There is more than meets the eye in this fiery Highland tale, a story of clashing clans and a dubious father and son. Treachery runs deep and passion ignites in Bound to a Highlander after the daughter of a Laird is first married to her enemy ~ and on the same night accused of his murder.
“Are you sure you can identify this?” Gabhran asked the hag as he followed her further into her old hut.
Deep in the most secluded part of the wood, Morhath lived alone on the edge of McBray land. The hag was the only person Gabhran could think of who might be able to identify what he had found in Gorath’s room without any impartiality.
The entirety of the McBray clan had unanimously set themselves against Rosin, so he needed an outside opinion in all fairness, one of honesty so he could consciously, if he were right, rid himself of his unwanted handfast-wife by this coming eve, to begin her punishment.
“Nothing in this life is certain, lad,” the old woman crooned in an ancient, cryptic voice.
Gabhran rolled his eyes in exasperation. He had spent the remainder of a miserable and achingly sad night searching through Gorath’s belongings until he found this bottle in a most unusual location. Too suspicious to ignore considering the missive along with it.
He had weakened hours before from sadness and outrage, but out of love for his brother, he kept himself going. He would not rest until this matter had been resolved.
Nay, such a loss could never be resolved unless Morhath could use her potions and incantations to bring Gorath’s life back.
He would see the murderous vixen punished for her crime. As he’d told her, death would be too generous. He’d not suggested the union without purpose. It was better for him to keep her under his hand until she could be proven guilty, but if she wasn’t . . . then he would truly have to worry.
Morhath grumbled and he watched as she ambled to the firelight. Old, bony fingers skimmed down the side of the bottle and she turned the leather-cased phial over in her hand. “I’ve seen this potion bottle before. In a vision,” her aged voice rasped.
Gabhran started to yank the satchel and its contents back from the old hag right then, feeling like a fool for coming here as she spoke of visions. He wasn’t superstitious in the least, and cared not for prophecy or spells. He didn’t believe in the like, but so long as this potion of whatever making was physical, his cause for being here would be explainable to a degree.
All he wished for was proof. And, admittedly, he didn’t know where else to go to find such a thing. He desperately hung on to any hope of impartiality for Gorath’s sake. He had given his word to protect the woman, but his obligations stopped there.
“In the vision you had of my brother?” he questioned in a grumble, unable to keep his cynicism to himself.
Morhath’s eyes glided up, one green and the other brown. The eyes of a witch.
Gabhran returned her scowl.
Morhath tsked. “I told him not to tell anyone of what I saw, but he didn’t listen, did he?” she mumbled, almost to herself and began to open the small bottle to smell the contents. Twitching her nose, she looked in the mouth of the bottle quizzically for a moment, then set it aside on a table where runes were scattered.
When she settled herself in a fur covered ladder-back seat and began to lift the pieces of witchery, placing them in a doeskin bag to shake, she closed her eyes and chanted.
Gabhran shifted uneasily. “Can you identify the concoction, old woman?” he asked tersely.
Morhath gave him another bothered expression, but continued on wordlessly. She scattered the runes and stared long and hard on their chiseled and painted symbols.
After several moments lapsed, impatient and irritated, Gabhran stuck out his hand to swipe up what he had brought for her to see, ready to take his leave.
He’d been an addled fool to come here, even as a last recourse.
If she couldn’t tell him now, he would be gone.
Morhath’s hand lurched out to catch his. Her brittle, jagged nails dug into his arm as she cut her eyes up where he towered over her. “‘Tis a poison indeed.” Gabhran stiffened and tried to pull away, fire in his eyes, assured now he had been right, but Morhath stopped him again. “T’was not your woman though.”
“What?” Gabhran sneered, then just as quickly shook his head and snapped, “She is not my woman and never will be.”
Morhath lifted her shoulder in smug satisfaction. “So you say now,” she said, and indicated the bottle with her eyes. “There is nothing missing from that bottle. Even if it were but a drop, there is not enough gone to have killed a man.” She scoffed with all conviction. “Surely not a goliath as Gorath.”
Gabhran glared icily at the hag before relaxing somewhat and only then did she release him, nestling back into her chair and pulling at the fur to wrap about herself.
Gabhran’s jaw worked as he looked to the side, far beyond the interior of the hut, in hopes of calming himself to a rational degree. Trying to determine if he should believe the word of this witch, or his own convictions.
But then, if not to believe her, why had he come here? Had he only been hoping for someone to confirm his believes? Any number of his people could have done that at the keep.
Nay, he must go by Morhath’s word.
Yet, if not the McPherson woman, then who had killed his brother?
Gabhran took back the vial, near crushing it in his hand as he started for the door.
“Tread lightly, Highlander. You do not belong in my hut for you do not believe in my spells, witchery, or magic. So the runes tell me little”¾she held up a finger¾“though there is some puzzlement to the stones which I can read.” She rubbed at her temple and then shook her head. “Look hard enough and you will find the answers you seek and when you can open your eyes to see past your fury, only then will you ken the truth of your brother’s death.”
©2013 Kerri M. Patterson