Highland Revenge (Fated Hearts Book 1)By: Ceci Giltenan
A Scrolls of Cridhe Novella
Fated Hearts Book 1
Castle MacNicol, The Highlands, 1311
“Son, there is no reason to vent yer anger on me. I went round in circles for hours with Laird Ross about the betrothal. Ye know how badly I wanted this alliance—even more than ye wanted Morven for yer wife. I sought to prevent Clan Ross from allying themselves with the MacKays, but I’m sorry; we weren’t able to come to an agreement.” Laird MacNicol was losing his patience.
“Why is it ye can’t ‘come to an agreement’ where I’m concerned?” Bhaltair demanded. Ye managed to marry Angus to his beloved MacDonnell wench—”
His father backhanded him.
“I’m yer Laird and father. I know ye’re angry but ye will keep a civil tongue in yer head when ye speak to me. Sheila is a lovely, kind lass and yer sister by marriage.”
Bhaltair seethed, but he knew he had gone too far. “I’m sorry, Father. But ye know how I feel about Morven—how she feels about me. How could her father do this to her? How can ye do it to me? I have pledged to serve ye and, after ye, Angus, for the rest of my life. All I have ever desired is to marry her. It’s the only boon I have asked of ye.”
“Ye act as if I am slighting ye on purpose, Bhaltair, and nothing could be further from the truth. I tried my damnedest, but it is not to be. The best thing ye can do now is to forget her. We will find a bonny bride for ye, son, but it will not be Morven Ross. She’ll wed Kentigern MacKay before the next new moon.”
Bhaltair clenched his fists, leaving the solar without another word. He couldn’t contain his roiling emotions. He loved Morven more than he had imagined he could love anyone. He was so heart-broken he felt physically ill. He didn’t think he had ever been so enraged. He took the stairs two at a time, descending to the great hall, making no attempt to hide his bitter fury. He wanted to vent his anger on something—anything. No, not “anything”. He wanted to destroy Kentigern MacKay. Making his way to the stable, he didn’t bother with a saddle. He mounted his great black warhorse and rode out onto the open heath. Well away from the castle and village, he slowed his mount, slid off its back and ran blindly into the moonless night. He finally released his anguish in a roar of pain and rage. As the bitter Highland wind howled around him, signaling a rising storm, Bhaltair MacNicol vowed to visit his revenge on Kentigern MacKay for stealing his own heart.
Castle MacNicol, November 1332
Eoin MacKay roused himself groggily in the dungeon of Castle MacNicol. His head pounded and blood loss had left him terribly weak. The raid had been utter folly—he knew that now. He had simply wanted to prove to his father that he was a man. The Laird hadn’t allowed him to ride with the MacKay warriors and join the Earl of Mar in their attempt to repel the English King at the River Earn. It didn’t matter that the Scottish army suffered a terrible defeat and thousands were left dead, including many MacKays. At twenty, Eoin believed he was ready to prove himself in battle, to be a great warrior.
He was wrong. Great warriors didn’t stupidly lead their men to death, which is what he had done. Men? Nay they hadn’t behaved like men, but like little more than untried lads. In truth, he was one of the youngest, and not really the leader at all; the raid hadn’t even been his idea. However, once he heard the others planning it, he readily joined in, hoping to impress his father. It was to be a lark. The four of them planned to raid a MacNicol farm near their border. They envisioned returning home with a few head of livestock, bragging rights and a new swagger in their step. They hadn’t counted on running into a large patrol of MacNicol warriors.
Once they realized they were significantly out-manned, more experienced warriors would have surrendered. While they would all have been captured and imprisoned, they would have been alive and eventually ransomed. For Eoin, surrender would have meant utter humiliation. It would have proven his father’s assessment correct: he was not yet ready to face battle. In the supreme arrogance of youth, the four chose to fight. Eoin attacked with everything he had, but nevertheless saw his friends fall beside him.