Scotland Chapters 11-13



Chapter 11
Eighty-eight pebbles later.

“Thank you, Liv.” William said to the woman clearing his breakfast dishes from the table. She smiled and nodded her head. “How is your husband this morning?”

Liv was still becoming accustomed to the alteration in the man who she worked for and answered simply that her husband’s arm was healing well. William D’Arcy said more to her in the last few months then he ever did in the seven years she had been at the keep. Those who knew him were all talking about it, but that was not all they were doing; they were also giving him a chance. It was difficult for some of the folks to separate William from the other D’Arcys that lived in town, and those people only viewed him as callus and cruel like his uncle but slowly William was winning them over by being genuine. So when William made an error like calling them by the wrong name or appearing confused when they referenced something any good Scot would know, they forgave him because he was trying.

“Did the salve help?” He asked. “Miach in town said it worked the best”

“Aye! The cut isn’t weepin’ any more. Much thanks.”

“Are you well off in essentials? Food, bandages, wood?” After she answered in the affirmative, William continued to press her in case her pride would not allow her to accept his aid. “You will tell Mavis if you run short? There’s no need to do without while Alastair is recuperating.”

Liv smiled again as William left the table and returned to his chamber to complete his packing. He still had seven days before departure but the act of preparing gave him a useful release for his pent up energy. Passing Elisabeth’s room on his way to his own, he stopped as the idea that she might have left something behind she would want occurred to him.

William had been living on hope since his return from Urquhart and to do this he had to block out harsh facts from his mind when contemplating how he would find Elisabeth. It had been near eight months since she had left and no one; not even the twelve men he now employed could locate her. There were occasions when his confidence was shaky at best, nights when he would lay awake in his bed fighting with his own knowledge that when people were as well hidden as Elisabeth they were rarely found. But his optimism always won out because of his own persistence.

The room continued to remain unchanged except for the weekly dusting his housekeeper Mavis preformed. William opened the painted armoire Elisabeth had stored her clothing in and removed a few articles including a blue gown and pair of boots. He was no expert on women’s wear but if he remembered a conversation they had long ago, Elisabeth said something about not being fond of the cut of the garment. The boots of course were practical and needed to be packed. He laid the gown out on her bed while he made his decision and inadvertently hit the nightstand with his foot sending the small jar she left on top of it falling to the floor.

After surveying the damage he had caused, William picked up the jar that had survived the fall and began to pick the colorful pebbles off of the floor. He had to crawl under her bed to retrieve three but in time he found them all. Shifting them from one hand to another as his attention returned to making a decision about the gown he froze and opened his palm fully to examine the pebbles.

William sat on the edge of the bed and recalled the knowledge his sister had imparted on him. Counting carefully he reached the number twenty-nine. Reaching over for the container he was about to pour them in when he heard a few more that had not fallen out tap against the glass. He turned the jar over on the table and freed eight more, adding them to the ones he was already holding. William recounted them all. Twice. Then his heart stopped for a moment as his mind concluded that his insensitivity toward Elisabeth cost him not only the woman he loved, but also their child.

It was a brutal awakening he experienced, and no mercy was granted as possibilities no man should ever endure made themselves known to William. Elisabeth and their child could be living on the street for all he knew, they could be hurt or treated with contempt by strangers because the child would be born without a father. He grew angry imagining people shunning Elisabeth, not knowing that she would never treat another person that way in return. And finally William took full responsibility for sleeping with her without thinking about the consequences of his actions.

A new form of reality was born as he held those pebbles in his hand. With an even clearer understanding about why Elisabeth left and what she took with her, William’s hopeful determination blossomed into something else. Faith.

William would be the one to find Elisabeth.


Elisabeth attempted to stand as Sir John entered what she used as a modest sitting room, but his gesture for her to remain seated was a pleasant relief. Her belly was big and movements she used to take for granted now required an uncoordinated grace she often did not possess. It was not the custom for men to call upon women in the state Elisabeth presently was, but the man who had entered her home never did quite grasp custom and Elisabeth would not turn him away to appease propriety anyhow.

She only had two male connections in all of France, Sir John and a dressmaker she knew, and when she arrived many months ago Elisabeth was faced with the need to procure aid from a male counterpart to represent her interests. A single woman without family or protection was faced with multiple obstacles in a world dominated by men; therefore she found a man to get her what she wanted. The plain truth may seem heartless on Elisabeth’s part as if she was taking advantage of the poor man, but she handled her situation with dignity and courtesy. Indeed Sir John had no designs toward Elisabeth, but was delighted to help her without expectation of return. Their brief history together made her special to him, yet it was never romantic.

“Is your health good?” The older man asked her in her native tongue as he sat in the only other chair that graced her small but clean chamber. Looking around the room he felt it lacked nothing but color and was quite suitable for a woman of Elisabeth’s needs. Simple, yet functional.

“I would say so and I thank you for the inquiry.”

Her words came too quickly for him to comprehend and Sir John asked with a pity-seeking grin “May I not speak French?”

“Of course,” Elisabeth smiled back. “You may speak whatever language you chose and I will do my best to follow along.”

“Do you know why I am here?” Shaking her head, Elisabeth hoped she knew the motive for his appearance this day but she did not want to place too much expectancy on the reason.

“It has been made legal.” Her smile widened at his words. “I had to tell a few lies to make it come about, but you are legitimate.”

Sir John had to tell more than a few lies, he had to recite an entire history that never existed to bring about what Elisabeth had boldly asked for, and she had not requested from him a humble favor but several complicated ones.

Elisabeth’s heart swelled with joy. This occurring before her baby was born was all she could have wished for. “How can I thank you?”

“You need not. It is a shame about your doomed sailor husband dyin’ at sea, I nearly shed a tear retellin’ the story.” Sir John teased to alleviate her mood.

“You understand why I had to do that? Lie?” To be clear, there were some rules Elisabeth was willing to break if it was to protect her baby, and she was pretty sure God would forgive her this one time.

“I only wish you would tell me the blackheart’s name. Damn, Elisabeth! You are a stubborn woman.” He eyed her like a man would his own daughter. No matter how many times he asked, Elisabeth would not reveal the identity of the man who was the father of her child. “Where was D’Arcy when all of this occurred?”

“I’ve already told you that he was away.” Elisabeth desired no confrontation between the two men and made William the innocent. She did not believe Sir John and William had a close acquaintance, and prayed the elder man would not mention her whereabouts if ever questioned, though she doubted William cared enough to ask.

Sir John shrugged his shoulders. “You will be well? Do you have enough money?”

“Your negotiating has made that so, and I am eternally grateful for that.”

On her wrist was the ruby bracelet Janetta had given her but notably missing was the matching necklace. Elisabeth was never going to wear it again because it was from William and her heart was still hard against him, therefore she had Sir John sell it so she could provide safe shelter for her child. Elisabeth would not soften her opinion of William because she called on the strength that anger gave her to make it through the day sometimes. Of course she was frightened about the future, but Elisabeth was not weak and she would not falter. The necklace was a small sacrifice.

“Once the child is old enough I will seek out a situation to earn my keep so I won’t have to use all the resources I have set aside.”

“Good Lass! I have a present for you outside.” Sir John returned a short time later with a cradle under his arm. “A gift for the Widow Grant and her babe.”

This was the name she had been using since her feet first touched French soil and it did not phase Elisabeth to hear it come from a man who knew better. An identity became a necessity when she arrived at port to register and she would not use her or William’s surname, so she chose the first one that came to mind. Her status change was also required because she was not going to let her child suffer from the stigma of being born out of wedlock.

This was also the reason William could not find her. He was looking for Elisabeth Benoit and that woman no longer existed. In fact, Elisabeth never left the port city she had arrived in except for a brief trip to Paris to call on Sir John Stewart. The man William hired to initiate the search did not have the information about the Grant connection and disregarded the name of E. Kathryn Grant when he read it.

Blue Dress on a Sunday.

“Have you thought about what you want?” Jorgen asked Smith as they stood alone in his father’s sitting room. Wallace had taken ill with an imaginary complaint and could not join them in their conversation. Jorgen believed it to be related to avoidance, which was convenient and rather thoughtful of him. He preferred to handle Smith alone and without his father’s babble distracting them.

“Yes. Follow me.” Smith walked to the window facing the docks of Elgin and pointed at the boat William D’Arcy had recently purchased. “I want that.”

“A fair choice,” Jorgen admitted with a touch of regret in his voice. If this was what Smith required as payment for his services then he would set aside his own plans for the vessel. Jorgen could just buy another boat in its place in the near future, one custom built for him to accommodate his needs. “A fair price. Come with me to my study.”

As the two men stepped out of the sitting room, Cora opened her door catching the attention of the man wearing the robe of a monk. Familiarity passed between the two, her pupils wide as they followed him. She was not a wise woman, nor pretty but she did follow instructions exceedingly well just as her father had bragged many times over. It was her only virtue and one Smith secretly took much delight in. Cora was the sort of woman who craved male acceptance in any form. Her father and brother gave her no attention unless it was negative, and they rarely did that. Therefore she sought it elsewhere.

Left alone far too often, Cora found acceptance in herself by giving pleasure to others. Preferably men. A man could tell any story to bed her and she would believe it.

Smith found her gullibility refreshing and that trait coupled with her loose morals endeared her to him. She had mentioned to him on occasion that she had hoped to wed a man of fortune someday. Smith had not thought much about marrying her, but there was a possibility that he could be tempted to put his robe away permanently for a woman like Cora. The man of fortune Cora mentioned Smith was not destined to be, that is until Jorgen made him an offer that could change his situation in life dramatically.

“You can have Cora, too, but we will not take her back when she becomes tiresome to you.” Jorgen said blandly, having caught the exchange. Smith should have been offended by the manner Jorgen addressed his sister, but he was not. It was not as if he loved her, he just desired her.

Once inside the room, Jorgen locked the door behind them before beginning to hand Smith the tools he would need for his journey. His first item was a bag of Norwegian coins. “Do you remember what I told you these were for?”

“Yes, those are for good luck. Old Norse superstition says that nothing can harm a man when he carries coins with the names of the Gods on them.”

“Correct, although not accurate but that is not important. Thankfully none of them will be able to read. Make sure the men’s pockets are filled with those.” Jorgen next gave him a wrapped package that created a flutter in Smith’s heart. He had always wanted to be a priest, but the costume was as near as a man like Smith could hope to attain.

“I would not put this on until you were at the meeting place.” Jorgen advised. “Or at least out of Grant territory.”

“Is a collar in there?”

“Of course Father Smith.” Jorgen went to his cabinet and brought a black glass vial that he handled with a thickly woven cloth. “Don’t get this on you.”

“You’re warning the wrong man.” Smith used the cloth to wrap the vial then placed it in a thick leather pouch he was wearing around his waist. His hand did not tremble as he fingered the poison for he could hardly fear something he had handled before.

Jorgen paused in front of his cabinet with both hands on the doors admiring his collection and for a moment he forgot Smith was even there with him in the room. He loved his science and it was his true calling regardless of how he applied the knowledge he had worked to obtain. All he saw before him were answers and possibilities, all neatly tucked away in glass jars waiting their turn for his notice, just mysteries wanting to be solved. On the left side of the second shelf sat a small clear glass vial with a small red star painted on it. Jorgen kept this one away from the others for no other reason but because he revered it.

“Do you have a knife in case I need it?” Smith asked as he sorted through his own belongings he had not yet packed.

Lovingly taking the vial with the star from the cabinet into his own hand, Jorgen thought about the man’s question. He did not want to give Smith anything that might be directly traced back to him, and refused his request. “No, can you use one of the men’s?”

“I’ll work it out.” Smith collected other items left out for his benefit including a rough map, a book of prayers, and new rosary beads. The satchel on his horse was packed and at nightfall he would leave Jorgen’s home.

“It will start tonight. I’m going to my cousins for supper. He wants to make me privy to his finalized plans before he leaves for France next week. William’s all anticipation about his journey. It makes me think, really.” Jorgen suddenly felt philosophical and shared his insight with Smith who was not interested. “How many good intentions have never come to fruition? We men try so had to bring order in our lives by preparing and yet…”

“A white cloth on the fence means we do not proceed.”

“Yes.” Jorgen agreed, not offended by his musings being cut short. “One last time just to give me comfort, please. You do trust these men?”

“I trust their abilities and their greed.”

“You will not stray from our strategy? Will you once again explain to those men not to take their own initiative?”

“I will.”

“Well,” Jorgen said in a cheerful manner as he pocketed a second glass tube from a table... “I must go meet with my cousin. Will you walk with me to the door?”

“William,” Jorgen finished the wine in his glass. “What are you going to do with your home in Oslo while you’re away?”

“I have no need to change the routine there. Why do you ask?”

“You just informed me that you don’t know how long you’ll be gone, yet you make it appear as if you are expecting it to be of a long continuance. It would be a shame for you to lose the house you bought there because of your absence.”

“The taxes and staff are being paid by my solicitor. I’m not concerned about it.” That was true. If the home burnt to the ground William would not give it a second thought. He had only one goal and all else paled in comparison. The discovery he made this morning in Elisabeth’s chamber fueled his urgency to being his process of locating her. Tomorrow the man who would captain his boat was expected to arrive at port and William was going to approach him about getting the crew collected and leaving earlier then planned.

Jorgen motioned to a cabinet across the room. He was tiring of the small talk and the excitement building in him was begging for release. “Is that the Grant whiskey behind you?”


“You just said ‘aye.’ You’re haven’t decided to acknowledge your Scottish heritage at this late date, have you?” Jorgen rose from his comfortable chair and went over to the bottle, turning up two of the glasses near by. He did not miss a beat of the conversation as a slight of a hand delivered five droplets from his dearest vial to one of the glasses. “I say Frederic Grant has affected your language skills.”

“He’s a respectable man doing me a great favor. Most men would benefit from imitation of him.”

“Fergus told me that he contributed enormously to his nephew’s upbringing. His reputation will always be spotless.”

“It is an earned reputation, Jorgen. The finest you can hope to be bestowed upon you. I have yet to meet Malcolm, but I would agree that Keiron and Cameron display his influence.” William took the glass Jorgen handed him. “Are we switching to the whiskey?”

“A good drink of whiskey made by our Scottish kin to mark your departure seems appropriate.”

“I concur.” William lifted the glass to his lips and drank half the contents. The warmth of the alcohol produced a soothing sensation as he swallowed which many considered a sign of a quality spirit.

“William, I must ask why you choose a stranger that Frederic advocated over family to maintain D’Arcy Keep while you are away? That question has been troubling me since you informed me of your decision.”

“Bisset’s recommendations were two-fold. He has experience managing tenants and he is an elder of the clan. If a problem were to arise, I know he would have resources plenty for him to draw from. I meant no slight to you, Jorgen. You do understand that?”

“Yes, or ‘aye’ I should say.” After William finished his drink Jorgen offered him another despite his cousin’s resistance to the idea. “I will have no one to savor a fine liquor with except my father once you are gone.”

“One last glass, then.” William agreed and with this decision his fate was sealed. When all was done and the toxin that Jorgen had created himself was beginning to take effect, Jorgen posed one more question to his cousin while William was attempting to disguise the light headedness that had abruptly come upon him.

“William, do you believe in an immortal soul?”

Janetta wiped moisture from her bottom lip as sat on their bed watching Cameron begin to undress for the night. She could not explain what was happening to her, but for the past few weeks she wanted her husband all of the time just like when they were first married. It was not for conversation purposes and Cameron did not seem to have a problem with it. A creative thought sprang into her mind, one worthy of getting him into bed for the second time that day and she scooted herself off of their mattress.

Cameron removed his belt and had started unwrapping his tartan when he heard the distinctive sound of wood being beat against wood in the room. Turning around, he took in the vision of Janetta wearing nothing but a smile and a practice shield on her left arm covering her ever-growing belly. In her right hand she had a wooden sword raised in the air.

Bringing the butt of the sword down, she pounded it against the shield twice in challenge of a duel as she had seen him do numerous times before when training, but the glint in her eyes betrayed her real intent. Cameron decided at that moment that God had been good to him as a smile matching Janetta’s graced his face.

Before Janetta could blink, his mouth on hers as the sword fell to the floor making a racket which neither worried about. He could not have known that it was Janetta’s hormones driving her to act so wanton, but he would not of cared anyway. Cameron grasped the edge of the shield so she could remove her arm, and just as freedom was obtained a desperate knock on their door interrupted them.

“It never stops,” he moaned with his lips still against her. Jerking his head back in frustration, Janetta saw his jaw tighten and quickly covered her ears.

“WHAT?” Cameron bellowed before removing one of her hands to tell her in a lowered voice not to forget what she was thinking because this would not take long. He stared at her mouth as an answer came.

“I have a letter for your wife from Elgin.” A weary man called from the other side of the door.

“Tell him to slide it under the door.” Janetta hissed. “It’s just from William.”

“I can’t.” Defeated, Cameron retrieved her nightshirt from the bed and once she was dressed, opened the door a crack as not to expose her to whoever was on the other side.

Cameron recognized the man and greeted him as he took the letter and handed it to Janetta. “Wells, did William pay you?”

“No, but this is not from him. I was just told to ride hard.”

“Let me get you somethin’.” Cameron went over to where they kept the coins they paid the men who delivered their messages and sorted out the appropriate amount times two. The man looked exhausted. He next instructed him to get something to eat and a warm bed downstairs for the night. After closing the door, Cameron looked over at Janetta who was already reading. She was pale.

“Cameron, William is sick.” Janetta said not lifting her eyes from the paper. “Very ill. Jorgen won’t leave his side. He’s been this way for five days. My cousin doesn’t think it’s catching because he’s fine.”

She stopped and gazed up at Cameron with dread. “He doesn’t think William’s going to live.”

“Read it all to me.”


As I write this, your brother is lying in a bed next to me ill. I can’t in good conscience leave his side because of the severity of his symptoms. I have been here these past five days and nights assisting the kind people at the keep who care for him. None of us show signs of illness after exposure to him for such an extended period.

I know that you and I have not always been the best of friends, but I want you to understand that I take no pleasure in bringing you this pain. We share familiar blood after all, and I will be blunt with you out of respect for our lineage. I believe your brother will not recover.

Janetta, if you have any wish to be with him now would be the time to do so. Only God knows for certain the fate of William, but it appears to me that God is not hiding his design of taking your brother to His home.

I regret being the bearer of this information to you, but am convinced you would want to have the knowledge that family is at William’s side. My father and sister will be arriving today to take their turn at sitting with him.

With love and great sympathy,
Jorgen D’Arcy

“Cameron, I have to go.” Her voice was but a whisper. “Please.”

“I don’t think it’s safe for you to ride that distance.” Cameron looked down at her. Janetta’s size had baffled all the women at Urquhart because no one could state with any confidence how much longer it might be until she delivered. She was such a petite person to begin with and although she had grown in size over the past three months, Janetta was still not very large. Willa’s latest forecast was that they had at least another two to three months to wait, but the early activity of the baby continued to baffle her. Unknown to all was that Janetta had actually conceived shortly after her marriage and she was closer to eight months pregnant. Simply put, Janetta was a small woman who would give birth to a small child.

“It could be made safe, if we go slow.”


“I could ride your horse. He’s sturdy, you’ve said so yourself.”

“It’s a very long way to travel.” Cameron cupped her chin in his hand; his heart being ripped out as he witnessed the distress on her face. “I could go and then we wouldn’t have to risk your health.”

“No. I won’t let him die being surrounded by Wallace, Jorgen, and Cora! They certainly don’t care if he suffers and I cannot imagine that will do any act to bring him comfort. But I tell you Cameron, I can hear them laughing and plotting how they will spend their inheritance once he is cold.” Janetta grasped his left hand, crumpling the letter in the process. “If it were Keiron you’d want to be with him, am I not correct? You wouldn’t want hateful people being the last that your brother saw.”

Cameron’s intuition screamed for him not to take her but he could not help but agree that nothing would stop him from being at his brother’s side especially if his life was fading. Kissing her on the forehead, Cameron put his shirt back on not bothering to tuck it in. He told her he was going to get Willa’s advice. Asking her to pack him a few things, Cameron pleaded with Janetta to wait to pack her own until they knew what his aunt thought they could do. If Willa said that it would be impossible for Janetta to make the journey, she’d have to adhere to her advice for the sake of herself and their child. She agreed to his terms and once he had left the room Janetta prayed.

The following morning they set off for Elgin. Perhaps Cameron’s weakness was that he could deny Janetta nothing if she truly desired it.

Janetta was not allowed to enter the keep until Cameron had made certain that no one exposed to William had taken ill. As she stood outside her former home, she concentrated on the old carved door marking the entryway while breathing slowly through her mouth. At Urquhart Janetta had discomfort like what she was experiencing at this moment as if her abdomen was tightening and it had always passed if she sat still for a while. She did not admit to Cameron that it had started half way through their travels, instead reassuring him that she had no ill side effects from the riding. It was the only time Janetta ever lied to her husband, but she felt in her heart that the means justified the end. William being unprotected at the mercy of their own family was never an alternative Janetta would consider no matter how sincere Jorgen’s letter seemed to be penned.

When Cameron opened the door to admit her entry his face wore a mask of sobriety. He had interviewed Jorgen while at William’s bedside alarmed by the appearance of his brother-in-law as he lay as blanched as a corpse. Had William not flinched Cameron would have felt for a pulse because death was not a stranger to him and he recognized the characteristics. He held little hope for improvement in his brother-in-law and when he was honest only with himself, Cameron felt this trip to Elgin would end with a funeral.

Jorgen was exhausted from keeping William on the edge of death for so long. Twice he had introduced too much of his blend into his cousin’s system but lady luck was on his side and William recovered just enough to be considered almost dead. Jorgen was reminded of an important lesson from those near disasters. When a man was dehydrated as William had become from the ingestion the oil of Adia that had been originally given to him to induce illness, he required less powder of the Del plant to maintain his current nightmare state. The science was simple really and he considered himself foolish for neglecting to recall the knowledge earlier.

He also knew that Janetta would come once she received his letter. Jorgen’s wording had been chosen for both simplicity and impact, and it was a great relief to him when Cameron came into the room and announced the Janetta was with him. Had she stayed behind at Urquhart a white flag would have been secured to a post to alert Smith’s men to the abortion of the plan. Janetta needed to go first; it was Jorgen’s wish and vision. If he had not allowed his self-adulation to rule him, Jorgen might have realized that he was making the demise of his cousins more tangled then it had to be, but Fear spoke to Jorgen and warned him to take extra precaution to deflect any possible suspicion away from himself. The thought that had originated with his father grew into the production Jorgen was now governing. It took great effort on Jorgen’s part but the role played by Smith would soon alleviate a portion of his burden, then and only then could William rest in peace by the hand of his own people.

“Is William breathing?” Janetta asked from the doorway, her eyes wide with panic that they had arrived too late. William did not look as if he was alive and she could not see his chest rise and fall.

“He is, come here.” After she complied, Jorgen took her hand and placed it over William’s heart so she could feel the movement when his lungs filled. His respirations were slow and shallow.

With one hand still in place, Janetta ran the back of the fingers over her brother’s forehead. Not once in her life had she ever seen him truly sick and the man lying on the bed Janetta could barely recognize. His skin was cold and there were veins in his face she had never noticed before. William jerked and she stepped back frightened by the sudden movement of it, but her hand on his chest remained affixed. “His heart is pounding. Why?”

“I don’t know.” Jorgen answered as William jerked again.

“Tell us what happened.” Cameron moved to the other side of the bed as he watched his wife inspect her brother. Jorgen was a more masterful storyteller than Janetta and as he wove his tale it rang with a truth impossible to question. He stressed that on the night William had taken ill, both of them shared the same food from serving bowls and drank identical alcohol. Poisoning was not uncommon means of extermination in the world and Jorgen understood the importance of dismissing the possibility from their minds. He gave opinions, or suggestions really about the likely cause of his cousin’s ailment always pointing the finger at the failure of William’s own body and not an outside source.

Janetta’s eyes grew dark and her own plan began to formulate, quite opposite of what her cousin conceived. Jorgen dwelt on the death but Janetta focused her attention toward life because she would not let anyone take William from her without a bitter fight. Determined to do anything possible for her brother, Janetta issued her first order to Jorgen.

“He’s cold and filthy. Will you get someone to draw him a hot bath in my tub?”

Jorgen nearly smiled at her. “I could ask someone to clean him up if that is what you want.”

“No. What I want a complete bath. He needs to soak in hot water because it may help calm him. And I want the dirt washed off of my brother. He merits better then this. Everything that touches him must be clean, including the air. Is Mavis here?”

“Yes she is.” His amusement with Janetta was short lived due to the commanding tone she used to speak to him. Jorgen did not take kindly to being treated like a common house servant, but his awareness of what would occur in two days made it easy for him to ignore her lack of respect. Jorgen would comply and pacify Janetta because he knew that he would be the victor in the end. “Do you want me to fetch her for you?”

“Please do, Jorgen. I need to know what he has been eating and drinking. I also want fresh bedclothes.”

“William hasn’t been eating, Janetta. He’s not awake.” Cameron perceived the condescending edge to Jorgen’s voice.

“Do as she requests, Jorgen.” There was firmness in Cameron’s statement that left no room for argument.

“I was attempting to explain that the only thing we have been able to get down him is water and that in small sips.”

Janetta picked up William’s hand and studied the blueness to his nail beds. “Who of knowledge has been sent for?”

“I had a man travel to Melrose two days ago to seek the advice of the monks there.” Jorgen had sent no real person.

“Melrose is too far away!” With exasperation she turned her head contemptuously at Jorgen. To send someone so far away, that was an insane idea when each passing hour counted. Where was his sense of urgency? She had thought him more intelligent then he had acted since William became ill. “What of Aberdeen? Is there not an apothecary there?”

“I will send someone after I get Mavis for you.”

Two hours later Jorgen returned to the room. The atmosphere gave off a stench of a woman’s touch. William was in a clean bed after soaking for over an hour in hot water. Fresh blankets were placed to keep him warm and the shutters opened to allow air to circulate. He did not appear much better but he was more peaceful for now.

“I have dispatched men to Aberdeen as you instructed. Janetta, your brother needs to drink something. People are like plants and they can not live without water. Did Mavis instruct you on how to give him fluids?”

“No.” Janetta replied quietly from the chair Jorgen had vacated earlier. She could no longer ignore the sharp pains she was having and had spent some time sitting motionless as she should have earlier.

Jorgen nodded his head and observed that Cameron was not with her. The man had become drenched lifting William in and out of the tub and went to change into dry clothes. Turning his body to block her view of the water pitcher, he dusted the cup with a powder before adding the water. Just a barely noticeable flick of the wrist was all that was needed for the two to mix and once the substance was dissolved he approached the bed.

“You have to hold his head off the pillows.” Jorgen told her as placed a piece of material under William’s chin before positioning his left hand under his head. “Just a little at a time and after there is a fair amount in his mouth rub this throat in a downward direction.”

Jorgen demonstrated what he had just instructed Janetta on. “You see, he swallowed.”

“I do.”

“Would you like to try?” Offering her the laced cup, he switched sides of the bed with Janetta once she took it from him. He admitted to himself that it was perverse allowing Janetta to do his dirty work but he watched just the same. After she had given William almost half of the liquid he initiated conversation with her of importance to him. “I had an idea that I would like to share with you. What if I spoke to the priest in Elgin about having a special prayer service on Sunday for the recovery of William?”

Janetta raised her eyes to him already in agreement with the proposition. “Would you?”

“Yes, I will. I know that you cannot leave his bedside, but if you prayed from here and the rest of us prayed at the church maybe God will grant us a miracle.”

“Thank you, Jorgen.” Janetta thought that maybe she was too hard on him earlier especially after hearing his kind suggestion. Of late she had been working so hard to control her words and to listen fully before reacting, but she had not given Jorgen that consideration. He had after all been with William the entire time since he had taken ill and that in itself should have warranted some regard from her. “I’m very sorry if I was rude to you today. My actions were uncalled for. Would you forgive me?”

He tilted his head and smiled a bit. “All is forgotten. I realize you were acting out of concern for your brother and that is admirable.”

“Thank you again.”

“If you finish giving him water, I will go now to find our Father and see if I can arrange a Sunday service.”

“Godspeed, Jorgen.”

That evening Cameron stayed with William while Janetta slept in her bed. Her pains had stopped for which she was pleased and she had no other indications to warrant concern on her part about an impending birth. Janetta was more cautious the next day and laid down twice while Jorgen stayed with William and Cameron slept because of being up all night. William was not improving as Janetta had wanted but remained in the same state as she found him when they arrived. Wallace and Cora never did show their faces that Saturday, but a message did arrive from her uncle informing them that the townsfolk were all talking about the service Jorgen had arranged for his cousin.

Sunday came and the day began without a cloud in the sky, but there were storm clouds looming off in the horizon. Once again Cameron took the night shift with William but instead of going to bed to sleep he decided it was important for him to attend the church with the others because it meant a lot to Janetta. They shared words primarily about her brother as he prepared to leave, both of them quiet and full of introspection. When he was ready Janetta started for the door to go tend her brother, but halted and turned around to face her husband. From out of no where she had an urge to share with Cameron a ritual she preformed every morning that she had never informed him of. It was very personal to Janetta much like crying, but Cameron had shown her so much support during these past bad days that she wanted to give him something in return. Walking back to her husband she motioned for him to lean down so she could whisper something to him.

“Every morning before I get out of bed I do my prayers and I thank God for you, without fail. You make me proud by the way you naturally are.” The tone of her voice told Cameron that she was sincere and he treasured those words. When the elders bowed before him during the ceremony where he was made Captain of the Guard, Cameron had to look away from them because he had not felt as if he deserved their deference before he had even done a simple act. Now this sweet woman who knew him better than anyone gave him a gift he would not disregard or downplay. Her earned respect.

“I love you.” Cameron said back to her with the words that she could not hear often enough.

“I know you do.” Janetta kissed him lightly on the cheek. “Pray hard for William while you’re at church. I have hope that when God hears so many people asking for him to be spared, He will listen and take pity on my brother.”

Cameron went to that church along with almost every inhabitant of the surrounding area at his wife’s request. There was no white flag on the fence at D’Arcy Keep because everything was progressing exactly as Jorgen had intended.

While he was gone, Janetta spilled dirty water she had been using to clean William’s room on the front of her dress and went to change. She put on Elisabeth’s blue gown that she had found the day before and it fit except in length. Once her appearance was in order, Janetta left her room to return to her brother. She wanted to tell him a story.

Meanwhile outside the latch on gate that held the horses was released and the gate opened. They ran out into the freedom of the surrounding countryside, the other horses that had been stabled not far behind. Three men entered the home while two others kept watch. Only one person other than Janetta had stayed behind at the keep that morning, an elderly man who could not walk the distance to the church. He was slain in the foyer before he could alert her.

“William, have I ever told you the legend about how Elisabeth learned to speak our language? You probably already know it, but I’d like to retell it.” Janetta took hold of her brother’s hand. He said nothing in reply to her, but she continued on as if he was able to hear her.

“As you know, Elisabeth was a companion or a lady in waiting as I believe they are called to a Mademoiselle Peirot in Paris. The woman was vain and very full of herself and her own desires. She lived with her old, decrepit father in a lifestyle of lavishness. Mademoiselle Peirot met Elisabeth while she worked for a much sought-after clothier. Elisabeth assisted the fashionable women who could afford the exquisite gowns her employer created, for as we both know Elisabeth had a natural eye when it came to what flattered different individuals. She told me that the more elegant she made one woman look in a gown, the more the dressmaker could charge for his next. Of course, her good taste did not rub off on me, but that is a story for another day.”

Smiling, Janetta brushed the hair from her brother’s face and continued on.

“Mademoiselle Peirot thought very highly of Elisabeth’s opinions and it was not long before she hired her away and installed her in her own home. Well, one night Mademoiselle Peirot went to a ball and was introduced of all men a Scottish diplomat! He was a Stewart, which we will forgive him for, and had not been in France but a month. An older gentleman who had been recently knighted, he had the darkest of auburn hair and at first he intimidated the lady for he did not seem friendly. That is, until he laughed. Mademoiselle Peirot immediately fell in love. But like with all good stories, there was an obstacle.”

“The man could not speak French, which is odd considering he was a diplomat, and Mademoiselle Peirot could not speak his language. He did have a trusted interpreter always at his side, but that does not truly bode well for love. How could he convey sweet nothings to the woman when he would first have to speak them to a man?” Janetta wrinkled her nose. “Very unfortunate I must say and obviously Mademoiselle Peirot thought so also because she hired a linguist to come teach her the Stewart’s tongue. To expedite the learning process, for Mademoiselle Peirot was a woman in love and we are known to be hasty, she banned everyone in her household from speaking French. Elisabeth told me it was a horrific first month because nothing was done properly, but here is where our Elisabeth exceeded expectations.”

“She learned the language quickly for she was a bright woman. This won her some esteem from Mademoiselle Peirot but sincere gratitude from the Stewart. Sadly before the man could propose to his lady, Mademoiselle Peirot passed on to the otherworld. The Stewart was distraught over the loss of his love and went to visit her elderly father a few days after her death only to find that the father was preparing to toss all of his daughter’s staff from the home!” Janetta held William’s hand tight. “We’re almost to the point where you meet her.”

“Having won the admiration of the Scot for her services to his dearly departed, the Stewart went about finding Elisabeth a suitable situation. Through his connections he learned of a certain Scotsman looking for a companion for his sister. The man was handsome enough, and wealthy enough, but what the Stewart liked most about him was he spoke kindly to Elisabeth when he interviewed her. Two days later she set sail for our beloved Scotland.”

Janetta released his hand before she stood to stretch. “It was very dull, wasn’t it? I’ll work on the story to try to make it more colorful for you next time.” Turning to go open his shutter Janetta saw the form of an unfamiliar man standing in her brother’s doorway. He let out a short whistle and soon there were three of them.

“This is the one.” Was said in reference to Janetta.

“What ‘bout him?” One of the others pointed at William.

The man that spoke first shook his head. “Not supposed to think for ourselves. Leave him alone.”

Cameron exited the church having done what his wife had asked of him. The prayer service was well attended and the priest optimistic. Although he was not much of a religious man himself it did afford him an opportunity to have an overdue talk with the Lord. Having walked to the church since the distance was not too great, he soon arrived at the outskirts of the town when he noticed an unsaddled horse roam nearby. Continuing on the path Cameron did not think much on it until there was a second, and a third. That horse he recognized because it was his. The keep was within sight and off in the western pasture he spied five riders going at full speed away from the area. One of the horses appeared to have two people on it, the additional being a womanly figure wearing a blue garment. Cameron at once remembered Janetta showing him a gown of Elisabeth’s that she had found being similar in color to what he viewed in the distance.

He never ran as fast as he did then, searching the house and calling out Janetta’s name, but the house was unrelenting echoed back nothing but the sound of his voice. When Cameron found the dead man near the main entry, with haste he went to their chamber to get his sword. After a final check on William to make certain Janetta had not fallen asleep while tending her brother he went to the stables. They were empty. Grabbing a bridle, Cameron put it on the first horse he could capture.

Passing a cluster of people making their way to D’Arcy Keep, Cameron had common sense enough to quickly tell them what he witnessed and dreaded most. One kinsman he recognized and without wasting time he gave him a direct order.

The entire exchange took less than twenty seconds and the townsfolk did not need to be asked for their help, they scattered to their homes and joined the search. The man Cameron sent to Castle Grant made the three hour journey in half time, his horse frothing at the mouth and panting for air when he jumped off. Keiron was found in the great hall and once the missive was passed on to him, he commanded Cameron’s first lieutenant to send every available man to search for Janetta but six. Those six were to go to guard William. No one except the housekeeper and three people of her choosing were to be allowed admittance to his ailing friend. There were no exceptions. He found Frederic not five minutes later and they were organized within fifteen. After a heated argument with his uncle, Keiron made it unconditionally clear that he would join the hunt. Bells were rung from the watchtower as they left, four beats vibrating through the air. It was a call to arms. The first lieutenant, a man by the name of Nolen Grant stayed behind to organize the men and spread them out to cover a large area.

Cameron did not realize that he had traveled in a loop until he recognized a tree stump he had passed before. The blessing of rain the night before made tracking possible, but Cameron had missed where the riders had veered off. Faced with no other choice, he got down off his horse cursing and walked the perimeter searching for a sign that would point him in the right direction. Cameron was angry as hell, but he did not lose faith during this setback for he knew Janetta would be found. It was not ego that fed this belief but his conviction. To keep a clear head, he would not allow the emotion to distract him. There would be time enough later to feel the fear associated with Janetta missing after she was safe and home. As two riders approached him galloping at a fast pace, Cameron looked up to recognize Jorgen and what appeared as if it was a monk. Motioning at them, he continued his task until both had dismounted.

If Jorgen was surprised, and he was very surprised, he did not act it. Instead he murmured quietly to Smith before joining Cameron with a performance worthy of the most accomplished performer. He told the man that the people of town were out in force looking for his cousin and spreading the urgent news about her abduction. This was the only fragment of truth he would profess. A story evolved from Jorgen’s mouth that Smith had seen the party traveling and Jorgen called to Smith to come near them to relay the information to a restless Cameron. As Smith moved forward, Jorgen stepped behind the Grant dropping his counterfeit troubled expression and replaced it with coldness no human being should expose. Two minutes later the gates of Heaven creaked opened and a downpour hammered the earth with such force that afterward some of the men who searched for Janetta that day would refer to it as the rage of God.

God was angry.

Chapter 12

It was long past dark and they had stopped only twice for very short periods riding the rest of the time at a good pace. Janetta was in shock from the unadulterated horror that consumed her, soaked to the bone from the rain, and in the first stage of labor. She did not fight against the men once they were on horseback because Janetta knew could not win; instead she chose to not attract any unnecessary attention to herself and did as she was told. The man Janetta was forced to ride with she determined to be the leader because of the manner the others cowered to him.

The group slowed to a walk in an area unfamiliar to Janetta. The last she knew they were traveling west judging by the setting sun, but now she could not say and why this was happening to her she could not understand. There had been no threats against the family that she had been told of and Cameron was very open about his business with her. Was it an enemy of her brother’s she could not imagine, but it did not matter at this point. They had purposely taken her instead of killing her and left William untouched. What they were going to do with her now was an enigma she did not wish to solve.

They stopped at an old, apparently abandoned shelter and the men dismounted. Janetta was not allowed to get off her horse until lanterns were lit and when her feet hit the ground Janetta doubled over clutching her belly. If an opportunity for escape made itself available she did not think she could take it. Her contractions were to the stage where her body froze when they came and she doubted walking would be possible.

“What’s wrong wit’ her?” One of the men asked. When the contraction passed, Janetta stood tall as she could and began to rub her abdomen. Even with light being scarce the man could see that she was pregnant.

“Oh No!” The man said as he pointed at her. ‘I ain’t killin’ no woman wit’ child. You know that’s the worse luck a man can bring on him.”

“Shut your mouth!” The leader sneered at him. “Keep your voice low and no talkin’ around her.”

The riddle of her fate was solved and Janetta was ushered into the building and given a blanket drenched in despondency.

“You be quiet pretty lass and you’ll be treated real nice.” She was advised before the only way out of the building was shut. In the dark she prayed to Mary, she prayed to God, and she talked to her husband as if he could hear her from so far away.

A while later shortly before daybreak the door opened and a priest entered with a lantern turned low. Janetta’s soul stirred with hope but it quickly diminished when he asked her if she had any confessions to make. She stared at him barely shaking her head when a fresh contraction hit.

Smith had infinite weaknesses, but few that preyed on his sense of right and wrong. There was one though that scared the hell out of him. Before Smith’s brief stint as a real monk, he was a married man with a wife he actually loved. Maddie was a pretty girl of sixteen when they were wed and despite the poverty they were forced to live in due to his employment as a farm hand, they were happy. As is often the case Maddie became pregnant right away but she was young and without the resources to properly take care of herself. When it was time for the baby to be born they could not afford to give anything to a midwife for her assistance so they relied upon an inexperienced woman who lived not far from them. The birth was horrendous because the baby was in the breach position and would not come out no matter how hard Maddie pushed. Even Smith tried to free the child but he could not and Maddie died with the baby still in her.

Childbirth frightened Smith even worse then the thought of his own death and this caused his conscience kicking in. It did not bother him that in two more days he was supposed to order the men to assassinate Janetta at a particular location Jorgen had shown him, because he would still do that. Smith just could not tolerate knowing that she died in childbirth.

He left Janetta and went back outside to talk to the men he had hired before going for a walk. It wasn’t quite bright enough for Smith to see well and he passed a home just off to his right without knowledge and walked another quarter mile as the sun rose. He found a homestead shortly thereafter and observed a woman taking an apron off of a makeshift clothesline. After staking out the premise for a good hour he determined that only other occupant of the home appeared to be an older boy who he noticed when he came out to do his chores. Confident as he could be that there was no husband present, he straightened his robe and approached the woman while she fed her chickens.

“Morning ma’am,” Smith smiled. She was startled at first but the man on her property was a priest and that gave her a sense of security. She greeted him back with proper respect and by being addressed so politely, Smith was pleased.

He was not quite the liar Jorgen was but Smith could make up a believable story if one did not question the facts too closely. They were a group traveling to MacDonald territory and had the niece of the chieftain with them. She went into birth pang suddenly and they needed help because the niece was traveling with only men to protect her. They also had no supplies, but there was a water source nearby.

The woman sensitive to the nature of their plight explained to him that she had only aided in the birth of two children before and this was enough for Smith. When he asked for her assistance she did not hesitate but excused herself to inform her son of the situation and left alone with the priest and an armload of necessary items that Smith carried for her. He had been fortunate that the woman was a trusting sort who was of mild temperament. She was calm on the exterior and kept her troubling thoughts about the emergency situation to herself. When Smith asked her what name he might call her by, she replied mildly “Annie.”

Miracles transpire everyday throughout the world often invisible to the recipients who receive the heavenly gifts. When they are noticed the skeptics generally come out in force dismissing the acts as coincidences or misinterpreted common events. A miracle had just occurred courtesy of a guardian angel acting from the knowledge that it was not Janetta’s time to die. Some guardian angels seem to be more aggressive than others and Janetta’s were rule benders, if not a breakers, in this case. However, this was the extent they could intervene. The aftereffect was now left to the mortals and the actions they took.

While Smith was gone the leader of the men warned Janetta that if someone was found to get the bairn out of her she was not to say a word of what happened. One misspoken utterance meant her death. There was no strength or bravery left in Janetta as the worse pain she could ever imagine bore down on her in the filthy surroundings. All Janetta had was the hope that the baby’s birth would be take as long as possible to give Cameron more time to find her.

When the door was next opened, Janetta had to squint as the light of day burned her eyes. Barely able to make out the figure that approached her, it was the soft voice that alerted her it was another woman. Annie did not ask permission to assess the scene and make her preparations to arrange for Janetta a cleaner bed with the few materials she could find. Smith had warned Annie that the young woman was out of her head talking nonsense and even stated that this was her usual self. He advised her to ignore Janetta and not be alarmed if she said things that made no sense. Upon observation, Annie did not think that Janetta appeared to be mentally unstable because her eyes held the appearance of intelligence and the few words she said were clear and informed.

Once Janetta was repositioned, Annie noticed that Smith had not left the room. She warned him that modesty could not be controlled during childbirth, and still Smith would not leave. Annie held her hand during the worst of it, giving her instruction and mopping her forehead with a cool cloth. Hours passed this way until Janetta said to her that she thought the baby was coming out and she began to bear down.

Once again Annie warned the priest that she could not conceal any immodesty and this time he heeded her words and turned around to face a wall. Janetta was not so out of her wits that she did not take advantage of the situation and when she pushed Annie would encourage her. It was during this time that words came from Janetta in whispers to the ears of the other woman, words that needed to be put together to make sentences. Sentences that told Annie the story of the true situation about what was before her..

When the baby’s arms were out, Annie had Janetta reach down and take hold of her child and pull the babe free. Doing as she was instructed, a short push later Janetta held a small but healthy daughter above her. Everything around her was forgotten as she heard her little girl cry out for the first time as Annie swabbed her face and mouth clean, the baby kicking her legs in protest to the cold air. Willa had been correct, it was a red head.

If pure joy could be expressed, Janetta did with smiling awe at the naked beauty she held tightly on to.

“Look at her.” Janetta said without thinking that Smith was still in the room. “Has there even been a more perfectly formed child?”

“No.” Annie heart warmed at the new mother’s bias and she kissed Janetta on the forehead. “She is the loveliest I’ve ever seen.”

There was still more to be done and as Annie worked Janetta held her cleaned and wrapped daughter against her chest to keep her warm just as Annie had told her to do. Smith had supplied the knife and twine to sever the cord and he almost looked regretful for his former actions when he delivered them to the women.

It was late afternoon when Annie had finished showing Janetta how to nurse her baby and their time together had drawn to a close. They hugged before parting and Janetta thanked her and told her that she needed help. With that Annie left under the escort of Smith. He expanded on his falsehood while walking her home, adding that they were traveling in secret after saving Janetta from her husband and taking her back to her uncle. He stressed that no one could know their whereabouts because of the husband’s temper and Annie said very little in return but looked as if she believed him. He wanted a promise from her that she would remain mute and she gave it. Then he suggested that they pray together for the young woman and her babe.

After praying with the priest, Annie said her goodbye and walked up the lane to her home with what was left of the supplies she had brought with her. Her soul was in turmoil and she knew the young woman she had left behind was in dire circumstances. Annie believed every word she had told her. The woman was from clan Grant, she had been taken from home, and they were going to kill her.

Having kept watch for his mother’s return, her son met her half way. He was a tall lad of seventeen with dark hair, blue eyes and a sturdy chin. His face, which bore no resemblance to her, was etched in concern but he said nothing until they entered their home and he watched his mother’s calm exterior crumble before him.

“Did they hurt you?”

“No, Ian. I’m not injured.” Annie replied absently, her hands together as in prayer pressed against her lips. Her thoughts flowed haphazardly as she considered her next move. If she were to do what she knew she should, Annie realized that the sacrifice would actually be her son’s. He was a Davidson, sworn enemies of the Grants and to aid a Grant was the worst of offences committed against their people. If word got out they would never accept Ian again and the secret her husband tried so hard to hide from everyone during his lifetime would surely come to light. Annie did have to question herself if defying the clan was worth one young woman’s life and the answer came easily.

“Give me your pillow.” She instructed him before opening a box and removing a knife. Ian did his mother’s bidding and walked the few steps in their one room home to his bed. Annie used the knife to slice it open and with her hand reaching in deep, she pulled out from it a red tartan sash her son Ian had never seen before.

Looking up at him and being fully aware of what she may be taking from him, Annie told her son the truth. “I’m a Grant. I was not born here but married into our clan and today I delivered a Grant child by a woman who is being held against her will. I don’t believe she will see many more days if her kin can not find her. Ian, we can not let her die ‘cause of hatred.”

His eyes stared at the tartan and he did not know what to think. Although his father and mother never spoke of the blood feud his people had against the Grants, his neighbors did. They blamed the Grants for their suppression and poverty, envious of their wealth and enormous landmass. Since Ian was a child he had been lectured to by kinsmen about the greedy bastards to the east who would not give them what was rightfully theirs and how those people kept his clan from their true glory. Simple talk full of loathing heard outside his home had nurtured his opinion and therefore resistance to his mother’s words was not unfounded.

“Help a Grant?”

“Yes, Ian. I don’t care who it is, we cannot let an innocent person die.” There was disagreement but when it was over Ian was left with the fact that he would not let his mother travel so far away without him by her side. They had no horse, but knew where one could be ‘borrowed’ from so that they could make haste while there was still a small amount of sunlight left. Before they left they went outside to do their nightly chores not because they needed to be done but to see if they could find anyone watching them. It was a wise move and though there was no one about, it was only due to Smith having left just ten minutes earlier confident Annie would not break her promise. The Grant sash was taken with them.

Once they were able to find a horse, they rode East for hours as they passed through their own territory and into Annie’s homeland. The difficulty with seeing in the dark slowed them tremendously and it was not until they stumbled upon a flock of sheep that they found a home where Annie could tell her story. Annie showed the man the Grant tartan to help convince him that she was telling the truth and then she stayed behind at the house with Ian while he went in search of others involved in the quest for Janetta. A bonfire aided in him finding his way and once he told what the woman and young man dressed in a Davidson tartan had relayed to him, Frederic was sent for. He was three miles away at a different encampment with Keiron and a large force.

There was a red band on the horizon announcing that the sun would rise soon when they arrived at the home to hear the story firsthand. Frederic’s mood was foul and Keiron returned the glare he shot at him as he dismounted to join Frederic in the home. He had told his nephew to stay back at the encampment and out of danger’s way but Keiron mouthed “Cameron would do this for me” and he would not listen to reason.

Barging into the house Frederic shouted “where is she” before stopping at a dead halt. A spectral being whom he could call forth in his dreams had worked its way into the waking world and Frederic did not know if she was real or not. The face he recognized as Annie’s, but a coincidence like this could not be and Frederic waited for another to speak to her to believe she was truly standing near him in the flesh.

“I know you.” Keiron said unexpectedly unable to place where he had seen the woman before. It was from his childhood.

Annie tore her eyes from Frederic and faced the man who had spoke to her. He too looked familiar, but more due to family traits and not recognition. “Cameron?”

“No, Keiron.”

“I’m Annie.” Ian had fallen asleep on a bed and rose when he opened his eyes and saw the room full of strangers. Protectively standing next to his mother, he towered over her with an unnatural height few men possessed. Keiron said nothing as he thoughtfully studied the young man but it only took a brief instance for him to see that the lad was the spitting image of his uncle. In fact, it was the most eerie similarity he had ever seen between two people who were not born twins. Ian’s hair and bone structure, his face was near identical. He even had their family’s shape to his eyes. Annie must have noticed Keiron’s inspection because she moved in front of her son and locked eyes with him in a wordless plea not to speak his assumption aloud. Annie had seen it as soon as Frederic had walked in, too.

She had avoided the older man’s perplexed wonder during the short reintroduction but in an act to detract attention from her son, Annie spoke to directly to Frederic for the first time in over seventeen years. She had not forgotten him.

“You have come to find the woman Grant, Frederic?”


Although she had proof enough, Annie wanted to clarify they were speaking of the same person. “The one you seek, was she with child?”

“That is her!” Frederic’s senses were coming back to him. “Was with child?”

“She had a daughter.”

Frederic grew very serious before his next question. “Is Janetta alive?”

“When I left her, yes, but we have to leave now. She told me they were going to…” Annie cast a glance over at Keiron for she was not certain how he was connected to the young woman. “Slay her.”

All the facts of what she had observed came out of Annie. The fire of a warrior burned in Frederic as his mind began to twist to conjure a strategy. Annie had no information about who the captors were because they were very careful when in her presence not to say more then they had to, but she had heard a couple of them mention that they were going to be rich when this was done. The priest she could characterize fully and the man who acted as a leader type she could only describe his clothing. Frederic took this information to his men outside and all they lacked was directions, but when Annie saw the number of men involved she settled that her concern over the sheer volume would have to be dealt with first.

“You go into Davidson land with a group of men like that and you’ll cause a war.”

“I can’t get her by myself.”

“Frederic, take less men if you can. There are five of them and a priest.” He looked over at the fifteen he had assembled in reserved contemplation before calling out seven of their names. This was a huge gamble on his part, but Annie’s wisdom was sound. Regardless of the motive the Davidsons would interpret fifteen men in addition to him and Keiron as a small invasion. Nine would be bad enough. Before Fredric could issue the order for them to prepare to leave Annie had one more recommendation to impart on him. “I need to go with you.”

Shaking his head, Frederic would not consider it. “No.”

“I’m the only person who can show the way and I know what to avoid if you wish not to be seen by my folk.”

“I won’t risk that.” Not only was he not going to bloody risk that, he wanted to make certain not a hair on her head was disturbed until he had the freedom to speak to her. They had parted under the worst of circumstances, one that haunted Frederic’s life since it had happened and one he could not put behind him even to this day.

“Then she will not be found.”

“Damn it, Annie. You can’t expect me to take you there, that close to danger. I have a map.”

“I can’t read a map.”

“Where’s your husband?” Frederic asked dryly. “He could show me.”

“He passed away years ago. I’m all you have.”

Annie went with them riding the horse she arrived on and agreed to his request that she would at least return to this point after they had Janetta. Ian was forced, physically, to stay behind after a quick decision between Frederic and Annie with a strict mandate from Frederic that Ian was to be treated well. Frederic did not see in the lad what Keiron had and perhaps this was for the best because he needed to focus his concentration on bringing Janetta home.

While this was occurring, far off on the outskirts of Elgin the men Keiron had sent to protect William were switching positions. One of the guards joined Mavis to get some food.

“That’s a strange one.” He said to her.


“That Jorgen D’Arcy. He was at the door beggin’ to be let in. I tol’ him that no one could come inside and he threw a fit yellin’ at me ‘bout him bein’ kin and demandin’ to be shown respect ‘cause of him knowin’ the Grants.”

Mavis frowned a little. “What did you do?”

“I tol’ him that Chieftain Grant gave the order and I’m no stupid man. Even if the Warlord’s wife came a callin’ I’d turn her away.”

“You want to hear what he told me?” The man nodded as he took the bowl Mavis offered him. “People are like plants and they need water. I heard him tell other folks that a couple of times, too.”

“D’Arcy is a man, not a plant.”

“I know. That’s why I didn’t give heed to him and gave William...”

“You call him ‘William’?”

“He told me to. Like I was sayin’, I gave William what my mama used to make when my lads were sick. Milk, honey, salt, and some steeped chamomile water. Liv and Alastair kept up the hot soaks his sister told us about, and when we rubbed his arms and legs real hard he stopped jumpin’ around. It worked, too! Did you see him awake today?”

“Not for long, but I did just the same.”

Jorgen's wish had been for William's own kinfolk to deliver the final lethal dose of his poison, thus his urgency to gain access to his cousin to mix up one last pitcher of water and insist they give it all to him. Instead it was William's kinfolk that would be the one's to heal him.

It was after ten in the morning when they neared the structure Annie led them to. Before moving into place, Frederic took Keiron aside out of earshot to make a request of him that had been heavy on his mind since they left the farmstead with Annie as their guide.

“Will you please stay here and keep Annie safe from harm? I want her with someone I can trust without a doubt because we don’t know what for certain what we’re going to encounter. There could be more of them then there was yesterday, and if anything goes wrong I’ve got to know you will get her out of this place.”

Keiron realized that Frederic was not questioning his ability to contribute to the fight, but rather that Frederic was asking him to protect the woman he had waited so long to be reunited with. Keiron considered this an honor. “I will.”

The spoke a little more, then Frederic and his men moved into place. Two of the men were packing their horses and the Grants spread out around the perimeter. Their method of communication would be birdcalls and as Frederic listened to the wildlife in the area he was none too encouraged about their lack of activity. Maybe the birds knew that a slaughter was about to occur. His goal was to get all the men out of the house where Annie told him Janetta was at.

Furrowing his brow, he counted the horses that had been tied to trees and there were only five when there should have been six. He let out a whistle then made a fist in the air before spreading his fingers apart, then he moved with a stealth that did not revel his presence until he was able to untie one of the horses to let it wander off.

“Gillis, ye’re steed is takin’ a walk.” One of the men laughed toward the house when he noticed the renegade horse. The third man came outside cursing about the laziness of the others for making him get his own horse back, and a forth stood in the doorway to watch the scene. Four men out was better than two and Frederic had men assigned to enter the building right away so if there was only one left inside, the odds were in Frederic’s favor. Just as he was about to give the countdown to charge signal, the man at the doorway turned to reenter and he switched mid tune to the immediate go forth call. The Grants were all over the men before they could stop to see what was happening to them and there was bloodshed but it was not theirs.

Frederic was one of those assigned to enter the home and when he did he the man Annie had said was most likely the leader standing face to face with Janetta, neither of them moving but staring at each other. Grabbing the man and bringing his arms behind him another Grant aided him in capturing their enemy. With adrenaline rushing through his veins Frederic scanned his niece to see if she was wounded. Janetta had a wrapped bundle clutched to her chest with her left arm. In her right hand she was holding a knife exactly as her husband had showed her to do. Turning back to the man, Frederic noticed a crimson stain just below his sternum.

That bit of instruction Cameron gave Janetta was one that many men believed no woman should possess. It also most likely saved her life because the leader had been told that if an attack occurred, he was to take Janetta’s life before fleeing. The man had tried to get his weapon to do the task when the first signs of battle were heard, but he fumbled and Janetta took it from his sheath. He had spent the morning tormenting her about leaving her baby in the woods and she was by God not going to let anyone harm her daughter.

Janetta had mortally wounded the man yet he was still alive and was drug outside to be questioned while his dead comrades were being searched for clues about who they were. Keiron came forward to Frederic as he tried to get information out of the man but with each passing beat of his heart, he became weaker. The leader realized that he was dying and in a sick sense of honor refused to disclose whom he was working for. When it became obvious that he would not be talking much longer, Keiron turned his head and looked over at Janetta. She had followed Frederic out of the house due to her fear of being left alone. If she was feeling anything she did not show it, but the blue dress she wore hung loosely from her body ruined beyond repair from all it had been through. With the knife still in her hand Janetta watched the man she hated for all he had done to her die a slow death. Never in his life had Keiron been as enraged as he was now, and without a word to his uncle he went over to Janetta and placed his hand over hers, releasing the knife from her grasp. He used it to cut the leader’s throat.

The priest was no where to be found but then again, no one traveled to Annie’s home to look for him there. The lust Smith had for Cora was replaced by an appreciation for Annie and he had ridden his horse to her home last night to seek out her company. Smith waited patiently for some time before he allowed himself to consider that she had broken her promise to him, then he waited a little longer but still she did not return. He would stay put until late in the evening this day, long after the Grants had left the area.

Janetta would not let anyone take the baby from her and Annie had to secure the child against the young woman’s chest with material cut from one of the men’s blanket. She and the infant would ride with Frederic back to their own land. There was one stop in Davidson territory they had to make and that was for Annie to return the horse she had borrowed, after which she joined Keiron on his horse. Extreme care was taken not to be discovered as they wound their way out of Annie’s espoused homeland and back to their own. When they reached their goal, Ian was waiting for his mother standing away from the others with his arms crossed and feet spread apart, a leeriness lingering around him. He did not trust these people.

Many orders had to be given before Frederic could relax just enough to allow himself to dwell on the actuality that Annie was with him, at least for the moment and there was absolutely no way he would let her get away a second time. She and Janetta would of course have to be questioned because he had to find out who had committed this crime, and this took precedence. Annie was in the house with Janetta tending to her and Frederic stood guard at the door until she came out with a bundle of dirty rags to put on the small fire the men had built while they were away.

“Janetta would like to see you.” Annie informed him, not meeting his gaze. She had not gone through as much as Janetta, but it was enough to make her weary with uncertainty. Was it not just yesterday morning when her most urgent concern was if she should plant her spring onions now or wait another week?

As soon as Janetta saw him she made her request known. “Frederic, please take my daughter somewhere safer then here.”

“Can you endure the ride?” He asked his niece but searched Annie for the answer. She looked cautiously back at him. If Frederic had his way, he would get Janetta away from the nearness of the Davidson boarder in case someone had seen them enter their territory.

“I will.”

“Castle Grant is the nearest, but we’re talking hours Janetta.” No peril known could persuade her not to attempt the journey. Janetta needed the comfort that her daughter was in the most secure location available to them and she did not think this farmhouse to be it. The stone and swords abundant at Castle Grant called her home and she did not worry over her own health as long as the child was out of harm's way.

Frederic reached over and touched Annie’s arm, his heart rejoicing from the physical proof that she was alive. “Come with us back to your home.”

Annie was a selfless person and she had raised her son well, but Ian’s prejudices she was well aware of. Her son had been all she lived for since his birth, yet she silently asked herself when she would be allowed once again to have desires of her own. Trying not to pin too many of her hopes on Frederic, for he could be a married man for all she knew, Annie’s mind wandered to the family she had left behind and their fates which she was in the dark about. While considering the options she had to choose from, Frederic said a sentence that took away any question about what she would do.

“I’ve waited for you, Annie.”

She and her bewildered son left with them and entered the courtyard of Castle Grant as the bells sounded the retreat call off in the distance.

It was after midnight when Keiron woke from a deep sleep brought about by the days without any. He swore he heard a cry in the night but as he lay still, there was not a sound for several minutes. Just as sleep was about to claim him once again the word ‘help’ floated on the air. He got up and quickly wrapped his tartan around him to investigate. Janetta was outside her door holding her daughter and shaking as if she was freezing to death. She was in shock brought on from the aftereffects of the birth but her trembling was more related to the circumstances then the bodily injury.

“What are you doing?” He asked barely above a whisper to Janetta not wanting to startle her. Keiron received no reply to this question.

“Are you ill?” Janetta shook her head with the countenance of a lost soul. “Are you frightened?”

“Yes,” she whispered.

“There are guards on the stairs and roof. You are safe here.”

“I know,” was her reply but Janetta did not look convinced.

Keiron peered into her room and noted that Annie was absent, having been sent to her own bed by Janetta earlier.

“Give me your child and we’ll get you back to bed. I’ll stay with you tonight and before you know it Cameron will be back at your side.” Handing him her daughter, Janetta allowed herself to be led back into the chamber. Taking an extra cover from the foot of the bed, Keiron covered her up once she crawled back into her bed.

“I have something to tell you that might help you rest.” He smiled slightly at her as he placed the baby next to her observing the red colored hair she had in common with his own sister. “Late this evening I was told that your brother is stirrin’ and opened his eyes for a while today. I came to tell you as soon as I heard, but you were resting.”

“The prayers worked. Thank you, Keiron.”

“They’re going to bring us an update tomorrow so you can go to sleep now. It will make the morn come sooner.” Keiron went to his chamber and brought back with him a pillow and blanket. Moving a chair against the wall, he positioned a trunk so he could use it as a footrest and settled in for the night. He observed that she had positioned something under her hips for some reason and believed it to be under the advice of Annie. Keiron’s sympathy for Janetta was without end, but it was that for a sister and nothing more. He had found a way to cure himself of those improper feelings he once had for her but the process was costly. A portion of Keiron’s heart had to be turned to stone to make it come about.

The following morning William was still in no condition to communicate clearly and what little Frederic could extract from him was not much help. Having ridden out to Elgin at first light from Grantown on Spey, he was gathering information while the trail was still fresh. Frederic was standing outside William’s room when a solemn Nolen Grant approached him and took him aside to relate to Frederic private information. The other men present did not hear what the lieutenant said but they reckoned that it was crucial because afterward their former captain stood completely still for the longest time with his eyes cast downward as if in thought. Without a word Frederic left the keep and got on his horse with Nolen leading the way.

There was a tree stump a hundred yards from a small grouping of trees and around it stood some men with their heads bowed over an undyed wool blanket on the ground. Frederic’s right hand shook as he did the sign of the cross when he saw the sight, then told Nolen in a raspy voice to get the men out of there. It was not until the area was cleared that he forced himself to dismount, his eyes looking out at the horizon and not what was before him. Nolen took his reins and led Frederic’s horse away a distance where he was in visual range but could not hear, Nolen looking over his shoulder once to see the old Captain of the Guard heading toward the tree stump.

Frederic did not need to lift the blanket to know who was under there because he would have contacted someone these days had he been able. That is what Frederic had taught him to do. Still there was an iota of hope that Nolen had been wrong and this is what gave him the ability to look. Bending down he raised the edge of the blanket slowly until he needed to lift it no more, falling to his knees as despair poured out from his heart. The man who so rarely showed any emotion did not contain his anguish as he sat next to Cameron, the young man he loved as if he was his own son. Frederic cried without pause until his voice was horse and his eyes stung with each fresh tear, the hollowness in him that could not be filled. He could not make this right for Cameron, there were no words of instruction he could say to take back what had happened to him. Therefore he spoke in tears of his endearment as if he and his nephew were the only ones in the world, Frederic heartbroken beyond repair.

Four hours later he was at Castle Grant delivering the worst of missives to Keiron in his private chamber on the first floor. His nephew could not speak after Frederic told him the unthinkable, but his uncle took pity on him and turned around facing the door so he could have a moment to collect himself.

“Cameron will be home tonight. I’m goin’ to escort him back.” There was a long lapse with only the sound of Frederic’s breathing audible. He did not want to break down in front of the man and burden Keiron further with his own grief. “Keiron, I cannot tell her.”

Frederic’s reference was to Janetta. Keiron, in a state of numbness said he would. Although his uncle believed himself a coward for not being able to give this particular widow the notification of her husband’s death, Keiron did not judge Frederic timid. Keiron would do it because she was their family and it was his obligation. Frederic had done enough already.

“I have somethin’ for you.” Frederic remembered that he still had Cameron’s sword clutched in his left hand and personal items in his right. Forced to face Keiron he strode over to the table his nephew used to write and placed the sword down softly. Holding his other hand out he waited for Keiron to receive its contents. “Keep Janetta inside,” he advised with urgency tinged with remorse. “Don’t let her see him like this.”

“I won’t.” Keiron promised as his fingers enveloped the weighty object that he had been given.

“Malcolm needs to be gone after…” Frederic needed to go for what strength he had called upon to hold him together was breaking apart. He made one final request of Keiron. “Please don’t let Annie leave.”

Keiron’s eyes were red but dry when he knocked on Janetta’s door. His family had seen so much death in the past few years and yet he had no resistance built up against the pain it brought each and every time. Janetta got out of bed and answered the door herself instead of asking him to come in. Annie had went off to get her food softly insisting that she eat, and Janetta assumed it was her returning.

She looks weak Keiron thought when he saw her, and he wondered how she was going to tolerate what he had to tell her. Annie had informed him yesterday that the blood loss from riding so far after Janetta gave birth had brought about more then normal blood loss, but she believed quiet and rest would help restore her. Keiron was bringing her another setback and there was no way he could not tell her. Janetta’s wide eyes gazed up at him expectantly and were full of false trust since he had last night given her the positive report about her brother waking from his sleep. Now it was time for him to crush her spirit, realizing that this was the most terrible of duties. Reverently he began after taking her hand in his. “Janetta, Cameron has been found.”

“Thank God. Is he uninjured?”

“No. No he is not.” Keiron struggled to get the words out and he had to close his eyes and not look upon her to say the rest of his message feeling as much a coward as his uncle had. “Cameron has passed on to Heaven. I’m sorry, Janetta.”

“LIAR! You are a liar! You told me Cameron would be back.” Janetta accused him in such a scream that the baby lying in the center of the bed began to whimper. She tore her hand away from Keiron and pointed her finger at him full of anger at what he had just said. “How dare you lose your faith in your brother like that? I’m ashamed of you! You come here and lie to me…”

“If only I was lying then I would accept your low opinion of me, but it gives me no joy to tell you that you are wrong.” Keiron bitterly spit back at her, his own wound so fresh that her words easily cut him deeply. As soon as the stinging words were out, Keiron wanted to take what he had said back but he could not. The effect of his outburst was made evident by the stunned expression Janetta wore. Lowering his voice Keiron attempted to explain. “I would give anything…”

Shaking her head, Janetta defied him to make her believe his words. “Someone has made a mistake.”

“No, there is no mistake. It was Frederic that identified him.” Keiron opened his palm to revel the objects his uncle had given him. Each of the silver insignia pins had a distinguishing characteristic that made them unique from the others. The one he now held had a sword engraved on it, but Janetta did not see that when her eyes focused on the other item Keiron was holding. It was her grandfather’s braided wedding ring she had given Cameron when they were married.

“How?” She choked out.

“You don’t want to know.” Janetta did and told him so. Keiron fixed his gaze on the little girl wrapped up on the bed. She was all that was left of his brother. “Frederic believes by a knife.”

“Get out, Keiron. Get out!” Using both of her hands pressed against his chest, Janetta pushed on him to make him vacate the room. She could not have moved Keiron on her own until he yielded to her demand and stepped back so Janetta could slam the door on him. Keiron had not yet had fifteen minutes to himself to accept this brother’s death and as the realism of the loss began to truly surface he saw Annie approaching out of the corner of his eye. He would not be allowed any time to himself this day to mourn Cameron.

The sound of her sobbing echoed throughout the entire floor. Janetta would allow no one in her locked room and she would not open it for any reason. Even Annie’s plea to bring her water was refused. At times the baby would join her mother’s crying but those were of short duration which eased the minds of Annie and Keiron that Janetta was taking care of the child.

Cameron’s coffin, which did go against their tradition of wrapping the body in muslin, had been sealed after Keiron looked upon him one last time. As he sat in his room, Keiron regretted not adhering to Frederic’s advice to not view the body because he did not want to remember his brother this way. Cameron was full of life and strong, and what they were burying was just a shell of what had existed. In an endeavor to block out the vision, Keiron lay on his bed and sorted through his memories until he found one he thought would give him comfort.

“Keiron, come back here!” Maura called to her brother from the gate leading out from the southern pasture. She had the reins to a pony Cameron was on in her hand. Twelve-year old Maura was quite the little mother hen when it came to her youngest brother.

Keiron stopped his small horse and watched Malcolm and Gregor continue on. The lads knew that if they were out of earshot they would not have to take charge of Cameron this afternoon. Keiron wished he could pretend that he did not hear Maura so he could ride fast like his brothers, but this little man who showed his missing front teeth when he smiled already had developed a conscience. He turned around and went to his sister.

“Sissy,” he complained, but Maura would hear none of that.

“Where are you goin’?”


“Take the bairn with you? You’re the only one I trust to keep ‘em safe. Gregor will ignore him and Malcolm will be mean like he always is.” Maura handed him Cameron’s reins. She was certain he would be protected if Keiron were taking care of him. “Don’t let Cameron fall in the water, and don’t let Malcolm wrestle ‘em. That’s what big brother’s are ‘posed to do, and you’re a good lad ‘cause you watch out for the wee ones.”

Keiron had to think for a moment before he did the right thing. If Maura had sent Cameron with the other two he would have been left to his own devices and Keiron would not allow negligence to harm his brother.

“Cameron, want to go fishin’?” The beaming smile on his younger brother’s face gave him an answer and that made his doing what Maura requested easier. It was a small sacrifice really, the going slow, and tomorrow he could ride fast. “Hang on tight and I’ll lead you.”

Late the next morning when he woke Keiron wrapped a black sash around his waist, the same one he had worn for Maura when she had died. His movements were slow as he prepared for the enviable that no one; not even the chieftain of a noble clan could avoid. Knowing that Frederic had stood guard over Cameron in the stables over night, he doubted his uncle would be in the family quarters yet. Keiron had never seen that man cry, but late last night when he asked Frederic to return with him to the third floor to get some sleep, he did. Frederic would not abandon Cameron and it was more then Keiron could take and he had to leave.

Voices in the hallway brought Keiron out of his room and there stood Willa and Fergus. His aunt was sending her daughters to the room they occupied when in residence with firmness he rarely heard Willa use. He would later find out that they left Urquhart shortly after receiving the news and had stayed the night with a long time friend of Fergus’s. The first question out of Fergus’s mouth was “who did this?” That question would be repeated by others numerous times that day and the reply would not change “We don’t know yet.”

Willa kissed Keiron on the cheek. “Where’s Frederic?”

“He’s with Cameron.”

“We’ll leave him be.” Fergus stated with authority knowing his brother as he did. Despite their very different personalities he and Frederic were closer then people might have thought and they had the practice of taking each other into confidence when the need arose. Fergus had been worried about Frederic’s reaction to Cameron’s death since he had left Urquhart because his brother held Cameron above everyone else including himself. He could well imagine the darkness and culpability Frederic was experiencing, and suspected his brother was probably searching for where he had failed his nephew in his lessons. Fergus would seek him out later and alone.

Willa peered over at the room Janetta and Cameron had shared when they were last in residence. It was the room Cameron had grown up in. “Janetta?”

“In her chamber since late yesterday morning and she won’t come out or let us in. I haven’t tried yet today…” Annie opened her door and stepped out when she also heard the voices. She felt like an intruder even though she had been of use the day before taking care of Janetta until the passing was known. Her memory of the significance of the family’s third floor was intact and it was the only area in the castle the Grants could be in private. Outsiders were rarely invited up.

Willa recognized this woman and she knew her well. “Is that you, Annie?”

“Willa.” The two had been close when they were younger, neither ever believing that they would see each other again after Annie married. Willa hugged her tight as her composure broke under the warmth of her dear friend’s arms while Ian stood in the doorway watching his mother, his arms to his side and expression unreadable. When Willa noticed his presence she could not help but gape at the boy, feeling as if she was reliving a memory of Frederic twenty years before.

“This is my son, Ian.” Annie told Willa and Fergus. Fergus too was awestruck by the resemblance this young man had to his brother, but both remained mute about their observations and welcomed him quietly. This was not the time for such conversations.

Wiping the tears from her face, Willa announced her intent. “I’ll get the lass to open her door. We don’t want her havin’ the bairn yet.”

“She already has,” Puzzled that Willa had not been made privy to this information, Keiron corrected her. “Annie birthed Janetta three days ago.”

Gratitude shone in her eyes and later when she was told the story about what had transpired Annie would have her love forever, but at this moment Willa’s expression was of concern. Without hesitating she went down to Janetta and Cameron’s room and knocked. “Janetta, it’s Willa. I’m here to see you.”

“Willa?” Janetta repeated from the other side, granting admittance as soon as she heard confirmation. The only color to her face was the red of her lips. She desperately needed the love of a mother even if it was not her own and when she placed her head against Willa’s soft shoulder Janetta broke her own cardinal rule about not weeping in the presence of others. They all witnessed her mourn.

A few minutes passed while Fergus and Keiron were still talking in the hallway when Willa opened Janetta’s door as she held a sleeping baby girl in her arms.

“Her name is Maura.”

That day at dusk the burial for Cameron Grant commenced with only family present under the great stone cross. The day had been clear and the heat of the sun left behind a warmth emitting from the earth that forbid the natural chill of April to penetrate those who came to witness Cameron become one with his Scottish soil.

His wife, who was fighting childbed fever brought on by the unclean conditions she bore their daughter in stood protected by her aunt while her eyes did not leave the tartan draped coffin during the ceremony. No one present heard the readings from the priest and the only indication that anyone’s head was registering his words was when they would numbly perform the sign of the cross. Cameron was placed next to the sister he had loved and his child’s namesake, Maura, which is where he would have wanted to be if given the choice.

Sorrow and guilt were common denominators amongst the people gathered, each searching their memories for their share of the liability. Questioned were past mistakes they made that could have contributed to the loss of a most beloved man. Frederic and Janetta suffered the most under the self-imposed responsibility, each knowing that they were to blame. Cameron would not have desired this and if he had a voice they could physically hear he would have said so, but the veil between the living and dead would not allow him to be vocal in the physical world. His family would have to work through their anguish on their own, preferably with the support of each other.

Keiron was positioned at the foot of the casket but in spirit he was far, far away with his old friend the shadows remembering the last time he saw his brother. He recalled the trust in Cameron’s eyes when he sent him away to Urquhart, his brother believing that Keiron was acting with his best intentions at heart when making his decision. Keiron could not forgive himself for the deceit that brought him that point and like Janetta and Frederic, he was convinced that he could have changed the course of events had he acted differently. It would take time for this wound to scar over.

Holding the infant Maura in her arms, Annie raised her head briefly from the babe to observe Frederic’s eyes on her. Her peaceful countenance calmed him and if Frederic focused on Annie long enough, he could block out the wrath he felt threatening to emerge over Cameron’s death. Tomorrow it would be unleashed and not stop until he was certain that those involved were found.

In his hand he held a Norwegian coin that had been taken from the body of one of the men responsible for abducting Janetta. The coin was the key to his finding the mastermind because they represented an error Jorgen was quite unaware of. Jorgen intentionally had Smith give the coins to each of the men so that when needed, he could cast suspicion toward a Norse connection. It very well could have worked had the overall plan succeeded, but Keiron’s act of sending protection to Elgin saved the one man who knew the secret that the coins would not tell on their own. William was awakening.

Frederic had been right when he made his prediction at Urquhart during the New Year. This indeed would be a year of change and it would end as it should be. From their sorrow would spring strength, that strength transforming itself in many directions. The bond of family would intensify, yet not so tight that it did not allow others into their circle. Some of them would learn to love, others rediscover it. Alliances would be formed that would last all their lives and into other lifetimes they did not realize were possible. They were not without hope although at present their sadness made them believe they were. Tomorrow would be another clear April day. Janetta’s fever would begin to break, Frederic would travel back to Elgin, and Keiron would add Maura’s name to the census report and take away her father’s.

After the ceremony was completed, Janetta left Willa’s side and approached Keiron. Her words to him when he delivered the news of Cameron’s passing were cruel, and cruelty was not a part of her nature. Janetta was not so lost in her own grief not to remember that Keiron had also lost a brother that day and he must have been as shocked and heartbroken as she was.

It took her a moment to form words and when she did, Janetta could not look at him but placed her hand on Keiron’s arm. “I am repentant for what I said to you. I had no right to treat you horribly.”

“Don’t apologize.” A brief reflection on the hardships Janetta had endured since she had been taken from Elgin made Keiron wonder how Janetta was even able to be at the burial ground. He believed an individual of lesser character would have surely given into their own suffering. “You get well and we will be even.”

Janetta accepted Keiron’s words but did not move from where she was standing. Her mind was heavy because of a lingering doubt that would not go away on its own. She had Cameron’s ring in her possession and had seen the pin, but in a small corner of her heart hope still existed. Janetta desperately needed closure which viewing her husband could have provided, but it was honestly in her best interest not to. Mustering her bravery, she voiced one last time the question that would extinguish her hope for good. “Keiron, are you certain that was Cameron?”

“I saw him myself.” Keiron answered in a tone as equally as quiet as hers was. “There is no doubt.”

“I needed to be sure.”

“I did, too.”

Chapter 13 Resolution

There was a common room on the third floor used by the family for special gatherings; the same one Cameron and Janetta had their small wedding reception in. After the private burial of Cameron, all family and the closest of friends were invited up to share a light supper in memory of him. The notable absence of Janetta and William was accepted while both slept in their beds miles apart recovering from the damage their cousin had inflicted on them. Also missing was Annie’s son Ian by his own request.

Bly and Rory had arrived late afternoon from their small homestead and immediately Bly went to join Janetta, but their visit only lasted ten minutes before Willa shooed her from the room. Her daughter meant well, but Janetta’s state of mind could not endure her for long and Willa saw Janetta’s bewilderment increase the longer Bly was near her. The two young ladies who had enjoyed each other’s company just a little under a year ago were now as different as they could be. Bly had remained much the same in her carefree spirit, but Janetta had grown unrecognizable to her friend. They would always care for each other but there would not be the former companionship between them again. They were destined to lead very different lives.

While her mama slept Willa brought Maura out for all to see her, proud of the baby as if she was her grandmother. Male and female were expected to admire the babe and Willa would not leave them be until they said something pleasing about her. This act of introducing Maura gave her a sense of peace and when Willa would tell them that the baby had Cameron’s mouth and eyes, she spoke in the present as if he was not gone.

Annie, Frederic, and Keiron stood off together from the others; none were inclined to make conversation. The invisible barrier they erected around themselves was respected by the people in the room and not disturbed with idle chatter. It had been Frederic’s request that Annie attend the funeral and had he not asked her himself she would not have gone. Annie still felt out of place among these people who knew each other so well despite what she had done for their family. What she did not realize was that many gathered this night already considered her a member because they knew that Frederic was unlikely to let her go a second time.

Ian had mentioned to his mother more than once that he was disturbed by the show of wealth he witnessed at Castle Grant. Annie was not unsympathetic toward his concerns because she keenly understood that this place could be intimidating when one was not accustomed to the environment of plenty. No one could say with honesty that the Grants were extravagant, but obviously the land had been good to them. Even the infant Maura wore a gold cross necklace given to her this day by Frederic that appeared to be worth more then all of Annie’s possessions combined.

The Grants were not people of display and much of what he saw had been accumulated over generations, Annie informed Ian all the while feeling very plain in her basic woolen dress. Sensing a hand on her back, she tilted her head up toward Frederic as he leaned down to ask her a question.

“May I get you something to drink or eat?” Frederic tried to smile after making his offer but he could not quite do it. He had finally become dull from the fatigue and the reprieve was most agreeable to his battered emotions.

“No.” Annie was a practical woman, but her being here with Frederic was as reckless an act she had committed in many, many years. She put her son’s future in jeopardy and her own heart for that fact, but when she looked back at Frederic she was not afraid for them. Annie still loved him and even though she had been married to a kind and gentle man the depth of love she felt for Frederic could never be equaled. She was well aware that her thinking of one man while wed to another was wrong, but the heart often has a mind of its own and is difficult to control. Frederic was still beautiful to her and without conscious intent Annie’s hand rubbed against his arm. “You look tired.”

“I’ll sleep soon. Will you walk outside with me for a bit?” They had not been alone since being reacquainted but now he desired a moment with just her. In the morning Frederic would have to leave again and when he would return he could not speculate.

“I didn’t bring a heavy shawl.” Annie was about to suggest that they could still take a walk if it was inside when Frederic found a solution.

“I’ll borrow one of Willa’s. Please wait here and I’ll return.” Annie watched him cross the room and speak with Willa before her old friend patted him on the cheek and pointed toward the door.

“Annie?” Keiron delayed saying more until he had her attention away from his uncle. Already he had formed an opinion of this woman and she was to be held in the highest of esteem. Not only had Annie proven herself to be brave and uncompromising, she also had this serene aura about her that gave comfort to those near.

In as much as he had changed for the better over the past several months, Keiron continued to display quietness about him when in the presence of women. It was not as pronounced as it had once been, but it would remain a part of his personality for his life. Yet he found Annie near effortless to talk to and recognized the wisdom in Frederic’s decision to wait for such a woman. “We don’t know how to repay our debt to you.”

“There is no debt.” Her tone left no room for argument but Keiron would not be swayed to allow the subject to be settled that easily.

“There is.” His next words were blunt but delivered sincerely, and Annie would be left momentarily speechless. “We buried one person this day instead of three because of your courage.”

Keiron had been contemplating this stark truth since Cameron’s funeral. He had direct knowledge that Frederic had not considered looking in Davidson territory for Janetta. Had Annie not intervened, Janetta and Maura most likely would not have been found alive. “What have you sacrificed in comin’ to us?”

“I made the decision. Very little have I lost because of it.” Annie wanted no reward or acknowledgment for what she had done. She believed it to be more than her Christian duty to bring them the information about Janetta’s plight, it was her obligation as a good person. That in her mind required no compensation.

“What of your son?” For the second time since they met, Keiron inadvertently caused her alarm in regard to Ian. She did not know the man next to her well enough to have the knowledge that Keiron would bring her no hardship because of his suspicions. He believed this to be a private matter between her and Frederic and Keiron would not intervene, nor share his own thoughts with anyone.

Until Annie had seen Frederic and Ian together she had not known for certain but now it was hard to deny. Ian had been born about a month sooner then anticipated but he was a large baby, long in length and dark headed. He resembled neither her nor her husband. Had Annie been aware at the time of her marriage that she was possibly pregnant, she would have defied her father and not wed Graham.

“He misses his home.” She answered Keiron’s question evenly, but her expression told him more then her words. “I don’t think he can go back.”

“His people will not accept him because you provided aid to a Grant?”

“No, I know they won’t.”

Keiron nodded his head then broke eye contact to receive Willa as she neared them with Maura. “We will make it right” he promised under his breath before his aunt was in range to hear him. While Keiron was giving his obligatory praise of the infant to Willa, Frederic returned with a shawl over one arm and Janetta’s hand on his other. They had met in the hallway and once Janetta had explained that she felt the necessity to join the others if only for a short time, he escorted her into the chamber wearing her black gown Willa had sent for from Elgin.

She and Frederic stood by their family briefly before Janetta reminded him that he had plans for a walk, dismissing the couple after hugging Annie tightly. Feeling the eyes of the people assembled on her, a course of action was made by her.

“Willa, will you hold Maura a while longer?” She asked as she straightened the baby’s blanket around her head. After Willa said she would, Janetta turned her back so that no one in the room could see her and brought out a handkerchief to wipe the sweat from her brow before closing her eyes and breathing deeply several times. Janetta was summoning strength and once she turned back around, she left the comfort of Willa and Keiron to walk over to the first person nearest her.

“Thank you for coming tonight.” Janetta’s face could not disguise her deep seeded sadness, but her voice did not waiver. “We appreciate your being here with us.”

After receiving condolences, she went to another person and repeated the process. When she approached the third, Keiron materialized next to her ashamed of himself for not doing exactly what Janetta was by recognizing those who had come to share their loss with them. She had not been asked to do this and he could see it was difficult for her, but Janetta was rightfully acting out of a sense of gratitude for their friends. Keiron taking his share of the conversation and introducing the people she did not know by name decreased her burden by more than half. It did not take long for them to work the room together and in less than an hour Janetta was back in bed with her daughter beside her.

Frederic and Annie walked for sometime in no particular direction after she had informed her son of her plans. Ian did not ask to join them nor did he have any argument to force on his mother. He was a sturdy young man who had a strong sense of loyalty to Annie. When his father died four years ago he grew even closer to her and placed his faith in her guidance, but seeing that Grant man waiting for her outside their door was hard for him to accept. It was not that he was afraid of being replaced in his mother’s heart by someone else, but rather that he did not think these were trustworthy people; especially that man. It would take him coming out of his room before his opinion would begin to change. Looking out his small window the moonlight was just bright enough for him to make out two figures walking close to one another in the back courtyard. Ian continued to watch them until they entered a small building brightly lit, then he worried over her.

“I’ll be leaving in the morning.” Frederic brought out two chairs for them and placed them facing at the corner of a table used to kneed bread. The embers left over in the ovens from the days baking warmed the room and Annie shed the shawl she had wrapped tightly around herself. “Will you wait here until I return? We can fetch Mary if you would like so you can see her again.”

“Mary is not far from this place.” Annie made reference to her only living family member, a younger sister. “I can travel to her.”

Frederic’s mind was not the clearest at this time and perhaps he should have waited longer before asking, but a question that had been haunting him for near eighteen years fell from his lips. “Why did you go with your father that day?”

“Papa didn’t tell me where we were going until it was too late, and you had left without any word and after…” Annie would not say aloud the reference to the one time they made love in the Ness. They had been quietly seeing each other for a month before that fateful night and to this day she could still remember how he felt. She was about to make a confession that although true did not convey her lack of remorse about being with him that night. “I thought you considered me a loose woman.”

“No!” Frederic stood abruptly not wanting to believe she had just said that. Frederic was certain that his soul had just been pierced by the fact that a misunderstanding separated them for years. “No! That is not even close to what I thought. Did I give you that impression?”

Their regret did nothing to erase the past, but both drank from a hearty dose of it as signified when Annie asked “Why did you leave me alone after…?”

Frederic remembered his motivation clearly and it seemed so pointless to him now. “To go to my brother and seek an occupation until I was to inherit the Warlordship. I was far too inactive in my youth and I wanted to be able to come to your father employed in a livelihood when I asked for your hand. God, I loved you and had not one soiled thought about you.”

It was a while before he sat back down, taking her hands into his but not speaking. The week had taken its toll on Frederic, while Annie was not quite sure what to say.

“All of the prettiest lasses chased you around, Frederic Grant.” Annie recalled with a pale smile. What she said was true and soon she would witness their son receiving the same attention. Ian was Frederic’s child. He may have been raised on foreign soil but he had been conceived in water. Frederic still had no inkling of suspicion, but there would come a day when this would be discussed between them.

“You were the prettiest of them all.”

“No I wasn’t.”

“You still are.” Her denial was disregarded with his belief that her beauty did not only come from the inside. He brought her hand up to his lips. “Did he treat you well?”

“Graham? Yes, there was no meanness in him.”

“You had no other children, Annie?”

“Only Ian.”

“He looks to be a good lad.”

“He is.”

“Annie, you haven’t answered me yet. Will you stay here until I return?”

“I’m not sure I should remain.” Annie hoped that he would not ask her to explain her insecurities. She was considering seeing what her sister Mary’s situation was and if it proved to be favorable, perhaps staying with her for a while. Annie was not ungrateful for the hospitality she had received; it once again came back to her feeling out of place. She had been away from this life for a long time and the world she lived in while in Davidson territory was completely different.

“Why? Have people made you feel unwelcome?”


Her reply only served to confuse him allowing a seed of doubt to germinate. Frederic hoped he was wrong, but he had to ask. “You don’t want to be here with me?”

“I want to be here with you.” What Annie just admitted set their future together in stone. He would ask her to marry him as soon as the period of mourning was over. Next it was Annie’s turn to satisfy her curiosity. “Why did you wait for me?”

Frederic lifted his eyes to hers. “Because I love you.”


“It didn’t end.” This man was confessing it all to her without hesitation. Those years that he could not bear to hear her name were forgotten and moments later when Annie told him that she loved him, Frederic experienced a rebirth in his broken heart that gave the assurance that one day he would again taste joy. But first he had one more task to complete. “Tomorrow when I wake I’ll be a different man. I don’t want you to think that I’m always like that…”

“How so?”

“Vengeful.” His chosen word was severe, but the quivering in his voice was not. Barely above a whisper he explained himself. “Annie, I should have not have outlived Cameron. When the lads’ sister Maura died I was strong for them because they could not be. God bless them, she was like a mama to them. They were too young and still recovering from losing their father and brother. I buried my grief for Maura inside of me without feeling it, but this time it was my turn to grieve and it is living hell. Whoever took my nephew from me and made Janetta a widow will be found. I could not live with myself if they weren’t. It’s not only retribution I seek. I need to see the face of the man or men that ended an honorable life and terrorized my niece.”

They sat holding hands while time crawled past them. Annie fully supported Frederic’s need to resolve this transgression against his family. It would not be long before she would carry the name of Grant herself.

“I may have a faint memory of Cameron.” Annie paused to think of a detail Frederic would recognize. “Did he used to ride a tan pony with a large white spot on its hind quarter?”

“Yes, that was him.” Why her recognition of his nephew made Frederic’s mood lighten he could not say, but perhaps it was because he had always desired that the two most important people in his life would have known each other. He was extremely proud of both Annie and Cameron.

“When this is over and I lay down my sword, I would be honored if you and Ian would come with me to my home at Glen Urquhart. I ask again, will you stay here until I return?”

“I’ll wait for you.” There was no need for a kiss to seal their unspoken agreement not to lose each other again because that would come later. Instead Frederic stood them both up and held her close to him, taking from her the calm she naturally emitted and giving her back words of love.

Dawn was an hour or more away but the inhabitants of Castle Grant were already stirring. The tables and benches in the large room on the third floor were left in place by request of Willa over concern about Janetta not eating. She had never had much of an appetite to begin with, and Willa’s belief was that if Janetta took her meals on the main floor in the public common room that the folks coming up to her offering their sympathy could prove detrimental.

Breakfast had been brought up early this morning and Keiron placed a plate down on the table before returning to a makeshift serving table to get a mug of milk. He was not hungry but he could not sleep either, therefore he decided he might as well start the day before Frederic woke.

After a prayer of thanks for the food that did not appear appealing anymore, Keiron sat by himself for quite some time in the empty room. He thought about his brother Malcolm and how the men he sent to retrieve him would reach him this day, regretful that Malcolm would have to receive news of Cameron from a brief letter instead of directly from him. His mind was thus occupied when another joined him in the room.

Ian had concealed himself in the chamber he shared with his mother since he was forced to come to Grantown on Spey but the hunger of a seventeen year old man overrode his want of isolation. He had assumed no one would be up this early and when Ian saw that he was wrong, he hesitated at the doorway as he considered returning to the room and waiting for Annie to awaken.

After receiving encouragement from Keiron, Ian chose to stay and sat across from the man once an invitation was given. Not a minute later Janetta joined them with her daughter. She put a slice of bread on a plate and took her place next to Keiron yet she did nothing but stare at the food, her mind obviously elsewhere. With a pleading expression she whispered over at Keiron.

“Will you tell Willa I was in here and you saw me have a meal?”

“No. I can’t do that for you.” Keiron knew that if Janetta starved herself she would also starve Maura, and to support her in this would be wrong because it would harm both of them.

Janetta turned away disappointed. “It makes me ill to even smell it.”

Having not realized that her reluctance to eat was related to a physical ailment, Keiron turned quiet before he found a compromise Janetta might agree to. With his hand he slid his mug of milk over toward her. “If you try to drink this, I will tell her you had something.”

Nodding, Janetta picked up the mug and drank a small amount to see if it would make her queasy, which it did not. Finishing the milk she put the cup down to see another coming at her. Ian was doing as Keiron had and although the thought was kind, Janetta was not sure she could drink two but she would try.

“Thank you, Ian.” Finishing half, Janetta excused herself after informing Keiron that if Frederic needed her before he left that she would been in her room.

“She is sad.” Ian said with concern. “Did no one tell her that all warlords die?”

Struck by the oddness of the young man’s declaration, Keiron was compelled to reply. “Cameron sacrificed as a man protecting his wife and not as a warlord, but Ian, not all warlords die. Frederic Grant had a superior reign over many years.”

“He’s the one my mother knows.” Ian had heard Frederic’s name before he and Annie came here from others who would not consider his time spent as Captain of the Guard as superior. There was no love for Frederic’s legend in Davidson territory. “Do you think he was good at his duty?”

“An able warlord keeps the peace and makes it so fighting isn’t necessary if he can. Frederic did that.”

“He fought my people. More than once!” Ian wrongly believed that the man across from him did not know the Grant-Davidson history. The truth was that Ian had no idea who he was facing and presumed Keiron to be a guard since he had never asked anyone his identity.

“There was no choice.” Keiron could sympathize with Ian’s need to defend his people’s innocence by making the Grants out to be villains, but he also recalled one particular occasion when the Davidson’s had moved into their land with the intent to take it by force because he was there.

“I have heard a different story.”

“Every story has…an opinion based on who the teller is. If you have only heard the Davidson version of what happened then you may not know all that transpired.”

“Why do the Grants have to keep so much land to themselves?”

“There are at least four times as many of us as there are in your clan. For that number of people we need land.” Keiron studied Ian for a moment wondering to what depth his explanation should be, all the while his patience with the lad remained intact. “Clan Gordon has more land and wealth then Clan Grant does. Should I envy them because of it or try to take it as my own?”

“No,” Ian leaned forward on his elbows completely absorbed in the conversation. “ But we can not make a good living because you Grants are our neighbors.”

“What does your clan do to support itself?” Ian shrugged his shoulders unable to answer his question. “I will tell you what we do.”

Keiron went into a narration about how his people took what they raised from the land and turned as much of it as possible into finished products. Their brewed goods were exported, raw wool processed into woven material, the areas around the best grasslands cleared and planted. Keiron took his time instead of rushing through the facts to ensure that Ian understood that their people were not a slothful lot living off of the fat of the land. They earned what they had.

“How do you know so much?” Ian had grasped the core of Keiron’s message to him as well as a seventeen-year-old with limited life experience could. Their brief exchange did not alter his opinions and make him glad that he was in Grant territory, but they did open Ian’s mind and give him something to think about. “Aren’t you a warrior?”

“No. I’m no warrior. One of my duties is that I keep the history of my people.” Seeing that Ian truly did not know who he was, Keiron clarified. “I’m the Chieftain.”

Ian’s eyes went wide at the disclosure and even though he had never met the chieftain of Clan Davidson, he had been taught that they were to be listened to and feared if one dared cross them. Their words were law and Ian was convinced that he had just insulted the Grant’s leader by challenging his statements. “I should not have spoke to you like I did, Chieftain Grant.”

“There are no titles up here in the family quarters, Ian. We both learned somethin’ from each other and no offence was taken by me.”

Ian’s mortification at his own misguided boldness was not so easily removed by the reassurance Keiron offered him and he took a moment to ponder what he most wanted to say back in response.

“I’m sorry for your family’s loss, but I’m most sorry for the sad woman because she lost her husband.”

“Her name is Janetta and we all are.”

Frederic passed two men carrying exiting Janetta’s room with a large trunk as he made his way back to William’s chamber. Willa had commissioned him to send the young woman more clothing and personal items to Castle Grant since Janetta had left none when she relocated to Urquhart.

“Warlord Grant,” Mavis called from the doorway. The title no longer belonged to Frederic, but he was not about to correct the woman over such a minor error this morning. “What do ya want me to do with her husband’s…”

“Put them in my room.” Frederic’s frame of mind was stormy and deteriorating rapidly. Shortly after his arrival a visit from Jorgen D’Arcy turned offensive when Frederic stubbornly refused to lift his nephew’s ban on admitting anyone to the house, family members still included. He had been told that William’s cousin had been to the keep yesterday full of concern and resentful about his being turned away once again. Jorgen had dared challenge Frederic, stating that surely the former Captain of the Guard could override Keiron’s initiative. This suggestion of insubordination did not set well with the older man. It was not in Jorgen’s favor that Frederic had never had a high opinion of him to begin with, but to provoke him was a mistake that would not yield Jorgen his desired access to William.

“What happened to your wrist?” Frederic asked him from the front door as Jorgen turned to leave. A splint he had not noticed before unveiled itself from under Jorgen’s down-turned shirtsleeve.

“I broke a bone falling from my horse while searching for Janetta in that bloody rain.” Jorgen allowed his annoyance to reveal itself to the wrong man. “I may only be family to you and unworthy to be in the same room as my cousin, but I swear I too take seriously everything related to William and Janetta!”

“Get out of here. I’ll let you know when you can return.” Frederic stared at the man as he walked slowly back to the stable to retrieve his horse. The angle of the light coming from the sun illuminated itself through Jorgen’s linen shirt and Frederic saw what appeared to be a bandage wrapped around his ribs. Turning on his heel, he made his way back to William.

Frederic was a frustrated man due to his inability to find a logic he could apply to the events that had occurred, starting with why the men had taken Janetta. If this had been an attack against the Grants he could see someone using her as a pawn to draw out Cameron, but they were intending to kill her and this was not a practice in the highlands. Women and children were always to be spared if possible. If it had not been for the coins and the priest traveling with the outlaws he might have been able to accept that some men were willing to reject the unspoken rules of warfare among the clans. The coins of course made him deliberate a connection to William, but they had left him alive on purpose according to Janetta’s account of what a man said before she was taken from the keep. Frederic was certain there was a missing piece that would draw all of the randomness together and his urgency to find it before the clues grew cold was intense.

Rounding the corner in the hallway, he turned right and continued on until the great double doors at the end were reached. Two guards flanked the entrance each wearing black material around their upper arms. Knowing which door was unlocked, Frederic knocked before entering the chamber.

William took the news of what had occurred poorly as expected. His weakened state was evident and numerous times during the recalling of events he stopped Frederic’s narrative to absorb what he was hearing. Foremost in William’s mind was getting to his sister, but he could not yet stand on his own therefore it was impossible for him to travel.

Impatient as the morning was growing late, Frederic only needed to glance at William to see that he was ready for him to continue. The short break he had granted him had allowed William to regain his energy and although his face appeared more ashen then when they had first met this day, Frederic could see eagerness in William’s eyes to know the rest of the details.

“The men who took your sister were dressed in trousers and tunics, but their clothing was not worn from use. Even their boots showed little wear. Janetta and Annie both were absolute that the men were Scots, but Janetta stated that they had a heavy accent she did not recognize. She also said they used words she was unfamiliar with.”

“I wouldn’t say that the lowlanders have much of a dialect difference from us. Janetta would know what they were saying. The only area in Scotland I’ve encountered a strong dialect and twisting of our language is Glasgow. I have trouble understanding them, and I’ve been there on numerous occasions.”

“If they were Scots, then why the Norwegian coins?”

“May I see them? I can only think of one man who might hate me, but it does not fit. I turned down an offer from him that would have only benefited me, and he had nothing to gain except a son-in-law. In my mind refusing to marry his daughter does not constitute a rationalism to want me dead. Anders is no murderer.”

Frederic handed William three coins from a leather pouch he had brought into the room, and within seconds William responded. “Do you have more?”

Frederic handed him the pouch.

“These are Norwegian or they were, but they have not been used as currency for some time now. When the Danes took over Norway they changed the mint. That was over forty years ago. Their value is only melt weight and to collectors. I have a small chest of them that was part of my mother’s dowry.” William sorted through the bag a while longer before furrowing his brow in perplexity. “These are all old mint.”

“Where do you keep your coins at?” William gave Frederic instructions as where he stored his collection and continued to inspect the gold coins until the man returned with the chest.

“Set it down easily.” William advised. “When we were in Oslo I bought about fifty more and they had been cleaned prior to the sell. I can tell if these coins have been disturbed because I laid the ones I recently purchased on top.”

Opening the lid William knew what to expect, but he did not find that. The chest had been three-quarter full the last time he had put it away, now it was half empty. New coins were scattered amongst the old and the collection that had been primarily made up of gold now had a larger ratio of silver represented. “Those are my coins in that bag!”

“Who knows of these?”

“Janetta does, but she had no interest in them. Wallace may have knowledge of my mother’s dowry, but I’m the one that put them in Janetta’s room and I’ve never shown them to him. Otherwise I can think of no one except Jorgen. He’s seen the collection.”

The hair on Frederic’s neck rose while the fervor that often accompanies nearing resolution heightened his senses. Speaking with an eerie calmness he posed a question that would bring him one step closer to Jorgen’s guilt. “William, tell me who inherits if you die.”

“That’s a complicated affair…”As William spilled the details of the entanglement that was his father’s will, the secrets of Jorgen’s plan began to unravel. Frederic had to stop William after he explained the section that involved Janetta and any children she might be carrying at the time of William’s death, recalling how none of them at Urquhart knew how far along in the pregnancy she was. Frederic’s thoughts at that very moment were this: Was Jorgen was playing a risk with Janetta birthing a son at any time? If so, would Jorgen go as far as to lure her away from the safety of Urquhart to ensure she gave birth to no child?

“My father had made legal, so I can’t tell you whom he told but I believe he would have mentioned it to Wallace. I related the details to Cameron before he and Janetta married but no one else that I can recall.”

Frederic wanted William to say that he informed Jorgen or Wallace of the details of his father’s legal document because it would have solidified his assuredness that Jorgen was involved in Janetta’s kidnapping, but even without the confirmation other facts reinforced the suspicion. “How much do you trust Jorgen?”

“Trust? I would have to say…” William stopped as his cousin’s voice rung out in his head.

“William, do you believe in an immortal soul?”

Frederic did not wait for William’s answer. Going to the door he ordered one of the guard to bring Nolen Grant to the chamber now.

Early that afternoon the activity level at Castle Grant increased. Keiron received a written message from Frederic and without breathing a word about it to anyone, he did as his uncle requested by sending more men to D’Arcy Keep. Also accompanying the letter was a verbal communication to be passed on to Janetta concerning her brother’s improvement and an endearment William sent stating that he loved her and as soon as he could ride he would come to her.

Hours later two trunks from Elgin were put in Janetta’s room. She was grateful that Willa had shown the good sense to have Frederic send these to her even it they were full of clothing she had sworn never to wear again since they were bought with her father’s money. To follow the Grant tradition of mourning, her black dress would be worn for three days then put away to be replaced with a shawl of the same color knotted in the front to hang over the heart. That would be worn for two months until the Grant period of mourning would end.

Taking the gowns out one at a time, Janetta had forgotten how exquisite they were both in material and design. Her father had long ago started the custom of buying her a dress from the different ports he had found himself at and after his passing William had continued doing this for her.

It was strange to her looking at these gowns again because it was as if she was starting life all over again in her former clothes. But the difference this time was that Janetta had a heavenly baby girl that she was now responsible for and a hole in her heart that she was certain would never heal. Janetta vowed to herself that she would wear this clothing only until she had access to her things from Urquhart, but the future had other plans for her.

In the second trunk under the nightgowns and robes were surprises she was unprepared for. The gifts Janetta had bought in Norway for Cameron and others lie there. She had not given them due to the same reason she had rejected her belongings from Elgin but now instead of feeling righteous about her decision it filled her with sorrow. Next to the architecture literature William had collected for her in Oslo was the sword Janetta had purchased for Cameron. Remembering William’s reaction when she asked him to translate to the weaponsmith that she wanted ‘the finest sword you have,’ Janetta judged that it must have been extremely expensive by the frown on her brother’s face when he paid for it. Of course, neither she nor William had knowledge about what constituted a quality fighting sword, but they trusted the weaponsmith and left with it. It was a fine sword and one that needed an owner.

There was one other significant present in the trunk that Janetta had intended for a woman she thought of as a sister. It was a lovely pale pink gown had been purchased for Elisabeth at the same shop Janetta had bought her wedding dress. Elisabeth would have looked perfect in it with her dark hair and blush complexion. In as much as Willa had taken excellent care of her by giving her love and attention, Janetta wished above all else that if she could not have Cameron back that she could be reunited with Elisabeth once again. Abandoning the trunks, her mind became heavy as she lay down on her bed next to Maura, while in France similar thoughts crossed the mind of another woman also cradling her child.

He was only two days old and while his mama was struggling with the physical discomfort of her breastmilk coming in, this normally composed woman was a bit emotional. The midwife had not warned Elisabeth about the phenomenon and what it entailed but thankfully the elderly woman she had living with her to satisfy social propriety knew what was happening and assured Elisabeth that it would pass soon.

To distract herself from the pain, Elisabeth inspected her son for the umpteenth time that day. She had never seen a baby have larger eyes then he did and they were such a dark blue that she was convinced they would turn brown as he grew older. Freeing his little foot from the blanket that surrounded him, Elisabeth ran her finger over his sole and watched his toes flare out in reaction, bringing a smile to her face. She was rather hoping he would wake enough to nurse and give his mother some relief, but the boy only grimaced before closing his eyes.

Elisabeth kissed him on the forehead before brushing his soft hair with her hand. The baby was destined to have dark, curly hair like she did…and his father. She said William’s name aloud in her mind, which was not easy for Elisabeth to do. Over time since leaving Scotland Elisabeth had become accomplished at only thinking bad thoughts about William so that she would not have to feel any other emotion like regret or sorrow. This afternoon Elisabeth gave herself reprieve from loathing him for just a moment to remember the good.

Right now she could use the tender care he showed her when she had fallen ill at Castle Grant, talking to her softly and stroking her hair out of her eyes. When William was alone with her he had been a different man, and she at one time believed she could love forever. This afternoon Elisabeth would not deny that she missed having him as a confidant and she missed his touch.

The necklace William had given her in Oslo she did not have any remorse in selling. Their son had a warm home because of it. If she continued to be wise with her money, they would be secure for a while longer and Elisabeth could concentrate on her baby’s first years without worry. This was very important to her since Elisabeth was sure he would not have a father or any other family to rely on.

Reaching over to a table by her bed careful not to disturb her son, Elisabeth picked up the bracelet Janetta had given her and put it back on. She wondered what her friend was doing at this moment. Probably out riding horses with Cameron and laughing, she figured, for Janetta had such a zeal for life that it could not be contained. If Elisabeth had known the truth about what was occurring at this time, would she have gambled William gaining knowledge of the child and gone to Scotland to be with her friend? The fear that William might try to take her son if he knew of his existence was very real to her, but Elisabeth loved Janetta so much that the odds were she would have found a way to be with her.


“Jorgen is at his Father’s home.” Nolen Grant informed Frederic mid-afternoon of the same day that William solved part of the riddle of Janetta’s abduction. The lieutenant’s building tension was betraying itself by the quickness in which he spoke. Frederic was not the only man who desired answers for what had occurred here in Elgin. The men had lost their Captain and the atrocities against his wife were reprehensible by anyone’s standards. They wanted blood and Frederic fully understood this, yet he asked them to remain patient.

“Are the men in place?”

Nolen nodded. “They’re well hidden. We’re ready to get him when you say so.”

“Not yet. I have a missin’ priest still out there and I want them both.” Frederic’s goal was not to raise suspicion by removing Jorgen from Elgin and chance the priest finding out about his capture. Grant men were stationed throughout the town, some concealed in houses of the residents, a few dressed in nondescript clothing so they could walk about without restriction. Frederic had no fear that the townsfolk would expose their disguise for they were a loyal lot who did not ask any questions of the soldiers. Jorgen would become closely observed bait and free to roam on foot, but if he attempted to travel by horse he was to be taken into custody immediately. These rules also applied to Wallace and his daughter Cora.

Nolen had confidence in Frederic’s plan, but the former Captain of the Guard had not yet disclosed to him what they were to do if the priest never returned. “What if he doesn’t come?”

“Give it three days and nights. I will take Jorgen on the forth mornin’ if there’s no activity.” Had Nolen not known Frederic as well as he did, he might have misinterpreted the disinterested demeanor worn by Frederic as self-assuredness. But Nolen did know him, not only as his lieutenant but also as a cousin. When Frederic Grant was at his quietest, his thoughts were generally searching for flaws in his own strategy.

Gone was any warmth Frederic had shown Annie just the night before as his mind obsessed in a continuous cycle of rehashing the details he had been given from all sources. William’s information about the coins left Frederic with no doubt of Jorgen’s guilt in connection to him and his sister. This judgement would be solidified after the men who delivered Janetta’s trunks returned with the answer to a question Frederic that wanted asked of her. Had she had touched the coins since she returned from Norway? Her reply was no, and they had been too well hidden for anyone else to stumble across without knowledge of their existence.

On the third night Smith did appeared but not in the form Frederic expected. One of the men stationed in a small building on the garden side of Wallace’s home noted fluid movement in the darkness. At first he wondered if it was Cora due to her nightly habit of stepping out of the house and going down to the docks searching for male companionship. What the townfolk did not speak of was her promiscuous nature. They were ashamed for her because she was not a choosy lass, but to her own credit Cora was wise not to approach the local men and that act of discretion kept her from being made a spectacle outside of people’s homes.

As the Grant man watched intently, he noticed that instead of someone trying to get out of the home they were attempting to gain access in through Cora’s window. Smith was confident enough to return, seeking Jorgen out, due to the ploy Frederic had enacted that day. A rumor was started that the warriors were leaving Elgin immediately to head toward Davidson territory. The men who were ordered to speak the lie said that Frederic Grant was now certain that Chieftain Davidson had ordered the seizure of his niece and the Grants were going to take revenge for the act. Frederic had horses and men removed from the area as he went down to the bare minimum of visible forces when in truth only a quarter of the twenty-four men he had with him left. His intent was to make it look as if they were pulling out of Elgin and it succeeded.

Smith, who was clad in civilian clothing after shedding the priest garment, had actually been on the docks in town pretending to be looking for work when the gossip reached him. He had also heard that William D’Arcy survived the illness he was suffering from. With full realization that Jorgen’s plan had been a failure, Smith was not about to go away without payment of some sort for his time and effort. Jorgen’s reputation as a man who ran out on his commitments was well known in certain unsavory circles of society and Smith would not allow this debt to be ignored.

Jorgen had not ventured out of his father’s home since his quarrel with Frederic Grant, instead opting to lock himself in his room to avoid Wallace’s whining and fretting over his vain attempt to do away with his cousins. Yet in the midst of defeat a new plan was forming in Jorgen’s head, this one much simpler in design. Janetta was no longer a target since she had birthed a daughter and had no husband to impregnate her anymore. Yes, Jorgen would have liked to see her die, but it was not worth the undertaking to him when all he had left between the D’Arcy fortune and himself was William.

Aware that his cousin would probably still head to France in the future, he would either hire someone to make sure William fell from his boat while out at sea, or go himself and do the task. Cameron was the first man Jorgen had ever killed and he did not fear doing it again. He had a preference now and that was for his victims to be unarmed but Jorgen was healing despite Cameron’s best efforts to take Jorgen’s life as his own faded.

A startled cry from Cora brought Jorgen out of his room and when he went to her he saw Smith inside standing by the window. The next thing Jorgen knew Smith had him pinned against the wall with a knife at his throat and ordered to go to his own chamber to discuss a debt owed. Wallace made threats at Smith as his son and the man left Cora, but a return warning by Smith that if the old man interfered he would kill Wallace first shut him up. Smith understood this family better than they might have imagined and he knew that their own preservation was all they cared for. They would let each other die before themselves, therefore his threatening a member of their family was a fruitless endeavor. He had to threaten them directly.

Frederic received word that someone was seen entering Cora’s window and the curses that came from the man’s mouth were in a language William was unfamiliar with.

“It could be anyone!” Frederic’s cry reverberated against the walls of William’s study where the men along with five others including Nolen were stationed. “That woman’s a whore!”

Frederic’s anger made him momentarily forget that that woman was also William’s cousin, but it would not have mattered to him. William had long since written off anyone connected to Wallace as his own kin and as he sat in a padded chair laboring to breathe, he agreed with Frederic’s statement having recently learned of Cora’s behavior.

Nothing was uttered by anyone present until Frederic announced his decision whether to storm the residence now or wait for further verification that the man inside was the one they were wanting. “Go. I’ll bring the men out of hiding. We’ll surround the home and take them alive. I’ll be the first to enter and Jorgen will be my target. Nolen will take the unknown one.”

Details were laid out and fifteen minutes later Frederic burst through the door belonging to Wallace D’Arcy. No one inside had time to react as Grants poured through the entry. The man assigned to guarding Wallace was the first to capture his charge and shouted out his targets name to alert the others that one objective had been reached.

Another announced “Cora!” as she was found and the open chambers were soon filled with warriors except for one that was locked. Frederic called forth a man they called Bull and then motioned the others back who had crowded the hallway. A hulk of a man came forward with an oversized axe with both hands and he knew his job. Raising the axe level with his head, he brought it down with such force that it cracked the upper half of the door before he swung again from the side. Seconds later the wooden door was not an obstacle anymore and Frederic rushed past Bull to Jorgen with Nolen behind him. “Jorgen!” and “Man!” were called out and shortly thereafter “all clear.”

Frederic seized Jorgen so vigorously that an empty glass vial fell from the D’Arcy’s hand breaking on impact with the floor; the only sign of its contents being a stark white powder on Jorgen’s lips. He had taken a long lasting numbing concoction he had kept with him since he learned of Janetta being rescued. Jorgen could have taken something that would have killed him almost instantly but his reliance on his ability to lie his way out of a situation made him not consider that as an option.

Smith chose not to struggle and dropped the knife he had been holding after he saw the blade of the axe come through the door. His eyes were glazed but it was not from artificial means, and Nolen removed him from the room as soon as he was certain Frederic had control of Jorgen

“What is on your face?” When Jorgen did not answer him, anger rose in Frederic that begged him to be free. His line of vision fell to Jorgen’s thin neck and it would be so easy to just end this all now, but if he did there would be no answers and the need for resolution was stronger than Frederic’s want of swift justice. With a low voice that had been tempered by rage to a degree that he could not scream if he desired to, Frederic issued a threat to the man that he sincerely meant.

“You are going to tell me everythin’ you know or I will personally rip your heart out.” The drugs Jorgen had ingested were not fully coursing through his system and Frederic’s words brought him a terror he had truly never known before and yet, it was only half as frightening as what he had Smith’s men administer to Janetta.

Jorgen began his impromptu lies primarily centering on his own innocence and Smith’s guilt. His story was beginning to take shape in what he thought to be a convincing form when suddenly everything went dark and Jorgen’s tongue stilled. It was not Frederic’s intention to hit him as hard as he had, but the lies were more then he was willing to listen to. Angry with himself for loosing his control so quickly, Frederic made sure Jorgen was still breathing before taking in his surroundings for the first time. It was Frederic’s turn to experience fear when he opened the cabinet that contained Jorgen’s beloved collection encased in individual glass bottles.

Unlike his brother Fergus who rarely left Grant territory and spent the majority of his time at Urquhart, Frederic had been out in the world and it was not overly difficult for him to decipher what was before him. There were written papers on Jorgen’s desk and drawings of plants in which one caught the man’s attention. It was the poppy. Two thoughts crossed his mind simultaneously. He sent out a warning that no one was to touch any powder or liquid substance in the house. Smith had not yet been searched and Frederic gave Nolen specific instructions on how to do it in case Smith was carrying a toxin. This was fortunate because the lethal vial Jorgen had given the monk before Janetta had been kidnapped was still in his pouch and had Nolen opened it, the touch alone would have ended his life.

Frederic second thought that William D’Arcy had not fallen ill on his own accord, but had been poisoned.

Just before sunrise an uncooperative Jorgen, Smith, and Wallace were bound and gagged then loaded onto a cart in route for Grantown on Spey. Whereas they were all giving conflicting stories, Cora turned out to be a useful lass. That is, once she was approached in the proper manner. The man that had been questioning her was too intimidating, sharply insisting that she answer his questions and Cora did not respond to this. Therefore Frederic sent Nolen in with yet another explicit set of directives.

“Act as if you’re interested in her. Attracted to her. Listen to her and be her friend. Hell, compliment her for all I care, but get her to talk. I want to know who that man is and if she knows anything.” Sneering at the thought of having to fake attraction to that woman, the twenty-nine year old lieutenant did as he was asked. It was unlucky for Nolen that he was the most comely man in the residence nearest to Cora’s age, but Frederic could not act anything but disgusted by the woman and he could not complete this task.

Cora needed little attention before she started to accept the insincere words coming out of Nolen’s dry mouth and what they learned from her was an education to say the least. They now knew that Smith was a monk although he did not necessarily behave like a monk, and that he visited her brother often. Jorgen’s knowledge of herbs was confirmed, as was her father’s hatred for William. She had overheard her brother and father talk about wanting William’s fortune for their own, but they had never discussed a specific plan that she had been privy to. There was one vital piece of information that she told the handsome Grant, and it prompted Nolen to excuse himself and pass it on to Frederic as soon as it slipped past her lips.

On the morning that Janetta was taken from D’Arcy Keep, Jorgen returned home some time after the church service had ended. He was bleeding from his mid-section, head and leg, and holding his right wrist. She remembered Jorgen cursing to his father something about Cameron Grant.

The cart had not left when Frederic approached it and his hands were steady as he grabbed hold of Jorgen’s shirt and ripped it off of him. The priest robe from Smith’s pack Frederic had been holding discard to the ground. There was a bandage around Jorgen’s waist as he had suspected on the day he tried to gain access to William and Frederic turned him away. Taking out the knife he wore, Frederic cut off the wrapping and stared at the wounds it had covered. His sister had not lied. Frederic did the same to the man’s leg and once again Cora’s tale proved true that Jorgen had been injured. With absolute certainty Frederic knew that the wounds on Jorgen were created by a sword, not a fall from a horse. On this claim he would stake his life because Frederic’s own body was covered in the scars that had once been made by the same weapon.

The sensation of his stepping out of his body lightened Frederic as if the soul did not want to witness what the mind desired to do to Jorgen D’Arcy. With the knife still in hand, Frederic decided with great probability that he was looking Cameron’s killer in the face and this knowledge brought him to a crossroads. Would he be the Warlord who sought out a more complete validation other than the wounds and his own instinct by letting Jorgen live so he could talk? Or would he be the man wanting revenge for the early death of a surrogate son he loved and had such high hopes for?

His mind called on all resources, even the subconscious to make the decision and temporarily Frederic stopped breathing as debate raged inside his head. When the victor was clear he said to whomever was standing next to him “Take the knife from me.”

Before noon they arrived at Castle Grant. The heavy cart was taken to the rear of the building to unload the prisoners but William and Frederic dismounted at the doors of the front entrance. William had insisted on coming back with him regardless of the fact that he could not stand for longer then ten minutes at a time. “I can ride” he told Frederic and he had made it, but the trip had taken a toll on William and he could not get off of his horse without aid. They made it to the stairs leading to the second floor and William had gone as far as he could. Frederic began the climb to collect Janetta for her brother, but she had seen them arrive and met him not far from William with Maura grasped tightly to her. Frederic said nothing to her as he was honoring the request of William that he be the person to give his sister the latest information about Jorgen.

Frederic took a few more steps up before turning his head back toward the reunion. He watched Janetta sit next to her brother on the step, shifting the baby to her lap and wrapping her free arm around William while kissing the side of his face. The siblings spoke in hushed tones and suddenly feeling like a spectator, Frederic continued on to the second floor landing where Keiron was waiting for him.

If he had thought he was exhausted before, Frederic felt he could barely move better than William due to weeks without rest for either his body or mind. Motioning his nephew toward him, Frederic made sure no one was around before he started talking.

“You got my message about Jorgen and his guilt related to Janetta and her brother?”

“I did.” Keiron replied coolly. He had his own thought on how Jorgen should be punished for his crime and Keiron intended to inform Frederic before any finalization was made about the execution. Keiron’s proposal was not overly vicious in design because he was not that kind of man, but it was what he deemed fair and fitting by Highland standards.

“There’s more.” Frederic swallowed, not certain why he had a strong desire to stall. What he was going to tell Keiron could be a relief if true, but also sickening to think about and Frederic had had his quota of adversity for a lifetime. “I believe Jorgen is the one…that killed Cameron. All guilt points toward him and Jorgen has cuts that prove a sword struggle happened.”

Frederic never thought he would see it, but the posture of Keiron’s entire body changed to that of someone with only one purpose--An eye for an eye.

“Don’t you take him.” Frederic warned Keiron as the man’s face laid bare his dark side. “Jorgen D’Arcy is mine.”

“For money!” Keiron hissed back. “My brother died over some man’s greed!”

“I know! But you owe me this, Keiron, and I will give justice to that man.”

With his jaw set so tight it could crack teeth, Keiron looked away from his uncle and shook his head. The blood of his ancestors burned inside of him, leaving him defenseless against the corruption that pure hatred did to a person. Keiron’s self control was fleeting and after he closed his eyes attempting to regain composure that would serve as a facade to hide his true state of mind, he envisioned himself doing things to Jorgen D’Arcy that he would have never considered before. Not only for revenge for his brother, but also for his brother’s wife.

“If you change because of this, Jorgen is victorious,” Frederic prophesized in a voice that seemed to come out of thin air, and with those words Keiron eventually opened his eyes but the hate did not go away. “Because Jorgen will have taken from me another of my nephews.”

Keiron could not respond to Frederic’s wisdom and the two men stood in relative silence for a while. Frederic broke it with more information for Keiron’s ears only. “William feels to blame for his own family member stealing the life of Cameron. He is certain Janetta will, too. Keiron, I wouldn’t be wasting my breath right now if this wasn’t important.”

Meeting his uncle’s gaze, Keiron could see the man had aged what appeared like twenty years in only four days. Flatly, he knew he had to say something back to Frederic to let him know he was listening. “What do you need?”

“I want you to keep me from loosing any more of my kin because of that man.” Frederic repeated with a fatigue so deep that his bones ached just standing where he was. “Do whatever you can. You’re a resourceful man. Just be certain that my niece, her child, and her brother do not leave me over family dishonor they have not earned.”

“I will.” Keiron answered as he glanced down the steps and observed Janetta putting Maura in her brother’s lap. They were innocent regardless of the familiar ties; in fact, they were the intended sacrifices. Frederic placed his hand on his shoulder as a sign of condolence, but Keiron realized he had to be by himself if he was going to be able regain his sanity. As he began his decent to the room he used on the first floor, his uncle offered encouragement in the form of words.

“You’re in your place for a reason, son. God knew what he was doing.” After that was said, Frederic went up to the family quarters and was welcomed home by Annie wrapping her arms around him.

“I need a bit of sleep.” He told her between kissing her pretty brown hair unaware that Ian was startled by the appearance of his mother’s suitor. “I have a lot to tell you, but I don’t think I can. I’m too worn, Annie.”

“Let’s get you to bed.” With her arm repositioned around his waist Annie walked with Frederic to his room, but always the mother she reassured her son before entering. “Ian, I’ll be out shortly.”

“I was gonna take the lad ridin’ wit’ me.” Fergus announced from his doorway. He did not say those words to give his brother and Annie clandestine time together for he could clearly see Frederic was exhausted. Fergus did it because he wanted the boy not to fret over what his mother was or was not doing behind a closed door.

“He hasn’t ridden much so be careful, Fergus.” Annie nodded at the man as Frederic opened his door. “Thank you.”

Once it was shut Annie asked him if he wanted to remove his boots, which Frederic said he did not as he rubbed his face with both hands. “No, just bed. Wake me well before supper, Annie?”

“Don’t worry yourself, I will. Frederic, take off your sword.”

“Oh.” Untying the knot, he carefully placed the sword on a table he had in his room before lying down on the soft mattress regretting that he did not have the energy to talk to her about what had occurred in Elgin. “I’m sorry.”

“Shh.” Annie whispered at him as she unfolded a blanket and placed it over him. “I’ll cover you up and then rub your back.”

“Will you lay down with me so I can see you? I won’t do anythin’…” Frederic did not have to finish his sentence. She crawled under the cover with him placing her head on a spare pillow and her hand against his face, smoothing his forehead as his eyelids grew heavy. Annie stayed with him over the next three hours not moving from his side while he slept soundly. She could hear people coming and going outside his room but no one disturbed them, which was good because when Frederic finally did awaken, he had a monumental task waiting for him. Jorgen D’Arcy needed to be convinced to confess to the murder of Cameron Grant.

Over an hour later another man was also getting tucked into a bed, but this one by his sister. It took him a while but William eventually made it to the third floor with the help of some guards and was placed in the first available room nearest the stairs. He really should not have made the ride from Elgin to Grantown on Spey because he was not in any condition physically to be sitting up for that long a period, but stubbornness can be both a liability and an asset.

William had been right about Janetta’s reaction to the strong possibility that Jorgen was responsible for Cameron’s demise, but she was more composed then he had expected after he told Janetta all he knew.

The birth of Maura had matured her perspective in many ways and a part of her was closer in alignment to Cameron in respect that Janetta realized she could not run away from this disgrace. Once William’s narration settled in her mind, Janetta decided to let the Grants determine if she would stay with them or leave. They had welcomed her into their fold since before she was married and this past week cradled her with love as Janetta did her own daughter. If they would continue to accept her after knowing that a blood relations of hers took the life of one of their own, Janetta vowed to never stray from them until her own death claimed her. She wanted Maura to be raised as her papa was, as a Grant.

Exiting her brother’s room to change her daughter, Willa came up to her to inquire about the health of William. The younger woman gave a favorable account before she told her that she needed to tend to the child. Willa, who was more than fond of Maura, took the babe from her and stated that it was her right as Aunt to change that baby herself whenever she felt like it. Willa dearly loved babies even when they were wet.

Fergus arrived not long afterwards with Ian by his side and two of his daughters following closely behind. Once the stairs were cleared, the girls took off running down the hallway and Janetta caught herself saying “Gracie and Genevieve! Don’t run up here. You could fall and we don’t want you hurt.”

The girls slowed to a fast walk and when Fergus passed by Janetta, he patted her on the back and with a tiny bit of mirth said, “Can you make them stop talkin’, too? They’re nev’er quiet.”

Janetta gave him a brief grin that faded as quickly as it came because she did not feel any happiness inside of her before allowing her attention to rest on the young man beside Fergus. He is disoriented and young for his age, she thought to herself, uncertain if she would know the boy as he aged into a man. Just yesterday she, Willa, and Annie shared the afternoon together and through the conversation a fresh understanding about Annie and her son emerged. They had lived a sheltered life after her husband’s death and were alone for the most part. Annie admitted her worry that Ian was becoming too accustomed to the quiet.

Janetta reminisced that Cameron could not have been much older than Ian when her husband avenged his sister’s death, but he had exposed to an adult world early in his lifetime and was expected to be more of a man then a boy. Janetta could not fathom what would happen to the lad when Frederic married his mother, but Janetta’s trust in her uncle led her to think that Frederic would also guide Ian.

She became aware of Keiron’s presence behind her after Janetta heard Ian wish him a good afternoon and address him as Chieftain Grant. A knot in her stomach formed with her belief that not a few feet from her was the man who would decide her fate. From the opinions of others and her own interactions she thought Keiron to be a virtuous man, but that did not necessarily constitute that he would be forgiving of the trespasses committed against his brother. The reality was that Janetta did not know Keiron very well.

“No titles up here, and good afternoon to you, Ian” Keiron reminded the lad for the forth time since they first spoke. Although his countenance was gloomy, Keiron remained kind to Ian. “Janetta, would you join me in your brother’s room?”

She followed him without hesitation and only saying ‘thank you’ when he opened the door for her so she could enter first. Janetta was not a timid woman and her confidence in her own worth grew during her marriage to Cameron, not to the point of being conceited but rather that she knew she could do good for others. But how could she compensate for the tragedy Jorgen had caused? There was no way because Janetta could not resurrect the dead.

“I can’t stay for long.” Keiron started, somewhat apologetically to William. In her brother’s letters to her while Janetta lived at Urquhart William mentioned being in the company of Keiron but he had not went into detail about how their time was spent or the results formed from the contact. The two men did share much in common personality wise, but they also found that they could learn from each other through their differences. Their open dialogue led to a friendship being built that would not be easily destroyed. While Janetta stood off by herself in the chamber, William and Keiron spoke easily with true concern for the other, Keiron obviously more collected then he had been earlier when in conversation with his uncle. His disgust for Jorgen had not changed, but he was able to manage the expression of it.

“William, are you mending?”

“Yes.” William began to proclaim his appreciation to his friend for what he had done to safeguard him from his own family, but Keiron refused to let him show his gratitude.

“Did you suspect?” William asked in reference to Jorgen. “Your restricting him from my home...he was turned away from my door several times and with what we know, Jorgen’s purpose was unmistakable. How do I thank you for what you did?”

“You don’t. I believe I was led to act by some force greater than myself and I cannot take the recognition.”

“You are too modest.”

Shaking his head in disagreement, Keiron stated that it was good to see William resting.

“I can’t sleep, though. Not for more then a few hours at a time and that is proving to be a deterrent to regaining health at a pace I would prefer. I don’t believe any of us will sleep well until this is behind us.”

“You speak the truth,” Keiron agreed. “Was the ride hard on you? It had to have been.”

“Frederic went slow and we stayed with the cart. Cora was loud, and… vulgar.”

“Nolen explained that to me, and I hope you’ll understand a decision I’ve made about her. I want it to give you peace. What I have written up is not legal in Scotland. I can’t change history, but it is permissible here in our territory. I took freedoms I shouldn’t have without speakin’ to you first, but know that I did it with you and Cameron in mind.”

“What is it?” William asked.

“Wallace, Jorgen, and Cora have had their surname removed from them and are being stricken from all records I have. Their property will be turned over to me to be put aside for Maura for when she is of age, with the exception of what needs to be burned from Wallace’s estate. I’ll need your help selling off what they had because I doubt Maura will want anythin’ they owned. William, if Cora’s innocence is true, she needs to be sent away. I will not have her here.”

“I share your desire. Keiron, tell me why do you do this for us?”

“I’ll not have them ruin your good reputations. You were not responsible for what they did, and they are not worthy of your name.”

Up until this point, Keiron had been speaking directly to William yet it was not meant as a slight to Janetta. His father had taught him the old ways when it came to discussing unpleasant matters in the company of women. Keiron followed that rule because it was his understanding that a man was to shelter women if possible by reason that they should not have to be burdened with the same hardships as a man.

But, a vocal father and a brother as her only companion had raised Janetta. Her mother never did learn their language well and rarely expressed her opinions; therefore the greater majority of discourse in Janetta’s home was from men. As a married woman her husband had encouraged her by taking an interest in her unique outlook. Janetta was not frightened by the more masculine topics of male conversation, she preferred them. Fortunately she did not view Keiron’s standard of etiquette as anything but an act of respect considering the circumstances.

Once he had left and she and William were alone, Janetta made a comment to her brother that would take away the guilt she felt about Keiron’s offer to make their name pure.

“Keiron may not have been so generous had he known how our father earned his fortune. I do not want to hide that from him. It is wrong and I will not be deceitful like Jorgen and Wallace.”

“He already knows. I told Keiron back in January.”

By midnight Frederic was ready just to kill Jorgen. The man would not crack and even William and Keiron gave a try at getting him to talk to no avail. The monk on the other hand answered no questions; he only chanted a prayer in Latin over and over. Wallace was as worthless as his son, speaking in riddles and proclaiming how misused he was by his own family. He denied any involvement and around ten at night fell asleep. Well, not asleep actually. Wallace had a heart attack and died. No one would notice until morning when they would come to fetch him to hang.

The three were in a section of Castle Grant reserved for people like them, detained in cage-like cells with brick on three sides and bars to the front. Although unable to see each other, they could hear talk if they listened. In front of the cells were a wide walkway and a door leading out to yet another hallway. This is where Janetta was headed.

She had knocked on Annie’s door and told her that Maura had just been fed and asked Annie to keep her for a while. Annie agreed not inquiring what the young mother was doing up in the middle of the night, and brought the baby to bed with her. Traveling without a sound down the hallway, Janetta saw that William’s door was ajar and peeked in before passing by. He was sitting up in bed with a bowl between his legs. Janetta knew he was sick and reconsidered her intent for having Annie watch Maura before inquiring after his wellbeing. William assured her that the nausea was passing and implored her to get to bed, promising to call to her if he needed aid. Janetta purposely left the door ajar as she had found it so she could hear her brother, but this also the means for William to learn of her plan to go to the cells since she did not tell him. It took a moment for him to realize that Janetta had left him going in the opposite direction of her chamber, and she was fully dressed.

The area outside of the prison was ominous because of what it represented. Janetta had never been to it before but she did know of the location. When she entered the hallway where Frederic, Keiron, and others were, all seemed surprised by her appearance but her uncle. She brushed past the others to get to Frederic and asked him how their progression toward getting Jorgen to confess was. His answer was disappointing.

“Will you hang him tomorrow regardless if he confesses or not?”

“I haven’t made that decision yet.” Frederic admitted. “I cannot see that happenin’ because there may be more men that are involved. I won’t know if Jorgen’s dead.”

“What of the other two in there?”


Janetta found an empty chair and sat while listening to Frederic hash out more ideas to use against the three men. They had already attempted several different approaches that Frederic was beginning to lose track of what options they had left. A small voice unsure of itself offered him yet another alternative. “May I go in?”

Frederic peered down at the woman who did not even reach his shoulder in height. Without patronization he posed a question to Janetta. “What would you do?”

“I don’t know.” It was the truth. Frederic took her aside and before he offered counsel if she were to speak to the men, he warned her of the condition of the men themselves and the repulsive nature of what questioning them entailed. She had never firsthand witnessed true brutality inflicted on others except when Frederic had found her after she had been taken, and this was a concern of her uncle’s. He did not want her scarred from the experience again. Once Janetta said that she still wanted to enter the chamber, he then apprised her about the state of mind the men had been exhibiting, especially Smith.

Keiron was about to voice his strong reservations when William arrived. One look at Janetta was all he needed to begin a rampage. “No! Don’t you even consider going in there, Janetta. I forbid it!”

“I will do as I see fit.” She yelled back at William, angry with her brother for thinking she needed his permission to do what she felt was justified.

“Not as long as you are my sister. I will do what is necessary. This is not your place.”

“I am Cameron’s widow,” she said slowly, “and that’s why I’m going in there. I love you, but I will not obey you blindly.”

“It’s like sending a lamb to slaughter, Frederic!” William pleaded with the man to his sister’s right hoping to gain his support. “How can you even consider this in good conscience?”

Frederic had no opportunity to reply due to Janetta continuing her argument with her brother. “Bloody hell if you’ll tell me what to do, William! I’m no infant needing her hand held.”

“You cannot fathom in your worst nightmares what it is like in there. No, you will stay put out here. I will go back in and get Jorgen to...”

“I assure you that nothing on the other side of that door can compare to my nightmares. I will go in and do what I can because I want them dead and buried tomorrow.” Janetta turned away from her brother toward Frederic. “Open the door.”

“Janetta, please.” William pleaded. It was his love for her that brought him here and it tore William up to think about how far Janetta was willing to injure herself to help them break Jorgen.

“No.” Shaking her head, she turned back toward the door with no one else expressing their hesitancy about her going in.

Janetta was seething after her words with William and Frederic approved of the change in her demeanor although it had been gained by terrible means. She had been too frightened before the argument and he doubted even a lass as determined as Janetta would have been able to stay in that room for long. Frederic had complete faith that she could brave the encounter and he would not let harm come to her. “You say my name and I’ll be there to get you out. Stay close to the wall and no one can reach you.”

Holding the door for her and placing a block of wood on the floor to keep it from closing completely, Frederic stood guard with William coming up to stand aside him. Any sign of distress from Janetta and they would cease her interrogation immediately.

There were two oil torches lit on each end of the area and the smoke hung in the air burning the back of her throat when she inhaled it. It was filthy in there unlike the rest of the castle, with old and musty odors she could not identify and they did nothing but irritate her. In the first stall she could see the sleeping form of Wallace lying on straw and blankets. This man, who had once been the only person Janetta knew to instill fear in her now intimidated her not at all. She had met worse and considered for a moment waking him so she could finally speak her mind at him, but time wasted on a worthless man was not what Janetta had come in for.

Smith’s chants played in the background like music as she recalled Frederic informing her that Jorgen was in the center cell. A few cautious steps later she stood in front of it. The thick shadows created by uneven light made it difficult for her to see his face, but the shape of his body she recognized.

“Jorgen, I see you find yourself in an unenviable position. I always thought you might end up this way.” The sarcasm Janetta used to address him was rich, it was also returned in his own tone.

“So kind of you to come and show your support for your family.”

“I suppose I am.” Janetta moved closer to the bars that kept Jorgen confined, raising an eyebrow in judgment at the condition of his surroundings. She was also able to get a more detailed view of him and was quite amazed that he could even stand.

“This is a grievous error that will be set to right.” Jorgen was trying to control his tongue to conceal his true loathing of the pretentious snot of a girl show. “Then you will owe me an apology.”

“You may think that Jorgen if it gives you comfort in your final hours.”

“You would condone the killing on an innocent man?” Jorgen shot back at her.

“In your case, yes.”

“Then you admit that I am innocent?”

“No…but if you were innocent I would still support your killing.” Janetta’s mouth was testifying to opinions that were not her own, but she did not check herself. Whatever had taken over her mind was allowed free reign. “You are a pathetic excuse for a man and you will not be missed.”

“And you are a wee girl who uses words to big for her that she can not even comprehend. You have been coddled your entire life and have earned nothing but contempt for your lack of effort. You should hear the whispers of your kinfolk, they are not flattering and they call you names I will not repeat. I have been made a fool of more times then you can know defending your honor, cousin. Think on that before you take joy in my unsupported death. Janetta, you have very little family left. I would reconsider my position if I were you.”

“You are a man without a name and you are no relation to me. Chieftain Grant removed your surname this day; therefore you may save your kind attempts on my part for I have no ties to you. William and I have spent the better part of this evening thinking on a new surname for you, as every man needs a name. I prefer Jorgen the arse, but my brother claims I curse too much and should think of another. He wants Jorgen the inept for obvious reasons.” Janetta’s voice changed tone as she delivered her next words. “You were too incompetent to kill us even when you had your chance.”

“If I wanted to kill you, you would be dead.”

“But I’m not! I think I’ve just found your new name. Jorgen the Incompetent!”

“I will not talk to you when you’re being a bitch!”

“I don’t need your input. Oh Jorgen, you have inspired me. I now have a fresh story to tell, and believe me, I will tell it to anyone who will listen. It will be about a man who believed himself so intelligent and clever that he devised a plan to gain his family’s gold, but he was too half-witted to pull it off. You see, he only thought himself intelligent and clever when in reality the man called Jorgen only had his own illusion of self worth guiding him. He lacked the forethought to make his idea work. He was a failure.”

“I will not listen to a child whose brother dresses her up like a princess so that some man will take her off his hands! You are used goods now Janetta and it will cost your brother an enormous amount to get anyone to take you again. You are no better than a prostitute, and I suggest you get accustomed to spreading your legs to any man that will bed you because if William ever dies, you are ruined.”

“I will tell my story to everyone I meet.” Janetta continued without giving credence to his words. This infuriated Jorgen because he wanted her to acknowledge his estimation of her future. He wanted credit for hurting her. “And as the lore turns to myth, people will use your name as a derogatory term. ‘Don’t be a jorgen,’ they will tell their children and only then will I stop. You were too incompetent to kill me! You were too incompetent to kill William! You had us both and you couldn’t do it because you’re a bloody coward! Say it with me Jorgen, I am incompetent.”

“Not too incompetent to kill a Warlord!” If she would only move one more step, he’d happily kill her now to prove his willingness.

Pointing a finger at him, Janetta goaded him to explain himself. “I do not believe you because your past failures tell a different story.”

“Janetta, you should have seen him. Begging like an animal for his own life!”

“I will have Frederic cut out your tongue for that lie!” Smith’s chanting stopped, but she did not. “Cameron Grant never begged for anything in his life. Unlike you sniveling around my brother for favors undeserved!”

“Oh, but he did beg! I could have taken mercy on him but I kept seeing your face in my mind. You were the reason he died!”

“LIAR! LIAR!” Screams from Smith broke the self induced spell Janetta was under with such a fierceness that she jumped back into the wall, holding her hands out against it as if touching it would keep her safe. Until this moment she had not been frightened as she should have been, but now she was and the mind game for her was over.

“DON’T TELL THAT WOMAN YOUR LIES!” Smith cursed and at this point William came through the door in panic that his sister was being attacked. Putting her hand up, Janetta stopped him nearing her too closely and started to slowly sidestep her way toward the monk, halting when she could just barely see him and he could see her. She had not yet allowed herself to absorb what Jorgen had said to her.

“It was your husband that he killed?” Smith asked her in a scratchy whisper, his energy spent. Those were the words Janetta did feel.

“Yes.” Her answer encouraged him to crawl across the floor to the bars so he could view her better. His eyes were haunted and as Smith tried to focus on Janetta, he found it easier just to look at the floor.

“He did not beg Jorgen for his life. Don’t believe anything he says to you; Jorgen would lie to Satan if he thought it would bring him gain. I was there. Your husband pleaded, yes, but not to him. It was to God for your life.”

After Cameron’s funeral Janetta had sworn to herself that she would not cry in front of others anymore because she was not comfortable displaying that weakness, but when the words from Smith reached her ears she knew them to be the truth. The tears started to fall on their own. Seeing movement out of the corner of her eye, Janetta once again had to stop William from coming too close to her. Several breaths later she asked Smith a question.

“Who are you?”

“Edward Smith. I was a monk and before that a husband. I’m from England, but I have lost my way.” Smith stared into nothingness remembering what had occurred by the tree stump on the day they took the woman from her brother’s home. “Your husband died with honor and fought like a champion but he had no chance. Jorgen stabbed him in the back many times before he began to fight.”

She did not respond to the man for some time because Smith had mentally painted her a picture that caused Janetta to witness Cameron die in her mind’s eye. When she did speak again, it was with compassion. “Edward Smith, would you like to confess your sins and die with honor?”

“Yes.” It was Smith’s greatest wish.

“My brother William will sit with you until we can get the priest.” Janetta reached out against the wall and William took her hand, kissing it. Not fearing Smith, he sat on the floor next to the bars watching with sad eyes as Janetta went out the door without looking back. Once outside, Frederic took her away from the others after motioning Nolen to move up to his former place by the door. He leaned over and spoke quietly so that no one could hear. The pain from Cameron’s death was fresh for them both again, but this time Frederic was strong and offered her comfort and encouragement that they would all be whole again…and that she was loved by all of them. Janetta only listened to him as she wiped her face dry, sometimes nodding her head, other times shaking it. This reopening of her grief would mend once again, and the initial shock would be much shorter.

While Frederic and Janetta were alone, Smith told William Jorgen’s plan in every detail as they waited for the priest. His confession lay to rest their worries about there being others involved that were still unaccounted for.

Frederic took the life of Jorgen that night for he could not bear the thought of that man breathing the same air as those people he loved. Edward Smith was to be hung the next morning. Before the rope turned taunt that encircled his neck, Smith looked up to the heavens and saw Janetta looking over the rooftop’s edge. Her hair flying about her head in the breeze made him think she must resemble the angels. Smith nodded to her and she returned it, bringing the eyes of the men gathered below to turn up toward her. Janetta would never have to be as strong as she had been during these past two weeks again in her lifetime, for life would never be that cruel to her a second time.

After Smith was dead and all that needed to be done was, Frederic went to stand in front of Keiron and removed his old sword from his belt, laying it at the feet of his Chieftain. His nephew understood the meaning of his uncle’s action, as did the woman on the rooftop. While Janetta ran toward the steps to go tell Annie what her beloved had done, Keiron fought back emotion and said simply “Thank you Uncle Frederic.”

Frederic Grant would not intentionally harm another person for the rest of his life, and the healing for them all began that day.


Frederic slept for the following two days. Annie would wake him for meals that he often insisted taking with the rest of his family before being coaxed to go back to bed shortly thereafter. When his brother Fergus rose early on the third morning and found Frederic with a plate of eggs but no Annie by his side, he decided that this would be a fair opportunity to question him about Ian. From what he could gather, Frederic still did not suspect that the lad could be his. He worked from a strong impression that his brother and Annie had been together in their youth because of a slip of the tongue made years ago by Frederic, but Fergus had pretended as if he did not hear it after it occurred.

There was a moment’s hesitation where Fergus considered having someone with stronger diplomatic skills such as Keiron speak to Frederic, but in the end he decided to do it himself. If the situation had been reversed he would rather have Frederic bring him the information as opposed to a younger nephew. Without bothering to fix himself a breakfast plate, Fergus sat across from his brother and began his narration with a warning. “I’m gonna say somethin’ to you, and ye’re gonna get angry at me.”

“Then why say it?”

“’Cause. Just do as I ask.” Fergus leaned forward so that if any one entered the room they would not be able to overhear. “When’s the last time you saw yourself in the lookin’ glass?”

Frederic grimaced at his brother. He was not yet fully awake and if Fergus was making a reference to his appearance, he was talking to a man who did not presently care. “Those are for women needin’ to….tie somethin’. I don’t need it.”

“You don’t use one to shave?”


Raising his eyebrows, Fergus was impressed. “This is what I want ya to do. After Willa comes to eat, go into our room and take a good gander in her lookin’ glass. Then go and find Ian and tell me what ya see.”

“What are you talkin’ about?” It was Fergus’s mention of Ian that confused Frederic.

“Just do it.” Fergus muttered. “He’s a respectful lad, Frederic. Annie did a fine job at raisin’ him. He’s bloody scared of you, but…”

“What does that have to do with a looking glass?”

“You tell me.”

Frederic rose abruptly and stalked toward the door. He was too sharp not to comprehend what Fergus was saying to him, but Frederic was unwilling to further the conversation. The allegation had been severe and unexpected, and he was angry with Fergus for making the charge. Annie had not uttered a word about that sort of possibility and although Frederic understood how those things worked, they had only been together one time and that was in the water. Certainly those conditions made it near impossible. Doubting that Fergus knew what he spoke of, Frederic chose to bypass the mirror and sit in the hallway outside Annie’s door until she came out for the day. During that time Willa passed by him to go dress her daughters, but the temptation did not rise in him to enter her abandoned room. Nothing could tempt him until he saw Ian leave his chamber alone.

The young man stopped when Frederic inquired about his mother and answered civilly although he would not glance directly at Frederic. Ian had not viewed the execution of Edward Smith, but he did accept that it had to happen. He also knew Frederic had given that order. The idea that Frederic had that sort of power did not sit well with him when he considered his mother’s vulnerability. He thought her too gentle for a man that strong, doubting that Frederic would know how to treat her kindly.

Inspecting the young man and making mental notes about his distinguishing traits, Frederic tried to coax him into small talk but the end result was only Ian speaking less. He was not sure why Annie’s son would barely look at him unless it was related to their not being afforded any leisure of time to get to know one another. Seeing that the lad was uncomfortable, Frederic sympathized and set him free. Only then did he consider going into Willa’s room.

It had been a very long time since Frederic used a looking glass. They were not commonly found because of their expense for a luxury item and honestly, he thought them to be of little use. Men had dominated Castle Grant for too many years for a purchase such as a mirror to be considered a necessity.

His reflection told him more than his mind was prepared for, and the years of not seeing it clearly left a profound impression on him. Frederic did not appear as old as he had thought he would, though his dark hair did have gray and his face bore signs of weathering. He was getting too thin but as he notched his belt over more this morning than usual he gave credit for his weight loss to what he had gone through lately. Frederic was pleased that his arms continued to be strong and after bending closer to confirm that the chin many Grant men had inherited through the generations was well intact he started to compare his image with his memory of Ian. The hair color and shape of the eyes were similar, as was the tint of their eyes. They were both very tall, and built lean. Perhaps there was also a likeness in the fullness of their lips, but it was the chin that gave him pause.

Frederic returned to the common room and saw Ian sitting with Keiron at the same table. There were similarities between them, too, primarily in facial features. This did include the chin. Fergus watched his brother with a heavy heart, experiencing no joy at being right about Ian’s parentage. Not that he had a difficulty with Frederic being Ian’s father, but that Frederic was unmistakably shaken by the discovery as evidenced by the perplexed expression he wore and that he could not take his eyes off of the young man. When Annie came into the room and spoke to Frederic, he responded and then the two of them left the room.

Frederic had asked her to come with him away from the others so they could talk and the second floor gave them privacy since it was empty due to no visitors being in house. Frederic opened the first door he came across and together they entered. Annie sat on the edge of a bed and he in a chair across the room.

“Frederic?” Annie could see his distress and the reassuring approach in which she said his name enticed Frederic to speak.

“Tell me what Ian’s father looked like.” There was not an accusatory pitch to his request because he did not think Annie capable of deceit. Frederic had many reasons to be convinced of this and they were not all from the past. Annie’s conduct when she gave aid to Janetta and brought Maura into the world was irreproachable, and since that time her natural mannerisms gained the regard of more than just Frederic. She was woven into their lives without trying because of the exceptional woman she was.

With that question, Annie knew Frederic had seen how much alike he and her son were. Her answer was given calmly by virtue of Annie believing that when one spoke the truth there was no reason to fret. “Graham was short. Not much taller than I am. And he was stocky. He had brown eyes like I do, and was fair-haired. But you asked me what Ian’s father looked like, and I cannot tell you. I have no proof. I can only give you a guess.”

Frederic said nothing, therefore she continued.

“I believe Ian’s father looks like you.”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” This was the first thought that came from Frederic’s mind. He took her statement as a confirmation that she believed that [I]he[/I] was Ian’s father.

“When? The only time we’ve really had alone was after Cameron’s burial. I wasn’t going to say… Today I hoped to talk about it with you because its been pressing heavy on my chest.”

“When did you first suspect?”

“More so as Ian grew older.”

“Annie, you should have come to me, especially after your husband had died.”

“And do what? Frederic, I had no idea what was happening here once the truce was broken. I assumed you were married yourself. I couldn’t come to your home with a suspicion and risk your family. My father made a deal with Graham’s father. We were married to secure an agreement over land boundaries and cattle. You know that, don’t you?”

“I do.” He admitted bitterly.

“It was humbling for both Graham and me. He endured a great deal for us once the peace between our people was gone and I could not leave him because I thought he might not be Ian’s father.”

“Does Ian…”

“No, Ian has said nothing to me. I don’t think he sees it himself.”

The power of speech left Frederic and he needed a moment alone to sort through what he had just heard. Motioning Annie to say seated on the bed, he stood and opened the door to go out into the hallway, closing it behind him. In the silence of the corridor Frederic told himself that what he had learned this day would not alter their present course. She and Ian were still going to Urquhart with him, and he was going to marry her as soon as the period of mourning was over. The years they had lost could not be recaptured and Frederic concluded there was no reason to rue what he could not change. Annie had given Frederic a gift he had never expected to receive in his life, that of a son of his own.

He had a son. Those words were a great motivation for Frederic and he needed no more time to think. Reentering the room, he allowed the door to close loudly behind him as he went to his knees before Annie and brought her face to his to kiss her with eighteen years worth of pent up tenderness dying to be let free. All would be as it should be and from this juncture on, Frederic considered Ian his own and his love for the mother that had raised him increased ten-fold.

“I love you’ flowed between them and confessions of the other’s significance were pronounced. The kisses varied as to what the heart was feeling at the moment. Some were deep and passionate, while others soft. He could not leave her mouth but for seconds at a time, and her hands caressed his face until she was certain she had touched all of it.

“Annie, give me one good reason not to crawl into bed with you.”

Her eyes drifted from Frederic to the door of the bedroom. Annie had been an obedient daughter when he father took her from her family to marry a man she did not know. She had regretted not fighting him, but bold actions like that were not done in her home and Annie was unaware that she had a choice. To Graham she had been a good wife and their life together had been peaceful regardless of the love she did not feel for him. She replaced a wife’s romantic notions with respect and he accepted that her heart was distant. And to Ian she was a very good mother.

But Annie had not been so kind to herself. During the period she was apart from Frederic she tried not to think about what might have been between them, but at times she would imagine herself in a happier situation. It helped with the loneliness. She had pinned for Frederic without a soul to confide in, never believing she would see him again. What Annie wanted most right now was for him to love her and make her experience youth again as he did all those years ago. It was selfish, but this is what she wanted. Annie gave Fredric a reason not to join her on the bed.

“The door isn’t latched.”

Once it was, Frederic made her feel young again.

That afternoon Annie talked to Ian alone, for she thought it was best for him. He did not take her news well, but Annie had not expected for him to. They were in her room for hours while Frederic paced until she finally opened the door and invited him in. It was difficult to tell who was the more nervous, Frederic or Ian, but both found it difficult to say a coherent sentence. Ian could not welcome the man with open arms, but he also did not run away from the meeting.

It had once been said that Frederic Grant had an enormous amount of patience and it was true. Frederic would not press Ian to accept him, but hoped that Ian would grow to like him over time. There would come a day when Ian would mimic his father in both pose and action, but that time was still a ways off. He needed space to draw his own conclusions and that Frederic would give him.

It took Malcolm Grant nine days to arrive at Grantown on Spey and during that period elder brother Keiron became increasingly concerned over his delay because six hard days travel was the most was all he should have needed once word reached him. Tensions south of Grant territory between Clan Cameron and the King were escalating and the men that went to retrieve Malcolm were told to avoid the area. Regrettably, Malcolm did not make haste when he should have.

Malcolm was not coldhearted, but he did not take into account the feelings of other people perhaps as much as a man working toward the priesthood should have. He was a different breed apart from his brothers Keiron and Cameron. Independent and standoffish, Malcolm found his contentment in solitary study and little interaction with others. Many questioned his entering the church but in a sense it was a good choice for him to make, unless the needs of others was taken into consideration. Malcolm craved order and discipline, where a world existed with exact rules to be followed. Over time his religion became foremost in his heart and much further down on his rank of importance were the Highlands he left behind

Late afternoon on the second day of Malcolm’s return, Keiron entered the chamber he used on the first floor to retrieve papers. Sitting in a chair on one side of his table he was his brother waiting for him.

“We should state our purposes.” Malcolm declared in his deep voice. He was a man forthright in his speech and Malcolm’s addressing his brother without a greeting did not disturb Keiron. Social manners were not Malcolm’s forte and they had all long ago accepted that. “Since I have arrived I have perceived contempt from you, but you have not put it into words.”

Contempt was not necessarily the correct term for Malcolm to use; it was more of a profound disappointment Keiron could not conceal from his brother. He expected very little out of Malcolm, but since his coming home Keiron had been pushed to a point where he found it impossible to say a civil word to him. It all centered on what Keiron interpreted as a lack of respect shown by Malcolm for Cameron’s sacrifice.

“Why did it take you so long to get here after you received word of our brother’s passing?” Keiron replied as he took a chair opposite his brother. If Malcolm desired blunt speech, he too would use it.

“I have already told you why. I didn’t realize I needed to leave right away since I wouldn’t be able to make the burial.” In his defense, Malcolm had been troubled about his youngest brother’s death; he just did not express it well.

“Those men who came to escort you waited for days until you were ready to depart.” Keiron irritation manifested itself in the exasperated tone he used. “They had volunteered for that task out of homage for Cameron.”

“Keiron, I’m not here for a lecture and I’m not going to explain myself again.” Malcolm shifted in his seat, distracting himself from Keiron’s reproach. “What is it that you want from me in respect to the clan?”

“Are you going to fulfill your birthright?”

“Warlord? I’m not well suited for that post, as you can see.” Malcolm’s mind closed to the consideration. “I’ll not take it.”

Keiron had not expected him to take it and agreed that Malcolm was unsuited for the position for reasons other than his seeking out the life of dedication to the church. He was more concerned with what level of involvement Malcolm was willing to accept.

“There are the only two of us left.” Keiron reminded him, as if it needed to be said. There was a time when Calum Grant was envied by his neighbors for having four healthy sons. No one could have foreseen that two would be taken early in their adulthood.

“Not true. Frederic and Fergus are in line to inherit. Have Frederic assume Captain of the Guard again.”

“No. He has earned his rest. Do you plan to stay in the Church?”

“Yes.” This was a subject Malcolm would willingly talk about and for several minutes comfortable conversation ensued while Malcolm told Keiron about the life he led since leaving years back. Keiron and he did exchange correspondences when an opportunity presented itself for delivery, but those were not often and Keiron was interested in what Malcolm had been doing.

“We must be prepared for the certainty that father’s bloodline will end with Maura.” Perhaps Keiron did not mean to say this aloud, but his plain sentence held heavy connotations that Malcolm could not ignore.

“Why? You’re healthy enough to sire heirs.”

“I have no plan to marry.” This was the resolution Keiron made on his own many months ago and it was because of what he had felt for Janetta. He could not replace her; he had tried both before and after his confession, and only closing off his heart and mind to any possibility worked. Keiron could see himself repeating Frederic’s history by not being able to forget how she made him feel alive, and he loathed that failing in himself. After serious soul searching about why he continued to be inclined toward Janetta when he knew it was wrong, Keiron realized that it would be better for him to be alone than to become that man again. He came to terms with his own inadequacies and found that the more often he reminded himself of his resolve to never love a second time, the easier it was to live with. His strategy went completely against Keiron’s character, for reserved as he might be when it came to women; he was not one who could easily restrict his ability to care. Oddly enough, Malcolm was the first person Keiron admitted his intent to.

Some people believe that a man who thinks he has all the time in the world is a fool, so what does that make the man who believes he will never be tempted to fall in love again? Often times it can be the one who’s heart is an easy target for the right woman when she loves him for the man he is.

“Is this a new decision?”

The reply Keiron would give was said with honesty, and if it sounded bitter he did not mean it that way. “I cannot afford the weakness.”

Malcolm agreed with his brother’s sentiment about the perils of marriage, having never considered in his life. “Then the bloodline will end with Maura because I will not break my vow and you will not fulfill your duty”

“Duty? I don’t ignore my duties. ”

“To sire heirs, Keiron!” Malcolm explained. “With neither of us willing to further the family line, you’re going to have to look to the outside for the future of your kin.”

“Our kin.”

“I suggest granting Frederic the title of Heir Presumptive and being done with it.”

“You will not accept that either?”


“Malcolm, what are your plans once your training is over? You are coming back to take over our church, aye?”

“I’ve been meditating on that. I have no real want to be here….” Keiron listened as his brother explained that he felt his calling in life should take a different direction, one that was away from familiar roots. Somewhere in the middle of Malcolm’s commentary Keiron’s mind blocked out his brother’s voice and because of this he missed his Malcolm’s detailed justifications for his choice to not live in the highlands, but he did hear his final sentence. “…I give up all rights to the family.”

“Malcolm, you are giving up everythin’. Have you been away so long that you have forgotten?” Keiron could not fathom this decision his brother had made because it went against all he held meaningful.

“It’s not everything to me.”

“What if you stayed here for a while? Make it your home and get familiar with your people again?” Malcolm just shook his head. “Why not?”

“You used the word ‘home’. It’s not home to me. I’ve never had that draw you, Cameron, and Gregor had to this land. I found a peace after I left.”

Keiron’s mind formulated a plan long after Malcolm had vacated the room and he knew what needed to be done. Nolen Grant, the first lieutenant under Frederic and a distant cousin to Keiron would be made Warlord, and Frederic would be granted a new title of Heir Presumptive. Malcolm would be leaving the day after tomorrow and without the statement being made, Keiron believed this would be the last time his brother would come to their family seat.

He had not expected the declaration Malcolm had made about giving up his rights and he felt hollow at the thought. The family name would continue through cousins, but Keiron would be the last of Calum’s sons to serve Clan Grant.

Soon the family quarters would be empty except for him as they would return to their respective homes, the majority to Urquhart. Keiron dreaded this lonely prospective, but he was settled that he would pattern himself after his uncle and do the best he could for his clanfolk leaving behind a legacy worthy of his fathers memory.

“You keep her wrapped up tightly.” William commented to Janetta as he watcher her fold a blanket around Maura after her bath. “Doesn’t she get too hot?”

“Annie told me to keep her warm since she’s small, so I do.” She placed Maura in William’s arms without asking, content seeing the two of them together. If Janetta believed she loved her brother before they had went through this trial together, it was minor compared to her love for him now. These siblings could argue like they were demon possessed at times, but they were each other’s greatest defenders and would take an arrow to the heart to protect.

“William, I need to tell you something that came to me last night while I was falling asleep.”

“Tell me.”

“That Edward Smith taught me an important lesson.”

Shifting the baby, William looked up at his sister curious about what she had said. “What could that possibly be?”

Janetta was not sure if William would understand what she was about to say. By Smith’s own admission, he had witnessed the death of Cameron and yet he did nothing to stop it.
Smith was a man of evil intent and action. Had Jorgen not stolen the wrong Norwegian coins, he would have been the owner of William’s boat and unlikely to ever confess. But it had not turned out that way and Smith did confess. He had told William that he was moved to do so because he would not have wanted his wife to believe that he had died without honor; as Jorgen had insinuated to Janetta about Cameron. The motive was of little consequence, yet the effect it gave them was peace of mind. They knew that everyone involved in the plot would never hurt another person again, and strangely Janetta saw some good in the man Edward Smith because of that.

“I must try to look for the good in every person, even a man like him. Had he not said what he did to you, we may still not know many things.”

“Although I admire the courage needed to find something admirable when it is much easier to concentrate on an individual’s faults, I caution you not to let yourself be fooled by people accomplished at disguise.” William did not have to mention Jorgen’s name.

“I’ll use good judgment.” Nodding to herself, Janetta tilted her head and gave a slight smile to her darling brother. “William, you need to go soon.”

“Are you going to rest with Maura?”

“No. You need to go to France. You’ve tarried long enough, don’t you agree? You’re stronger and I believe you can endure the voyage. Please don’t hesitate any longer. Return to Elgin, hire any man available to captain your boat and get to France with haste. I want you to find Elisabeth, bring her home and be happy with her.”

“How can I leave you? Come with me.” William had been meditating on this since he came to Grantown on Spey, hoping that her traveling with him would be an alternative Janetta might welcome. William was puzzled by Janetta’s immediate refusal.

“That’s not going to come to pass.”

“The ship travel will not be so lengthy as Norway. We will bring someone to take care of you…”

“It’s not the sea illness that keeps me from going with you. I will not leave Scotland.”

“Why,” he inquired but Janetta would not answer him. “What will you do? Return to Urquhart?”

The thought of being in the place where she was her happiest with Cameron gave her no solace, in fact it nurtured trepidation. Janetta had confronted the fires of Hell in these past weeks and proven herself brave, but she could not face returning to Urquhart without her husband. “No.”

“Your pain will ease.”

“I do know this.”

“If you come to Elgin, I will ensure your safety while I am gone. I promise that I won’t leave you unprotected again.”

“You didn’t, but I understand your sentiment because I don’t want my daughter unprotected.” There was a great deal of meaning behind Janetta’s words that put out in the open her fear that William had been observing it of late. Janetta kept her child with her at all times unless Annie or Willa had possession of Maura, never putting her down to sleep by herself unless she was standing over her in the same room. Some might believe that Janetta was only displaying a new mother’s fretfulness, but her reaction to Keiron removing the guards from the third floor prompted William to act on her behalf. Janetta began locking her door when she was inside the chamber by herself, and intently watching the entrance whenever she heard people approach and even when it was quiet. Keiron brought the guards back once informed of William’s suspicions and Janetta visibly relaxed. William chose not to make an issue of the situation because he realized that Janetta had not had time yet to adjust to being safe again.

“Elgin is an option,” Janetta admitted, “but the thought of being by myself is not enticing.”

“We return full circle to your traveling with me to France.”

“I believe I will ask Keiron if I can stay here, at least until the clan gathering this June. Then perhaps Urquhart afterward.”

“Are you absolutely set on not coming with me? The change may be what you require to heal.”

“The distraction of my being there is not what you need, though that is not my only reason for refusing your kindness. Please, go locate Elisabeth and bring her back to Scotland. It would give my heart great joy to see you with a family of your own. William, you cannot imagine what it is like having a child. You and Elisabeth need to marry and have children of your own someday. Elisabeth will be a wonderful mother and wife. You must get to her before some other man sees her value.” Janetta’s gaze fell to her daughter nestled in her brother’s arms. “Your children will be as beautiful as Maura and I harbor no doubt you will be an excellent papa.”

William stilled while he wrestled with his wanting to confide in Janetta his belief that he already was a father. He did not want to give her more heartache by revealing an unconfirmed theory on his part, but William wondered if he would be dishonest by not telling her. For minutes he was silent watching Janetta folding the antique christening gown her baby had worn that morning before emptying the water from the small tub she had bathed her in. They had both changed much over the past year and she was no longer the sister he had watched grow up.

“I need to speak with you about pebbles, again. Will you close the door?” He said cautiously. William hoped he would be the first person Janetta would be able to see the good in as she had vowed she was going to do.

“We’re stayin’ another week,” Frederic informed Keiron by stopping in the doorway of his chamber before going out to check on the condition of Fergus’s horses. “Annie, Ian and me.”

“Come in. I need to talk to you.” Keiron walked around his uncle and closed the door behind him. The afternoon had been eventful with Malcolm, William, and Fergus all announcing that they would be leaving, and Janetta inquiring if she and Maura could stay ‘for a while.’ Janetta’s request prompted Willa to come to Keiron asking him to convince Janetta to go back to Urquhart so she and Annie could help with Maura, which Keiron did not because Janetta specifically stated that she was not prepared to return there. Frederic was the only person left that he needed to speak to, and he was grateful for this.

Taking the bench in Keiron’s room, Frederic’s expression turned grave. “What’s wrong, son?”

Leaning against the wall in his room and crossing his arms in front of him, Keiron cleared his thoughts before he appealed to Frederic to assume Heir Presumptive due to Malcolm’s refusal. This was serious because if Keiron passed away Frederic would inherit the claim of Chieftain, forfeiting his anticipated morrow at Urquhart to fulfill responsibilities at Grantown on Spey. They had been reminded lately about how unpredictable the future could be therefore the conversation was not taken lightly and many details were discussed before Frederic did consent. After that was completed they had the matter of Nolen Grant before them, and in short order settled that he would be offered the office of Warlord and if he accepted, the ceremony would be conducted at the annual gathering.

There was one order of business left that Keiron was compelled to address with his uncle that was of a personal nature and he decided to approach the subject in a straightforward manner.

“You need to marry Annie tomorrow.”


“Marry her, Frederic. Tomorrow would be good because many are leaving the day after.”

“Why the haste?” Frederic rather hoped that Keiron was not asking him to wed Annie because he had received knowledge about his making love to her. He was not repentant about it, but it was personal and not meant to be clatter for people to pass around.

“Ian?” Keiron leaned toward his uncle, “I have eyes and I don’t know if it’s possible or not but I swear he’s your son. I also have a belief that as soon as Ian goes to Urquhart those folks are going to start talkin’. It would be easier on him if you were married to his mama.”

Frederic’s response was to furrow his brow before he conceived one very good reason he could not honor his nephew’s request. “I can’t break the period of mourning. That wouldn’t be right by Janetta.”

“I’ll have William ask her permission.” Keiron doubted she would object. Anyone could see the fondness between Janetta and her uncle, and Keiron was just starting to realize that she was not opposed to breaking a precept from time to time. “Once Janetta says ‘yes’, you’ll marry Annie?”

“You should be aware that you’re correct about Ian. Annie told him yesterday and he lad’s none too fond of me at the moment.”

“That will work itself out, but we can’t let him face them without a tie to you. Marrying Annie will give him somethin’….I’ve been looking at the law this day and I can’t find a way to make him legitimate if you ever wanted it to be so, but our copies are old and incomplete. When I next travel to Edinburgh I’ll research it more. Short of falsifying papers, which I will not do, your adopting him is the closest I can find. I don’t think you should do that against Ian’s will. ”

“Aye.” Frederic regrettably knew this was the truth as he too had been mulling possibilities if Ian ever wanted a connection to Frederic or the Grants.

“Eighteen years is long enough to wait. If you don’t marry her then I’m going to have to take you up at grievances next week,” The corners of Keiron’s mouth lifted to show he was in jest. “And you will lose, Frederic. I have enough folks comin’ this month. Let’s say this one is settled so I don’t have the effort of it later.”

Frederic cracked a slight grin. Their time spent this afternoon opened his eyes to how much Keiron was akin to his father. Calum was a man who when possible sought answers first before posing questions to others, and that act of taking initiative Frederic saw in his son. “You get Janetta’s blessing and I’ll propose.”

“I’ll have William ask her right away.”

Minutes later Janetta came bursting out of her door frantically looking both ways down the hallway until she spied Frederic. Running, Janetta gave him the biggest hug she could once she reached him. He had his blessing.

The force that was Willa rained down anarchy once Annie told her about the wedding and the shortness of time before it was to occur. Frederic had gone to Annie after he sought permission from Ian. The lad nervously gave his consent for his mother to marry the Grant, as Ian knew it would transpire eventually, but he was not happy. Ian would admit that Frederic did not seem to be the blood thirsty cretin he had been told about by his kinsmen, yet he remained very imposing in his own way.

Fergus arranged for the men of the family to meet in the common room that night for one final drink before his brother became a married man, Ian invited of course. Fergus had grand intentions of merriment that did not quite come about as he had envisioned. William did not drink because he was still regaining his health; Keiron had two and then switched to milk. Ian wished he could drink for his first time but he did not think it was advisable in front of Frederic, who was abstaining this night because he wanted to be at his best tomorrow. And Malcolm chose not to join them. Therefore when Janetta came storming in late in the evening with a fussy Maura and Fergus’s two youngest bickering behind her, she became the life of their party.

“I beseech you,” She cried to William with exasperation. “If you will hold Maura and rock her a bit, she’ll settle herself. We need to get the gown finished.”

William stood up and placed his hands out telling Janetta to “give the babe to me” before taking Maura and laying her against his shoulder. He sounded more confident then he was, but William was not afraid and that gave him an advantage. This man who had rarely looked at an infant before his sister gave birth did well with the lessons Janetta had given him, and she clearly trusted him with a new challenge of a wailing baby.

Janetta kissed her brother’s cheek to thank him before turning toward two naughty little girls. “Do not leave this room unless it is to go to bed. If you come back to your mama, she’s going to be angry with you. Stay here with your papa.”

Protests echoed in the room from the girls, but the loudest was from Fergus. “We can’t have womenfolk and cryin’ bairns in here! ‘Tis a man’s drinkin’ night.”

Frowning, Janetta inspected the contents of the mugs on the table. All but his was filled with milk and she pointed this out to her unruly uncle.

“We’re gettin’ started. They’re coatin’ their bellies!” Janetta did not believe him.

“What happened to your hand?” William asked his sister. Janetta had cloth wrapped around her left index finger.

“Willa pulled on the gown just as I was threading a needle through the hem.” Gazing over her shoulder at Frederic she gave him a missive of great importance. “The bride to be was uninjured.”

Frederic smiled and held it until Janetta left the room. The word ‘bride’ reminded him of something very important. “I have no ring.”

A ring was found from the family heirlooms Keiron had possession of and the gown was the one Janetta had chosen for Elisabeth in Oslo. It had a final alteration made to it by noon the next day, and despite it taking a lot of convincing for Annie to accept the gift in the first place, she looked lovely in it. Two of Elisabeth’s gowns had made appearances in Grant weddings, and perhaps if luck were good to them the woman herself would wear the next gown to her own wedding.

The attendee’s hearts were filled with joy for the man and woman who stood before the priest after eighteen years of waiting, but the mood was solemn because they [I]were[/I] still in mourning. Yet the awe that danced on Frederic’s face betrayed his contentment at the moment. Maybe it was something as uncomplicated as the way Annie moved or spoke, he did not know, but she had Frederic’s heart from the moment he had met her.

Annie had been not only worth the wait, but also the years of his feeling nothing. Since that fateful Sunday in Elgin, Frederic had lived on a myriad of emotions and he was finding it difficult to go back to his former self. When Frederic was pleased he now showed it, and the grief that he had expressed in its most severe form was something he had never done before. The illusion he had created of distance would be impossible for the man to regain and this would be for the better.

Glancing over at his son, Frederic smiled only with his eyes at the young man who stood between his two nephews. He had helped Ian brush his Davidson tartan that afternoon in preparation for the ceremony and quite frankly was impressed Ian wore it. The lad would not switch his loyalties easily and that proved a sign of strong character in Frederic’s mind.

The morning came and it was time for William and Malcolm to return to their respective homes. They would travel together to Elgin, before Malcolm would turn southwest toward his sanctuary. Fergus and his family were also preparing to leave this day. Frederic would stay another week as not to abandon Keiron and Janetta from all their family at once.

Out in the front courtyard Janetta stood apart from Keiron as both were wishing their ado to their brothers. She was trying to be courageous, but with not set date for when she would see William again made it difficult. Still, Janetta held in those tears and concentrated on her joy at him taking the leap of faith that he would find the woman he loved.

“Bring that child and Elisabeth home.” Janetta repeated one final time at her brother while holding onto the reins of his horse. He was saddled and ready to leave, princely in his Grant plaid that he finally felt at ease in. William was a Scotsman, just ask him and he would tell you all about his people.

“I will.” William was apprehensive about leaving his sister so soon after all that had happened to them, but eager at the same time due in part to the encouragement Janetta had given him in regard to Elisabeth. She saw the good in William, and there was a lot of it to shine through.

“I love you.” After patting his leg, Janetta stepped back from him. It was time for William to join the men set to escort him and Malcolm. “I know you can’t get messages to me often, but do your best to let me know that you’ve arrived safely.”

He agreed. “I know Keiron will be good to you, but Janetta, I offer you one more chance to come with me.”

“No, but thank you.” Janetta said to William with all the confidence in the world that he would succeed. “Your good intentions will be rewarded.”

Keiron’s send off for his brother was not as hopeful as Janetta’s had been. He was certain this would be the last time he would set eyes on Malcolm unless he sought the man out, but if that was how Malcolm wanted his life to be, Keiron would honor his wish. Few words needed to be spoken between them and after Keiron reminded Malcolm that if he ever wanted to return they would be here for him, he left.

Before heading in to begin a long day’s work, Keiron entered the church and walked down to the altar where Janetta was already kneeling. The high spirits she had shown for William’s benefit had quickly faded into a sedate melancholy because she missed her brother already.

“Include William in your prayers, please.” Janetta whispered reverently after he knelt beside her. “I’ve already said one for Malcolm.”

Nodding his head while sharing her sobriety at the departure of their brothers and soon Fergus’s family, Keiron say under his breath, “We will endure this.”

“I believe that.” Janetta covered his hand with her own before rising to leave. “Courage bonded with love makes strength.”

When Keiron had finished asking God to protect those individuals that would leave them this day, he exited the church and noticed Janetta not far away with her left hand shielding her eyes from the greatness of the morning sun. She appeared to be looking up at a black bird perched on a budding branch of a rowan tree.

“Is that a raven?” Janetta had heard a person approach and assumed it was Keiron.

Doing as Janetta did to keep the sunlight from obstructing his view, Keiron answered her. “It could be. Do you know the myth behind the raven?”

“No.” Janetta admitted just as the bird took flight away from the attention he was receiving. Both sets of eyes followed the raven until he could no longer be seen.

“I’ll tell you tonight at supper.”

Next Section of Scotland


Back to Stories by Dawn