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'Twould be a night of much turmoil. Duncan MacDougall, chief of Clan MacDougall, crouched upon the rocky crag above Loch Searbh as violet-gray gloaming settled over Scotland. The cool, early summer wind, fragrant with flowers, gusted between the rugged granite mountains. He tugged the wool plaid closer about his shoulders. Even the kelpie tribe that dwelled beneath the loch's murky, peat-tinged surface rumbled more violently than usual.
But a more pressing matter weighed on Duncan's mind: plotting how he might acquire his enemy Kinnon MacClaren's magical bow and quiver. If Duncan possessed the Dealanach, as the old druid had once said, he would no longer be doomed to lurk about the night alone. With that special bow, he would finally vanquish the vile Otherworld creatures that tortured him in his nightmares and sleep peacefully as all others did.
He stroked his fingers over the sore wound on his forearm, three deep scratches he'd received almost a week ago. Recently, the beasts had even found ways to invade his sleep during the daytime. These scratches and the bloody bite marks on his calf told him the attacks weren't his imagination.
The thumping of hooves from the south drew his attention. With his enhanced Fae senses, he listened as the horses galloped closer over the rocky ground. Below him, near the ferry crossing, the riders dismounted. Duncan counted nine men and five women in the party, all perched upon fine horses. The dock held no boat at this late hour, the ferryman having already returned to his home on the other side of the loch.
After the horses drank, the men led them away from the water, closer to the shelter of the cliffside, out of the wind. All but one woman followed.
"Do not wander far, m'lady," one of the men called out.
"Of course." The lady's voice was feminine and rich, but she wore a dull brown cloak complete with a cowl over her head. Though the bulky garment concealed most of her body, she appeared slender.
"Oh, is that " She tugged her skirts off her shoes and trotted through the heather and gorse, just starting to bloom purple and yellow, and approached the loch's edge. "Indeed." A small dagger glinted as she removed it from a hidden pouch. Kneeling, she cut a plant out of the ground and sniffed it.
With his keen hearing, Duncan detected a thunderous din beneath the surface of the loch once again, too low for human ears. The lady was perilously close to the water's edge. He stood, knowing what tragedy would befall her if he didn't intervene.