Valor (Sons of Scotland Book 2), page 1
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The Sons of Scotland Book 2
Copyright © 2018 by Victoria Vane
Published by Dragonblade Publishing, an imprint of Kathryn Le Veque Novels, Inc
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.
To my sons, Sean and Brandon, the heroes of my heart.
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Table of Contents
Books from Dragonblade Publishing
About the Book
About Victoria Vane
The Sons of Scotland Book 2
What does a man profit if he achieves a kingdom but sacrifices love?
A king’s grandson robbed of his rightful inheritance…
Domnall Fitz William, the descendant of two kings, has spent his life desperately seeking the approval of the man who disowned him, and preparing for the day he will reclaim what was taken from him.
A knight’s daughter who longs for justice…
As a young child, Davina of Crailing lost everything she loved—her family murdered and her home burned. As an orphan and heiress, Davina is taken in as a ward of the king, but his motives are far from benevolent.
Anything worth having comes at a great cost…
In desperate need of a champion and protector, Davina turns to Domnall, but saving Davina will come at a great cost. When forced to choose, will he leave Davina on her own to avenge the past, or will he surrender his own ambitions to find the missing piece of his heart?
My journey to Medieval Scotland began with idle curiosity about my previously unknown Scottish roots, but what started as a simple exploration quickly bloomed into near obsession—and the Sons of Scotland were conceived.
While my books are fictional, the trials, triumphs, and tragedies of my true to life Highland heroes, Alexander Mac Malcolm, Malcolm MacAedh, and Domnall Mac William, are very much based upon historical facts. In these stories, I hope I have succeeded in breathing life back into these long ago men of ancient Moray who clung tightly to their Celtic heritage and played a significant role in the struggle for the destiny of the Medieval Kingdom of Scotland.
Crailing Tower, Southern Kingdom of Scotland,
December 23, 1140 A.D.
At the sound of the cock’s crow, Davina bolted from her bed. Any remaining vestiges of sleep were exorcised the moment her bare feet made contact with the icy stone floor. Gripping her arisaid for warmth, she rushed to the window to gaze out toward the stables where two horses stood tethered. Good! They had not yet departed. Perhaps there was still time to change her
Forgoing stockings, Davina hastened to don her woolen cote and lace her boots. She then flew down the staircase and through the keep toward the kitchen where they would surely be breaking their fast. They were just rising from the table as Davina entered.
“Davina?” her father regarded her with surprise. “You have come to see us off?”
“Nae, Faither,” she confessed. “I’d hoped to convince ye to take me with ye.”
She couldn’t remember the last time she’d been allowed to venture beyond the castle walls.
He shook his head. “The roads are not safe enough.”
“But ye take Ewan!” she protested, glaring at her brother. “He’s only a year older than me.”
“He is a lad.”
“What difference does it make?” she asked.
“All the difference. The world is a far more dangerous place for the gentler sex.”
“But I willna slow ye down,” she argued. “I am a far better rider than Ewan.”
“You are at that,” her father conceded with the barest hint of a grin. “But my word is final. You will remain here.”
Nothing could have surprised Davina more than her father’s announcement that he and Ewan would travel to Carlisle for the Christmas feast, leaving her virtually alone for Christmas. While her father and brother celebrated at the king’s castle, she would be all alone, save for a few servants! It seemed so unfair! Nevertheless, her father’s expression quelled any further protest.
Fighting back tears, Davina followed them to the stables. The morning frost crunched under her feet and the icy air stung her lungs as she crossed the bailey. In the last week, winter had arrived with a vengeance. Even now, the sky began to spit fluffy white flakes of snow that tickled her face and clung to her eyelashes as her father secured their saddlebags in preparation to depart. Davina watched in silence only broken by the sound of mud sucking at the horses’ hooves and the occasional equine snort as they readied to mount their horses.
Ewan’s shaggy brown gelding tossed his head impatiently as her brother fumbled to raise his foot to the stirrup. “Be still,” Ewan snapped and jerked on the reins which only served to further upset the horse. Ewan wasn’t a bad sort, but he’d changed since Andrew’s death. It was as if he now competed with a ghost for his father’s affection.
Davina’s throat tightened as her father and brother turned toward the gate. As her sire cast a last look at Davina, something in his expression softened.
“We will return to celebrate the New Year. Behave in my absence, and mayhap I’ll bring you back a present.”
“A gift for the New Year?” Davina’s gloom instantly brightened.
“Only if I receive a good report,” he answered. Spinning his horse, he then urged the bay into a brisk trot. Ewan followed suit, bouncing in the saddle in his struggle to keep up.
Although still disappointed that she couldn’t accompany them, Davina held to the consolation that at least she would be warm and safe until they returned. And maybe, just maybe, her father would return with a pony in tow.
She hoped it would be white and have blue eyes. She’d always wanted a pony with blue eyes. She would name it Skye after the Isle of her máthair’s birth.
Castle Kilmuir, Black Isle, Scottish Highlands
“Canna ye reach it?” Sibylla called out impatiently.
Standing on a tree bough, Domnall glanced up at the cluster of white berries that remained just out of reach, and then back down to where his sister stood with a basket raised above her head ready to catch the raining mistletoe.
“I can reach,” Domnall replied. But as he stretched his arm further toward his intended prize, the limb suddenly dipped under his weight. He looked down again, wondering whether the risk of a broken neck was worth the reward.
Gathering mistletoe at Cnoc Croit na Maoile was a yuletide tradition, but unlike his sister, Sibylla, and their cousin, Ailis, he didn’t care so much about the ancient rites as he did about the challenge of climbing the highest trees. Domnall was always up for a challenge, always pushing himself to the limits, admittedly sometimes taking foolhardy chances.
He unsheathed his knife and was preparing to scale another limb when his cousin, Kenneth, shouted up to him. “Domnall! Ye are summoned to the keep. Yer faither sends for ye.”
“My faither?” Domnall frowned. “Fergus is nae my faither.”
“’Tis nae Fergus I speak of,” Kenneth answered. “’Tis Fitz Duncan.”
Domnall’s gut instantly tightened. They had neither seen nor heard from the man in nearly four years. Fitz Duncan was a Norman Sassenach who had come only to conquer and subdue the highlands. Domnall and his sister, Sibylla, were merely byproducts of that conquest.
“Fitz Duncan?” Sibylla repeated. “Our faither has come back to Kilmuir?”
“Aye,” Kenneth replied. “And he brought many men.”
“What about me?” Sibylla asked, licking her lips. “Did he ask aught of me?”
“Nae. He sends only for Domnall,” Kenneth replied. “That’s all I ken about it.”
Watching the exchange, Domnall could see the hurt on Sibylla’s face before she turned away to hide it. For what reason had his faither come to Kilmuir? And why had he sent only for Domnall? There was only one way to find out.
“Are ye coming down or nae?” Kenneth called up to the tree.
“I’m coming,” Domnall answered.
Sheathing his sgian-dubh, Domnall lowered himself belly to branch, and then let his legs hang down. He was at least twelve feet up. It would be wiser to climb down but that would take longer… and wouldn’t impress anyone.
Domnall released the branch and dropped.
The impact was jarring and his knees buckled but he somehow managed to maintain his balance and land on his feet. It wasn’t as graceful as he’d hoped for, but Kenneth seemed duly moved.
“Domnall! Ye could have broken yer neck,” Sibylla scolded.
“But I dinna.” Domnall grinned. “Race ye back?” he challenged Kenneth. “I’ll even give ye a head start.” Even then, it wouldn’t be much of a contest. He easily bested his cousin in almost all physical pursuits.
“I dinna need a head start.” But even as he spoke, Kenneth bolted for the path leading down to the castle.
By the time he arrived at the castle, Domnall’s heart felt like it would burst from his chest, but it wasn’t just the exertion of running. Fitz Duncan hadn’t set foot in the Highlands since he’d left to marry a Norman heiress with all her English lands. What could his sire want with his bastard son after all this time?
As he crossed the bailey, he passed by a company of strangers tending their horses. Some were Norman knights, but their reluctant-looking grooms appeared to be Highlanders. Is this why his father had come north? To conscript more Highland soldiers to fight in England’s civil war?
The last time Fitz Duncan had come north, he’d conscripted a massive force of Highlanders to invade northern England. Although he had led his Gaelic forces to victory at Clitheroe, they suffered great slaughter a few months later at the Battle of the Standard. Many of the men of Kilmuir had lost their lives. At ten years old, Domnall was too young to fight, but one day he vowed he would be an even greater warrior than Fitz Duncan.
Domnall paused to run a hand through his tangled hair and tugged at his tunic. He was rumpled and dirty from tree climbing. His mother would surely scold him, but what did he care how he looked to the man who’d disowned him? Fitz Duncan could go to the devil for all he cared.
Jutting his chin and squaring his shoulders, Domnall marched inside toward the voices in the great hall.
“Ye canna take him!” His mother stood before Fitz Duncan, looking both fearful and defiant.
Wrapped in a bearskin mantle, Fitz Duncan was slouched in a chair by the hearth, chalice of wine in hand. Neither Fitz Duncan nor his mother had yet noticed his arrival. Fitz Duncan took a long swallow, a
“The blood ye disowned!” she said.
Two years ago, his new wife had borne him another son which legally negated any future claim that Domnall might make of his father. Had something untoward happened to Fitz Duncan’s precious heir? Why else would he be here?
Fitz Duncan shrugged. “An unfortunate circumstance.”
“Ye have nae claim to the lad. Ye forfeited the right.”
“On the contrary, I forfeited nothing. I am still Mormaer of Moray and an English earl besides. And now that Domnall is old enough, I will see him raised amongst my own people.”
“To what purpose?” Domnall’s mother voiced his own question.
“So that he will learn to fight and serve his king,” Fitz Duncan answered.
“And die on a distant battlefield?” she asked in a choked voice.
“Is that all ye care about? Fighting and killing?” Her face was pale and her movements erratic. Domnall had never seen her looking so distraught.
“More or less.” Fitz Duncan replied with a blithe shrug. “’Tis what I do best.”
His mother glanced up and briefly caught Domnall’s eye. “What if the lad doesna want to go with ye?”
“It matters not what he wants.” Fitz Duncan raised his cup tauntingly. “But it seems I am in want of more wine.”
“I am nae yer servant,” she spat. “Fetch it yerself!”
Fast as lightning, his hand shot out to clamp on to her arm. Just as swiftly, a giant shadow took to his feet, hand poised at his hip. Until that moment, Domnall had not even noticed his stepfather’s presence. Fergus was a fierce warrior who’d lost an eye fighting against King David’s forces in the great rebellion—forces that Fitz Duncan had led.
Domnall’s heart leaped into his throat in anticipation of impending bloodshed.
Physically, Fergus was clearly dominant, yet, Fitz Duncan appeared utterly unconcerned by the threat. Was he truly a man without fear or was he just filled with his own greatness? His expression betrayed nothing as he cast a languid gaze up at the behemoth Highlander.