Read High on a Mountain Online

Authors: Tommie Lyn

Tags: #adventure, #family saga, #historical fiction, #scotland, #highlander, #cherokee, #bonnie prince charlie, #tommie lyn

High on a Mountain (40 page)

BOOK: High on a Mountain
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As his fingers closed over it, he felt his
brother’s foot on his back. Aodh used Niall as a stepping stone to
propel himself from the deeper pool into the shallows.

Niall thrust his body upward and shot from
the water seconds later, the shiny pebble clutched in his fist.

__________

 

Kutahyah MacLachlainn watched her two oldest
sons cavorting in the stream, a contented smile lifting the corners
of her mouth. She loved watching their high-spirited antics.
They’re going to be good, strong men like their father.

She untied the ends of the sling that held
her baby in place on her back. She leaned over, pulled the cloth
around and took him in her arms. She put his feet in the creek and
began bathing him.

He squealed and kicked, splattering his
mother with droplets. He reached for the water and arched his back
when he found he couldn’t touch it.

Kutahyah finished washing him and lowered
him into the water. She let him splash and play for a few minutes,
then set him on the grassy bank.

“Brìghde, come watch the baby,” Kutahyah
called.

Her six-year-old daughter left her pursuit
of minnows and climbed out of the stream.

“Keep him out of the water,” her mother
instructed.

Kutahyah waded into the deep pool, cupped
her hands and dipped water to pour over her head and face, over her
arms. She washed away the sweat and dirt from the day’s work in the
cornfield. When she finished and left the creek, Niall
followed.


Etsi.

Kutahyah looked into green eyes that were
like his father’s.

“What’s this?” He opened his fist to reveal
a small piece of gleaming yellow metal on his palm.

“Throw that back in the water.” A crease
formed on her forehead. “If your father knew you—”


Edoda! Edoda!
” Aodh shouted. He
climbed from the water and ran to meet the tall man who was
descending the hill. “
Edoda
, you should have seen! I almost
caught a fish in my bare hands!”

“That’s good,
Uwetsi
.”

Niall ran behind his brother, shouting,

Edoda!
Look what I found!”

When he reached his father, Niall smiled,
held out his hand and opened it, expecting words of praise. Ailean
frowned when he saw what lay in the boy’s palm.

“Throw that back where you got it. Don’t
ever take any of it from the stream again.”

Niall’s smile disappeared, and his shoulders
sagged. Kutahyah hurt for her son. A wave of anger tightened her
lips. She gave Ailean an irritated glance but bit back the words
she wanted to say. She turned her attention to her son.

At every turn, Niall did something to draw
his father’s disfavor upon himself. She longed to put her arms
around his bony shoulders. She wanted to comfort him like she did
when he was small. But he was growing into a young warrior, and it
would be unseemly for the mother of a warrior to pamper him. She
wouldn’t want to make him soft.

Niall turned slowly, eyes fixed on his feet,
and headed down to the stream.

“Wait,
Agidoi
. Let me see.” Brìghde,
Niall’s little sister, scampered after him.

Niall stopped and displayed the nugget.

“Ooooh! That’s pretty!” Brìghde gave her
brother a wistful look. “Can I have it?”

“No.
Edoda
said to throw it back in
the stream.”

“Please, please let me have it.”

Niall glanced over his shoulder at his
father. “If I disobey, he’ll be angry and—”

“Please!” She grasped his wrist, pulled his
hand closer and touched the nugget. “I want it.”

“I don’t want him to be angry with me. I
want him to—”

“Please…”

Brìghde’s lower lip trembled, and Niall’s
heart melted. He could deny her nothing. Even if it meant he might
lose the most important thing in his life—his father’s approval—he
had to give his little sister what she wanted, had to make her
happy.

He placed the lump of yellow metal into her
hand and pressed her fingers closed over it.

“Here,” he whispered. “But you have to hide
it. Don’t let
Edoda
know I gave it to you.”

__________

 

Kutahyah put the baby in the sling and
shifted him onto her back. Ailean swung three-year-old Coinneach
into his arms, and the family started up the hill.

Ailean walked silently beside his wife, and
she felt a strain between them.

“Is anything wrong?” she asked.

“Aye, something is very wrong. Tenahwosi
came to tell us that Gulahiyi was destroyed by soldiers.” He
paused, rubbed a hand over his eyes and down his face. “They killed
Tayeni MacAntoisch and her children.”

“No!” Kutahyah shook her head slowly. “That
can’t be.” She came to a stop. She turned brimming eyes to her
husband and asked in a trembling voice, “And what of my mother? And
my brothers?”

Ailean turned to face her. “They hid in the
hills. Most everyone escaped, but a few didn’t leave in time.”

“Gòrdan.” Her voice rasped. “What of
him?”

“He wasn’t there. He’d gone to Charles Town.
But he’ll be back any day now.”

Kutahyah stared at the ground with unseeing
eyes, trying to make sense of what he’d said. Her face remained
calm. Tears which threatened to spill were the only visible sign of
her inner turmoil.

Sadness for Tayeni overwhelmed her. It was
warriors who fought and sometimes died. Not women and children. A
sudden outrage at the senselessness of the deaths threatened to
smother her, and she struggled to get a breath.

“The soldiers destroyed the crops and all
the food. Would you get some things from the storehouse for
Tenahwosi to take to the village?”

“Yes.” Good. Something she could do,
something that would occupy her hands and her mind—something that
would keep her anger and feeling of helplessness from overwhelming
her.

“I’m going to drive some steers to the
village,” Ailean said. “While I’m gone, would you and the boys
start planting more corn? In that field to the north that’s laying
fallow? We’ll need a bigger harvest this year.”

“Yes. The people will need food.”

“Aodh!”

The boy came running to his father’s side.
Niall trailed along behind.

“Aodh, catch Old Brown and put a bridle on
him.”

“Yes,
Edoda.
” Aodh grinned as he
sprinted to the pen where Ailean always kept a horse available.

“What can I do?” Niall asked.

“Go help your mother gather food for
Tenahwosi.”

“But can’t I—”

“Do as you’re told.”

Niall’s shoulders slumped as he turned to
follow his mother to the storehouse.

“Niall,” Ailean said, “come here for a
minute. There’s something I have to explain to you.”

He waited until Niall stood in front of him,
the boy’s eyes directed toward the ground respectfully, as his
mother had taught him.


Uwetsi
, that piece of yellow metal
you found is gold.” Ailean ran his hand through his hair, a
vertical crease on his forehead deepening. “Gold is a curious
thing. It can be good, and you can do good things with it. Like the
cows I bought with gold to start the herd.

“But gold can be bad, too. It can bring
trouble on you. It can make people envy you and want to steal from
you.” He paused, waiting for a comment from his son. “Do you
understand what I’m saying?”

The words made no sense, but Niall nodded.
He’d learned that the wisest thing was to pretend he understood. At
other times, he’d admitted
Edoda’s
words had confused him,
and
Edoda
had become impatient. So Niall indicated he
understood.

“Unless there’s a very important reason why
you need it, never, ever take any gold from the stream.” Ailean
took a breath and waited for a response.

“I won’t,” Niall said.

“Good.” Ailean gave an approving nod. “Now,
go help your mother.”

Niall ran up the hill to the storehouse, a
slight frown drawing his brows together. His father had seemed
pleased with his answer. But was his father pleased with him?

 

 

Visit Tommie Lyn on the internet at:

http://tommielyn.com

 

Other books by Tommie Lyn (available on
Smashwords or in print versions on Amazon.com and
Barnesandnoble.com):

 

Historicals:

 

Deep in the Valley: A MacLachlainn Saga,
Book Two: Niall
(sequel to High on a Mountain)

 

Thrillers:

 

...and night falls

On Berryhill Road

Scribbles

Tugger’s Down

 

 

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