The Ties That Bind: A Brave Fanfiction

Disclaimer: All* characters are copy write to Pixar and Disney. Only the idea and some of the first names are mine.

Warnings: Mentions of rape, innuendo, abuse, and language. There is also a lot of fluff in this chapter and more side character growth.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

The night passed uneventfully for once and morning came with no new problems. The sun was already up and many of the clansmen were preparing for the new day's games. The day of mourning had passed and the clan's wanted to finish the games, hopefully, without anymore incident.

Inside the Castle DunBroch the youngest of the triplet princes was awakening. Harris awoke that morning with a plan in his head and hope in his heart. He dressed quickly and quietly, as to not disturb his brothers. He hoped he could be ready and sneak away before his mother and father or his brothers could catch him.

He wanted to go back out to the forest. Maybe Tearlag had found out more about Merida and Shae. Plus, he would get a chance to see Tahvay again. He blushed at the thought of seeing the young Fae girl again. He shook his head,

"Cannae think about that now. I need to focus on finding Merida and Shae. " He chastised.

He made his way down to the kitchen about mid-morning. He had left his brothers, who were still waking up, thanks to Miss Nessa's insistent prodding. He made it down stairs for breakfast. When he got to the kitchen, Kenna was working at the kiln, baking fresh rolls. He smiled as he listened to her hum to herself, working away at her task.

"Morning, Miss Kenna. Are you alright today?" Harris asked her as he walked up to the cutting table.

Kenna jumped a little when he spoke, unaware she had an audience.

"Oh, my Prince, you startled me."

"Sorry, Miss Kenna." He apologized as he sat down at the small table in the corner.

Kenna gave a small smile to Harris.

"It's alright, Prince Harris. I'm doing better today, thank you. Are you doing alright though?" Kenna asked, concern painting her features.

Harris bowed his head and tried to look upset. Since he didn't actually believe that Merida and Shae were dead he couldn't be as upset as everyone else was. But, he did have to keep up appearances.

"I..I guess I'm alright too…," he muttered quietly,

"I miss them, though."

Kenna looked at him sympathetically,

"I understand, your highness. I do too."

Harris made a face at her address of him,

"You know you donnae have to call me that, Miss Kenna. You and Miss Nessa have been like sisters to my brothers and me. Besides, the closeness you and Miss Nessa shared with Merida, well…it practically makes you family."

Kenna smiled down at him and placed a plate of roll and assorted fruits in front of him.

"Well, practically, doesnnae make it true, young prince. And regardless of our closeness or not, Nessa and I are obligated to stay in our place in front of others. It's rules, you know."

Harris looked up at her confused,

"There's no one else here," he motioned to the empty kitchen.

Before she could answer, a voice from behind them caused the two to turn to the new presence.

"Not true now, young prince. However, I donnae believe on standing on ceremonies anymore, either, so please…continue." Duncan Macintosh stated as he walked down the steps and made his way over to the small table, as well. Kenna blushed when he walked over to them. She looked away and went back to work making some of the breakfasts. Harris also went quiet and started eating, eyeing Duncan cautiously. Duncan chuckled awkwardly at the silence that filled the room. Finally, he cleared his throat,

"Isnnae there usually more help in the mornings with breakfast? Seems like too big a job for just one person." He asked as he sat down.

Harris looked up at him curiously,

"Are you not competing in the games today, m'lord? Shouldnnae you be out on the fields already? Or are you just here to see Miss Kenna?"

Duncan choked on the water he was drinking. Kenna's face flushed at Harris' question.

"Harris! You shouldnnae ask such questions! Especially not to the heir to one of our clan alliances!" Kenna reprimanded sharply.

Harris didn't like to use his position much but he did feel like he and his brother's should protect Kenna and Nessa. They were like other sisters to them, after all.

"But, I'm a prince. Doesnnae he actually have to answer to me?"

"I thought you said you didnnae like titles, young prince?" Duncan asked accusingly.

"Boys, enough!" Kenna scolded the two of them teasingly.

She sighed heavily,

"And here I thought Hamish was the only one I had to worry about…" She muttered and carried a plate of food over to Duncan.

"Hamish?" Duncan quirked his brow at her confused and then looked down at Harris.

He looked up at the young lord and shrugged,

"He's my oldest brother. He has a huge crush on Miss Kenna. He thinks he's hidden it well, but he doesnnae do a very good job."

Kenna chuckled lightly,

"No, he doesnnae do a very good job at hiding it."

Duncan smiled and even Harris grinned a little up at her.

"We just worry about you and Nessa, Miss Kenna. You're our family too. No matter what the 'law' or rules say."

Duncan smiled down at the young prince,

"That's very chivalrous of you Prince Harris."

Harris grinned up at Duncan.

"Yeah, I know. You've got to take care of family and those you love."

Duncan looked over at Kenna, who was busying herself with more baking. He smiled softly at her and then glanced down at Harris.

"Aye. I know what you mean," Duncan looked down at his plate before looking back up and catching Kenna's eye,

"Or at least, I'm starting too."

Kenna looked away quickly, a blush spreading over her features. Harris caught the looks that Duncan and Kenna shared and something in his mind clicked. He had only been teasing the young lord about coming down to see Kenna, but maybe there was some truth to the statement.

Harris looked up and squinted at Duncan, as if sizing him up. Finally, he spoke,

"You can just call me Harris, Lord Macintosh. If you want to court Miss Kenna, I donnae mind, you seem nice enough. No tantrums lately, at least. Well, except that one slip up, but we can forgive that one…"

Kenna laughed out loud at the brazen statements falling from the princes' mouth. She knew it was ludicrous to think that the young Lord Macintosh would have any interest like that in her. But it was nice to think about, even if it was the fantasies of a child. For his part, Duncan just sat slack-jawed, staring at the young prince.

After not receiving an answer from Duncan, Harris just shrugged and gobbled up another roll. He reached over and gathered up the remainder of the food and wrapped it in some cloth.

He got up from the table and was about to leave when he spotted Kenna's satchel on one of the counters. He walked over and picked it up, examining it.

"Miss Kenna, may I borrow this?"

Kenna turned around and blanched,

"Harris, please donnae touch that!"

He set it back down,

"Sorry. I'll go get another one."

He started to leave, but Kenna stopped him.

"I'm sorry Harris, I didnnae mean to snap. It's just, that satchel has my books in it."
Harris looked up at her puzzled,

"I can take the books out…I just really donnae want to go back to my room with Hamish and Hubert right now."

Kenna sighed again. She knew that the older boys picked on Harris. It wasn't something new. Instantly, she felt a pang of sorrow for him. Sighing in defeat, she took the satchel from him. She removed her books and some writing and drawing tools from the bag and then handed back the empty bag to the prince.

He smiled sweetly up at her,

"Thank you so much, Kenna!" he threw his arms around her waist in a hug.

"I'll give it back tonight after the games, I promise!"

He stuffed the wrapped up rolls and fruits into the bag and headed out the door to the courtyard.

Kenna rolled her eyes as she watched him leave.

"You're very good with him, you know." Duncan spoke up.

Kenna turned her attention back to the young lord. She smiled softly,

"I suppose I am. He's my prince that is true. But for Nessa and I, there's always been something more. Some other connection to the princess and her brothers. I look at them as family, although I shouldnnae do that. I think it's the reason I let them get away with things when I know I shouldnnae. I spoil them."

Kenna turned to continue her morning baking and set aside her books and pencils. Curiously, Duncan pulled one of the leather bound books towards him. He glanced up at Kenna and noticed her back was to him. Satisfied he wouldn't get caught, he opened the book.

To his surprise, he found it full of drawings. It contained sketches of everything from landscapes to animals to people. The last page he could find with something on it had a very beautiful sketch of Princess Merida's face.

"Oy! That's not yours!" yelled a young but upset sounding voice from the kitchen steps.

Both Kenna and Duncan turned to see the princes' Hamish and Hubert standing at the top of the steps. Hamish crossed his arms and glared at the young Lord Macintosh. Kenna and Hubert looked between the two confused. Duncan put his hands up in the air in a defensive manner.

"You're absolutely right, your majesty. I had no right to look at Miss Kenna's books."

He looked over at Kenna, whose eyes widened at his confession.

"I hope you'll forgive me, Miss Kenna. But I do have to say, you are very talented."

Kenna blushed, but Hamish scoffed at him,

"Yeah, yeah…my brothers and I already knew that. Why donnae you try those lines on someone else, 'pretty boy'. "

"Hamish!" Yelled an appalled Hubert. Even he was shocked by his brother's behavior.

"I'm sorry Lord Macintosh…" Hubert started to apologize.

"No, no, it's alright. I'll just take my leave for now." Duncan said, standing from the table.

He gathered up the plate of left over food and walked it to the washbasin. Keira watched him curiously the whole time.

"Perhaps we can speak later, Miss Kenna." He smiled at her and bowed to the young princes'.

"Your majesties."

Then he walked out the door.

Hubert turned suddenly and whacked his older brother in the arm.

"Nice going, you twit." Hubert griped.

"Ow! What was that for?" whined Hamish.

"Cannae you see Miss Kenna likes him? And you ruined their moment." Hubert huffed.

"He was going through her things without permission!" Hamish retorted.

"Boys! Please! It's all right… I get that you're protective of Nessa and I but…you donnae need to worry. We can take care of ourselves."

"Besides, I donnae really mind if he sees my art or not…" she paused,

"Now come over here and eat. The queen wonnae be happy with me if two of her bravest warriors start their day without a proper meal."

The two brothers smiled at each other and Hamish sat down to the breakfast Kenna had prepared for them.

"Oh good, I'm starved!" Hamish grinned.

Hubert rolled his eyes as he sat down next to his brother,

"When are you not?"

Before Hamish could retort, his stomach spoke up for him. Kenna and Hubert burst out laughing. Kenna placed the plates in front of them,

"Well, you'd better eat up then."

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

The young Lord Dingwall was a determined man as he made his way to the private family dining hall. King Fergus had invited the Lords and their families to share breakfast with Elinor and himself that morning. The clansmen were preparing to resume the competitions later that day, but the king wanted to address the ruling heads of each clan present before the games continued.

Colin assumed it was about what had transpired over the last few days, but at the moment, that didn't really concern him. He was on a mission and that was all that mattered to him.

When he arrived at the large entryway to the family-dining hall he could hear the sound of lively talking on the other side. Taking a deep breath, he pushed open the doors.

Colin paused in the doorway and looked around the room. The king and queen were seated beside each other at the center of the table. Lord and Lady to the right of Queen Elinor and his mother and Lord MacGuffin sat to the left of King Fergus. The space next to his mother was empty, and his father didn't appear to be in the room. To his confusion, neither did Duncan Macintosh or any of the princes.

'Okay,' Colin thought to himself, 'Maybe we younger ones were not invited this morning after all.'

He turned to leave the room but was stopped by the kings booming voice.

"Oy! Young Dingwall, come and sit! Eat with us, lad! Your da' had to meet with some of his men this morning. You can take his place at out table!" Fergus insisted.

"I'm sure your mother would be happy for the company." Elinor added, kindly.

Colin looked at his mother and smiled warmly, a gesture that she returned. He bowed slightly to the royals and made his way to the table. When he sat down next to her, she placed a soft hand on his arm. He turned to her,

"Yes mum?"

She leaned in to whisper to him.

"Your father wonnae stay busy all morning, son. And he is greatly troubled over the princess' death. You know how he wanted a marriage alliance between our lands."

Colin rolled his eyes at the statement, but gave his mother a mischievous smirk.

"Aye, I know what he wanted. If he's so damn worried about it he should groom one of the girls to marry Prince Hamish. It stands to reason, since he's the oldest of the kings sons, he will ascend the throne now."

Colin paused and then continued,

"But in regards to myself marrying the princess, I believe I had already voiced my opinion in the matter. And in regards to that, father will just have to let it be, now. Besides," the look in his eyes was playful,

"I have my own agenda when it comes to marriage anyway."

Caitlin Dingwall regarded her son's mischievous glint and narrowed her gaze at him.

"Just what are you planning, Colin?"

Colin gave her a genuine smile and patted her knee.

"Nothing to be concerned about, mum. I assure you."

Caitlin harrumphed.

"Hmm…Every time I hear you, or your father, say that then I know you have something planned. And usually, it isnnae good." She deadpanned.

Colin feigned hurt and grabbed at his heart,

"You wound me mum."

Caitlin raised a brow at him and crossed her arms,

"Well, whatever you are planning you'd better do it fast. Your father will be back soon and then you're sure to get an earful, regardless of what request you make."

Colin whipped his head up quickly and looked at his mother with a shocked and confused stare.

"How did…"

Caitlin put up her hand to stop him.

"I'm your mother Colin. Plus I have eyes and I'm not blind. And I have ears too. Rumors flood through castle halls like water raising with the tide. Thankfully, your father isnnae as observant as you or I. So, I say again, son. Whatever you're going to do, do it quickly."

Colin smiled as he looked at his mother and then over to the king. He took a deep breath and cleared his throat.

King Fergus was speaking animatedly to Lord MacGuffin, when he heard the unmistakable sound of an interruption. He stopped speaking and turned his attention to the young Lord. In fact, the entire room had.

Queen Elinor was the first to speak, however.

""Yes, young Lord Dingwall?"

She had watched the interaction between mother and son and was a little curious about it.

"Beg your pardon, your majesties, " he paused and looked at the other clan leaders at the table,

"And m'lords and ladies, but…I have a request." He stuttered a moment.

"To whom is the request addressed, young lord?" Elinor asked, intrigued by the young Dingwall heir.

Colin felt every eye in the room on him. He wasn't used to being the center of attention since he spent most of his time if the shadows watching and observing others. However, he felt this was the best way to break down even more barriers and if he had to put himself on display, then so be it.

Colin pushed his chair away from the table and stood quickly. He figured if he was going to do this, he might as well do it ceremoniously. He walked over and knelt before the king and queen.

Elinor and Fergus exchanged an odd glance with each other.

"Your majesties, I know this is highly irregular and unheard of, but…I wish for your permission."

Fergus raised a brow at him,

"Permission for what, lad?"

Colin couldn't help the smirk that appeared on his face as he looked up at his king and queen,

"Permission to marry your maid servant, Nessa."

A collective gasp went up around the room and his smile widened.

"I believe she is in training to become the next lady-in-waiting to her majesty, the Queen. That is why I seek your permission, your majesties. I donnae wish to take such an important person from you, but I'm afraid I've fallen in love with her. This was the only logical course of action I could deem worthy to take."

Queen Elinor looked as though she was about ready to cry at such a declaration. King Fergus just sat and stared at him, at a loss for words. Both Lord MacGuffin and Lord Macintosh held looks of silent admiration for the young man. Lorne Macintosh even graced a soft smile towards the young lord. His wife, Tawney, on the other hand, sat slack jawed at the audacious request. Colin's mother, Lady Dingwall, just sat and watched the scene unfold in front of her. Her expression stayed neutral despite the audacious request.

Finally, the quietness of the room was broken by the sound of the king trying to hold in a chuckle. Elinor eyed her husband strangely.

"You're dead serious, arennae you lad?"

Colin looked up at him and nodded,

"Aye, your majesty."

Fergus forced a cough into his hand as he tried to suppress more chuckling. Elinor glared at her husband and slapped his arm.

"Fergus! This is not a laughing matter. The lad is serious." She chastised her husband.

Elinor looked over at the corner of the room where Maudie had been standing. Her heart went out to the poor woman. She looked in shock at the young lord's request. Well, who wouldn't be? Maudie had practically raised Nessa and Kenna herself once the girls had been introduced to the castle. To her, it must have seemed like the young lord had asked a complete stranger for her daughters hand in marriage. Elinor motioned for Maudie to come over to her. Shaking herself out of her stupor, Maudie quickly made her way to Elinor's side. Elinor leaned over and whispered to her husband once Maudie was beside her.

"Fergus, Maudie's practically raised that young woman since she's come to DunBroch. I think she should have some say to the young lord's request."

Fergus looked over at the shocked maid standing next to his wife. Elinor was right. Maudie should have final say in accepting or refusing the young man's request. Nodding to his wife, Fergus looked down and the young lord. He cleared his throat and addressed the young Lord.

"Young Dingwall, "he paused, "I'm afraid I cannae grant that request you ask."

Colin's head shot up and looked at the king and confusion and disappointment. Before he could say anuthing, Fergus raised his had to stop him.

"I cannae grant it, because it isnnae my place to marry off another person's charge." Fergus motioned towards Maudie who was still standing beside Elinor, looking rather pale. Fergus directed his next statement and question to her.

"Maudie, Nessa is your charge. What do you say to the young lords request then?"

Maudie was at a loss for words but when she looked down at the young Lord Dingwall, he looked up at her with questioning and hope filled eyes. She had heard rumors around the castle herself but refused to believe them. Even now, she didn't believe everything they implied, but seeing the earnest look of hope on the young lord's face, she knew that he was sincere in his request. Maudie resolved to end the awkwardness the best way she knew how. Taking a deep breath, she looked down at the young man.

"I'm afraid I cannae answer you either, m'lord. Only Miss Nessa herself can answer that question. It isnnae my place to decide if it's permissible for her to marry you. Only she can answer that." Maudie paused and smiled down at him though,

"However, if it's a blessing you're wanting, then you have mine."

"And mine." Elinor added.

"And mine, as well." Fergus smiled.

"Then that's settled then?" Lord MacGuffin spoke up.

Queen Elinor nodded and smiled warmly at him,

"Aye. If Miss Nessa accepts your proposal, then you most assuredly have our permission, young lord."

Colin beamed up at the royals and Maudie. He jumped up and thanked them.

"Thank you, your majesties. Miss Maudie." He bowed to them.

"Excuse me…I have someone I need to find." Colin practically flew out of the chambers in a flurry.

The lords and ladies and royals just sat in silence a few moments, pondering what had just happened. Maudie was the first to speak,

"Did that really just happen?" she looked at the queen.

Elinor smiled at her and shrugged,

"It appears so."

Elinor leaned over the table and looked down to where Caitlin Dingwall sat smiling, but shaking her head in disbelief.

"Caitlin?" Elinor asked, tentatively.

"Well, " Caitlin paused, "his father's going to kill him." She waved her hand flippantly.

Tawney Macintosh sniffed in disgust,

"You donnae seemed too concerned, Caitlin."

Caitlin shrugged,

"I'm not. It's his life, his heart, and his decision. As long as my son is happy, I donnae care who he chooses. Why? Do you think I should be concerned?"

Tawney huffed indignantly,

"Well, you'd never see my Duncan falling for a maid servant."

Caitlin quirked a challenging brow at her,

"Oh, really? Well, it's always been my understanding that the heart wants what the heart wants. And it doesnnae usually let anything stand in its way."

"I'm inclined to agree with Lady Dingwall." Kenneth MacGuffin interjected.

"I agree, as well, Tawney. If our son is happy, what should status matter?" Lorne asked his wife.

Lady Macintosh froze and stiffened up and shot her husband a questioning look.

"I…suppose I see you point." She answered sharply. "But I think there is something to be said about those that wed outside their status."

"And just what is that, lady Macintosh?" Caitlin Dingwall asked bitingly.

"How foolish they are." Tawney answered with finality.

She then rose from her chair and briskly left the dinning hall, leaving her mortified husband behind.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

The games had begun for the day and Harris knew he could be able to sneak away now without getting caught or followed. His brothers had caught up with him after breakfast and had stayed with him the better part of the morning. He could have gotten away sooner but he wasn't able to get Keavy away from the stables. His mother's hands took all morning grooming Keavy and he was stuck watching his brother's practice for their matches.

He had little interest in the games anymore and wanted nothing more than to get away and get back out to Callanish. Tearlag would be there, he was sure of it. Or at least Tahvay would be. She could take him to see Tearlag again. He had more questions he wanted to ask her and it would be nice to talk to someone who didn't think he was wrong or crazy. So when noon had come and gone and both Hubert and Hamish were competing in the junior games, Harris snuck away through the crowds.

He made his way across the tournament grounds in record time. He wanted to be able to ride Keavy to Callanish to get there sooner, but he knew he would risk getting caught or stopped if he went back towards DunBroch keep. He quickly made his way to the stone bridge that separated DunBroch from the highland wilds. Harris crossed the bridge and looked back over it to the tournament fields. Satisfied he was in the clear, Harris took off at lightening speed, running towards the direction of Callinish.

What Harris didn't know though, was that he was being followed. Hubert and Hamish had both noticed their youngest brothers odd behavior from the day of the burial ceremony up until that afternoon. They just wanted to protect him. To make sure he didn't hurt himself. So, foregoing their competitions, they chased after their bother. However, they followed him at a safe distance behind him. Close enough not to lose him, but far enough to not be detected by him either.

As Harris entered a deeper part of the forest he could sense the change in the atmosphere around him. It was like the forest was coming alive and speaking to him. He could hear and sense so much more than normal. He knew he was getting closer to Callanish.

He rounded a small pathway and then came upon the clearing he was hoping for. The giant standing stones of Callanish loomed over him. They had an ominous presence and it caused him to shiver slightly. Harris walked the outer edge of the stones, but didn't cross over to the center of the ring. Cautiously, he reached out and touched one of the stones he was closest to. Unbeknownst to him, or his traveling companions, he was being watched. Again.

As soon as his hand had reached out to touch one of the stones, a short sharp blade flew past and imbedded itself into the hard stone. He jumped back, startled and then looked in the direction the small dagger came from. He walked over to the dagger and pulled it out, inspecting the blade and hilt as he did.

Finally, he chuckled nervously,

"You know, Tahvay, if I didnnae know any better, I'd say you donnae want me here." Harris teased.

Tahvay appeared behind him, almost out of thin air.

"Prince should be wary of stones. Old magic here. Dangerous, when not careful."

Harris nodded in understanding,

"Sorry. I'll be more careful from now on."

Tahvay regarded him cautiously a moment, then smiled,

"Good. Tahvay protect prince. Live long life."

Harris blushed at her,

"You donnae have to protect me! I can watch out for myself!"

Tahvay crossed her arms and smirked.

"Fine. Prince say he not need protection. Can't fight, really. Track, maybe? Prove it!"

She bounded over to him and playfully shoved his shoulder.

"You it!" she shouted and then ran into the underbrush.

Harris stood dumbstruck for a moment before running off after her.

"Hey! That's not fair Tahvay!"

Hubert and Hamish had stopped a ways back when they began to see the stones of Callanish in front of them. Neither of the older boys had been there since they were little so the sight of it made them uneasy. The giant stone circle was impressive and intimidating to the two 10-year-old princes. When they got closer to the stones they could see that Harris had stopped to look at one of the giant monoliths. Out of nowhere, a blade was thrown at their brother and the two brothers started to run forward. They stopped short when a girl appeared next to Harris.

They watched in curiosity as Harris and the girl interacted. Hamish almost fell to the ground when he saw the girl playfully shove him back. When did Harris meet a girl?! And who was she, both brothers wondered.

"Do you think Harris is in danger?" Hubert asked his older brother warily.

"Didnnae you see that blade? She could take him out in one hit!" Hamish balked.

"Aye, but she didnnae do it, did she?" Hubert pointed out.

"A pretty girl, randomly showing up in the middle of the forest, and playing tag with out little brother? Somethings off here, Hubert. Mark my words." Hamish looked around suspiciously.

Hubert rolled his eyes,

"Consider them marked then. Come on, we should follow them. We can protect him if something goes wrong."

"And maybe we can find out more about that girl. Who knows, she may be a forest nymph who is trying to trap our little brother and devour his soul." Hamish added frantically.

Hubert looked at him like he was crazy.

"You really need to stop reading Harris' books on mythical creatures. You're worse than him."

The two brothers took off the same direction they had seen Harris and the girl go off too. With any luck, they would find the two and possibly save Harris from a horrible fate.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Harris followed Tahvay's trail through the tall brush and into the dense forest. He hoped he was still following her, anyway. His father had taught all his children how to track in the forest, so Harris understood the fundamentals. However, this was the first time he was able to put it into practice. It was frustrating and exhilarating all at the same time!

Noticing a small pile of broken twigs and some scattered pine needles,Harris stopped and knelt down to examine them. When he got closer to the ground, movement from beside him caught his eye. Harris fought the impulse to look in the direction the movement came from. If he was right, he didn't want to let Tahvay know he could see her.

'No need in starting over." He thought to himself and smirked.

Harris stood up and moved away from where he was the movement. He vaguely wondered if it looked like her was lost to Tahvay. Not that it mattered. He wanted to prove he could take care of himself and be useful, so if it took a little misdirection, then he would do it.

Harris doubled backed around, giving a wide berth to the area he had spotted Tahvay in. Regardless of his father's teaching, Harris knew Tahvay had the advantage of growing up in the forest and also the whole becoming an animal thing. So it was not surprise to him when he sensed a pair of eyes on his back.

'Maybe Tahvay's caught on to what I did and she circled behind me. Oh well, time for a new tactic.' He thought resolutely.

Harris stopped and jump-turned suddenly and lunged forward. He had been right, he thought as his body collided with another.

"Trying to get me again, Tahvay? Well, it wonnae work this time! Harris teased, wrestling the Fae to the ground.

Laughing, Harris' pushed himself up off the Fae. His laughter died suddenly, when he saw it was not Tahvay who he had tackled to the ground.

"You are not Tahvay." He gulped.

The other young Fae girl sat wide-eyed and shook her head in fear.

"Not Tahvay." She whispered back to him.

He scrambled to push himself completely off the other Fae girl. He stared open mouthed at her, stuttering and trying to apologize. Just then, an arrow landed dangerously close to Harris' side.

"Away or Die!" yelled a voice from the treetops.

Harris pushed himself away from the other girl as quickly as he could. The one, who had yelled, jumped down from the tree and landed beside the younger Fae. This Fae pulled another arrow out of her quiver and aimed it at the young prince. Harris put his hand up in surrender.

"I…I'm..sor…sorry. I didnnae…m..mean to hurt her…I swear!"

The Fae with the bow pulled the bowstring more taut and narrowed her eyes at him.

"Nach bhfuil aon cheart le labhairt leat! Ba chóir dom a mharú duit áit sheasann tú!*"

The small Fae on the ground looked up at the other girl, startled.

"Aon! Ná bíodh dhéanamh go! Ní féidir leat a bholadh a boladh? Tá sé a bhaineann leis an Banphrionsa.*"

The other Fae girl growled under her breath and dropped her aim to the ground. She looked down and snapped at the smaller girl.

"Ní féidir liom cúram a bhfuil sé! D'fhéadfadh sé a bheith Gortaítear tú.*"

Harris tried to cautiously cut into their conversation,

"Umm…excuse me. I donnae mean to intrude, but I really didnnae mean to hurt her. It was a huge misunderstanding! I thought she was Tahvay." He paused a second,

"Do you know Tahvay?" he asked cautiously.

Both of the other Fae girls stopped and eyed him curiously when he mentioned Tahvay's name. All of the sudden a grey wolf jumped out from the underbrush and stood between Harris and the two Fae girls. The one with the bow dropped her weapon immediately and the small one on the ground jumped up, her face full of joy.

The wolf in front of them transformed quickly. Tahvay's muscles and fur melded back into her skin and her bones lengthened and straightened up giving her back her human like form.

"Stop Iaighe! Prince friend, not enemy. My fault he tackle Teavah, not his. Thought she, me." Tahvay defended.

"Tahvay alright?" Iaighe looked at her puzzled.

"Tahvay!" yelled the other Fae girl, happily. She tackled Tahvay to the ground.

"Teavah!" yelped Tahvay helplessly as they fell to the ground.

Tahvay turned her head to look up at Harris. She grinned sheepishly up at the prince.

"Sister." Tahvay muttered and patted Tahvay on the head and shrugged up at him. Harris chuckled as he watched the sisters embrace.

"Yeah, I know what you mean." He smiled.

Teavah finally let her grip loosen from around Tahvay's middle and both girls stood up.

"Harris, sister Teavah. Teavah, Prince Harris." Tahvay introduced them.

Harris gave a short bow to Teavah. Iaighe rolled her eyes and cleared her throat.

"Me?" Iaighe motioned to herself.

Tahvay grinned and shook her head. She pointed to Iaighe and Harris looked at the Fae who had him in her sights just a few moments ago.

"Iaighe. She cousin."

"And very, very protective, it seems." Harris gave her a half smile.

Iaighe huffed indignantly and rolled her eyes.

"No fault in protecting cousin."

Harris shook his head hurriedly,

"I didnnae mean it in a bad way Miss Iaighe. It's very brave of you to watch over your cousins that way."

Iaighe eyed him suspiciously until Teavah stood next to her and bumped her shoulder against Iaighe's.

"Let go of anger, Iaighe. Misunderstanding is all. Besides, this Princess' little brother. He worried for sister, like you worry for us."

Iaighe looked away and pursed her lips in a small pout,

"Iaighe not worry…"

Tahvay and Teavah broke out into laughter at her mumbling, while Harris stood with a lopsided smile on his face.

All of the sudden, both sisters stopped laughing and tensed up. Iaighe gripped her bow tightly, as well. Harris noticed the shift in the Fae girls and strained to listen to the forest. A soft wind was blowing through the tall oak trees and Harris could hear the rustling of branches and leaves against the wind. Sounds of the birds filtered through the forest, as well as the chirping of various bugs that surrounded them.

Then he caught it, a faint breaking and cracking sound. Twigs snapping. Harris reached for the dagger in his belt sash. Tahvay saw the movement and put her hand on his wrist.

"Prince will be safe. Tahvay protect."

Harris put his other hand on top of hers.

"No Tahvay. Thank you, but I want you to protect yourself, sister and cousin. I can take care of myself. I promise."

Tahvay opened her mouth to protest, but seeing the look on the young princes' face, she decided against it. She removed her hand from his wrist and nodded her head.

"We work together, protect each other."

Harris smiled at her and nodded.

A loud crack resounded in the area around them and all of them snapped their attention back towards the surrounding woods. The sound was getting closer to them. Readying himself, Harris gripped the dagger hilt tighter.

Before the intruders could get too close, Iaighe let loose one of her arrows towards the loudest noise.

"AAAAGGGHHHH! Look out!" came a scared shout before a loud thud was heard.

Harris rolled his eyes when he heard the unmistakable voice of his brother.

"Oh, for the love of all things holy…." He muttered to himself. He stowed his dagger back into the scabbard and stalked forward towards the sound of the shout. The three Fae girls just looked at one another confused.

"Hubert, Hamish? Is that you?" Harris demanded harshly. He was upset that they had followed him. What right did they have spy on him?

A few moments later, both the older princes' came out of the dense trees with their hands up defensively. The girls dropped their weapons once the other princes walked out into the open.

"We didnnae mean anyone any harm?" Hubert offered apologetically.

"W…why are you shooting at us, Harris? Y…you almost took my head off!" Hamish stuttered, still a little shaken up about the arrow.

Harris looked at him incredulously,

"It wasnnae me! Believe me when I say you wouldnnae be standing if I had shot that arrow."

Iaighe raised her brow at him,

"Prince that good aim?"

"No, prince that bad of aim. I would have shot him right in the face, knowing how unlucky I am with a bow. I mean, Merida had been teaching me a lot, but even I know I'll never be as good as her." Harris answered Iaighe.

He looked back at his brothers who were eyeing the Fae girls strangely. He sighed and rolled his eyes.

"Hamish, Hubert, this is Tahvay." Harris walked over and put one hand on her shoulder. He then pointed to Teavah, who was standing right next to her,

"That is Teavah and the other girl is Iaighe. Both of whom, I only just met, about five minutes ago." He introduced his brothers to the girls.

"And they are all Fae."

Hamish snapped his head towards his younger brother quickly,

"As in Faire Folk? That kind of Fae?"

All the girls and Harris nodded vehemently.

"Yes." They all answered.

Teavah giggled softly,

"Princess say same thing when first meet."

Hamish caught her gaze and flushed lightly.

Hubert rolled his eyes and threw his hands up in disbelief,

"Great, now you're all delusional! Somebody come get me when the real world resumes, please?"

As he started to sit down, Iaighe looked over at him, a small smirk playing at the corner of her lips. She quietly sniffed in amusement.

"Smart brother…" she muttered to her cousins.

If Harris heard her he chose not to acknowledge it. He looked down at the middle brother.

"You're not delusional Hubert. These girls are Fae and they are here to help us, not hurt us."

"Help us with what?" Hamish asked confused.

"Finding Merida and Shae, of course." Harris shrugged.

"Are you on that again?! Come off it, Harris! Merida and Shae are dead! Nothing will change that?" Hubert snapped at his brother.

At Hubert's outburst, Iaighe and Teavah looked at each other confused. Even Tahvay was a little concerned.

"What?" Iaighe and Teavah asked, both still behind in the conversation.

"Prince's brothers think Princess and Warrior dead. Not coming home." Tahvay explained to them.

'At least Tahvay understands.' Harris thought.

Iaighe scoffed,

"Ridiculous." She stated matter-of-factly.

"Why do you say that, Miss Iaighe?" Hamish asked curiously.

"Iaighe know not dead. Just together yesterday. Make Warrior healing salve. Bad wound, might die, might not. But not dead yet." She shot back at him.

Even Teavah joined in. She nodded her agreement with Iaighe.

"Princess not dead! Sister with her now…" Teavah looked at the brothers confused.

"Sister? I thought your sister, Kosha died?" Harris turned and looked at Tahvay confused as well.

She didn't answer him, but Teavah jumped in quickly.

"Did. But Princess and Warrior save sister, Keira. Save me too. And Glemtick and Gelphic."

"Exactly how big is your family Tahvay?" Harris questioned.

"That important?" Tahvay questioned him back.

Harris looked away and flushed slightly,

"Point taken."

Hubert stood up and waved his hands in the air to stop an argument before it started.

"Okay, getting back on topic…" he turned to Iaighe,

"So, Merida is alive?"

"Yes. And Warrior." Iaighe answered tersely.

"Can you take us to her?" Hamish asked hopefully, looking between the three Fae girls. His gaze stopped on Teavah, and he silently asked her for help. She gave him a sad look, but turned her gaze elsewhere.

"Can't." Tahvay answered softly.

"Why?" Hubert questioned.

"Not allowed." Tahvay spoke again.

"What?! Why?!" Hamish shouted, almost angrily at this point.

"Because I told them not too little prince." New voice spoke from behind.

All the party members turned to see who the intruder was to their little 'talk.'

"Tearlag?" Harris turned too look at her, confused.

"Tearlag!" Teavah yelled happily as she ran and hugged the old witch.

"I'm happy to see you too Teavah. Tahvay can be a little too wild at times, for me. I miss having the calmer sister around." Tearlag spoke kindly.

After her hug with Teavah, she looked over at Harris.

"I thought you werennae going to tell anyone about what we discussed, little prince? Does the word of a prince no longer mean anything in this world?"

Harris looked away, ashamed.

"I…I'm sorry Tearlag. I just wanted to come out and see you again. I honestly didnnae know my brothers had followed me…" he stammered.

Tearlag's gaze lingered on the other two brothers a moment.

"Ah, yes. The older two of the triplets…Well, I can see why the three of you together could be a handful. Not a lot of differences in your looks, but…" Tearlag tapered off a moment but smiled at the boys,

"…but when your individual strengths come through, it is quite easy to tell you apart."

The two older boys looked up at her curiously, but Harris gave her a small smile.

"Thank you, Tearlag."

He then turned to his brothers.

"Bet you donnae think I'm crazy anymore, do you?" he smirked.

Hamish and Hubert looked at him strangely. They glanced at each other and then back to him.

"No. We still think you're crazy."

Harris smug face fell to a frown. Before he could retort, Tahvay stepped in to his 'rescue.'

"Fun crazy, though. It's cute." Tahvay teased and lightly kissed his cheek.

Harris blushed pink,

"Uh…"

Teavah and Hamish both snickered at Harris' expression. Iaighe and Hubert just rolled their eyes. Even Tearlag had a soft smile on her face.

"So just who are you, Tearlag?" Hamish asked.

"Wait, you mean you donnae remember her? You know, from Merida's story about how mum and we got turned into bears. You do remember, donnae you?" Harris asked his oldest brother.

"Wait…" Hubert held his hand up, trying to process what Harris was saying.

"You mean she's…?"

"Yep." Harris answered, his smile widening.

"What?…Who is she?" Hamish asked again, still lost in the conversation.

"Tearlag witch. So what?" Iaighe asked before Hamish could guess.

"Oh, well that's…" Hamish started to wave it off, until he realized what Iaighe had said, "wait…WITCH!" he looked up her in shock.

Tearlag blinked a few times and rubbed her ringing ears from the princes' loud outburst.

"You know, after a few centuries, you'd think I'd get used to that…" she muttered out loud.

She addressed the young prince,

"Yes, I am a witch. I gave your sister a spell that she used on your mother, which turned her into a bear. And for whatever reason, the three of you, as well. And most recently, I have placed a spell on your sister and the young clan Lord MacGuffin, which, hopefully, will cut down on the hostility between them."

"Now, why donnae the six of you follow me to my home. It's better to talk indoors, away from spying eyes and prying ears."

"Sounds like a great idea to me!" Harris jumped in.

As everyone agreed to follow Tearlag to her home, Hubert lagged behind a bit, eyeing the old woman wearily,

"We are going to get eaten…" he groaned under his breath.

Iaighe, who as only a few steps in front of him slowed down her pace and rested beside him. She slowly smiled, revealing her sharp canines as she did.

"I not worry about witch if I were you…"

He paused a moment and stared after her as she kept walking,

"Okay, that so didnnae help either!"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Duncan Macintosh wandered around castle DunBroch searching the rooms for something to do. Earlier that day he had very vehemently told his mother and father that he was withdrawing himself from the competitions that day. Tawnee had tried to argue with him, but Lorne just nodded his approval. With the reason to compete that day no longer an issue Duncan was trying to occupy his time with other endeavors.

He rounded one of the hallway corners that led away from the large meeting hall where all the clans gathered for meals. He stopped in front of a giant wooden door that was cracked slightly open. Light from a fire or from candles poured out of the room and seemed to beckon Duncan closer.

Slowly, he opened that door to reveal a large and well-stocked library. Duncan gave a low whistle as he took in the massive collection of scrolls and books.

"And here I thought our library was impressive…" Duncan muttered to himself.

"It's amazing isnnae it?" a voice asked quietly from behind.

Duncan spun on his heel and came face to face with the lovely Miss Kenna. He smiled at her.

"Aye, it's…it's quite impressive, Miss Kenna."

She smiled back at him and nodded. She moved passed him and walked over to a table that was near the large fireplace. She laid her satchel down on the table. Pencils and other material spilled out of it. Duncan furrowed his brow when he saw it,

"I thought the prince took your satchel this morning?" he asked, confused.

Kenna looked over at him with her brow raised, before recalling their morning conversations.

"Oh well, I just went and grabbed one of Nessa's older ones, after I cleaned the kitchens."

She turned and walked over to a large row of bookcases. Duncan watched as she climbed a ladder to the fifth or sixth tier of books. He walked over carefully, not wanting to startle her, but wanting to see what she was getting.

"Are you alright, Miss Kenna?" he asked as he walked to the base of the ladder. He put his hands on the legs of the ladder to steady it.

"Yes. I'm fine. Just got to find the right book, m'lord." She stretched and grunted, reaching for a book far to her right.

Duncan rolled his eyes, even though she couldn't see him.

"Its just Duncan, please, Miss Kenna. And just what is the 'right book'?"

"Sorry m'l…Duncan…" she stammered a moment. She stretched again, trying to reach the seventh shelf.

"And this… Ah…I got it!" she beamed as she grabbed the book she was reaching for.

Unfortunately, the weight of the tome threw off her balance on the ladder and she slipped. She fell sideways off the ladder and was stopped by Duncan's waiting arms.

Kenna could feel her heart speed up the moment she landed in his arms. He was staring deeply into her eyes as he held her and she couldn't help but stare back. His icy blue eyes seemed to look right into her soul and Kenna felt a deep shiver, all the way down to her feet. They stared at each other a few minutes, lost in the moment. Duncan felt his breath hitch, as he looked into her eyes. Slowly, as if pulled by an unknown force, Duncan slowly lowered his face closer to hers.

Kenna blushed and her eyes widened.

Was he really going to kiss her? No. She couldn't let that happen. Not yet, at least. Before he could get too close, Kenna lifted the book between him and grinned sheepishly up at him. Duncan stopped moving forward, and when he realized what he was trying to do, his face went bright red.

He awkwardly cleared his throat and let go of her, placing her gently on the ground.

"To answer your earlier question…this," she held the book out for him to see,

"…is the right book, Duncan."

Duncan looked at the large, dog-eared tome in curiosity. It was a book of flora and fauna of the Highlands. His family had one in their library, as well. Some cataloguer from clan Dingwall, had actually traveled the Highlands and listed every animal, tree, plant, loch, town and various information about the kingdom inside the book. Duncan was surprised that it would be the book that Kenna would be wanting. He gently took the book from her and thumbed through the pages.

"Doing a bit of light reading, I take it?"

Kenna grinned at him and took the tome back from him.

"Not exactly." She said as she walked back over to the table and laid the book down with her stuff.

Duncan walked over and sat down beside her. She glanced sideways at him, but otherwise didn't acknowledge when he sat down. She opened up the book started flipping the pages. Duncan could tell she was looking for something in particular. She stopped when she got to the page with the image and description of the primrose.

Duncan then watched as she grabbed a pencil and one of her books. She opened it to a blank page and slowly began to copy the image of the primrose from the text of the tome to her book. Duncan watched in awe as she brought the subtle beauty of the small flower to life in her sketch.

"Amazing." He breathed out.

Kenna smiled and looked over at him,

"Not really. I'm just making a copy of what another artist has already done. That's not amazing." She muttered shyly.

Duncan looked at her bewildered,

"Are you kidding? It is amazing! I couldnnae do something like that to save my life!"

Kenna laughed aloud,

"Ha! Well, then we had better hope that the kings' Games never include an art competition. You'd be in big trouble, then."

Duncan chuckled too as he watched her finish up her work. He glanced away from her work and actually read the excerpt in the book about the primrose flower.

He smiled mischievously once he had read the meaning of the flower itself.

He chuckled and then pointed to the line in the text.

"Oh, now I see why you chose to draw a primrose while I was near you. You know Miss Kenna, if you really wanted to let me know, you should have just told me."

Kenna stopped drawing and looked over at him, confused.

"What?"

"Oh surely, you knew already. Why else would choose a primrose?" he was still chuckling.

"I'm not lying, Duncan. I have no idea what the flower means." She paused and then looked at him curiously,

"How do you know what it means?" she asked.

"It says so right here. See?" he pointed to the line on the page.

Kenna glanced up at him nervously a second before leaning over and squinting at the words on the page. She stared a few moments before she leaned back and shook her head.

"No, I donnae see…"

"What do you mean? The words are right here." He pointed out again, still a light chuckle in his voice.

"Well, I cannae see what you're talking about!" Kenna stated back, getting a little frustrated.

Suddenly, something dawned on Duncan. His laughter subsided a bit, but he kept a smile on his face. This was one of understanding.

"Ah, I understand. You must have weak eyes like my da'." He chortled. "Sometimes he has to hold things at arms length just to read them. What about you? Do you think that would help? I can stand up and hold it for you…" he offered.

"No! It wonnae help, Duncan!" She snapped at him harshly. Duncan tensed abruptly and stared at her in concern. Suddenly realizing what she had done, she looked away ashamed and placed her hands in her lap, wringing them as she did.

"Forgive me, m'lord, I…I stepped out of place." She muttered, tears glazing her eyes.

Duncan's posture loosened as he watched the young woman beside him closely. She hunched her shoulders forward and bowed her head lowly. She was shaking, he could tell, but he wasn't sure why. Realization slowly dawned on him, why she was upset. He gently gripped one of her hands and brought it to the top of the table. He then laid his other hand on top of that one and rubbed slow circles on the back of her hand.

"You…cannae read, can you?" he asked quietly. It was non-judgmental and completely earnest.

Without raising her head to look at him, Kenna shook her head.

"No, I cannae." She choked out.

Duncan let go of her hand with one of his and brought it up to her chin. He lifted her face to look him in the eye.

"That isnnae anything to be ashamed of Kenna. Lots of people cannae read."

Kenna glared over at him,

"But servants who serve royalty, especially like Nessa and myself, we're expected to be educated, as well. Nessa has to do everything for me in regards to reading and writing. I can barely write my own name!" She exasperated.

"And Nessa never taught you?" Duncan asked, curiously.
"She rarely has the time, and I'm just as busy." she sighed heavily.

"Nessa was barely able to learn herself. But it's thanks to Maudie and Merida's help that she was able to learn. I'm a little more expendable on education since I'm not going to take over Maudie's position at some point. Nessa is."

Duncan looked at her thoughtfully.

"Unless, Colin has his way…"

"What does that mean?"

Duncan shook his head quickly,

"It doesnnae matter…" he tapered off a moment. Finally, he spoke again,

"I could teach you, you know…"

Kenna looked at him, puzzled.

"And why would you do that?"

Duncan looked at her playfully,

"Call it a chivalrous act on my part. Or you could say, I'd like a chance to spend more time with you without accidental meetings and constant sneaking around. This gives me a legitimate reason to spend time with you, Miss Kenna."

"With your reputation, m'lord, I doubt you've ever needed a legitimate reason to spend time with any young woman." Kenna teased back.

Duncan suddenly became very quiet and serious and looked away from her. His grip on her hand loosened and for a moment, Kenna was afraid she had stepped over the boundaries a little too far.

Duncan took a deep breath to collect his thoughts. He stood up and walked a ways away from her with his head bowed. The silence was heavy and awkward and it made Kenna nervous. Finally, she broke the silence.

"I'm sorry if I said something I wasnnae supposed to m'lord. It appears I keep forgetting my place."

Duncan closed his eyes and sighed,

"Stop saying saying that, please, Kenna. When it is just you and I there are no 'places' for us to fall into. No hierarchy. It's just us."

Kenna said nothing in return but nodded her head.

Duncan turned and looked at her sadly,

"I'm not a complete ass, you know." He stated solemnly.

Kenna looked at him confused, trying to understand where this conversation was headed.

"That is to say…I've…I've never taken a woman to my bed. Admittedly, I have had plenty of opportunities, but I've never actually acted on them. I'm not as arrogantly confident as I appear. I am, however, very arrogant. I can be short tempered at times, and apparently very prone to temper-tantrums when I donnae get my way."

Kenna tried to cover up her chuckle with a forced cough. Duncan glanced over at her and smirked slightly over at her. Kenna sobered her expression and gave him her attention again. Duncan stepped back in front of her.

"I am prideful and spoiled. Very, very spoiled, I might add. I mean, it sort of comes with being the sole heir of an entire clan."

Kenna shook her head and rolled her eyes at him. Duncan sat down next to her and took her hand,

"But I can also be understanding and patient, then the need arises. I can also be a very good listener and a fairly good teacher, at times. I have two little sisters, after all." He paused as he looked into her eyes, feeling the world around them dissipate.

"So, if you'll permit me to be…I think…I think we could be very good…friends, Miss Kenna."

"Just friends?" she asked, confused. Her eyes widened when she realized what she had said. Ashamed by her own bluntness, she turned away quickly.

Kenna felt a piece of her heart deflate at his words, but tried not to let Duncan see it. However, when her face faltered and she turned away, Duncan was able to see it in a second. Kenna tried to hide her disappointment by putting on a quick smile.

"Of course, m'lo…Duncan. Friends would be…wonderful." She said with a forced smile.

Duncan searched her eyes for something deeper behind her words. He could tell she was hurt, so maybe she was starting to feel the same way about him, as he was about her, as well. He wanted to try another tactic. So, he cleared his throat,

"You know, I've heard it said, " he took both her hands in his and stared into her emerald eyes,

"That friendship is sometimes merely a stepping stone to an even more meaningful…companionship."

Kenna felt her breath hitch, but she didn't dare get her hopes up that the young lord was actually talking about what she thought he was. So she feigned ignorance. She knotted her eyebrows furrowed in confusion,

"I donnae think I…I understand what you mean, Duncan?"

Now it was Duncan's turn to smile softly at her. He reached out and cupped her cheek with one hand.

"I'm going to help teach you to read. Once you can, I want you to read to me what the meaning of the primrose is. Then you'll have your answer. And perhaps, by then, I'll have mine."

Kenna felt her face flush in his palm. She was stunned at the carefulness in his voice and actions. Taking a deep breath, she spoke with more courage and determination then she actually felt.

"Then lets get started."

Duncan's smile grew wider and he nodded,

"Aye. Let's"

He stood up and walked over to one of the large cases of books. Kenna watched him, thoughtfully.

"What are you doing?" she asked, bewildered.

"Getting a book." He answered.

"But…I have one, already." She points to the tome on the table.

"True, but it's not the 'right' book" he winks back at her, using her earlier phrase against her.

"Besides," he continued, "you might try to cheat and get me to use the page that has the primrose meaning on it. So, instead of learning to read, I may inadvertently tell you what it means, and thereby spoiling the need for you to learn to read in the first place." He stated matter-of-factly.

Kenna looked shocked,

"I wouldnnae do something like that! I give you my word, Duncan." She argued.

He grabbed a small book off of a shelf and turned and smiled at her, teasingly.

"I'm sure you wouldnnae, either. I was only teasing, Miss Kenna. However, that book, " he pointed to the large book next to her,

"Is much to tedious to try to learn from. This," he holds up the smaller book proudly, waving it a little.

"Is much more manageable."

Kenna shook her head, but smile back at him,

"Understandable, my lord."

Duncan stared, unamused at her. Kenna looked up at him and caught his hard stare. She paused a moment, before blushing lightly,

"I meant, Duncan." She muttered quietly.

Duncan sat next to her again and opened the small book in front of him.

"You're forgiven. Now, lets get started."

Kenna smiled shyly up at him and moved closer, leaning into him to see the book better. Duncan smiled back at her,

"Alright, lets start with the basics…"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Hours seemed to go by very quickly while the two of them studied the letters and words on the pages of the small book. Kenna was making very good progress, albeit a little more slowly then she would have liked. Duncan would occasionally smirk and chuckle at the girls' frustration.

Kenna groaned in impatience,

"I'm not getting any of this."

Duncan looked over at her with a smile.

"Actually, you're doing quite well."

Kenna glared up at him, unamused. He laughed out loud at her expression.

"You know, you're allowed to take a break. We have been in here for a few hours, already."

Kenna sighed tiredly,

"But I want to be able to read about the primrose!"

"Trust me, you have plenty of time. Right now," he reached down and took the book from her and closed it.

"I'm hungry and I'm sure you are too. We can come right back to the library after we eat."

Kenna was about to protest but stopped when she saw the look of determination on Duncan's face. She sighed again, but this time it was in defeat.

"Alright, alright. You win this one, Duncan. I do feel a bit hungry, as well."

Just as she finished saying that, her stomach growled loudly. She flushed and Duncan burst out a loud laugh,

"Haha! Well I guess that answers that! Come on, we'll go together."

She shook her head up at him and reached over to grab her satchel.

"You're impossible."

"I know. Now…shall we?" he held out his arm for her.

She gave him an odd look,

"I'll go with you, but not on your arm."

"Why not?" Duncan asked with a crestfallen expression on his face.

"Because…that would get way too much unwanted attention."

Duncan smiled at her,

"Alright, you win."

He walked over to the massive door and opened it with a sweeping bow,

"After you, m'lady."

Now it was Kenna's turn to laugh out loud,

"Oh trust me, Duncan, I'm anything but a lady."

"For now." Duncan muttered, but not quietly enough that Kenna couldn't hear him. Her laughter stopped immediately and she flushed pink.

"You are a goof, m'lord. I do believe it will be a contest between you and the young Lord Dingwall as to which is worse."

"That's an unfair comparison, Miss Kenna. No sure winner could be derived in that contest."

She walked over to the door with a confused look on her face,

"And why is that, Duncan?"

"Because, his 'abilities' come from his snarkiness and quick wit. Mine originate from honest and hopeful sincerity…and pouting." He stated openly as the two walked into the hallway.

Kenna's laughter could be heard almost everywhere in the castle as the pair made their way to the kitchens.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Both the young lord and maidservant would have liked to enjoy a meal in peace. But unfortunately, the kitchen was buzzing with other cooks and servants as they had begun preparing the dinner for the nights feast.

Kenna had suggested that she and Duncan separate and enter at different times into the kitchen. She didn't want to arouse suspicion and it was the easiest method. So, after a few minutes after Kenna entered the kitchens, Duncan walked in as well. Everyone was so busy they barely noticed him enter, which he was glad about. It would make it easier to leave with Kenna without anyone noticing or suspecting anything. Kenna was about to dish up a couple of plates of food for her and Duncan, when one of the younger servant girls stopped her.

"So is it true, Kenna?"

Kenna turned around to face the girl, her eyebrow raised.

"Is what true?"

"You know, about Nessa and the young Lord Dingwall?" The younger girl prodded earnestly.

Now Kenna was even more confused. She looked over at Duncan for help, but he was just as lost as she was. He shook his head and shrugged at her, unsure of what the girl was talking about.

Kenna tore her eyes away from Duncan and looked back at the girl and shook her head.

"I have…no idea what you're talking about. What about Nessa?"

"Oh surely, you must have heard?! She's your cousin after all." Another girl spoke up from the corner of the room.

"Must have heard what?!" Kenna was getting frustrated now.

"Hmph, keeping secrets from her own flesh and blood? Shameful is what all this is." Interjected one of the older cooks.

"Oh, how can you say that?!" yelled the younger servant girl again.

"She's probably with child." The other older cook spoke up.

"Wouldnnae surprise me. Why else would a clan Lord's son marry a servant girl." The first cook stated.

"Uh, how about love? And excuse me…did you just say, marry?" Duncan interjected.

All the talking in the kitchen ceased when the two older women realized the other young Lord was in the kitchen.

"Oh, forgive the gossip, m'lord. You know how we women can be."

Duncan waved his hand to get her to stop apologizing,

"I donnae care about that." Duncan looked over at Kenna worriedly. She looked like she was about to faint.

"Are you alright, Miss Kenna?"

She caught his eye and nodded.

He snapped his attention back towards the older two women in the kitchen.

"Now, what's this about the young Lord Dingwall and Miss Nessa?"

"Thought that that story would have reached the southern borders by now, m'lord."

""Well obviously, Miss Kenna knew nothing about her cousin's betrothal." He paused and looked at the women angrily.

"When did this happen?" Kenna's small voice squeaked out. She was so in shock that she had to sit down at the table in the corner.

One of the cooks made her way to Kenna's side with a cup of water in hand.

"Earlier this morning. The young Lord Dingwall apparently asked the king and queen and also Maudie for Nessa's hand in marriage. But I heard that they all told him he would have to let Nessa make that decision for herself."

"And what did Nessa say?!" Kenna asked almost hysterically.

"No one knows, Kenna. Nessa hasnnae been seen since before sunrise this morning." The younger servant girl answered.

Kenna felt her heart start beating again. Her anxiousness and worry were slowly subsiding.

"So she hasnnae given him an answer yet?"

"Not sure. Like I said, havennae seen her since this morning." The young girl stated again.

"Still donnae know why he would do it though?" another young girl pondered out loud.

"Well, it's my opinion, that the brash young lord is just trying to cover up a night of unbridled passion. Even if Nessa cannae tell she's with child, it may just be a way to make sure no questions are asked later." The other cook said in a haughty voice.

"Nessa would never do something like that!" Kenna shot up from her chair in anger.

"And just so you know, ladies, some of us 'brash young lords' donnae just seek to take any woman into our beds. Some of us have more honor than that. And I know Colin Dingwall does. So whatever his reasons are, it is most assuredly not to cover anything up!" Duncan stated indignantly. He paused a moment and looked at the tears gathering in Kenna's eyes. He took a deep breath before he added,

"And although I havennae known her very long. I can say without a doubt, Miss Nessa wouldnnae allow herself to be put in that type of situation. Or allow something like that to happen. EVER! So why donnae you ladies get back to work and quit your gossiping. It's not helping anyone, right now." He snapped.

Impulsively, he reached over and grabbed Kenna's arm.

"Come, Miss Kenna. We should locate your cousin and get this cleared up."

Kenna was pulled to her feet quickly, but not harshly. The two made their way out of the kitchen, but not before Kenna grabbed an apple off a tray of fruit. Duncan drug her around carefully by her forearm, careful not to hold too tightly or pull too roughly. He was leading them down a far, empty hallway when Kenna stopped.

"Duncan, stop!" Kenna tugged her arm back from him.

Duncan stopped immediately and swiveled on his heel. He was quick to apologize.

"I'm so very sorry, Miss Kenna, but I had to get you out of there. I was afraid you were going to faint on me. I could tell it was a huge shock to you. It was a shock to me too! And what was with those cooks? Couldnnae they see how much they were upsetting you. I can only guess at how you must be feeli…"

Duncan would have kept rambling in frustration and wildly, if it weren't for the pair of lips that passionately found his. Immediately, Duncan melted into the kiss and calmed down. He reached one hand up to her face and cupped her cheek, deepening the kiss as he did. They stayed like that a few more seconds before pulling away, their lips gently brushing as they parted.

Kenna suddenly found herself short of breath and very self-conscious.

"I'm sorry Duncan, but it was the only thing that came to my mind to get you to stop rambling." Kenna whispered to him.

Duncan swallowed thickly, unsure of his own voice.

"It's alright Kenna. I was just worried about you." He finally whispered back.

She stepped back a few steps, but reached up and touched his cheek tenderly. A soft smile played at her lips.

"Thank you. For what you did back there…in the kitchen, I mean."

Duncan looked into her beautiful green eyes and fought the urge to kiss her again.

"It wasnnae an entirely selfless act, you know. I was standing up for Colin and myself, in a way, too."

Kenna's smile never faultered,

"Oh, I know," she nodded and shrugged, "But it was still very sweet of you. So, thank you."

Duncan smiled back at her,

"You're welcome, Miss Kenna. Now, lets go find your cousin. Knowing Colin, he's probably not far behind her."

"I thought you were hungry?"

"This is more important. Food can wait." Just then, his stomach growled.

Kenna laughed out loud at him.

"Guess your stomach has other plans. Good thing I came prepared." she reached down and pulled the apple she snatched up in the kitchen out of her satchel.

"One apple?" Duncan looked at her skeptically.

"Would you rather go hungry?" Kenna asked teasingly.

"No, no…apple it is!"

The two of them spit the apple and then continued on down the long winding corridors of the castle. Neither made another reference to the kiss they had shared, but both of them knew that something had changed between them.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

To say that Nessa was pissed would have been the understatement of the century. All day she had been asked about her betrothal to the young Lord Dingwall and her constant denial of the said proposal was grating on her nerves. She was thoroughly livid at the audacity of the young lord and couldn't wait to tell him just what she thought of his little stunt.

"If he thinks that this will get me to marry him, he is sorely mistaken." Nessa grumbled to herself as she worked through the day.

She was on her way up to the upper floors of the castle when she heard the loud steps behind her. She could almost feel the smirk on his face. Nessa ducked inside a side room used for crafting. She turned on her heel to face him as he closed the door.

"What in the hell do you think you're doing?!" she practically screamed in his face.

Colin didn't seemed phased by it though and continued to smile at her,

"Well, good afternoon to you too, Nessa. How has your day been? 'Wonderful, thanks, Colin. What brings you to see me this fine day?' See, that would be the proper way to open up a conversation."

Nessa huffed and crossed her arms.

"I know what you've done. And donnae you think for a second that I will ever agree to it now. You're arrogance knows no bounds does it, Colin?"

"I truly have no idea what you're talking about, Nessa." Colin put his hands up in defense.

"Oh donnae play dumb with me, Colin! I've been denying all day long that you and I are engaged to everyone! EVERYONE! What did you do, make an announcement last night with other clans?! " She shouted angrily. She then took a deep breath to clam her nerves,

"I told you, I would consider marrying you, if you showed to me that you could be sincere. I'm getting no sincerity out of this. Just pure arrogance." She glared up at him, but Colin could see the hurt in her eyes.

"There's talk already?" He asked curiously.

Nessa sighed exasperatedly at him, but couldn't stop the chuckle from leaving her throat.

"I go off like a tea kettle, and that's what you pick up on in my rant? You're hopeless."

Colin continued to smile at her,

"Only for you."

"Oh, please." She turned away from him.

"Nessa, you have to believe me. I didnnae know the rumors would have started already. It wasnnae my intention to embarrass or hurt you." Colin pressed.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Duncan and Kenna were able to locate Colin much more quickly then they anticipated. They had also been able to get close enough to Colin to see him following Nessa at a distance. So the pair decided to follow the both of them to see where they were going. Once they started up the spiral staircase to the top of the tower, Kenna pulled back a little ways. Duncan followed suit.

"Is something wrong?" he asked her concerned.

Kenna shook her head quickly,

"I donnae know what it is but, something feels off about all this. Nessa seems very upset. And if Colin has asked her marry him, why is he so far back from her? Shouldnnae he be walking beside her? Something doesnnae seem right…" Kenna mused.

"Well then, lets see if we can do a little eavesdropping of our own." Duncan winked at her.

Kenna looked aghast at him.

"Spy on my own cousin?"

He nodded,

"Why not? You want to know what is going on with her, correct? Well, this is one way you can find out."

The two stayed back far enough and when Nessa and Colin went into the side room, Duncan and Kenna snuck up on the door and listened closely to the conversation on the other side.

"Oh donnae play dumb with me, Colin! I've been denying all day long that you and I are engaged to everyone! EVERYONE! What did you do, make an announcement last night with other clans?! " They could hear Nessa shout.

"I told you, I would consider marrying you, if you showed to me that you could be sincere. I'm getting no sincerity out of this. Just pure arrogance." Her voice had softened but you could still feel the biting edge in the words.

"There's talk already?" Colin's voice sounded confused.

They heard a heavy sigh, followed by a quiet chuckle.

"That was probably Nessa. She sighs at me like that when I'm being difficult." Kenna said quietly.

"I go off like a tea kettle, and that's what you pick up on in my rant? You're hopeless." Came Nessa's voice again, softening even more.

"Only for you." Came Colin's smooth reply.

Duncan nodded his head in approval,

"I need to remember that one."

Kenna rolled her eyes up at him.

"Oh, please." She and Nessa spoke at the same time.

"Nessa, you have to believe me. I didnnae know the rumors would have started already. It wasnnae my intention to embarrass or hurt you." They could actually hear the desperation in Colin's voice.

"You still havennae told me how these rumors have gotten started, though." Nessa's voice sounded dangerously quiet now.

The pair leaning up against the door could almost hear the wincing in Colin's voice.

"I kind of asked for your hand in marriage from the king and queen…and Maudie…this morning at the royal breakfast." Colin muttered quickly.

There was a moment of tense silence and then suddenly a loud smacking sound was heard from the other side of the door. Both Duncan and Kenna winced knowing full well that Nessa had slapped him hard across the face.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

The loud smack from the hard slap across his face resounded in the small room.

Nessa stomped away from him in a rage, going further into the room. Colin rubbed his sore cheek as he followed after her.

"Och, what was that about?! I thought you'd be happy?" He stopped her again, by jumping in front of her.

She stopped and glared up at him, tears forming in her eyes. Tears were not something he expected to see, at all. He reached out to brush them away but Nessa swatted his hand away,

"Just stop, m'lord. Stop pretending that you care about me! I know that this is all a game to you!"

"I asked the King's permission to marry you? How is that a game? Doesnae that prove how serious I am? Doesnae it prove my sincerity?"

She got up in his face,

"People donnae just fall in love after a few days!"

Colin raised a brow at her,

"How do you know? Have you ever been in love before?"

Nessa looked away and clenched her jaw tight.

"No. Love is a lie. Best saved for those fairytale stories for children and dreamers."

"Like Kenna?"

Nessa never looked up at him and remained silent,

"Why do you try so hard to help her love come true and yet you donnae allow yourself the same luxury?" Colin asked, completely serious.

Nessa blinked back her tears,

"Because I am…"

Colin waited for her to continue.

"I have been…used and sullied," she whispered, "No man would want me for a wife."

Colin gazed at her confused for a moment,

"So you're not a virgin? That's what this is about?"

She shook her head but didn't answer him. Colin grabbed onto her arms and tried to get her to look at him.

"Look, I donnae care about that. I care about you, regardless of what mistakes you've made…"

Nessa's head snapped up, her eyes hard,

"It wasnnae a mistake! I did what I had to, to protect Kenna!" she yelled.

"To protect Kenna?" Colin asked, confused.

"Despite what you may think about me, I'm not a whore! I did what I had to so that Kenna's virtue wasn't sullied. I'd do anything to protect her, even give up my chance at marriage! No one wants a used or sullied bride! Not even you!" she spat out.

She pulled away from him and looked into his eyes. She waited for the rejection or disgust to cross his face, but it never came.

Colin slowly reached out and stroked her cheek with his thumb.

"I donnae care that you're not a virgin. But I do want to know why?"
"I already told you why." Nessa turned her face away.

"You told me it was to protect Kenna. That's only part of the tale, isnnae it?"

She looked up at him puzzled,

"You really want to hear this?"

Colin nodded and sat down in a chair and waited for her to start. Nessa took a deep breath,

"I suppose you'll get it out of me sooner or later. So, I might as well tell you now."

Nessa walked over to the window and sat on the sill gazing at the rainfall outside.

"A few years ago, members of Clan Mackenzie were here to come to a peaceful trade agreement with DunBroch and the unified clans. Well, one of the warriors decided he had taken a liking to Kenna. He had caught her off guard one day in the kitchens and I happened to be going by at the time. I interrupted him before he could advance on her. I lied and said that the queen had asked to see Kenna to help with the princes. She believed me and took off, but the warrior knew I was lying. He grabbed me and threatened to expose my lie to the royal family if I didnnae help him bed Kenna. I couldnae let that happen so…I offered myself to him. I guess he decided that a willing partner was better then having to fight to get what he wanted. So…I took Kenna's place in his bed."

Nessa paused and sighed. She could feel the tears threatening to fall.

"I met him that night and…let's just say, he got what he wanted. I left when it was over and went back to Kenna's and my room."

Colin got up and walked over to her. He gently brushed her hair back. Nessa turned and looked into his eyes, fighting her tears.

"She never knew what happened, and I donnae plan to ever tell her."

"You'd do something like that to protect your cousin? That is love and loyalty." Colin gazed at her in awe.

Nessa became extremely silent and stared back out the window.

Colin eyed her strangely. Her demeanor seemed to change in an instant.

'Something is off about this.' He thought to himself as he watched her reaction.

'I mean, I love my sisters, but to give up something so sacred to a woman just to save her cousin? It doesnnae seem to add up.' He thought to himself as he watched her pace around the room.

Colin took a deep breath and spoke softly,

"You know Nessa, I really donnae think less of you just because of that. You did what you truly thought you had to do. That is a very admirable trait."

He walked up to her and placed a hand on her shoulder gently.

Nessa's brow furrowed but she didnnae move or back away from his touch. She also didnnae shrug off his hand either.

With an almost practiced ease Colin was able to turn Nessa to face him, wrapping an arm around her waist. He lifted her chin with his other hand so he could meet her gaze. She turned her eyes to avoid his, though. However, it was too late. He had seen the unshed tears there.

"Nessa are you alright?"

"I'm fine." She choked out harshly, still trying to avoid his eyes.

She pulled her face back from his gentle hold but didnnae turn to leave his embrace.

Now it was Colin's brow that furrowed. He stroked her cheek with his thumb, trying to decipher her demeanor.

"You're lying Nessa. I can tell."

Her eyes snapped instantly to his, her gaze turning hard and cold. Her brows were furrowed in anger or annoyance. Colin wasn't sure which, but for the first time since he had met her, he was genuinely afraid of what she may do or say.

"How. Dare. You." She spat coldly.

"You know, you're nothing but a presumptuous ass!" she yelled at him.

"Excuse me?" Colin looked at her in confusion, but he also fought off the smirk threatening to rise to his lips.

Nessa pulled completely away from him harshly, shoving him back in the process.

"You heard me, m'lord." She sneered at the title she used.

"Ever since the day we met you've done nothing but drive me insane! With your little quips and snarky retorts and your uncanny foresight! It's infuriating! But the one thing you do that just riles me up more than anything, is your blatant disregard for human decency!"

"I always assumed I was a very decent human." Colin retorted.

"There! That right there is what I mean! You turn every little thing into a joke. Into part of your little 'game.' And I am sick of it!" she snapped in frustration, turning away from him in a huff.

Colin put his hands up in defense.

"Nessa…I donnae even know what brought this on…"

She turned on her heel to face him,

"Oh donnae you know? Being called a liar isnnae something you say to win a woman's heart, Colin. You said I was lying and that you could tell!? How? You donnae even know me! You were just making assumptions again. Just like you assumed I would fall for you and your 'charm'. Just like you assumed you could help Kenna and get to me." She stood on her toes and got up in his face, dropping her voice in anger.

"And just like you ridiculously assumed I would ever marry you! You cannae say things like that or do things like that!" Nessa felt tears spring up to her eyes.

She swallowed thickly to keep her voice from cracking.

"It isnnae fair." She choked as she looked into his yes.

She fought down the lump in her throat. She turned away from him again, the tears stinging her eyes as they slid down her face. She started to walk away, but Colin had other plans.

He reached out quickly and grabbed her wrist to stop her. She jolted from the action and Colin used her pause to pull her flush against him. She barely had a chance to register what was happening before he crushed his lips to hers passionately. Nessa's mind wanted to push him away, but her body didn't. Her arms moved of their own accord and she gripped his forearm with one hand. The other slid up around his neck, effectively holding him in place and deepening the kiss. After a few more moments the need for air became necessary for them both.

"I'm sorry." Colin whispered breathlessly. He leaned in and kissed her again, this time more chastely.

"I'm so sorry, Nessa." Kiss

"I shouldnnae ever presumed anything." Kiss. "I should have asked your permission."

"I shouldnnae have pushed so much." Another kiss.

He pulled back slightly, their noses brushing gently as he stared into her eyes.

"And I definitely should have let you have a say in my actions this morning. In all honesty, I thought I could get a chance to talk to you before the rumors got too bad."

Nessa lightly chuckled and tried to shake her head. Every time she moved, her nose rubbed against his.

"You're a fool." She whispered with a smile.

He smiled at her endearingly.

"I am." He nodded.

He cupped her cheek with one hand and kissed her tenderly again.

"I've spent a lot of my life observing people." He said when he pulled back. "I can see things. Read things about people that other miss." He sighed as he nuzzled her nose against hers.

"I didnnae lie when I said you intrigue me." He kissed her chastely again. "You are layer upon layer, someone I want to understand. To know completely." He breathed again closing the gap between them once more.

"You confound me, Nessa." Kiss.

"And I like that." He smiled.

He leaned down and kissed her deeply again. Just like the first kiss, they didn't pull apart until air became vital to the both of them.

Nessa pulled away, breathless and heaving shallowly for air.

"How do you do this to me?" she whispered burying her face into his chest.

"What have I done?" he asked, almost cautiously.

She raised her head up and looked him straight in the eye.

"You can anger me to the point of utter frustration. To the point I just want to murder you…and then you do or say something that just…melts me…" she looked away, a blush covering her cheeks.

"And I hate it…"
They stood in silence a few more moments before Nessa's expression reverted back to a look of confusion and hurt. She looked back up at him with sorrow filled eyes.

"Why would you think I was lying, Colin? I slept with that man to spare Kenna the humiliation of possible rape."

Shock crossed Colin's face and for once, he pulled away shaking his head and stuttering.

"Oh, Nessa! No…no…no, that's not what I meant at all! I believe you about that! I meant…I meant about you being fine. You were lying about. I'm sorry that you thought I meant…" he trailed off as he watched her turn away in embarrassment.

"Now look at who's assuming things…" Nessa muttered quietly, but loud enough for Colin to hear her. She sighed and looked up at him.

"I just thought you had gone back to what we talked about before. I didnnae realize you were making a comment directly to my answer. Sometimes I can be so inept…" she groaned in frustration.

Colin touched her chin tenderly,

"No you're not. I said something, without thinking, and it was interpreted the wrong way. That isnnae a crime, Nessa."

Colin reached out to embrace her again.

"I asked if you were alright, earlier, before you got angry. Something was amiss. I could tell. So when I asked if you were all right, and you said 'fine', I knew you were lying. I could see it in your eyes."

He paused when she looked down, ashamed.

"You, Miss Nessa, are very hard to read. But you have the most expressive eyes. I can usually tell by looking in a person's eyes what is behind them. Now, whether you believe me or not is entirely up to you."

Nessa shook her head at him in a confused manner.

"You are crazy, you know that right? Why do you want to know so much about me? Why do you want to be with me? I'm just a servant. A maidservant who is, well, was, training to be a lady-in-waiting for her majesty. I am of no importance to you, Colin." She paused before continuing,

"You could have any woman you want! Being an heir to a clan has to be an easy way to get…"

Colin placed a finger to her lips, shaking his head solemnly at her.

"You donnae seem to understand, Nessa. I donnae want anyone else. I want you. I want to know you and understand you. You were upset. I could see that. The whole situation got out of hand. But you, Nessa? You are braver than a lot of people I know. Most, if I am completely honest. You are smarter than most women, regardless of status. You are strong and independent. I must say, I'm a little jealous of you." Colin stated openly.

"Besides, " he smirked at her,

"I'm not exactly the roguish type. I donnae randomly choose women to 'lure' into my bed."

Nessa shook her head and rolled her eyes. Colin continued to smile at her but his curiosity was still peaked. He reached down and tilted her chin up so he could look into her eyes again.

"So, are you going to tell me what you were upset about before? Because we've already established that you werennae 'fine' as you so eloquently put it."

Nessa blushed but didn't look away from him.

"I…I realized how ridiculous it sounded. And I guess…I guess I became ashamed…"

"Ridiculous? What? Protecting, Kenna? She is family. "

Nessa's eyes connected with his in a heartbeat.

"She is…more than you know…" she whispered softly, her eyes dropping to the ground.

Colin looked at her worriedly,

"She is your cousin, correct?"

"Not my cousin…" he barley heard her mumble.

"Huh?"

Nessa sighed and looked back at him again,

"She's not my cousin, Colin. Well, not just my cousin, anyway." She paused,

"She's also my sister."

"What? But…how does that even happen?" Colin looked at her incredulously.

"She's actually my half sister. And it happens when two sisters are forced to bed the same evil bastard and they both end up pregnant by him." She gritted her teeth.

"You donnae have to say any more, Nessa." Colin moved to bring her closer to him but she pulled away from him.

"You wanted to know about me, so why donnae I just tell you it all then?" she snapped a little harshly.

Colin held up his hand to stop her,

"There will be plenty of time for that. You cannae let all the skeletons out of your closet right now, can you? You have to have some more ammunition to hit me with later."

Nessa looked at him with a bemused smile.

"Maybe now you understand why I am the way that I am about Kenna? She is my sister and the only family that I have left! I'd do anything to protect her." She stated looking into his eyes.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Kenna couldn't believe what she had just heard! Not only had Nessa confessed that she was no longer a virgin, but also that she had offered herself to that man so that he wouldn't rape Kenna! But beyond that she just learned her cousin, her only family, was also her half sister! This was too much!

Kenna felt the tears spring to her eyes and before she could register what she was doing she crashed through the door to the room. She ran past the young lord Dingwall and threw her arms tightly around Nessa, sobbing into her new-found sisters chest.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Colin jumped back when the door to the room burst open! Kenna came crashing through the door with tears pouring down her face. Duncan stood behind her in the doorway. Kenna ran over and threw her arms around her cousin and now revealed sister and sobbed. Nessa wrapped her arms around her and sunk to the floor, holding her.

Duncan and Colin looked one for a moment. Colin moved to go towards them, but this time Duncan grabbed his forearm. Colin looked back at him, and Duncan shook his head.

"I think it's best if we give them some privacy."

Colin looked back and saw the two cousins/sisters embracing in tears and nodded.

"For once I agree with you."

The two young lords quietly left the young women in the room, closing the door behind them.

After a few minutes after Colin and Duncan left, Kenna pulled back from her cousin and now revealed, sister. She was still sobbing but she was trying to control her tears. Nessa looked away from her, unable to look her in the eye.

"Kenna…I…" Nessa stammered.

Kenna shook her head to stop her,

"How could you?" she choked.

Nessa raised her head, glaring at her sister. Hurt was evident on her face.

"'How could I' what, Kenna? I was trying to protect you!" she paused a moment, "In both instances."

Now it was Kenna's turn to glare back,

"How could you keep so many important things from me? You never told me about that MacKenzie man…and what he did to you…"

Nessa bowed her head in shame,

"I let him do it."

Kenna reached out and forced Nessa to look her in the eye,

"NO! You stopped him from raping me. I was so young and stupid! We both know that is what would have happened if you hadnnae stepped in. You sacrificed something so precious just to protect me…"

Nessa remained silent, unable to argue with her and Kenna took Nessa's hands in her own. Kenna let that topic drop as her mind remembered the real reason she crashed through the door. Her grip tightened on Nessa's hand, causing Nessa to look up at her sister/cousin.

"Why didnnae you ever let me know we're sisters?"

"Half-sisters." Nessa muttered.

"I donnae care! You and I are sisters and you never told me! Why?!" Kenna demanded.

Nessa drew in a deep shaky breath to keep from crying again,

"In truth? I was just doing what mum and Aunt Miriam had asked of each other and mum asked of me….I…I donnae think they ever really wanted either of us to know."

Kenna looked down at the floor confused.

"But…why?"

Nessa brushed her sisters hair back from her face.

"I donnae know, dear one. " Nessa paused and looked out the window. "I think…I think that they didnnae want us to know because they were afraid of the stigma it may have put on the two of us. Or perhaps on the two of them…I donnae know…"

"But why didnnae you tell me after we came to DunBroch? I was old enough then. Why keep this secret so long?"

Nessa looked into Kenna's eyes and smiled sadly,

"I…I truthfully donnae know. I just wanted to protect you and keep you safe. I thought that it was just as well to keep the secret Mum had asked of me…and to keep protecting you."

Kenna bowed her head and sighed heavily,

"Nessa, I donnae care that our mothers wanted to keep us from knowing we are sisters. And I donnae care that you felt it was your purpose to protect me all these years!" Kenna paused with a shaky breath,

"All I care about is that you are my family and I love you! I feel horrible that you thought you had to willingly give yourself to a man you didnnae love just to protect me. But I know that you did so out of love for me, as well. I know that you kept these secrets so long because you thought it was the right thing to do. But you donnae have to be so strong for me anymore! I donnae need you to protect me anymore, Nessa. You've been the strong one for far too long! Why won't you let yourself have some happiness? Let someone else care for you for once?" Kenna smiled softly and Nessa's eyes widened.

"What are you saying, Kenna?" Nessa asked confused.

Kenna's smile widened a little,

"I'm saying that… if the young Lord Dingwall is so inclined, that you should accept his proposal and stop worrying about me!"

Nessa's jaw dropped open.

"You're saying…"
Kenna's smile never waivered,

"That when he's asked you to marry him, donnae be a fool! Say yes!"

Nessa flushed,

"But…I…"

Kenna shook her head and stood. Her tears had subsided and they needed to get going back to their duties. She reached down and pulled up Nessa.

"Donnae try to deny it anymore, Nessa. You've fallen in love with him, or at least, you are falling in love with him. What more reason do you need?"

Nessa balked at her sister.

"Me!? Falling in love with that sarcastic, arrogant, aloof… "

"…fun-loving, caring, and patient man? Aye. I can definitely see it. Think about this Nessa. You willingly told him secrets you hadnnae even told me. If that's not you falling in love him, then I donnae know what is." Kenna then walked to the door.

"You do know I was telling him those things to dissuade him from his ridiculous pursuit. I mean, what man would want a used woman for a wife?"

Kenna gave her a knowing and teasing look,

"What man, indeed?"

Kenna swung open the door and both Duncan and Colin fell into the room in a heap.

Nessa rolled her eyes at the men and walked over to her sister.

"Come along Kenna, we have much to discuss and catch up on."

As the women left, Duncan and Colin watched them retreat out into the winding staircase. Duncan turned to look at Colin who was still staring after Nessa.

"Are you still going to ask her to marry you? I mean, even after finding out everything she told you?"

Colin shook himself out of his daze and looked over at Duncan.

"Of course. My opinion of her hasnnae changed. It really makes me want to win her heart even more."

"What!?"

Colin nodded at him,

"It's like Kenna said: Nessa has been the strong one too long. It's time someone took care of her for a change. And I want to be that one to take care of her…if she'll accept me."

"You're not exactly the dashing hero type, you know that, right?" Duncan stated, sarcastically.

"I donnae think that is the kind of man she needs, anyway. I think Miss Nessa likes her men with more brains then brawn."

Duncan rolled his eyes and pushed on Colin's shoulder.

"Come on! We should go after them and make sure they stay safe."

Colin looked over at him with a curious expression on his face,

"Safe from what? I think we're the ones who need to stay safe."

Duncan pulled his friend up off the ground.

"You still havennae officially proposed to Nessa yet. For now, I think you are safe."

"Are you two coming or are you both going to stand inside this room talking all day?" Kenna quipped as she stuck her head back into the room.

The young men looked at each other puzzled a moment before taking off down the staircase after the girls. Colin caught up with Nessa and glanced at her sideways, a questioning look in his eyes.

She sent him a warning glance before he could say anything.

"Later, Colin."

He smiled softly at her,

"As you wish, m'lady."

"See I told you it would end up being a contest between the two of you." Kenna stated aloud, to which Duncan burst into laughter.

Colin and Nessa both turned to look at the two of them curiously. Kenna waved them off,

"We'll tell you later…"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Tearlag led the six children back to her cottage. Harris was happy Tahvay was there, but with his brothers and her sisters and cousin around, he had barely had a chance to talk to her. Hamish and Hubert were straggling along at the back of the small group, each sizing up the potential threat they maybe in. Well, at least Hubert was sizing up everyone. It looked more like Hamish was trying to memorize every single aspect of the Fae girl, Teavah. He hadn't stopped staring since they started walking.

"You know, she probably thinks you're trying to burn a hole in the back of her head with the way you are staring." Hubert muttered to his older brother.

"Oh, is it that obvious? I thought I was being sneaky." Hamish flushed and looked down at his feet.

"Right…about as sneaky as da' is when he goes to the kitchens for a midnight snack." Hubert crossed his arms unamused.

Hamish was about to say something snarky back to his brother, but Tearlag had stopped them just outside her cottage.

"Alright, here we are!" Tearlag smiled when she showed them her hillside cottage.

"You live in a hole inside of a hill?" Hamish blurted out.

Tearlag turned and looked at him curiously,

"My you're very candid arennae you, lad?"

"Blunt is more like it. Very rude, if you ask me!" squawked a voice from the other side of the door.

Tearlag opened the door to reveal a big black crow right inside. Tearlag whipped her cane out and whacked the bird flat.

"No one asked you, bird brain."

The crow shook his head to clear the dizziness.

"That wasn't very nice, Tearlag…caw!"

"Oh hush-up! Since when am I ever nice to you, you useless feather-duster."

The bird flew over and landed on Iaighe's shoulder as the Fae girls and princes walked into the cottage behind Tearlag.

"Rawwk…Well, I'm not the one who invites random strange royalty into the house."

The crow cawed from his perch on Iaighe's shoulder.

Iaighe smirked and reached up to pet the feathered head of the crow.

"Smart bird." She stated solemnly.

"See! At least someone appreciates me." The bird retorted back to Tearlag.

"That's because she is a child and doesnnae know any better." Tearlag said as she walked to the kitchen area of the cottage.

Iaighe growled lowly,

"Not a child."

"Yes you are, Iaighe. You may be gifted in the healing arts, but you are still a child and have much to learn." She poured water into a kettle and walked over to the stove.

She looked at the rest of the young people in her home and smiled kindly,

"You all still have much to learn."

The three young princes eyed each other curiously as they listened to the witch talk. Harris had not qualms with the witch. In fact, he really enjoyed her company and listening to her. His two brothers, however, were still very wary of her. He could understand that. She was a witch, after all! But for all that she had probably been blamed for, Harris doubted any of it was true. Or at least it was filled with many half-truths and blatant lies.

Harris watched as Tearlag scuttled around the kitchen and hearth. Finally, curiosity got the better of him.

"What are you doing, Tearlag?"

"Making tea, what does it look like, young prince?"

"Tea? You're making tea? Our sister and Shae are out there somewhere, lost and alone in the wilds and the Witch who put them there, is making tea?!" Hubert yelled.

"Aye, I am. And what else would you have me do, Prince Hubert." Tearlag asked from her spot

"I donnae know…wait…how do you know my name?" Hubert paused mid rant and looked at Tearlag quizzically.

"I am a witch." Tearlag smiled mischievously at him.

"That, and the fact that even an old hermit lady can hear castle news, all the way out here."

"Then you should help us find out sister!" Hamish shouted and stood up. Teavah gently laid a hand on his arm to calm him.

"Won't work."

"Not allowed." Iaighe added.

Hubert turned to her as she sat down next to him.

"What do you mean, 'not allowed'?"

"Magic, as I explained to your brother a few days ago, is fickle by its very nature. It is hard to be controlled and even those who can, are governed by its laws and rules."

"So…the 'laws of magic' wonnae let you help us bring our sister home?" Hubert asked.

"Why? 'Cause she's the princess?" Hamish questioned.

Pouring the tea into small cups, Tearlag sighed.

"It has nothing to do with her being the princess, young lords. It has to do with the spell I put on them. One type of magic cannot break another type of magic, at least, not in this scenario. Only the two of them can break the spell I put on them. And them alone."

She turned and looked at the three sullen faces of the young princes. She could understand their hurt. It was their sister she had put under a spell, after all. She called out to Tahvay,

"Tahvay, would you mind giving me a hand?"

Tahvay nodded and moved from her place beside Harris. Tahvay and Tearlag passed out the teacups to everyone and then they both took their seats again.

"Ahhh," Tearlag sighed happily, "now that we've had a chance to calm down a bit, why donnae you boys tell me what you'd like to know and I'll try my best to answer what I can." Tearlag said, before gingerly sipping her tea.

"Why wonnae you help us?" Harris asked quietly.

Tearlag raised her eyebrow at him,

" I thought I was, Prince Harris. I cannae help you get to them. The spell I put on them will not allow them to come home until they break the spell. Scotland wonnae let them. It's that simple."

"'Scotland wonnae let them?' What does that mean?" Hamish asked confused.

"This land is ancient and mystical. The two of them will not be shown the path home until the spell is broken or weakened. That is the nature of the spell."

"And we cannae help them at all?"

Teavah shook her head,

"You not allowed. But Fae allowed. We help."

The boys turned and looked at her in shock,

"You mean you girls can help them?!"

Iaighe scoffed humorlessly,

"Already have."

Tearlag looked over and smiled at the Fae girl.

"Yes, you and Keira have made sure to keep them safe and alive, havennae you Iaighe?"

Iaighe looked over at her puzzled.

"Iaighe do what told. Not a choice. Help Warrior. Feed Princess. Everything Iaighe was told."

"Iaighe, I wassnae discrediting anything you've done. Actually I was thanking you, and explaining it to the young princes. You've been quite the assistance to the reluctant pair in the last day or so."

Tearlag assured her and then turned her attention to the other two Fae girls.

"And I cannae forget your Circle's involvement in helping them too, girls." She nodded to the twin sisters.

Teavah thanked her, but Tahvay sat in heavy silence and hung her head low.

"Tahvay fail. Family killed, Tahvay not protect. Not fast enough."

Harris reached over and took one of her hands in his.

"It wasnnae your fault, Tahvay. Even if you had been there, do you think that it would have helped save your sister or father?"

He spoke gently to her.

Teavah left her seat to embrace her sister.

"Young prince, right. Tahvay could not protect. Better Tahvay with Tearlag. Safe that night. No pain." Teavah whispered to her.

"Could have saved Kosha." Tahvay muttered quietly.

"Kosha die with honor! Warrior's death. Her path fulfilled." Iaighe snapped.

The other two princes were completely out of the loop by this point. They looked back and forth between each other and their brother to try to understand what was going on. Finally, Hamish spoke up,

"Not to be rude, but who is Kosha and what does she have to do with our sister and Shae?"

"Kosha was another one of Teavah and Tahvay's sisters. The Vikings that landed on the eastern coast killed her when they destroyed the Fae Circle that helped Merida and Shae. Kosha was with them the night that I asked Goshen, the girls' father, to keep watch over the princess and young lord. I didnnae know at the time that the danger was right upon them." Tearlag explained with a pained expression.

"Tahvay was with me that evening, but when morning came and she couldn't feel the connection to the Circle any longer, she rushed off. She came back shortly in tears and deathly silent. It wasnnae until you," she pointed to Harris, "showed up, young prince, that she even spoke again." Tearlag finished.

Hubert and Hamish looked around the cottage at all the faces staring at them. They were still confused but also amazed.

"Just what have Merida and Shae gotten themselves into?" Hamish muttered.

"A lot of trouble, it sounds like…"Hubert sarcastically answered and shook his head.

"If prince only knew." Iaighe snorted, trying not to chuckle.

"What does that mean?" Hamish looked confused.

"Are Shae and Merida going to be alright?" Harris asked in concern.

"Princess fine, no worries. Warrior though…may die. Bad injuries. High fever. Miracle still alive." Iaighe answered.

"You donnae seemed overly concerned about Shae dying." Hubert pointed out.

Iaighe shrugged indifferently,

"Iaighe not concerned. If Warrior die, then he die. Iaighe try to help best she knows! Not fault if Warrior die!" she snapped.

All the princes jumped at her outburst. Even the twin sisters looked a little taken aback by their cousin's harsh tone. Tearlag couldn't stop the cackle that escaped because of the looks on the young people's faces. She stifled her laughter and then gave Iaighe a soft smile, which was returned with a hard glare.

"Oh, donnae think her so harsh, lads. She's actually very concerned about the young Lord MacGuffin, even if she wonnae show it."

Iaighe huffed and turned away from the group sulkily.

"She's upset with herself for not knowing what else she can do to help him. She is a healer, after all. Not being able to help someone who is hurting or dying is devastating to a healer. It makes them doubt their talents. Isnnae that right, Iaighe?" Tearlag turned her attention back to the brooding Fae girl. Iaighe didn't answer but looked away with a faint color of pink on her cheeks.

The room fell into an awkward silence. Well, awkward for the young ones at least. Tearlag was quite content to sip her tea in silence. Finally, Harris broke the lull.

"So there's really nothing we can do for our sister and Shae?" he asked quietly.

Tearlag paused mid sip and looked over at him. She sighed heavily,

"I'm sorry, lad. It's just the way things are. Teavah, Tahvay and Iaighe can do what they can to help, but Shae and Merida wonnae be able to come home until they break the spell I put on them. And as I said before, only they can break the spell."

"And you cannae tell us where they are?" Hubert asked.

"I can, but if you tried to go off and find them then the mists would probably whisk them far away again." Tearlag answered

"Why?" Hamish piped in.

"Because you boys represent a form of home. The magic would be able to know that. The spell I put on them says that Scotland wonnae let them return home until they break it. So it stands to reason that if you go after them then they will be transported somewhere far away." Tearlag explained to the boys.

"There's a lot more to this magic stuff then I realized…" Harris pouted.

Tearlag smiled at him.

"Aye, indeed there is lad. But donnae worry about Merida and Shae. I truly believe they are going to be all right. I know first hand that your sister is a spitfire and the young MacGuffin heir seems to be able to hold his own. "

"But Iaighe said Shae was dying! How can anything good happen from that?" Hubert countered tersely.

"Sister come home sooner. Spell will break." Teavah offered.

"What?!" Hamish shouted in confusion.

"What's this about the spell breaking if Shae dies?" Harris also looked confused.

Tearlag sighed again. She had hoped they wouldn't get to this point in the conversation about the spell, but since it was brought up, she may as well address it.

"The spell has a failsafe incase it cannae be broke the way it was supposed to be. If one of the people who are under the spell dies, then the spell is broken instantly. The binding disappears and the other person can go free." She explained.

"Wait…That's the spell?! You bound them together? Magically?! No wonder Shae is dying! I'm surprised they havennae killed each other before this!" Harris raved.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa, calm down lad! I didnnae know that they would get into so much danger when I put the spell on them. It's a spell that I created to get people to work together and get along. I was hoping it would cause the Princess and the young Lord to stop their incessant arguing." She explained and then quietly added.

"At the very least, this time it might be a success."

"What do you mean 'this time'?" Hubert asked.

Before Tearlag could explain herself, the two sisters jumped in.

"Story of two princes. Twin brothers. Argue all the time! Parents came to Tearlag, ask for help." Tahvay explained.

"Yep! Then Tearlag cast spell. Bind brothers by magic twine. Brothers continue to fight. Twine rope tighten, shorten. Brothrs still angry at each other." Teavah interjected the next part of the story.

"One brother so mad and upset because of pain, he kill the other brother. When brother died, magic twine disappear. Brother who killed other so upset he then kill himself. Couldn't bear the loss of brother, even by own hand." Iaighe finished the story and then turned to look at Tearlag.

"Tearlag not use that spell in very long time. Afraid to, Iaighe think. Afraid it happen again." Iaighe stated.

The boys sat in silence, contemplating the whole story. Finally, Hamish spoke up.

"It wasnnae your fault about what happened to those brothers, Tearlag."

"You were just trying to help them, just like you are trying to help Merida and Shae."

Harris also spoke up. Hubert didn't add anything but nodded in agreement with his brothers.

Tearlag smiled kindly at the boys.

"Thank you, lads. I burdened myself with guilt over that for a very long time. It's true I am a witch, but even I cannae predict how a spell with affect the person or people I put under it. I've had many success and unfortunately, many failures, as well. But, I have faith in the princess and young lord. I know they'll be able to break the spell." She stated matter-of-factly.

"But, we should be wary for them and pray for a swift return, regardless." Tearlag warned.

"Why's that?" Hubert asked.

The crow, which had silently been roosting on Iaighe's shoulder the whole time piped up again.

"Awk! 'Cause of the Viking and Angles that's why!"

"Huh?" Hamish looked confused.

"You mean Shae was right?" Harris asked

"Right about what?" Hubert turned to his brother.

"He believed that the Vikings and Angles were working together to invade our lands." Harris explained.

"That's ridiculous! Why would they do that?" Hubert scoffed.

"Yeah, the Vikings and Angles hate each other as much as we hate each of them." Hamish added.

"Donnae be hasty my young lords. There is a saying: 'The enemy of my enemy is my friend.' If the two peoples were able to come to an agreement then there is no telling what kind of horrors those invaders could do to our lands and people." Tearlag warned.

"So…what do we do now?" Hamish asked.

"Well, I suggest, since it's almost dark, that the girls escort you boys to the forests edge and you return home for the night. If you feel so inclined to keep bothering me in my home, then you can return tomorrow or whatever." Tearlag said finishing off her tea and standing up.

"Tearlag open home to princes?" Iaighe asked, baffled.

"Yes Iaighe, I did. I figure that if the lads are here then they wonnae get a fool notion to go and try to find their sister. That could be bad for all of us." Tearlag smirked at her.

Iaighe shrugged,

"Iaighe not care. Return to Circle tonight. Keira still with Princess and Warrior. Relieve in morning."

"So you and their sister Keira have been trading off watching over Shae and Merida?" Hubert asked her.

Iaighe nodded but Teavah was the one to answer.

"Yep! Iaighe make salve for Warrior's wound. Keira bring food, water. Sometimes Princess awake, sometimes not. Keira say Warrior not wake up yet, though."

"What happened to him Teavah? Were you there? Did you see what happened?" Hamish asked.

Teavah shook her head.

"Didn't see…but Keira tell me. Warrior protect Princess from arrow from Sea Warriors. Arrow pierce shoulder. Arrow poison. Strong poison." She tapered off and looked down sadly,

"Warrior in pain, Keira said."

"It's true." Iaighe said flatly.

"Do you think he'll wake up soon?" Harris asked with hope.

Iaighe shrugged again,

"Cannot say. May wake up soon. May be awake already. May never wake up."

"So we just go home and hope that nothing bad happens to them?" Harris looked at his two brothers.

"What else can we do? Tearlag has already told up magic would keep us from finding them. So it's no use trying." Hubert answered curtly.

Hamish pondered a moment,

"We could tell da'." He offered.

"And say what? A witch told us Merida and Shae are still alive, but a magic spell is keeping them from coming back to DunBroch? And on top of that, Shae's been hit by a poison arrow and could very well be dying as we speak." Hubert said sarcastically.

"Exactly!" Hamish shouted.

"No ones going to believe that." Hubert deadpanned.

"I agree with Hubert." Harris said quietly.

"You do?!" the older brothers looked at him in shock.

Harris shrugged,

"You two didnnae believe me until you followed me out here. So there's no reason to believe mum or da' will believe us if we try to tell them either."

"Boys, that's enough. Please." Tearlag sighed again once she had the boys quieted down.

"Listen, I know you donnae know me, and I am a witch, but I ask you to please trust me on this." She paused and gazed at the boys sincerely.

"I know you want to go off and save your sister and the young lord, but you have to let this spell run its course. You cannae tell anyone about it either. I am trusting you lads to have faith in your sister and the young lord. Have faith that everything will work out. Your sister will return home and all will be all right." She stopped addressing the boys solely and started to cast her gaze on all the young people in her home.

"You all should continue to learn from and lean on each other. I fear what is coming soon may be our greatest test yet. The young Lord MacGuffin was right to worry, but I'm afraid without hard proof I cannae be any more convincing to the king then him. Less so considering who and what I am." She sat down, a weight suddenly fallen upon her spirit.

"We will be tested in the days to come. It's best if we can enjoy our time while we can." She looked between the six children…almost young adults, silently begging each one to understand.

"Tearlag scared?" Teavah breathed out.

It was more of a statement then a question, but the witch nodded anyway.

"Aye. I am, a little. I've lived in these forests a very long time, but this, whatever this is…is very troublesome."

They all sat in silence a few minutes, pondering the old woman's words.

"Alright Tearlag, We'll trust you." Harrish spoke up for the group.

Both Hubert and Hamish turned to their younger brother to refute him, but upon reflection, they realized, he was right. For some odd reason, they did trust the woman. The Witch. Quickly, the other brothers nodded in agreement.

"Aye. We will trust you." They agreed.

Tearlag smiled at the boys and even the Fae seemed to be happy with their answer. Another few moments of silence passed the group until Tahvay spoke up.

"Tearlag want Fae to take princes home? Should leave soon."

Tearlag shook herself out of her reverie and nodded at the girl,

"Yes, you are right Tahvay. These young princes need to get home before their parents start to worry and I have all of Scotland scouting in my forest."

She looked at the three young princes,

"Donnae worry lads. These girls will be able to get you home quickly and safely. You may not want their help, but trust me, if you want to get home before nightfall, you will follow them." She gave them all a stern gaze.

Harris, she was not worried about, but the other two…they had a lot more pride because of their training to be warriors. They wouldn't take kindly to being 'protected' or led by girls. Hamish looked ready to refuse the offer when Hubert covered his brother's mouth with his hand.

"That's fine. We donnae know the forests as well as we should. We actually havennae been out this far since we were a lot younger," He turned and eyed the oldest brother warningly,

"So it will be better to have a few guides with us that know the land."

Hamish still looked a little confused, but shrugged nonetheless.

"Alright with me too, I guess." He said a little unsure.

Harris rolled his eyes at his brothers and stood up. He rushed over to Tearlag's side and gave her a hug.

"Thank you for everything Tearlag! Even if you cannae help us find Merida and Shae, at least we know they're not dead, thanks to you."

Tearlag returned the hug, albeit a little reluctantly.

"You're welcome Harris. Now it's time for you boys to go!"

The princes and the Fae girls said their goodbyes to Tearlag and then headed back into the forest.

They made their way past Callanish again, and once more the three brothers were taken in by the sheer sight of the massive stones. Hubert wanted to examine them more closely, but Iaighe pressed him on.

"Prince have time later to look. Get home more important right now." She scolded him.

He glared at her,

"You know, you arennae my mom, Miss Iaighe. You cannae tell me what to do."

Iaighe rolled her eyes at him,

"Yes Iaighe can. Tearlag said bring you home. So Iaighe bring Prince home."

"My name is Hubert, thank you very much…" he muttered.

"Hubert, stop flirting with Iaighe back there! You'll have time for that later!" Hamish teased.

Hubert ducked his head as his cheeks flushed pink.

"Not flirting…"

Iaighe raised a brow at him but said nothing and just kept on walking. She picked up her own pace and passed Teavah and Tahvay, whom both caught sight of the faint coloring to her cheeks, as well.

Teavah giggled quietly and Tahvay smirk at her as she walked by.

"Prince Hamish more observant than he seem." Tahvay chuckled at her cousin's embarrassment.

"What was that, Tahvay?" Harris asked curiously as they walked on.

Tahvay smiled at him and waved it off.

"Not important, Prince Harris."

He gave her an unconvinced look, but shrugged,

"Whatever you say."

The group fell into silence once more as they kept walking. Suddenly, something seemed to dawn on Hamish, and he stopped in his tracks.

"Uh oh."

Teavah, who was walking closest behind him, was looking down and not paying attention. She slammed right into his back. They both stumbled forward, but luckily, didn't fall down.

"'Uh oh?' What 'uh oh', Hamish?" Harris asked as they group came to a stop.

"Nightfall soon!" Iaighe called from up ahead on the path. She had stopped and turned to wait on the others but she was getting restless.

The others seemed to ignore her, though.

"What do we tell mum and da'?" Hamish asked his brothers.

Hubert and Harris both groaned.

"Och, didnnae we go through this earlier? We're not going to tell them anything about Merida and Shae." Hubert huffed.

Hamish waved his hand in anxiousness,

"Oh, I know that! I meant, what do we tell them about today? You know, where did go, what did we do all day?"

The girls and Harris looked confused. Now it was Hamish's turn to sigh,

"Hubert and I didnnae finish out events today. Someone was bound to have noticed we were gone." He explained.

Hubert's mouth fell open in shock,

"Wow! That's actually very observant of you Hamish…usually it's Harris or I who remember things like that. I'm shocked."

Harris merely shrugged,

"There was a lot happening at the games today Hamish. Why would it be unusual for you two not to be seen in a whole day."

Hubert crossed his arms,

"Because…everyone expected us to compete today. When we didnnae show up, someone probably told mum and da'."

"Or they probably saw themselves, considering they've been to every one of our competitions so far…" Hamish nervously said.

"We need a cover." Hamish quickly added.

"I am your cover." Harris answered simply. Then he brushed past his two big brothers and continued down the path, shaking his head.

Hamish and Hubert stared after him.

"What do you mean, you're our over?" Hamish asked as the rest of the group caught up to Harris.

"Just tell mum and da' you saw me sneak off into the wilds. Like good, concerned older siblings, you followed me to make sure I wouldnnae get hurt. When you found me, I was upset and so you decided to cheer me up and we didnnae know how late it was getting."

"Cheer you up?" Hamish still looked confused.

Hubert gave him an unbelieving look,

"Uh hello! We 'burned and buried' our sister yesterday, genius! That's why he was 'upset'." Hubert barked.

It finally clicked into Hamish's brain, what his brothers were talking about.

"Oh, I get it now!"

Teavah looked at the boys in concern,

"Princes lie to family?"

"It's only a little one, Teavah. Besides, our parents wouldnnae believe us if we tell them we spent the day with three pretty Fae girls and an old witch talking about Merida and Shae." Hamish tried to explain to her.

Teavah still looked at him skeptically, but didn't push the issue further. However, Tahvay had caught something Hamsih had said in his statement and gave him a sly smirk.

"So…Prince think Fae pretty, eh?"

"Uhh….." Hamish blushed and stammered.

"Hahahahaha! Oh, Hamish if you could see your face right now!" Harris laughed out loud.

"My goodness, dear brother of mine! Whatever shall Miss Kenna think?" Hubert teased, paying him back for Hamish's earlier teasing.

"Probably, 'thank the heavens'." Harris offered.

Hamish immediately clammed up and kept walking silently. The girls just kept looking back and forth between each other, each one with a different expression of understanding or embarrassment on their faces. They may have been Fae, but they understood teasing…and flirting.

Together, and in awkward silence, the small group finally reached the forests edge. It was about the same place Tahvay had brought Harris to a few days prior when she led him home. Tahvay sighed once they reached the pathways end. She hadn't had the chance to talk to Harris more, at least not alone, and it bothered her greatly.

"Home down there, over bridge. Trust princes find way from here?" Iaighe stated when they stopped at the hill overlooking the castle keep.

"Yeah, we can get home from here, Iaighe. You donnae have to be snippy about it. We can see the castle from here." Hubert snarked.

Iaighe shrugged almost playfully,

"Don't know, prince could be blind. Not see forest for trees."

Hubert rolled his eyes at her,

"Whatever." He muttered as he started down the path home. He called out to his brothers once he was a little distance away,

"Are you coming or not?!"

Hamish nodded and yelled after him,

"Yeah!"

Hamish turned to the girls and said goodbye.

"Well, it was…interesting meeting the three of you," he paused and looked at Teavah with a smile,

"I hope we meet again, soon."

And with that he took off after his brother down the hillside.

Harris also turned and thanked Teavah and Iaighe for their help.

"Thank you for everything, I mean it! From helping my sister and Shae to guiding us back home…again. It was great to meet all of you!" He said enthusiastically.

"Same, young prince." Teavah said with a smile. Iaighe just nodded in agreement.

When Tahvay didn't say anything, Teavah looked to her twin in worry. Tahvay's face had a look of anxiousness to it. She smiled softly at her sister, knowing what she wanted. She reached over and touched Tahvay's arm gently.

"Say good night, sister. Circle waiting for us."

Teavah looked over at Iaighe and jerked her head towards the direction of the forest.

Iaighe looked puzzled a moment and then realized what Teavah wanted. She rolled her eyes again but sent Tahvay a small smile as she and Teavah bounded away into the under brush.

Harris watched them go and then turned to Tahvay,

"I was thanking you too Tahvay, incase you didnnae know."

She just nodded dumbly, but couldn't think of what to say. Thinking that she was done talking, Harris smiled at her and turned to go. However, Tahvay had other plans. She reached out and grabbed his wrist. He paused and turned to look at her, puzzled.

"Harris come back, yes? Tahvay still have much to teach prince."

Harris' face broke into a wide grin,

"Are you kidding? Of course I will, Tahvay. We're friends, after all."

Tahvay felt her cheeks darken as the blood rushed to her face.

"Good. Harris good friend."

Harris continued to smile at her as her grip loosened on his wrist. Suddenly, Tahvay leaned forward and caught his cheek in a soft kiss, again.

Harris felt his cheeks flush.

"Goodnight, Harris."

With that, Tahvay turned and followed after her sister and cousin.

Harris just stood dumbstruck a few moments as he watched her go. His hand unconsciously went to touch his cheek where she had kissed him. Again!

"Wow." he breathed with a goofy grin on his face.

His moment was broken though, when he heard two, very annoyed voices calling to him.

"Oy! You coming or not, Harris? Should we tell mum you were eaten by a bear?" Hamish called out to him.

"Kidnapped by a Faerie, would be more like it." Hubert smirked at his little joke.

Harris rolled his eyes at his brother's.

'Trust them to always interfere with something good.' He thought to himself.

"Yeah I'm coming!"

He called after them. He glanced back over his shoulder towards to place where he had seen Tahvay bound off too and smiled softly.

"See you soon Tahvay." He whispered, and then turned to run after his brothers.

"Wait up, guys!"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Night had fallen over the uproarious castle that was DunBroch. The festival of games that day had set the clans back into a more jovial mood then they had been the few days prior. Clan MacGuffin still cast an heir of sobriety over the clans as well as the clan of DunBroch. However, even though both had suffered losses with the passing of their heir and princess respectively, they tried to not dwell on the bad things and more or less tried to celebrate the lives of the two young people that the clans had lost, instead of dwelling on their deaths.

Everyone finally had a chance to take a break and just breath and that is exactly what Kenna was trying to do. She had escaped from Maudie and the other maidservants right after they had served dinner to the clans. She needed to have a moment to herself after such an…eye-opening day, so she snuck away to one of the lower tower roofs.

She walked up to one of the parapets and leaned against it. Her body sagged as the weight of the last few days finally caught up with her. She closed her eyes and sighed tiredly as she looked down, and out over the tournament fields. The soft click sound of a door being shut behind her was heard, but she ignored it a moment longer, until she felt a hand on her shoulder. She turned and looked up at the intruder. She smiled softly up at her newly revealed half-sister Nessa.

"Hey." She said softly in greeting.

"Hello, faire one. Are you doing all right? How do you feel?" Nessa asked quietly, rubbing her back tenderly.

Kenna chuckled mirthlessly,

"I'm exhausted, Nessa. We've been constantly doing something for almost three days straight. And I just found out today, that my cousin is also my half-sister. That's quite the shocking news, you know. How do you think I feel?"

Nessa looked down a moment before speaking to Kenna again.

"It has been a crazy week, huh?"

Kenna rolled her eyes,

"Crazy doesnnae even begin to cover it."

"Well, I'm here to make sure it goes back to normal."

Kenna gave her a half-hearted smile,

"Nessa, nothing will ever be back to 'normal' now. Not with everything that's happened. With everything that's been said…revealed."

Nessa looked down again and sighed heavily,

"I know. I just…want to go back to some sort of semblance of normality in our lives. You know, before this damn week changed everything."

"Normality? We were the closest friends to a brazen, rule-bending and breaking princess. Who had, on more than one occasion, put us both in life threatening danger. I think normality went out the window a long time ago."

Kenna teased.

Nessa laughed and shook her head,

"Alright, that's true, but I never heard you complain! As a matter of fact, I think I distinctly remember being the only voice of reason many of those times."

The two laughed quietly remembering their time with their princess and friend. Kenna felt a pull in her heart at the realization that she wouldn't see her friend again.

"I cannae believe she's really gone." Kenna breathed out quietly, sobering up from her earlier laughing outburst.

Nessa ceased her chuckling as well and looked at Kenna seriously,

"It's hard to accept, but it's true. But, I'm still here. We have each other, and we can get through this."

Kenna looked up at her with a sad smile,

"What happens when you're not here, though?"

Nessa glanced down at her sister and cousin, a faint blush on her cheeks.

"I donnae know what you mean, Kenna. I'll always be here."

Kenna looked up at her, shock covering her features.

"You must be joking, Nessa! A young lord has all but proposed to you and you're going to tell him no!?"

"He hasnnae actually proposed to me directly, Kenna. Even if he did, I'd tell him…I'd tell him…Oh, I donnae know yet!" Nessa threw up her hands in exasperation.

"I donnae know why you're fighting yourself with this, Nessa. A blind person could see the attraction growing between the two of you! And donnae think I didnnae know about those kisses earlier." Kenna sighed and shook her head in mock frustration, but also adding in a teasing air.

Nessa's posture changed suddenly. She became almost timid and scared. She wrapped her arms around herself and looked away from her sister. Tears started to form in her eyes, but they didn't fall. Kenna didn't like to see someone who was always so strong seem so small. She walked over to her and wrapped her own arms around the taller girl in a secure hug.

"What is wrong, Nessa? You're usually the one comforting me, not the other way around."

Nessa took a shaky breath,

"I'm afraid, Kenna."

Kenna pulled back from the embrace and looked up at her,

"Afraid? Afraid of what? Colin?"

Nessa wouldn't meet Kenna's gaze but she shook her head,

"I donnae know exactly, that's just it. It's a lot of little things I suppose."

"Like what?" Kenna asked calmly.

"Well, for one thing, I cannae just leave you here alone! Accepting would mean leaving DunBroch. Leaving my home and you. I cannae leave you alone."

"No. What you cannae do is give up a chance at happiness just because of me! That's ridiculous!" Kenna snapped at her.

Seeing the shocked look on Nessa's face, Kenna sighed and softened her voice,

"You worry about me too much…Besides, I wouldnnae be alone. I'd still have Maudie and their majesties. Not to mention the princes. Without Merida around, someone will have to watch out for them."

Nessa gave her a sad smile. She tucked a strand of loose hair behind Kenna's ear.

"But who would watch over you?"

Kenna gave her a teasing glare.

"I'm not a child, Nessa. I can take care of myself, you know."

Nessa took another shaky breath and chuckled lightly,

"I know. I know you can. I just forget sometimes."

She then reached out and pulled Kenna into a tight hug. The two sisters fell into an easy silence, just letting the air be open around them. Letting all concerns wash away for a moment.

Finally, Kenna pulled back, her eyebrow raised in questioning.

"You said it was a lot of little things. So far you've only mentioned one."

Nessa blushed and looked away,

"I was hoping you wouldnnae catch that…"

Nessa stepped away and walked over to a hay pile on the ground. She sat down and then beckoned Kenna to follow. Once Kenna sat down, Nessa took a deep breath to calm herself.

"When you asked if I was afraid of Colin, I suppose I should have said yes."

She gave a sideways glance at Kenna and saw the look of confusion on her face. Nessa looked at her hands and chuckled softly.

"I donnae mean I'm afraid of him, exactly. Just...just what he represents."

"Meaning…" Kenna pressed on, still not sure what Nessa meant.

"Colin is a young Lord, and heir of a clan. I am just a servant and maid. He seems very genuine in his pursuit, I suppose but…what if he only wants a body to warm his bed at night? What if this is just a game to him?" Nessa rambled on.

She continued, but her voice dropped low and Kenna could hear the slight tremble to her voice,

"What if he decides that he can do better after we are married? What if…what if one day he realizes he doesnnae want me any more? What if he wakes up one day and doesnnae love me anymore?" Nessa finished in a whisper, almost as if she was afraid to speak too loudly, for fear of making it true.

As Nessa spoke her fears aloud to her sister, the tears she had fought to hard to keep in check began the shed down her cheeks. Kenna reached out and brushed them away.

"Oh, Nessa. That's a lot of 'what if's'. You are just trying to find reasons to not let him love you or love him back! I donnae believe any of those 'what if's' would ever happen, Nessa. Not to you. Not with him. I mean, the man not only asked Maudie, but the King and Queen, as well, for permission to marry you! If that doesnnae prove his sincerity and love then I donnae know what does!" Kenna practically shouted at her sister.

"That doesnnae necessarily prove he's sincere or in love, dear one. It only proves that he is completely insane and utterly foolish," she snarked, but her disposition began to soften the more she thought about Colin" and…wonderfully infuriating… wholly committed to a challenge…inexplicably caring…"

"And his kisses leave you breathless?" Kenna smirked playfully, once she realized Nessa was losing herself in her thoughts.

"Yes." Nessa breathed out quietly.

"You love him." Kenna smiled at her sweetly.

That statement pulled Nessa out of her daydream and she looked back at Kenna sheepishly. She bowed her head to hide the bright pink on her cheeks. She was thankful it was dark, but she knew Kenna would still be able to see the color on her face.

"You donnae know how hard that is for me to admit, Kenna."

"So you DO love him?" Kenna pressed, egging on her sister and cousin.

"As much as I want to fight it, somehow, I cannae do it." Nessa sighed.

"You still didnnae say you love him. Do you not?" Kenna asked.

"I…I donnae know" Nessa paused "…yet. I'm not like you Kenna. I donnae believe in love at first sight. I cannae believe love is something that happens so instantly as that. It has to grow and form. It has to become strong or else it will break under the first bit of pressure applied to it. Attraction can happen at first sight, but that isnnae love. Attraction is one thing, love is another." Nessa explained.

"Well, I disagree. I think you can fall in love at first sight. Sometimes people meet and there's just a spark of something, I donnae know. A pull of sorts, maybe. I believe that you and Colin had something like that when you two first met."

"You mean when I fell on him? That was a pull. It was my body being pulled to the earth and his body being in the way!" Nessa said sarcastically.

Kenna frowned and pushed against Nessa's shoulder.

"That's not what I meant, and you know it!"

Nessa laughed out loud and Kenna soon followed behind her.

"You really should laugh more often, Miss Nessa. It suits you." A new, but familiar voice interrupted the girls laughing fit. Quickly, Nessa sobered up and Kenna bit her lip keep from saying something stupid in that moment.

"And you really shouldnnae sneak up on people like that m'lord. It can scare them." Nessa snapped at him.

Kenna glared up at her a moment before she turned back to the young lord who was bowing before the two of them.

"Then please forgive the intrusion, ladies. I meant no harm. I was merely wishing to speak with Miss Nessa for a moment."

Kenna's face broke out into a smile,

"Of course, m'lord. I was just headed back to my room myself. Long day, you know."

As she pulled away from Nessa she could see the look of begging in her sisters eyes. However, Kenna had no intention of saving her from this.

"Goodnight, sister. I'll see you later…" she smirked at Nessa and winked, "…hopefully…" she teased as she started in the door to the castle keep.

"Kenna!" Nessa shouted, appalled by her sister's innuendo.

Kenna started giggling wildly. She turned to go, but caught herself in the door once more. She turned back to face her blushing sister/cousin and the young lord.

"Oh, one more thing before I go. Would either of you happen to know what the primrose flower means?"

Nessa looked at her strangely,

"Uh…I believe it means…hmmpphhh…" She was cut of by Colin's hand over her mouth.

He sent a cheeky grin towards Kenna, waggling his finger at her in teasing disapproval.

"Uh, uh, little Kenna. Duncan told me about the reading lessons and all the stipulations involved. You cannae get the answer from us. That would be cheating."

"Drat! I didnnae think he'd tell you. Oh well, it was worth a shot."

She looked at her very confused sister and smiled teasingly once more,

"Do be nice, Nessa. See you later."

With that Kenna turned and exited the roof of the small tower and went inside. Once inside the door she leaned against it and breathed out a heavy, exasperated sigh. She glanced over her shoulder at the door and sent an encouraging smile to the two out on the roof.

"Find love, Nessa and hold onto it."

She prayed for her sister.

Her sister. Sister. It was so strange to think of it now, but looking back, it made so much sense knowing that the two were half-sisters. No. To Kenna they would be sister, regardless. Their bond was that strong and it had been ever since they were little. She didn't need Nessa to tell her that they were half-sisters; she had always felt that Nessa was her sister even when they lived on Barraigh*. Maybe it was because her own mother died when she was so young and so her aunt raised the both of them as her daughters. Now she knew it was because they were sisters that made her feel so close to Nessa.

Kenna was so lost in her thoughts that she wasn't paying attention to where she was walking. She stopped abruptly when she crashed into a giant stone column. With a loud thump, she fell to the floor and groaned in pain. Luckily, no one had seen her foolish mishap and she gathered herself up and started to stand. She wobbled a bit as she stood, but stiffened when she felt two strong arms lifting her up.

"Are you alright, Kenna?" asked Duncan softly.

"Lord Macintosh!?" she looked up in bewilderment.

He gave her a smile and nod.

"Duncan. Lord Macintosh is my father. I may be heir, but I'm not clan lord, yet."

Kenna nodded dumbly, still not sure if she trusted herself or her legs to work properly.

Duncan sat her down on her feet, but left one arm resting gently around her waist, for support.

"Are you alright?" he asked again.

Kenna nodded again, a little more aware at this point.

"Aye. I'm all right, Duncan. Thank you."

"What happened? All I saw, as I came up the stairs was you falling and ending up on the ground." Duncan asked n concern.

"Oh, I'm sure that was graceful…" Kenna muttered in embarrassment.

"Well, I have seen better recoveries before, but I've never seen anyone fall in such a cute manner until just now." Duncan teased warmly.

Kenna felt her cheeks burn under his gaze.

"I was lost in my thoughts and ran into the column there." She pointed to the column by the banister of the staircase.

Duncan winced, realizing how much that would have hurt.

"Well, as much as that hurt, I'm glad you ran into it. It at least kept you from walking over the banister. You would have ended up in the main hall really fast if you had."

Kenna shook her head at him, but smiled despite of the situation,

"I'm in pain and you make jokes?"

Duncan continued to smile down at her.

"It got you to smile didnnae it?"

She pursed her lips at him in mock annoyance,

"I suppose."

Duncan realized his hand was still resting on her waist, but he didn't make an effort to move it. He just used it to steady her as she continued to regain her composure.

"So, I havennae seen you since dinner. Where did you sneak off too?"

"I just wanted to get away from everything for a while. Nessa was with me for a bit and when young Lord Dingwall showed up, I decided to make myself scarce." Kenna answered starting to move up the stairs once more.

Duncan raised an eyebrow in question.

"And why would you do that?"

Kenna shrugged,

"Well, I am tired. And I wanted to give them some time alone. Heaven knows Nessa wonnae talk to him when others are around. Well, let me rephrase that…she wonnae open up to him except when other arennae around. I figured if the young lord was going to get anywhere with her, then I couldnnae be there."

Duncan smirked at her,

"You arennae worried about her?"

Kenna frowned and shook her head,

"No. Should I be? I confess, I'm more worried about young Lord Dingwall…"

Duncan laughed out loud at that.

"Yeah, I can see that."

He paused and kept following her. Suddenly he realized he had no idea what he was doing.

"So…where are you going now?"

She stopped a few steps above his and turned to face him,

"To my room, where else would I go? I already said I was tired."

She looked at him bemused and Duncan looked down sheepishly.

"Well, I just thought that maybe you'd like to join me in the library for a while this evening."

Kenna was taken aback by his request. After she remembered how to breathe again, she smiled at him. Since she was a few step above him, she was actually taller then him in that instance. She leaned forward and bowed her head close to his.

"Thank you for the invitation Duncan, but I really should be going to bed. I still have a lot work to do tomorrow and I would like to get some sleep tonight. I fear that if I go with you to the library, I would never get any rest before tomorrow."

Now it was Duncan's turn to nod dumbly,

"I understand. Perhaps tomorrow we can meet for lessons, then."

Kenna smile sweetly at him and nodded,

"If you have the time Duncan, I would love that."

Duncan leaned up, closing the gap just a bit more between them.

"I'll make the time." He whispered to her.

She grinned widely and then pulled back before he could lean the rest of the way in.

"Well, now that that's settled…Goodnight Duncan!" she said happily, turning on her heel to go. Duncan shook his head to get rid of its haze and watched her walk up the stairs.

He stood gaping after her a few moments before realizing what had happened. He followed her up the stairs a bit further, calling to her as they went.

"Hey! HEY! That wasnnae fair, Miss Kenna! You cheated!"

He caught up to her as she reached her and Nessa's bedroom door. Before she could open the door, Duncan reached out and placed his hand over the knob to stop her.

"You cheated!" he stated again.

"How could I cheat? I didnnae know we were playing a game." She stated innocently. She reached for the door again but this time Duncan stepped in front of it.

"Could you please move, m'lord? I really need to go to bed. I have to get up early in the morn…" Kenna stopped abruptly when Duncan's ice blue eyes came into view.

Duncan leaned down extremely close to her, invading her personal space. Kenna sucked in a gasp of air.

He leaned so close his lips almost touched hers. Kenna felt her heart pounding in her ears. She closed her eyes and parted her lips just slightly, waiting for his next move.

"You still cheated." He smirked slyly.

Duncan pulled back and moved out of the way of the door.

"Your room, m'lady." He stated with a flourish and bow as he opened her door.

Kenna's eyes snapped open and she looked at him confused. Realizing what he had done, Kenna blushed fiercely.

"That wasnnae very nice, Duncan."

"See? Now you know how I felt!" he teased.

Kenna rolled her eyes and stepped into the doorway of her and Nessa's room. She turned to face Duncan once more before shutting the door.

"Have a good night Duncan. I hope you have pleasant dreams. And thank you, for everything." She said with a small smile.

Duncan had dropped his smirk and replaced it with a genuine smile.

"You are very welcome, Miss Kenna. I look forward to our lessons tomorrow."

Duncan turned to leave. Just as he did, Kenna shot forward and place a quick kiss on his cheek. He looked at her curiously, but she looked away shyly.

"I confess I did cheat, earlier. I tried to get Colin or Nessa to tell me what the primrose flower meant. But Colin stopped Nessa before she could tell me…he said you told him about our, uh,…challenge?" she was searching for the right word.

He just stared at her blankly.

"Does that make you angry?" she asked cautiously.

He shrugged and shook his head.

"Do you know what it means? The flower, I mean…"

Kenna shook her head, vehemently. Duncan smiled at her,

"Then that's all that matters. When you can read to me what it means then you'll understand."

"Oh, okay. Goodnight then, Duncan."

She closed the door softly and he stood and watched until the door was completely closed.

"Goodnight, Kenna." Duncan whispered into the empty hallway. He turned and made his way back down to his own guest chambers. A soft smile playing on his lips the whole time.

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

The fire danced and cracked over the new wood that had been added to the flames. The temperature had warmed up during the day, but Keira was finding that as the night dragged on the air was getting exceedingly colder then she knew would be good for Merida and Shae. Thinking on the two of them caused Keira to pause and look over at them.

Merida had ended up closer to Shae then when she had fallen asleep, and Keira could only smirk at that. Her hand had found his in her sleep and when Shae would shake or wince from his fever or pain, Keira would notice Merida's hand would tighten its grip slightly around his. Amazingly, it seemed to calm the fits and Shae slept on. Whether Merida wanted to admit it or not, she cared for, and maybe even loved Shae. Unfortunately, the young Fae woman didn't have a clue what the Warrior actually thought of the DunBroch princess. She could see from the way he had watched her the night in the camp that he was at least intrigued by her. But, her father had been right; intrigue doesn't always translate to love.

'But,' she thought with a grin, 'it doesn't hurt.'

Keira shook her head and sighed tiredly. She had been watching over Merida and Shae for a whole day and night. She had expected Merida to at least wake up at some point during the day, but the princess's body was so exhausted that it must have needed the extra sleep to recuperate.

Keira walked over and looked down at Merida, who didn't look to be having a very restful sleep herself. Keira kneeled beside her. Merida began turning her head from side to side, thrashing restlessly in her sleep.

"No Shae…donnae leave me… Shae…please." Merida panted out in her sleep.

Keira had to help her. She had to wake her up and stop the nightmare. She gently shook her shoulder at first, not wanting to scare her even more.

"Princess. Princess, wake up. Wake up."

That didn't seem to work. Merida just shook her off and kept tossing around on her pallet. Keira tried being a little more direct and firm. She grabbed onto Merida's shoulders and shook her with a little more force.

"PRINCESS! MUST WAKE UP!" She hissed worriedly at her friend.

That woke Merida from her nightmare and she sat up swiftly,

"NOOOO!" she screamed as she sat up, still reeling from the effects of the dream.

She was panting shallowly, trying to regain control of her breathing. She turned quickly to her side and saw Shae still lying beside her. He was still unconscious, but alive and with her.

Merida then looked up into the concerned eyes of her friend Keira. Merida took a deep breath to calm her heart and breathing, but the events of the dream still flashed in her mind. The nightmare was more intense then the one that had woken her up earlier. Realizing she didn't know what time it was, she looked around at the sky. It was still dark so she mustn't have been asleep very long.

"Princess all right?" Keira eyed her cautiously, concerned for her.

Merida nodded a little shakily,

"Aye. I'll be all right, I think. It was just a dream…"

"Nightmare." Keira corrected.

Merida looked up into her friend's eyes and saw the look of fear there. She knew her eyes probably showed the same. She nodded.

"You're right. It was a nightmare."

She shook her head to get the remaining images out of her mind. She looked up at Keira with a sad smile,

"I'm really sorry about that, Keira. I donnae know what is wrong with me…"

Keira shook her head,

"Princess, not apologize. Can't control dreams. Gone through a lot in short time. Affects dreams."

Merida shook her head,

"That's just it, it doesnnae seem to be nightmares based on what has happened, exactly. It's things that Shae and I havennae even been through. Well, not together, per say…" she paused and cocked her brow at Keira.

"Did you know of the cursed, demon bear Mor'Du?"

Keira swallowed thickly and nodded,

"Aye. Every creature in the wilds knew of him. And feared him."

Merida nodded too,

"I can see that. You knew that it was because of my mother and I that Mor'Du was killed, correct?" she waited to see Keira nod again. She took another shaky breath, feeling tears come to her eyes,

"Well, in my…in the dream…nightmare…he's not dead. He's chasing us...Shae and I, through the forests. Every time we get a little further from him…this…this mist and…and shadow like creature seem to draw us back to the bear. Shae turns to fight and tells me to run, but I cannae leave him. Shae tackles the bear to give me a chance to run away. He fights with it to protect me… and all I can do in my dream is stand and watch…as the bear…tears him to pieces." Merida's tears fall freely as she recalls the dream in vivid detail to her friend.

Keira reaches over and brings Merida into a tight hug.

"Shhh…"she tried to soothe the princess. "It all right. Princess and Warrior safe. Fae protect, remember?"

Merida sobbed into Keira shoulder, her body shaking as she tried to hold in the tears. After a few minutes the tears subsided and Merida was able to regain her composure a little. She pulled back from Keira and wiped her eyes,

"I'm really sorry Keira. It's just a stupid dream."

Keira rubbed her back tenderly,

"Princess not apologize. It all right. That's what friends do." She smiled at her,

Merida sniffed and chuckled lightly at her,

"Yeah, I suppose you're right."

After a few moments of silence, Merida looked at their surroundings again. She took a deep breath and turned to Keira,

"What time is it? I see it's still dark. I guess I didnnae sleep that long, did I?" she asked her Fae friend.

Keira's face broke out into a big grin,

"Time? Time not issue. Day is." Keira told her.

Merida looked confused,

"Day?" the realization hit her swiftly and her eyes widened in shock,

"How long was I out?" she asked in bewilderment.

"Nightfall to nightfall. Full day." Keira answered.

Now Merida felt terrible,

"Oh Keira, I'm so sorry! Why didnnae you wake me?"
Keira shrugged nonchalantly,

"Keira not mind. Nothing else to do. Besides, Princess need rest. Otherwise, body wake up on own."

Merida shook her head in disbelief,

"How is it that everyone else I know, seems so much wiser than me? " she muttered to herself.

Keira heard her though and smiled.

"Princess wise…in some ways…others…not so much…"

Merida raised her a brow at her in mock annoyance,

"Thank you very much, Keira. I needed that." She stated sarcastically.

Keira smiled again and patted her arm,

"Glad Keira help." She became serious, "Princess all right, though? Keira need to go back to Circle, now Princess awake. Keira afraid to though…"

Merida waved a hand to stop her,

"No, please! If you need to go home, go! You've been watching over Shae and I for a full day. I think I can manage looking over him for the rest of the night. I'm not planning on sleeping anymore, anyway."

"Ever?" Keira asked in a bewildered but teasing way.

Merida pushed on her shoulder playfully,

"Tonight! You knew what I meant." Merida laughed.

Keira giggle and stood up.

"Keira go then. Iaighe be here in morning. Bring fresh salve for Warriors wound. Bring more food and water, too. Plenty for tonight, though." Keira pointed to all the things as she mentioned them to Merida.

Merida nodded,

"We'll be fine Keira. I also have a bow in case of…emergencies."

Keira smiled down at her and then nodded her head towards Shae.

"Princess should redress Warrior's wounds soon. Use up last of salve. Maybe sing to Warrior, soothe his mind too."

Merida blushed and looked down at her hands, but nodded.

"Yeah, I'll…eh…I'll get right on that."

Keira gave her soft, knowing smile.

"Keira see Princess, later. Promise."

Merida looked up and smiled back at her, a soft pink still tinting her cheeks.

"I know."

Keira nodded to her one last time in goodbye. She turned and quickly transformed into a doe and bounded out into the darkness. Merida watched the place she left in awe. She had seen Glemtick transform partially into a wolf, but she had never seen a full transformation before. It was both a beautiful and disturbing thing to watch. Shaking her head and trying not to dwell too much on it, she turned her attention back to Shae. He seemed to have calmed quite a bit from the day before, but she could still see the stress lines and worry in his expression.

Merida gathered up all of the things she needed to redress his wound and began to work at unwrapping the injured shoulder quickly and deftly, as to not disturb him more. She caught glimpses of his winces and pained expressions as she pulled the bloodied bandages away from his skin. She winced herself when she saw the red puffiness of the wound. The salve had calmed the infection some, but the poison was still irritating the skin. Merida shuddered.

"Oh, please donnae die on me Shae. I wouldnnae have made it this far without you." She pleaded with him quietly as she washed and cleaned the wound.

"We wouldnnae even be in this mess if it haddnae been for me though. So you cannae die, you hear me. I refuse to have your death on my conscious, too."

She reapplied the last of the salve to the wound and wrapped it gently in the linen scraps Keira had provided. When she was finished she sat back and looked down on him in concern. He started twitching erratically once his wound had been redressed.

That was alarming to Merida! Had she accidently done it wrong? Was the fever taking over? Was Shae going to die on her, here? Merida bit her lip in worry and reached down to take a hold of one of his hands. She lifted it up and held it under her chin. She used her thumb to rub soft circles on the back of it, trying to comfort him in some way.

He kept tightening his eyelids, wincing in pain as he shook his head slightly. Loose strands of loose, drenched hair were stuck to his face. One impulse Merida reached out and brushed a few of them away from his face and back up into his hair and behind his ears.

She thought on what Keira had told her and decided to try it. She didnnae have the greatest singing voice, but if it could soothe him, he might recover faster. Maybe…

Merida took a deep breath and looked down at him, her eyes moist with a new set of tears.

"I hope you realize that I cannae sing like you can, but I hope this helps."

Merida thought back to all of the songs she knew and which ones would be the best suited for this kind of situation. Then she remembered! A song her mother used to sing to her and her brother's when they were just wee babies. Her mother had told her once that it was a love song, but if it could be used to win and calm the heart of a mighty warrior, it could be used to calm a fussy, sleepy baby. Merida blushed realizing that Shae was a mighty warrior, but decided it would still be best for the situation.

She took another breath and closed her eyes before letting the song loose.

In the morning when you rise

I bless the sun, I bless the skies

I bless your lips, I bless your eyes

My blessing goes with you

She let the song flow out of her heart and into the night. She refused to open her eyes and look down at him. Afraid of what she might feel just from looking at him.

In the night time when you sleep

Oh, I bless you while a watch I keep

As you lie in slumber deep

My blessing goes with you

Merida flushed when she heard the words. It was as if it was a completely accurate visual of what was happening to them now. She didn't know if Shae could hear her or understand, but she thought of the irony in her song and shook her head.

This is my prayer for you

There for you, ever true

Each every day for you

In everything you do

And when you come to me

And hold me close to you

I bless you

And you bless me too

Her blushed darkened as she remembered the feeling of his arms around her. She remembered when he had her pressed against the tree to make her be quiet, right before the wolves attacked them. She remembered when he had loomed over her in Angus' stall and how her heart beat so frantically in anticipation. She remembered when she fell in the forest and he caught her, breaths before their lips touched, She remembered every touch, and I caused her to shiver slightly.

When your weary heart is tired

If the world would leave you uninspired

When nothing more of love's desire

My blessing goes with you

When the storms of life are strong

When you're wounded, when you don't belong

When you no longer hear my song

My blessing goes with you

She caught herself choking up a bit and she forced herself to continue the song. She tried not to think about all that Shae had done to protect her. To help her. To teach her. She tried so hard, but her mind betrayed her and kept going back to the man, whom she labeled her enemy in her mind. He wasn't the enemy, though. He was her companion. Over the course of the last five days, the two of them had fought, argued, danced, laughed and cried together. They had fought for and with each other multiple times and through that had forged a sort of friendship that not even Merida could understand.

This is my prayer for you

There for you, ever true

Each every day for you

In everything you do

She didn't want to admit it, but perhaps Keira and Iaighe were right. Was she falling in love with Shae? Or was it just misplaced worry that was clouding her judgment of the situation.

That had to be it! When Shae woke up again, they would start to argue once more and all would be right with the world…Well, except for the fact that the damn binds hadn't been broken, yet.

And when you come to me

And hold me close to you

I bless you

And you bless me too

I bless you

And you bless me too*

When she finished the song, she forced herself to look down at Shae. Her breath caught in her throat as she looked at his noticeably calmer features. She noticed his face had relaxed greatly but he seemed to be muttering something. Curiosity got the better of her. Once more she reached out and tucked some more loose strands of hair behind his ear. She leaned forward, close enough to his face to hear his mutterings.

"Donnae leave me…please…please donnae leave me…"

He rambled on, barely above a whisper.

Merida tenderly touched his forehead, her face falling in worry and concern,

"I'm right here, Shae. I'm not going, anywhere."

He almost seemed to sob,

"Please…donnae leave me….Shannon…"

Merida snapped her head down at him quickly, confusion and the tiniest traces of hurt covering her features.

"Shae?" she asked quietly, moving closer to his face once more.

Without warning, Shae shot his hand up and grabbed Merida by the back of her neck, and pressed down hard. Her lips contacted with his in force. Merida's eyes widened in shock a moment, but she quickly shut them tightly, ignoring the stinging of the tears in her eyes. He tried to deepen the kiss and Merida cursed herself when she allowed him too. She couldn't stop the moan that escaped the back of her throat. Her eyes opened slightly when she felt Shae's grip on her neck loosen. Her heart dropped to the pit of her stomach when she opened her eyes. Shae's emerald green eyes were staring into her sapphire one in confusion. She was sure she had the same expression on her face, though.

"Merida?" he breathed quietly, hardly believing his eyes.

Merida wanted to cut out her tongue for what she said first to him. Before she could think of anything else to say she whispered out the one question on her mind, but probably the least important in that moment…

"Whose Shannon?"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Oh wow! That was intense right? 61 pages later…you get another cliffhanger! Don't you just hate me? ;)

On to notes and things : (I never put these in any kind of order and I usually for get some by the end of the chapter so I apologize)

*The Blessing was written by David Downes, an Irish song composure and writer. He writes songs for the group Celtic Women. Sorry to say that this song doesn't have a lot of interesting history, I just LOVE it and wanted to include it as the song Merida sings to Shae to calm his fitful sleep.

* (This note is actually from the last chapter and I forgot):

All of the names of the gods and goddesses are real. All the rites and ceremonies are arguably accurate for the time period. Early inhabitants of the Scottish Isles were said to have burned the bodies of fallen royalty and warriors to allow their souls to ascend to the heavens. Sometimes they were put on platforms and sent out across the water, since the ancient Scots and Celts believed that the body/soul crossed a massive ocean before getting to "heaven". Their version of "heaven" was called the Isle of the Blessed and it was believed that the goddess Cihreath would come down to earth and guide the souls of the dead across the waters to the isle where they would spend eternity.

I also included the burial mounds because it was believed that around the 5th century B.C. that burial mounds became more prevalent than the cremation ceremonies, which I preferred to write. But some scholars do argue that they would still cremate the bodies of important people and then use the burial mound as a symbol to bury the person's most treasured possessions in.

*Barraigh – Outer Hebridean island of Barra also written *Barraigh. (And if that is wrong, blame the internet.)

* Nessa and Kenna's back-story (please don't shoot me)

Okay, so I apologize if I stepped over the Mary-Sue line as far as OC's go…In my defense, I've had it planned since the beginning that way. It helped me explain Nessa's harshness towards Colin (and all men in general) and establish a deeper connection between the girls. I had always imagined they were sisters, or half-sisters in this case, but I wanted to establish familiarity with the characters and their individual personalities before I revealed this about them. I believe in that way I could show that they are already established characters with set personalities before adding in the "reveal" of Nessa's rape(?) and the fact that both girls share the same father.

On a side note, I really don't know what you classify Nessa's virginity loss as? She wasn't raped but she didn't want to sleep with the man either…it was out of her protection of Kenna that she even went along with it, just so the jerk would leave her cousin/sister alone.

ANNDDD another rabbit trail…I will probably start using sister instead of cousin when talking about Kenna and Nessa. Only for the fact that I want to…

*Scottish Primrose: (PLEASE DON'T LOOK IT UP! WAIT TO BE SURPRISED WITH KENNA!)

Actually you can look it up if you'd like. The Scottish primrose is a common flower found in Scotland (derp…) but the meaning of the flower I found is specifically for the primrose itself so I'm taking an artistic license with this one. (I have no idea if there is a difference between the Scottish primrose and a…plain(?) primrose, I just know they are pretty and have heart shaped petals) I had Kenna and Nessa use the Scottish primrose as one of the flowers they tossed onto the fire because it is one of the most prevalent flowers in Scotland. According to my research, it's one of the only flowers indigenous to that area that grows literally all over Scotland (However, if you live in Scotland and know I am wrong, please feel free to call me out on it, just remember that I have never been to Scotland an am getting all my info from the internet in some way)

* The princes ages compared to the Fae girls

Okay so this one should be easy to follow and explain. My Fae are not written to be immortal. They have life spans about the same length of humans, maybe a bit longer, but not hundreds/thousands of years. Tahvay and Teavah are twins. So they are the same age with Tahvay being relatively a little older due to the fact she was born first.

If I remember right, Merida assumes that Teavah is the same age as her brothers or maybe a little older. I think that I figured the twin Fae girls are around twelve years old and the triplets are 10, soon to be 11.

Iaighe is actually a year older than the twins (if I remember right) so that makes her 13. She's just short so she gets teased.

I know that I was like 8 when I got my first crush on a boy in school, so I don't think it's pushing the envelope to have the boys and these Fae girls having crushes on one another.

Translations:

"Nach bhfuil aon cheart le labhairt leat! Ba chóir dom a mharú duit áit sheasann tú!*" = "There is no right (reason?) to talk to you! I should kill you where you stand! * "

"Aon! Ná bíodh dhéanamh go! Ní féidir leat a bholadh a boladh? Tá sé a bhaineann leis an Banphrionsa.*" = "No! Do not do that! You can not smell that smell? It is associated with the Princess. * "

"Ní féidir liom cúram a bhfuil sé! D'fhéadfadh sé a bheith Gortaítear tú.*" = "I do not care who it is! It may have hurt you. * "

I also apologize if these don't make sense…I used google translator for the phrases and just copied and pasted the Irish words into the document. Unforetunatley, I FORGOT to write down what I originally intended them to be saying so when I put the Irish phrases back through Google Translate…this is what I got :/ Sorry if you speak Irish and are appalled by my poor use of the language…I apologize. :(

I know sometimes it seems like I keep throwing random things in the story, but eventually everything ties together, I promise. I haven't done anything arbitrarily. Everything is purposefully planned and placed into the story. I have spent a lot of time trying to make sure the end of this story wraps everything up.

Okay, well I hope that covers it for this chapter. If I forgot something, or you don't understand something, or you just want to complain *shrugs* send me message. PM, email, post, comment, whatever!

I do want to give a huge shout out to my beta: gargoylelover a.k.a. Life-without-L0ve! She makes sure that my stories get posted with as little grammatical errors as possible and she keeps encouraging me even when I want to give up. Thank you!

And also to Shahrezad1: Thank you so much for being a sounding board for my idea's and random stuff. I know my things don't always make sense, but you are awesome in all the help you give!

I hope someday I can meet both of you in real life and give you both huge hugs! And then we go for food, because I cannot do any kind of social gathering without a meal…

But I digress…

I also want thank everyone for their faves, follows, comments, encouragement, just everything! You guys seriously made me cry when I read those words of encouragement. Yes, it is true that 2013 sucked for me, but 2014 is already looking better than last year!

God Bless you all and thank you SO much!

Oh, and if you thought there was heavy stuff in this chapter? Just you wait for the next chapter…it's a doozy!

Gam3 0n!