Highlander’s Bewitching Healer Preview

A Historical Scottish Romance Novel

About the book

She loved him not despite his scars, but because of them...

Accused of being a witch due to her healing prowess, Maeve Jackson has had enough. Determined to relocate and continue practicing her calling, the opportunity presents itself as a handsome, but irritating Laird in desperate need of a healer.

After losing both his father and his leg, Cillian Morris also lost his will to live. However, his resolve to distance himself from everyone crumbles when the most bewitching woman enters his life and turns everything upside down.

Just as he finally finds a new purpose with Maeve there to help him, the basic foundations of Cillian’s life start to crumble. The woman who raised him as a mother gets poisoned; his family finds death staring at them in the eye. And Maeve...is the ultimate goal in the grand scheme to destroy his life.


Prologue


A Clan at War


The Fields of Clannach, Scotland, 1642


Cillian could almost feel the man’s heart beating through his chest as time slowed down. Life was the toss of a coin, and Cillian quickly flipped his sword, the blow incapacitating him but not killing him.

I hope that my mercy does not come back to haunt me.

Each death was not only a member of their Clan, but they were also a father, brother, husband, child.

More arrows twanged as they pierced the ground beside him. Then there was peace, a brief respite from the din of war, and the breathing of those who were still alive could be heard. Cillian wheeled around; Dominic was down on his knees helping a wounded soldier, others were dragging men from the middle of the battle to the outskirts, but far too many lay motionless and devoid of life.

“They’re regroupin’, and we’ve lost too many,” winced Dominic.

“But, we’ll—”

“Aye, we’ll fight,” finished Dominic before adding, “me Laird.”

Cillian wiped the sweat from his head and sat down on a small clump of dirt. “Is it all worth it?”

“They started it,” said Dominic.

Cillian could not help but laugh at that. “Aye, that they did, and it needs to be us who finish it.”

“The men are lookin’ to ye,” said Dominic.

All for a few fields. The Fields of Clannach had been MacPherson land for as long as Cillian could remember, and he often ran through the fields as a young lad, playing some war game with Dominic and the others, though how naive they were at the time in their imaginings of what war was like. Cillian knew that he would never have partaken in those childish games if he had known what he knew now.

“Ye’ve followed me this far,” shouted Cillian. He took a step on to the small mound of earth and surveyed the men around him. A few were clambering to get to the group, but there were still at least a hundred good fighters with him. A look to the far end where the rolling hills disturbed the flat green showed a more buoyant group, numbering at least double theirs.

“I ken that this seems like we are nae fightin’ over much,” continued Cillian.

“It’s nae nothin’,” shouted someone.

“Aye, this is our land!”

“Aye, that may be true, but what we’re fightin’ for is nae just this land. We’re fightin’ for so much more. We’re fightin’ for everyone, for the Clan, our children, our way of life. The Gregor Clan, misguided in their wisdom, I’m sure, are nae wantin’ this land because we have it. Nay, they want it to change how we do things. This battle is nae about givin’ up a wee bit of field; it’s about protecting what the MacPherson Clan stands for.”

There was a cheer from the men, smiles returning to faces as the belief returned. Cillian looked down at himself, clothes ragged, leg scratched up. He wanted to call it a day and be done with the injustice of it all, but he knew that he would lead from the front, something which the other Laird did not.

Cillian would not have it any other way. If he were going to take his men into battle, he would be the first one to fight. That was what had inspired the men so far, outnumbered and fading, but still protecting all that they held dear.

“Here they come,” said Dominic.

“MacPherson!” shouted Cillian.

“MacPherson!” The shout was deafening as hundreds of men came back together to clash one more time. There was desperation on everyone’s face; they knew that this was the final coming together, that most of them would not walk away from this.

Cillian led the charge, flying into battle and stopping the first man in his tracks, a large brute with a flowing red beard. The ax came down from above, threatening to split Cillian in half, but what the brute had in strength, he lacked in speed and agility. Cillian ducked and rolled, moving under the ax and coming back to his feet to the side of the man.

As Cillian looked up at the ax, moving away just in time, he could see a large black crow flying in the grey sky above.

Oh, to be a bird and have the chance to escape from all of this.

The bird sailed around in the sky, watching the battle below before flapping its wings and going off to find food. Cillian thought about staying down, giving in to the oncoming defeat, but he was better than that. The ax hit the ground one more time, this time clanking against a rock buried just below the surface, and the collision sent a shudder up the man’s arm.

The bearded warrior was tiring, and Cillian knew it, but a flash caught his eye before he could land a blow. His training told him never to take his eyes from his enemy, but his other senses were screaming. He did look, keeping the man in his peripheral vision and keeping enough space between them to dodge should the ax come close again.

“No,” the gasp escaped Cillian’s lips, lost in the noise of the battle. Dominic was on the ground, sword in hand, but not enough time to raise it. Cillian acted on instinct. He jumped back as the ax came for his stomach, hoping to take a bite. Cillian launched his own sword through the air, not at his attacker, but at the one standing over Dominic, mace raised, ready to cave in Dominic’s skull.

The sword spun through the air as Cillian dodged another swing from the ax, huffs of breath coming with each swing. The sword hit the attacker, not piercing him, but enough to knock him off balance, and the mace landed within an inch of Dominic’s head. The attacker fell on top of Dominic, and, for a moment, there was no movement.

As Cillian turned, his instincts kicked in again, and the dagger that was aimed at him was thrust toward an attacker from behind, downing the man before the short sword could do its damage. Another man went down, and Cillian’s eyes roved back toward Dominic, who was pushing up the man who had fallen on him, Dominic’s sword sticking out of his back. Cillian let out a sigh of relief at the sight and ran to help him as the battle raged around.

He was almost there when the pain shot up his leg, through his stomach, and into his shoulder. Cillian stumbled and fell face first into the dirt, the dagger flying from his hand. His head knocked against a hard patch of ground and the light danced around.

Dominic was there by his side, helping him up and shouting something unintelligible. Cillian wondered if he had been deafened, the pain pulsing loudly inside. The world came back into focus, and he tried to shout out his commands, but could only wince and scream. Dominic was pointing, not for Cillian’s benefit, but for the men around him.

“Get him off the battlefield,” Dominic ordered.

Cillian looked down at his shin, and the pain came into focus when he saw the arrow sticking out of his leg. He reached down, moving his hand away from Dominic’s. He could feel the splintered bone beneath the skin, the mangled muscle, and the ever-present pain. He had every intention of pulling the arrow out, but the pain caused him to black out as soon as he touched the arrow.

“Where’s me sword?” demanded Cillian as he came to again.

“Get him out of here, now!” shouted Dominic.

Cillian could see more of the enemy soldiers approaching, Dominic whirling around to face them and keep his Laird safe.

“Nae!” shouted Cillian. One more time, he tried to stand up, reaching out for his broadsword that lay on the ground only a few feet from him. The pain was unbearable, and the darkness came once again, blinking in and out of reality.

He darted his hand out, but he was pulled in another direction. His head moved from side to side, rolling on his neck, not quite sure what was happening, a soldier on either side of him.

Nae! Nae! Take me back!

He tried to force the words out, but he could not, or he did, but he could not hear them. The Laird of MacPherson Castle was sucked backward, pulled against his will but unable to do anything else, the blood pumping through his ears, his heart beat slowing. Then the crow. It had flown down in front of his face. He batted at it, but could not catch the bird nor move it, the flapping black wings obscuring his vision.

Behind the creature, he could barely make out Dominic, who was on his knees, or was he the one fighting? Cillian could not be sure. Then a stab and a cry of pain, a cry that he had heard before when he and Dominic were children and his friend had fallen on a rock. The cry came again and turned into the cawing of the crow as the wings flapped faster, and the bird came straight for him.

Cillian could not move this time, could not defend himself as the crow attacked, the darkness encompassing him. He took one final breath and gave into the darkness.



Chapter One


Ambushed


Carsten, Scotland, 1645


The inn was rowdy, Maeve could hear it from up in her small room, but she did not want to go down even though she had a hunger in her belly. Her need to be alone overcame her need for food. Albie curled up in the corner, unperturbed by the noise and making gentle purring noises as he dreamed.

Maeve’s stomach rumbled, and she thought about brewing up her herbs into a tea to give her stomach some flavor in an attempt to fool her insides into thinking that they were being fed. If the smell had not penetrated the simple wooden door, she would not have opened it. When she did, the aroma hit her in the face. It was a moment before she noticed that Albie had snuck out.

“Albie!” hissed Maeve. She looked behind her to make sure that it was her cat and not someone else’s, and she found an empty cat-shaped space there, confirming her fears. As Maeve stepped out of her room, Albie made a run for it, persuaded by the cooking smells to go downstairs and investigate more.

“Albie, come back here!” hissed Maeve to no avail. Maeve followed him quickly, going downstairs with dreams of food in her mind. She had enough money for one more meal, perhaps two.

The inn was rowdy and noisy, but there was a more somber tone to the place. Maeve scanned the room, finding the only thing out of the ordinary were the three soldiers who sat at the table in the center of the room. She had not been out of her village much, but she had seen some soldiers pass close to the village, marching off to war, or marching back from it. The plain-tan trews and white shirts with tartan plaid were a giveaway in themselves, and the weapons laying on the table confirmed the deduction. The three of them were both rowdy and somber at the same time.

“Supper?” asked Agnes, the tavern owner, appearing from nowhere.

Maeve fingered the purse hanging inside the belt of her skirt and felt the two coins, the same two that she had stared at earlier in the evening. “Nay, nae tonight.” She had enough to get her through a couple more days and would make the decision in the morning whether to stay or to go.

“Who are the soldiers?” asked Maeve.

“Fresh from a skirmish with some bandits,” replied Agnes. “On their way back to their Castle. Well, two of them are; the one in the middle is a ghost.”

“A ghost?”

“Aye, as good as. He took a wound to the side, and he’s nae long for this world.”

Maeve looked at the three men and could see that the man in the middle had a slight sickly-green tinge to his color. All three were getting drunk, and the alcohol was obviously hitting the wounded man more.

“Givin’ him a send-off,” continued Agnes. “Bad for him, God rest his soul, but good for business.”

Maeve was not listening anymore, nor was she aware that Albie was doing the rounds, moving from table to table and person to person, picking up table scraps as he went. Maeve walked through the tables, leaving behind Agnes who was still talking, and that sent Albie into a flurry, thinking he was being chased.

“What happened to yer friend?” asked Maeve when she got to the table.

“Aye, more ale, Lass!” exclaimed one of the soldiers.

“I’m nay here to serve ye ale, Sir. I need to ken what happened to yer friend.”

“They took us by surprise,” reminisced the man.

“Aye, aye, but we havenae time,” demanded Maeve. “He was stabbed, aye? Where was he stabbed and how long ago, and why did ye nay go to the healer, Mr. Hodgkins?”

“Nothin’ to be done,” said the soldier on the other side of the table.

“Plenty to be done,” countered Maeve.

“Let me drink in peace,” said the soldier in the middle, the one with the greenish tinge.

“Another ale,” demanded the first soldier.

Maeve took a deep breath and composed herself. She ran through the events in her head before vocalizing them. “Ye were ambushed by bandits, aye. I presume that ye fought them off or killed them if ye are all still here, but ye,” she pointed to the soldier in the middle, “were stabbed in the side, the left by the way ye are favorin’ it. Ye ended up in this village, and Mr. Hodgkins said that there was nothin’ to be done, so ye ended up in here, drinkin’ yer sorrows until yer friend drops dead.”

The three soldiers looked at her in silence before the soldier on the left said, “Aye.”

“And I suppose that ye ken better?” asked the soldier on the far side.

“Aye, I do,” said Maeve. “Now, let me see the wound before ye really have to drink yerself into an early grave.” Maeve stared them down before adding, “What have ye got to lose?”

The soldier in the middle lifted up his shirt to reveal the festering wound, not even a dressing covering it. “If I had got here sooner, he might have been able to save me.”

Maeve ran from the table, Albie fleeing in fear once more, and up to her room. She rummaged through her bag and grabbed a handful of wilting herbs, along with some vials of black liquid and strips of fabric. In under a minute, she was back down at the table, the soldier in the middle still holding his shirt up.

“Agnes!” called Maeve. “Here, take these herbs and grind them into a paste for me. Add some water if ye need to. Ye! Chew on these herbs. Agnes, a flagon of water too. And ye two, give me some space to work.”

There was a lull in the inn as the two soldiers took orders from the young red-haired woman with the eager blue eyes. The soldier in the middle kept one hand on his shirt, still hoisting it up while he chewed on the herbs. Agnes was soon back with the herbal paste, and Maeve washed the wound before applying the black liquid, followed by the herb paste. The bandages went on top. The soldier would have screamed out in pain during the hasty procedure if he had not been so drunk.

“Nae more ale,” instructed Maeve. The two watching soldiers put down their cups of ale, and Maeve did not have the heart to tell them that she was talking about their friend. “And lots of rest.”

Maeve found Albie at her feet, and she picked him up, walking back upstairs to her room as the patrons watched in silence. When she got back to her room, the hunger in her belly was gone.

“Dinnae look at me like that, Albie, ye ken that I had to help the man, nae matter how good it felt.”

Albie purred and lay back down, and Maeve did the same. The sleep came more eagerly that night, and she did not wake in the morning with the sense of impending dread that had arrived the previous mornings, not knowing where her life was taking her. No, she was woken the next morning by a hammering at the door.

Maeve hastily got up and answered the door, finding one of the soldiers from the night before.

“He’s askin’ for more herbs,” said the soldier with a smile on his face. “It’s actually workin’.”

“We need to take her back to the Castle,” announced a second soldier from down the hallway.

“What, I’m nae a witch,” stammered Maeve.

“What?” asked the soldier at the door. He took one look at Maeve’s grave face and burst out laughing. “Aye, exactly the type of thing that a witch would say.” Another laugh escaped his lips. “I dinnae dabble with witches, and that’s a fact, but I ken a good healer when I meet one. We need a healer at the Castle, so we’ll be takin’ ye there as soon as our friend is strong enough to leave.”

“Do I have a choice in the matter?” asked Maeve with a smile.

“Looks like yer choice has been made,” said the soldier.

 “I’m nae a witch,” Maeve whispered, more to herself than anyone else.



Chapter Two


The Laird


MacPherson Castle, Scotland


"I didnae ask which castle we are going to,” said Maeve. The past two days had been the happiest since she had left her village. The three soldiers had supplied her with more food and coin than she had ever imagined as thanks for helping their friend who was ready to leave for the Castle after two days of rest.

“MacPherson,” said Gregor. Maeve rode on the back of his horse, clinging to the muscular man, Henry and Douglas riding on either side. “It’s nae far.”

“Aye, I’ve heard of it.”

“Dinnae believe everything’ that ye hear,” said Gregor.

Maeve did not know what to make of that. In truth, she had not heard much about MacPherson Castle, even though it lay close to her village. She did not have to wait long to see it in all its glory, if glory was the right word.

The Castle was magnificent, there was no doubt about it, with walls that towered far above any that Maeve had ever seen, and as they got closer, the towering walls blocked out the sky. Yet, Maeve could also see that the roughly hewn walls were in a state of disrepair like the Castle was an old man who had not taken care of himself.

That all evaporated when they rode through the front gates. Gregor had told her that the town lay on the other side of the Castle, but he had not told her about the central courtyard. Once they were inside, he sent Henry off with Douglas to get more treatment for the latter.

“It’s bigger than me village,” gasped Maeve. She looked around at the people, the buildings, the stalls, and the busyness of it all. It was all too much to take in. There was so much to see, so much to do, and so many people to meet, and for the first time since she had left her village, Maeve broke out into a genuinely joyful smile. She could feel the bubbliness coming back, the same feeling she had had when she was growing up in the village and helping people.

“With so many people to help, I can make a real difference here,” whispered Maeve.

“I’m nae going to respond,” said Gregor as he slowed his horse. “I dinnae think that ye are talkin’ to me, but dinnae get all yer hopes up until the Laird has made his final decision. It’s him we’ll see as soon as we can.”

“I didnae mean—”

“Dinnae worry, Lass,” interrupted Gregor. “We’ll see him soon; he’ll be happy nae to have lost a good man to the bandits, that’ll put ye in good stead.”

A young boy ran past, sprinting as fast as he could after a chicken that was clucking in happy freedom. The boy soon captured the creature and took it back to the stall, the freedom all but over. Soon it would be sold and on someone’s table for supper.

When they passed one wooden table, Maeve could smell all kinds of spices, herbs, and sweet liquids. Most, she could place, but there were some that were foreign to her. She tried to remember exactly where the table was so that she could come back to it when she had a chance.

Gregor dismounted and helped Maeve from the horse. Maeve took one more look around, trying to take everything in; the sound of people bartering over their wares, the crashing of wood on metal as bowls toppled from a barrel, the constant chanting that had something to do with soup, the aroma of freshly roasted pheasant, and the gentle murmur of people who were satisfied with their lives.

She was led into the Castle and through winding hallways of stone, dimly lit with flickering torches.

“Me Laird,” said Gregor when they reached the entrance to the large hall.

“Aye, aye,” said the Laird, and that was enough for Gregor to stride in, Maeve struggling to keep up behind him. When she got to the center of the room, Maeve could see the Laird sitting on a large chair near the back. She lost her breath immediately. The chair and room gave him a more imposing look, but his handsomeness would have set him apart no matter where he sat. 

Cillian Morris was tall, even sitting down, and his muscular body quickly showed, even though he wore loose-fitting clothes. Soft, brown curls tumbled around his face and his keen green eyes looked straight into Maeve’s heart. She almost stumbled for a second, regaining her composure, only she aware that she had lost it.

Maeve searched her thoughts, trying to remember what she was going to say to convince the Laird that she was the right person for the job, and forgot about the soldier she had healed. She almost blurted out how handsome the Laird was.

“Well,” said the Laird. He rose from the chair and grabbed the cane that was leaning against the arm, unnoticed by Maeve at first. He limped forward a couple of steps, and Maeve could clearly see that he was missing his lower leg, everything below the knee. From the way that he walked and the pained expression on his face, she could see the toll that it took on him.

The change unnerved her. In his chair, he had looked like a king; strong and formidable, a man who would lead people into battle, and that thought in Maeve’s head was not far from the truth. He was that man, once. But, as he stood, the strength and power fell from him. It was not just the bottom part of his leg that he had lost, it was something else, Maeve could clearly see that.

As Cillian stood, he slumped a little. The slump had nothing to do with the loss of part of his leg. It was as if he was carrying a heavy weight, and did not want to put it down, nor did he want any help, but Maeve knew that she could help him, and inspiration filled her once more, her confidence returning, and her smile.

Maeve unslung her bag and rummaged inside. “I have just the thing. I can fix ye right up.”

“Fix me?” The words came out labored and quiet, as if the Laird could not understand why someone would say such a thing. When Maeve looked up, she could see that she had struck a nerve. She had not meant it like that, she really hadn’t, the words had just tumbled out of her, but she knew that she had wounded his pride. The Laird’s face looked more pained than it had before, but this was not physical pain, it was the mental pain that he was carrying around.

If only I could help ye with that.

Maeve composed herself as quickly as she could. She was all in now, and there was no stopping her. “I mean help ye with the pain.”

“What has me pain got to do with it?” The Laird took a step back and sat down, placing the cane against the side of the chair, but it slipped and fell to the floor, the clatter reverberating around the walls and making the atmosphere more tense. “Yer here because I need a healer, but yer nay me personal healer. Me Clan needs someone, nae me.”

“No, wait, I can explain. I have some salve.”

“Gregor!” The call was not loud or angry, but there was something below the surface and that made Maeve feel worse. “I’ve seen enough.”

 Gregor wasted no time and quickly shepherded Maeve out of the room. The smile quickly left her face as her one chance had been spurned. As she was taken gently out of the room by Gregor, she knew that she would have to return to her village. She could not stay in the Castle, not after this.



Chapter Three


Convincing Arguments


MacPherson Castle, Scotland


Darragh stood in front of the Laird with his hands held behind his back, standing in silence as Cillian contemplated his own thoughts. Both men had fought together, many times when needed, but war was a distant memory for the Clan, and almost everyone enjoyed the peace that it brought, Darragh included.

If the two stood together, they would be precisely the same height and build, but Darragh’s bright-blond hair was in stark contrast to Cillian’s chestnut brown, and Darragh had brown eyes while Cillian’s were emerald. The merchant shifted from foot to foot, always uncomfortable when he was called into the great hall. Mixing with the commoners and sorting out the problems that came with overseeing trade was second nature to him but talking with Cillian or any of his advisors was troubling, and he did not care to be in the Castle for too long.

“Ye belong here,” said Cillian as if reading the man’s mind.

“I’d rather nae be in here.” He waited a heartbeat before adding, “Me Laird.” Cillian had told him that they had no need for formalities when it was just the two of them; they had, after all, fought side by side and saved each other many times over.

Cillian’s mind flashed back to one of their battles. In some ways, he wished for that time again. He was loved as a Laird, and he did care for his people and did show them that, but he did not feel strong, not any more. When he had led them into battle, even when his life was in constant threat of being ended, he had purpose. He still had purpose, but it did not feel the same. He felt shrunken and was sure that he looked shrunken too.

Cillian knew that he had changed a lot in that time. Even without the loss of his lower leg, he was sure that he would stand shorter than he used to, the constant battles and watching over the Clan taking their toll on his body, and there was an oldness that ran through his bones. He was sure that he had spotted a grey hair, a few days ago, in among the brown strands on his head; his father had gone grey at an early age.

Though he trained with a sword and walked often, he did not have the same stature that he did back then. He was still a muscular man, but he had been a beast when the battles had raged and he had led his men into the fray. The lower leg had only been the beginning of the loss that had plagued him since then.

“Ye belong in here, and I wish that ye would join me in the Castle,” said Cillian. He had been trying for years to convince Darragh to join as an official advisor, but the man preferred life among the people.

“I thank ye for that, Me Laird, but I’m needed out there.”

“Aye, and a fine thing that ye are,” admitted the Laird. He could feel the throb of his stump and took a silent breath to bring the pain under control before he spoke again. “Ye might just be me most trusted advisor. Ye dinnae have to worry about telling’ me what I want to hear, and ye have yer ear to the ground too. And, what of the common man? Ye’ve nae visited for a month, I presume that all is well?”

“Aye, Me Laird. Yer leadership continues to push us forward, and nay man wants for any food or shelter. There’s talk of a sickness among the bairns, but I think that’s just fear after auld Grant passed.”

Darragh looked around the great hall. There were plenty of windows, and the light-blue sky could be seen outside; torches had been lit too, adding more light to the room, bouncing off the elegant tapestries, hand-carved chairs, and stern portraits. It was a grand place, and Darragh was always amazed by it, but it was not somewhere that he felt at home.

“I’ll have a new healer for the people soon.” Cillian shook the anger of the previous day’s altercation from his mind. He knew that he should not have snapped at her in the way that he did, but she had taken a liberty by claiming that she knew him better than he did, or any of his men.

Och, ye ken that’s nay true, Cillian. She was just tryin’ to help ye.

He tried to expel the resentment from his head, knowing that he was resenting himself and not her, but it was hard to do and he had more important things to think about.

“I ken that ye will, Me Laird, and the people trust ye.”

Cillian was brought back to the moment and took a second to regain himself. She was an inconsequential lass, yet she had gotten under his skin and there was more to it than her thinking him helpless.

“Yer holdin’ somethin’ back.” Cillian leaned forward in his chair and brought his hand to his chin, focusing on his friend in front of him.

“I think…” Darragh shifted from one foot to the other, “it might be time to open trade talks with the Gregor Clan.”

Cillian sat back in his chair, and a wry smile appeared briefly on his lips as he shook his head. He rubbed the stubble on his chin with his hand before staring directly at Darragh. He had a way of penetrating straight into the soul of anyone who stood before him. “Ye cannae be serious, can ye?”

“Me Laird, I think that it would be prudent to consider the opportunity. They are the closest clan to us, and we’ve had peace for the past two years.”

“Ye really think this is a good idea, with all that happened?” asked Cillian. His brows were knotted in confusion.

“He kenned what he was gettin’ into, we all did. I’ll never forgive the men who took me Brother’s life, but times change, and we got our revenge on those responsible. They’ve a new Laird, and most of those who fought are dead.”

Cillian clasped his hands together. He had led them into the battle, it was his fault that Dominic had died. “I dinnae ken. I trust yer judgment, Darragh, but I need to think more on this.”

“Aye?” Darragh did not know what to say for a moment. “I should be gettin’ back, me Laird.”

Both men stared at each other, there was an unspeakable bond between them that bound their fates together after all that had happened.

“Send Gregor in, will ye?” Cillian broke the silence.

“Aye,” said Darragh. “Thank ye, Me Laird.” Darragh spun around and let out a deep breath. He found Gregor standing outside the door when he got there and sent him in to see the Laird.

Cillian looked up at the arched stone ceiling above him. His father had told him that it had been carved by one craftsman, and Cillian had always disbelieved his father, but there was a part of him that hoped it was true. He watched Gregor walk across the large hall.

Another man followed Gregor into the room. Cillian did not know the soldier, but had seen him about the Castle. By the way the second man was walking, the Laird was sure that this was the man who had been injured and then miraculously cured.

He knew of Douglas, more so since the report of the skirmish with the bandits had come in, and had been assured that he was a reliable soldier and always worked hard. Apart from that, he did not know anything of the man.

“Ye really think that she can help?” said Cillian before Gregor had a chance to speak.

“I do, Me Laird. Just wait til ye see. Douglas.”

Douglas lifted his shirt to show his wound. There was a green tinge on his skin, but that was only from the herbs that had been applied. In the center of the rough green circle was a dark-red line surrounded by purple. The wound had closed and was healing well, and Douglas was feeling almost no pain from it, only some discomfort.

“She has a way about her, Me Laird, and she kens what she is doing. Take a look at Douglas.”

“What am I lookin’ at?” asked Cillian.

“It looks a lot better than it did a couple of days ago, I can assure ye of that, me Laird. Douglas would have died if it were nay for the lass. She healed him when a man could not.”

Douglas stood with his wound on show, saying nothing.

That piqued Cillian’s interest and Gregor could see it. “We went straight to the village healer when we got there, but he said that nothin’ could be done after taking a look at Douglas. Yet, a few herbs and some water from the lass and he is as good as new.”

Cillian could hear the assured tone in Gregor’s voice, and wanted to smile at the confidence that exuded from the two soldiers in front of him. He knew little about healers, but he did trust his soldiers, and took their opinion into consideration.

Gregor looked at Douglas as if hoping for some moral support.

“Aye,” was all that Douglas managed.

Gregor turned back to Cillian and continued with his conviction. “A man,” repeated Gregor. “That healer would have let Douglas die or cut him up for his own amusement. I dinnae claim to understand exactly how all this healin’ works, but I’ve never heard of a man bein’ cut to heal him. I dinnae ken how Maeve did it either, but I ken that she worked her magic on Douglas.”

Gregor regretted his choice of words, though he was sure that the Laird had no interest in witchcraft, nor did he believe that there was such a thing, but it was hard to discount it entirely, and even he was not entirely sure if there were such a thing as witches or not.

“I—” Gregor began but was cut off.

The Laird raised his hand. “I hear what ye are saying, Gregor. Perhaps I was too hasty in makin’ me mind up.” Cillian did not say anything more to explain his reversal, nor did he feel the need to explain himself to his soldier. “To be honest, there are slim pickin’s for fillin’ this position. Will ye fetch the lass?”

 “Aye, me Laird.” Gregor tapped Douglas on the shoulder and tried to hide the smile that crept to his lips.

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  • I can’t wait to see the rest of the story . Reading this much leaves me very interested in what o have read so fare

  • I can’t wait to see what she does with the Laird. I think that he’s going to get some very good lessons
    on how to behave if nothing else. Maeve strikes me as a woman that knows how to handle the babyish
    men around her and I can’t wait to read how she does it.

  • Interesting approach to all the hardship people faced in medieval times, I´m excited to learn how their story develops

  • An intriguing start to what looks like a very good story.
    Just when I think you can’t get better you go and smack my thoughts out of the ballpark
    Looking forward to the rest of Cillian and Maeve’s story…

  • The story does interest me. The beginning base is enough to pull the reader into the story. I do want to read the full book.

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