Peace In The Valley

Lorna Macpherson hitched her skirts above trim ankles and raced down the stone passageway of Grampian Castle. "Father," she cried, bursting through the heavy oaken doors of the Great Hall.

Alexander, Clan Chieftain and a russet-haired hill giant of a man, turned from the fire blazing in the hearth and frowned at his eldest daughter. "What ails ye, child, screeching like a banshee?"

"Have ye no heard, father?" gasped Lorna. "The Campbells are plotting a surprise attack up the north face o' the mountain."

There was tempered steel in the narrowed eyes of Alexander Macpherson as he pounded his beefy fist upon the table. "Brigands," he muttered. "Striking from the rear like a pack o' old women. I'll have Robbie Campbell's head. Aye, and that fine white beard o' which he's so be used as a sporran!" Lorna stifled a chuckle.

"And why are ye no in Kirkcaldy visiting ye grandmother, along with ye sisters and mother?" demanded Alexander. Lorna smoothed her tartan sash.

"There were certain things I needed to attend to here first, father," she said meekly.

Lorna followed Alexander as he marched decisively from the chamber. He collected his claymore along the way. "You'll be leaving now, lassie," he told her, signalling for his loyal highlanders. I'll not have ye here when the skirmish begins." Lorna inclined her head.

"Aye, father," she agreed submissively.

Jamie Campbell found his father in the Midlothian Castle armory, grinding the blade of his magnificent broadsword to a fine edge. "Have ye not heard then, father?" he asked.

Robbie Campbell, wiped the sweat from his eyes. "Heard what?" he asked impatiently, spitting on the whetstone. Jamie placed his hands on his hips.

"When I saw ye sharpening the weapon..."

The Laird of the Campbell Clan was not known for his tolerance. "If ye have something to say, then out with it and be done," he growled. "If not, then I'll soon find ye some work to do!"

Jamie concealed a smile. It amused him, on occasion, to irritate his father. "The armies o' Macpherson are conspiring an assault up the south slope o' the mountain," he announced.

Robbie Campbell's knuckles whitened around the hilt of his sword. "Snivelling band o' cowards," he snarled. "An invasion from behind, and they call themselves Scotsmen!" He rose to his full height, which was formidable. "I'll have the head o' Alexander Macpherson himself boiled and made into a haggis for this display o' treachery!"

He prodded his son fiercely in the chest, "And how did ye come by this information when I've heard nary a whisper?" he demanded to know.

"Och, father, that I canna tell ye," replied Jamie with a shrug, "but tis all over the glen. To be honest with ye, I was aboot to suggest that I return there and see what else I might discover."

"First good idea ye've had in months," agreed Robbie Campbell, striding through the door and bellowing for his pipers.

As Lorna strolled along the banks of the loch toward Kirkcaldy, she spied a flash of Campbell tartan in the purple heather of the dell.

"Well, if it isn't the bonnie but conniving daughter o' the devious Macpherson Clan," said Jamie, sweeping his tammy along the ground.

"And if it isn't the dashing but scheming son o' the canny Campbells," retorted Lorna with a toss of her bright, wheaten ringlets.

Jamie seized her around the waist.

"How long d'ye think they'll stand guard up there, those two Cocks o' the Walk, watching and waiting in vain from opposite sides o' the mountain?" muttered Lorna, running her fingers through Jamie's chestnut curls.

"Long enough," he murmured against the hollow of her throat.

"Long enough for what?" she asked, sharply seizing a handful of hair and jerking Jamie's head so she could better observe the undisguised adoration which sparkled within his green eyes.

"For a wee bit o' peace in the valley," he said, throwing himself backward into the tall grasses and pulling her down with him.

"A wee bit o' what, you rogue?" asked Lorna breathlessly.

But Jamie was far too preoccupied to answer.

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