Lachlann’s Legacy – Ashley York

The damp cold seeped into the chieftain’s tired bones. He tugged the wolfskin mantle tighter around his length as he paced the uneven terrain. At two score and eight, he was getting too old for traipsing along the open glen, sleeping on the stone-riddled ground each night. He longed for the peace of his own bed, his wife’s warmth beside him. A young child being dragged toward him yanked Colbán, chieftain of Clan MacDonell, out of his woolgathering. He looked to be the right age, about four winters. Although the boy was filthy with smoke and ash from the burning huts, Colbán knew in his gut it was the right child. He recognized the dark hair of his father, just sprouting after a close shearing, and the bright green eyes of his lovely mother. God rest her soul. “Enough!” The soldier’s firm tone was directed at the lad, but had little effect as he continued to struggle against him, yanking and jerking as the man tried to explain. “This is… a wild one, m’lord… Dragged him… out of the shelter just before… it collapsed on us both.” “Still yer tongue!” Colbán’s son, Garnait, had come up silently behind the two and proclaimed the order like the pompous arse that he was demanding obedience, his cross expression making no secret of his exasperation. “Ye’re in the presence of the chieftain. Quiet yerself now.” His son’s nasal tone— nay, his whole manner!— grated against Colbán’s skin, and his face suffused with angry heat.

The child remained unaffected, even spewed gibberish at the warrior with the unrelenting death grip towering over him. The warrior visibly stiffened and his face lost all its color. In a hushed tone, he uttered the unthinkable, “A pagan.” Despite the chill that passed down Colbán’s back he asked impatiently, “There is no one else?” His eyes scanned the surrounding stillness where a village once thrived, but no more, thanks to his heartless son, who had come in with war cries and axes waving, rending the morning quiet and burning the round houses to the ground. It took a moment for the warrior to tear his wide-eyed gaze from the child. A quick shake of his head was the only response. Colbán stood tall, crossed his arms about his chest, and glared down at the small child. “Verily a gallows tree may be required.” The boy ceased his movements, his jaw slackening. “So ye understand our words?” Colbán asked.

No answer. This lad would never be cowed into submission, never go willingly with them. He was very much like his father in that way. “Do ye yield?” Colbán finally asked. “Nay!” The boy’s face tightened into a mask of outrage. “’Twas not a fair fight.” His attention remaining on the boy, the older man halted Garnait’s hand just short of striking the boy. “What say ye?” “With no one to lead us, how could it be fair?” The lad considered himself a warrior. “Who was yer leader?” “My da is chieftain here.” “Yer da?” The sense of loss struck Colbán anew, but confusion made him wonder if mayhap this was not the child.

Word of his father’s untimely death had sent Colbán on this journey in search of the child he had sworn before God to protect with his very life. “Where is yer da?” The lad fidgeted. A crack in his brave front. “He has gone… for help.” “Forsooth! Leaving behind women and children?” Garnait barked a laugh. “Nay, he left because he was outnumbered. A coward.” That got him a baleful glance from the lad. Colbán ignored his son’s bragging. “Give us his name.

” His young lips quivered, and the boy pulled a fist to his chest in a sort of salute. “I am the son of Barra, the High King.” Barra was not the name of the boy’s father, but his uncle. The enormity of the claim caught Colbán unprepared, until he realized the truth of the matter. “The sly fox has taken the boy as his own. No doubt to replace the one he’d lost.” This would require more delicate questioning if he wished to guard the lad’s strength. Colbán signaled the others to leave. The lad kept a wary eye on the two of them before turning back to give him his full attention. “Ye show the courage of a much older lad.

” “Courage is measured by action not age.” The lad spoke as if he’d heard that many times before, the words far too old for his young age. Colbán smiled. “Wise words. Ye truly are yer father’s son.” Tears, big and fat, slipped down the boy’s round face, but he kept his hand tucked to his small chest, focusing his eyes past Colbán. He couldn’t help but wonder if the lad had any memories of his actual father, Branan. Probably not. And by the looks of him, he was not being trained as his father would have wanted him to be. Not a demonstrative man, Colbán surprised himself by hunkering down in front of the boy.

He needed to speak the truth to him, and he preferred they be on the same level. The boy was proud. Mayhap too proud. But setting him straight about the lie he’d been fed would not go over well. “Yer da was a brave man.” Colbán spoke from the heart, surprised by the tears flooding his throat. “My most loyal friend.” The young face turned suspicious. “I do not know ye.” Scoffing, Colbán said, “And mayhap ye dinna know yer true father.

” Colbán would never have admitted how uncomfortable the intensity of the boy’s piercing green eyes made him, but he dared not look away. He was too young to remember his real father, and that made Colbán’s heart heavy. Colbán pulled out a large pendant from inside his mantle. It immediately caught the boy’s interest. Made of silver, the oval medallion was masterfully engraved with a hog pierced by a well-placed arrow. The symbol of Branan’s clan. Colbán ran a hand lightly over the top, the grooves of the imprint smooth against his fingertips, then raised his gaze to the boy’s expectant expression. “This belonged to yer father.” He placed the cord around the boy’s neck. The lad studied the drawing, holding the medal closer to his face.

“How can it be that I have not seen this before?” “Mayhap ye’ve not seen yer true father, not since ye were learning to walk.” The boy’s face puckered with confusion, his eyes dark with skepticism, but he remained silent. “Son of Branan,” Colbán spoke the name with great reverence. “By what name will ye be known?” The tears coursed freely down his cheeks now, and he allowed the pendant to drop. It hung past his small chest to land at his belly. With a strong voice, he answered, “I am called Lachlann.”

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