I'm sorry it took so, so long to update this. My shite computer ( whom I still lurv : ) ) had a bit of a meltdown, but he's feeling better now. Just needed a boot up the arse.
I dedicate this chapter to The Deadly Angel, who constant support and helpful reviews have inspired me to keep writing. Thank you so much! I hope this chapter, and many more to come, reach your expectations!
Over the next few days, the ship had an eerie silence, tension was raw, thick in the air, and although we knew that the crew could feel it, none of them dare ask either Argyle and I what had happened between us. We stuck to our personal chambers at the best of times, and took turns commanding the crew instead of our usual partnership. Patrick brought us our meals separately, and played messenger for the two of us when trading paperwork needed signing. Two weeks we had been sailing like this, and as we crossed the Moray Firth and the Black Isle loomed ahead of us, we knew the land would be a welcome break.
True to it's name, the Black Isle was the darkest place in Scotland, there seemed to be an ever constant drizzle of cold rain, that soaked through you and chilled you to the bone. Originally used as a re-homing area for criminals, the English had pushed it to far and were now sending innocent families there for simple things, occasionally, separating children from their families. There was two brilliant things about the Black Isle. James and Julia Milligan. James and Argyle had served in battle together, and Julia was the first friend I made in Aberdeen before being whisked away by Argyle for traveling. Although the two of them had spent most of their lives in Aberdeen, they still held the strong Glasgow accents from their youths, and as hard as they were to understand at the best of times, when the two of them forget you are standing there and started arguing, it was just damn-near impossible. The two of them had been marked criminals for hiding a English traitor in their home, narrowly avoiding death, they were instead banished to the Black Isle, and, typical Milligans, had made the best out of the situation. They now run a small, cozy pub, and even enjoy the company of the locals.
James and Julia were the polar opposites, Julia, taking after her father, light, blue-eyed, short and verging on fat, while James took after his mother, tall, lean, dark and mysterious. Bringing the ship into dock and seeing their two outlines was almost comical. Argyle and I left the crew with instructions and a small amount of money each, to blow on whatever they wish. The four of us headed to the pub, and after a home cooked meal from Julia and a few whiskeys, the men headed to saddle the horses and go out hunting. They would return at sunset. Julia and I settled into the back room, leaving a young boy to manage the bar.
"He was sent here for stealing a loaf of bread from the market, trying to feed himself and his sister."
"And where is his sister?"
"The English put her to work in the whore houses, don't think they'll ever see each other again."
I couldn't answer, but offered a simple nod and a small grunt of acknowledgement. Stepping in the backroom, I sat myself next to the fire and poured a small glass of whiskey from the crystal decanter on the mantle piece. The liquid traveled down my throat like a river of fire, warming my chest and my stomach, scaring away the chill that had come over my since landing in the Black Isle. Julia did not take some, but instead sat down to a cup of boiling water and some lemon.
"So what happened between yeh and Argyle, eh?"
"What do you mean?"
"Ugh hen, don't give us that pish. Normally you can't get the pair of you tae shut up, this time, yoo's wouldn't even open yer traps!"
"Nothing of great importance, just a simple argument, I assure you."
"Yeh can't lie tae me, Sileas, yer eyes tell a completely different story."
I sighed, downing the rest of my whiskey before settling back into my seat, accepting the fact that Julia would just keep bugging me until I eventually broke and told her. I might as well get it over with.
"Have you heard of the rebel, a highlander, Argyle says he's gathering troops and fighting the English."
"Oh aye hen, 'course we've heard of him, James has been thinking of joining him…"
"Aye, so has Argyle…"
"It 'twas James that told Argyle of the rebel, wrote 'im in a letter if ah remember correctly."
"What do you think of it all Julia, you see more on this island in a week than the rest of Scotland see in a year."
"Ah think….ah think its about bloody time someone started standing up to the English."
"But it's a losing battle!"
"Yeh don't know that for certain hen, you'd be amazed at the strength that can come out of a the smallest man when he has reason enough tae fight."
"The English….their army is too powerful, even if we could defeat them, their navy would wipe us out. We've only narrowly avoided them in the past few months while sailing."
"Sileas, yeh know better than anyone o' us the pain that comes from losing everything you've ever known. Yer father and brother would 'ave wanted yeh to fight for their memory, for yer clans memory. Bring the name 'of Stewart back to the lands it fairs from."
"What if I can't.""Then at least you tried, tis better to say that than admit ye've done nothing' at all."
I didn't answer, simply reaching for the decanter to pour another glass for myself. Julia rose, taking her empty cup with her.
"I'm going tae go 'elp Robert cook the roast, it'll take ah few 'ours, so yeh just sit 'ere and 'ave a wee rest alright hen? I would advise you 'gainst going for a wee wonder."
I offered her a small grunt before I heard the door click shut. Pacing around the room, I thought of what she had said about my clan, about trying. What she had said was fine and well, but if I did not return from war, my clan would be one of the many that were disappearing of the map of Scotland, leaving no trace to its people and their customs. Ironically, my clans motto was "Courage grows strong at a wound."
But did it?