An arrow lodged into a tree to Ian’s left. His eyes slowly lifted.
Men scurried and the women banded together.
Liz felt no shame in retreating to her sister and the others. She would do better there anyway.
“What do we do? ’Tis our death. I know it,” the woman next to Emma screamed.
“Calm down,” Tara yelled.
Several of their men let out warrior cries and forced their horses forward to meet their enemy.
Liz slid from her horse, followed by Tara, Myra, Amber, and Lora. Soon the other women followed suit. Arrows flew and swords met with the steel of the enemy.
Liz grasped Myra’s hand.
Simon ran his horse in their direction, fell from his mount, and tumbled into their path. As soon as he managed to fall at her feet, Liz forced fire from her hands, forming a circle around the women.
Some gasped, probably out of surprise, but all eyes held understanding.
Amber reached for Tara’s hand, then Lora’s.
Soon all of them stood holding hands.
“Give us protection within the fire, keep us safe in this day, in this hour.”
The flames grew until they reached above their heads.
Liz’s eyes grew wide, her heart beat so quickly in her chest the thought of it splitting in two distracted her.
She heard Duncan’s voice calling a warning to Fin. More steel met with steel but they couldn’t see a thing.
“Simon? Do you see anything?”
Liz pulled Myra’s hand to Emma’s who’d grabbed hers until she stood in the middle of the circle. She met Lora’s eyes and yelled, “Come on.”
Liz looked above her head.
Shaken, Lora nodded and followed Liz to the center of the women’s circle.
With no time to waste, Liz grasped Lora’s hand and the two of them shot into the air. Above the flames, and above the fighting, they found the top of the trees and witnessed the fighting below.
Duncan matched swords with an enemy but didn’t hold back using his Druid gifts. Fin followed suit, each matching thrust for thrust. A man Liz didn’t recognize was thrown from his horse. Lora threw out her hand until a ball of fire met the chest of the one aggressing.
“One of McLauren’s men,” she said.
Fire shot everywhere. Swords crashed. One man lay down in the center of things, but Liz couldn’t tell who it was. Cian slid from his horse, found the man, and knelt by his side. Blue light lifted from the wounded until Liz noticed him moving again.
Her eyes found Fin again, fighting on the ground, his horse nowhere in sight. The man he fought was twice his size, but less agile. They moved beyond the trees one thrust at a time until Liz couldn’t see what happened.
She held her breath, waiting for something.
Chaos filled the scene below them.
Lora continued to blast the enemy with fire for those who didn’t have the gift. Most didn’t think to look up to see where the spark came from, others did. Fin finally emerged from the brush, his claymore in front of his face and ready for battle.
Some of Grainna’s men started to retreat, knowing their defeat was certain.
Liz saw the calm before she felt it and lowered her and Lora’s frame to the ground. Only when the noise beyond the protective circle dissipated did Liz will the fire to diminish.
When calm replaced chaos two of their men were wounded, one almost gravely, but once Cian tended his wounds, the grateful man lifted himself upon his horse and took his position a second time.
Fin came to her and Simon’s side, dirt marked his face and blood splattered over his chainmail.
“Are the women all right?”
“How much farther to her fortress?” he asked her son.
“A mile, two at the most.”
Tara mounted her horse and pushed forward.
“Maybe I can help us find her easier.”
Her horse drew up along Duncan’s. The two of them exchanged a few words before they both moved forward in front of their party. Tara spread her hands and the brush parted a path to lead the way.
Liz watched Tara use her gift like never before.
A clear path parted the forest floor, leading them to their destination.
Grainna felt them long before they arrived, the large self-righteous lot of them. She commanded her men to fall into position and then stood on the highest point of her towers to watch.
“You met my little four-legged friends, but what about these?” Lifting her hands above her head, Grainna swooped up every insect, bee, and creature she could control and told them to swarm.
Screams and yells came from the approaching party until lightning split the air and rain fell, dispersing the insects she called.
They moved closer.
Grainna called her dogs, some domestic, others wolves. They stood beside her men, waiting.
When the first horse penetrated the clearing, the hounds burst in their direction. The unmanned horses reared, fled and the dogs followed. In fact, Grainna couldn’t see any of MacCoinnich’s army.
She knew they were near, but couldn’t smell them, taste them.
Wings flapped in the air in the distance, followed by chirping, squawks, and guttural cries of gulls. The sound increased until it gained the noise level of a jet airplane.
Grainna glanced behind her and dropped to her knees as the first of thousands of gulls flew over her.
The birds latched onto her men. Women in her compound fought off the flock, screaming.
Then the MacCoinnichs came.
She shouted a warning, willed the men to attack, then whipped her hand across the sky. Half the flock fell to the ground, dead or wounded. The other retreated, leaving the men to battle.
“There.” Fin pointed toward Grainna standing over them all. Her long black hair and signature black dress and cape fit the color of her soul. Todd drew his gun from his satchel, pointed at the witch, and fired two rounds. One hit, but only pissed her off. She pushed her hands his direction and pulled him from his horse.
Fin heard Myra scream. Two things happened almost simultaneously. First Myra thrust both her hands in the air, forcing Grainna to a far wall. Even from Fin’s distance, he saw Grainna crack her head on the bricks and slide to the ground. The second was Cian meeting Myra at Todd’s side.
Grainna and Todd stood at the same time.
Before Grainna could let off another blast, the earth shook. Only Fin wasn’t the one making the action happen. When he glanced to his right, he noticed one of Lancaster’s knights spread his fingers to the earth. Fin smiled and added his own punch.