Highlander’s Wicked Destiny – Fiona Faris

The sounds of battle echoed off of the stone walls as a bevy of Scottish warriors sparred in mock combat. Young Noah MacDonald stood in the training yard at Knock Castle, surrounded by this masculine display of strength, and faced off with Ewan MacGregorCampbell. His ten-year-old hands clutched a wooden sword defensively out in front of his body, sweat pouring down his face. Ewan, the eldest son of Duncan MacGregor-Campbell and Marra MacDonald, had been sent to the Isle of Skye to foster with his godfather, Noah’s uncle, James Alexander MacDonald, the laird of Knock Castle. Ewan and Noah had become fast friends from nearly the moment that he had stepped off of the boat, and they had been inseparable from day one. Despite their friendship, they could not have been more different if they had tried. They were both braw lads to be sure, tall and broad in form even as youths, there was no disputing the similarity, for even at such a young age, they were already turning the heads of the island’s wee lassies. The lad’s real differences lay in their contrasting physical coloring, as well as the opposite nature of their personalities. Noah had dark hair, skin, and eyes, with a much more serious nature than his friend. Ewan had red hair, fair skin, and green eyes, with a more fun-loving, but volatile personality. It was this personality difference that had led them to where they now stood, panting and glaring at one another. William, the castle’s keeper, stood over them, giving them firm instruction on the proper way to face one’s opponent. The duel had gotten a bit out of hand as the boys had wrestled around in the dirt, and William had been forced to separate them. They had been showing off for James and Elizabeth’s daughter, Lizzie, who was sitting in the grass beside the training yard watching the men fight. Noah’s sister, Fiona, sat beside her.

The girls, like the boys, could not have looked more different from each other. Lizzie had her father’s long golden blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Fiona, like Noah, had their Iroquois mother’s long black hair and dark eyes with flecks of gold in them that sparkled in the sun. Even though Noah and Fiona had different fathers by blood, they looked nearly identical. They were often mistaken for twins when they attended the gatherings of the Clan MacDonald on the mainland. As Noah stood facing his friend turned foe, he could not help but wonder about what kind of warriors they would grow up to become. He had heard his parents talking about the rumblings of discontent and rebellion that could be felt throughout the highlands and islands ever since the rightful king had been dispossessed of his throne. As a skilled Scottish warrior, his father Robbie knew it was only a matter of time before something would happen and had warned Noah to train hard and true, for none of them knew what the future might hold. Perhaps it would not be for many years yet that they would be forced to face the Sassenach menace that loomed over the border. Still, Noah’s mother, Talise, had felt it too, being a seer of the old ways, and had warned them all of the coming difficulties that their family might be forced to endure.

“Are ye listenin’ tae me, lad?” William asked, his voice was stern, but his eyes were sympathetic. “Aye, my apologies.” Noah inclined his head to his elder in respect as he had been taught to do. As if his thoughts had conjured her, Noah saw his mother walk over to join his father at the edge of the training yard, her dark hair and eyes shining in the sun. Even now, after nine years of marriage, it was clear that they still loved each other very much. Noah smiled with pride as he watched them quietly conversing, their heads bowed to better hear one another. William’s eyes followed Noah’s gaze, and he nodded. “They are worried about the future,” Noah murmured to his mentor. “Aye, ‘tis difficult nae tae be when ye have the sight as yer dear maither does,” William replied quietly so as not to be overheard by the other warriors. He laid a reassuring hand on Noah’s shoulder.

Ewan, having grown bored the moment Noah’s attention had been drawn elsewhere, had gone off to sit with the girls on the grass. “Do ye think it will come tae war as Faither and Maither suspect?” “Aye, I do, but only time will reveal the truth o’ the matter; until then, ye must train hard so as tae be ready for whatever may come. Dinnae fash, lad, nae matter what it is, ye will nae face it alone.” Chapter One K nock Castle, Isle of Skye, Scotland Ten Years Later Noah MacDonald stood across from his friend Ewan MacGregor-Campbell and squared off to match him in battle. They stood upon the packed earth of the training yard, where they had stood so many times before, each with a determined glint in his eye. They had been training together since they were children, but now they fought for higher stakes. They fought for the attention of the beautiful, golden-haired beauty, Lizzie MacDonald. They had each been in love with Lizzie for as long as they had been friends but had never mentioned it aloud. Noah had been foolish enough to announce his intentions to marry Lizzie one night when they had been a little too deep in their cups. Ewan, being the eldest, and a laird’s son himself, had thought it his right to wed the laird’s daughter and had taken dispute with Noah’s declaration of love.

Now they stood face to face, ready to battle for the right to petition the laird, James Alexander MacDonald, for Lizzie’s hand. Noah’s sister, Fiona, stood with her hands on her hips, frowning at them both. “Ye have both gone mad,” she chastised. “Mam and Auntie Elizabeth are goin’ tae have yer skins peeled from yer bones and hung up tae dry in the sun if they catch ye fightin’ o’er any lass, let alone Lizzie. Ye ken that she wants nothin’ tae do with either o’ ye bampots. Yer like brothers tae the lass, nae tae mention yer just plain barmy.” “Get out o’ here, Fiona,” Noah grumbled. “’ Tis for the men tae fight it out. We dinnae need ye clammerin’ in our ears distractin’ us.” “I’ll remind ye o’ that when Mam gets a hold o’ ye after.

Ye’ll wish ye had listened to me then.” Having said her peace, Fiona huffed away, returning to the castle. “Chances are she is goin’ tae tell Mam about this,” he grumbled to Ewan. “Then we had better hurry afore Auntie Talise sets tae scaldin’ us, aye?” “Aye,” Noah agreed, and the battle began. The sound of clashing swords rang through the air as the young warriors delivered blow after blow. They were evenly matched, strong, and skilled. William, James, Robbie, and Duncan had taught them well. Now they stood against each other, so different, and yet the same. The fight went on for some time, neither winning, neither flagging. Noah was fairly certain that they would have gone on for some time longer had his mother not come tearing out of the castle with Fiona close on her heels.

“We’re in for it now,” Noah warned, jerking his chin in the direction of the castle. Talise lit into Noah with a string of Iroquois that would have made his father laugh. “What is she sayin’?” Ewan asked, scratching his head as he stared at Talise, his nose scrunched in concentration. “Ye dinnae want tae ken,” Noah answered under his breath. Hearing this, Talise switched to English, which only proved to make what she was saying sound so much worse. “I will have you scrubbing pots with your grandmother for the next year!” she ended on the threat, taking a deep breath. Before she could start in on them again, Noah stepped forward and wrapped her in a hug, kissing the top of her head. “We’re sorry, Mam,” he answered, giving Ewan the ‘you had better say you are sorry too’ look. “Aye, I’m sorry tae, Auntie Talise. We didnae mean anythin’ by it,” he lied.

Talise gave them both a scowl, then hmphed before she caved under their charming efforts at affection and smiled. “See that it does not happen again.” As she turned and walked away, Noah’s father, Robbie MacDonald, walked over and wrapped his arms around Talise’s waist. “Ye ken that they are just goin’ tae do it again,” he told her as they walked away. “Yes, I do, but it is my hope that my words will keep them from killing each other over what they believe to be love when it is only lust that drives their foolhardy actions.” “Aye, I will admit that they are thinkin’ with their tadgers and nae their heads, but I dinnae think that it is only lust for our Noah. He is nae one tae act, so o’er a lassie as ye well ken.” “Yes, I know, but I worry for him. You know what I have seen in my visions.” “Aye, I ken…” Whatever his father might have said was lost to the wind as they moved out of Noah’s hearing.

His mother had been prone to visions his entire life, and they always came true. From the time that Noah was but a babe in the cradle, she had dreams of some impending danger that would forever change all of their lives. Noah did not know what it was, but his father feared it might be an all-out war with England. The Jacobite cause had been growing in number and influence throughout the highlands and islands of Scotland, and Robbie felt that it was only a matter of time before it broke out into open warfare. Noah was inclined to agree with him. As a MacDonald of Skye, Noah would be expected to fight, as would Ewan. They had both been on minor raids but had never seen the full heat of battle. It was their family’s greatest fear that they would both go off to war and never return. Noah’s mother had even gone so far as to forbid them to leave the island, but that had only served to make them want to go all the more. They longed to prove themselves as men and warriors, not only to the clan but specifically to Lizzie MacDonald.

Reading his thoughts, Ewan sidled over to him and jabbed him in the ribs with his elbow. “I bet Lizzie would be willin’ tae kiss a true hero o’ the Jacobite cause.” Fiona snorted. “Only if she enjoys kissin’ dead fish.” Noah knew that his sister had only meant the words in jest, but they had a prophetic ring to them that did not sit easily with him. “A lass can only kiss a man if he returns alive,” he warned his friend. “A dead man cannae kiss back.” * * * Lizzie MacDonald stood watching the scene below her bedchamber window. “When will they e’er learn?” she mumbled under her breath. “When they are dead most like, and more’s the pity,” Mary MacDonald answered from behind her, having brought up Lizzie’s freshly laundered clothing.

“I love my grandson, Noah, as ye well ken, but when it comes tae ye, lass, neither he nor young Ewan out there has any sense at all. They ne’er have had from the time that ye were all but wee bairns just barely out o’ the cradle.” “And yet they wonder why I refuse tae pay them heed,” Lizzie shook her head and turned away from the scene. She herself had thought little of such matters concerning Noah or Ewan from the time that she was quite small, but all of that had changed when Noah had kissed her. She had slapped his face and ran away although she had liked it very much, but she would never have dared to tell him or anyone else so. She and Noah were considered cousins by marriage but did not share a single drop of blood. Even if they had been related, such a courtship would have been allowed without a second thought, but her father had his heart set on Lizzie marrying Ewan MacGregor-Campbell. Ewan’s parents shared the same desire, and it had played a part in Ewan being sent to Knock Castle to foster with his godfather. “All the while ye deny yer own true feelings on the matter,” Mary remarked, studying Lizzie as she stood with her hands on her hips. “Do ye e’en ken yer own mind, lass?” “Aye, I ken it well enough, but ‘tis nae my desires that concern me,” she pointed out, turning back toward the window to avoid meeting the cook’s eyes.

She did not wish for the older woman to see the confusion that warred in their depths. “Oh, aye? And tae whom might ye be referrin’ then?” “Our families have quite definitive notions on whom I am intended tae marry, ideas that I dinnae share.” “That may be so, but they wouldnae fault ye for yer feelings were ye tae tell them,” Mary reminded her. “They are good people who have been through more than their fair share o’ hurt. They wouldnae wish ye tae wed someone that ye didnae love.” “Why do I have tae choose at all?” Lizzie grumbled discontentedly. “Ye ken that ye must choose, lass, whether ye wish tae or nae.” “Aye, I ken that all tae well,” Lizzie sighed in frustration. “And whom would ye pick if ye had the choice o’ it?” “I dinnae ken,” she shook her head, torn as to what to do and wishing she had more time in which to make her choice, but the fight outside told her otherwise. “Ewan is a good man, the son o’ a laird.

Whomever I wed will be the future leader o’ the clan. Noah is also a good man, beloved by many, but I dinnae think that the clan would accept a leth-bhriod as their laird.” Mary snorted in indignation. “My grandchildren are as much Scottish as anyone else on this blessed island, and I will nae have them disparaged for their maither’s blood, and her the noble spirited lassie that she is.” “Whether ye will have it or nae, I dinnae believe that the clan would allow Noah as my husband, nae matter the respect they hold for ye or Uncle Robbie. ‘Tis my responsibility tae wed a man that the clan will accept as their leader, nae else will do.” “Well ‘tis barmy if ye ask me,” Mary huffed, but came over to lay a gentle hand on Lizzie’s shoulder. “Follow yer heart, lass, where e’er it may lead ye.” And with that, she left the room. Lizzie turned her eyes back toward the young men below.

They were both tall in stature with broad shoulders and long, lean, muscular torsos. Where Noah was dark and serious, Ewan was flame-haired and fair with a much more tempestuous personality alternating between joyous exuberance and roiling anger at a moment’s notice. Lizzie cared for both men dearly. When she had been but a child, she had held hope in her heart for a future with Noah, but then Ewan had arrived and caused her heart to waver. As she had grown and heard the murmurings about Noah’s birth and questionable bloodlines, she had realized that they could never be. It had shattered her heart, but she knew her duty and was prepared to do it by marrying Ewan. Now, after the kiss with Noah, Lizzie was more confused than ever. She traced the lines of Noah’s dark features with her eyes even though she had long ago committed every masculine element to memory. It was comforting to do so, like a familiar path along the shoreline. The plains of his face soothed her soul and left her feeling strong enough to face whatever might come.

She turned her eyes to Ewan and attempted the same but felt no such comfort, but she could still feel the strong pull of duty and honor that such a match would inspire. Sighing, she turned away from the window and left her bedchamber. Making her way down the stairs into the great hall, Lizzie nearly ran into Fiona, entering the hall. Fiona took one look at Lizzie’s face and knew that she had seen everything. “I trust that ye saw the barmy display in the trainin’ yard?” Fiona frowned in disapproval at the men’s quarrel. “Aye, I saw it,” Lizzie nodded her head in acknowledgment. She worried her lower lip between her teeth until she tasted the slightest bit of blood. She cursed herself for the bad habit and sucked on the injured skin. The coppery taste swept across her senses, distracting her from her worries for a moment. “If you continue to chew on your lip in such a fashion, you will not have a lip left,” her mother’s English voice interjected from behind her.

Lizzie turned to smile into the beautiful blue eyes that she loved so much. “Maither,” she greeted, stepping forward to share an embrace. “Are ye feelin’ any better?” she asked. Elizabeth had been suffering from an ague but appeared to be doing much better at the moment.

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