The stallion burst into a gallop. Duncan threw back his head and inhaled the glorious fragrance of heather. His tartan cape snapped like a loose topsail in a raging wind. His blood coursed with the song of excitement.
Behind him rode a dozen loyal clansmen and one fugitive. Before him lay a quest fit for the bards.
Power seeped into Duncan’s bones, and the pounding of hooves deafened him to all sound save the siren of impending danger.
Hadrian’s Wall loomed ahead.
In the light of the full moon, the barrier cast a slashing black scar on the fair face of his homeland.
He crouched over the lathered neck of his steed and whispered an ancient word. The mighty crimson bay lunged. Forelegs tucked, the animal sailed over the wall. And into England.
A battle cry rose in Duncan’s throat, but he set his teeth and stifled the motto that would announce his arrival and endanger his mission.
The troop raced across the rolling hills. The land should look different now, he thought. English demons should crawl from beneath the rocks and peer with evil eyes at the Scottish intruders.
The fanciful image brought Duncan to his senses. He tempered excitement with purpose, and turned southeast to a copse of stunted beech. Once there, he raised a gloved hand to halt his men. Between his tense thighs, the horse’s sides fanned like a bellows.
Alone, Duncan rode into the stand of trees. The night wind soughed softly. Crisp green leaves rustled and cast dancing shadows on the lush turf.
To his right, a twig snapped. Ears twitching in alarm, the horse turned toward the noise. Duncan reached for the pistol in his belt.
A small figure, caped from head to forest floor, stepped into the moonlight. The horse snorted. Duncan cocked his pistol. “Who’s there?”