Search      Hot    Newest Novel
HOME > Science Fiction > Witch of the Glens 峡谷女巫 > 8. A Task for Kelpie
Font Size:【Large】【Middle】【Small】 Add Bookmark  
8. A Task for Kelpie
 From Inverlochy Castle they headed southeast, around the tip of Loch Leven and into the lands of the Stewarts of Glencoe. Now they definitely turned southward. Kelpie frowned.
“Will we be going into Campbell country, then?” she asked, faintly alarmed. For the last time they had ventured into Argyll’s lands there had been an all too exciting witch hunt from which they had barely escaped, so it must be an important matter indeed that would bring Mina and Bogle back again into danger.
Mina just grunted disagreeably, but by the next day Kelpie’s question was answered, for they reached Loch Etive, which was well into Campbell land. Mina glanced around nervously, and Kelpie again wondered where they were going, and why. Bogle stood for a moment, staring down the loch, then turned and purposefully led the way
 to the precise spot where the River Etive entered the northernmost tip. Clearly he knew exactly where he was going. And then Kelpie saw what must be the reason for this journey. A man sat waiting for them in a copse of alder near the river, looking oddly out of place in the sober gray breeches of a Lowlander.
“Aweel,” he said and looked at them. Kelpie’s sharp eyes took in every detail of the stocky long-armed figure, with sandy hair cropped to its ears, and sandy eyebrows looking too thin for the broad face. She did not like what she saw, and even less what she felt. For there was no expression at all on the Lowlander’s face. His eyes were like cold pebbles, and there was a malignance about him that made her shrink inside.
Suddenly Kelpie knew that he must be a warlock. Mina and Bogle would not be merely working with him; they were under his orders. Probably it was he who was behind Mina’s interest in politics, Kelpie’s long stay at Glenfern, this hurried trip. Och, it was a powerful and evil man, this, and she would do well to fear him.
The small opaque eyes studied her for a moment and then turned to Mina, who looked small and shrunken before them. “Is yon the lass?” Their owner demanded in the burred English of Glasgow.
Mina nodded, and the eyes turned back to Kelpie. “Come here!” he commanded.
Kelpie had a passionate desire to assert her own will
 and refuse. But it would be daft to try to challenge his power now—and especially with Mina and Bogle watching her. Reluctantly, her own eyes smoldering with anger and foreboding, she went and stood before him, and he seemed to read her thoughts.
“So, ye’d like tae be a witch,” he said, his voice half a sneer, half a caress. “Tae hae sich power, ye maun learn tae obey. Obey! Ye didna ken that, eh? Weel—ailbins ye can prove yersel’ the noo, and earn the powers ye’re wanting.” He turned to Mina again. “Hae ye told her?”
Mina shook her head humbly. “Never a word.”
“Good. She’ll hear it the noo,” returned the Lowlander. He turned back to Kelpie, whose small face regarded him with wary intensity. His face became genial and fatherly. “Ye’re a lucky lass,” he began, “tae hae us a’ so concerned wi’ yer ain guid.”
Kelpie laughed aloud, and there was genuine amusement as well as derision in her laughter. Did they think her a bairn, and daft as well?
At once the Lowlander became brisk and businesslike. Very well, then, he conceded, perhaps it was not merely her own good they were after. But she would profit greatly. Who, he demanded, was her worst enemy?
Kelpie prudently did not name Mina and Bogle. Instead, she remembered Mina’s deep interest of late and made a shrewd guess at the answer he expected. “Mac Cailein Mor?”
“Aye, Argyll,” he said approvingly and went on to point out why. The Kirk of the Covenant was reaching farther and farther into the Highlands now, with its persecution of honest witches, and even of stupid old folk who were not witches at all, for that matter. And who was head of the Covenant? Who was spearhead of the persecutions, the pricking and torture and burnings? Argyll. If he was not stopped, there would be no safe place in all Scotland for such as they.
Kelpie nodded and found part of her mind thinking that on this one point only—Argyll and the Covenant—did her world and that of Glenfern agree.
Very well, then, the Lowlander continued. They must take steps to destroy Argyll. And what better thing than a hex? A wee image of him, in clay or wax, they would make. And then they would stick pins in it, roast it, freeze it, pour poison over it, and, by the black powers of witchcraft, all these things would happen to Mac Cailein Mor himself, until at last he would die in great pain.
Again Kelpie nodded warily. And how did she enter into all this, at all?
She found out soon enough. In order to make a really effective hex on Argyll, something from himself was needed to mold into the wax figure—hair or fingernail clippings, preferably. And who was to obtain them? Why, Kelpie, of course.
Now it was clear why she had been left at Glenfern to
 learn the ways of gentry and how to be a servant. She would hire herself as housemaid at Inverary Castle and, as soon as she managed to get the hair or fingernail clippings, just come away back here with them. And as a reward she would be taught all she wished to know about spells, potions, curses—even the Evil Eye itself.
As easy as that!
They were making her their tool again, of course, to do what they dared not do themselves. If she were caught, her life would not be worth a farthing. Still—Kelpie thought quickly behind narrowed eyes and an impassive face. It was a chance to get away from Mina and Bogle and perhaps take a hand in managing her own life. Once away in Inverary, she could decide whether or not to carry out the errand. Perhaps she would prefer Mac Cailein Mor to Mina and just stay for a while. Or perhaps.... Well, she would see.
She listened with great docility as they explained how she could get in touch with them once she had completed her task. She even nodded when the Lowlander suggested blandly that it might just be safest to send the hair—or half of it—on to them by the messenger they would tell her of, and then she herself could be bringing the rest later. Kelpie kept a sneer from crossing her face. If they thought her so witless as that, let them, then! But if and when she came to them, it would be with the hair hidden
 in a safe place, and they having to fulfill their part of the bargain before they saw it.
The Lowlander was very pleased with her, and Kelpie went to bed very pleased with herself. But she awoke near dawn with the sense of something bothering her.
The sky was a vast aching void, neither black nor light. The world was a great shadow. Kelpie crept silently away from the camp and over the crest of the nearest rise, still wrapped in the old woolen plaidie which served as cloak and blanket. She seated herself against the thickness of a rhododendron, so that she was lost in the black shadows of its great leaves and blossoms. Then she stared down along the long, steely sheet of Loch Etive and began to think.
Obey, the Lowlander had said—and clearly Mina and Bogle were obeying him. But Kelpie had thought that to be a witch was to be free, to have power to command others, never to be commanded again by anyone.
Was it not so, after all? Did the Lowlander, in turn, obey someone—or Something? For an instant Kelpie sensed something infinitely dangerous and horrible. Was Satan merely another name for those ancient Dark Powers? And was the price for invoking them to be a slave to them? She shuddered, and cold droplets of sweat broke out on her short upper lip.
Then she pulled herself together. She must not give in
 to foolish worries. The Lowlander was a fearsome man, but witchcraft was the only way to be free of Mina, and when she had learned it she need fear neither of them any longer.
All the same, the first seed of doubt had taken root, and it no longer seemed quite so easy to become the most powerful witch in Scotland. It was a rather subdued Kelpie who meekly cooked the fish and oatcakes for breakfast, bade the Lowlander farewell, and followed Bogle and Mina on to Loch Awe.
At a ruined old shieling hut by the loch they stopped and waited for a day, until there came............
Join or Log In! You need to log in to continue reading

Login into Your Account

  Remember me on this computer.

All The Data From The Network AND User Upload, If Infringement, Please Contact Us To Delete! Contact Us
About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Tag List | Recent Search  
©2010-2018, All Rights Reserved