Saturday, April 25, 2009

Coming soon!


Rie McGaha
After having witnessed the brutal rape and murder of his mother, and the murder of his father, three-year-old Arion is found by brothers Calen and Caleb MacLean of the Clan MacLean. The brothers bury the boys’ parents and take him back to their castle home to be cared for by their Aunt Margaret, who has lived with them since their own mother, and Margaret’s sister, passed away when Caleb was just an infant.

Their father, William, Laird MacLean, sends his sons on a quest to find the murderers, with a small diamond as their only clue to the identity of the men who had committed the atrocities. When they come up empty-handed and Calen begins having strange dreams, he sets out alone to find the answers he needs.


The little boy leaned against the remains of what was once his home. He sat for a while and rubbed his hands over his chubby cheeks, smearing more dirt across his face. He drew designs in the dirt and occasionally glanced at the dead bodies of his parents that lay not three feet away from him. He didn't understand death. He cried sometimes while he sat by his mother, patting her back and telling her to wake up. He didn't understand why she kept sleeping; she had never done that before. Neither had his father, who now continued to sleep next to his mother.
He was alone and at night he was afraid. Everything looked different to him at night and all of the sounds of the forest were frightening. He lay between his parents in the dark, sucking his thumb and crying until he finally fell asleep. He had dreams of the men who came into the forest on their big, black horses. He had been in the hut with his mother when they came; his father was outside chopping wood. His mother had grabbed him up, wrapped a fur around him and hid him in the deep, dark corner in the back of their home. She had been very stern with him when she told him to stay there and not make a sound, then she had gone outside to where his father was speaking with the strangers. He remembered the shouts, the sound of the horse’s hooves, the ring of steel against steel in the air. He remembered his mother's scream and that was when he crawled out of his hiding place and peeked through the crack in the logs of the hut.

He had seen his father lying on the ground with blood running from his head. And he saw the men ripping his mother's clothes until her skirt was in shreds and she was bare from the waist down. They had tied her hands and threw her over the chopping block and raped her one by one. The little boy didn't know what they were doing to his mother, slapping her, shouting and laughing, and laying on top of her like that. But he knew they were hurting her because he could hear her crying and screaming whenever they hit her. He didn't know the men, but he remembered the tall one with the long, dirty hair. He was dressed in black and had hair all over his face. He was loud and hit his mother more than the others did. The little boy cried as he watched the men hurt his mother, and he saw the flash of a silver ring on the tall man's finger as he raised the sword he carried and plunged it through his mother's back.

The blood ran down her body, down the chopping block onto the dirt. He ran then. He ran back to the place where his mother had hidden him in the dark, secret corner of the hut and made himself as small as he could under the furs. He heard the men come inside, heard them laugh and heard them tear the place up. They broke what would break, kicked over the table and stools, and cursed when they didn't find anything of value to steal. He heard one of them say they should burn it down, but another one, the voice he recognized as the tall man, had stopped them because he said it would attract attention, so they knocked down as much of the small hut as they could with their bare hands, then had ridden away.

The little boy was so afraid, he stayed hidden under the furs all the rest of the day until it was nearly full dark, but he had to pee so badly, he ventured out of his hiding place. He had to climb under and over logs that once made up the walls of his home. That was when he saw his parents laying on the ground. He stood crying for them and pee ran down his leg. He went to his mother first and shook her, patted her back and called to her over and over, but she wouldn't answer him. He then turned to his father and shook him harder, but he didn't answer either. That was when he just sat down and wailed. After a while, he fell asleep and when he woke, it was dark out and he was cold. The moon was full and he used its light to guide him to the hut, where he found the furs and dragged them behind him to where his parents lay. He covered his mother first and then lay between his parents and shared a fur with his father. When he woke in the morning, he searched through the hut and found some bread and some dried meat to eat. After that, he had no concept of time passing. It was just a matter of sleeping, eating, and playing in the dirt, waiting for his parents to wake up.

Sometime later, it was still light out, he awoke to the sounds of shouting again. He was afraid the mean men had come back. He ran into the remains of the hut and slid under the fallen logs to the secret corner hiding place. He didn't want to see those men again. He could hear the horses snorting and the men talking. Their voices sounded grim and low, not like the loud laughing he had heard from the ones who hurt his mother. He was still afraid to look and tried to make himself very small so they wouldn't notice him. He heard them walking around the hut, he heard them come inside and move the fallen logs around. He felt a very big hand pick him up, but he was too afraid to open his eyes. The man who held him wrapped an arm around him and went back outside and called out to another man.


Caleb turned around and saw the small boy, who still refused to open his eyes. "He must've seen the whole thing, Calen. Poor little guy. What do we do with him?"

Calen shrugged. "Can't leave him here, he'll starve to death. Or worse. Take him back to Margaret. She'll take care of him."

Caleb took the boy from his brother and sat him down gently, patting his head. "You just wait right here and we'll take care of your Ma and Da."

The boy squinted his eyes, making them open just enough to see, and watched as the two men buried his parents. They bowed their heads and made the sign of the cross when they were done. Then they spoke to each other in low voices while they looked in his direction. The one called Calen walked slowly over to him and sat down in the dirt right in front of him.

He cleared his throat and looked up at Caleb who nodded to him. He cleared his throat again, "My name is Calen, boy. This is my brother, Caleb. Neither of us is going to hurt you any, so don’t be afraid of us."

The boy sat and stared at the dirt. Calen looked over his shoulder at his brother and raised his eyebrows. Calen shrugged his shoulders; he didn't know any more about this than his brother did.

Caleb spoke, "I know you've seen some bad things here with your Ma and Da, and no babe should be seeing that, but we're going to take you home with us and you'll be taken care of. So come on now and we'll get to it."

The little boy still sat and said nothing or made any sign that he had heard or understood. Calen squatted down beside his brother. "Maybe he can’t hear or speak? Can you, boy?" There was no reply.

The brothers looked at each other and Caleb picked up one of the furs and wrapped it around the boy and hauled him up on his shoulder. They both mounted their horses and Caleb settled the small boy in front of him.
They rode until the sun had set and it was nearly dark before they stopped again. They built a fire and laid out a bed for themselves in front of it and sat down with the boy between them. They pulled oatcakes and dried meat from a pouch and offered some to the boy. He held it in his hand without looking at either of them. They held the skin of water to the boy's mouth and he drank, but still, he said nothing. They all ate and drank, put the rest of the food away and then laid down with the boy between them. He was asleep in minutes.

Around noon the next day the three of them rode into the small village settled in the valley surrounded by mountains. It was lush and beautiful and impenetratable, which is the way William, laird of Castle MacLean, liked it. His people lived and prospered and didn't worry about invasions. They were peaceful and had not been involved in battle in nearly a decade. Not that they weren't trained and ready in the event they needed to be. William made sure his army had the best training and if it were ever necessary, they were ready for battle. But theirs was a peaceful land and he planned on keeping it that way.

The small boy, tucked in front of Calen now, watched everything pass by from under heavy eyelids. He liked the bright colors of banners flying in the wind, the green of the valley, the bright colored flowers growing wild and at the doorsteps of the cottages. He noticed all of the scrubbed walls of the buildings and the smells that were emitted as women baked bread and cooked their meals. His mouth opened in awe when they passed the blacksmith and he saw men beating on metal, shoving the metal into fire and then into buckets of water. He grinned when he saw horses at the stables and the children who were kicking a ball back and forth across the dirt road to one another. He wondered if they would stop so he could watch or maybe even play with the other children, but they continued to ride through the village. They continued on until they had climbed the trail up the mountain and entered the gates of the castle. The little boy had never seen such a place and couldn't hide his amazement. The brothers looked at one another and then at the boy.

"This is Castle MacLean, little one. This is where you'll be living. Think you might be liking it then?" They were both surprised when he nodded his head.

They dismounted in front of the big wooden double doors as a young lad of about fourteen ran up and took the reins of the horses and led them away to the stables. Calen carried the lad inside with Caleb following along behind them. They entered the great room and found their father, William, sitting before the stone fireplace that made up one wall of the room. Above the hearth hung the family crest crossed with swords and a painting of William's long-deceased wife and Calen and Caleb's mother.

"Da, we've returned with news that you aren’t going to like," Caleb called out.

William stood and turned to the trio. He raised his eyebrows as he surveyed the sight, "So who's this then?" He nodded toward the boy in Calen's arms.

"That's what you're not going to like, Da. We need to get the babe here to Margaret for care, and then we can tell you the tale."

William pulled the rope and a loud bell rang out. A couple of minutes later, Margaret came in from the kitchen wiping her hands on a cloth. "What is it you’re wanting? I've bread to finish kneading if you want it for supper," she said looking at William.

He sighed, the woman had no respect, but without her he'd have never been able to raise his sons after their mother died. Margaret had been the only mother his sons had ever really known since Calen was but two years and Caleb not even of an age that he could sit up on his own when their mother had died of the fever. Margaret had stepped in when her sister had left him widowed and his sons motherless. She had lost her husband a year earlier and had no children of her own, and because of his sons, she had not remarried either. She had taken his sons on as if they were her own babes and had cared for him as well when he was drowning in grief. So if she wasn't as respectful as some thought was due his rank, she was loyal, kind, strong, loving, and faithful. He could live with that.

Margaret turned toward Calen and Caleb and opened her arms to them. It was then she noticed the small boy in Calen's arms. She walked to the three and hugged them all at once. "My boys are home," she put a hand on each of their faces and patted their cheeks. "And what have we here then?"

She took the boy from Calen and hugged him to her. She looked at the two grown men with questions in her eyes, but they shook their heads. She knew she would find out later, so she turned and walked back toward the kitchen.

"Aren't you a sweet one?" She cooed to the little boy. He nuzzled closer to her and she hugged him tightly. "How old are you now? Can you show me?" He held up four fingers. "Oh, well aren't you a big boy then. Can you tell me your name?"

"Arion," he said barely above a whisper.

"Arion," Margaret said loudly enough that the men could hear and then pushed the kitchen door open with her hip and disappeared.

"He wouldn't even look at us," Caleb said.

William just grinned at them, "Like all of us, I s'pose he knows Margaret will get what she wants, so it's just as well to give it to her and get it over with."

They all chuckled and sat together. "So," William looked at each of his sons, "tell me the story."

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