Highlander’s Fallen Angel – Lydia Kendall

THE HİGHLANDERS and the Lowlanders raised broadsword and firelock, those who preferred the savage bite of metal banging their carved hilts against the hardy targes of the Jacobite infantry: the circular shields that provided the front line of defense against bayonets and pikes. The long steel spikes that protruded from the center of the shields glinted in the muddied sunlight. Camdyn McKay, standing tall and defiant alongside his regiment, tightened the leather strap that lashed his targe to his muscular forearm, and checked the balance of his broadsword with a few restrained practice swings. He eyed the layer of red fabric that adorned the inside of his shield. Torn from the red coat of a fallen English solider, as a bloody token to remind Camdyn what he was fighting for and to remind the English of what their fate could be. Bonnie Prince Charlie as King. A Stuart on the throne. The Jacobites in a position of power, rewarded for all the blood we’ve shed in this campaign. So why did he feel so nervous, as he stood upon the boggy expanse of Culloden Moor and looked toward the assembled redcoats? “Watch for ‘em pokin’ to yer left and right, lads, to get out the way of our targes,” one of his fellow soldiers warned, with an ominous exhale. “They’re nae so green as they are cabbage lookin’.” The mood of the five regiments reflected Camdyn’s apprehension, after the bombardment of artillery that had been volleying between both sides for the better part of half an hour. Little more than a show of force that kept the warring factions at a standstill, no one advancing, the shots too far out of range. But now, the gunners had ceased, and an anticipatory lull drifted over the battlefield, peppered only by the drumbeat of the Highlanders. Ordinarily, the percussion of sword hilts on shields stirred up his vigor and his fighting spirit, but on this dreary afternoon, it sounded more like a death knell. Falkirk fell back to the English.

The night raid on Nairn were nothin’ short of a mess, leavin’ two-thirds of us knackered, even with the English half-cut on the Duke of Cumberland’s fancy birthday brandy. If the Duke of Perth’s regiment had not turned back, they might have stopped the Duke of Cumberland from advancing to this moment. They might have taken victory under cover of darkness. But a wrong choice had been made, and now it was up to these warriors to fix it. “At least the snow stopped,” another soldier, much younger than Camdyn’s thirty-six years, grumbled. A grizzled, scarred bear of a man nodded sagely. “Aye, and the hail, though ye should all watch yer footin’ when the call to charge comes. The ground disnae look it, but it’s churned up to buggery.” The warrior directly on Camdyn’s right took a shallow breath. “It will nae be long now, lads.

” No sooner had he spoken, like a weathered and wizened oracle, than three riders began to thunder along the infantry line. Bonnie Prince Charlie himself, come to give the order. Not pausing in his proud ride, he called to each regiment in turn, in the resonant voice of a true King, “Advance on the English!” A great roar erupted from Camdyn’s regiment, as the men broke into a run, their blood up, their kilts flapping behind them like flags atop the Scottish castles of home, moving as one indomitable force toward the enemy. Time for ye to taste Highland steel… Camdyn kept pace with the men on either side of him, his nerves draining away as he settled into the steady thud of his boots. Mud snagged at his feet, trying to drag him down, but he had clambered across mountains and picked his way through treacherous, sucking peat bogs since he was knee-high to his father. This terrain was where the Highlanders had their advantage. Suddenly, the ground exploded off to his left, a geyser of dirt and grass and viscera shooting upward where, moments before, a man had been running. Another explosion erupted on his right, prompting him to adjust his advance into a weaving motion. Soon enough, deafening bangs surrounded them as though the earth itself were cracking apart, drowning out their defiant battle cries. Camdyn’s heart banged harder in his chest, for he knew what this meant—the English gunners had switched to canisters and he was now careening at the enemy under a hailstorm of heavy fire.

To make matters worse, the formerly distinct regiments appeared to be converging into one confused, seething mass, corralled like cattle by the ceaseless burst of canister blasts. The English had not yet set foot out of their orderly lines but, somehow, they were controlling the flow of the battle, like puppeteers tugging on marionette strings to get the Scottish to do what they wanted. “MacGillivray and Macbean are down!” Camdyn heard someone shout in despair. “Inverallochie has fallen, and all!” another voice bellowed back, though he could not decipher the speaker in the suffocating throng. “Lochiel is alive, but his ankles are broke!” a third blow of bad news rained down harder on them than the canister fire, splintering apart the morale of the men. They were a mere few hundred yards from the enemy, and everything seemed to be going to pot. Just keep runnin’. That’s all I can do, Camdyn told himself, as he tried to dart and feint through the ever-thickening crowd of bemused and exasperated fighters. He could barely get a few paces forward without almost tripping over someone else’s foot or having to duck under the shining blade of a broadsword that was still fruitlessly being held aloft. Somehow, he managed to break away from the cattle market of men and glanced to his left and right to make sure he was not alone in his advance.

He was all for bravery, but there was a reason lone wolves died faster than a pack, and he did not feel like being heroic artillery fodder. “Let’s take them redcoats, aye?” The scarred bear, who went by the name of McTavish, gave him a nod as more trickles of soldiers broke away from the turbulent, churning white water of the tangled regiments. The ground beneath Camdyn’s feet sped away in a blur, until he could see the collective white sclera of the English front line. The canisters were firing from further back, to avoid them being hacked to bits by broadsword and sheer grit, but at least Camdyn was out of their range now. The English batteries would not fire so close to their own men. Or so he thought… He was within two or three pikes’ distance of the enemy, when the ground disappeared beneath him. He did not even hear the bang of the canister until his body had already been launched up into the air, where he seemed to float for a few frantic moments, before he came crashing back down. At first, he felt nothing but the winding impact of the muddied moor rising up to slam into his back. Then, the pain came, hot and unbearable, racing through his veins like wildfire. A sluggish wetness trailed down the side of his face, his abdomen pulsating in a peculiar manner, as though it were trying to eject something from his intestines.

He howled like a wounded animal. At least, he thought he did. His mouth opened and he felt the pressure in his lungs, and the scrape in the back of his throat, that suggested he was crying out. But he could not hear a thing. He could not hear the bombardments, or the war cries, or the clash of steel and the outburst of firelocks that he knew was taking place all around him. Yet, to him, they were all moving in a silent performance, as eerie as a nightmare. McTavish appeared above him, his bearded mouth moving, but he could not hear a word of what was being said. He only felt himself being roughly hauled to his feet by the fellow’s gigantic hand, and the blinding pain that followed, shooting through his belly and up to his chest, while the back of his head throbbed as though there was something lodged in his skull. It’ll pass, he told himself fiercely. I will nae be deaf forever.

It’ll pass. He staggered along a few strides with McTavish’s aid, his hand miraculously still grasped around the hilt of his broadsword, though half of his targe had broken off, the other half still lashed to his forearm. Although, he did not know how he was supposed to fight the English when he felt as though he had been sliced in two, a great gash in his abdomen bleeding out through his loose hemp shirt. Nor could he put much weight onto his right foot, though it still seemed to be attached to the rest of him, which he counted as a success. Suddenly, McTavish dropped him like a sack of potatoes. Camdyn’s head twisted to see what had happened, and found the old bear lying flat in the quagmire below, with blood pouring out of a ragged wound to the throat. A redcoat with a bayonet appeared to be the culprit, though he had already moved on to his next victim. Digging deep into whatever reservoir of strength he had left, Camdyn raised his broadsword and targe, and lumbered into the fray as infantry clashed, man on man, Scottish on English, Jacobite against government forces. Perhaps it was because he could not hear the screams of dying men around him, to feel their fear or the direness of the situation, or perhaps it was because he knew he would not survive the injuries that had been inflicted upon him, but Camdyn fought like a warrior possessed, his pain transforming into rage, his sword taking over until he did not know where he began and it ended. For why would he fear death by an enemy hand when it was already too late, the shadow of his demise slithering within him, dulling the fire of his life, spark by spark? Bloodied and battered, his vision distorted by a red veil of his blood and that of others, he did not see the Englishman’s bayonet until it struck him in the chest.

He did not even feel the pain of it, only the impact. Thinking fast, he reached for the dirk in his boot and managed to return the favor, his hand gripping the enemy’s shoulder, while the Englishmen slumped against him. The unexpected weight, and Camdyn’s exhaustion, made his legs buckle, the two men toppling backward into the mud. For a few moments, Camdyn writhed to try and free himself from the dead weight on top of him, but the man was too heavy, and Camdyn appeared to have lost all the strength that had been driving him. Help… Someone, get me up and get me fightin’ again. He felt sure that he shouted, but perhaps he did not, for no one came to his aid. He wheezed to try and catch a full breath, but his lungs would not cooperate, struggling as though they were filled with liquid. And soon, that translucent veil of red over his eyes was replaced with an oddly calming, misty black, that rolled over his vision like morning fog. The battlefield faded away to nothing, and Camdyn McKay lay still, all of the fight gone out of him. A sputtering lantern, among a sea of extinguished flames.

C H A P T E R 1 IT HAD COME as quite the surprise when Camdyn had awoken to find himself alive and somehow still breathing, upon the gloomy expanse of Culloden Moor. He did not know how many hours had passed, but there was still daylight to see by, and the spit of rain to add insult to his injuries. The Englishman who had fallen on top of him had already been taken away, presumably by his people, who cared how their own soldiers were put to rest. Yet, the bastard’s bayonet wound still throbbed in Camdyn’s chest, just down from where his shoulder joined with his collarbone. As for the Scots… Camdyn had almost lost his breath again as he looked around the battlefield, now strewn by the crush of abandoned corpses. He did not need to be told what had happened. It was as clear as day—the Jacobites had lost, and they had lost badly. A massacre of good soldiers, whose wives and children would never see their husbands, brothers, fathers, uncles, again. How many are left? How many got away? Where did they all go? Camdyn had no one to answer his questions as he plodded along in the gloaming, now a fair distance away from that fateful moor. He had encountered nobody from either side as he had abandoned the battlefield, heading north-west toward the Moray Firth, where he planned to follow the coastline down to Inverness, where he had resided for the last few years, in-between skirmishes and battles.

There were faster routes, but he knew they might be teeming with English, determined to take a few more Jacobite lives while they still had a taste for it. “They will nae get me,” Camdyn muttered encouragement to himself as he walked, his entire being feeling as though it could come apart at the seams at any moment. Although, there was one silver lining to be found—he could hear again, though the sounds were fuzzy and distorted, as if he were submerged in water. “I cannae stop. I have to keep goin’.” He repeated the sentiment as minutes shifted into hours, until he no longer knew if he was even on the right path. Wounded and alone, he knew he would be easy pickings for any Englishman who might cross his path. As such, he kept to the shadows of the glistening, dripping trees that lined his tiring road home, not caring about the icy splashes that pattered down onto him. “What if it is nae even me home no more?” he said quietly, blinking deliberately to try and stave off the heaviness of his lids. If the English had ridden for Inverness after their success, he realized he might be heading directly into the lion’s den.

Several times on his lengthy trek, he thought about turning around and walking north, all the way back to the Highlands and Castle Venruit—the place he had once called home before he came to fight in the Jacobite campaign. He felt certain that Laird Young and his wife, Bernadine, would welcome him with open arms, and he would have relished the opportunity to see his family again. I cannae do that, though, can I? Common sense prevailed time and again. I’d die afore I reached it, in this state. Even if someone found me body on the side of the road, they wouldnae bury me. I’d be left for the crows to feed on. And, deep down, past the combined torture of his injuries, he could not deny he felt a touch of shame. “How could I face ‘em again?” he grumbled miserably, speaking aloud as though he were out in the forests near Venruit Castle, trying to scare off any lurking predators in the nearby shadows. “I left ‘em, promisin’ I’d be comin’ back victorious. Laird Young even tried to talk me out of it, but I wouldnae listen, would I?” He sighed, fighting to ignore the pains in his chest.

“I’d do nothin’ but bring ‘em danger, if I went back now. Until the English have said what they’re goin’ to do about us Jacobites, I cannae risk it.” Still, despite the threat, he had not been able to part with his broadsword, which now bounced against his tender back, wrapped in some sackcloth that he had pilfered from the battlefield in an attempt to disguise it. Finally, with his stomach gnawing from hunger and his legs growing more like lead by the minute, he saw the glisten of the Moray Firth ahead of him. There would be another few hours of walking to go, given his laborious pace, but there was a comfort in the sight of water. If any Englishman happened to come by, he could throw himself into the Firth’s icy embrace, and swim from the danger. At least, that was his plan, if it came to it. Whether his broken body would cooperate was another matter entirely. I could even rest awhile on the shoreline or beg a scrap of bread from a farmhouse along the way. The prospect cheered his equally wounded mentality as he hobbled the last few yards to the worn trail that meandered alongside the water.

He could not remember the last time he had slept for more than a couple of hours, or the last time he had filled his belly to satisfaction, but there was nothing like a bit of kip and a hearty meal to make a man feel more like himself again.

.

PDF | Download



Thank you!

Subscribe
Notify of
0 Comments
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chapter1.us © 2018 | Descargar Libros Gratis | Kitap İndir |
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x