He dutifully lifted the glass panel before he left the room bolting the door as though to reiterate his refusal to allow the door to remain open. Almost at once she heard a scraping at the window and she turned to find the black, bearded face of her Eile staring back. The giant bird squeezed through the thin space and landed on the stone floor, stretching its wings as though to emphasise its size before it cocked its head to one side and surveyed the tethered woman. It seemed far more interested in the rope than the knives but after a time it carried one of bayonets forward to her. She struggled to sever the cord, but her determination outweighed her exhaustion and eventually she released herself. The raven leapt easily to the window ledge and waited as she raised the pane as far as it would go before it disappeared out of the window and seemed to vanish into the world beyond. She pulled herself through the opening and carefully slid the glass closed before she stumbled away from the building.

 

She did not know where she was going only that she sought the trees for cover. She stumbled and crawled towards the sound of running water and leaned over the edge of the stream of draw hands full of water to her lips. She felt tears stream from her eyes as she stumbled onward, spinning full circles to try and take in the ecstatic feeling of freedom. But, despite finding this source of water, she still felt faint through the lack of food and her mind began to play tricks on her. Someone was calling her name a short distance away and she rushed towards it, eager to find its owner. But as soon as she had turned a corner in the gorge, it sounded to come from around the next bend.

William gave a sharp laugh before he and Francis walked towards the farmhouse. But as soon as they were five paces away the smile fell from his face.

“I haven’t forgotten why you’re here, Francis,” he remarked.

 

“Nor have I,” he replied. “It’s almost a year since I left Catherine. She has the right to an answer.”

 

“What answer would you give?”

 

“You’re asking me? William, when you first started courting Catherine you were a perfect suitor. Then you took your side against everything we thought you upheld, but despite pain of death if you were discovered, you still sought her. Now, when you’re achieving so much for the cause which should have been the Stuart’s, you could return to my father and make a fair request to marry her. Why do you hesitate? Is it Annie?”

 

“Annie?” William knocked upon the door and turned back to Francis, recalling the years they had known one another. “I have not been untrue to Catherine, either in action or in thought. But how can I leave this?”

Caledon Book 2

James did not waste a moment but ran to the back door and pushed it open. His clan, each with pistols drawn, were scarcely a second behind him. It was dark in the room, and colder than they had ever known it before. James looked in horror at the three bodies that covered the floor. Each was a militiaman and all of them lay in pools of blood that had formed beneath their necks.

“Light a candle,” Malcolm whispered. “I can’t see anything.”

 

“You would be happier not to,” William responded, but stopped as a long, low growl came from the corner of the room and his eyes met with those of a tall, lanky dog which curled its lips back as it walked forward.

 

“You did this?” James asked, never questioning why he addressed the wolf. “Where is Annie?”

 

In response the animal snarled as it watched him before snapping its long, sharp teeth at him. William reached his hand out to the animal and, after sniffing the offering in the outstretched hand, it turned and walked over to one of the corpses and placed its enormous paw on the still chest.

“Father Hanley is-” Annie swallowed hard and forced her eyes to stay dry and her voice to remain strong. “He’s administering the Last Rites. At least he’ll have the peace he deserves.”

 

“Then he’s definitely going to die?” James felt like a child as he begged the right answer of Annie. “Can’t we do anything more for him?”

 

“Caledon has already done so much for him.”

 

“Caledon led him to his death. His terrible treatment and this awful death.”

 

“You don’t see it do you?” She sat beside him and sighed. “People are going to die. People dear to us and people who oppose us. It’s not Caledon’s duty to make sure they all live, it is Caledon’s duty to ensure they all have a reason to live. That’s what the people don’t understand, and nor will they until you understand it yourself.”

© 2020 by Crowvus, 53 Argyle Square, Wick, KW1 5AJ

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