The Raven's Moon (The Border Rogues Series, Book 2) by Susan King - Read Online
The Raven's Moon (The Border Rogues Series, Book 2)
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Summary

Author's Cut Edition

Desperate to help her wrongly imprisoned brother, Mairi Macrae takes to the Scottish highways to steal the execution warrant, and waylays the wrong man when she takes down Border officer Rowan Scott.

A notorious deputy on a secret mission, Rowan wants nothing to do with the beautiful Highland thief--yet soon they are caught in an intrigue over lost treasure and a mysterious portent.

As passion steals both their hearts, Rowan and Mairi must take every risk—and lay down their lives to save each other.

AWARDS:
RT Reviewer's Choice Award: Best Medieval

REVIEWS:
"A wonderfully dark and delectable read. Susan King evokes the Lowlands as few writers have—with all the passion, intrigue, mystery and beauty of the land--and tells a unique, well-crafted romance." ~Kathe Robin, Romantic Times

"A marvelous Scottish tale. Absolutely wonderful characters, breakneck pacing, and a great setting. I couldn’t put it down." ~Patricia Potter

THE BORDER ROGUES, in series order
The Raven's Wish
The Raven's Moon
The Heather Moon

THE CELTIC NIGHTS, in series order
The Stone Maiden
The Swan Maiden
The Sword Maiden
Laird of the Wind

OTHER TITLES by Susan King
The Black Thorne's Rose
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ISBN: 9781614175766
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The Raven's Moon (The Border Rogues Series, Book 2) - Susan King

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The Raven's Moon

The Border Rogues Series

Book Two

by

Susan King

National Bestselling Author

Author's Cut Edition

Published by ePublishing Works!

www.epublishingworks.com

ISBN: 978-1-61417-576-6

By payment of required fees, you have been granted the non-exclusive, non-transferable right to access and read the text of this eBook. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical, now known or hereinafter invented without the express written permission of copyright owner.

Please Note

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

The reverse engineering, uploading, and/or distributing of this eBook via the internet or via any other means without the permission of the copyright owner is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions, and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted materials. Your support of the author's rights is appreciated.

Copyright © 2014 by Susan King. All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.

Cover by Kim Killion www.thekilliongroupinc.com

eBook design by eBook Prep www.ebookprep.com

Dedication

For my sons

Joshua, Jeremy, and Sean

each one a joy and a privilege

each one a hero

Acknowledgements

Thanks go to Mary and Ed Furgol for a rousing Burns Supper among other Scottish inspirations; to Ted Wells-Green, M.D., who suggested treatment for fictional injuries; and to Jo-Ann Power and Eileen Charbonneau for always being there, regardless of geography.

Chapter 1

"Oh no, oh no, my brither dear,

That thing maun never be..."

The Battle of Harlaw

Scotland, the Borderlands

October 1588

The wind whirled around her like a curse, strong as a demon's breath. As a gust of rain billowed her black cloak, Mairi Macrae kept her horse steady beneath her. She waited, her attention focused on the dark road below.

Though her knees shook with fear—she was no fool to think this, tonight, would be easy—she tightened her grip on the reins and stiffened her shoulders, refusing to surrender to a sudden impulse to flee. She had to ride out again. Too much depended on her courage, here and now. Her brother Iain, imprisoned and condemned, had no other champion but her.

Blinking in the rain, she watched the road and boggy moor from her hilltop perch. In the distance, the muddy road unraveled like a brown ribbon. Three times over weeks, she had sat here watching for messengers along that highway.

Tonight's twilight storm would give her—and her companion, not yet arrived—an advantage of surprise. The rider coming this way would not expect anyone to be out on moor or hillside, waiting to strike, in such weather.

She had a feeling that another messenger would come through tonight, yet another sent by King James's privy council to deliver documents to the warden of the Scottish Middle March; his stone tower was not far from here. Mairi could sense the rider's approach—a compelling, tense foreboding that she could not ignore.

Iain, her twin brother, had inherited the full gift of Sight from their mother, and Mairi did not share that—for her, a portent was sometimes a strange heaviness in the air or even a physical twinge. As child growing up in the Highlands, she had learned to listen to those silent warnings. Having lived in the Lowlands for a few years, she heeded those feelings even more closely. The Borderlands could be a rough and dangerous territory, and any foreboding was useful. And now she herself added to that danger. She had no choice.

The air was thick, restless tonight, perhaps due to the stretch of turbulent weather that had plagued Scotland these past months. But soon certainty crackled along her spine, and she knew what would come.

A man would ride through here within the hour. She would take that one down too, with her comrade's help—if he ever showed up—or else Iain would be hanged, wrongly accused.

Mairi would not let that happen.

Turning, she glanced toward the ruined keep that crested the next hill. Its jagged corner tower rose into the rainy sky above crumbling walls. That broken place had been deserted long ago, rumored to be haunted.

The local people skirted a wide path around Lincraig Castle. No one ventured inside. Yet recently, it was whispered that the ghosts of Lincraig rode once again.

The wild wind shoved at her, tugging her cloak, whipping at the dark braid over her shoulder. Rain pelted her hooded head. Discomforts she could ignore; fear was not so easy to dismiss.

Clutching the reins, she murmured as her black mare sidestepped nervously. Drawing a breath, Mairi told herself to be calm and patient—and to wait, however long it took.

She looked toward Lincraig on its hill. Devil's Christie Armstrong should arrive soon. Together they would surprise the approaching messenger, stun him, snatch his pouch and search for any papers he carried. He could have anything else of value—Mairi did not care. She and Christie would then vanish into the rain and mist and leave the man to the rest of his mission. He would be convinced, like the previous messengers, that he had met the riding ghosts of the old keep.

That old ruin's reputation had suited Mairi's cause well. Perhaps tonight she would finally apprehend the writ of execution with Iain's name, the document that the March warden expected from the king's council. Mairi had no interest in valuables, nor did Christie.

Watching the road, Mairi shifted slightly as a prickling ran up her spine. Danger swirled in the wind and the chilly rain. A certain undefinable power swept the air.

For an instant, she knew that if she carried through her mission tonight, she would be forever changed. The risk, she realized, was that great—though she did not know the reason.

Find your courage, girl. Remember Iain, she whispered to herself in her native Gaelic. And remember, she reminded herself, Iain's wife and the new babe who waited for him in their cozy stone house nearby. Jennet and Robin were her brother's heart, and so hers as well.

She closed her eyes, felt the rain on her cheeks, and thought of the last time she had seen Iain in late summer. He had spoken of a foreboding just before he had ridden out. He had been taken down that night.

Mairi, Iain had said. Mairi, I had a vision.

* * *

A tiny pool gleamed like a fiery bit of sunset sky fallen to earth. Mairi lifted her skirt and stepped over the water, and turned, barefoot in the long grass, to look up at her brother.

Iain, tell me what you saw, she said.

He shook his head. I need to think about what it means.

She frowned. I do not have visions as you do—but I have strong feelings that I trust. That lec Scott is a wild rogue who is naught but trouble, Iain Macrae. Promise me you will not ride out with him this night.

"I must, mo leth," he answered her in the Gaelic they spoke when alone. My half—he often called her so. I will help him get back the cattle that reivers stole from him. He did the same for me when my own beasts were snatched by reivers.

But—she glanced at the darkening sky—do you not feel the unease here?

"Ach, unease rises with the moon here in the Borders. But I will be riding with good friends at my back."

And a sack of booty on your saddle, while herding beasts that are not yours—and with the warden's mosstroopers on your tail, she said. You learned those ways when we came out of the Highlands to foster with our Kerr cousins. I think even our father, though raised in the Lowlands, did not guess how much the reivers his kinsmen were when he sent us down here.

Iain smiled, gray eyes twinkling. The wind riffled his golden hair and he shoved it back—so handsome, familiar and dear to her that Mairi smiled too, despite her trepidation. She had ever been quieter, darker, more somber than her leth-aoin, her twin.

Leth, they always called each other: half. Iain, handsome and confident, had the golden sparkle of their mother, Elspeth Fraser. Patient, practical Mairi was dark like their father, Duncan Macrae, and shared his serious nature.

She and her brother had fostered together in the same Kerr household in the Borderlands, with paternal kin who encouraged them to speak their father's English—and hide their mother's Gaelic. The twins learned Lowland customs, including how to reive cattle swift as the wind steals clouds past the moon.

Ride out if you like, but not with Alec Scott, Mairi told Iain. One day that one will call such trouble on his pretty head that even his charming smile will not undo it.

Do you worry because the March warden dismissed him as his sergeant? There were other reasons, nothing to do with Alec's notorious kinsmen. I trust Alec Scott more than Simon Kerr. He smiled. Besides, I rent my house from Alec's grandfather and so I owe them service as part of the privilege. The Blackdrummond Scotts befriended me—both of us, my half—and now I'm wed and settled here. I may be a Highlander in their midst, but I feel at home here.

I do not. She scowled. They are outlaws and murderers.

Iain sighed. Let your heart heal, Mairi.

She raised her chin, declaring her right to still feel the hurt that had nearly undone her. I too would have felt home here. But one of the Scott kinsmen killed my betrothed. And I will not forget it. Shivering, she folded her arms. There is danger coming. I feel it, I. She glanced at the scudding clouds.

Just another summer storm, Iain said. I will be back before dawn. Watch over my Jennet for me. She is restless at night as her time draws near. It was good of you to come here to help Jennet with her babe.

I came to plead with you to move your family to the Highlands, if you would know, Mairi said.

I know you do not like being here, Mairi. I understand.

And I know you love it here. You have Jennet, she murmured. I thought I would be happy here too, with Johnny Kerr. But he has been in the ground these two years. A wave of grief—smaller and more dull than a while ago—went through her. I returned to the Highlands, meaning never to come back.

You will see my child born, and I thank you for it.

Thank our parents. They sent me back here to you.

"Ach, truly it was because you did not want to sail with them over the cold sea to Denmark," Iain teased.

Iain—do not go out tonight.

All is well, he said. But Mairi sensed a thread of doubt in his words. He looked past her as they both heard hoofbeats on the turf. Mairi did not turn. She knew the rider was Alec Scott.

Tell me your vision, she told her brother. Quickly.

Iain tapped his booted toe, rippling the shining pool at their feet. I looked into a rain puddle—a tiny pool—and a vision appeared there.

When was this?

A few days ago. I was out in the hills. In the water, I saw a storm reflected. A demon of a storm, with black clouds, thunder and lightning. I stood in sunlight, but the little pool went dark. I saw lightning breaking over dark hills. A rider came through the storm.

Who was he?

I do not know. He carried weapons, wore a helmet and breastplate. A mosstrooper perhaps, or a Border rider. A tall man. He was... determined, desperate somehow. There was danger both before and behind him. He was riding through that wild storm to... find someone. I knew he had little time left. He rode up a hill, called out—shouted out a name, and—

A chill ran up her spine. What name?

Yours, Mairi, he said low, his gaze meeting hers.

What? Where did he ride? And what does a mosstrooper have to do with us, or with me?

He was somewhere in the Borderlands. I think he searched for you. But I do not know. I only know that he was looking for you before I— He paused. Before I was to die, he finished.

She gasped, covering her mouth.

Then the vision was gone, Iain said. Who he is, or what it was about, I do not know. But there is some kind of danger ahead. The man is determined to find you. His will—his need—was powerful.

I do not understand, she whispered.

He was frightened for you—and—there was concern for you. Fear. Love.

Love!

It was as if the man would risk his very life—for you.

Mairi felt stunned. A dangerous vision, she said. What of you? Your life was threatened too. Iain, please do not ride out tonight.

Mairi, it might not be a true vision.

It is a warning of some kind. He could be a horrid and dangerous enemy, bringing us both disaster. Love! She huffed. You must not ride out.

Will I hide in my house because of a vision? Iain held her gaze for a moment, gray as her own. Then he turned away. She turned too.

Black against the twilight sky, Alec Scott sat his horse, waiting for his comrade. His steel helmet glinted red in the sunset light. He lifted a greeting hand.

Iain gave Mairi a quick hug. Watch after Jennet.

I will, she agreed. Iain crossed the yard to untether his horse, and mounted to quickly join Alec Scott.

Mairi folded her arms over her heart, fearing without practical reason that she might never see either of them again.

The men vanished into twilight and the hoofbeats faded. Mairi shivered in the wind, and for a moment wondered about the man who would ride through a wild storm, a threat to Iain and to her. Love—that part was untrue, she thought.

Only danger approached, surely as another storm.

* * *

Seated on the horse in the darkness, rain trickling on her cheeks, Mairi tipped her head under the drape of her wide hood. She stirred, alert.

The muddy road was empty, but again she felt someone approaching. Knew it, real and cold within her. She felt alarmed and exhilarated. She would do this, tonight—and she would be successful this time. No matter what her foreboding said, she had to do this. Who else could help Iain?

Suddenly she wondered if this storm would bring the man Iain had foreseen.

If so, she would be waiting, ready to take him down.

Chapter 2

Trust yow no Scott.

—Andrew Boorde, in a letter to Thomas Cromwell, 1536

Dark clouds moved through the sky like the devil's own galleons. Rowan Scott leaned a shoulder against the doorframe of the inn and looked up. Rain before nightfall, he thought. Again. What blastedly unpleasant weather Scotland had suffered through the summer and now into the autumn. So much rain that rivers had overflowed their banks, bridges had collapsed, crops were ruined. Jehovah's wrath, they were calling it. Enough, he called it, longing for sunlight.

He ignored a demand behind him to shut the damn door. Sipping ale from a pewter cup, he studied the violent sky.

The people were saying that Jehovah's vengeful breath produced the heavy storms that had buffeted Scotland. The weather had been poor in England, too, where many believed that the Almighty had created powerful winds and waves in the English Channel to defeat the Spanish Armada just two months earlier.

Few in Britain would argue the outcome, he thought.

God's well-timed breath had blown the fleeing Spanish ships northward. The Spaniards had intended to sail around Scotland and south toward home, but Jehovah was not done with them. The treacherous North Sea and relentless storms had swallowed several galleons heavy with cannon—and treasure.

Weeks ago, Rowan had seen the jagged remains of one galleon washed up on a Scottish beach, its hull and mast laying along the strand like the bones of some monstrous water beast. As a Border officer sent to the site by the Scottish privy council, he had helped to supervise the salvaging of gold and other goods from among the debris.

And that damnable Spanish wreck had thrown him into this current dilemma. Had he never walked that beach, he would not be here now, about to ride home to Blackdrummond after a long absence. Nor would he have official orders to find his rogue of a brother and bring him to justice. He never cared to see his brother again, but the orders had put him in a tight corner.

Where the hell was Geordie Bell, he thought—a rhyme that had made many a reiver smile, even with Bell, a sturdy English deputy, close on their tail. By the looks of that blackening sky to the west, Rowan had best ride out soon to the northeast and Blackdrummond Tower, as he had planned.

He cursed softly, impatiently, and went back inside the inn, closing the door against a gust of wind.

He sat down with his back to the wall so he could watch the wild, darkening sky through the window. The hearth fire warmed his left side from his dark hair to the square toe of his long boot. When the innkeeper passed by with a crockery jug, Rowan motioned for a refill of threepenny ale.

Wicked night, the innkeeper muttered as Rowan slid a few coins across the table. Storm's coming from the west. Ye'll want a bed, then?

Taking a quick sip of the thin stuff, Rowan shook his head. I'll ride out soon. I trust my horse is as well fed as I am.

That fine bay stallion? He's well cared for, sir. Travel on the morrow, man. The de'il himself would not ride this night.

That may be, but I must leave shortly.

The innkeeper narrowed his eyes. Ye're a familiar face. One o' the Scotts, I would wager, hey?

He nodded. Rowan Scott o' Blackdrummond.

The man grinned. Blackdrummond himself! Welcome! Ye've been gone a while from the Middle March.

Three years, Rowan said softly.

The innkeeper leaned closer. It were puzzling when the English March warden named the Black Laird o' Blackdrummond a thief and a murderer years back, he said. We knew ye for a fine and notorious Scottish reiver, a man to be admired for his cleverness, and nae petty brigand.

Notorious then. I've changed, Rowan said evenly.

No English prison could change a Blackdrummond Scott. That lot is born to reiving and riding. Yer brother Alec is another, hey? There's a rascal!

Rowan sipped his ale without reply.

Hardly a riding family on either side o' the Border has finer outlaws to its credit than the Blackdrummond Scotts. The man grinned again. My own kin have ridden out wi' yer kinsmen. Armstrongs, we are.

Fine riding companions, Rowan said.

Ye'll ride again wi' us, now that ye're back?

Hardly wise, man, Rowan said. I've been named a deputy here in the Middle March.

Is it so? The man chuckled. Well, a reiver named an officer is common enough in the Borderlands, and it doesna deter the reiving on the side much. He scratched his bald head, a bemused grin on his face. A Blackdrummond Scott as deputy to a Kerr! Now I like that! The king's council makes a good jest. Here, man, I will not take yer coin. Drink what ye will, and welcome to it. He pushed the coins back to Rowan, nodded and walked away.

Smiling faintly, bitterly, Rowan leaned his shoulders against the wall and stretched out his long legs in high black boots. He knew the innkeeper would spread the word about Rowan Scott's new position. Good. It would save him the trouble of establishing his position in the Middle March.

Word had already spread about his equally notorious brother, Alec Scott. Yet another rogue from Blackdrummond Tower, Rowan thought wryly. How the innkeeper would have crowed, if he knew just why the Black Laird had come back.

He picked up the silver coins and dropped them into his leather belt pouch. Then he withdrew a small gold medallion and held it in his fingers, turning it in the firelight.

Elaborately engraved, the golden oval framed the tiny figure of a saint raised in delicate relief. Tiny letters spelled out a prayer in Spanish on the reverse side.

Closing his fingers over it, Rowan glanced up. No one noticed him, each man absorbed in drinking ale, gambling at dice, or teasing the redhaired serving lass who moved among them. He wondered if any of them knew the information he sought—about missing Spanish gold, or about his brother.

The little medallion had washed ashore with the wreck of the Spanish galleon, along with coins and a polished stone mirror. He had picked up the items and kept them, not bothering to seek out English officials to turn in items of scant value, despite his orders.

Bright pieces of gold and silver, coughed out of the sea, had disappeared into the pockets of Scottish fishermen. Rowan did not begrudge them their profit, even though he was expected to collect scavenged items for English authorities.

Queen Elizabeth's advisers regarded the salvage as victor's spoils following the defeat of the Armada. They were furious that sacks of salvaged stuff had been stolen from the beach. In part, that theft had brought him here.

He glanced outside again, growing concerned that Geordie Bell had still not arrived. The English March deputy, a friend and reiving companion years earlier, had sent word that he would meet Rowan before sunset, bringing news of the missing gold.

Rowan was anxious to travel on to Blackdrummond Tower, having already sent word to his grandparents that he would arrive that night. He had an hour's ride yet, and he did not want to worry Anna and Jock Scott. He would wait only a few more minutes.

Settling back, he slipped a hand inside his sleeveless leather jack, worn over a woolen doublet and shirt, and withdrew a round, flat object. The thing was nearly as wide as his palm, wrapped in linen, which he opened slightly.

The smooth, polished black stone winked at him like a dark star. He ran a finger slowly over its convex surface and the surrounding wooden frame. The piece might have little value, ugly and plain as it was, but it was a curious thing and a serviceable mirror. He would give that and the little medallion to his grandmother. Though his grandfather might think the gold bit a papist gewgaw, Rowan thought Anna might like it.

He tilted the mirrow. The carved wooden frame, gilded and cracked, had empty niches where semiprecious stones might once have been. The frame encircled a slick stone which looked like onyx, though smokier and slightly translucent.

The surface reflected the hearthfire and the window. It must have been intended as a hand mirror, for it was too large to be jewelry. Tipping it, he saw a reflection of his face.

He saw a lean, dark man who appeared younger than he felt just then; a man who looked tired and hard-edged, his eyes and mouth traced with the fatigue of a long prison confinement.

His features were firm, stubborn, well-balanced, and his hair and beard stubble looked black as the stone he held. He looked like his father—but his mouth resembled his late mother's, as did his black-fringed eyes. Even in firelight, they were the deep green of the northern sea.

Then his image dissolved. Tipping the mirror, he found a face again—but it belonged to a young woman.

Startled, Rowan glanced up, but the serving lass was not nearby. He looked at the mirror and saw the strange girl still there—a ghostly image with wide gray eyes, oval face, a cascade of dark hair. Serene, perfect, she seemed to float inside the stone. This was no reflection.

Rowan turned the mirror over, wondering if a portrait had been cleverly painted on the backing to show through the gleaming semi-transparent stone. But the wooden back revealed nothing. He examined the stone, finding no explanation, and suddenly no girl. She had vanished.

He saw himself again, keen eyes frowning, long hair in need of a trim. He rubbed at the slick stone. No girl.

Either he was greatly in need of rest—or the threepenny was stronger than he thought.

He rewrapped the mirror and slipped it inside his jack. Then he picked up his sloped-brim helmet from the bench, settled it on his head, and stood. Fastening his dark brown cloak, he left the inn with a brief wave to the innkeeper.

He had hoped to see Geordie Bell, but if that lad wanted to find him, he could send word to Blackdrummond Tower. For now, Rowan needed to ride out before the storm grew worse on this devil's night.

Ducking his head against the fierce wind, he crossed the innyard toward the stable to fetching his horse and weapons.

He did not hear the footsteps behind him until too late. Grasping the hilt of his dirk, he whirled, but someone grabbed his arms from behind, jerking him back so that he lost his footing, struggling.

A large, powerful arm circled his chest, and the sharp edge of a dirk pressed against his throat insistently. Growing still, Rowan peered sideways, but the wide brim of his helmet blocked a clear view of his attacker.

Had he been able to free his trapped arms, he would have slammed a fist into the man's face or an elbow into the stout belly behind him. But he stood motionless, wary now.

Give it over, a rough, low voice said. As tall as Rowan, the man seemed a good deal heavier and was strong as an ox.

Give what? Rowan gasped. The man squeezed Rowan's chest so that he exhaled in a wheeze—and felt a knife edge press against his throat and cut slightly. He felt the sting, and knew that moving forward would slice his own throat; moving backward would only invite further attack.

The moon, the man growled. Do you have it?

Rowan could only see, sideways, a broad neck and a whiskered jaw. A second man, big and bulky, stood in front of him now, wearing a frayed leather jack. His broad face was bearded and a conical helmet shadowed his eyes.

What the devil do you mean—the moon? Rowan rasped out. Perhaps these two were not thieves, as he had first thought, but mad vagabond soldiers. Crazed, and asking for the moon.

The raven's moon, the bearded man said. We know you were there on that beach where the Spaniard ship wrecked. We're thinking you took it. The raven's moon.

I have naught o' value, Rowan said.

Check his pouch, barked the man with the knife.

The bearded man tore open Rowan's leather pouch and reached inside. Coins, and a wee papist thing, he said, snatching the medallion.

Look again, the first man said, as the second thrust a hand in the leather pouch again.

Rowan frowned. Did the men want that strange mirror? Ruffians would have no use for that unpretty thing, lacking gold or gems to give it worth. Likely they wanted gold, Spanish gold in particular.

Sensing a slight relaxation in the hand that held the blade to his throat, Rowan tipped his head back suddenly and slammed his helmet against the nose behind him. Then he jutted his elbow into the man's solid belly and kicked at the fellow's knee. His captor howled and stumbled, the knife blade fell away, and the restraining arm loosened. But the second man lunged.

Breaking free, Rowan kicked out and caught the bearded man in the knee as well, before slamming the edge of his hand into the broad throat. The brigand stumbled backward and began to fall.

An explosive sound ripped through the howl of the wind. Something zipped past his helmet, sounding like a fast bee. As Rowan glanced around to see who had fired the gun, his attackers scrambled to their feet and barreled into him, knocking him off balance. The larger man grabbed him around the legs and slammed him down to the damp ground.

Another shot sounded. Both attackers stumbled hastily over Rowan and ran past, less like thieves than like opponents in a football match who had just grabbed the ball.

Getting to his feet, Rowan launched forward in pursuit as the men ran out of the yard. Even if they got away, he would find them, he thought. Although he had not seen their faces clearly, and both wore the common gear of so many Bordermen—leather jacks, sloping helmets, long boots—he would know them best by their sturdy, big builds. The larger man moved like a mummer's trained bear.

Hearing a shout, he glanced back to see a wide-shouldered redhaired man, grinning and waving two smoking pistols, running toward him. Rowan waved at Geordie Bell and ran on.

Quickly he covered the length of the yard, tearing past the stable and out onto the moor, where he saw the two men disappear over a hill. Geordie soon caught up with him and together they crested a grassy slope.

Reaching the hilltop, Rowan saw two men on horseback galloping across the moorland. He swore loudly and turned.

By hell, Geordie Bell, he said, catching his breath.

At least you're unharmed, Geordie panted, shoving the pistols into his belt. I shot, but was too far away to save you.

Godamercy, man—you'd have put a lead ball in me if you'd been closer, Rowan growled. He took off