Highlander’s Frozen Heart – Shona Thompson

He doesnae wish to eat, m’lord.” Magnus let out a heavy sigh, a hand coming up to pinch the bridge of his nose. It was nothing that he hadn’t heard before from his son’s governess, as he refused to eat more often than not, and no one, not even Magnus, could get through to him. Ever since his wife had died, his son, Fergus, had turned from a cheerful, talkative little boy into a quiet, reserved child who wouldn’t listen to anyone. Sometimes, Magnus even wondered if anything that he told his son even registered in his brain, and if he was even paying any attention to him at all. It was hard, Magnus couldn’t deny that. He also couldn’t deny that he was not the best father, perhaps, impatient and brash as he was. He knew how to be a father to his son; he didn’t know how to be a father to the child that his son had become. “Then make him eat,” he told the governess, not even moving from where he sat behind his desk on his leather armchair. “I dinnae care if he wants to eat or not, it’s yer job to make him eat.” “Aye, m’lord,” the governess said, giving him a small bow before she turned around to leave his study, only to bump into Fergus, who had sneaked into the room without being noticed. He was good at sneaking into places, Magnus knew. In his five years in the world, he had had enough practice to remain unnoticed, and his small size only helped him, the colossal, mahogany furniture that were scattered around the study hiding him with ease. “Ach, what are ye doin’ here, lad?” the governess asked Fergus, who simply looked at her without uttering a word. Magnus took a deep breath before he stood up, deciding that perhaps he could try to get to his son one more time.

It was his duty as his father, after all, but it also broke his heart to see his son like that. Every time he tried to talk to him only to receive no answer, every time that he sat by his side only to have him look away, a part of his heart shattered. When Fergus had been born, Magnus had become the happiest man in the world, and the rush of love that he had for his son was unlike anything he had experienced. He loved his wife, of course; he loved her like a leaf loves the sun, and like a weary traveler loves a warm meal. He loved her completely and unconditionally, and when she died, she took a part of him with her. Still, when Fergus was born, he loved him even more, despite never thinking that such a thing would even be possible. He had become his whole world, and he would do anything for that child. That was why it hurt Magnus to see Fergus like that, and the fact that he didn’t know how to speak to him or how to make things better only made their relationship worse. “Fergus,” Magnus said, as he crouched down next to his son. The boy didn’t even look at him, his gaze glued to the floor with his fingers wrapped around the fabric of his governess’ skirt.

“Why dinnae ye wish to eat, lad?” There was no reply from the boy; there never was. Times like those, Magnus thought that perhaps he should stop trying altogether, that there was no hope, no way to make Fergus speak to him. Even so, he couldn’t bring himself to give up, even if he knew that in the end, he would end up shouting at his own child. “Ye must eat, Fergus,” Magnus continued, a hand coming up to rest on the boy’s shoulder. Only then did Fergus look at him, and for a moment, Magnus was filled with the hope that he would finally speak, that he would say something, anything. He didn’t. Fergus only shrugged Magnus’ hand off his shoulder, and then his gaze fell back onto the floor. Magnus was already getting impatient. He stood once more, hands on his hips as he looked at Fergus with a disapproving frown on his face, one that the boy didn’t even notice. “Ye’ll do as yer told, do ye understand?” Magnus asked, “Ye’ll eat everythin’ on yer plate, or else.

” Fergus looked at Magnus once more, then, still silent, and the look that he gave him was more hostile than Magnus would have thought a five-year-old boy could ever muster. Deep down, Magnus feared nothing more than the possibility that his own son despised him. He often wondered whether it would have been better for Fergus to lose him rather than his mother. Would Fergus be happier if he had died instead of her? Would he be like he used to be, jovial and talkative, a boy full of life? Magnus didn’t know, nor could he possibly ever find out. “Damn ye, say somethin’!” The governess gasped in shock at Magnus’ words, a hand coming up to cover her mouth as she looked at him with wide eyes. Magnus could only curse himself under his breath for losing his patience and for saying such cruel words to a child, but then he simply walked back to his chair, sitting down with a defeated sigh. “Take him,” he told the woman, “Take him, and make sure that he eats somethin’. Anythin’ that he wants.” The woman only nodded, before she took Fergus’ hand and led him out of the room, leaving Magnus alone to wallow in his self-hatred. He wondered where he had gone wrong.

Many boys grew up without their mothers, and they were perfectly fine, happy, and healthy. What was it that he had done wrong? What was it that drove Fergus to act in such a way? Magnus let his head fall in his hands. He wished that he could stop the world, even for just one moment. He wished that he would have the time to breathe, to exist as something other than simply the Laird of his clan and Fergus’ father. And then, he remembered that perhaps he had an excuse to do just that. His gaze scanned the desk in front of him, searching for the letter that he had received earlier that day. He found it among the mess of other papers on his desk, cluttered as it was, and he straightened it out with his hand before he began to read it once more. “Le Havre 2 nd of February, 1789 Dear Magnus, I’m writing to you from port Le Havre in France, hoping that this letter finds you well. It seems to me that my days are numbered. I have fallen ill while traveling, and I know that death is near.

Don’t mourn for me, but raise a glass to my memory. I am loath to ask you, but I want you to visit my sister, Adelleine, in my hometown. I want you to see if she is doing well after my death. I have no money to leave to her or my family, but what worries me the most is that I will not be there for her and the rest of my cousins. All I am asking from you is to pay her a visit and see if she is alright. I hope to live long enough to hear from you, old friend. Your dear friend, Jacob When Magnus had first read the letter, he could hardly believe that Jacob was in the clutches of death. The man had always been so full of life, so eager to travel and experience everything and anything, and to hear that he would have an untimely death was something that had shaken Magnus to his core. He couldn’t ignore his best friend’s last wish, of course. He couldn’t pretend like he never received the letter, like he never read the words that Jacob had written to him.

After all, Jacob was like a brother to him, and so he couldn’t help but feel as though he had a responsibility towards his sister and the rest of his family. He would take care of them, Magnus decided. He would take care of them in Jacob’s memory, even though he hadn’t asked him to do anything more than pay Adelleine a visit. Magnus remembered Adelleine, or at least the stories that he had heard about her from Jacob, who loved nothing and no one more than his own family. He remembered spending night after night with him on the ship’s deck, a smuggled bottle of whiskey shared between the two of them as they exchanged stories about their hometowns until the crack of dawn. It had been a long time since then, but the memories hadn’t faded from Magnus’ mind. A part of him still longed for that kind of life, the sea calling out to him whenever he saw the shore, but of course, it wasn’t a life that he could lead anymore. He had responsibilities. He had his clan and his son, and he had to be there for them. He could spare a few weeks away, though, he thought.

He could travel to Jacob’s hometown, since he knew that it wasn’t too far from the castle, and he would be back within in a few weeks. Surely, the castle and the clan would manage just fine without him for a few weeks, and Fergus . well, Fergus didn’t seem to need him at all, regardless of whether he was there or not. His governess would take good care of him, Magnus knew, and the boy wouldn’t have to listen to his own father shouting at him for refusing to eat. It seemed to Magnus that taking a break would be good for everyone. Magnus spent the night preparing for the trip, and got little sleep. He was excited to leave the castle for a while, along with all of his worries and responsibilities, and the part of him that longed for adventure had awoken once more inside him, eager to explore. At first, he didn’t want to take anyone with him. He didn’t need guards, he didn’t need company, and he certainly didn’t need anyone to save him from brigands or fight his battles for him. Even though he was the Laird of his clan, he hadn’t allowed himself to get soft at the edges; he could still fight, and he could fight well.

Then, just when he awoke the following morning, ready to begin his travels, his righthand man burst into his room without even knocking, a disapproving frown on his face. “What do ye think yer doin’, m’lord?” Hendry asked him, and the tone in his voice did nothing to make the use of the honorific sound genuine. “Are ye leavin’? All on yer own? Where are ye even goin’? Dinnae ye think that it would be better if ye had told me about this?” “I didnae tell ye because I kent what ye’d say,” Magnus said, a hand coming up to rub the sleep off his eyes. It didn’t become a Laird, he thought, to be seen in such a state of disarray, with his hair sticking up from his head and his body covered only by his night garments, but Hendry had never cared about such things, often barging into rooms without announcing his presence first. “Weel . if ye kent what I’d say, then ye must have kenned that I’d stop ye, too,” Hendry said, “I willnae allow ye to leave this castle unaccompanied.” Magnus couldn’t help but scoff at that, shaking his head at the other man. “I am the Laird! I can do anythin’ that I want!” “Hmm . let me think about it, m’lord,” Hendry said. His hand came up to scratch at his chin, the man mockingly deep in thought before he turned to look at Magnus once again.

“I dinnae think so.” Hendry said, and in that moment, Magnus couldn’t help but think just how much Hendry looked and sounded like his mother, who would scold him in a similar way when he was a child. The thought brought a small smile to his face as he looked at the other man, which seemed to infuriate him even more. “What will it take for ye to stop yer whinin’?” Hendry seemed to consider that for a moment, and Magnus could only hope for a compromise. “Yer takin’ six guards with ye, or yer nae goin’ anywhere,” Hendry said. “Six?” Magnus asked, incredulous, “Why do I need six guards with me? I’ll take one.” “Four.” “Two.” “Three.” “Deal.

” Magnus didn’t want to push his luck, not with someone like Hendry. It wouldn’t surprise Magnus in the slightest if he looked behind his shoulder while traveling, only to see Hendry following him. He hoped that taking three guards with him would stop him from worrying so much, at least. It was a compromise that he was willing to make if it meant that it would give Hendry some peace of mind. It startled him when his door was flung open once more all of a sudden, and he looked up to see none other but his younger sister, Isla, her hands on her waist as she glared at him. “Where do ye think yer goin’?” she asked. “Does nay one ken how to knock in this castle?” Magnus asked, instead of answering his sister’s question, “I’m nae wearin’ any clothes!” “Och, dinnae try to avoid me question!” she scolded him, “Where are ye goin’?” Magnus explained the same thing that he had already explained to Hendry, weary and impatient. Just like Hendry, Isla didn’t seem to like the plan at all. Her brows furrowed in that way that reminded Magnus not only of their father, but also of himself, and that seemed to run in the family, disapproving and stern. “What about Fergus?” Isla asked.

“Isla, get out of me chambers!” Magnus told her, sounding just like he used to when they were both children, bickering about everything and anything, “I’ll tell ye everythin’ when I’m dressed!” With a scoff, Isla left the room, slamming the door shut behind her.

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