Stephen C Challis - Authors page

Extract from Cruel is the snow publish date 12/25/2017.

Back in Glencoe, Annella and her family had settled back into a daily routine which included the occasional raiding of farms to acquire cattle.  Annella, however, did not concern herself with such matters, the Clans were always quarreling.  It was a fine day, so she decided to again climb the Pap, and as usual, it took her about 90 minutes. However today would be different.  As she reached the slate covered cap, she saw she was not alone; a young highlander was sitting on a rock gazing out across the loch. He turned as Annella scrambled into view. She recognized him immediately, even without his uniform. 
“Donald, what are ya doon here?“
McBane smiled                  
 “Waiting for you bonnie lass, I have something to return to you.”

He picked up a long package from the ground, wrapped in hessian cloth.
She smiled and un-wrapped it, revealing the basket hilt sword he had picked up at Killiecrankie.  Annella studied it for a moment and then sat down.  For a few minutes she said nothing, and then she turned to him.

“I cannot accept this Donald, I know this sword, I recognize it, its former owner was Ian McDonald, his wife stitched the tartan lining inside the hilt.  He was killed fighting with Bonnie Dundee at Killiecrankie pass. I assume you got it there.”
Donald nodded.

“I found it on the battlefield. I never saw the owner, but there were several bodies nearby.”  His voice trailed off as he realized it was not the ideal gift for her.
Annella Smiled faintly, before replying.

“If I took it and returned it to his wife she would only ask how I came by it, awkward questions that I would rather not answer at this time. Keep the sword Donald, It was carried by a true Scottish patriot, you may not have been on the same side, but I see in you the same courage.  So did you kill many of my countrymen that day?”

The question was not unexpected, and seemed to be delivered without malice, but it still made Donald uncomfortable, which of course was Annella’s intention. Donald was not a man to lie or embellish any of his achievements.

“To be truthful lass, I have no idea, I fired my musket got chased by highlanders, and had to make an impossible leap for my life over a Burn.”
Annella looked at him with wide eyes.

“That was you, Donald?  I might have guessed, my father told us of the crazy redcoat who jumped over a 25 foot gap.”
She let out a little giggle.
“You are one lucky private so you are”
Donald smiled back
“Actually I’m a sergeant now, but yes, tis lucky I am, but I had no real choice Lassie. Not if I was to see ye again.”   
Annella’s smile faded and a more serious look came over her face.
She thought for a moment before replying
“This is a bad time for us Donald. You’re a 
bonnie lad, make no mistake, but the McDonalds will nae take kindly to a redcoat courting a McDonald.”

“The war is over Annella. Scotland and England are united again, the King has stated he views that the Scots as his loyal subjects. We may have differences, but I am a soldier, I care naught fer Politics or Politicians. I am a Scot and this is my home.”
He stood up and swept his arm out over the mountains of Glencoe that framed the sparkling waters of Loch Leven.
Annella came to him and slipped her hands over his shoulders, looking deeply into his eyes.

“A Scot you may be Donald, but you fight for the English. What if you are ordered to fight me or my family, what would you do then my bonnie lad?”
Donald looked back into her eyes.
“This” he said, pulling her close and kissing her full on the lips.

Annella, caught by surprise stiffened and momentarily pushed back but then relaxed, she had forgotten what a great kisser he was. Then she returned the kiss with a passion that Donald had not felt before. As their lips parted he said nothing, but gazed deeply into her eyes, searching for her soul. When he finally pulled back he whispered softly.

“No army, scots or English, nor the King himself will keep us apart my bonnie lass.”
“Will ye tell that to my father?  She replied with a slight grin.
Donald laughed.

“You think I’m afraid of one McDonald, remember I faced a whole army of McDonalds at Killiecrankie.”
She laughed out load.
“As I recall, ye nae faced them, ya ran like a rabbit and Jumped like one too, so they say.”

Donald nodded
Annella looked puzzled
Donald shook his head.

“It’s a fencing term we use in sword fighting, it’s French, it means Good Move.”  

“So you speak French now as well?”

She was teasing him now and he knew it. But no matter.  MacBane was aware that the King had ordered that the Scots clans had been required to sign a pledge of allegiance to King William and his wife Mary. He was unsure of what the McDonalds response would be and what would happen in the event they refused. Still, that was an unlikely event. The Clans were not stupid, they would grumble and make threats but would sill sign.  Reluctantly maybe, but they would sign.

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