Blood of the Clans Ch. 35byRoyceConnors©
The castle hadn't seen so much merriment in ages. There had never been a cause or reason till now and everyone was making sure it would be well met. Julia stepped onto Dunvegan land for the first time in almost ten years and felt an energy surge through her. For all that she was living in her homeland on Mull, Skye had been where she had felt herself come alive. A smile played on her lips as she climbed the long distance to the courtyard.
Garreth and Peadair were there to greet her, as news came of her arrival. They greeted their mother with deep affection and led her into the hall to sit. A servant brought herbal tea for her and offered her a biscuit from a plate she was carrying. Julia took her tea and a biscuit and smiled at her, sharing a moment of remembrance of times past.
"It's good tae see ye here again, Lady Julia. It's been far too long since ye've been here." Rachel said and curtseyed.
"It's nice tae be here, Rachel. I've missed the castle and the people in it." Julia told her happily.
Rachel smiled and left for the kitchen again.
"My heart has'ne been happier, Mother. I ne'er knew love could feel like this. And now having ye here again, I'm o'ercome wi' so much joy." Garreth told her, his eyes welling up.
Julia looked at her son, seeing him make another step towards becoming a man and smiled from her heart.
"Garreth, my heart is happier than it has been in so many years, since yer father passed. Nothing could make as happy. I'm looking forward tae meeting Therese, she must be someone special tae ha'e ye joined so quickly." she pried at him, looking for more details
"I knew in my heart the moment I saw her, she was the one fer me. She knew it tae. Tae show oor love, she has gi'en me her cross tae wear." to which Garreth took it out from under his tunic.
Julia took it in her hand delicately and looked at the embedded jewels, before turning her eyes up to his.
"What does she ha'e of yer's then?" Julia asked, worried she knew what he must have given her in exchange.
"She has the Luck of Dunvegan wi' her. We'll exchange them again during the ceremony." Garreth told her.
Peadair looked at his mother with worry, knowing she would be upset at what Garreth had done.
"Garreth, no. Hoo could ye do such a thing? Do ye no remember yer father's last words before he died?" Julia told him, the distress of his actions clearly showing their effect on her.
"Mother don'ne worry. I trust her completely tae keep it safe wi' her, as she trusts me wi' her cross." he told his mother, hoping to dissuade her worries his life was in peril without the talisman.
"Garreth, my heart would rest easier knowing it was wi' ye, protecting ye."
Garreth looked at Peadair, who shrugged his shoulders, causing Garreth to give him a look of despondency at his lack of help.
"The Almighty will watch o'er me, Mother. Don't let yerself get intae a state o'er this." Garreth told her, as he put his arm around her and held her to him, doing his best to convince her.
Julia's look never showed a relief, but she decided to let the issue go and not spoil the festivities. She took Garreth and Peadair's arms and walked with them into the gardens, now decorated with strips of MacLeod tartan and juniper sprigs tied to them.
Stuart stopped to confer with Argus and Tavish, making sure he didn't get too far ahead of the events. Tavish explained that Argus should finish up with Braedon and Sloan getting to Tioram and he would tell of Heather and Therese at Donan.
Stuart nodded in agreement and said, "I'll tell of what happened at Tioram between Bella and Braedon and that should have everything up to date. I had no idea hoo complicated this was going tae be." and laughed along with the two other tellers at how it was turning out.
Argus stood again and announced he was going to finish with Sloan and Braedon coming to Tioram and then Tavish had something interesting to tell them, before Stuart came back to the ceremony.
Braedon Stewart stood with Sloan Fraser at the prow of his birlinn, as they sailed along the eastern coast of Lismore. Sloan took a moment to look back towards the castle and thought of Kyla. He felt his heart accepting her, despite it still filled with the memories of Maglyn and their unborn child. He turned to look down the coast to where they were going and felt the sickening dread of having to deal with the slaughter of innocents and tending to their souls. He regretted his actions before he had even done them.
He knew Kyla's parents deserved a decent and proper burial and ceremony, but turning his head to port, he caught sight of Dunollie far across the channel and knew they would attack if they knew he was seen. The objective was for Sloan and several men to go and make the cottage as flammable as they could and torch it. There was no time to dig graves or build pyres for them, so in Sloan's mind, he was doing no more than disposing of the bodies. The birlinn hugged the coast line, its shallow draft allowing it to traverse the shoreline and blend in as best they could to avoid detection.
The inlet was coming up and Sloan directed the Stewart at the helm to steer into it. The birlinn scraped up the graveled coast and men were over the side and pulling it up tight to the beach.
"Do what ye can tae pay honour tae them Sloan, but do it wi' all haste. I don'ne need tae tell ye, we've been spotted already by MacDougall and he'll be preparing tae come across. I want tae be on oor way, Sloan, before we ha'e tae do battle wi' them."warned him.
"I'll no be long, Braedon. I only need enough time tae start a fire and make sure it burns the bodies tae ashes." Sloan assured him, as he and several men left the boat and started making their way towards the Fraser's home.
Sloan reached the cottage and found the stench coming from the cottage unbearable. He wrapped his sash around his mouth and nose and took a deep breath, before going inside. Flies were thick on the bodies and Sloan felt his stomach churning at the sight. He went to the hearth and found a smoldering ember and picked it up with a pot and carried it outside. He added some dry grasses and twigs and gently blew on it to bring the coals to life. In no time, a fire was burning and Sloan used it to light several make-shift torches. He took one and held his breath, as he walked back inside. He looked at the lifeless, decaying bodies of the couple who had welcomed him into their home and felt a great despair at seeing them. He piled loose straw around the bodies and touched the flame to it.
The dry grass caught quickly, forcing the men back outside. Sloan and the others looked as the flames quickly engulf the interior, then Sloan signed the cross over the house and turned to go. They made it back to the birlinn, as the flames made it through the thatch roof and smoke billowed out. Braedon looked at Sloan and the men returning and then to the smoke. He spoke no words, but his face belied his grief at what had to be done. The men boarded and in moments, the scraping of the hull stopped as it made deep water and the oars were set and rowed. They made it to the point at Eilean Musdile, when one of the Stewart's shouted the alarm that two sails were coming across.
The oars were worked hard to bring their speed up, the arms of the men straining hard as they pumped the oars. Malcolm's burning vengeance was driving him to avenge his brother's death and the reason for it lay in the birlinn ahead of him. Braedon's birlinn entered the Sound of Mull and caught the surge of breeze in the sail, increasing their speed and the distance between them. Sloan stood with Braedon watching the two enemy birlinns behind them.
"We ha'e the advantage, Sloan, they'll ne'er catch us. If they come close enough, I ha'e something fer them that they'll wish they had a stayed in their castle."
"What's that Laird Braedon?" Sloan asked him, wondering what was on board that he
"What every man fears the most, Sloan, fire." Braedon divulged to him.
"But we don'ne ha'e any fire wi' us." Sloan said, stating the obvious.
"Ready the arras for fire men." Braedon commanded them.
Two men quickly went forward and retrieved a small cask and a small tarp. While one man opened the cask, the other collected arrows and laid them beside it. They quickly stripped rows off the tarp and wound them around the ends of the arrows, before dipping them in the oil. A small metal bowl with crumpled strips of oil-soaked tarp was lit using a flint to light it.
"Let them gain on us men. slow your oars and all the men in the back make ready yer arras." Braedon ordered them.
The strokes of the oars lessened and the attacking birlinns began closing the distance. When they were within striking distance, Braedon gave the order.
"Light the arras and shoot at the sails, men."
The oil soaked tips were lit and eight men quickly rose and took aim at both sails approaching. The arrows were released and streaks of black smoke trailed behind them, showing their trajectory. The arrows struck the sails centre mass and the flames quickly lept up the hemp fibres, bringing them into a raging blaze. The MacDougall's stopped rowing and cut the sails down to avoid having both birlinns engulfed in flames. The distance increased quickly between them, as Sloan and Braedon looked back at the attackers, using swords to push the burning sails overboard. Braedon knew they were safe now from attack and eased up on their speed to one that would allow the men to rest from rowing, while the breezes carried them towards Tioram.