Making a quick foray to the kitchens, where Maesie, the cook, was kindling the fire, Malcolm scooped up the napkin-wrapped bundle of bannocks and the skin of cider that she always had ready for him. He was the best hunter at Kinlochaline and Maesie always made a point to reward his efforts.
“Nae parritch fer ye this morn?” she asked.
“Nae time,” he answered, cramming a bannock into his mouth and washing it down with a long swig of cider. “I am off to kill a stag.”
“Then we’ll all have venison for supper,” she replied with a nod of satisfaction.
Leaving the kitchen, Malcolm made a beeline for the kennels. At first sight of him, the hunting hounds began to whimper and whine. While his foster brother Lorne, always insisted on scenting his prey with a lyme-hound and running it to exhaustion with an entire pack of dogs, Malcolm took only a single sighthound to help locate and quietly stalk his prey.
“Come, Sorcha,” Malcolm called to his favorite, a quiet and mild-tempered deerhound. The limpid-eyed dog rose from her straw bed, languidly stretching her long limbs as he opened her cage. But all sign of lethargy vanished the moment she was free of the kennel.
With head held high, Sorcha moved at his side, easily matching Malcolm’s ground-eating strides as he crossed the bailey and exited the castle gate into the fog enshrouded landscape beyond. The morning air was brisk and the breeze hinted of salt from Loch Aline. He paused, testing the wind direction. The best hunting grounds were north toward the freshwater Loch Arienas. Although the animals he stalked could oft be found near still waters in the early hours, his scent would carry if he ventured in that direction. Adapting his original plan, he altered his course eastward to track along the northern bank of the Rannoch River toward the more distant Loch Teàrnait.
The fog had begun to dissipate from the land with the cresting sun, but steam continued to rise from the river, forming ghostly shapes that danced over the water. The music of song thrush and wood warblers mixed with the gurgle of the rushing waters. A kingfisher with its brilliant blue back and metallic copper breast suddenly darted from its perch on a low lying branch and dove into the water, rising swiftly in triumph with a small fish struggling to escape from its long, black beak.
The narrow but swiftly flowing waters of the Rannoch provided excellent fishing for both man and beast. It also formed the boundary between the estates of Kinlochaline and Ardtornish, a border he was warned never to cross due to a longstanding dispute between the two chieftains, Conn Mac Innes and Gillebride Mac Gilleadamnam, the erstwhile Thane of Argyll.
Malcolm had little interest in learning the entire history of their feud. Land disputes were common enough in the Highlands, particularly in hard times when men struggled just to feed their families, but it made little sense in Malcolm’s mind, to fight with a close neighbor when fish and game both plentiful. The lochs of Morvern teemed with salmon and trout, and great herds of roe and red deer abounded, gazing the moors and mountainsides. Hunting had become his chief occupation since coming to Argyll, although Lorne, by far, favored salmon fishing.
He imagined Lorne would be stirring from his own bed by now, but Malcolm preferred to hunt alone. With Sorcha as his boon companion, Malcolm spent half of his waking hours wandering the forests and hiking the mountain trails, and rarely returned empty-handed.
They had traveled the better part of a mile when Sorcha abruptly halted, her gaze locked on a copse of pine. Malcom did the same and then slowly, he reached for his quiver. Within the stand of trees stood a roe deer with twin spotted fawns. Raising her nose, the doe suspiciously sniffed the air.
Frozen at his side, Sorcha’s body quivered with anticipation as she awaited Malcolm’s command to chase. The doe took a tentative step beyond the shelter of trees, and paused again. The front half of her body was now exposed. It would be an effortless kill, but the fawns would not survive long without their mother. They would be easy prey for the wolves.
With a sigh, Malcolm let his hand drop from his bow. “Nae, Sorcha,” he murmured to the eager hound. Grasping her collar with one hand, Malcolm waved at the deer with the other. “Off wi’ ye now!”
Startled to flight, the doe leapt away, her twins bounding on her heels.
Gazing up at him with her large brown eyes, Sorcha whimpered her disappointment.
He settled his hand on the dog’s shoulder. “Sorry lass, but we will find worthier game.”
I just love a tough hero with a tender heart!
VENGEANCE (Sons of Scotland #3) is coming this summer!
Making a quick foray to the kitchens, where Maesie, the cook, was kindling the fire, Malcolm scooped up the napkin-wrapped bundle of bannocks and the skin of cider that she always had ready for him. He was the best hunter at Kinlochaline and Maesie always made a point to reward his efforts. “Nae parritch fer ye this morn?” she asked. “Nae time,” he answered, cramming a bannock into... Read More
A king’s grandson robbed of his rightful inheritance…. Domnall Mac William, the descendant of two kings, has spent his life desperately seeking the approval of the man who disowned him, and preparing for the day he will reclaim both the lands that were stolen from him… and the girl he loves. A knight’s daughter who longs for justice….As a young child, Davina of Crailing lost everything she loved–her family... Read More
Just gather all the hero names and enter them in the rafflecoptor on Elizabeth Rose's page. Care to guess who my Valentine hero will be? Start here and find out: Valentine hop links 1) Elizabeth Rose 2) Victoria Vane 3) Lily Baldwin 4) Vonda Sinclair 5) Cathy MacRae 6) Amy Jarecki 7) Meara Platt 8) Lana Williams Here is my prize pack for the hop!... Read More