It wasn’t until the next morning that I awoke to the rooster’s call. I realized I must have fainted. I raised my head and felt stiff from sleeping on the hard floor.
Lugh’s body lay next to me, which told me that I needed to figure out a plan.
Do I wait here for my betrothed to come claim me and follow the life that was chosen for me? Or do I take the silver on the table and begin a new life?
With either decision, I would need to bathe and burn the dress I was wearing. Lugh’s blood would never wash out of it.
If I were to claim that he was killed by an intruder, I would need to be rid of anything that would incriminate me.
I rose and quickly began stoking the fire. With haste, I ripped my clothes off and threw them into the pit. I dared not look at my reflection in the window, knowing there was blood on my face and in my hair.
The thought made me sick to my stomach. Even as I cleaned myself that morning, scrubbing excessively, I felt as though his blood would never wash off.
Returning to the house, I began to panic at the realization that Lugh’s body was too heavy for me to move. I closed my eyes as I placed a blanket over his lifeless body while holding my breath.
It would only be a matter of time until the stench consumed the room. I decided it would be best to carry out my daily routine until I could form a new strategy.
So, I ate my breakfast, brushed my hair, cleaned my teeth, and organized the house. Once all that was completed, I tended to the few animals we still had in the stable.
I found myself beginning to unravel as my chore list dwindled down. Finding a seat on a pile of straw, I stared out at the farm.
How was it that just a few years ago, this was a place of comfort for me? Now, the only thing this farm offered me was death.
My window of opportunity to leave was shrinking as the day progressed, and I knew I could not avoid my destiny any longer. I lay back in the hay, looking up in the roof of the stable.
The rafters were wide enough for storage. If I moved a few things into the barn, it would give me enough room to safely rest my head for the night.
I would need my strength to travel to a new town, especially since I did not know how far that would be.
There was much to do before I left, and spending the night in the stable would protect me from any unwanted visitors. For I knew if Lugh’s body was discovered, I would surely be hung for murder.
So, I started preparing to leave Kilcoran for good.
It was almost evening when I finished packing my clothes and necessities. I had two horses and would bring both. One would carry food, water, and my things, and the other I would ride.
I felt sad for the rest of the animals, but with my suitor coming in two days’ time, there was comfort in knowing that he would most likely take them.
In fact, he would most likely take everything I left behind when he realized he’d paid so much silver for a runaway bride.
It felt surreal to be leaving the home that I’d had for my entire life. I quickly prepared my meal to bring to the stables and looked around me.
I remembered the happy times I’d had with my mother in this room, from her teaching me to speak Danish to twirling about the room together and passing along old recipes and traditions she remembered from her childhood.
My heart ached for her warmth. I whispered my goodbyes to her and gathered what blankets I could to bring out to the stable.
Dusk was settling in, and I hoisted myself up into the rafters of the stable. With the thought of what tomorrow would bring, I ate my meal and drifted off to sleep, feeling both scared and excited.
“Quietly,” Cayden cautioned his men as they approached the farm. It was the last area of Kilcoran that his clan would raid.
They had already claimed the town, and his father, Chief Barra, had sent them to find the mill. There was a stillness to the farm that alarmed him.
The five men surrounded the place and entered on his command, each going to a different area of the house to search for its inhabitants.
“No one is here.”
“Nor up here,” another shouted from the loft. The men sifted through the rooms, overturning the furniture.
“It seems someone was here.” Cayden lifted a blanket off a man’s body. He bent down, removing the weapon from the man’s neck.
“This is not a Danish knife. It isn’t even a fighting knife.” He looked at his four men.
“Egil, Gosta, take this man’s body out of the house and dispose of him wherever you think is best. Padriac and Caxton will build a fire and find us some food. We’ll rest here tonight.”
Cayden gave his commands knowing his men would be relieved. They had traveled for the past four days before taking over Kilcoran.
His father was determined to settle a vendetta, but this town had proven useless—the man he sought did not reside here.
Cayden walked up the hill to retrieve their horses and settle them in the stable. After tying up the horses to posts, he started to look around for some fodder.
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