A Fictional story set in 1740's Scotland blending actual History with Scottish Myth.
|The Low Road.. Chapters One through five so far. Note: There are some deliberate mis-spellings to create the Accents of the Characters.
The Low Road
Looking back through the Mists
It was cold, The sun had actually not risen yet, just a thin golden light was brightening the sky over the line of mist above the moor. Brian had been one of the last to return to the camp from the night march and aborted attack on the Government Army camped at Nairn, He was tired and hungry and cursed Lord George Murray for making the men march for nothing. The Highland Army was now exhausted and the Redcoats were sure to be on their way now.
Brian looked out on the mist covered moor of Culloden and his mind went back to a similar scene, a day like this one 12 years ago when he first met Marien.
Brian Crawford was a lowland Scot, Born in 1726. His father made a living off of the thriving Import and Export trade in Glasgow. This also meant his father had to travel frequently throughout Scotland and even go abroad to the continent. Sometimes young Brian, when he was home between school sessions, was allowed to accompany him on his business trips. It was his first trip, to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands that would affect his life and bring him to where he now stood looking out on a cold sunrise.
He shook his head, "Were we sae young then?" and then he allowed his tired mind to drift back.
Fort William was the major trading hub of the Highlands for wool. Brian was amazed by the sight of the Highlanders in their Great Kilts. They were going to stay in the town for a week, so Brian wasted no time in going exploring. The Great Glen and Loch Linnhe beckoned to him.
For an 8 year old boy the sites of the Highlands were a pure joy to behold, Brian spent his first day staring with his mouth wide open in awe everywhere he went. At the end of his first day every part of his body, but especially his neck hurt and was stiff. He excitedly told his father about all the things he had done and seen over dinner, his father only half listened to him, he had more pressing matters on his mind then his son's adventures.
However, the serving maid of the Inn, Charlotte was listening to the lad's chatter and walked over to the table, "Ye can find many braw adventures here, but gie a mind tae stay oot o the Eastern Woods. They are the Heart and sacred ground of the Faerie Kingdom o the Hielands. Few hae e'er come oot again that went in, and those who did come back were ne'er the same again. The Low Road, it is said, exits from the center of the wood."
"What is the Low Road?" Brian asked her.
"The Low Road is the subterranean paths used by the Fae." Charlotte answered. "They travel quickly tae anyplace they wish. And those o us who die, if we lived good lives the Fae come for us nae matter where we are in the world and bring our souls back tae our native land one last time before we pass tae Heaven."
"Nonsense!" Brian's father interjected. "Do they honestly still believe such foolishness here in the Hielands? The sooner we bring civilization up here the better, do they teach such things at the Academy in the toon?"
"I beg your pardon sir." Charlotte answered. "No the school is a very fine one I have heard. These stories o the Fae are passed doon from father tae son, and mother tae daughter. I apologize if I have caused offense, or spoken oot o place."
"Nay, it's alright Lass." Brian's father said. "Just gie us another pint here, and some mair milk for the lad, Ta."
The next morning Brian awoke early and set out for an adventure to the Eastern Wood.
The Eastern Wood
Marien was the 3rd Child and first daughter born to The High Chieftain of the Faeries of Caledonia, King Kalen McToval. Since the Fae folk are immortal, births are far and rare, King Kalen had already lived 1000 years and had been the High Chief for 600 of those years, his father falling in battle during the last great war between the Fae of Light and the Dark ones. Marien was just beginning her life being born in 1726 (Yes the Fae knew of and adopted the practice of the Mortal calender 200 years before). Being so young she had her Father's heart at her bidding and was always able to get her way, even when she should have been punished. She loved to explore and would often go beyond the boundaries of her father's realm, even as far as visiting Human dwellings built near the wood. She was curious about the mortals. So far she had never run into trouble with them, and no human had yet seen her, although she always left evidence of her visits, playing tricks like untieing laundry lines or scaring the chickens so they wouldn't lay eggs in the morning. As Marien was getting ready for another evening of mischief she had no idea that her life was about to change.
Brian didn't believe in Faeries, even though his mother had told him many stories about them when he was younger. Living in a city like Glasgow and then going to private School in the Enlightened and cultural center of Scotland, Edinburgh had taught him better of such fanciful tales. He excelled at school and was already well versed in latin for an 8 year old. But now, finding himself on the edge of the Eastern Woods, he didn't feel quite as sure of himself and his "enlightened" education. The woods were dense and very old, so that even in the full light of day they looked dark and foreboding within the tree line. It actually took Brian a long time to finally decide to take a step into the woods.
Soon though he felt a peaceful calm about him as he went deeper into the Woods, The trees were huge and old and moss covered their trunks, yet, strangely, the air was fresh and cool on his face and the fragrance of Thyme and Heather filled the air about him. he soon came to a brook and felt thirsty, taking a drink, he found this to be the sweetest water he had ever tasted, and so he stopped and filled the cup he brought to the brim and rested under a Rowan tree.
When he awoke he was startled to find it was now dark. "How long hae I slept here?" He asked himself. "My father will skin me raw fer bein oot sae late!!" He looked about to find that he couldn't find his way, he had no sense of direction in the blackness of the night, but soon he saw some lights in amoung the trees and he headed toward them, hoping it was his father and a search party from town looking for him.
As he got nearer to the lights he found to his amazement and fear that they werent lights at all, they were living beings. He hid behind a tree near the clearing, not far amoung the trees that marked the very edge of the clearing he could clearly see that the smaller dancing lights he had seen earlier were Winged Faeries, just as his mother had described them years ago! They flitted around the edge of the clearing. Further in standing within the clearing were the tall and slender Elves also glowing. In the center of the clearing stood a ring of Stones, near them he could see the shapes of Dryads and Sylphs, they did not glow and wore garments of brown and green with leaves and flowers and berries in their hair. They were all watching the ring. He wanted to run, but felt himself rooted to the spot unable to take his gaze away from the sight before him. As he watched it seemed to him that it was getting darker here, and he noticed that the glowing beings were becoming dimmer, almost as if they were candles in a glass lantern winking out for lack of wax. Brian then noticed that the Rock in the center of the ring was beginning to glow, first in a dull yellow and then brighter and brighter orange like the sun until suddenly it became a fierce and blinding white light. Suddenly it went out, leaving him blind and with spots about his vision, but he began to hear the sound of ethereal Bagpipes on the air. He closed his eyes tightly and then opened them again trying to focus and then he saw a sight that sent shivers down his spine. a small knifelike beam of light shot skyward from the stone and around it floated ghostly figures, he could make out that these were not Faerie folk but Humans, the spirits of the dead, men and women, many looking sad but yet they smiled as Faeries came and flew about them waving to them. The other folk of the Wood also began to wave and gesture to the spirits and as he watched the Ghosts began to rise higher and higher into the night sky until they seemed to be dim stars, the light from the stone went out and the Faerie folk all began to walk back into the ring of stones and vanish themselves.
The sight he had just seen left Brian in shock, he stayed frozen beside the tree hugging it for a long time. Finally he seemed to snap out of his fear and wanted to run, but words his mother had said to him years ago came to his mind, "Never walk into a Faerie ring" So he chose a direction 180 degrees away from it and ran!!!
He ran for what seemed like hours, yet he never got to the edge of the wood, he suddenly found he seemed to be going in circles and now there seemed to be creatures around the edges of his vision. Then a sound cut through him like an blade of Ice, it was a wail and cry the likes he had never heard before but he knew what it was, a Banshee! He dove for the nearest cover, a large oak with bramble bushes and Broom growing around it. He cowered there waiting for his death, babbling to himself almost convulsively over and over, "Please-let-me-oot, please-let-me-oot"
Marien was on her way home, having had the most fun of scaring the sleeping cows and watching them fall over. "Sour milk for those mortals" she laughed happily as she flew into the woods. She suddenly heard the cry of the Banshee and slowed down. "The dark ones are on the hunt and have driven something to ground." she thought and she wished to investigate if she could. While there was peace between the Light and Dark of the world of Fae she knew enough that her life could be in danger if caught by the dark ones alone. however she also knew even at her young age that she wasnt completely powerless either, she could conceal herself well with the magic if needed. She still had much to learn though.
Then she heard a voice in the darkness below her. She couldn't understand his language, he didnt speak Gaelic, something all the Fae of Caledonia could speak, and so she wondered where this Human had come from. She flew down lower to get a better look at him. She could see he was a child, perhaps no older then herself and she took pity on him. She quickly cast a spell of concealment around the tree and then softly, too softly for the mortal below to hear her she sang a chant of calming and sleep. She stayed high up in the tree above the mortal and waited out the night. She was afraid for her own life but could not risk calling for aid, since her own folk were libel to kill or punish the boy for trespassing! She knew her father would be very cross with her when she finally returned home, if she returned home! Although only 8 years old she had a sharp mind and learning from her Clan that made her at times seem older then her years. It was a sad truth that the Fae had very short childhoods but long endless years of life to live.
Brian was still huddled by the tree concealed in the brush, when he suddenly began to feel very calm and yet also tired, it wasnt long before he fell into a deep sleep. His sleep was full of dreams and was fitful. At first he saw a young girl's face, she had the deepest Emerald Green eyes he had ever seen. She spoke to him in a language he recognized as Gaelic which he didn't understand but one word seemed to ring in his mind "Marien". But then the dream changed and he suddenly saw a long line of highland men marching along a road and then a young man in tartan jacket rode by on a white horse and the men started cheering "Charlie, Charlie" over and over again. Then it changed again and he saw a Redcoated officer standing before him saying "I'm going to enjoy killing you Crawford, you took my ear, but ill take your life, a fair trade." As the sword slashed down upon him he awoke with a start!
As his eyes focused Brian noticed the mists swirling about the trees, the forest wasnt as thick here and seemed to be a small moorland patch of ground, the sun was still low but rising, then he heard a soft voice near him speak, he didnt understand the words but suddenly remembered his dream, it was the same voice and words he had heard before, and as he realized this he looked down to see, three feet from him standing on the ground, a Faerie! He scrambled to get up and run and as he was slipping and sliding on the mossy ground he could hear her laughter. It actually made him stop trying to escape to turn and look at her. He became annoyed at being laughed at by something so small and said "If ye hae come tae punish me for being in your wood, please, gie it o'er wi!" The Tiny being before him merely cocked her head to one side and looked at him questioningly. After staring at each other for a moment she seemed to come to an idea and began to chant in a lilting voice. When she had finished Brian suddenly heard a voice in his head say "Can ye hear my thoughts?" he began to answer saying "Aye" aloud only to have her voice cut through his head saying "NO, dinnae use your lips, I will nae understand anything that comes from your mouth, use your mind, put your words into thought and I will understand you, but we can only do this for a short time, we must be quick." Aye" he thought in his head, "I can hear ye. My name is Brian Crawford and I am lost in your woods, I'm sorry I came here, can you please let me go?"
"First I would know what land ye come from since ye do not know the tongue of Caledonia" Marien said." And tell only the truth for your thoughts will betray thee."
"Im frae Scotland!!! I come frae the Lowlands, we dinnae speak Gaelic in the Lowlands" Brian answered "Why have ye never learned English?"
"We have never bothered to learn the "Southern tongue" Marien told him "If we have dealings with the Fae of the south we use our own Language rather then the languages of Mortals. Now we must be quick if I am to help ye Brian, My name is Marien, ye are lucky I came upon ye last night or the Dark ones would surely have found ye! I have little energy left to keep our minds linked sae listen now. I will take ye to the Brook, follow it's track and it will lead ye oot o the forest and ye will find a house nearby where ye should receive aid."
"I tried tae find the brook last night and could'nae find it" Brian thought to her.
"O course not" Marien answered "The Power o my people hides it from mortal eyes at night, now come, QUICKLY!"
She led him through the wood and they soon came to the brook.
"Now follow the water's course as I said" Marien thought to him "One thing mair, how old are ye?"
"I am 8 years old" Brian Answered
"Sae am I!!" Said Marien "When were ye Born?"
"April 16th" Brian Answered
"This meeting was not chance then!" Exclaimed Marien with a gasp. "It was written in the stars by the Fates themselves, we will meet again Brian, but not for awhile I fear, my Father will be angry with me for this day. Farewell"
"My father will be pure sore at me as weel" Brian said "Thank ye sae much Marien"
Marien broke the link and felt tired, she flew up to the Boy's face and as she did his right arm started to move causing her to vear away from Him, he put his arm down immediately and stood perfectly still. Seeing this she attempted again to get close to him and look upon his features, He stared back. Then she pointed away downstream and he smiled at her and turned and ran.
Marien flew to the faerie ring and went home to her father.
Brian found that his head ached and he felt drained from his thought-link with the faerie, Then he thought of her face as she had flown up close to his and was startled to realize it was the same face he saw in his dream, now that he thought about this he was surprised he remembered his dreams of last night so vividly, what did they mean?
He finally came to the edge of the forest and there a 1/4 mile ahead was a small cottage, he ran to it and knocked on the door. The door opened and there stood Charlotte, the serving maid of the Inn back in Town.
"Och, and where have you been all night?" She yelled at him, "Was it you who had a go at ma Husband's cows? Ya rascal!!! Yer Father's worried sick and been oot looking fer ye the whole night!!!
"I havenae seen any cows." Brian said, "Please, Ive been in the wood all this nicht and seen the Fae!!! Everything ye said was true, Everything!"
"Oh dinnae gie me any o your wist!! We'll be lucky if we hae any milk tae sell by Saturday" Charlotte yelled at him. "Now come ye alang wi me tae yur father!!"
For the rest of the week, Brian was restricted to the Inn, his father even had him helping the Kitchen staff for the rest of his time there, much to the liking of both the Inn owner and Charlotte who could use the help.
While Brian wanted badly to visit the Eastern Woods again he never got the chance. However as they were leaving Brian's father stopped outside the Academy school. "I have enrolled you here for the next Term, your documents and grades will be sent here from Edinburgh." He said, It will be good for the Business Lad, they have a course in Gaelic here, in the future when you apprentice wi me, Ill hae you handle our wool business transactions wi the hielanders. You will spend your summer holidays wi me learning the trade, but the rest of the year, including Yuletide ye will be here. I'm sorry on that last, but ye ken I am usually abroad in Spain and Italy then on business."
It was almost two months later that Brian came back to Fort William to start at his new school. Two weeks into his first term he was walking to the local pastry shop in the village on a Saturday when he ran into Charlotte just stepping out with a small cart of supplies for the Inn.
"Och it's master Brian noo isnt it?" she said smiling at him. "Going to the Academy the noo are ye? Ye're father said he had enrolled ye here before leaving the Inn. Im very glad that we are well met today, Would you be sae kind as tae visit me at ma cottage Sunday after Kirk services? Ye still Ken where it is? I found out aboot ma cows and wish tae apologize. Please visit for a bit o Tea and shortbread."
"Aye, I would like that." Brian answered, he loved shortbread and something about this woman reminded him of his mother, she had died when he turned 6.
It was after noon when he arrived at the cottage door and knocked. Charlotte answered the door and let him in, she motioned him to a small table and had him take a seat while she fixed a plate of fresh baked shortbread and brought a cup and teapot to the table. Just as he was fixing his tea with cream and suger he heard a small halting voice speak to him.
"Welcome.......back tae..... tae..... the Hie..lands Brian"
Then from behind the tea cozy flew Marien. "Ye can speak English noo?" Brian asked. She smiled and said "A... A little"
"Aye!" Laughed Charlotte. "She came tae me a month ago and told me aboot the cows. She is sorry to have done it, just as I am now sorry I blamed ye. She then asked me if I would teach her English of all things! She learns fast too, it helps that she can link her mind wi mine through Faerie magic, and thank God for it, because I am no teacher. Now I know ye are taking Gaelic at the school, if ye like I can help ye on Sundays, and nae, i'll no charge thee for the lessons, it is the least I can do, besides like I said, I am not a teacher, but I'm sure the extra practice will help ye. Noo on Saturdays Im at the Inn, but ye can find Marien here if ye wish tae hae a guide aboot the Hielands" and Charlotte winked at him when she said this last.
They spent the rest of that afternoon talking, to make things easier Charlotte acted as interpreter between them. The day was getting late when Brian finally asked the one question he had been putting off, "Could I hold you in my hand?" he asked. Charlotte asked the question in Gaelic and he saw Marien recoil back and rattle off a long stream of Gaelic in a frightened voice. Rather then tell Brian what she had said, Charlotte simply laughed and spoke to Marien again. At this Marien gave Charlotte a strange look but then nodded her head at Brian. Charlotte was quick to say, "Be careful noo, just put your hand palm upwards on the table and let her seat herself, dinnae grab her and make no sudden movements."
Brian nodded his head and did as he was told. Marien approached his hand slowly, the Mortals were huge to her as it was, but the closer she came to his hand the smaller she felt. "Still I am of the Fae, I am Immortal and these are only Humans. I have my magic." She thought but a voice answered her, "But your knowledge of magic is small, you have so much to learn yet. And remember the Human's Religion protects them from most of our craft now, only within our borders do we truly hold sway to do as we will to them, only there is our magic absolute."
She shuddered a little at that thought but made herself float up and alight into the middle of Brian's hand. For a moment she was terrified and the urge to fly off quickly from him was overpowering, but then just as suddenly she felt quite peaceful and relaxed, as if it was natural for her to be there, she sat back as he slowly lifted his hand from the table to take a closer look at her.
Brian looked at her in utter amazement. Other then her striking eyes, pointed ears, tiny size, and of course her wings she looked like any other girl his age, prettier then most but a girl all the same. "Did I just think her pretty?" he thought. She was smiling up at him and seemed to be scrutinizing his face closely too. It felt so strange to him to have a small girl in the palm of his hand.
Marien suddenly spoke to Charlotte and there was laughter in her voice. Charlotte herself laughed and then said "She is hoping ye are alright as ye look quite ill just noo. She doesnae want ye throwing up upon her."
Brian laughed shaking his head, but went to move his hand back to the table, taking the cue Marien flew off of his hand and landed back on the table. Brian had to take his leave as it was getting late and he didn't want to disturb Charlotte and her Husband who had just entered the cottage from working in the fields all day. Marien left too. They both said goodbye to each other and Brian promised to return the next Saturday.
And so Their friendship began, over the next few months, Marien's grasp of English increased until she could hold conversations on her own. Brian still struggled with Gaelic but he improved as well. Marien wasnt able to meet the Humans every weekend, her Father had duties for her at home, and there was her own study of the ways of the Fae that kept her very busy. But every chance they got they spent long days together, They played games of tag in the fields, they walked by the shores of the loch, they walked along the base of Ben Nevis, They explored castle ruins and they enjoyed talking. It wasnt long before Marien felt right at home perched on Brian's shoulder chatting away about anything. Brian was happy all that year, if there was anything out of place it was that he was withdrawn from the other students at the school, he didn't mingle much with any of them, his teachers and professors attributed this to his diligent study habits, his head was always in a book, or he was at a desk doing his school work which was always exemplary. But there was no excuse for the weekends, every weekend rain or shine, Brian disappeared into the Great Glen. While other students enjoyed the town and the sites to the south, Brian always headed into the desolate northlands.
On April 16th Charlotte held a Birthday party for Brian, and Marien was able to attend briefly. (She had not yet acknowledged to them that it was her Birthday as well.)
At the end of the school year Marien was sad when Brian had to leave to go back to his father, but he promised to write her through Charlotte.
It was almost 5 weeks before a letter arrived. Marien had begun to think Brian had forgotten her, But she was excited when Charlotte told her the letter had come. She looked at the strange characters the humans used, The Fae kept written records of their own but their characters were different from the Mortal's. Charlotte read the letter for her. Brian had gone with his father to a land called France, Charlotte explained this place was across the Sea from Caledonia. While there his father had been invited to the Royal Court of that Land and had met the Exiled Stuarts. He was introduced to the Old pretender James Stuart and to his son Charles Edward Stuart. Charles was 5 years older then Brian and Brian wrote they spent the afternoon together, he found Charles to be a bit boring, and "full of himself", whatever that meant? The Human language was very complicated. Brian wrote about all the sites he saw in Paris, a great city of the mortals within this land of France. He ended saying he was looking foreward to being back at School and would see them soon.
The years passed in this way, during his school year he studied and the two friends spent every day they could together, during the summer holiday Brian was with his father learning the family business. As Brian and Marien grew older, Both of them began to have disturbing dreams of the future, it seemed that a link had been created between them.
Marien had two Elven Ladies in waiting assigned to her, they had been with her since she had turned 4 and she had complete trust in them, she finally, on her 12th Birthday confided in them about her friendship with a Mortal. Both Rowena and Thistle agreed to help her as they could. Rowena's Mate was a great Elven warrior, Rowena and Marien begged him to take Brian into training in secret to use the Sword and Targe in the Highland fashion, while Eldwin was more then angry and threatened to inform the King, his wife was able to bring him into Marien's cause. When Brian met Eldwin for the first time on the edge of the Eastern Wood he thought he was being captured by the Faerie King. Eldwin stood two feet taller then Brian and had a look of utter disgust upon his face. Needless to say Brian's early lessons did not go well, Eldwin showed him no mercy and beat him sore at every lesson over the months that followed. When he wasnt with Eldwin, Marien took him thru the woods and passed on her own newly learned skills in the arts of tracking, stalking, and stealth through the woods. Since she herself was only just learning these skills they practiced together seeing how close they could get to Stags and Deer before startling them. Of course with Marien being what she was, she always won these games, but she noted that for his size and lack of Magic, Brian had learned the skills well. It wasnt until Brian turned 15 that he finally beat Eldwin in a contest of Sword and Targe. Eldwin actually bowed to him and pronounced him a Master of the Sword. It was a great day. For his Victory he was given an Elven forged Basket Hilt Claymore by Eldwin, "From My Lady, Princess Marien." He said simply.
"Your a Princess!" Brian asked Marien who had watched the duel from a distance.
"Aye" She said simply.
"Weel ye might o told a man." He replied. "Really Marien, we have known each other 7 years on now."
"Oh and your a "Man" now." she said with a glint in her eye. "If ye had half the Brain ye think ye have, ye should've already figured out that I was a Princess of the Fae."
"Did ye nae trust me then?" Brian asked her in a quiet voice after a minute.
Seeing that he was hurt she sighed, "I'm sorry Brian, Honestly in all this time together, I just never saw the reason to bring it up, we have had so many other things to talk about and my being a Princess didn't seem so Important, I think in the beginning I feared to tell ye thinking ye would never see me again for fear of my Father's wrath upon ye. Then later as I said, it just didn't seem important."
"Weel Then" Brian said brightening a little and dropping to one knee before her perch in the tree. "I do here swear to thee Fealty and my service my Lady, command me in all things."
"No Brian!" Marien answered him in shock. "Do not make such oaths in jest to one of the Fae, as they will be binding upon thee!!"
Brian looked up into her eyes and she could see that he was seriously earnest. "Do I look like I am jesting?"
"My Lady, this game has gone on far too long." Eldwin stated. "This cannot be...."
"This is NOT a game, Eldwin." Marien cut him off, using the tongue of her own people "My path and this Mortal's are somehow entwined by Fate. Tae what end I do not know, but I can only say that I feel I must see this path through. Please, I beg you to trust me in this."
Brian was startled by Eldwin's statement and equally alarmed that Marien had decided to answer him in the Faerie Tongue, which he had no understanding of. They had always spoken when in his presence in Gaelic, which he now had a fine grasp of, and when on their own Marien had used English. Brian now wondered what Eldwin had meant by "Game", was he only being toyed with?
Eldwin did not answer her with words but simply inclined his head in a stiff bow to her.
Marien turned back to Brian. "Are ye sure ye wish this?" She asked Him.
At first Brian thought of taking back his Oath, but there was something in Marien's expression, a Gleam in her eyes he had never quite seen so strong before that made him feel very strange. He suddenly found himself looking very hard at her, his eyes roaming over her face then down at her gossamer dress of white and green. While covering her body it didn't hide the lithe shape of her curves. He felt the heat rising to his cheeks and blinked suddenly, bringing his gaze back to her deep emerald green eyes.
"Aye I still wish it, My Lady." He said huskily.
"So be it then." Said Marien. "I do take thee into my service Brian Crawford, to guard and defend me, to do as I bid thee! I shall swear to Honour thy Loyalty with Reward, and thy Betrayal with Death. My first command to ye Sir Brian is to refer to me as ye always have, I am still just Marien"
"As ye command My...Marien" Brian answered her still grasping at all the emotions and thoughts now crowding his mind.
"There has never been a mortal in the service of the Fae in all our History, I trust ye show Honour to our Lady's trust in ye." Eldwin said to him.
Brian only inclined his head to him, still haunted by his words to Marien.
The final weeks of the school year seemed to race by, Marien and Brian saw very little of each other during these last weeks, Marien found herself tasked with more study and Brian also seemed burdened with study. They met below Ben Nevis in the early morning, Brian had three hours yet to wait for the Royal Mail coach that would take him back to Glasgow for the summer.
"I go with my father tae Germany this summer, I will do my best tae write ye." Brian said
"I wish ye a safe journey and a speedy return." Marien said to him, but she was worried, there was something different, something had changed but she feared to ask him what it was.
The summer seemed to last forever for Marien, she struggled to understand why she felt so empty without Brian nearby. It didnt sway her strange feeling of fear when only two short letters arrived from the far away land of Germany. Brian had little to say of his dealings there and his endings were polite yet somehow without feeling. She looked questioningly at Charlotte who could only answer her with a sad smile and a shrug.
Brian came back to Fort William riding his own Horse. After his first week back at the Academy he rode up to the Cottage and found Marien there waiting for him.
"What do ye think o him?" He asked her. "My father bought him for me in Germany for all the hard work I have done."
"Weel I dinnae ken, perhaps ye should show me his paces." Marien said to him as she flew up to alight on his shoulder.
As the months passed, their moments together went on as they always had, some days they simply enjoyed their surroundings and talked, other times they still trained. Marien felt that if Brian learned to use the longbow it would help him with his accuracy when using the weapons of the Humans known as Firearms, a weapon the fae had no use for. She had Eldwin teach him as before. Yet still Marien could feel that Brian had changed, He seemed to radiate feelings of hesitancy and distance when he was with her.
A cold mist upon the Heart
Rory Campbell had entered the Academy the same year as Brian. He was the son of a Captain in the King's Army garrisoned at Fort William. His Great-Uncle was the Duke of Argyle and Chief of Clan Campbell himself. The Campbells were the most powerful Clan in Scotland, "Politically" speaking, The Duke having the ear of King George and the Parliament in London.
While Rory was a Highlander by birth, he had, for the first 7 years of his life, been brought up in England and he had found he loathed his life in this little village of Fort William. He found the people backward and simple. His father told him it was an important responsibility to be placed here. There was still rebellion in the air and even though the last rising had been crushed in 1719 so long as the Stuarts held a mock court in France, England had to be on guard to keep her Scottish subjects in their place.
While he hated the school and Fort William, Rory had gathered a following of the students and was quite popular. He found that only one of the lads in his class seemed to possess a quick mind and ideals like his own. The "Crawford boy" didnt seem to enjoy anyone's company at the school and had never formed any real friendships with his fellow students. At first Rory felt he had found a potential friend who he could see he had much in common with, perhaps Crawford felt the same way about the other students and the locals as he did. He soon found that this was not the case and over the years he began to view Crawford as a rival and enemy to be put down. But nothing seemed to faze "Him", now since this was their last year at this waste of a school Rory made it his mission in life to find a way to hurt Crawford before they went their separate ways.
Rory had noted early on that the Crawford boy kept to himself and often wandered far into the Great Glen, He decided he would follow him and find out just what he did up there!
At first this wasnt easy, Crawford seemed to spend alot of time in the Eastern Woods and every time Rory followed him he lost sight of him and could never find him. it was as if Crawford had melted into the Forest.
It wasnt long however before he found out about Crawford's secret, Rory saw that he spent time at the small cottage farm near the wood. He laughed when he would see Crawford leaving the cottage and seemingly talking to himself, "If the teachers at the Academy could see this", thought Rory. "What would they think of their favorite student?" Following Him on one occasion, Rory found Crawford was heading for the Castle ruins.
The sight Rory beheld at the ruins amazed him! "Crawford has a Faerie for a pet! This isn't possible!!"
Rory followed them for the next few weeks, trying to discover a pattern in where they went and how often. Then he tried to formulate a plan. Since the older Lads were allowed to be armed when out around the town or in the country, Rory carried a fine Long Sword, but he saw that Crawford carried a Claymore, He thought that perhaps he might have the edge in being able to make quicker movements with his blade, but he wasnt sure he wanted to take such a risk. He thought about enlisting his most trusted cronies from the school, but they would expect him to share his prize and he didn't want to do that. No there had to be a way to do this himself, the pain the loss would cause Crawford would be all the sweeter that way.
He simply needed to be patient and wait for an opportunity to present itself. If there was one thing he excelled at, it was patience, it seemed to be a family trait. So he kept a close watch on the Castle ruins, which seemed to be the best location for his plan to succeed, focusing on the castle ruins meant he didnt have to follow them everywhere which made the chances of being discovered far greater. He could simply find a spot to hide and wait to see if they showed. If they did, he would already be out of sight and in a position to observe them.
He would not get his chance until April.
It was April 16th and Brian was again at Charlotte's cottage celebrating his 16th Birthday, Marien was there and soon after the Lunch and cakes were eaten, she suggested to Brian that they visit the Castle. When they first arrived at this old familiar Haunt of their's they were quiet, seemingly both lost in their own thoughts.
Brian found his usual spot, sitting down and reclining on the decaying stone steps that led to the battlement walls.
Marien sat on his raised knee, the fabric of his trousers (He is a lowlander after all) was worn smooth by hard riding, she looked intently at him and finally broke the silence, "Happy Birthday, again Brian." she said with a slight hopeful smile that soon faded from her face.
"Ta" said Brian distantly.
Marien thought for a minute and then plunged ahead. "Brian, there is a gulf widening between us, I can feel it. Please tell me what is wrong."
Brian sighed, "This is my last term here Marien, I graduate soon and then must leave for the University and an Apprenticeship under my father."
"Aye" she said, but your father has plans for you tae take charge of his business here in Fort William doesn't he?"
"Aye, he does that." Brian replied
"Then what is wrong?" Marien asked "It isnae as though we will never see each other again!"
Brian looked at her sitting on his knee and suddenly his heart felt as though it would burst with a sudden longing. He brushed her Long Auburn hair with his finger.
Marien closed her eyes, He had touched her this way before and she had always enjoyed his caresses of her hair and cheek. But this was the first time he had done this since he started this school year and there was a sadness conveyed in his touch.
"What do we have Marien?" He asked her at last. "How much longer shall we play this game?"
"Game?" Said Marien startled out of her thoughts
"Aye! What am I, really, tae you, am I only a curious Pet, being taught tricks for your pleasure?" He asked her
"Have I ever treated ye as a pet?" Marien stared up at him "What have I ever done tae ye tae think such things of me!"
"Do ye nae ken the words Eldwin spoke tae ye the day I won your Sword and pledged ye my Life?" Brian accused her. "Ye answered him not in Gaelic but in your ain tongue that day. Why Marien, what was the secret?"
"This is what your foul mood all this year has been aboot?" Marien demanded "THIS? Oh yes at the age of 8 I saved a sniveling Lad lost in my own wood because I wanted him as a pet." She was angrily pleased that she avoided answering his question.
Her last words cut him like blades, all the more because he knew they were the truth. He suddenly stood up, almost knocking her to ground with his sudden movement. She managed to recover by flying off his descending knee and alighting on the steps some way behind him. He turned to look upon her, she stood on a step looking straight into his face almost eye to eye as though they were the same height. He stared at her, wanting to rage in fury, He wanted to scream [i]"No my mood has been about much more then that, I Love Thee Marien, Love thee wi all ma Heart."[/i] But her retort only made him choke on his words now and he could only stand and glare at her, every muscle in his face and body strained like the strings of an over-tuned fiddle.
"Since ye feel this way Brian, I give ye back your oath, I nae longer desire ye as a Pet". She said to him now.
Brian deflated at this, he seemed to go slack, his shoulders drooped, he went to open his mouth as if to speak, but no words came and he turned on his heel and walked away looking for his horse. As he mounted and rode away he had tears in his eyes, He knew he had been a fool, that she was right and he had been in the wrong, but he was too proud to admit it. Still even admitting this to himself he continued to ride away.