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The enormous knight sat rigid and silent atop a black Spanish charger. His helmet rested snugly in the crook of his arm as his eyes swept attentively across the valley before him. The castle sat, patiently waiting for him to free her of the unwanted Englishman. A chilling gust rustled the remaining few leaves around him, bringing with it the sharp scent of rain.
The guard of men, hidden just inside the trees behind him, shifted tensely. The knight’s dark indigo eyes narrowed as he clenched and unclenched his jaw, focusing his attention on the gates of the castle. The quickly setting sun cast a golden glow upon the castle, making it shimmer.
Twilight was speedily whispering over the hills. All Hallows Eve was upon them, a wicked night for their task. Running a large, weapon calloused hand thru dark hair, the knight momentarily let his thoughts drift to a buxom, golden haired woman and her cozy cottage in the northern most highlands. He pictured Deidre. An experienced woman, she had been left a childless widow by the constant wars with the English. Her teasing blue gaze and dimpled smile often left the knight content and comfortable in her arms.
“Daydreaming again, are ye?” the familiar voice of Munro pulled him from the warm cottage and back to the cold hillside where he sat with his small, yet very capable entourage of men. The knight cut a swift look at his second-in-command before turning his attention back to the large wooden gates. “Aye, there is nothing wrong with thinking about a woman before you ride into battle.” Munro offered, his voice pitched so that no one else could hear. He had been the knight’s closest companion for many years and knew his thoughts were on Deidre.
Munro smiled sadly, recalling his own short year of wedded bliss. His young bride had been lost to a fever before they could celebrate their first year together. “McBlain, are you certain the plan will work?” Munro scratched his thick red beard.
“It will work.” McBlain nodded with assurance. “That English dog will not ignore the opportunity to meet the Scottish king in battle.” The plan had been carefully laid out the night he had met with the King many months before. Bruce had given him the task of reclaiming this particular Scottish border castle. That one night had changed the course of his life. The castle below him would soon be his home.
McBlain remained grim as he stared at the darkening castle below and he once again thought of Deidre. Bruce had granted McBlain the castle. As the youngest son of a poor farmer, all he had dared hope for was a small farm in his old age, assuming battle did not claim him first.
“The gates are opening!” Someone called out from the ranks behind him. McBlain scowled, it must be a new recruit. Trained men in his group knew that silence was crucial to survival.
“Aye, I told you the plan would work.” Munro offered McBlain a wide grin. They watched as the gates to the castle were slowly swung open and men in full battle regalia began to march steadily out. McBlain could feel the tension rolling thru the men behind him. They were desperate for movement.
“Send someone to watch until they cross the bridge.” McBlain ordered as he turned his horse.
“By the gods, Blain, the entire army is marching out!” Munro watched in amazement as the line of soldiers continued to swell out of the castle. “The fool leaves no one to protect the castle!”
“That is what we are hoping for.” McBlain sat stone-faced. “Your kinsman on the inside knows to leave the gate open?”
“Yes, sir.” Munro reported. He had lost his grin and the seriousness of the moment was upon them. “He can be trusted to do so.” McBlain nodded. He knew the man on the inside was a distant kinsman of Munro, and that the men of the Munro clan could be counted on for loyalty.
“It is time.” McBlain whispered hoarsely and gave the signal for the men to march.