Chapter Seventeen

Cien sat astride his horse wearily. It had been a long while, and he was more than ready to be home. They had not found Alex, but there had been gossip that he was dead. Cien felt a pang of regret. He wished he had not been driven to throw his cousin out, but it had come to it, he reminded himself sharply. It wasn't his fault. Nay, Alex had indeed gone daft. Speaking of elves and witches.

The rain didn't help his mood.

It had begun to drizzle a few hours before and was now down to a steady down pour. Glancing behind him, he saw his soldiers looking as miserable as he felt. He shook himself mentally and forced himself forward.

They rode steadily, the rain belting at them from a sharp angle as the winds changed. A short while later, Cien noticed movement ahead of them. Pulling his horse to a stop, he listened as the other soldiers behind him came to an instant stop as well. He watched the movement take form. The mand on the horse rode fast, as if the hounds of hell were chasing him.

He rested his hand on the hilt of his sword, ready to pull it out if the man was an enemy.

As he approached Cien relaxed. It was Lochlain. Cien felt his mouth curve into a small smile as he watched his trusted soldier come riding up. When he was within distance, Cien saw the ashen color of his face and was instantly hardened up. The soldier stopped his mount in front of Cien and jumped down unceremoniously.

Cien decended the mount and walked quickly to his friend and soldier.

"They've taken Rose." He said without preamble.

The world went red, and Cien could hardly contain his anger. "Who?"

"Alex." The soldier moved his weight from foot to foot. "He had the MacPhearsons with him, Cien." Cien looked off into the distance, stratigizing in his head.

"I dinna check the MacPhearson holding. Damn me to hell." He whirled around and mounted. "Get every soldier worth his weight and bring them to the MacPhearson hall. If war is what they crave from me and mine, 'tis what they shall recieve!" The men behind him gave war cries and lifted their swords to the sky.

There was bad blood between MacPhearson and Cien's sire, but he had left them be. Not any longer.

Cien screamed long and ragged at the sky. When he again looked down at his soldiers, there was blood in their eyes.

Aye. War they would have.

My head hurt. I tried to open my eyes, but couldn't. The pain in my mind and back was so horrible the light even hurt. My back? I forced my eyes open to realize I was on a horse. Why was I on a horse? I tried to lift my hand to my face, but they were bound. Panic set in, and I screamed as I began to thrash around. What the hell was going on? Why was I on a horse? Why was I bound?

The horse came to a sudden stop and I screamed again. I forced a deep breath and tried to calm my racing heart. Oh my sweet Jesus, was I dead?

I was in the bailey of some keep. It wasn't Cien's keep though. It was far dirtier, and instead of being made of stone, the keep was wood, and looked haphazardly made. I was yanked off of the horse suddenly, and thrown to the ground.

I hit hard, knocking all the air out of my chest. I tried to breathe, but I couldn't and that made the panic all the worse. My eyes darted around wildly trying to take everything in. Where the hell was I? Who were these barbarians standing over me, snickering? Why was I bound? Oh Lord help me, I cried silently.

"Ah, Alex," a loud booming voice announced from my left. I looked quickly to see my least favorite person in all of midieval Scotland clasping hands with an unsavory looking older Scotsman. I was finally able to drag in a breath and looked away, least he look at me.

I looked to my right, and screamed again. Tilda.

She had been bound and tied to the back of a horse, no doubt the one that I had been on, but for the life of me I couldn't remember. I screamed again, until someone hit me on the cheek, sending me sprawling on my side.

She'd been dragged behind the horse. I wouldn't have been able to recognize her except the dress she wore was one I had given her. I hoped she was dead for all the pain she would endure for the injuries she had on her body. Her face was unreconginzable. Battered and brused beyond anything I had ever seen.

She lay limp and I prayed harder than I ever thought possible. I prayed she died quickly, that she did not endure the pain long. I cried. I cried even as they spit on me, calling me the Fraser whore and witch. I mourned the loss of my friend. Some one kicked me in the stomach and I did not see who it was or care. I hardly felt it.

I felt myself being moved back and forth and realized a bit distantly they were beating me. They kicked me brutially, stomping down on my legs, but I didn't feel it. I was numb to it all. I stared at Tilda's body unmoving and still as death as I cried and they beat me.

"Enough," some one yelled. "We want her alive for the burning."

At that moment I could have cared less.