Highlander Unchained (Highlander Trilogy 1)(4)

By: Donna Fletcher


Dawn did not understand why people thought her ignorant simply because she could not speak. She heard and learned so much by listening. And those who chose to converse with her found a way to do so.

She laughed silently thinking how perfectly matched Lila and she were, Lila an endless chatterer, and her unable to say a word. Paul often reminded her how blessed he was to have her in their lives, for Lila had someone who would never interrupt her never-ending tongue.

Dawn stretched out the ache in her back and a drop of rain splat on her cheek. Rain or not, she did not want to return to the kitchen, knowing a long night lay ahead, only to fall exhausted into bed afterwards, wake, and begin again tomorrow.

It would be such a pleasure to have a day to simply do whatever she wished, but that was a dream that surely would never see fruition.

“Dawn! Dawn!”

Flanna’s screech prickled her skin sending gooseflesh running over it. Dawn shuddered, grabbed the basket full of wild onions and before she could turn Flanna gave another shout.

“Hurry your steps; Lord Colum demands your presence.”

Dawn almost tripped over her feet and her stomach turned over. Why would he want to see her? It never bode well when Lord Colum demanded to see a villager. She struggled to recall if she had done anything to offend him.

Nothing came to mind and when but a few feet from Flanna, it suddenly struck her. Had Lord Colum or one of his warriors seen the way she had stared at the prisoner? How the heat had risen to blotch her cheeks? How their eyes had remained connected far too long?

Fear sent her hands trembling and Flanna saw it when she reached to take the basket from her.

“What have you gone and done?” she asked in a low voice so heavy with concern that it sounded foreign, and Dawn stared at her wondering if someone else had spoken.

Flanna grabbed Dawn’s arm and walked her far enough from the kitchen door so no one would hear. Her voice remained low when she said, “Tell me you have done nothing foolish.” She shocked Dawn even more when she grabbed at her hands and demanded, “Tell me.”

Dawn could not believe that Flanna wanted her to respond with hand gestures. She had never thought that Flanna had paid heed to them. Dawn tapped her chest and shrugged.

“You do not know,” Flanna said understanding.

She nodded to confirm, though wondered if her own folly was the cause.

Flanna genuinely looked worried for her and that worried Dawn all the more. She would have never expected Flanna to care and yet she did. The revelation startled her.

“Go wash your hands in the rain barrel and then crumple some heather in them. Lord Colum will not like it if you present yourself with the stench of onions.”

Her sharp tone had returned, though the worry remained.

Dawn nodded and went to walk around her to do as she had ordered when Flanna grabbed her arm once more.

“You come back here when Lord Colum is finished with you and let me know what he wanted of you.”

Dawn nodded and smiled, showing her appreciation the only way she could.

“Hurry, he does not like to be kept waiting,” she ordered and Dawn thought she caught a tear glisten in one eye.

After giving Dawn a shove to send her on her way, Flanna hurried off herself.

Dawn worked fast, all too aware of the suffering Colum could inflict if his summons was not answered quickly enough. She did not want to think of the punishment he could order, if she had somehow offended him. It was best she hurry and be done with the ordeal as quickly as possible.

When she finished removing the odor of onions from her hands she entered the kitchen. Silence struck and all stared wide-eyed at her until Flanna ordered the workers to tend to their chores. Dawn continued to pass through, it being the only assigned entry way for the servants to the Great Hall.

She tucked her long, dark hair behind her ears, silently recited a prayer of mercy as she walked through the narrow stone passageway until she finally came to the wooden arch. Once she stepped past, she would be in the Great Hall.

Dawn prayed for courage, but fear remained her companion as she forced herself to step forward. It was not a large room, the keep having been built small, the feudal lord having not been in residence here since long before she had arrived. It had sat in disrepair until Colum had appeared. He had the hall repaired first and a small dais was erected, the large chair in the middle more representative of a throne.

“Dawn!”

The shout startled her, so loud was it that it echoed off the stone walls. And she realized Colum like others assumed that along with being dumb she was also deaf. She hurried over and bobbed her head respectfully and kept it lowered.

“Look at me,” Colum said, though it sounded like a shout.

She raised her head cautiously, her heart beating ever so wildly that she thought it would burst. This was the closest she had ever been to Colum. She was surprised to note that his pudgy face wore a pinched expression and there were many more lines and wrinkles than could be seen from a distance. His lips were so narrow it appeared as if he had none at all. And his shoulder length brown hair was sparse on top and sprinkled with gray.