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10. A Bit of Hair
 It was an impossible errand they had sent her on! Kelpie realized it slowly, angrily. A bit of Argyll’s hair, indeed and indeed! Nobody at all would be so feckless as to leave a bit of his hair lying about, convenient to the hand of any witch who happened to be passing. And how much less Mac Cailein Mor, who was thrice as crafty, ten times as suspicious, and a thousand times more hated than most folk? Och, no; for him such carelessness would be altogether impossible. It was certain that he would stand over his barber while every last hair or fingernail clipping was safely burned. The best she could hope for was a bit of his personal belongings, which would be much less effective; and whatever Mina and the Lowlander would say she did not know. No doubt they would make an excuse to refuse to teach her spells, after all.
And so she seethed under the joyless Covenant mask
 which was becoming harder and harder to wear. How she longed for the freedom of the open! Her legs ached with the longing to run and leap and dance upon the hills, and her face ached with the need to laugh. And yet she stayed on, hoping for some miracle, reflecting sourly that Mrs. MacKellar and Argyll were very little improvement over Mina and Bogle.
It was in mid-July that it happened, during morning prayer.
Kelpie knelt with the rest of the household on the cold stone floor in grim endurance, for this long, twice-daily torment was nearly unbearable for an active young gypsy.
Her place was in the very back, among the meanest of the servants. Ahead, the bowed backs graduated in rank, with Mrs. MacKellar far up front, just behind meek Lady Argyll, Lord Lorne, and Ewen Cameron, whose red kilt blazed sharply alien amid all the blue and green of the Campbell tartan. And before them all stood Mac Cailein Mor’s long, stooped figure, telling of the anger, jealousy, cruelty of a God who could surely have nothing to do with the opal world outside. With cold satisfaction and in grim detail he described God’s will (which seemed indistinguishable from Argyll’s will); and his pale eyes were most disconcerting, for if one seemed fixed upon Siubhan or Peigi, the other seemed to stare straight at Kelpie, and who was to know what himself was really looking at, whatever?
“Behold, the day of Jehovah cometh, cruel, with wrath and fierce anger; to make the land a desolation, and to destroy the sinners thereof out of it,” said Argyll. “He shall destroy the minions of Satan, those evildoers who are not of the Kirk, who blasphemously question the Covenant. For all those who are not with the Covenant are against the Lord and vile in His sight. They shall burn forever in Hell, and above all shall burn all witches and that servant of the Devil, Montrose. They shall be tormented—”
Kelpie felt the presence of the messenger in the open door behind her, but dared not turn to look. She saw Argyll’s eye flicker briefly in that direction and noticed the slight pause before he went coldly on with his orders to and from God. And something inside Kelpie stirred, and she knew that something was about to happen which would be important to her.
Dropping her dark head over clasped hands in an attitude of great reverence, she tried to think what it could be. There was nothing she had done. Unless—Had Ewen Cameron said something about yesterday?
For yesterday Kelpie had found her first opportunity to get away over to the wing which held the chambers of Mac Cailein Mor and his family. She had actually reached his door, and as she hesitated there, heart beating quickly, another door nearby had opened, and through it came a lad of about fifteen.
Kelpie had not needed to look at the oddness of a Cameron
 tartan in the Campbell stronghold to know that this was Ewen, the grandson of Lochiel. Ian had told her about him, and she had seen him now and again about the castle. And Peigi had told her proudly how fine it was that Mac Cailein Mor was taking on himself the education of his nephew, for fear it should be neglected or his own family should teach him to believe the wrong things.
Kelpie had hidden a cynical smile at the time, but now, when the grave, clear-eyed lad stood regarding her in the hall, she wondered briefly how much this “education” would really mean. For he had about him the air of one with a mind of his own.
“You’ll be Sheena, will you not?” he asked as Kelpie belatedly made a stiff bob. She nodded. “Best not to linger here,” he went on. “If my uncle should see you—”
“Aye,” Kelpie had murmured, and slipped away back to her own territory with the odd feeling that he had seen through her mask—not, perhaps, that he knew exactly what was under it, but that he knew she was alien to this world of Inverary.
Could he have said anything, just? Kelpie wondered as she shifted her knees ever so slightly on the painfully hard stone. The thing inside said no. He was another of those strange people, like Ian and Eithne, who seemed not to hate anyone or even wish them ill.
But still, something was about to happen, and she must find out as soon as ever she could. When prayers were over,
 and the household rose and respectfully made way for himself to go out first, it was easy enough for her to slip nearest the door, for she had had a wealth of experience at picking pockets and melting through crowds. And so she saw the travel-weary messenger waiting outside, and heard the news when Argyll did.
“Antrim of Colonsay and his clan of Irish MacDonalds have landed at Ardnaburchen and taken the castle of Mingary, and will even now be taking the keep of Lochaline, your Lordship!”
The Marquis of Argyll said something under his breath, and the freckles suddenly stood out under the red hair that Kelpie coveted. “May the Devil take his impudence!” he said aloud, and there was no doubt that he meant it literally.
Kelpie tried to remember something she had heard at Glenfern. Antrim—Colkitto, they called him—was chief of a branch of MacDonalds that the Campbells had driven westward, over the islands, and at last to Ireland. And now, it seemed, he had decided to bring his clan back to Scotland to fight the Campbells and perhaps take back some land.
“Have messengers ready to ride,” Argyll said viciously to his son. “I’ll have the army up and wipe him out once and for all!” By this time the rest of the household had filtered out into the hall, and it didn’t seem to matter if
 they all heard or no. But then, there’d be no keeping this kind of news secret, whatever.
Kelpie clenched her fists. We? Then would Mac Cailein Mor be away with the army himself?
“Isn’t there an English Parliament garrison at Carlisle?” ventured Lord Lorne in English. “Why not send to them to take warships up the coast? If they captured Antrim’s ships, there’d be no retreat for him.”
Argyll nodded brusquely and strode off toward his chambers to write the necessary letters—taking his hair with him, of course. “Get my things ready to ride,” he ordered one of his retainers, thus destroying Kelpie’s last hope.
“Dhé!” she muttered, without changing the blank and sober expression considered suitable for God-fearing people. Whatever could she be doing now, at all, with him away?
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