Donal' Ch. 03bykendo1©
Cracks and hisses came from the roaring fire as Donal' sat leaning back against the side of the hearth. He had spent another uneventful day waiting for the night to come and Mhari to appear.
He watched her run her tongue over her lips, concentration on her face. She held up a hand and ran her thumb over the tips of her fingers. Satisfied with the result she looked down to her breasts and her brow furrowed as she concentrated. Her breasts started to swell and fill out. A satisfied smile lit up Mhari's face and she looked to Donal'.
"Close yer mouth, Donal'." She looked back down at her achievement and brought her hands up to hold her breasts. "I always wanted them to be bigger, and now I can..." Mhari looked towards him. "The lads were always chasing after the bigger girls." Her eyes locked on to his. "What do you think?" she asked.
Donal' thought before answering, "They suit ye. But... ye were beautiful before." His gaze travelled up from her breasts to her eyes.
"Ye'r a rare find, Donal'. Thank you." She blurred and came back into focus wearing a skirt and bodice, her figure returned to normal.
Mhari sat in silence for a few seconds and seemed to come to a decision. She held his gaze and said, "I feel... no, I know I can trust ye, Donal'. The mark of the star on the medallions ye took, I've seen it before. It was on a sword my faither showed to me on my return from Edinburgh. A sword held in trust, he said. It's still here."
Donal' frowned. "I think ye'r mistaken, Mhari. I've been through all the rooms and there's only leaves and dust."
"Not all the rooms. There's another."
He thought back to earlier in the day when he had explored the ruins. "I don't remember seeing any door."
"Ye wouldn't have seen it. Come, I'll show ye, but ye'll have to get the key first from my faither's room"
Donal' stood up and threw his cloak around his shoulders. He took the torch from the wall bracket, relit it in the fire and followed Mhari to the west tower.
Mhari stood by the fireplace looking at the wall bracket to one side. "The key is there if ye look closely."
Donal' held his torch up and peered at the bracket. As part of an intricate design was a large key, only noticeable if you knew it was there. He pulled it free and asked, "Where now?"
"The kitchens. There's a trapdoor that leads down to a cellar. Ye'll have to move some stones." Mhari led the way back down the stairs and through to the kitchen.
Donal' looked over the floor and to a pile of rubble against the inside wall. "Under there?" he asked her.
He placed his torch against the wall and began moving the stones and timbers to one side.
The trapdoor was made of strong timbers; an iron ring was at one end, two sturdy hinges at the other. Donal' pulled up on the iron ring and let the trapdoor fall back against the stones he had moved. A smell of damp wafted up from the open cellar. He picked up his torch and waved it over the hole in the floor to see wooden steps descending into the darkness. He looked up at Mhari.
"The steps don't go down far. After you," she said.
Donal' tested the first step; it was sound. He descended to the flagged floor and peered about.
The floor and walls near the steps were damp, as were the small sacks of foodstuffs that had been stored there. Further away from the trapdoor the floor was dry. Shelves filled with clay jars lined the walls. Donal' resisted the temptation to inspect the contents; after so long a time it was doubtful if anything remained edible.
"Ye'll find a door further back."
Donal' walked between the shelves until he came to the end wall and an ironbound door there. The lock resisted the key but eventually gave with a loud grating of metal against metal. He pushed the door open and entered.
The room was small. A table stood against the right hand wall with shelves above. A rack of serviceable weapons was beyond the table and two metal bound chests sat on the floor below.
Donal' turned his attention to the shelves. There were a few ledgers, writing instruments, and a bottle of long dried out ink. The top shelf held what they were looking for: a long, narrow, wooden case. He took the case down and laid it on the table, wiped dust from the lid and opened it.
The hilt and guard were of gold and the pommel was set with a large emerald, the blade was wrapped in oilcloth.
"A pretty weapon," said Donal'. He lifted the sword from the case and unwrapped the blade. It was untarnished and the edges were beautifully sharp. Donal' weighed the sword in his hand. "Light and well balanced, not just pretty." Etched into the blade near the hilt was a five pointed star, a sunburst radiating from behind. "A Templar sword then."
"It should be returned to its rightful owners."
"But not tonight." Donal' wrapped the blade in its cloth and placed it back in the case, closed the lid. "The chests?" he asked. "Coins. A Laird needs some ready coins. Several hundred pounds normally, mostly English."
"More than a life time's wages for the likes of me!" He opened the chests to gaze at the riches. "Too much," he sighed. Donal' closed the chests and stood up.
"Are ye not tempted?"
"Naw! What would I do with it? I couldn't carry it and I can't eat it. I've enough in my pouches upstairs, lass." He looked up from the chests to her eyes. "Ye are all the temptation I need."
They returned to Donal's fire. A steady drizzle had started to fall, turning the snow in the exposed great hall to slush, and the wind was picking up. By morning the snow would have melted away.
Donal' lay down beside the fire, his hands behind his head, and stared up at the ceiling. "Have ye seen much of the world, lass?"
Mhari knelt close to him with her hands in her lap. "Not much. Across to the mainland, as I've told ye. I spent some time in France. Yerself?"
"Just the mainland. I travelled to Edinburgh last year with some papers for my faither. Maybe one day I'll travel further, but I like it here."
He noticed a blurring from the corner of his eye and felt a coldness wrap around his cock. He looked down to see Mhari stroking him.
"It's time. I need ye again." She straddled his hips and adjusted his cock to slide down onto him. Mhari concentrated as she rode him. "I don't know how long I can keep this up."
"Ye'r doing fine, lass." He raised himself on his elbows to watch her.
Mhari rose up on her knees to ride the head of Donal's cock. Her breasts did not bounce as she moved up and down on him as her silvery eyes gazed down at him. She leaned forward to brush her mouth against his and he felt her cold tongue part his lips and her cool, long hair caress his face. Donal' raised his hips as he came and Mhari sank onto him clutching her stomach with both hands. A hiss escaped her lips and her silvery eyes widened. She settled down on him and rested her head in her hands, her elbows on his chest, and stared into his eyes. "Thank ye again, kind sir."
"Anytime," he said. He lay back, placed his hands behind his head, and closed his eyes. He could feel her cool breasts press against his stomach, the cold of her arms leaning on his chest. "Either I'm getting used to ye, or ye are not as cold as ye were, Mhari."
"I feel all hot inside." She leaned forward to kiss his lips.
He felt the brief, cool fluttering of butterfly wings against his lips as he drifted off to sleep.
Mhari watched him for a while. She stood, staggered, and put a hand out to steady herself. She felt dizzy. She closed her eyes and held her head in her hands. Colours swam behind her eyelids and she felt sick. She clutched her stomach to ease the pain wracking her and sat down at Donal's side as heat washed over her face.
Mhari awoke. She was cold, though not in the same way as before. She looked down to see that she was naked. She willed her clothes into existence. Nothing happened. She looked over to where Donal' lay wrapped in his cloak.
"Donal'!" Her voice was plain to hear though a touch of fear could be heard in it. She said louder, "Donal'!" Donal' awoke. He crouched, his sword ready in his hand, and he searched around for danger. He relaxed when nothing was evident, sheathed his sword and regarded Mhari. A mischievous look came over his face. "There's no need to shout if y'er wanting a cuddle, Mhari." His flippant mood turned to concern when he noticed the tears on her face.
He quickly grabbed his cloak, threw it around her shoulders, and hugged her close. "Mhari, my Mhari! What's wrong with ye, lass?" He suddenly realized what he was doing; he held her shoulders. His cloak should have fallen to the ground and his hands should have gone straight through her.
Donal' held her at arm's length to see her look of fear and joy as her tears fell freely. His eyes blurred as his own tears came.
Mhari laughed, words tumbled out of her like a waterfall. "I'm cold, Donal'! It's wonderful! I'm cold! I'd forgotten what it feels like to be cold on the outside." She took a deep breath and savoured it. "I can smell leaves and..." She looked at him, wrinkling her nose. "Ye need a bath, Donal'." She threw her arms around him, to hug him close, and to feel his body against hers. She laid her head on his shoulder, closed her eyes, and sighed.
Mhari's nose wrinkled again. "Ye are a bit... ripe."
"I've been busy!"
"Ye'r not now!"
"Woman, are ye nagging me?"
"I'm not nagging, ye great lump! I'm here; I'm real, and the first thing I smell is a great, hairy heathen who hasn't had a wash in a month!" She shivered. "Och, I'm cold!"
Donal' hugged her close to him. "I'll get the fire going." He held her at arms length to study her. Her eyes were bright blue with flecks of gray, her hair long, fine, golden blond. Her face was gaunt and gray. "Stay here," he said, moved to the fire and threw logs on to the embers. He moved her closer to the fire and said, "Ye're looking a wee bit thin, lass. I'll fix up a thin broth for ye."
"Thank ye, Donal'." Mhari held her hands out to the welcome warmth of the flames.
Donal' threw the remains of his broth away and rinsed his kettle and bowl out, filled it with fresh water and set it to boil on the fire while he searched for herbs. He spotted some dandelions and decided a weak tea would be better for her. He returned to Mhari and placed a few dandelion and nettle leaves into his kettle.
"How are ye doing, lass?"
Mhari rubbed her hands together and glanced at Donal's concerned face. "I'll live. Never thought I'd say that again!"
Donal' dipped his bowl into the tea and handed it to her. "Just sip. Don't take too much or I'll have some cleaning to do."
She accepted the tea and sipped at the hot peppery liquid. "Thank ye. Ye'r a man of many talents." She sipped again.
Donal' watched her. The gray cast to her skin was turning to pink. His cloak about her shoulders was open at the front to allow the heat from the fire to warm her. Her ribs were prominent, and her hips, and her knees. "You need fattening up, Mhari. We'll get some meat on yer bones before ye break. And, ah... ye'll need some clothes, much as I like ye as ye are. How's the tea?"
"Warming." She looked down at herself. "I am a wee bit thin, but I'll be fine. A bit more tea and I'll have a sleep."
"I'll get more wood."
Donal' replenished the stock of firewood and checked on his traps. Two unlucky rabbits were skinned, cleaned and hung up on the wall bracket. Mhari sipped at her tea as he knelt beside her.
"I'll have to leave for awhile to get a few things for ye. Will ye be all right until I return?"
"I'll be fine, Donal'. I'll rest for a bit. Don't be long."
"I'll be back before nightfall. And I'll leave ye my knife." He laid the knife down beside her, threw another log on the fire and took a last look at Mhari before he turned and left.
Donal' set off at a dogtrot, jogged a hundred paces then walked a hundred. The ground was wet and slippery under his feet but the weather had cleared and he made good time. A strong breeze was behind him as he made his way down the glen, through the Scots pine, oak and birch of the ancient forest.
The hamlet of Cannach was busy. Fair weather coincided with market day and the locals were taking advantage of the occurrence. A two masted ship lay at anchor in the bay and a few sailors mingled with the crowd.
Donal' spotted a few girls he knew gossiping near the Merkat Cross; a couple of lads nearby eyed them up. He marched up to the girls and looked them over to judge their size.
"Ye'll do, Maggie!" he said. "I have need of you. Come with me!"
The girls laughed at Maggie's embarrassment.
"Ye'r a bit impatient today, Donal'! No fair words first before ye try to get into my skirt?"
"Another time, lass. That's not what I need ye for. There's a groat in it for ye if ye'll help me."
"For a groat ye can have me here!"
Donal's face clouded. He grabbed her hand and pulled her along behind him.
"All right, Donal'. I'm coming! I've never seen ye like this."
"I'm in a hurry and ye'r about the right size," he explained as he pulled her along. "I need ye to get me some women's clothes." He stopped at her quizzical look. "Not for me, lass, for a friend. She needs everything: smock, skirt, bodice, shoes. And something warm, a cloak maybe. But no plaid." He held her hands and looked into her eyes. "Will ye do this for me, Maggie?"
She could see the desperation and impatience on his face and nodded. "Aye, Donal'. Ye know I will. Is she all right? Do I know her?"
"Ye wouldn't know her. She was robbed but she's fine," Donal' half lied. He handed Maggie a handful of coins from one of his pouches. "Here, ye'll need this."
Maggie's eyes opened wide as she saw the gold and silver English, not Scottish, coins in her hand.
"Warm clothes, remember?"
Maggie nodded as she stared at the coins. "Warm clothes." She dragged her gaze from the coins to his face. "You said she's about my size?"
Donal' looked Maggie up and down. "Aye, about yer height, but not so big up top."
Maggie smiled and leaned forward to peck him on the cheek. "Ye'r a fine man, Donal'."
"Off with ye, lass! I'll meet ye back here, I've other things to arrange." He slapped her buttocks as she turned, and went in search of some mounts and provisions.
He turned to see an old friend, Callum, run up to him.
"I've been looking all over for ye." Callum put a hand on Donal's shoulder. "Grave news, Donal'. It's yer faither!"
"What's happened to him?"
"He's been murdered!"
Donal's expression hardened. "Tell me more."
"Helen found him last night." Callum lowered his gaze to the ground.
Helen was well known in a few of the villages. She preferred older men and made it her duty to keep them company for the night; just to warm their beds, she would say. It must have been his faither's turn, thought Donal'.
"He was stabbed in the back. Cowardly bastards!" Callum shook his head and looked to Donal'. "Auld Meg said two strangers from the mainland had come looking for him the day before."
Donal' gave Callum a sharp look. "Two strangers, ye said?" Callum nodded. "They came looking for me, too." At Callum's questioning look Donal' continued, "Two nights ago I met two men, but they weren't in a speaking mood." Donal' placed a hand on the hilt of his sword. "They're not in a fit state to talk now." His gaze dropped to the ground. "Callum, would ye see to my faither's wake? There's something I need to do. Faither would understand. I need to look after the living, the dead will have to wait."
"Of course, Donal'. I'll see to it."
"Ye can use this." He handed Callum one of the pouches he had taken from his father's murderers. "They might as well pay for faither's wake."
Callum hefted the pouch in his hand and said, "We'll have a wake fit for a king!"
"He'd have liked that. I'll be back when I can." They embraced and parted.
Maggie was waiting for him, a travel bag at her feet. He dismounted and walked the last few paces to her. "Many thanks to ye, Maggie."
"Ye'r welcome, Donal'. I bought a few extras; a brush, comb and mirror for her." She wrinkled her nose. "And ye might want to use this." She held out a bar of soap.
"Ye'r the second one today to say that! Am I really that ripe?" He sniffed under his arms.
Maggie laughed. "No! Not too bad. Women appreciate these things, if ye haven't noticed."
"I've never given it much thought," he said and smiled back at her.
"Ye great lump," she said and hit him on the arm. "Away with ye, off to yer woman!" Maggie threw her arms around him and hugged him. "Good luck, Donal'." She held him at arm's length to look in his eyes. "If it doesn't work out between the two of ye, I'll be here."
Donal' bent forward to kiss her hair. "Thanks, Maggie." He picked up the travel bag and turned to his mounts.
"Donal'!" Maggie held out a hand half filled with coins.
He closed her hand about the coins. "Keep it, lass. Buy something for yerself."
Tears came to her eyes and she threw her arms about his neck. "Oh, Donal'! She's a lucky woman."
Donal' was still smiling as he approached the castle; he had always been fond of Maggie. He noticed a thin haze of smoke hung about the ruins, plain for anyone to see, and his smile turned to concern.
He dismounted near the ruins of the great hall and tethered the nervous ponies, quieted them with a few strokes to their flanks. It was not just people who were wary of approaching the castle.
Mhari slept curled up in front of the fire with Donal's cloak wrapped tightly around her. The two rabbits he had skinned and cleaned before he left that morning were gone and in their place was a small pile of cooked bones. At least she hadn't eaten them raw, he thought.
He returned to the ponies to unload and unsaddle them. He led them around to the back of the ruins to keep them from sight of any passersby.
Mhari stirred as he picked out the driest firewood and placed it on the fire.
"How are ye?"
Mhari cracked an eye to peer up at him, swallowed and licked her lips. "Tired, hungry, thirsty, sore, cold and happy."
"Not all bad, then?" Donal smiled at her.
"And I have a headache."
Donal' tried to stifle a laugh, failed, and tears came to his eyes.
"What's so funny, ye buffoon?"
"Ye must be back to normal! Not twenty-four hours back in the world and ye have a headache!"
Mhari sat up and regarded him from under beetled brows.
"I'm sorry, Mhari." He wiped his eyes and brought himself back under control. "I reckon I'm just relieved ye'r all right."
"Hmph! I'll forgive ye this time, Donal' MacDonald." Her mock anger evaporated and she grinned at him. "So, what have ye brought me?"
"Food, clothes, some odds and ends, and a wee surprise which ye'll have to wait for!"
Mhari cocked an eyebrow at him. "A surprise? I'm intrigued." She opened the travelling case and pulled out the contents.
Donal' stood, his hands behind his back. "I'll be back in a wee while."
Mhari was engrossed in her new clothes, muttered, "All right," to him as he left.
Donal' stood on the bank of the stream behind the castle and looked up at Am Bastair. "Ye'r a fine omen," he said to it and plunged, fully clothed, into the deepest part of the stream. "Hup ma bob! Whooh!" he shouted as the icy water closed about his balls. He ducked his head under the surface and came up blowing water from his mouth and nose. Donal' clutched the bar of soap in his hand and regarded it. "Ye'r going to make a new man of me!"
He placed the soap down on a convenient rock and stripped. His skin became lighter in colour as the weeks of dirt was removed, turned red from the harsh soap and cold water. He turned his attention to his tunic and kilt, washed them too. He had forgotten the original colour of his kilt; a rich deep blue with black lines woven through.