Chapter 8

Written by: Gabrielle Burt
The horses’ hooves clattered over the wet cobbles, but finally they were at the junction atop Carlton Hill. To their left, the well-worn Londontoun road disappeared round a bend; to their right the less-travelled route to the Highlands. 
 
They turned right and Mary’s heart sank.  
 
‘I’m going tae swing, …for murder.’ She muttered as a tear slid down her cheek. Not only that, now she was helping some ne’er-do-well escape.  How could she be so gullible.  Her mind raced. What had she got herself into?  But they’d struck a deal.  He’d helped her with her grisly task.  Now she must help him.
 
 “Dinnae greet lass.”  Matthew’s tone was firm but kind as he handed her a snow-white handkerchief.  
 
“Ye dinnae ken, dae ye?”  she sobbed.  “I’m a murderer!  You’re only running awaw …tae somewhere!  Ye wullnae be swingin from the gallows… like me!” 
 
 “We’re not going to the gallows.  We’re going to Urquhart Castle.
 
Mary’s eyes widened, “What for?” her voice wobbled in disbelief.  
 
Before he could answer, their carriage lurched wildly and caught off guard, Mary was flung off her seat, landing unceremoniously on her arse at Matthew’s feet.  Adding insult to injury, as the horses regained speed, she found herself pinned to the floor by her own weight.
 
Grinning, he reached down, ignoring her protests and hauled her awkwardly onto the seat beside him.  
 
Mary’s cheeks burned with rage and embarrassment.  Furiously she slid across the seat and turned to face the window.  He was an oaf and a boor.  And he was laughing at her.   
After that, the hours passed slowly as they sat in silence.  Each with their own thoughts.
 
At twilight they stopped outside a cheery Inn and supped on bread, cheese, sliced beef, cold pickles and small ale.  Mary realised she hadn’t eaten since the day before yesterday and though simple, the fare was delicious so she ate until she could eat no more.
 
Matthew refilled her cup, “Mary,” he hesitated, “there are things you need to know.  And why I needed your help.”  Then quietly,  “I am Matthew Urquhart, Laird of Urquhart Castle and tomorrow, we must leave the carriage and ride as fast as we can to my home.”   
 
Mary spluttered “Urquhart …of Loch Ness?”
 
Matthew nodded without pausing, “To save Phoebe, and my brother.” 
 
Mary’s jaw dropped, “What?” 
 
“Scotland needs allies, so our King betrothed Phoebe to Hendrik.  Not for love but greed.  Phoebe and Richard are in love. Hendrik knows this and has taken Richard hostage. I was to keep Phoebe safe until Richard is free but the plan failed when Phoebe panicked and decided to escape.  I killed one of the King’s officers so she could. And that makes me a murderer too.”
 
“Iain will protect her...” 
 
Matthew thumped the table so hard the plates rattled, “Iain’s just a well-paid pawn!   There’s an armed escort ready to transport Phoebe and Richard to the coast, where Hendrik’s ship lies waiting.  They must not reach that ship!” 

Comments

You have engaged the senses with this chapter and you added atmosphere. The dialogue in the Scottish brogue added authenticity which was great and the pace kept the story moving along like the carriage. Nicely done!