Sutherlands a wee bit of their magic so to speak. It t’was made that no Sutherland could be victim to a Brollachan.
“Well that’s convenient.” I wondered about the guards. Surely, they couldn’t all be Sutherlands. “But-” I stammered looking around at the men.
He cut my words off. “I believe ye may be worrit about yon guards. Well even they are Sutherlands’ or be it marrit to a Sutherland.”
“Ok so if a man or woman was to marry a Sutherland then they too are protected?”
“Aye that is so.” he replied taking a drink from a flask that one of the guards handed him.
So that is why Conall was not worried about leaving me for hours on end with the guards. He knew that none of them could be overtaken by a Brollachan. I still felt better for carrying Abbey on my back during the periods of time that he was missing. Some of the men were chatting between themselves and Haig waved his hand in the air to quieten them down.
“I be curious about one thing.” he said looking between Conall and me. “How did ye know Gil was a Brollachan?”
“My pendant.” I said raising my hand to clutch at where it lay under my clothing. At that Haig’s eyebrows raised.
“Yes, it gets hot and dances with lights when a Brollachan is near. As it did with the raid earlier.” I stammered
“Oh Aye. And this ere pendant is this bein’ tha one of the tales then?” Haig asked as if I knew what tales he was talking about. It was then that Conall had something to say.
“Aye da it is. Tis as the lass says. When Gil brought the horses, it alerted the lass that a Brollachan was at hand. There being no a person near except for Gil. Twas the same at Sloane’s when a bunch of the wee braggarts came. Do ye no think tis why they are after it?”
Haig was running a hand down his beard in obvious deep thought.
Murtagh added to the conversation. “How do ye ken that might be so?” unsure who to look at. Haig, Conall or I.
“Nah I dinnae think it so. Did ye no say that Lady Morgan’s ma had it afore. If’n I heard yon stories it has nay e’er left tha hands of the Daoine Seth descendants.”
“If’n that be so then how would they ken it?” asked Aiden
“Tis truly a puzzle. It may be that wee pendant as more secrets to share. I be curious though how they ken ye be coming to this time, an how they ken ye were ere. They couldnae ha followed us or we would o’ kent it.” Haig continued looking at me with puzzlement.
I shrugged my shoulders. I didn’t know too much about the pendant or any secrets it may hold. As for how they knew when and where Conall and I would show up, I had no answers to that question.
“Conall ye need to get tha lass to the Cailleach, she may ken more knowledge of it.” Haig said.
“Now ye are back da we be leaving at dawn.” Conall turned to me. “Lass can ye be ready by dawn to leave?”
“Sure, will we see the seer tomorrow?”
“Nay it will take two days to reach her, she is at Broch Dun Dornaigil. Sorry lass but it will be a hard ride to get there.” Conall looked sympathetic which made me wonder how hard the ride was going to be.
“That’s ok. If it has to be then it has to be.” Sounding more confident than I actually was.
“Yer a brave lass” said Haig. “Now then what’s fer eatin’ am starvin’.”
The fire was stoked and within what seemed like minutes rabbits and fish were hooked on above the coals. Small bread rolls appeared from wherever, Conall called them bannocks as he handed me one. Crispy hard on the outside, soft inside. I munched on it while the meat and fish cooked away. There were several conversations going on around the fire, mostly in Gaelic bits in English.
At one stage I heard Conall telling a story to a few of the men, including his father and brothers. By the animation of his arms and the odd word I knew he was telling them of how he and Sloane, naked with swords in hand had greeted Joe and his cronies at the farm house. The all laughed so loud, I could see tears in Haig’s eyes.
Men approached me in congratulations for saving their Laird, and note my skill with Abbey. Aiden came to sit beside me and while he was also giving his thanks, he placed a hand on my knee, which I quickly swiped away. He rose and giving me a sly grin and a wink strode over to a group of men on the other side of the fire. Aiden was a little too amorous for my liking. I notice Conall had also caught what had happened, a frown on his face.
Flasks were passed around. I managed to secure one for a drink of whiskey. It went down well with the dry bread. The bard that had sung a few nights ago began a somber song. He was accompanied by someone else playing a fiddle. Haig shouted at them to play something livelier.
When they did two of the men got up bowed to each other, banging their heads as they did so. They punched each other in the shoulder before they grabbed one another, laughing heartily to dance a jig around the ground. To the merriment and laughter of those watching. Murtagh came over to me to ask me to dance, only receiving a growl from Conall, who was now sitting next to me on the log.
Conall turned to look at me surprised to see my eyebrows raised in indignation. He might be my protector but I could certainly speak for myself. I got up and took Murtagh by the hand. We danced energetically, laughing as we did so. I avoided looking at Conall, he was no doubt seething of admonishment towards him. At the end of the song Murtagh thanked me for the dance, and held out his arm so he could escort me back to my seat. I sat panting then noticed Aiden heading my way. I leaned into Conall as the music started up again.
“You had better ask me to dance. Aiden is on his way over.”
Conall sneered at Aiden’s approach, pulling me to my feet and dancing off with me in a similar jig I had just done with Murtagh. While Conall’s face had been stern at the beginning of the dance, he now smiled. He whirled me with some skill. This boy has had dancing lessons. When it looked like Aiden was about to tap Conall on the shoulder to but in, Conall bounced me off in another direction. Making me laugh once again.
Haig was enjoying himself, singing in a gruff voice and clapping to the music. It made me feel happy to see him so merry. Even Conall appeared to be happy, especially during the dance.
Several men were dancing together being totally puerile. They reminded me of little boys with their antics. Finally, the music came to an end and I was absolutely exhausted. Conall picked me up swinging me around. He held me in midair, his face was so close, his lips but a hair’s breadth from mine. He continued to hold me, his eyes searching mine dropping to my lips. I thought he was going to kiss me, but he didn’t, he let me down and marched off saying he needed a drink. I stood for a moment confounded. I wished everyone a good night and returned to the cottage, taken back once again by Conall’s conflicted behavior.