The Voyage

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Chapter 5

I quickly made my way through the castle and countryside to reach Baran Farms. I needed to see Calum and tell him that I chose him. I know he was expecting me to be wed, but I could not do it. I refused to spend the rest of my life in a loveless and miserable marriage, not when I did not have to. Being a farm hand would make things more complicated, but after what I had just overheard in my father’s office, I doubted my being with Calum would be un-welcomed by my family. He was a good man, one that did not fear me being untraditional. He was a man that accepted and respected me; that should be more than enough for my father and uncles to accept.

I arrived at the barn and quickly headed inside, hoping to see Calum here, finishing up with the horses. He had spent a great deal of time in the barn taking care of the new colt and ensuring both mother and baby would survive. Only this time, he was not in the barn. I knew he was not in the field at this hour of darkness, which meant he must be in the house. I had never been inside the farmhouse and had no idea if Calum was alone or not. We had not had any conversations about his family and if he lived with them or not. I knew he was twenty-one years of age, but that did not mean he did not live with his family. Often children stayed until marriage, especially when they were a farming family.

I made the short distance over to the farmhouse and knocked on the large wooden door. The farmhouse from the outside was small, but I suspected nothing else. Most of the time, it was the barns that took most of the planning to create. The farmhouse was simply a place to rest your head and fill your belly. The door opened, and my breath was instantly stolen as Calum stood before me. The same feeling overtook my body, and I knew without a doubt that I had picked the right man. This was the man meant for me and I for him. His smile was broad and warm as he stepped back to allow me to enter, speaking as he did.

“Mistress MacInnes, should you not be at the castle meeting your new husband?”

We had talked about this earlier, and I knew he was not happy about the idea of the woman he had come to love to be with another man.

“My future husband stands before me, should he have me,” I said with a warm smile as I walked in.

“He would be a right fool to say no.” He said warmly as he closed the door and stepped closer to me.

“Maybe not. I have been told I am not a proper woman.”

“Any man that thinks that is not a proper man and would not be deserving of a woman such as yourself.”

He meant every word he spoke, I could hear it in his voice. He honestly did not mind my more energetic personality as most men would. He accepted and respected me as a whole and not just the parts he liked. This was my husband, and I would die to ensure it. His eyes locked onto mine and I could feel the heat spark between us grow. I did not think I would ever get tired of this feeling. Only unlike the last couple of times, our spell was broken by a scream coming from outside. Calum instantly reacted, opening his door and walking out to see what was going on. I followed him, and I could not believe my eyes. Parts of the countryside were on fire. Homes, barns, trees, the green grass, it was all being consumed by the flames.

Screams could be heard from further down from us. Women screaming for help. We were under attack, and my guess was by an enemy tribe. Calum ran back inside the house and quickly returned before I could even start to move to go inside. He returned with a sword in each hand and handed me one as he babbled.

“I need you to go to the barn and open all the doors. You have to release the horses.”

“But they’ll run away, and you’ll lose everything.”

“They know their way back home. I ensured it. They will return. I would rather them be out in the wild alive than dying in a barn. You have to free them, including the colt.”

“But she’s so young, can she even run?”

“She can, and her mother will take care of her. They will stick together, and they will come back. Once you have freed them, you need to get to the castle and call for help.”

“What about you?”

I could handle my job, but I feared for what he was about to do.

“I’ll be fine. I’m going to help as many as I can.”

He pulled me in for a quick and passionate kiss before he pulled back. “Hurry.” And with that, he was running off towards the fire and the invaders. I could not let my mind wander to what could happen; I had a job to do. I quickly ran for the barn, opening all of the doors first before making my way over to the stables. The horses were at rest, sensing the danger and urgency in my body. I went to the colt’s stable first and freed her and her mother. I was pleased to see the colt easily run and keep up with her mother. I then went to work on freeing the others, all but one. I needed to get to the castle quickly, and the best way was by horse. I quickly got the horse ready and mounted. I needed to reach the castle before the invaders did, and the whole place was overrun.

As I exited the barn, I could see the flames now taking the farmhouse I was in mere minutes ago. I prayed that Calum would not lose everything, but I knew it would be a false hope. His life, his livelihood, was going up in literal flames. I could not see him in the distance, but I knew he was out there. I turned the horse and took off at a fast gallop to the castle. I needed to warn them and get reinforcements. What was usually a short journey felt like days to me. Each second that ticked by, I could not help but think that it would be Calum’s last. My mind would not stop thinking about how I would lose the man that I love before I could ever indeed have him as mine. I could not think this way, but I could not help it. I forced my mind to focus on the present and my task. Getting to the castle was all that matters for Calum and our people.

I finally arrived at the castle, and I quickly dismounted and ran the rest of the distance through the castle halls until I finally reached the gathering room. I was relieved to see my father and uncles back in the room at the front. I pushed my way through the crowd, people moving as they saw the urgency in me. I finally reached my father and uncles but did not allow them a moment to ask me a single word.

“The countryside is under attack. They are burning the lands and killing everyone they can.”

“The village is under attack. Get the women and children underground. Men grab your horses and hurry.” My father yelled.

The gathering room broke out into utter chaos as everyone ran to do as they were told.

“Do you know which tribe?” My Father asked urgently.

“I did not see them. Just the flames and the screams.”

I wished I could have given him more information, but I was so focused on freeing the horses and getting help. My father and uncles were the first ones to seek action, and they all ran from the room to get their horses and weapons. I saw the women ushering their children to safety and men ensuring they were tucked away before they would join the fight. I was supposed to be with the women and children, that is where I have always gone, but not tonight. Not this time. This time my heart was out there, and I was not going to sit by and do nothing.

I ran from the castle and down to my horse, the sword that Calum had given me in my hands. Another horse approached me, and I turned to see Dougal.

“You should be with the women underground. Why are you on a horse that could be used for a man?”

He was angry, but I owed him nothing. He was not going to be my husband, and I had no obligation to answer him. I didn’t even bother to answer him, I just squeezed my legs around my horse, letting him know it was time to go. I quickly galloped out of the castle walls and back into the countryside. I could hear the swords already, and I knew that our men were trying to fight off the invaders. I made sure my sword was ready in my hand. I would not be a burden out here; I would prove that I belonged and that I could defend myself and my people. Each invader I came across, I struck down with one swing of my sword. I stayed on the horse to give myself an advantage. I had been able to see my father and uncles as they fought upon their horses as well. It warmed my heart to see that they were fairing well.

The one-man I wished desperately to lay eyes on I did not see. I prayed that Calum would be alright and return to me. I could not allow myself to think of the worst; I had to focus on the battle that laid before me. I could not die here and leave Calum, just as he could not die and leave me. As the battle waged on, I saw the men from my land bearing arms and fighting off the invaders. With tremendous support, we were able to defeat the enemy guild. However, with them no longer attacking, it did not stop the work. We now had a countryside that was still burning that we needed to put out—injured that we needed to tend to and homes that would need to be rebuilt. It was not the first time we have done it, and I knew it would not be the last. I just prayed that we did not lose too many of our people.

I got down from my horse and went over to where my father and uncles were standing. They were getting a plan together on how to tackle the fires and the injured. They all gave me a warm smile, and one by one, they pulled me in for a tight hug. My father reached me last.

“I am proud of you, but you have taken years off my life.” My father said.

“I am sorry to worry you, but these are my people as well. I am fine.”

I knew they worried about me, but they had taught me how to defend myself for a reason. That did not mean that I should not use the skills they taught me to help protect others. Especially the people within the countryside, they were farmers with women and children. They needed all the help they could get. My eyes scanned the land, still trying to find the one person I so desperately needed to see. My whole body filled with warmth as I finally laid eyes on Calum. He had soot all over his clothes and face, but I did not see any blood. I quickly stepped away from my father and uncles and ran towards Calum. He saw me and ran towards me; the second he could, he picked me up in his arms and spun me around. Before my feet even touched the ground, I was kissing him.

I did not care who saw us. I was so happy to see that he was alive and well, it was the only thing that mattered. I did not get to explore his mouth before he was pulling back fully. He was at least keeping his head better than myself. The fire still surrounded us with people in need. His eyes left mine and looked behind me. I turned to see my father and my uncles standing there. My uncles looked amused, and my father seemed rather curious. I cleared my throat and took Calum’s hand, walking over to them.

“Father, Uncles, this is Calum Baran.”

“From Baran Farms. You have impressive horses I’ve been told. Calhoun MacInnes.” Uncle Calhoun said, holding his hand out.

“An honor to meet you, Sir,” Calum said, taking his hand.

“Dillion.” Uncle Dillion said next, taking Calum’s hand.

“An honor,” Calum said.

“It would appear you have stolen my daughter’s heart. Was it you that gave her that sword?” My father asked.

“Yes, My Lord. I did not want her to be left defenseless. She appeared to be a woman who could wield one.” Calum said proudly.

“That she is.” My father said with a warm smile. “Come, we have much work to do. We need to discover who has attacked our land and how to strike back.”

“One of the invaders that I fought had mentioned a war was coming to the Scots. That this was the first strike, and more was promised to come.” Calum said.

“Something has been brewing for a while now. It would appear our enemy tribes have finally made their move. We must prepare for war across all of our lands. We will not lose everything we have built to no man.” My father said with strength.

I did not know what the future would hold. What I did know, war was declared tonight, and it would be a war that would change all of our lives. I just prayed that the men who lived within my heart would be standing by my side when it was over.

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