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Blood of the Clans Ch. 50

Iain saw his men following MacRae towards the shore and broke from cover. Screaming as loud as he could and waving his arms, he hoped his brother, or one of the others would hear or see him. Grayson joined him, both waving their arms and yelling the MacLean motto and then more voices joined in.

Stuart MacLean was riding with his clansmen in the last half of the charge, when his arm was pulled by one of his men and told to turn and look at the two men on the battlefield. Iain was instantly recognizable to him, but confusion took him, as to why he was with Grayson and they were yelling their clan oath. He watched him closer and saw that Iain was giving him a signal. He knew what Iain wanted him to do, but didn't trust what he saw under the circumstances. Noticing more MacLean tartans engaged in battle with MacRae's cavalry, he fought his doubts and heeded the signal given by his brother.

Giving the command to break away, he and his men, along with a few members of the other clans, rode in front of the pits and on towards Iain and Grayson. The echoes of their oath were still ringing out from men positioned around them, further confusing them.

MacRae and Rennie were unaware of the diversion and continued their charge for the opening along the shoreline, their force cut close to half by the loss of the MacLean's. Stuart halted quickly in front of Iain and looked desperately for an answer from him.

"We're wi' the MacDonald's now, Stuart. No time tae explain why, just know that MacRae is going tae lose this battle and we'll ne'er set foot in a castle or lands if we stay wi' him. We lost at Tioram and the same is happening here. Rid yer ranks of those of other clans wi' ye. When ye ha'e, ride back like ye's are still wi' them. When the attack begins, do yer best tae keep them from escaping" Iain instructed his brother.

As word spread of the defection, men were soon engaged in combat. The MacDougall's and Douglas' that were once fast allies, were soon at each other as mortal enemies. It wasn't long before all objectors were slain and the new alliance of men were ready to fight against the opposition. Stuart led them away, but hearts weren't resting easy with the change.

Waiting in the treeline was Sloan Fraser, along with his men, watching the men who slaughtered his family and clan, slaughter yet another in their quest for power. The tense mood heightened with each yard that was closed, as memories of their slain, remained vivid in their minds.

Stuart MacLean had been at the Falls of Lora massacre, Sloan remembered him standing beside his brother, Iain, the bodies of his clansmen subjected to the Blood Eagle, hanging from the trees around them. In his heart, he held the MacLean's accountable for his clan's deaths and only their own deaths would be equal repayment for justice.

Stuart saw the looks on the faces of the Fraser clan as he passed them and felt a shiver of fear run down his spine. This was a secret fear he had held since that day, that retribution for his acts would come to him one day and this, was now that day. He rode past them and felt the weight of burden for his deeds, sit heavy in his heart.

MacRae felt a moment of triumph, as he and his men joined the fray with the heavy cavalry and held the defenders back, giving the foot soldiers a clear path to the castle.

The Pioneers were towing the siege equipment behind their horses, slowing them down from the second wave, but fate was on their side and they too, made it past and on to their objective. The foot soldiers now rounded the last point and began charging for the castle. On past their cavalry, the men closed on Donan and readied for an attack.

Peadair saw the charge coming and had his archers prepare for them. Flamers were readied for the siege attempt and the plan Grayson had suggested. MacRae and Rennie had the men assemble around them, the orders for the attack given quickly, as the Pioneers unhooked the carts and positioned them at the ready.

The siege carts, thick wooden shields on two wheels, were large enough for four archers to take cover behind and fire through the vertical slits. Dorlochis were attached to it, filled with arrows for rapid attack. Slowly the first one was pushed forward and onto the bridge, followed closely behind by the second and third carts, the slippery oil making it hard to gain a foothold for traction.. Archers fired on them, hoping to catch an unguarded man. MacRae divided his attention between the raging battle behind him and the men crossing the bridge. His hopes of winning felt good to him, as he saw the cavalry continue to battle Garreth and his men, keeping them from him and the attack as planned.

Arrows flew from the castle battlements at the attackers, keeping them under cover behind their shield. Peadair waited until all three carts were past the bridge and put into position. Arrows began whistling at him and his men, keeping them under cover, just as he hoped. Seeing the time was right, soldiers began running over the bridge with ladders, followed by the main force. At the decisive moment, Peadair yelled out to the archers and flamers soared over the walls and landed on the bridge, lighting ablaze the oil covering it.

Men were instantly engulfed with flames, diving from the bridge into the shallow water to extinguish the agonizing pain of being burned alive. Others ran back into the mass of men behind still pushing forward, lighting them up in the conflagration. MacRae watched in horror, as a hundred men perished in flames before his eyes. It wasn't long before the smell of burnt flesh permeated the air and wafted to him, adding to his misery. The bridge was engulfed in flames and mayhem, stranding the archers behind their shields. MacRae watched, as forty plus men rushed from the shattered castle gate, blades ready to strike. The archers were at a loss to fire on them, the angle of the shields preventing them a chance to fire on the approaching wave of death. Quickly, the men behind each shield abandoned their protection and ran for the water in an attempt to escape. None touched a foot to the water, as they were overrun and set upon by blades.

A tremendous roar of victory rose from the men in the castle, as they looked at the dead and dying on the bridge and the chance of another attack defeated. From the starboard rails of the Ville de Lyon, Arabella and Therese, along with Princess Margret and the French, watched the battle unfold and the attack thwarted. Therese struggled to see where Garreth was in the melee, wanting to assure herself he was still alive, while Arabella tore her attention in two, looking for Grayson and also Braedon, somewhere amidst the flailing blades of the battle with the cavalry, as thick, black smoke rose in a column from the bridge and drifted towards the battle.

MacRae suddenly felt the anguish of loss take him, as he saw his forces decimated and his chance at reclaiming Donan, once again within his grasp, snatched away in defeat. Unbridled rage surged through him and vengeance was now his only motivator to go on.

He saw the MacLean's riding around the outside of the battling cavalry, thinking they were flanking them and gave a signal to engage. Stuart saw the signal and gave the order to charge. MacRae gave orders for the remaining men to align behind him and Rennie. With fifty riders and less than two hundred men, he advanced them towards the ongoing battle, hoping to wipe out as many of his foe as he could.

Coming from farther down the coast, Glendon, Gordon and their men were quickly covering the last few miles on foot. The sounds of battle rang from the hills, giving them the will to push hard and re-engage in battle. They came across the scene of battle where Robert and the others had ambushed the attacking force from behind. Dead bodies littered the area, the ground dark and damp from the blood. They halted and quickly looked for their own clansmen among the dead, but found none. As they stood stunned at the scene, a bloodied Athol emerged from the woods above them.

"Their no oors. Oor wounded and dead are up here. We took out a great number of their men, but we lost many ourselves. Once the last of them were killed, Robert had them continue tae the castle. They should be there now, or close tae it. We only took out a third or so of them, so there's still a large force. We lost close tae a hundred, most of them dead already, the rest are just waiting tae join them."

"We ha'e aid fer ye. Vernon, Douglas, see tae the men and do what ye can fer them. Save as many as ye can. Athol, ye and the men done well. Yer sacrifices will no be in vain." Gleason told him, then turned to the men, "We make fer the castle,now!"

Athol crossed his fist over his heart in gratitude as they rode off, while the two men climbed up to the dead and dying.

Bloodied and battle-worn, Robert and his men rounded the last bend at a full gallop. The scene before them was chaotic, men engaged in combat on foot and horseback. To his left, MacRae and his men were beginning to engage, while on the right, the MacLean's were charging in. The carnage of the pits showed their effectiveness as they rode past, dead animals and men filling them, while others lay around them in agony, their bodies mutilated and crushed by their own horses, as they tried to avoid meeting the same fate.

Garreth and his riders were close to winning the battle with the cavalry, when MacRae's forces pushed the balance of power out of his favour. MacRae's men doubled up on attacking the defenders and Garreth could see his men falling in ever larger numbers and prayed in his heart for the strength to defeat them. The power of the Fairy Flag had served him well, but it wasn't enough to overcome the forces now attacking. Hopes became distant dreams, as the wave of MacRae's men advanced in control.

Stuart MacLean saw the onslaught beginning and had his men ride the flanks of the fray towards MacRae's men. MacRae saw him coming and felt the chance at winning take hold. As quickly as it started, it vanished just the same, as Stuart and his riders began hacking down the men on foot. MacRae was stunned by the turn of events and an even greater rage consumed him, at seeing the traitorous act.

Hordes of men poured from the wooded areas around the battle and joined in with ferocity. Sorley led the Irishmen and waded into the fight, his sword meting out death in single blows, as did the swords of the others.

Robert now advanced on the attacking MacRae's, driving them into the maelstrom of swinging blades. MacRae saw the attack and knew he had to make a move and get away. Charging his way forward, he and Rennie made a break to the outside of the fray, hoping to take the outside advantage away from Robert's men. Shock hit his face, as he saw the MacLean's felling his men, unaware they had turned on them. Leith and Rennie saw it also and looked for an escape route out of the ambush.

Grayson and Garreth saw them trying to escape and worked their way towards them, their bloody swords hacking and cleaving at men, as they drew closer. Glenn MacDonnell saw it as well and wasn't going to allow MacRae to escape. The vengeance for his kin's murder coursed through him, as he slashed his way out of the fray. Once out, he made his way towards MacRae and the others, riding and slashing men as he went by.

MacRae saw a chance to escape and rode with Leith and Rennie, along with a dozen others, towards the treeline. He knew if they could reach it, they could make a reasonable defence against attack, or escape if need be. Glenn saw their plan and rode hard around the bloody melee towards them, hoping to cut off their escape.

Garreth saw Glenn riding hard for MacRae and motioned to Grayson. Worry gripped them, knowing Glenn's single-minded goal. Garreth made his way out and rode after him, wanting to support him in his vengeance-filled quest. As he rode, the scene around him was total chaos and carnage. Dismembered bodies and bloody corpses lay strewn on the battlefield ground, turning it crimson with the stains of death.

Glenn had his sword high and screaming out his blood-lust, as he rode for MacRae. Leith saw him approaching and rode in defence of his leader, blocking Glenn from attack. Riding headlong towards one another, their swords awash in blood, the two combatants were ready to face death. As they closed the distance, Leith drew his sword back to swing at Glenn's neck and upper body. Glenn saw the move and countered it by dropping forward as Leith's blade came at him. Holding his sword straight out, the tip cut into Leith's chest along the side and caused him to topple off. Glenn reined hard and turned his horse around, then made his way to his opponent, still on the ground writing in agony.

With death as his mentor, Glenn rode over Leith's body and trampled him under the pounding hooves. He turned to make sure he had done what he needed to do and saw the grey matter and blood spilling from Leith's crushed skull. Turning once more, he looked for MacRae who was nearing the woods and rode hard to get to him.

Garreth rode past Leith's body and knew Glenn had no fear of his own death, only the satisfaction of spilling MacRae's lifeblood. He looked up and saw Glenn riding hard towards MacRae, hell-bent on ending the life that ended his kin's. MacRae saw him coming again and ordered three men to fend him off.

The riders came at Glenn, who never deviated from his goal and continued towards MacRae. Closing the distance, they fanned out to cut off his attack and end his threat. With less than fifty feet to go, arrows suddenly whistled from the edge of the woods and dropped the three from their mounts, their bodies tumbling wildly when they hit the ground. Glenn quickly glanced in the direction they came from and saw Glendon and soon many more appear from undercover of the bushes.

MacRae and Rennie spotted them as well and quickly retreated the other way, but before his men could escape, arrows were streaming towards them and dropped four more men. MacRae felt the tug of an arrow pull at his tunic and knew the woods held no refuge of escape. Glenn nodded to the clansmen and held his sword high to them, as they cheered him on to victory. Garreth was closing on Glenn and held his sword high to the MacDonald's now entering the field of battle.

Unheard above the clashing steel and screams, the thundering rumble of a thousand horses was echoing out of Glen Sheil. Gillie made his way to the top of the rise and saw the banners being flown at the front of the procession. The royal emblem meant only one thing to him, certain death for every single clansmen, if they were here to support the Earl of Huntly and James MacRae. He watched them come out of the glen and round the turn, then went back to Griffin and the wounded, telling them who it was. They shared a certainty in their eyes, that before the day's end, they could well be the last of their clans.

Glenn cut back the other way, following MacRae with focused intent, while Garreth slowed and directed the men where to attack from. Seeing Glenn close in on MacRae alone, he tore off as fast as his horse could ride, knowing his friend was riding into danger. He watched in suspended anticipation, as Glenn neared MacRae and raised his sword to strike. Unknown to him, Leith had made it away from the ambush and was gaining on Glenn. Despite the closeness, there was nothing Garreth could do, but watch, as his friend was about to end his misery and kill the cause of it.

Glenn's sword began swinging forward, then it suddenly dropped from his hand. Garreth tried to understand the cause and then noticed the flash of metal sticking out of Glenn's back. Despite the agonizing pain, he continued to go for MacRae and made it to his side, jumping from his horse and tackling James to the ground. The impact drove the dirk in deeper, bringing an end to Glenn's quest for vengeance, as the blade sliced through his heart and ended his life. Before MacRae tried to escape, he looked down at the vanquished highlander and drove his sword into the dead man's chest and spat on him. A MacRae rode up and offered his hand to assist James onto the back of his horse, but Garreth had closed the distance and his sword ended any chance of rescue, as the razor edge sliced through the rider's neck and lopped his head off. MacRae was visually shaken at seeing his clansman's blood pour from the severed arteries over him, then held onto the dead man's hand and pulled him from his mount. He looked for a moment at the blood pouring from the headless body and never saw Garreth turning and coming for him.

Before he could react, Garreth was flying off his horse and diving onto him, taking him to the ground. Quickly MacRae recovered and stood with his sword at the ready, as Garreth stopped tumbling and got his feet under him again. MacRae was on the move to attack, before Garreth could take a stance in defence and swung his sword wildly to fend him off. MacRae used it to his advantage and delayed his swing enough to bring it down over Garreth's gauntlet, not only making him drop his sword, but breaking his wrist.

Garreth felt the pain and knew he couldn't use it anymore, so he pulled his dirk out with his left and faced MacRae. James started to smile, then laugh, knowing he had his enemy where he wanted him, at his mercy.

Garreth knew it was only a stroke of Fate, whether he would live, or die within the next few moments. Behind MacRae, Kirkland had crept forward closer to the edge and saw a Lochaber axe laying beside a dead soldier. He saw the position Garreth was in and knew it was also his chance to enact his revenge on MacRae. Looking about for anyone who might see him, he crept out, staying low and picked up the axe.

"Ye lose it all now, MacLeod. This castle belongs tae me and my clan and it'll be mine, once I finish ye off."

Garreth looked about for a way to avoid facing certain death, hoping a targe, or some defence he could use to block the sword being raised in attack. He never saw Kirkland running at his top speed towards, MacRae blocking his view of him. The first he knew of him being near, was him screaming at the top of his lungs in a guttural sound of hatred, only a few yards behind MacRae. Hearing that familiar voice, MacRae took only a moment, or two, to realize who it was, but the moment was too late in coming, as the razor-edged point of the axe came through his mid-section in a burst of blood and entrails.

MacRae tried to turn around and see Kirkland, but the shaft was held tightly in his hands preventing him from doing it. Garreth saw his chance to make sure he was finished and plunged his dirk into MacRae's heart, The look of defeat and certain death washed over MacRae's face, the acceptance of losing his chance to take Donan now certain. His sword fell from his hand, sticking into the ground at his feet, then the life started leaving his body.

Kirkland felt the weight of death on the shaft, as MacRae could no longer support himself. He let go of the axe and stood watching the last of James MacRae vanish from this world.

Garreth looked at the young man, his eyes wild with rage and still grunting. He walked them into the cover of the woods and saw the look of vengeance being served in the lad's expression.

"He's dead. I killed him, ye saw it. I killed the bastard, MacRae."

"Aye, ye did, lad, ye did. What's yer name?"

Garreth had no idea who he was, whether he was a friend, or foe.

"Kirkland Douglas. My father was Harlan Douglas, chieftain of oor clan."

"I thought ye were allies wi' MacRae? Why did ye kill him?"

"Because of what he done tae me, in front of my clan. He shamed me twice, but I swore he'd ne'er do it again, ne'er. This is what he left me wi' as a reminder of how he wanted tae rule my clan."
Kirkland pulled his tunic up and bared the vivid scars of MacRae's cross, still a dark contrast against his pale skin.

"MacRae did that tae ye, why?"

"He said I was'ne fit tae lead my people. I tried tae kill him twice, both times he bested me wi' his snee. I swore vengeance on him fer this and I ha'e it now."

"Ye ha'e it, young Douglas. Let yer heart know the deed is done."

"Who are ye?"

"Laird Garreth MacLeod, I owe ye my deepest gratitude, fer saving my life. I ha'e no quarrels wi' the Douglas clan. I know ye's only want lands of yer own, like many do. I can'ne fault ye's fer wanting that."

The thunderous sounds of hooves came echoing louder and clearer, as the royal troops made it into the clearing and began surrounding the entire battle scene. Men saw the banners and armoured cavalry, the fighting lessening in intensity, as they became surrounded and outnumbered. The Royal Envoy stayed at the rear, waiting until all fighting had stopped under order and control of the scene was theirs. Bloodied and battered men stood in silence, waiting for the commands to be spoken. Some went to those in need of aid, but arms were laid down equally, no side feeling they had an advantage in the situation.

The envoy rode forward with four, heavily armed men at each side of him and asked for all heads of the clans to present themselves before him. Garreth walked Kirkland over with him, picking up his sword as he passed, while Grayson came from the fray, bloodied with his own blood and that of many other men's blood. He sheathed his sword and slung his battered targe over his shoulder and stood beside Garreth.

"Is there a head fer the clan MacRae?"

Liam MacRae looked about for his father, or Leith, but couldn't see them anywhere. He knew he was after his brother for control, so he came forward and stood apart from the others.

"I am Liam MacRae, son of James."

The envoy looked at them all, the sight of battle on them, hard to digest and made his announcement.

"It is my duty as the King's Envoy, tae take command of this castle and the lands beholding tae it, in his name. All fighting is tae cease immediately, by order of his Majesty, James the sixth of Scotland. Any one who disobeys these orders, will find a swift and severe penalty fer breaking them. Is this understood, by all? A show of ascent is needed."

They all agreed to abide with what was about to be ordered of them. The envoy looked at them and then at the scene of mayhem and massacre.

"I will take rest in Eilean Donan. Ha'e the men inside come out and join those here, now. See tae the wounded first and when yer cleaned up, I wish tae see the leaders only in the hall, understood."

"Aye, yer understood."

Grayson's size and still present fierceness, in conjunction with the quantities of blood on him, made the envoy sit back in reaction, as he turned to go to his men. Garreth gave the envoy a long, studious look and then bowed his head only slightly, before he went to his men.

Three rowboats scraped up onto the shore, far down from where the battle was, but many of those stationed in the woods as archers and back up, recognized Lady Arabella and Lady Therese walking towards them with a royal figure and high ranking officers, as well as banner carriers and armed soldiers carrying muskets.

The envoy led the way past the fray and on towards the castle, slowing down again, as he noticed the entourage approaching from the other direction. He motioned for a halt and approached with his honour guard only. He pulled up a dozen feet in front of them and halted their progress to the bridge. He recognized the royal banner and then Princess Margret, bowing to her, then to Arabella and Therese. His guards followed suit, showing respect to their positions.

"Yer Highness, why are ye here? How are the French involved in this battle?"

"Graham Kingsland, how nice to see you again. I would find it better suited, if we continue our greetings inside, where we can sit and be comfortable."

"Yes, your Highness. I'll secure the castle and make it ready. Guards, go back and ha'e the men ready the castle. See that all arms are put down and ha'e the men prepare the hall fer our arrival."

The guards turned quickly and went to the others awaiting them. In seconds, they were all riding up to the bridge. The burnt corpses on the bridge were enough to halt the progress of the guards to the castle gate, their horse shying away from them. As they waited on the bridge, the two clansmen below had no idea the battle had ended and struck the flint close to the fuses, setting them alight. The fuses burned their way up the stone supports and caught the oil almost at the same time. The flames roared up over eight feet high and began racing down the bridge towards the royal guards. The first four riders were caught in it, unable to turn around, their clothing catching fire, as well as the horse blankets. The others panicked and turned as fast as the mayhem would allow and rode back off, some on fire, some only smouldering with smoke. The horrific screams of the men burning to death, as well as the horses, silenced the scene's mood of peace and began the guards calling for retaliation.

Men from the castle came out to the bridge and called to the men below to cease lighting charges. The two men came out, their fear trapped on their faces, as they looked at their clansmen, then at the dozens of bows aimed at them. They looked at the ebbing flames from the oil and the charred remains of guards and horses.

"Halt, lower yer weapons. Those men were acting under my orders and were waiting fer the enemy tae cross, tae set light tae it. My duty is tae defend this castle from all attackers and they were'ne gi'en the order tae cease. It's my fault, if anyone's, yer men are dead, no them."

"We are the King's guard, escorting the Royal Envoy. Ye'll lay down yer arms and leave the castle, those are my orders. Any who resist, are tae be severely punished, or die."

Garreth was running towards the castle, the moment he saw the oil go up in flames. Grayson was right behind him, as they raced through the mass of bloodied men, towards the rising conflict.

The envoy, as well as the entourage made their way as quickly as possible to the bridge area. Garreth and Grayson arrived just after them and called out to Peadair to lay down their arms and exit the castle. Peadair gave the order to stand down and leave the castle to several men, who ran about the grounds and rooms, relaying the order to the others. The gates opened in minutes and unarmed clansmen came out and stood on the grounds around the castle, their way across the bridge still blocked by fire and burnt corpses.

"Ha'e yer men clear away the bodies of the dead, intae the castle. Dispose of the horses as ye see fit." the envoy's voice a mix of outrage and disgust.

Grayson looked at the envoy and knew not to argue, the fault for everything beginning with his plans to use flaming oil in the first place. He had men get buckets to douse the flames and stretchers for the dead men. He thought of what Lady Anne had said about it being too barbaric, as the smoke rose from the bodies and had to silently agree with her. Moments after the water hit the burnt flesh, the stench permeated the air, sickening many close by. The women held handkerchiefs to their faces, to fend off the vile smell and moved upwind from the scene, along with everyone else behind them.

Stretchers were brought out and the dead were laid out on them, the men trying not to let the horror take hold of them, as they carried them back into the castle and laid out of sight in the shade along the wall, then covered. Ropes were brought out and tied to the hind hooves of the horses and dragged by a dozen men on each one, taking them off the bridge and out onto the open ground. More buckets of water were brought and washed down the bridge, straw brooms sweeping the foul water down the drain holes. Once the bridge was readied, the guards formed a line to the castle, for the envoy and entourage to enter. Once all principle parties were inside, the gates were closed and the guards took their positions and ordered the clansmen off the castle grounds and back on the mainland.

Once all of them were across, they posted guards at the bridge's entrance and held weapons at the ready towards the clansmen.

With the battle over, wounded were treated and the dead collected, sorted out in clans for recognition. The number of dead appeared equal for the allied clans of the MacDonald's, but less than half the numbers sustained by MacRae's allegiance. Most of the English soldiers were gone, as well as the MacDougall's. The Douglas' had suffered many losses, but not near as many as the rest. Kirkland stood with his clan, feeling his place among them and knew they accepted him as a leader.

His ability to travel to Donan and remain undetected, astounded the men. He showed them the amulet that the witch had given him and told them of the charms she had blessed him with. His killing of MacRae had raised his status of bravery, despite his youth. He told them of what Garreth had said to him, before leaving to the castle and how lands would be made for them, if they agreed to be a peaceful clan. His men weighed out their position, knowing that any ties with MacRae, would result in a loss for them, if they wanted to side with them still. A concurrence was made, to await the decision of the envoy and see what they would be offered by him, or Garreth.

The hall was filled and seats were taken by rank and position. Drink was brought and served, as the envoy prepared to take command of the meeting.

"I have been sent here by his Majesty, King James, tae quell this uprising and bring an end tae the feuding between ye. Word has been sent tae the King, explaining the situation by the Earl of Huntly and his Majesty has ordered I intervene on his behalf. I know the MacDonnell's, kin of the MacDonald's, ha'e resided here fer o'er two hundred year, taking it away from the MacRae's o'er a dispute of debt. I ha'e in my possession, a charter titling this castle and the lands surrounding it, tae the MacKenzie's. They had rightful possession and ha'e made the MacRae's their Stewards of the Castle, in their stead. No charter of possession is held by the MacDonnell's, that has been produced, but if one can be presented, I will suspend judgement. If none can be made present, I must follow his Majesty's rule and gi'e possession tae the MacRae's."

Grayson rose in fury, hearing Lady Anne and the MacDonnell's were going to lose the castle and lands. Guards reacted quickly and spears were pointed at him, before he backed away from the table and put his hand on his sword.

"Ye ha'e no choice in the matter, MacDonald. This is the King's land and his rule. Charters must be presented tae show ownership of castle and lands, if not, they come under the King's discretion tae award them tae a rightful owner."

"Yer Lordship, if I may."

"Yes, yer Highness, what is it?"

Margret looked at Kingsland and sized him up in her mind, before speaking. Kingsland saw the look and felt unsure of himself.

"You say the MacRae's were in dispute with the MacDonald clan, they owed a debt?"

"Yes, yer Highness, that is correct."

"Was this debt ever resolved?"

"Not that I'm aware of, yer Highness, but the fact remains, the charter gi'es them entitlement."

"Isn't that entitlement forfeit, if they owe a debt to someone?"

"If I may, yer Highness." Garreth intervened at that point.

"The debt in question, was wi' the MacKenzie's. My clan, as well as the MacDonald clan, ha'e a long standing debt of blood and money, wi' the MacKenzie's. My father died because of them, Grayson and Arabella lost uncles and kin. We caught the MacKenzie's stealing our cattle and horses and wanted payment fer them."

"When was this crime committed?" Kingsland became more interested in the claim Garreth presented. He knew the highlands were rife with theft by one clan, or another and debts were sometimes settled with forfeiture of castle and lands.

"O'er two hundred year ago. Hamish the Elder, laid siege tae the castle and forced the MacRae's tae pay their former owners debts, or leave the castle. They left after a small amount of fighting and returned a year later, wi' more men and tried tae take it back. They lost that battle and were driven from the lands, by my clan and the MacDonald's. The dispute has ne'er been settled, so the castle has been in MacDonnell's possession e'er since. All clans consider the debt settled wi' the MacKenzie's now. The MacRae's can'ne be Stewards of a castle, that the MacKenzie's owed tae us in debt."

Kingsland looked at Garreth, then to the faces of the others, focused completely on him and what he said. He knew tensions were at a critical point and didn't want any further bloodshed.

"If ye can understand my position, Laird MacLeod, the King recognizes this charter, whereas, I see the dispute and the forfeiture in favour of settlement. I feel it is my duty, tae carry out his orders as requested." he quickly held his hand up, as everyone wanted to voice their concerns. "Furthermore, I will bring this matter before him and let him make a decision on it, based on the evidence of debt."

"Monsieur Kingsland, une moment." Margret said in a gentle manner, as she rose.

The room hushed and eyes turned to Margret, her soft voice still powerful enough to command their attention.

"Yes, yer Highness?"

"If I may add, the French Empire is most friendly with the Scottish king and its people, yes?" her smile warm and friendly.

"Yes, yer Highness, we are on good terms wi' each other."

"I would like it to remain so. I am sure his Majesty, James, would as well, correct?"

"Yes, he would, yer Highness." Kingsland knew she was proposing an ultimatum.

"I am sure he would be most upset, to know that some of his people, that I am most fond of, have been treated unfairly by him."Margret's words, however gently spoken, left an impression in every person's head.

When Margret sat and smiled at Kingsland, eyes turned to him and awaited his response. He felt the weight of each stare and knew to choose his words carefully.

"I'm sure his Majesty would be very upset tae know that, yer Highness. I'll make yer wishes known tae him. However, the issue of the charter hasn't been resolved by him and he must take both matters now, intae question. I, of course ha'e no authority tae make a decision, so I must do what I came tae do and that's resolve this dispute and hand the castle o'er to the rightful owners. Who that is, is up tae the king tae decide, not me."

Margret continued smiling, as her eyes bore into his.

"Just make sure he knows who right ones are. I know that there are many issues regarding improvements to the lands and the castle that are already being discussed. There is more to this than just handing over a castle to someone. Lives of many people have been lost, Laird Hamish and his son, most notably. Many more lives of families and clans living here, will be killed, or thrown off their lands. I would suggest that you discuss this with James, in no uncertain terms, that he hear from each of these people, what he needs to know."

Kingsland knew he was out of ways to enforce the order he was given and ride away. He looked at each of the faces focused on him, seeing the determination to have their way in this and had to cede to the pressure.

"I will make this recommendation then. Tae resolve the fighting, the MacDonnell's will remain as holders, not owners, of Donan. All clans are tae disband and go back tae their lands. The MacRae's can hold the grounds at the head of Duich, this side of the Kintails and the Strath. There will be no warring between anyone. There is more than enough game tae hunt and fresh water there, as well as wild roots tae harvest. Shelters can be made tae live in, there's good muck and stone there, reeds tae make thatch. I will leave a troop here tae watch o'er everything and make sure what is set out, is adhered tae. I will return and address this wi' his Majesty and ha'e word sent tae each head tae attend at his order. All evidence ye ha'e of yer claim tae support it, will go good in yer steads."

"I find that an amenable decision, Graham."

"Thank ye, yer Highness. I must ask of ye again though, how is it ye come tae be involved in all of this?"

"I was asked by Lady Therese for her aid in protecting this castle we sit in, Graham. It seems the attacking forces were more inclined to want it demolished. Other than removing the threat to the castle, we have not been involved in any of the fighting."

"How did yer Highness remove the threat?"

"That was simple, Graham. We sunk their ships and blew up their cannons, when they fired upon us. We never had a chance to propose a truce with them and stop the battle, so defending ourselves and the castle was our only objective. When the clans were at war on land, we made no interference with them, as God would decide who was to win."

"Thank ye, yer Highness. Lady Therese, may I ask ye, why do ye want tae save the castle?"

Therese took Garreth's hand in hers and kissed it, then turned back to Graham Kingsland.

"I am the wife of Laird Garreth MacLeod. My husband was called upon to give aid in this conflict and as his wife, it was my duty to help him in any way I could. Her Highness was coming to my rescue, after being kidnapped by the Earl of Huntly. His men came to France and beat me unconscious, then sailed me back to Scotland. It was Sorley Boy MacDonnell who rescued me from the Earl's men and sailed me to Tioram and the MacDonald's."

Kingsland looked shocked with disbelief, hearing Therese recount her ordeal. He waited until she was finished and offered his own apologies to her, then thanked Sorley for his efforts, not knowing the outcome of the two lieutenants who committed the act.

While most sat in a more relaxed manner, one man was still seething with madness. Liam MacRae got up hastily and left the table abruptly, then realized his place and stopped, turning around slowly. He bowed quickly, his eyes filled with anger and hatred, as he looked at Grayson and Garreth, then spun on his heel and left the hall. Grayson turned to Kingsland and talked solemnly in whispered words.

"I fear a peace between us all will be easier tae write, than carry out, my Lord. I will abide by yer conditions and await counsel wi' the king. I will make sure my clans don'ne attack or interfere wi' the MacRae's, while they settle there. Should the peace be broken and blood spilled, it'll be at a MacRae's hand that it happened. If it does, my clans won't stop, until every last MacRae is dead."

Kingsland looked at Grayson and saw the truth of his words. He looked back at the door that Liam had left through and thought things over with considerably more dread than he had previously.

"I am pleased tae know ye will abide my orders, MacDonald, as well as yer's, MacLeod. I'll talk tae young MacRae and make sure he understands my orders and what's at stake here."

Despite the sounds of pain and agony wafting into the hall, the principal members sat peacefully and drank wine, as they discussed issues of importance. Outside the doors, wounded men in every state were being attended to by those able to provide some level of medical attention. Despite their best efforts, many succumbed to their wounds, be it blood loss, or massive damage to their bodies.

Amputations were conducted hastily, to remove arms and legs that were beyond repair and prevent gangrene from setting in. The bodies of the dead, were laid out on the ground and covered, to prevent the flies from feasting on their corpses. Men wailed in agony of their injuries, as gashes were sewn shut and poultices applied to ward off infection. Whisky was handed out liberally to aid in deadening the pain and no man, friend or foe, was denied its comfort.
Liam walked in determined strides, looking for his people amongst the mass of clansmen wandering the battleground. Hatred and rage filled every breath that he took, as he looked at his own clansmen laying lifeless in rows, more being added, as the dead were sorted out. He looked about at the carnage and knew somewhere on this field of death, lay his father and brothers. Turning, he saw two men carrying a body from the far side of the field and recognized his father's clothing. He broke into a run towards them, his heart filling with grief on each step as he approached. He halted the men and had them lay his father on the ground, as he knelt beside the blood-soaked remains. The massive gash of the Lochaber axe made it clear, he was attacked from behind in a cowardly manner by someone. Unable to contain all his emotions, he looked at the skies and railed at them, releasing what was building inside him. His tears flowed heavily, as he laid a hand on his father's brow and bade him well to the next life with God.

He finally let the men pick him up again and carry him to where all his clansmen lay. Leith was being carried past him as well and Liam felt the stabbing realization, he was truly the only one left of his line. Eighteen years old and only the second battle he had fought in, he quickly realized though, the folly of his father's actions and what war would bring. Death lay all around him, its stench filling every pore in him, blanketing his soul in despair.

He looked around at the other men, their own grief of loss showing on their faces and Liam knew his pain was no less than theirs. He fell to his knees and cried out to God for help, knowing he was facing a challenge to his soul and needed his guidance. Some stopped for a moment to look at him, then went back to gathering the last of the dead.

The anguish of loss and the weight of power resting upon him, Liam prayed with his soul bared, looking for answers.


"So, the MacDonnell's lost, or the MacRae's, Uncle Stuart?"

"I wouldn't say they lost, Sean, but the story's no o'er yet. Yer really liking yer history now, aren't ye?"

"No sh..,kidding." Sean glanced sideways at his mom and caught the glare, but looked back at Stuart. "Our guys did all that stuff? All that killing and booby trap stuff, I mean."

"Aye, our elders did that. They did what had tae be done, wi' what they had. Like I said earlier, there was no army or anything, tae go tae battle fer ye. No matter what ye did before, ye picked up what ye had and went intae battle wi' it, most times wi' little or no training. The only thing each and every man did, was pray that they'd be alive and whole by the end of it."

"So, guys my age had to go to battle?"

"Aye, and younger. If ye were big enough tae carry a weapon, ye were big enough tae use it. How do ye feel about doing that? Taking a sword and targe down and sailing towards a thousand men, miles away, that want nothing more than tae see ye dead. Things seem a wee bit more scarier, when ye imagine yerself standing alongside yer clansmen and all those men dashing towards ye, swords and axes ready tae spill yer blood, doesn't it?"

Sean looked at Stuart, imagining himself as any one of the young boys standing on that battleground, watching an advancing army coming towards him, his face showing the realization.

"Aye, not the same as looking at yer screen and pressing a button and killing hundreds of men. No reset button happening back then, son. When ye died, ye died and that was it, most likely very painfully too."

Sean gulped back the lump in his throat and his dad could see the words hit home with him. He looked at his cousin and smiled, nodding his head to let him know he liked how he relayed that message. Stuart winked quickly and looked back at Sean.

"Ye want tae know the finish, what ended up happening?" Stuart's slight lift of his head and raised eyebrows, signalled to Sean it was time to listen again.

"Oh yeah. I am so doing this for my next history project. If I don't get an A on it, I'll be cheated out of it, that's for sure." Sean's enthusiasm in presenting his history made his parents smile a bit more proudly.

"Aye, so the envoy left wi' his troops and left enough men tae watch o'er things, so they did'ne get out of hand again. The French ships, along wi' Margret, Therese, Arabella, Grayson and Garreth aboard, sailed in a convoy wi' birlinns alongside."


They sailed south along the Sound of Sleat back towards Loch Moidart, the Captain's quarters in the Ville de Lyon buzzing with talk of one last favour to ask. Margret looked at the pleading faces of Therese and Arabella and weighed them against what was asked of her. Knowing that her people wouldn't be engaged in any fighting, or put in harm's way, she agreed and wine was brought forth. A celebratory toast to friends and allies was made, with Margret ending any more talk of warring and battles. Grayson went on deck and looked for Iain MacLean's birlinn, seeing it several rows back. He signalled to it and received a reply of acknowledgement from them, then raised and crossed his arms to let them know the French had agreed to their idea and they would be sailing past Moidart and on to Loch Linnhe. Iain spread the news amongst his men, resulting in hearty cheers heard by the others.

Sorley sailed back to Ireland with his men and disbanded the forces he came with. Word of their arrival had reached Anne's ears long before the hulls scraped up the gravel shore and they disembarked. Sorley gave orders to store all weapons and stable the horses, before he and Cola made their way across the stone bridge and into the main house, where Anne sat with great expectancy on their word. Anne's face was set with anxiousness, her possession of their seat of power resting on the outcome Sorley was soon to divulge.
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