Highland Hellcat(4)

By: Mary Wine

The idea of doing only what she wanted shimmered like a dream, tantalizing her with the possibility of indulging her whims instead of listening to rules that she must obey.

Now you are the one thinking insane things…

Maybe it was time to ask her father to send her to the abbey, for she was rapidly becoming too ill at ease with the duty assigned to her. Perhaps if she left soon, there might be an end to her unease. All the women at the table had husbands and children; it was the babes who her thoughts lingered on the most.

“I’ll say good night now.”

Brina forced herself into action. She shook off her melancholy thoughts, determined to keep her chin up. She was Robert Chattan’s daughter, and she was born of Highlander stock too. Her life would be good because she would make it so.

The hallways were dimly lit to conserve resources, but Brina discovered that she enjoyed the flickering of candlelight. There was something soothing about the shadows. She grinned, amused by her own thinking. She liked the dim light because no one might see her clearly enough to critique her.

There was a truth and a solid one.

She made her way through the winding stone corridors that made up Chattan Castle. In spite of the way they all looked so similar, she knew them well from the years that she had been raised inside of them. What might strike a stranger as an endless series of hallways that all looked the same was something she knew how to navigate from recognizing a stone here and the chip in a door frame. Her own mother had spent two years needing help deciphering the passageways when she had come from the neighboring clan of Hay.

Her father liked his castle exactly the way it was, and made certain that any repairs to the interior maintained the same look, so that it would continue to be a labyrinth. He claimed that it would be their last defense if the stronghold were ever overrun. The inhabitants would have the advantage of knowing where the escape doors were hidden, while the invaders struggled to find their way.

Brina stopped when she entered her chamber, a soft gasp passing her lips and alerting the men inside to her presence. It wasn’t fear that prompted the sound, but surprise, for the men were two of her father’s most trusted captains, and her father stood with them. She could not recall the last time her father had entered the chamber that she shared with her sisters, Deirdre and Kaie.

“Come here, Brina.”

“Yes, Father.”

In spite of her recent thinking that it might be time to depart for her future, Brina suddenly felt her belly tighten as she moved across the floor toward her sire. It was very possible her father was there to tell her to go from her childhood home to assume the place that would be hers.

The day that had just passed suddenly felt too precious, but at the same time she was strangely excited by the prospect of going to devote herself to making sure that justice was carried out. As a laird’s daughter, ambitious to become a mother superior, that position would give her the authority to right wrongs.

“Good evening, Father.”

She stopped in front of him and lowered herself as she had been taught to do in the presence of her father and laird. There was a short grunt of approval, but she wasn’t sure which man made it, because her eyes were cast toward the floor to complete her submission.

“Ye perform the acts of obedience so well, but yer tone is full of fire.”

Brina raised herself and stared into her father’s eyes. He was still a formidable man, even with his hair turning gray. The wrinkles near his eyes didn’t make him look old, to her way of thinking, because her father kept pace with his Highlanders, never sitting down until they did. Even now he wore the same kilt and wool doublet as his captains, the three feathers in his knit bonnet the only difference, for they were pointed straight up with a brooch to keep them there. The captains had three feathers, but only one of them was positioned upright.

“I hear ye brought in two rabbits tonight. Tell me where ye were hunting.” Her sire’s voice was still strong and powerful too. It was also edged with authority and the expectation that his words would be obeyed quickly. What disturbed her was the hint of anger in his tone. Suspicion returned to needle her.

“Off in the north valley with Bran, in the trees there.”