Traditional Fisher Folk Songs of Northeast Scotland

Scottish Fisher Lass

Scottish Fisher Lass

Traditional Fisher Folk Songs of Northeast Scotland

Who would be a fisherman’s wife?

“Who would be a fisherman’s wife?
To go to the mussels with a scrubber and a knife
A dead out fire
And a reveled bed
Away to the mussels in the morning

See the boat come beatin’ in
With three reefs to the foresail in
Not a stitch
Upon his back
Away to the mussels in the morning”

The Bonnie Fisher Lass

“Twas in the month of August one morning by the sea,
When violets and cowslips they so delighted me.
I met a pretty damsel for an empress she might pass,
And my heart was captivated by the bonnie fisher lass.

Her petticoats she wore so short, they came below her knee.
Her handsome leg and ankle, they so delighted me.
Her rosy cheeks her yellow hair, for an empress she might pass,
And wi’ her creel she daily toiled, the bonnie fisher lass.

I stepped up beside her and to her I did say
‘Why are you out so early? Why are you going this way?’
She said ‘I’m going to look for bait, now allow me for to pass.
For our lines we must get ready’ said the bonnie fisher lass.

Her petticoats she wore so short, they came below her knee.
Her handsome leg and ankle, they so delighted me.
Her rosy cheeks her yellow hair, for an empress she might pass,
And wi’ her creel she daily toiled, the bonnie fisher lass.”

The Boatie Rows

“O weel may the boatie row,
and better she may speed;
O weel may the boatie row,
That brings the bairns’ breid.”

The boatie rows, the boatie rows,
The boatie rows full well;
And muckle good before the drag,
The marline and the creel.”

Mairi’s Wedding

Step we gaily on we go,
Heel for heel and toe for toe,
Arm in arm and row and row,
All for Mairi’s wedding.

Over hillways up and down,
Myrtle green and the bracken brown,
Past the sheiling through the town,
Is our darling Mairi.

Red her cheeks as rowans are.
Bright her eyes as any star,
Fairest o them all by far,
Is our darling Mairi.

Plenty herring plenty meal,
Plenty peat tae fill her creel,
Plenty bonnie bairns as weel,
That’s the toast for Mairi.

This medley was compiled by Jeanne Treat, author of the Dark Birthright Saga, a 17th century tale from Scotland, England, and the Colonies.

There are many songs referenced in these books, taken from traditional Scottish folk music.  Most of these compositions are over 100 years old and in the public domain, with one exception. “Mairi’s Wedding” was written by Johnny Bannerman in Gaelic in 1935 for his friend Mairi McNiven, and translated into English a year later by Hugh Roberton.  Some of these songs are still performed today, by artists such as Isla St Clair and The Johnson Girls.

For information on Jeanne’s books, visit her online at http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

 Dark Birthright Saga

To hear these songs, explore these links:  (YouTube videos)

Mairi’s Wedding
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pkRQ0SuzSWw

The Bonnie Fisher Lass
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SIke7GJIfZE

Who Would Be a Fisherman’s Wife?
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CN8kVsZWMVk

The Boatie Rows
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RVJ-uLiRgEk

Enjoy!

A snippet from my novel “Dark Lord”

General Alexander Leslie

General Alexander Leslie

A snippet from my novel “Dark Lord” from a chapter named “Seeds of Rebellion”.

August 17th, 1637  – Edinburgh, Scotland

It was hot and dry in the old section of the city, atypical for this time of year.  Dust rose from cobblestone streets, choking the hardiest of inhabitants.

Alexander Leslie hiked a sea bag on his shoulder and gazed at the sign on a tavern.  The establishment had changed hands since he’d been here last, fifteen years ago.  The framed sign featured the innkeeper’s name “J. Adams” above a painted image of a man with a gelding.  This told him that the inn had stables in addition to beds for travelers.   Alexander placed a hand on the stout wooden door and pushed hard.  The portal groaned and opened suddenly into a spacious room with oak plank floors.  His first impression was good.  Light flooded the chamber from high windows.  Rough hewn tables and benches were loosely arranged, occupied by men from a variety of professions.

He felt comfortable here.  There were tradesmen, merchants, sailors, and nobles; drinking and talking in small groups.  As he walked to the back, he caught fragments of conversation about politics, economics, and the recent unrest.  Scruffy dogs lay at their masters’ feet, absently scratching fleas.  The room reeked of ale, tobacco, and unwashed bodies.  Near the fireplace, a buxom girl in apron and cap rebuffed the advances of a toothless patron.

The lass noticed him, her face lighting up with feigned recognition.  “What shall it be, good Sir?  Ale?  Whisky?  Or a taste of something more intimate?”  She gave him a coy smile, indicating that she was available.

Alexander hesitated.  She was bonny enough for a roll in the hay, but he was bound to stay faithful to his wife.  His father, Captain George Leslie, had sired four illegitimate children.   His mother had been described as a wench from Rannoch.  Because of his upbringing, he was unwilling to do that to his children.  “Tankard of ale, lass.  That will do for now.”  He dropped his sea bag on the floor and sat at the nearest table.  As the woman fetched his drink, he thought about his half-siblings.  He had a brother in France, another in Spain, and a sister in this fair city.  Though she died before they met, he’d learned that she had a daughter.  Three years ago, he’d inquired about the lass named Jenny Geddes and learned that she was an indentured servant.  “My niece”, he said, “is no better than a common slave.  I mean to buy her freedom.”

The lass brought a drink to the table and brushed his shoulder with her bare arm.  He mumbled that he was expecting a gentleman and sent her on her way.  At fifty-seven, Alexander was an attractive man.  A life long soldier in the Swedish army, he had a chiseled look and tight body.  He’d earned a reputation as a strategist, been knighted by the Swedish monarch, and had risen to the position of Field Marshal.  Now events in his native country compelled him to return.  Having amassed a fortune abroad, he could supply an army with cannons and muskets.

The door creaked and opened into the tavern, admitting a well dressed nobleman carrying a gold-topped cane.  He stopped and scanned the room, resting his eyes on the seaman. Alexander guessed that this was the man who had summoned him.  The nobleman wore an article of clothing they’d agreed upon; a white silk scarf with gold piping.  He signaled discreetly, inviting him to his table.

John Elphinstone, 2nd Lord Balmerino, carefully removed his scarf and crossed the room.  He placed the garment on the table and waited to be acknowledged.

“Lord Balmerino?”

“Aye.”

“Alexander Leslie, at yer service.”  He took out a brooch and plunked it on the table.  It was a symbol of the Swedish army.  “My calling card, as we agreed…” He smiled and extended his hand.

Lord Balmerino shook it.  “Glad to have ye on our side.” He took a seat opposite him.  “The years have been good to ye.  Ye don’t look a day over forty.”

Alexander made a small sound of agreement.  “Soldiering is a Spartan existence.  Fighting…  Guarding…  Training the troops…  It would be a mistake to go soft.”

The man seemed eager to get down to business.  “I trust that ye got my letters.”

“Aye, as well as those from Sir Thomas Hope.  Does this mean that the nobility will back a rebellion?”

Lord Balmerino nodded.  “Aye.  We’re being slowly stripped of our influence and lands, for the sake of his majesty’s Bishops and clergy.  Most of us will commit men and supplies; some are willing to enlist their sons.  There are a few holdouts in Catholic strongholds, but I think that we can bring them to our side.”

“Good.”  Alexander took a sip and rolled the ale across his tongue.  It was a bitter variety.  He needed specifics.  “I heard about the riot and subsequent arrests.  What are we in for?”

Lord Balmerino signaled to the serving lass, ordering a round of drinks.  He leaned forward and spoke covertly, “After the riot, thousands of men fanned out across the country, spreading the news and carrying petitions.  Within weeks we will have them back so that we can face the Privy Council.  They will have to inform the King.”

Alexander frowned.  “He’s a stubborn man.  What will he do?”

Lord Balmerino was solemn.  “The King is not like his father.  He will never give in to the will of the people.  We’re in for a wild ride, my friend.”

“Can we raise an army by spring?”

“The people are on fire with religious fervor.  The lairds and chieftains should have no trouble gathering troops.  But their weapons are primitive.”

Alexander was tense.  “Leave that to me.  I shall return to Sweden to make arrangements.  Within weeks, boat loads of cannons and muskets will be on their way.”

“Good!”  The man smiled.  “Of course, we will require yer leadership as well.”

“That goes without saying.  It is time for this old soldier to serve his country.”

“Admirable.”  Lord Balmerino plunked a bag of gold on the table and pushed it in his direction.   “Here is a thousand pounds, a small down payment for yer services.”

There was an argument nearby which caused them to take notice.  Angry voices rang out as a drink was spilled.  There didn’t seem to be any immediate danger.  They returned to their conversation.

“On another subject…  Did ye inquire about my niece Jenny Geddes?”

Lord Balmerino smiled.  “She’s a fiery lass; a true asset to the rebellion.  She led the riot inside St Giles.”

Alexander was surprised.  “A woman did this?  Did they throw her in the Tollbooth?”

“Nay.  I’m told that she left the city to marry a man from a northern estate.”

So Jenny had gained her freedom.  “Where is she now?”

“Drake Castle; the jurisdiction of the Duke of Seaford…  She married his right-hand man.”  He looked pensive as he fingered the silver brooch.  “It’s a fortunate thing.  We need an organizer in Aberdeenshire.”

Leslie nodded in agreement.  “What do we know about the Duke?”

“The young man has a reputation.  Months ago, he killed his own father in a sword fight to the death.  They say that he has the Sight.  Some claim that he has supernatural powers.”

Leslie smiled.  “Ah, the rumor mill…  We should all have such things said about us.  It gives us an advantage in battle.  What are his religious leanings?”

“The man’s a Catholic who used to be Protestant, yet seems uncommitted to either.”

“How did that happen?”

“He’s the long lost son of Robert Gordon, who lost track of him before he was born.  Gordon reclaimed him at sixteen from lowly circumstances.”

Leslie sipped his ale.  “What circumstances would those be?”

“It’s said that he was raised by a common fisherman.”

“Did Gordon force him to the Catholic faith?”

“Aye.”

“It could be useful.” Alexander’s interest was piqued.  “He can’t stay neutral in these times.  I will visit my niece when I return from Sweden and assess the situation.”

The woman brought two tankards and smiled at the soldier as she placed them on the table.  She lifted her skirt slightly as she turned and headed for the kitchen.

Lord Balmerino chuckled.  “Ye’re a lucky man to have influence with bonny young women.”

Leslie reddened.  “Never mind that…  The harlot means nothing to me.”  He leaned forward to ensure their privacy.  “The day grows short.  Tell me about the will of the people.”

Lord Balmerino smiled.  “The people are committed to the cause.  What we need is a standard to unite them under.”  He withdrew a drawing from his cape and unfolded it on the table.  “What do ye think?”

Alexander Leslie studied the sketch, which showed a handsome flag bearing the motto ‘For Christ’s Crown’.   He instinctively knew that something was missing.  “Can we change this?”

“To what?”

Leslie was pensive as he traced the flag in the sketch.  He drew upon his years of military experience.  “A standard must portray will and purpose.  With yer permission, I would like it to say ‘For Christ’s Crown and Covenant’.”

“A stroke of brilliance!” the noble remarked as he quickly refolded the paper, “We shall ask them to sign a covenant.”

Author’s note:
Dark Lord is book two in the Dark Birthright Trilogy.
Available in paperback and popular eBook formats.
Read about the series at

http://www.DarkLordTheNovel.com

Passenger List – Ship “Unity”

Sail Away

Sail

Following the Battle of Dunbar in 1650, over 4000 Scots had been captured and imprisoned. In fairly short order, 150 of the healthiest men were gathered, taken to London and then shipped on the Unity to New England, arriving in Massachusetts. These approximately 150 Scottish prisoners of war which arrived in Massachusetts Bay were a small remnant of the prisoners from the Battle of Dunbar which numbered in the thousands. Many perished in England or were banished to other countries to serve time.

Passenger List – Ship “Unity”.

 

This battle and its aftermath is detailed in my novel DARK DESTINY, book three of the Dark Birthright trilogy.

A sea voyage to the colonies is mentioned, as is the young man Peter Grant.

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

 

Summer Solstice

A video compilation of our visit to Aikey Brae Stone Circle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  Wouldn’t you love to attend a ‪#‎Solstice‬ ceremony here?

 

It’s quite a hike!  Here are the GPS coordinates:

GATE AT ROAD

N 57 DEGREES 31 MINUTES 17.6 SECS

W 2 DEGREES 3 MINUTES 44.1 SECS

200’ ELEVATION

WALK PATH UP TO 405’ ELEVATION

 

This is the circle I referenced in my novel DARK BIRTHRIGHT, book one of the Dark Birthright Trilogy.

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Dark Birthright Saga

 

James Graham – 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose

James Graham

James Graham

Portrait by William Dobson, some commentary by Carolyn Bruce.

James Graham was hung, quartered and his head impaled on a stake at the Mercat Cross on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile, On 21 May in 1650!

On 21 May 1650, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose and 5th Earl of Montrose, Chief of Clan Graham and an able and brilliant soldier, was hanged at Old Market Cross in Edinburgh. When Charles I tried to force upon the Scots a prayer book they regarded as “too Catholic”, the Presbyterian Scots resisted, and James Graham joined them,  partially because of the political power King Charles had vested in Anglican Bishops. Civil war raged for years, with Montrose participating at first against the king, and later, against the Covenanters, as he tried to establish an apolitical clergy. His reputation as a military leader was well earned, and after the Battle of Kilsyth in 1645, the king appointed him Lord Lieutenant and Captain-general of Scotland. When Charles I was defeated in the Battle of Naseby and sent for Montrose to come to his aid, Montrose was defeated at Philiphaugh. Unable to raise another army, he escaped to Norway. Charles I was beheaded, and his son, Charles II, in exile, from where he appointed Montrose Lieutenant of Scotland. As such he returned home to raise an army, but was betrayed; the king had struck a deal with the Covenanters to regain his throne. After his execution “The Great Montrose” was decapitated and his head was set upon “the prick [pike] on the highest stone” of the Old Tolbooth at St. Giles Cathedral. There it remained for 11 years, at which time his body parts were reunited for a hero’s funeral.

******

You can read about this event in my novel DARK DESTINY, which is book three of the DARK BIRTHRIGHT TRILOGY.

Here is an excerpt:

Chapter 30 – “Letters” June 29, 1650

Drake Castle

The Duke stood in his study, gazing out the open window.  The day was oppressively hot, with temperatures above ninety.  Because of the weather, he was informally dressed – in breeks, a shirt, and no shoes or socks.  “Whew, it’s hot!”  He mopped his brow with a handkerchief.

Dughall spotted Jamison crossing the courtyard with a pack of letters in his hand.  His spirits lifted.  “Perhaps it’s from Gilbert.”  He left the window and moved his ledgers to the sideboard.  There was a knock on the door.  “Come in.”

Jamison entered.  “My Lord.”  The servant was sweaty from the heat.  “A courier dropped these letters at the gate.”  He placed them on the desk.

“How many are there?”

“Three.”

Dughall motioned for him to take a seat.  He picked up one of the envelopes and saw that it was addressed to Jamison.  “This one is for ye.”

The servant grinned.  “I know.  I want to read it together.  It’s from my contact in Edinburgh.  He’s a member of Parliament.  I asked about Montrose.”

Dughall frowned.  “Ah…  The trial.”

“And execution.”

“We shall see.”  The Duke sliced open the envelope and extracted the letter.  “Shall I read out loud?”

“Aye.”

The author had some schooling.  It was written in fancy handwriting.

Jamison my friend,

You inquired about the Marquess of Montrose.  There is quite a story to tell.  The Parliament condemned him to death in absentia before he arrived here.  James Graham was brought as a prisoner to Edinburgh and without trial was sentenced to death on May 20th.  Archibald Johnston read his fate out loud for all to hear.  He was to be hanged at the Market Cross with a copy of De Rebus hung ‘round his neck.  This book you may remember was Bishop Wishart’s favorable biography of Graham’s life.  But there was more to his humiliation!  He was to swing on the scaffold for three hours, after which time, his head was to be severed and his body quartered.  Unless he repented, he was to be buried in unhallowed ground. 

Graham did not repent.  He insisted that he was a real Covenanter and a loyal subject.  This was met with jeers and shameful gestures of mockery.

I watched the sentence carried out on May 21st at the town market cross.  I must say that Graham accepted his fate with grace and courage.  When allowed final words, he prayed to heaven, “Scatter my ashes!  Strew them in the air, Lord, since thou knowest where all these atoms are.”

The hanging was then carried out.  As prescribed, his body hung for three hours, was decapitated, and quartered.  The head was displayed on a pike at the Tollbooth Prison, while the parts were dispersed for display in Glasgow, Perth, Stirling, and Aberdeen.      

I suspect that you will approve of this action, given your experience with the man.  But it was a disgraceful end for a Lord of the realm.  I fear that we have set a bad precedent.  After his death, some of us convinced Parliament to bury his body parts in hallowed ground.  They were going to dump them in a common grave on Burgh Muir.

In closing, we must be careful what we wish for!  Someday, it could apply to us.  I hope that this satisfies your curiosity.  Stay safe, my friend.  Give my regards to Lord Drake and the Lady of the castle.

 Sincerely – John H.

The Duke shuddered.  “He’s right.  That was a disgraceful way for a lord to die.”

Jamison grunted.  “Agreed.”

******

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

Our Sketch of Lord Montrose

You can read about the trilogy at:http://www.darklordthenovel.com

Celebrate Beltane!

beltane photo: Beltane Beltane.jpg

“Beltane” – artist rendition courtesy of tignsham

Beltane is an ancient Gaelic festival originally celebrated in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man.  Falling on May 1st, it is a spring time celebration of optimism and fertility.

Irish mythology marks Beltane as the beginning of the summer season for the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Milesians.  Other cultures associate Beltane with the Celtic God Bel – a God of light, fire, and the Sun.

Large outdoor fires were built on Beltane.  Young people leaped over them to ensure fertility, and livestock were driven between two fires to ensure a good yield.  A Beltane fire was kindled with Birch twigs and much of the day was spent with couples frolicking in the forest.   Sometimes, a Maypole was erected from Birch wood, representing a phallus.  Fertility dances were performed around the pole to ensure good health and abundant crops.  More recently, dances involved wrapping brightly colored ribbons around the Maypole.

Beltane was a traditional time for couples to be handfasted.  The couple said vows as their hands were ritually tied together.  When the ceremony ended, they would jump over a broom or the Bel-fire into their new life together.

On a supernatural note, the veil between the worlds is considered to be thin on Beltane.  Spirits of the Ancestors can be contacted.

Jeanne Treat is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a saga that takes place in 17th century Scotland, England, and the British Colonies.   Her novels and short stories often feature Celtic customs.  You can read about them at: http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Battle of Culloden – 16 April 1746

Culloden Monument

Culloden Monument

The Battle of Culloden was the final confrontation of the Jacobite Rising.  On April 16, 1746, near Inverness , the Jacobite forces of Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) faced a royalist army commanded by the Duke of Cumberland.  The Jacobites had a goal – to overthrow the reigning House of Hanover and restore the House of Stuart to the British throne.   Their army consisted of Scottish Highlanders, a number of Lowland Scots, a small detachment of Englishmen from the Manchester Regiment, and French and Irish units.  They were supported and supplied by France.  The Duke of Cumberland’s army was largely English, with a fair number of Scottish Highlanders, and Ulster men from Ireland.

The battle on Culloden Moor was bloody and quick.  Over 1500 Jacobites were killed or wounded in an hour – while Hanovarian forces incurred light losses – about 50 dead and 250 wounded.  Many wounded Jacobites were slaughtered in the aftermath – earning the Duke of Cumberland the title of ‘Butcher’.   Charles Stuart escaped to France and made no further attempts to challenge Hanoverian power in Britain.

In the following months, the King’s forces continued the assault on Jacobite sympathizers with the Act of Proscription, disarming them and banning the kilt and the tartan.  Violators were incarcerated or transported to a penal colony for a second offense.   Other Acts ended the feudal bond of military service and removed the sovereign power chiefs had over their clan.  The ban on kilt and tartan was not lifted until thirty-five years after the battle.  This monument stands as a silent reminder of this tragic event.

***

Here is a short story I wrote about this battle:

“Recollections of a Spirit”

It was a cold morning on April 16th, 1746. The sun had just risen.

Duncan and I had traveled for days on horseback, to join the army of the Prince. We trusted that he could defeat the red soldiers as he had at Prestonpans. Near Inverness, a French courier demanded our intentions and asked us to carry letters to Culloden House. Duncan took the letters, stored them in his plaid, and we continued on our way. His brothers met us at Inverness, telling us to fight with the Glengarry regiment, camped near Drumossie Moor. I took the letters and told him to join his brothers, that I would follow after I delivered them.

That was the last time that I saw him as a free man. I was taken at Inverness by the English and jailed. When it was determined that I carried letters in French, they beat me mercilessly, asking who they were for, and what their meaning was. I could not tell them. They kept me in irons in a cold cellar, without food or water. The beatings were relentless.

Word came that day that the Prince’s army had been soundly defeated. Other prisoners joined me, many with mortal wounds, dying shortly thereafter. Men arrived with limbs hacked or bowels pierced. The stench of rotting flesh was overpowering. There was no word of my friend or his brothers. They kept us in a cellar, bound, with no food or water for that day and the next. No one tended our wounds or administered last words. Men cried piteously for water or death. Still, I held out hope.

On the morning of the third day, I learned that I was to be executed as a rebel. After sunrise, I would be flogged to death at the tree outside the jail. They’d sent for a lowlander from a nearby encampment, known for his brutality.

Before sunrise, I was brought outside and made to sit on the cold ground to await my fate. I smelled wood fires and heard dogs barking, as red soldiers guarded me. Able-bodied prisoners were brought out to watch, but they wouldn’t look at me. I knew it was my last day.

As a young man, I was no stranger to whippings. I did as I liked and risked the consequences. Father whipped me soundly with a strap many times. I played a game that I would not flinch or cry out, so he beat me until he was no longer angry. These were my thoughts as I waited, that it would not be worse than that.

The red soldiers allowed a man of the cloth to approach me to say the last words. It was cold and he wore a hood that obscured his face. As he knelt beside me and pushed back his hood, I saw that it was Duncan. By God’s grace he had survived the battle. He touched my forehead and made the sign of the cross, saying the words we’d heard so many times. With tears in his eyes, he whispered that he couldn’t save me, but would avenge my death with his last breath. I begged him not to watch it, but he would not leave me.

At sunrise the Lowlander arrived, a muscular man with eyes of steel. Soldiers pounded stakes into either side of an oak, removed my irons and shirt, and tied me to the tree with rope. It was cold but I was sweating, and my heart pounded like a drum. As blood rushed in my ears, I heard the sentence being read.

A soldier gagged me, but the man removed it, saying that he needed to hear me. He took the ‘cat’ out of his bag and showed it to me. It was a whip of nine knotted strands, ending in sharp bits of metal. In a voice that was cold and deliberate, he taunted me, calling me a rebel, a traitor, and an animal. I burned with humiliation and anger.

All I wanted was to bear my punishment in silence and die like a man; but it wasn’t to be. I held staunch for twenty strokes and faltered, my pride crumbling. I grunted, cursed, and gasped for breath as the leather tails blistered my back. May God forgive me, I cried like a child, and rubbed my wrists raw against the ropes.

He stopped after one-hundred strokes to drink. I was nearly unconscious, so they roused me with water. Before he began again, he taunted me. He’d wagered that I wouldn’t last another fifty, and intended to finish me now. The man ran his rough fingers across the marks in my flesh, thrust his hand down the front of my kilt, and touched me as a lover would.

In spite of my predicament, I was furious and spit into his face. His eyes narrowed in anger.

He began again, whipping me with a vengeance. Blood soaked my kilt, ran down my legs, and pooled in my boots. I could barely stand, and the cries that I made were not even human.

I heard them call out one-forty.

Silently, I begged God to take my soul. I was cold and trembling, too weak to cry out. My body was dying but my mind was a raging storm. I held on to anger and refused to die. My inner voice cried, “I won’t let go, I won’t let go!”

Duncan’s anguished thoughts broke through my inner turmoil.

Eavan let go!

Let go! Eavan let go!

For God’s sake let go!

May God forgive me for not taking your place!

My mind calmed and my breathing slowed. A brilliant bubble formed before my eyes, translucent and full of light. I saw Mother looking out to sea for my brother, Grandfather whittling a walking stick, and young John struggling on his deathbed. The bubble enfolded me, and softly popped.

I was pleasantly confused, convinced that they’d stopped the execution. I stood among them in my best riding breeks, shirt, and plaid. It was lightly snowing but I was as warm as fresh bread. I flexed my shoulder muscles and gazed at my hands. My backside was whole and my wrists were healed.

The big man cleaned and oiled his whip and put it in his bag. He joked with the soldiers about the rebel bastard, and collected his wagers. Still I did not understand. Duncan mounted his horse and rode towards me.

I waved my hands. “Duncan. Over here! They let me go.”

My friend stared through me to a place beyond, his face lined with grief. What did he see? I turned my head and saw the bloody shell of a body that was mine, and knew I was dead.

A young soldier thrust his bayonet into the body. “The rebel is gone! Let this be a lesson to all who oppose the King of England.”

Duncan made the sign of the cross and rode off on his chestnut mare. I followed him out of town, where he dismounted and concealed his horse behind some trees. He sat on a log and waited, running his thumb along the blade of his dirk.

Before long a rider appeared; the lowlander with eyes of steel. Dressed as a man of the cloth, my friend concealed his knife and bid him stop. As the man dismounted, Duncan seized him and cut his throat from ear to ear.

I watched this without emotion. It didn’t matter. Mine was a world without pain and hunger, or domination by the English. Duncan would be along soon enough.

***

By Jeanne Treat

Jeanne is the author of the Dark Birthright Trilogy, a tale of 17th century Scotland, England, and the Colonies.  You can read about it online at:

http://www.DarkBirthrightSaga.com

Illustrated!

Luc Gordon from Dark Destiny

Luc Gordon from Dark Destiny