Deadly Clan Rivalries, Espionage, Deceit at every turn.
What is causing this mayhem in the Highlands of Scotland?
These Adventures will be yours.
D Lee Adair
Take a look into Dougall MacInnes:
An ancient cave he used for kine, was all it was. A grand overhang cut into the base of the great Ben Tee. Convenient enough for his purpose, it sheltered the beasties from rain and snow, but no the winds. Nothing stopped the winds in the Highlands. Dougall shuddered his body quaking. Walking in a large circle, he sought refuge in his muse. No reason to worry about prying eyes now, as he mesmerized over the lass and how one day she'd be his. Shalain's image a constant, floating and tossing about in the pretender's mind.
Once more the sound of snapping and crunching under his feet drew him back and aware of the dank room. A room where shadows moved on the walls making rhythm with the flames. Out of his daze Dougall's time of solitude ended. Reality rendering him useless to the wearing tasks boggling his brain. Young, but still a man, and with it a man's responsibilities, he grimaced at thought of what The MacDonnell expected of him. But he, Dougall MacInnis was his own man, he turned at a nervous pace massaging his upper arms. And, yet another frigid gust entered into his refuge.
Laird of the MacDonnells, Chief over many he would someday be, adjusting his dark woolen plaid. Dougall tugged at the tartan until he situated a makeshift hood above his brows.
Sensing an odd tingling, something unnerving, more descriptive of an eerie lingering presage took place in the deepest recesses of his soul. Dougall sent a swift glance to the farthest wall into the ben. He'd never noticed afore, there on its face carvings cut in stone. This day of all days they popped out at him as if a jumping croaker. Dougall rubbed his fists to his eyes, and stepped aback. Curiosity taking hold he moved adjacent to the wall, and then parallel in front. He skimmed his index and middle fingers gingerly over the ancient drawings.
Why hidden figures far into the cavern, placed just so, not to be seen unless standing in a specific area?
A warmth touched his cheek, and a sudden stillness came over the kine. Not but seconds later, a howling broke the peace from the outside, and a warm breeze hit him full force in the face. Another presage of a foreboding nature came to his mind he gasped feeling breathless. A heaviness on his chest.
What lurked within this cavern of stone, many grandfaither's ago?
Dougall walked round the oval table at a dizzying pace. Stopping, he stared upward and around. Whirling visions of Vikings and Scots appeared on gloomy grey rock afore his eyes. Three sided granite walls stared back at him, as if to say...many a great battle wir plotted here.
From nowhere a fierce highland wind swept into the overhang knocking over a deer skin flask set to the side, and the flames in the sconces threatened an early demise. Started by the blast, and the odd occurrences he turned. Unaware, MacInnes executed his timing with precision, the weather barrier falling forward into outstretched arms. A catastrophe avoided, fortunate for him, and all contents lying on the table.
With one exception, pain struck and he watched as blood from deep scratches and punctures streamed downward towards his shoulder. A few thorny brambles caught his eye still protruding underneath shredded silk. Dougall's head whipped round, but not soon enough, eyes wide and mouth open he received a gift from nature, as hardened bits of iced rain pelted the lad's face.
"Och aye, even the bloody wither is against me."
The MacDonnell's false heir growled, but more of a shout, and pushed forward. Dougall's powerful shove plummeted the barrier into the snow covered ground. In its wake the thorny wall created a huge cloud of white. Whirling back into the cavern.
"How can a man wirk like this?" wiping a residue of ice from his lashes
Between the hauntings of the cave, musings about Shalain and worries over a birthright not yet his, the young highlander's moods flipflopped from one extreme to the other. Dougall could not keep his mind steady on the plan. Tearing pieces of cloth from the other tunic sleeve, he wrapped his arm.
A man of his station an heir should have people to do this, but he cuidna trust anyone. No one must see the wounds, or they...his foster mither for the most part, wi'd no let her curiosity lie.
The ole' parchment map waved across the stone table, Dougall raced to the end of the tabletop planting a few heavy rocks as anchors, but it continued to flap in the heavy winds. More frozen water blew in, he gripped the two corners taut, firm in his hands at one end while gusts shook the opposite. Try as he may, his efforts yielded little, and reading the map caused his eyes to blur, and his stomach to lurch.
"Och, why canna somethin be simple?"
No one, not a soul in the cave but the kine, no live soul anyway, and the cattle wi'd not judge him for voicing his opinions.
"I'm no imbecile, ye ken?" looking a bulgy eyed coo straight in the face.
Two more large rocks wi'd work, he reveled in his frustrations as they grew stronger the more the storm progressed.
Dougall threw two of the smaller rocks straighway out of the cave in a fit of rage. He'd not chance the map and the composition of the parchment decaying. All the jostling, and strewing about may tear the ole' document to shreds, and then where would he be?
"A useless task," he stared down at the one item he inherited from his faither that meant aught to him.
Not much longer could this ole' map stand up to the weather. Dougall put his body between the table and the entry, guarding it.
"Only a daft idjit would be oot on a nicht like this." he shamed himself.
Glancing down he eyed the chicken scratch his faither drew once more, shaking his head. Bracing the weight of his body he watched the veins in his hands bulge, his life's blood flowing inside and out. The same blood as his faither's, but he'd not be like that ignorant fool of a man. A man who lost his life because he cuid'na pull his head out of the drink.
Dougall gripped the table harder till he could feel the jagged edges cutting into flesh. It almost felt good releasing the tension, but instead the young man's mind wandered into that place where he stored the secret of Athol MacInnes' gift, and wished it no longer a dream.
Bringing his attentions back to the parchment. Any markings, unclear and hard to discern true north. He'd found nothing worth his time yet. Notes written in haste, by an unsteady hand. Dougall MacInnes kent his birth sire to be a drunken sot, but fifteen years gave him time, time and more to gain a bitter hatred for the man he used to call "Faither."
The last moments of Dougall's faither's life purged his memory.
He kicked the cobbled stone with his boot tip several times deciding if turning around might be the better choice.
Dougall envisioned his faither's death in many ways during his youth, but none of those thoughts included what he saw at the end of the stable lane.
On the ole' man's death bed his eyes were clear and blue as azure summer sky. His mind alert when he handed his son the parchment. The one material gift his faither gave to him that didn't have a condition attached.
He, Athol MacInnes' simpleminded hobbledehoy son. Never did the sun set without Dougall knowing his faither's disdain, his regret for siring such a lad. The man's one true blood, and a hardship to be around since the day his mither passed beyond this life, and left him behind.
His faither gasped, and clenched his son's hand. Dougall looked from his sire, and back to the healer. The wrinkled woman's kind grey eyes spoke to him, consoling him. She shook her head. A sickening stench of death wafted into nose and took his breath. Her weathered brow furrowed from her years, and the more she stared at him the deeper the creases sank.
His Da' took a deep raspy breath. Dougall jerked back, the sound startling. A spasm lurched the man's body upward, and a quaking cough wretched from within.
As a boy he'd not remembered this room being small. Now it enclosed upon him suffocating Dougall's spirit. Cracks in the shutter creaked, as wind whistled through a small window above. A square opening no bigger than a man's forearm in both directions. What light did shine through, had left, and created a somber feeling in his soul. A rare moment indeed for him, if ever. Dougall kent he'd nary felt an emotion like this since he'd gained his manhood.
"Could it be pity he felt?"
On the side table the light of a lone candle flickered revealing beads of sweat glistening off his faither's pasty brow. A chill ran up Dougall's spine and the musty odor of cattle dung burnt inside his nostrils.
"I've wronged ye.”
Dougall started to the unexpected voice.
His faither's words staggered, lower than a whisper. Athol pulled Dougall in, his Da's long arms one time heavy, strong and intimidating, now, light and weakened. The strength, Dougall once would have dodged, lost in this feeble body he did not recognize. The man held his son's head close to his chest, and near to his lips. Athol MacInnes was nothing to fear at this point, but for some reason this difference made the young man more frightened. The fast beating of his heart and crackling from the sinew inside scared Dougall, and he jerked his head from his faither's heaving torso.
"Ye'r ma blood lad," his voice no louder than a wee croaker.
Dougall watched his faither 's face cringe in pain and with the last bit of fortitude his sire willed his hand to rise. He was holding a parchment.
"Take this do wi' it wha' ye will."
Once more the ailing body quaked and it was done.
Sleet swept its way into the overhang, the air insidious and musty, consumed by the odor of cattle dung. Something reminiscent of that night. No feelings of sorrow passed through his heart that eve, nor now. Dougall recalled, he never once wept for the man who caused his nights to rage in terror. A drop of moisture slipped from his cheek and onto the map. He quaked from inside slamming his fist atop the moisture.
"Not for the man...but, for the boy." he shouted his voice trembling.