Chapter Thirty Five
Chapter Thirty Five
I’ll Go Get Da
At the bottom of the steps was a heavy door that the girl didn’t seem to have any problem pushing open, disappearing into the room. I followed hesitantly. It was a cellar, dimly lit. Barrels two stacks high, neatly placed in rows. The air was heavy, musty and dank. Not a place that anyone would want to spend any amount of time in. Betty rounded the end of the row disappearing once again around the corner. I called to her as I slowly made my way to the end.
As I rounded the corner of barrels I was grabbed by hands, before I could scream a thick calloused hand came from the back covering my mouth. My hands were quickly tied with rope and a dirty gag place over my mouth. It was difficult to take deep breaths. The air heavy and thick, I could smell the familiar dead odour of Brollachan.
If I hadn’t taken my pendant off I would have known they were here before I got myself into this mess. With Conall not talking to me and Dougall going off to find help, I was on my own. The situation was going from bad to worse.
With a rag over my mouth I could barely breathe. My lungs cried in desperation wanting the intake of fresh air. The light was so dim I couldn’t make out who my subjugators were. A second dirty cloth was tied around my eyes throwing me into complete darkness. I screamed only producing muted sounds.
My heart thumped in my chest and ears as I was dragged to the end of the room but it was Betty’s voice that called the orders. I would have known she was a Brollachan if I hadn’t thrown my pendant on the bed. I would have felt her before I opened the door.
I could hear the scraping of metal close by as if a grid was sliding. Then hands were lifting me down. I was being moved beneath the cellar. Panic seized me at the thought I was going to be buried underground where no one would ever find me. The smell of earth, decay and metal assailed my nose.
My feet touched solid ground, my breathing labored the air, hot and dense, it was worse down here. I was pushed along stumbling as I went for how long I couldn’t say. I was dizzied by the loss of sight, feeling the crumbling of dirt falling past my face. We were in a tunnel that much I knew.
Trying to gather my senses for no other reason than staying awake we came to a sudden halt. I banged into the back of someone tall and solid in build. The smell however was distinctly Brollachan, my stomach wanted to heave. I bit down the feeling, the last thing I wanted to do was drown in my own vomit.
Hands pushed me down to the ground to sit. Voices in the distance were in Gaelic, with no clue as to what they were saying. A door shut nearby with a bang, my blindfold roughly jerked off. Along with the gag in my mouth. I breathed deeply trying to suck air back into my lungs. Not that it made a difference the air in the room was stale and heavy, but at least I didn’t have that dirty rag in my mouth, lord knows where it had been before.
Sat crouched facing me was Betty, what I originally thought to be a sweet face was staring at me with anger and revulsion. “So we finally have ye Morgan Saunders.” she sneered.
Morgan Saunders? That made no sense how would she know what my name was? I straightened my back. “I am Lady Morgan Evaline Danu Monroe Sutherland!” I said with pride.
“Sutherland is it the noo, and why would that be, ye are no a Sutherland.”
“I am a Sutherland. I am married to Conall Sutherland, son of Laird Haig of the Sutherland clan, and when my husband finds you he will tear your fucking head off!” I yelled, losing my temper.
Betty’s face turned to horror before she smacked me hard across the face. “Yer are no marrit to Connie, tis a lie ye foul wench.”
I suddenly realised that she was not a Brollachan. The two men standing in front of the door with their arms folded were, I could smell the stench of rotting flesh from where I sat on the dirt floor. Betty however was not. She had called Conall Connie, a term I had heard Dougall call him at the hut.
“You are not a Brollachan. So why are you working for the Nucklavee?”
Betty got up to pace the floor. “The Nucklavee? I am no working fer him.” She folded her arms staring at me with amused puzzlement. “Ye are a keely ta be sure. Aoife is me mistress, the Nucklavee does her bidding. If it was up ta me I would cut ye heart oot here and bury ye so no one would e’er find ye agin. Me mistress though wants ye an tha box. I give ye to me mistress she will give me Connie.”
My head was swimming with this new revelation. All this time we thought it was the Nucklavee that wanted the pendant and my blood. I had no idea who this Aoife was. As for the promise of giving Betty, Conall, that was just insane.
“Well you can’t have Conall because he is married to me. He is my husband. Our marriage was consummated so my blood has no value to your so-called mistress.”
I thought Betty was going to attack with more slaps to the face but she didn’t, a wicked look flashed across her eyes.
She took a step forward. “But me mistress does no ken that. If’n I cut ye tongue out, how would she ken?”
“You wouldn’t dare you evil bitch. This is all about you having a silly girl crush on my husband.”
Betty sniggered. “Crush, it is no about a crush as you put it. Conall loves me, an I love him. We were meant to be together, he’s bin promised to me.”
“Promised to you by who?” I spat the words at her. I perhaps should have felt sorry for her; unrequited love is not easy for anyone. Albeit, Conall was my husband and I wasn’t about to let him go, especially not to this insane woman.
Betty shook her head answering me with frustration. “My mistress Aoife, do ye no listen ta me, ye are as dense as a mute dog?”
“And you are deluded.”
Betty smashed her hand across my face again screaming Gaelic at me, I was glad I couldn’t understand the words as I was sure they weren’t fit for human ears.
Conall sat in the stables thinking on how he had been overpowered by the Brollachans, and how he had been saved by Dougall, Morgan and the wolf. He cursed himself for putting them in that situation. He should have been more careful this close to the stones. It twisted his heart remembering the sadness and tears on her face when he spoke treating her as if she was a stranger.
His failure wasn’t her fault, he should never have taken it out on her. He loved her, how could he have been so cruel, it was not in his nature to be so. Dougall had tried to talk to him but he had ignored him like a cosseted child.
I have to go find Morgan and beg for forgiveness, I have to make this right again, he cursed. He made his way back to the inn. When he reached their room, he stood in front of the door thinking of what he was going to say to her. He paced back and forward then stood for some time before going in, scanning the room she was nowhere to be found.
He noticed her pendant laying on the bed and picked it up. God’s blood why would she have taken off? Without it there is no way she could be warned that Brollachans were around. Dread set in, he had to find her and Dougall. If they took him so easily, they could take Morgan as well.
A thorough search of the inn and the stables revealed not a trace of Morgan or Dougall. He checked the chicken and pig pens, just to make sure his search was thorough. Conall was beside himself he didn’t know where to look next. As if feeling his anxiety, the wolf came to stand by his side. He grasped his half pendant still hanging about his neck. He could feel the lightest of an electrical surge in it, he knew she was here somewhere, positive if he had not felt it she wouldn’t have been in the area.
His next thought turned to the wolf, he could follow Morgan’s scent, if anyone could find her he could. He motioned for the wolf to follow him as he headed to the inn. He thought that if he took the wolf to the last place Morgan was he should be able to follow her scent from there. He Passed an opened mouth Maggie as he and the wolf made their way upstairs. Taking the wolf into the room he looked down at the yellow eyes staring back at him.
“Wolf, find Morgan.”
The wolf appeared to understand him and sniffed around the room. He headed down the hallway back to the stairs. Conall on his tail. The wolf raced behind the counter to the undignified ranting from Maggie. Conall ignored her. Scratching at a door around the corner from the counter, Conall opened it to a set of dimly lit wooden stairs. The wolf barreled down them.
He kept going through a cellar of barrels turning at the end. When he got to a metal grid sitting on the floor he pawed at it. Conall pulled the grid aside and jumped down to the floor below. He waited as the wolf jumped down too, he thought for a moment he would have to catch him. The hallway in front of them was a hollowed-out tunnel in the earth. The wolf overtook him racing down the length to a door at the end.
Betty took a step closer to me. “You ken that if I was ta get rid of ye that Conall would want someone he loves to comfort him. I ken ye put a spell on him, only with ye death wi it be broken.”
“So, you think if anything happened to me that he would turn to you? I think if he was going to turn to anyone it would be his family.”
“I told ye he loves me, I dinna believe ye are marrit. He would nay do that ta me. I dinna really care if Aoife wants ta get ta tha other world, I should just kill ye. Ye thought ta steal him from me with ye magic, an I will ha him back.”
“Magic, I don’t think so. You are truly deluded.” It was the reminder I needed. As she turned her back to me I moved my hands over the dirt of the floor in front of me. Attempting to be inconspicuous with the two Brollachans standing at the door. The dirt started to swirl but before I could get any momentum going Betty turned on me. She struck me with a closed hand knocking me to the ground.
I don’t know what relationship Conall and this girl had, he had never mentioned her. Perhaps they had a relationship and when it ended he moved forward and she did not. Whatever they had Betty was neurotic. Conall and I were bound by heart and soul and no aficionada was going to change that.
“Grab her ye dimwits.” She yelled at the two Brollachans. They hurried to me seizing my shoulders and jerking me up from the floor. They held onto each of my arms. The scent of them was a reminder of Joe all over again. They smelled like dead rats, putrid and sickening. My stomach wanted to roil at the overpowering stench of them.
Betty shook her finger at them. “Hold her hands ye keelies. Do I ha to do everything meself.” One of them captured my hands making it impossible to call up the earth. How Betty knew I could do so was befuddling, Dougall and I had killed all the Brollachans we had fought. I was sure none were left alive.
No wonder Betty thought of me as a witch. As for me having Conall under some magic spell was just superstitious nonsense.
I attempted to calm the girl. “Betty, I do not have Conall under any spell, magic or otherwise. We love each other, talk to him he will tell you himself. These…these Brollachans are not your friends. If you deliver me to what’s her name, they will kill you. You are just being used. They can’t give you Conall no matter what they say.”
Betty spoke to the one on my right. “Munro teach this witch some manners and close her mouth. I’ve had enough of her lies.”
Munro came to the front of me and punched me in the face, hard. I felt the crack of bone splintering in my nose, pain shoot across my face. He punched me again sending me and the one gripping my hands backwards against the wall. I barreled into him. The two spoke no words and no emotion showed on their faces.
My face was pounding, the metallic taste of blood filling my mouth. Blood was running from my nose, as I tried to keep my head down so I wouldn’t choke from the blood damming at the back of my throat. I cried out as a fist collided with my stomach. I doubled over the pain excruciating. I spat blood, gasping for air. My legs buckled beneath me as I plummeted to my knees. The Brollachan still clutching my hands pulled me to my feet, wrenching my shoulder, he had to hold me up, my legs refusing to obey. My vision was wavering, everything was moving like I was dithering on the deck of a ship in bad weather.
It was then I felt the electrical shudder of the half pendant I was wearing. I screamed. “Conall!” I knew he was near, the pendant was telling me so. Another punch to my stomach sent me collapsing onto the dirt floor. I gasped for breath again. I tried desperately to scream for Conall, I couldn’t utter a word straining to breath. I laid on the floor knowing Conall was coming for me then my world went black.
Conall heard the muffled scream of Morgan. Rage took over as he pulled dirks from his belt. The wolf howled and scratched at the door in front of them. The door wouldn’t open. He put his shoulder to it ramming it yelling to Morgan he was coming for her. Suddenly the door flew open with him toppling on top of a Brollachan. Before he recovered himself, the wolf leapt over him to grab a second Brollachan by the neck.
Conall plunged both blades into the neck of the one he had fallen on. Getting to his feet the wolf having dealt with the Brollachan now had his teeth bared and was growling at a cowering woman in the corner of the room. Morgan was lying in a bloodied heap on the floor unconscious. He put his dirks into his boots, throwing himself down beside her. Her face covered in blood, she was a bloodied mess and it looked like her nose was broken. He quickly undid the ropes binding he hands before wiping blood from her eyes with his hand, calling to her as he did so. Morgan didn’t respond.
He turned sneering at the cowering woman in the corner restrained by the wolf. “What did you do to her?”
The woman let her hands drop from her face. Conall went into shock, he knew this woman, this was Betty. Betty was the kitchen maid from the Sutherland keep. What the hell was she doing here?
She looked at Conall pleading. “Connie I’ve bin waiting for ye. Ye ken that we were meant ta be together. I love ye an ye love me.” She pointed furiously at Morgan still lying on the floor. “Tha witch ha put a spell on ye. Connie, I have ta kill her so ye wi be free.”
If Conall was surprised to see her here, he was downright shocked at her admission. “Betty, I do no love ye. I ne’er have. Why would ye think so?”
She began sobbing. “Tha witch ha put a spell on ye. It is me ye love no her.”
Conall didn’t have time to listen to the lass’s nonsense he needed to get Morgan upstairs away from this place. He picked her up carefully in case her ribs were broken. When he got to the door he turned to the wolf and called him to come. The wolf gave the lass in the corner a snap of his mouth and one last growl before following Conall. Leaving Betty weeping in the corner.
As soon as he entered the inn Maggie rushed over. “What ha happened to ye wife, who did this to her?” Maggie cried.
Conall jolted his head towards the cellar door and continued up to the room, wolf in tow. He laid Morgan on the bed, wet a cloth and wiped the blood from her face. She still hadn’t woken. He prayed that she had enough strength to heal herself. When he finished cleaning the blood and dirt, he laid on the bed next to her with his arm beneath her head. He talked to her telling her how he loved her and he would never let her out of his sight again. The wolf lay on the floor beside the bed.
Getting up during the night to stretch his body, he looked out the window hoping to see Dougall. He was worried that he still hadn’t seen him. As he scanned the area a rider came racing to the inn. The way he had ridden in, he looked to be in a mighty hurry. Conall thought the horse was one of the biggest he had seen, and the man getting off the saddle was no small person either. The rider was bigger than Sloane and solidly built. He had no shirt on just a jerkin and trews. Even from the window Conall could see that he had arms as big as a cow’s hind leg. He thought such a man would come in handy in battle, as long as he was on his side.
Conall pulled the pendant out of his pocket. No lights or heating. The man is no Brollachan. He watched as the rider with determined strides headed towards the inn. Conall returned to lay with Morgan.
He talked to her telling her as if she was awake, about his life from when he was a bairn to when he met her. His family, his likes and hates, his strengths and weaknesses. Just so she could hear his voice in her subconscious, praying it was a beacon, bringing her back to him. When the first rays of daylight came through the window he could see the cuts to her face were healed. She had not though regained consciousness. He needed to relieve himself but decided to do so outside and not use the bedpan. He covered her with the blanket telling the wolf to stay by her side.
When Conall reached the bottom of the stairs Maggie ran to him.
“How is ye wife milord?” she looked frantic. Her husband joined her also looking worried as to the condition of Morgan.
“Milord I…we are so sorry this has happened ere in our inn.” The keeper said.
“My wife is recovering. It was no as bad as it looked, she will be fine in no time.” He couldn’t tell them that she could heal herself. Lest it be thought that she was a witch or a demon. Most people in the highlands where superstitious so it was best to minimize her condition.
Maggie and her husband looked relieved. Turning to Conall she asked. “Would ye like to break ye fast milord?”
Conall was about to venture back upstairs but had second thoughts. He was starving and the wolf would look after Morgan while he ate. He was no good to her or anyone else if he let himself and his strength deplete. “Aye I would thank ye.”
“Rupert get milord some food now.” He quickly ran off to the kitchen. Maggie motioned for him to sit while she went to get him a tankard of ale. As she set it in front of Conall she said. “I am so happy tha lass wi recover, the state she wi in last nigh. I was so worried she looked a terrible mess.”
It was then that Conall remembered Betty. “Maggie what happened to the lass in tha cellar?”
Maggie raised her eyebrows a smirk to her face. “She’ll nay botha ye or ye wife agin.”
“Maggie?” Conall was suspicious of her words and smirk.
“I did no beat her, much. I sent fer me bràthair he lives up tha mountains. A bit of a hermit he is. He wi callin on me other bràthair Willy, he’s a preacher no far from ere.”
“Your bràthair he would no be a big fellow, jerkin no shirt?” Conall asked.
“Oh aye, that he is. Me da used to say me ma mated with Hercules, who e’er he be, on account that e’en as a bairn he was a mór lad. He came quick though right happy ta pick up his new wife.”
Conall nearly choked on his ale.
“Ye no need worry, me bràthair was right happy wi her. He’ll be stopping at Willy’s just ta make sure things between he an tha lass are legal like, he was no happy wi what she did to ye wife, he’ll make sure it no happens agin.” Maggie patted Conall on the shoulder as she headed to the kitchen.
Conall had a memory of Morgan referring to him as Hercules when they had first met. He smiled to himself at the memory. He barely remembered Betty though, he knew she worked in the kitchen at the keep but he’d not said a single word to her, he just knew her as Betty, the kitchen maid. He couldn’t understand why she would think he loved her, he’d never given her cause to. When he finished eating he went back upstairs to sit with his wife, taking soup for her in case she woke.
Morgan was still unconscious her face though was completely healed, he just had to wait for any internal damage to heal too. He decided to go down to the stables and check on his horse, he motioned the wolf to stay with her, confident that he would slaughter anyone who tried to get within a foot of Morgan.
If it wasn’t for the wolf he may have never found his wife, he thanked the Gods for sending such a blessing. He was also thankful that Morgan had stopped him for putting the animal out of its misery when it had been shot with an arrow, he didn’t want to think of the alternative.
Conall was still worried as to where Dougall was, he didn’t however feel that his brother had been taken by Brollachans or he was in danger. If his bràthair had left, then he must have had a good reason to do so. He couldn’t be angry at him for not protecting his wife, that was his duty, a duty he most thoroughly felt he had failed.