Chapter Thirty Six
Chapter Thirty Six
Dougall had been filled with astonishment and pride watching Morgan use her crossbow against the Brollachans with far more skill than many of the archers of clan Sutherland. Then to see her in full action raising a wall of dirt, stone and rocks had taken his breath away. What he had not expected though was Conall’s reaction. Nor the pain that it caused him to see Morgan so destroyed by Conall’s withdrawal and coldness towards her.
He had gone to find him in the stables only to be faced with the same stoniness and indifference. Conall has muttered that he had trained for years in protecting the lass, but it had all been in vain, if he couldn’t protect her what good was he. Dougall had tried desperately to talk some sense into him. To no avail.
Conall had sunk into the pit of depression and he had no idea how to help him. Dougall in the short time he gotten to know Morgan had grown to love her as a sister. He had to do something. Da. If anyone knew how to resolve this problem it would be Haig, Laird of the Sutherland clan. He had always thought his father one of the wisest men he had known. He also knew that to reach his da it would take considerable days, he didn’t have that time. He did however, still have the travel pendant, neglecting to give it back to Conall when he returned from taking the Druid home. The pendant didn’t just take a person to another time, it could also take a person from one place to another of the same time.
Before he left he went to see the lass. He had to make sure she would stay put until he returned. How long it would take to convince his da, he had no idea. There was no way he was going to tell Conall where he was going, he would only take the pendant from him. Nope the only way was to just go and hope his father could come back with him before anyone noticed he was missing.
Dougall slipped down the stairs of the inn after talking with Morgan and made his way around to the back, away from the stables. Saying the words needed he focused on his da. Although Dougall had used the pendant many times for travel he still felt the vacuity and the eddying in his head during the transportation. When it stopped he took a deep breath, before realizing he was in his da’s solar. There were also several men. All with horror or stunned looks upon their faces at his entry.
“Dougall.” his father exclaimed
“Sorry da but it is urgent I must speak with ye.”
“Aye I can see that. Could ye no ha used the door lad?” Haig said as he rose from his chair. “Ye are lucky that I no was entertaining anyone but our garrison men. I could no ha explained ye sudden arrival. Lad ye could have bin hauled oot to a pyre fer burnin.”
“Aye da am sorry but I need yer advice, an it could no wait.”
Haig dismissed his men from the room. When they were gone he motioned for Dougall to take a seat. He refused preferring to stand.
“Da we have problem an I no ken what ta do.”
“Well ye best get it oot then lad. What is this all aboot?”
Dougall explained to his father the events of the past twenty-four hours. His father listened intently stroking his beard as he usually did when deep in thought. He told his da what Conall had said when confronted in the stable. Haig poured scotch from the glass decanter on his desk into two cups, and handed his son one of them. When Dougall had apprised his da of the situation. Haig sat and took a gulp of his drink.
“Da will ye come wi me ta talk ta Conall?” Dougall beseeched.
Haig again motioned for his son to sit. This time Dougall sat in the leather-bound chair and took a drink of his scotch. He waited patiently for his father to speak. Haig had never been a person to speak rashly he always needed time to consider a problem.
“Lad it is no me ye need.” Haig finally said.
Haig raised his hand to silence his son. “Dougall, think lad who else ha gone through tha same thing what Conall an tha lass er going through now? I am mighty pleased tha Conall and the lass ha marrit. I like tha lass. She’s a mighty fine shot wi tha crossbow of ers too, an she be making a fine daughter.”
Dougall thought about what his father was saying. Who else has gone through what Conall and Morgan were now doing? Of course! He could have slapped himself for being so dense.
“Aye lad ye be thinking right the noo.” Haig said pouring himself another dram. “Ye ken that it was Sloane tha trained Conall, an took him to tha other world. Blasted dragons. Do no mention it ta Conall but it was Sloane tha he looked up to, and listened to. Twas Sloane tha kept Conall in order when I could nay do so, no after yer ma...” Haid didn’t finished the sentence taking another gulp of his scotch.
“So, ye are saying” I should go get Sloane then?”
“Aye I do lad, he be the best one fer this matter. Conall wi listen ta him, if no one else.”
Dougall realized he was right. His da was always right. He was however, relieved that he had come to consult his father.
“Dougall ye need ta go see Sloane but take yerself to tha kitchen, ye look like ye could do with a good meal. An when ye leave, can ye no do it in front o’ company lad.”
“Aye da. Thank ye da truly.” Dougall expressed as he got up from the chair. Haig got up too and approached his son taking him in a hug. It was not something Haig did in front of the men but in his solar in privacy he had no problem embracing his sons when he could.
His first wife Moira had died in childbirth with Sloane. His second wife Catherine had died when she fell from her steed some ten years earlier. Haig felt that although he couldn’t replace his wives he would show his children affection. Even if it was only when they were alone with him.
Dougall did as his father suggested and headed to the kitchen. As he entered, the cook Mrs MacLeish, a short rotund woman with a smile that lit her entire face dropped the dough she was kneading, and raced to him to give him a bear hug.
“Ock Duggy, I’m say glad ta see ye.” she beamed. No one else called Dougall, Duggy except for Mrs MacLeish. Not that he would have allowed it. Well his brothers did on occasions in jest, which usually ended up in an all-out brawl. Mrs MacLeish called Sloane, Bubba, Conall, Connie, William, Willy, Aiden, Addy and Murtagh, Mertle.
Mrs MacLeish put her hand to Dougall’s face leaving a floured hand print. “Oh, Duggy ye do look a might scraggy lad, ha ye no bin eatin well?” she sighed as she dragged Dougall further into the kitchen, and plonked him onto a stool beside the table she had been kneading the dough at.
“Well ha bin on tha road with Conall.”
“Connie, oh how is me lad? I ha no seen him fer so long.”
“Aye well he a marrit man the noo.”
Mrs MacLeish shot her floured hands to her face. “Nay, he’s no?”
“Aye he is and ta a verra nice lass. Morgan be her name. She’s right bonny and smart too.” Dougall continued though without adding any details. He didn’t have the time nor the inclination to discuss who the lass was or what skills and magic she possessed. Mrs MacLeish filled a bowl with pottage and placed it in front of him, along with two bannocks. As soon as he finished he made his farewells to the cook. Mrs MacLeish wiped a tear in her eye with her apron and made Dougall promise to come back soon, and to bring Connie and his new wife with him.
Dougall made his way around to the kitchen garden where he was sure there would be no one to see him shift time. He moved to a part of the garden that held an alcove with a small stone seat. This had been his mother’s favourite place to rest. He held the pendant and said the words focusing on Sloane and Ula’s kitchen. Once again, he was transported materializing beside the kitchen table.
He called out to Sloan and Ula but received no answer. He went up to their room, then out to the back garden but they were not there either. There was only one place they could be and that would be at Morgan’s store. Dougall had been to this time a few times before. He had never met the lass but Sloane had shown him Duffy’s Antique Emporium from across the street. Sloane had even taught him how to ride a motorbike, which still remained one of his most exciting ventures.
Dougall went to the garage happy to see the motorcycle still in residence with a tarp over it. He couldn’t however go to the store dressed as he was in kilt and carrying a claymore on his back and a sword on his side. Returning to the house he rummaged through Sloane’s wardrobe looking for something that might fit him. Sloane was somewhat taller than he, nonetheless he found a pair of jeans and a t-shirt that were close enough to his size. He had to roll the hems of the jeans up a couple of turns.
Finding a belt, he latched it to the last slot but the end of it hung down, laughing at his odd clothing, he looked more like a homeless vagabond than an eighteenth-century warrior. Dougall slotted two dirks at his back, covering them with the shirt. Returning to the garage the motorbike, relieved that it started on the first turn.
By the time Dougall parked the bike and strode to the store it was late afternoon in this time. Entering the store, he shouted so Sloane and Ula knew it was him, not that he needed to, they saw him as soon as he opened the door. Surprise flashing across their faces.
“Dougall what in God’s name are ye doing here?” Sloane asked striding around the desk to him. He took him by the forearm, clasping his shoulder with his other hand and dragged him in for a brotherly hug.
“Da said ye were the one I need ta see.” Ula came running towards him and swung her arms around his neck to hug him too, having to stand on her tip toes.
“Dougall what’s the matter?” Ula said as soon as she let go of his neck. “Is Morgan ok, and Conall?”
“Come Dougall oot the back room so’s we can talk. Ula lass can ye lock tha front door.” Sloane urged as he took Dougall’s arm and pulled him to the back of the store. Ula slid the bolt on the door and joined her husband and brother in law in the back room.
“Ye best tell us now Dougall what’s a miss?” Sloane said as they seated themselves.
Once again Dougall related the events, only stopping when he had gotten to the marriage part with Ula’s interruption.
“They married. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Oh, I am so happy.” she cried taking hold of Sloane’s arm. Dougall continued.
When he had related all events especially the last twenty-four hours, Sloane shook his head in dismay. He had been through almost the exact same thing with Ula. Not that he was Ula’s protector but Sloane was a warrior. It was his honour code to protect the innocent and women, especially the one he loved. Ula had her own abilities as he knew she liked to call them. He thought she was magic, he had thought so from the moment she had caught his eye. But the beginning of their journey had not been an easy one.
Ula could control the wind. He had endured agony within his own mind. How could he protect, or be of use to one with such gifted abilities? They had however, in the end reached a resolution, and lived all these years respecting each other. Loving each other and working together.
Tears rolled down Ula’s cheeks. Sloane wrapped his arm around her shoulders. She was discernibly thinking the same as him. He knew what both Conall and Morgan were going through. The question was could they get through it as he and Ula had.
“So will ye come back wi me Sloane, ta talk wi Conall?”
“Dougall I can no leave Ula, no with Joe and his braggarts aboot.”
Ula jumped at Sloane’s words. “Sloane, you have to go. You know as well as I do what they are going through. You have to help them.”
“Aye I ken lass but I will no leave ye at this time.” Sloane was resolute, he was not going to leave his wife to deal with Joe and his braggart band. He stood to make his point just a loud knock came at the door of the store making them all jump. Sloane went to the door, bidding Dougall and Ula to stay put. When he unlocked and opened the door there was no one there. As he went to shut it he noticed an envelope on the floor. It was addressed to him, opening it as he walked back to rejoin his wife. Unfolding the sheet, he read out loud the contents.
We want Morgan and pendant
If you dunt hand her ova
We bern yer farm to the grownd
And you with it
“God’s blood!” he bellowed handing the note to Dougall, Ula leaning over to see what was written even though Sloane had read it. “This be Joe.”
“Sloane why the hell didn’t ye take care of him sooner?” Dougall asked with frustration.
“Dougall, I can no walk inta police station wi me sword an take his head off. This is no 1735. His time is coming, an none too soon it seems. But ye just canna go around toon with a sword in ye hand.”
“Well it would seem tha time has come Sloane. We need ta deal wi this piece o’ garbage.” Dougall said.
“He needs to leave this life for what he did to Morgan, and his spelling, he writes like a bloody two-year-old” Ula bit out. Both Sloane and Dougall looked at her with eyebrows raised in surprise. Trust Ula to add Joe’s grammatical errors to the list of reasons why Joe needed to die.
“Sloane it’s no far from sunset the noo, by tha time we get to ye farm they could already be waiting fer us, and I will no be able ta get to my claymore or sword. I left them in ye hoose” Dougall said running his fingers through his hair.
“Aye an mine are there too.” Sloane added feeling as aggravated as Dougall.
Ula shook her head tutting to the them both. “You both best come with me then.” Ula went to the desk retrieving a set of keys. Then to the bookcase, and moved the leaver revealing the door behind. Sloane cursed himself for forgetting about Morgan’s training room.
Dougall was speechless walking into the room with a wall full of weapons. “What the devil?” he gasped.
“Oh! did Morgan not tell you about her secret training room Dougall?” He shook his head still in shock, his bottom jaw hanging open. He was amazed at the array of weaponry “Well this is damned impressive.”
“Well help yourself to what you want.” Ula smiled. “I don’t think Morgan would mind you using whatever you need.”
Sloane was quick off the mark to choose a weapon. “Well I be using this one.” he reached up to remove a sword from the wall.
“That’s a Falchion” Ula said. “A good choice Sloane. European, fifteenth century single edged sword.”
Sloane smiled at his wife. “I think I wi take this one as well. Two swords are better than one.”
“That my love is the Bastard sword, also called the longsword.”
“Aye I made a good choice then, cause I’m intent on taking a bastard doon wi it.” Sloane more than happy with his choice.
Dougall was spoilt for choice. He had used a fair few swords in his time but there was one on the wall he had never seen, and therefore never used. Ula sighted the sword he was focused on.
“Dougall that is a Katana, a Japanese Samurai sword. It’s mighty sharp and not too heavy.” Dougall reached for it taking it off the wall holder. Moving away from Sloane and Ula he swung it a few times.
“I like this sword, it glides smooth through the air, an I like that it ha a bend to it.”
“Dougall you don’t hold it like a normal sword, you hold it backwards.” She said as she took the sword and showed him. She handed Dougal a sheath to wear, to hold the Katana, save he should cut his leg off with the way he was swinging it.
Dougall seeing that Sloane had acquired two swords, thought he would do the same and scanned the wall once again. “Seeing as I ha a bent sword I wi choose another bent one. Just so’s I ha a matching pair.” He grinned pointing to one that was just behind Sloane on the wall. Sloane reached up and took it down for him.
“That’s a Scimitar Dougall. Persian twelfth century. It was one of the last swords that Morgan acquired. It’s was usually used on horseback to slash opponents. It was also the last one to be sharpened so be careful it’s razor-sharp.
“Sis you are a walkin’ encyclopedia, how is it ye ken tha name of them an where they are from?”
Ula smiled widely at Dougall’s comment and didn’t miss the proud look she received from her husband. “Morgan, of course, she knows her weapons.”
When the two of them were sheathed, strapped and armed they locked the training room and made ready to leave. Ula took the till and set the alarm as they left the store. Sloane told Dougall to come with them in the land rover. However, Dougall being told that the Scimitar he was carrying was often used on horseback, felt riding the bike would be just as good and shook his head at Sloane’s request. He followed Sloane on the bike to the farm.
As they drove towards the house everything seemed quiet. Unnaturally quiet. Ula was worried, if there had been intruders on the farm, Mrs Crombie and the ladies would be in a fluster, shrieking and squawking. She heard nothing not even their clucking. Sloane pulled the car up on the road in front of the house. He had a bad feeling, the hairs on the back of his neck stood on end. Ula felt the same. Sloane put his hand out the window motioning Dougall to stop.
Dougall felt everything was far too quiet, when he had first arrived he couldn’t mistake the loud clucking of the hens, now there was not a sound, not even the squawk of a bird. He scanned the area. To his left the house. To his right a paddock. In front past the car were more paddocks, bare of trees.
“Ula ye will wait in the car. If’n there are more than wi expect ye ken what’s to be done lass.” Sloane said as he opened his door.
“Aye I do love.”
Sloane walked towards Dougall searching the area himself as he did so. “Can ye feel it lad.”
“Aye, I can.” It was as if they were in the eye of a tornado. Nothing moved not even a blade of grass.
It was then that Dougall caught something in the corner of his eye to his right, way up the paddock. A slight moment in the tall grass.
“Sloane.” Dougall whispered moving a finger to his right. Sloane caught the finger moment. He nodded to Dougall then made his way back to the driver’s door of his land rover.
“Lass they be in the right paddock. Go now lass.”
Ula got out of the car and walked casually, further up the road, stopping and standing about ten feet with her back to the car. Dougall was confused as to what she was doing. Why was she standing on the road? he thought. It would seem that Sloane and Ula had a plan of sorts that he was not privy to.
Sloane walked casually to the side of road facing the paddock, motioning to Dougall with his hand to come to. Dougall rode the bike coming to a stop beside him, keeping the engine going. They waited. Within minutes Brollachans rose from the ground where they had been lying in waiting and they kept on rising. Dougall glanced up the road to where Ula stood, she was now facing the paddock, her back straight head held high. Her spiked hair glowing in the rays of the sinking sun like the golden helmet of past Vikings, weaponless but ready for battle nonetheless.
The three waited as Brollachans continued to rise. Dougall guessed there were at least four score in number. When it seemed that the last had risen Sloane nodded to Dougall. Dougall revved the engine of the bike, removed his Scimitar raising it above his head.
“Dougall.” Sloane whispered. “Wait.”
Dougall was confused he was itching to get going and cut the Brollachans down swiftly. Then he caught Ula’s hands rising watching as a tornado rose before her. She reminded him of Morgan creating the wall of dirt. This however, was no wall of dirt but a dark swirling tornado, mounting by the second. This was the first time he had seen Ula in action. The tornado moved as it magnified towards the paddock.
The Brollachans began screaming and running towards them. Dougall’s eyes moved rapidly from them to the tornado intensifying like a giant wave. He was definitely impressed, hoping that she would leave at least a few for him and Sloane. Ula jerked her arms forward, the tornado sped towards the running multitude of Brollachans being caught up in the orbiting mass of it.
Dougall was as awed as when he had watched Morgan with her dirt wall.
“Now lad!” yelled Sloane as he raced into the paddock swords swinging and screaming the Sutherland war cry “Ceann na Drochaide Bige!”
“Ceann na Drochaide Bige!” Dougall screamed as he blazed into the paddock on the bike steering with one hand, the Scimitar swinging in his right hand.
Sloane cut down Brollachan after Brollachan separating heads and arms, slicing bodies in his wake. Dougall took the heads off several bodies, more than pleased with the stealth and sharpness of his sword. Jumping off the bike, pulling the Katana out of his sheath with his left hand he charged forward. He had been able to fight efficiently and effectively with both hands since he was four and ten. He liked these swords, they sliced through bodies like a hot knife through butter.