The Highland Witch
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In the Scottish Highlands of 1314, huntress Rowan believes she is a child of the forest, never knowing her mother. Elden the Seer raised her and kept past secrets hidden. Colin of Dunrobin is rewarded Castle Lochlash but must marry a woman who worships the dark arts. A chance meeting of Colin and Rowan awakes the past and sets the stage for betrayal, revenge, and a search for the Highland Witch.
Highlands of Scotland 1299
The highland mist swirled as Silobah crept silently through the forest, one hand grasping the reins that pulled her horse uphill behind her, the other tightly clutching her skirts. A golden eagle circled high in the gray skies, its piercing cry slicing the stillness. Lifting her head to catch sight of the bird, she stumbled. With a painful thud her knees hit the ground and she paused for a moment, too weary to move, too tired to gather the reins back into her sore hands. The horse pushed his nose against her shoulder and she shoved back, irritable, feeling every one of her forty years.
The three-day journey had been grueling and she wanted nothing more than to return to the sea air and the soft greens of Lochalsh leaving these jagged peaks, this unforgiving cold grey land far behind. She looked up again. The eagle was gone. All that was left were the dark great-limbed pines and spidery wych elms silently standing guard, watching. With a shudder, Silobah got to her feet and wished herself back home, not here, not climbing to find the great Falls of Measach and the sacred Corrieshalloch Gorge, doing Lady Stannardís bidding.
The roar of falling water reached her ears. With a small surge of relief she hurried forward. Pushing through the trees she froze, staring at Corrieshalloch. The sacred gorge at last. She sent a silent prayer of thanks to the goddess. Holding her breath and holding even tighter to the trees she gazed down into the vast Falls of Measach, its sheer blue-black rock plunging deep into the earth. Ferns, moss and sorrel clung to its dripping sides. How could anything live in the cracks of these cold rocks jutting into thin air? A gust of wind blew into the chasm and mist from the falls moved up and toward her as if to draw her nearer the edge. Quickly she stepped back.
The branches closed around keeping her safe but there was no soothing her heart. There was no choice, no way out. Lady Stannard would go to any lengths to hide what she had done. It was a horror. A mistake from the start. Silobah had counseled against it to no avail, trying to fulfill the oath she had once sworn to True Thomas. But the strong-headed arrogant Englishwoman had had her way and a devastating nightmare; a blood-ridden disaster was the result. And now the bairn was to be taken back to the high forest and abandoned. The message was clear. Silobah would do as commanded or die. And no matter her choice, it would be death for the days-old child anyway. The least she could do was send it on its way with the goddess watching over its spirit.
The angry caw of ravens snapped Silobah out of her reverie. Looking up for the birds she noted the sky. It would snow tomorrow. If the bairn did not die of the cold overnight then the soft snow would indeed bring its own brand of death. Slowly walking to the horse, emptying her mind of all thought, she reached into the basket and withdrew the bundle. Holding it tightly against her breast she paused, exhaled her grief, then turned toward the falls. Gently she placed her burden on the ground then stood straight and began her prayer to the goddess of the sacred gorge.
A thin wail drifted from the folds of cloth. Silobah shuddered. A small rift of fear traveled up her spine. Surely the trees, the very sky could hear the cry; bear witness to her actions. The crying became louder and Silobah backed away one step then another, the palms of her hands rubbing down the front of her cloak. Suddenly silence. She paused, holding her breath and stared at the bundle. A tiny hand lifted and batted the air. At the same moment the eagle returned crying high in the heavens. Terrified, Silobah wheeled about and gasping for breath, ran to the horse. Grabbing the reins she fled stumbling down the hill pulling the horse behind her. Moments later, a small silent figure moved forward toward the babe.