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Highlander: Secrets (The Scottish series Book 1), page 1


Highlander: Secrets (The Scottish series Book 1)

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Highlander: Secrets (The Scottish series Book 1)



  (Book 1 — The Scottish series)

  Ceri Bladen

  Copyright © ‘Highlander: Secrets’ - November 2018 by Ceri Bladen

  All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without the prior written permission of the publisher, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical reviews and certain other non-commercial uses permitted by copyright law.

  For permission requests, write to the author: [email protected]

  This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. The author acknowledges the trademark status and owners of various items used by the author which have been used without permission. The publication on/use of these trademarks is not authorised, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

  This ebook is for personal use only. This ebook may not be resold or given away to other people. Thank you for respecting the author’s work.


  A huge thank you to my wonderful husband and children for supporting me and letting me have time in my imaginary world. Without your love and support, I could not be on this journey.

  Without a doubt, I want to thank my late Dad. You inspired my love of History, and for that, I’ll be forever grateful.

  I would like to thank Shirley Miller, Jay Hendricks and ‘Scottish’ Carol Knox for their helpful guidance with this book. Your inputs are very much appreciated.

  Finally, I would like to thank you, the reader, for choosing my book. Hope you enjoy it!

  Books by Ceri Bladen

  Historical romance:

  *The Great Heathen Army series

  Book 1 – Vikings: Taken

  Book 2 – Vikings: Deception

  Book 3 – Vikings: Revenge

  Book 4 – Vikings: Intentions

  *The Scottish series

  Book 1 – Highlanders: Secrets

  More of the series to be announced

  *The Dillwyns’ stories

  Book 1 – Copper

  Book 2 – Copper to Red

  Book 3 – Red (out 2019)

  *The Roman series

  Book 1 – Isca: The Roman Fortress

  *The Ragnarök series (Historical/fantasy romance)

  Book 1 – Odin’s sons: Twe12ve

  More of the series to be announced

  *The Professional series (Contemporary romance)

  Book 1 – Persona

  Book 2 – untitled, out 2019


  Books by Ceri Bladen


  Chapter 1

  Chapter 2

  Chapter 3

  Chapter 4

  Chapter 5

  Chapter 6

  Chapter 7

  Chapter 8

  Chapter 9

  Chapter 10

  Chapter 11

  Chapter 12

  Note from Author


  The characters in my book would have spoken in Gaelic, but it would have been impossible to read if you don’t understand the language. Instead I have used a mixture of old and modern Scotland, as a nod to the Scottish language. Below is a glossary of the words I have used in this book, and links for more information should you so wish to use.

  Scottish or Gaelic words

  Auld Reekie – slang for Edinburgh (auld – old, reekie – an unpleasant smell)

  Aye – yes (The Gaelic language didn’t have a word for yes.)

  Bawbag – testicles

  Boak – dry heave

  Bonny/bonnie – beautiful

  Cannae – cannot, can’t

  Chanty – chamber pot

  Dae – do

  Deid – dead

  Didnae – did not, didn’t

  Dinnae – do not, don’t

  Disnae – does not, doesn’t

  Eejit – idiot

  Gowk – a foolish person

  Greetin’ – crying

  Heid – head

  Hoor – whore

  Ken – know

  Nae – no (The Gaelic language didn’t have a word for no.)

  Sennight – a week

  Scratcher – bed

  Tae – to, too

  Bairn – child

  Ye – you

  Yer – your, you’re

  Yerself – yourself


  Bannock – a bread/biscuit made from oats or barley

  Brose – a porridge made by stirring boiling liquid into oatmeal

  Marts – an animal slaughtered and salted, used to feed a family during winter

  Pottage – thick grain soup/stew (Highlanders didn’t have root vegetables in 1680s)

  Sowens – a porridge made from oat bran or husks that haven been soaked in water, slightly fermented, and then boiled

  Spurtle – a wooden stick used to stir porridge


  Dirk – a long stabbing knife ideal for close quarter fighting. It was kept in a sheath often with one or more smaller knives and sometimes a fork. It was hung around the Highlander’s waist or attached to a special dirk belt, the criosan biodag.

  Ghilley brogues – shoes. Highlanders were mostly barefooted—in summer and winter! When they did wear shoes (brogan tiondaidh), they were rough and ready, made mostly from deerskin, or a hide of cow or horse. Ghilley brogues are longer, like boots, which are laced up.

  Great kilt – also known as the ‘breacan an fheilidh’ or ‘feile mor’, these kilts were larger than the ones worn today and usually in one dark colour. It took nine yards of cloth to make it, which is where the phrase ‘the whole nine yards’ originates from. For more information about the great kilts, check out this site:

  Earasaid – this female version of the great kilt has many names; the earasaid, erisaid, arisaid, arsaidh, arisaidh, and many more. If you want more information, check out:

  Léine – Gaelic for tunic

  Trews – very tight trousers, like leggings. Worn when the weather was cold or when travelling by horseback


  A pritty face suits the dish-cloot – a pretty face will suit anything they wear (ie a dish cloth)

  Awa’ an bile yer heid – (Away and boil your head) Go away, get lost

  Fair pugged – exhausted

  Haud yer wheesht – Hold your tongue, be quiet

  I’ll gie ye a skelpit lug – I’ll give you a slapped ear

  I wouldnae ride her in tae battle – (I would not ride her into battle) A negative assessment of a woman’s attractiveness

  Lang may yer lum reek – (long may your chimney smoke) May you live long and keep well

  Whits fur ye’ll no go past ye – (What’s for you will not go past you) Whatever is meant to happen, will happen to you


  Feasgar math – Good evening

  Madainn mhath – Good morning

  Oidhche mhath – Good night

  Piseach – good luck

  Castle info

  *Please note, Calder Castle and Ackergill Tower, while both in Northern Scotland, are not neighbours as implied in my story.

  Calder Castle (Cawdor Castle) is situated in Naire. It dates from around the 14th century. It is open to the public to explore -

  Ackergill Tower is situated in Wick. It dates from 1475 and is now a hotel. Since I started to research this book, Ackergill Tower has come up for sale. If only I had £4 million to spend ??

  Loch – a large area of water surrounded by land.

  Pantry – a room where food, provisions or dishes are stored and served, especially associated with bread. The head of the office responsible for this room was referred to as a pantler.

  Steamie – a communal wash house

  Undercroft – a vaulted or groined cellar or storage room. Some were rented out as shops or kitchens.

  Spence – A spence (or larder in English) is a cool area for storing food prior to use, usually on the North or East side of the building for less sun. It had hooks in the ceiling to hang joints of meat or game. It contained a stone slab or shelf to keep food cool. The person in charge of the spence was called a spencer, one of the derivations of the modern surname.

  Solar – The families’ private part of a castle

  Main hall – a large rectangular room with a fire where people gathered and eat. Occasionally the great hall would have an early listening device system allowing conversations to be heard in the lord's bedroom above. In Scotland these devices are called a laird's lug. (Laird’s ear)

  Chapter 1

  September 1680 – MacMahon Land, Scottish Highlands

  Sitting on his stallion, high above the glen, Laird Kameron MacMahon’s blue eyes narrowed on the death and destruction below him. In the darkness, with a fine dusting of snow swirling around him, the intense orange of fires consumed the thatched roofed buildings and crops. His jaw tightened, and his gut. He wanted to close his eyes so when he opened them the flames were gone, but he knew that was senseless. Kameron didn’t have the luxury of desires when his villages—the ones he swore to protect—were burning.

  He tore his gaze away, blanking out the scene, and attempted to control his emotions. His knuckles whitened as he held firmly on to the reins of his steed—a stallion as dark as the night they stood in and with a temper as cold. When the beast tried to sidestep, impatient at its rider’s stillness, Kameron controlled him with his strong thighs and let out soothing words. It pained him to offer the words—he felt less than calm himself. He understood the horse's desire to move away. The noises and acrid smell of burned wood and flesh assaulted his senses and turned his stomach, too.

  “Laird, it must be those MacAlpins again. They’ve raided the village and by the look of the glow over there—” Donald pointed, “—the one North of here, too.”

  Kameron didn’t bother to look or reply. He knew who had been on his land. It was always the same—the MacAlpins. It had started when his grandfather stole a MacAlpin girl and made her his bride. In doing so, he gained the land they stood on—a fact the MacAlpins had never forgotten or forgiven—and a clan feud to boot. Despite his father’s formal attempts at peace with the previous laird, like his father, Kameron had inherited the bad blood along with his title. A mere two years of being Laird, Kameron had seen enough to know peace was not what the MacAlpin clan wanted.

  “’Tis worse than usual. I nae think it’s just cattle-reiving this time,” said Donald.

  Kameron glanced at him before returning his gaze to the fires. “For many, stealing cattle has a well-nigh irresistible appeal, but you’re right, ‘tis more than providing an outlet for adventure. ’Tis well worse than normal. To kill the innocent and burn stores is nae common, even for the MacAlpins.” He bared his teeth and let his anger and his thirst for immediate revenge settle in his bones. It would be no good letting them cloud his judgement in the heat of the moment. He could lose valuable men, and he didn’t want to add to the tally of death with reckless decisions.

  “What dae ye want us tae dae, Laird?”

  Kameron rolled his broad shoulders and for the first time, his attention centred fully on his warriors, patiently awaiting orders. “Angus, Fergus, take half a dozen men and round up what’s left of any use in this village and the one tae the North. If there are trumbel carts in working order, hitch a horse onto them and use those tae transport the villagers who cannae walk back tae Calder Castle. They can stay there for the winter as they will have little food and protection out here.”

  “Laird, as ye wish,” said Angus, nodding with deference before he backed his horse away.

  Once he had given orders to other men, Kameron took in a deep breath and knew he needed to release his rage. He lifted his large hand to grab the claymore strapped to his back, flicked a quick look over his shoulder and held his sword aloft. “The rest of you, let’s see if we can get at least a couple of those MacAlpin bastards.” He dug his heels into his horse and, black kilts flapping in the night air, they charged towards the raging inferno.

  From a hiding spot amongst the reeds and thistles, Aileana MacAlpin watched MacMahon men course down the glen on their horses. Not for the first time in her eighteen summers, she wished she hadn’t been born a MacAlpin. She was ashamed of them. Other clans raided each other, especially during lean times, but to kill innocent people was not Godly. She hadn’t wanted to come—but she had no choice. Though, if she was in Ackergill Tower, her clan’s fort, she would never know what happened here. There would be boasts from the men, when they feasted that night, about getting one over on the MacMahons, but they would fail to mention their wrongdoings.

  Aileana backed further into the growth, covering her mouth with her hand. If she didn’t know the MacMahon men were merely mortals, the sight would have frightened her—moonlight glinting off their weapons; jet-black kilts flapping; fierce looks on their faces; and their battle cries filling the air. She rubbed her tears away with a muddy hand. Weeping would be of no use to her. Her mother used to tell her it was pointless feeling sorrow when you could not change your fate—and she couldn’t. She took in a smoke-filled breath, screwed her eyes tight, and tried to shut out the horror of Hell which surrounded her.

  After a while, Aileana stopped her self-pity. Like it or not she was complicit in her brothers’ schemes. She pulled her shoulders back. She still had a role to play in this carnage—if she didn’t, her own life would not be worth living. She dragged her bonnet lower, covering her red hair and drew up a section of her belted kilt for a hood.

  Aileana’s gaze skirted around, and she bounced a knuckle against her lips. She concentrated and cleared her thoughts, not wanting to endanger herself. She had been instructed to stand on the boggy land, jumping from foot to foot so she wouldn’t sink, to persuade the MacMahon warriors the land was sure. Her brothers had heard tales from the local inn that the warriors, in their rage, would ride their horses into it and sink. She wasn’t convinced it would with folk who knew the land, but she couldn’t argue with her brothers—she’d felt the keen sting of the back of their hands too often to voice her opinion. The problem was, it had taken the MacMahon warriors longer to arrive than they’d predicted—her clansmen were long gone. Possibly my part in the plan is pointless? I might return home? She felt hope for a brief second before her mouth dried. Not to follow the orders of her brothers and to dare think for herself would end up worse for her, so she attempted to control her nerves and follow the plan, regardless of her own wishes.

  Aileana’s gaze darted back to the MacMahons, and she strained to see what was happening in the dark. They were reforming and splitting into different groups. How can a girl of eighteen winters divert a whole outraged army of warriors? She panicked and cursed her brothers. They put her in a dangerous situation and didn’t care. But, no one in Ac
kergill Tower cared about her—no one since they buried her mother in the hard winter ground. She pushed her thoughts away. There was no time for sentimentality to cloud her judgements. A shiver went through her. She was cold with the damp seeping through the bottom of her trews, and the snow forming a wet layer on her great kilt, so she shoved away from the reeds, and made her way towards the boggy ground.

  Kameron urged his horse back towards the burning village. The village to the North was in a better state than this one and he had enough men stationed there to help. He was annoyed that their chase for the MacAlpin warriors had been fruitless, but it had managed to wear off a portion of his anger and frustrations. At least now, he could use a clear head to help those that needed it.

  “Fergus, have the villagers been taken back tae Calder Castle?” Kameron steadied his horse and shouted over the noise.

  “Aye, Laird. The ones that could make it.”

  “Make sure the healer gets tae tend tae the injured folk, as soon as possible.”

  “Aye, Laird,” said Fergus, nodding.

  Kameron sensed movement and looked towards it. It was one of his tenants, Duncan, waving something in his hand. He waited for him to approach.

  “We were right, ‘twas the MacAlpins. Look what I found amongst the dirt.” Duncan held out his hand.

  Kameron’s gaze focused on the bonnet. There for all to see, was the clan crest complete with a sprig of heather—the distinguishing mark of his neighbour’s clan. “Evidence enough,” he muttered, his nostrils flaring. Once the night was over, he’d work out a course of action against the MacAlpins. Conscious of what still needed to be done, he looked over his shoulder at the men who shadowed him. “Follow me, we have stores tae rescue.” He indicated towards a line of men, passing sacks out of one of the barns.

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