Redeeming Vows (Page 64)

Redeeming Vows (MacCoinnich Time Travel Trilogy #3)(64)
Author: Catherine Bybee

“Why?”

“She suffered at the hands of Grainna. Her heart would not allow herself to betray you again.

She said as much to all of us,” Lora told her son.

Simon felt his mom’s arms pull him closer. She still had shadows of makeup on, but the majority had been wiped clean. Eyeliner ran in streaks of black down her cheeks from the tears she’d shed.

Todd and Fin left, returning with tools to bury Tatiana’s remains. Cian held her until Lora pulled him away. Myra and Tara wrapped her in a large cloth. The entire event took less than an hour.

Few spectators watched, all from well beyond hearing range. Simon had watched Todd, Fin, and Ian bury the knight struck down the previous day in the same manner. No official cemetery or box needed. According to Fin, during times of war, onsite burials were common.

Ian prayed over the grave and then led them all away.

Simon glanced from one family member to another and prayed they would all still be together when Grainna was defeated.

****

Grainna clenched her teeth, waved her hand over her crystal, saw nothing, then cursed. She didn’t see the chit killing herself to save her boyfriend. What was wrong with people in love? It made her sick.

Wiping a hand over her wounded arm, Grainna flexed her fingers. She refused to acknowledge the pain. In turn, she didn’t find the affliction to be a weakness. There would be no shifting into a bird again. Not if she could avoid it.

She could, however, call other animals to act as her army.

It was time to finish this war. Time to make the MacCoinnichs bleed. “Come, my little friends.”

Grainna closed her eyes and called out in her mind.

“Time for dinner.”

****

Fin stood beside his father, Todd, Duncan, and every knight and lord in attendance. Lancaster and Brisbane’s men were obviously uncomfortable alongside each other since the two lords were hardly speaking. Confusion and worry marked many faces. “What do ye make of it?” Lancaster asked Ian.

“’Tis hard to ignore. The things the s-spirit said cannot be ignored. We are all missing men, are we not?”

A series of ayes erupted.

“Another from our camp last night. Mallick’s older son was found this morning with his hand severed from his arm, and a knife through his heart.

If our enemy comes from the western cliffs, ’tis time we find them and bring an end to this chaos.”

Todd leaned over and whispered in Fin’s ear.

“No one has mentioned magic.”

“The first one who does will be scorned, but the second one will be considered. Not until the heads of family nod their approval will anyone consider banding together against something so untouchable.”

“The spirit—”

“Angel. She appeared as an angel,” another man interrupted.

Fin lowered his head and smiled. She was beautiful. Earlier, when Lizzy returned to camp, giddy and swirling in circles with the success of their ruse, Fin told himself that he’d slept with an angel.

With her, he’d found heaven.

“Aye, an angel. The angel said she’d gift some of us with the power to defeat the evil.”

As predicted, some men huffed, ready to dismiss the notion.

“My own daughter woke not remembering her engagement,” Lancaster told them. “She is not mad.”

“The same day caused some madness over everyone here.”

Voices all began speaking at once. All telling stories of what they’d seen, felt.

Fin turned his attention to Logan to see where the man stood. “Elizabeth and I found ourselves miles from here.”

Logan smiled. “Are ye sure ye weren’t just hiding to be with her?”

“If I need to be alone with her, I will take her away and tell my family.”

“I wondered where ye disappeared to. Yer father said little.”

“He didn’t know where we were.”

Logan glanced to the others and lowered his voice, not that he needed to many people all spoke at once. “Do ye think it was magic?”

Fin shrugged. “What else could it be?”

Ian lifted his voice above the others. “Quiet…

quiet. There are many unexplained things. Nearly everyone here knows of one death or disappearance.

Even before we journeyed here, we knew something was amiss in the Highlands. Brisbane, ye said yer men have fled in numbers too difficult to ignore.

How many total?”

“Five knights from these walls. Three others were expected home last fall and never returned.

Others are missing as well.”

From Brisbane’s village, over thirty people were unaccounted for. Lancaster spoke of a dozen missing men, women, and children.

The numbers called out staggered Fin.

“What of ye, MacCoinnich?”

Duncan stepped forward. “We’ve buried two in as many days.”

Fin sighed relief when the men nodded and went on to another topic. To tell everyone they’d lost none, would put suspicion on them. They didn’t need that.

As the debate continued, Fin opened his mind and searched the room. There were other Druids among them. He knew there were. He met the eyes of one of Lancaster’s knights, Donovan. He’d always wondered about the man, but would never openly ask. There were others, peppered into the men. They kept quiet, listened intently.

“What should we make of the angel’s prophecy to gift some with the power to defeat the witch?”

“She mentioned fire and rain. What does that mean?”

Fin glanced at his brother and nodded to the man who spoke. Duncan winked.

“Witches and powers. What nonsense,” he said tossing a hand in the air. When he did, a ball of fire came from nowhere and fell to the ground.

“God’s blood.” The man jumped back and stared at his hand. He snatched his hand to his chest, looked at it again, and then shook it out. Duncan added a few sparks from across the room.

Fin wanted to laugh, but held it inside.

Someone beyond their council yelled and people screamed. They turned and peered into the space between the encampments. Within seconds, more screaming and crying filled the afternoon air.

Fin’s eyes traveled to the family tent. Duncan slid beside him. “Tara says there are rats invading the camp.”

“Rats?”

“Hundreds of them.”

Fin felt the eyes of someone watching him, turned and noticed Donovan’s stare. The man nodded to the left, away from the men. Duncan and Todd started toward the family, many of the other men fled as well.

“What do ye make of this?” Donovan asked.