Here’s my latest excerpt of Sons of Alba, Book 2: Son of Redemption.
Seumas is off at war, itching for the fight to start, when he learns a few things while scouting with an older warrior.
The captain paired him with an older man, seasoned in the Ard Righ’s battles against the Lochlannaich. He looked the part – a broad-shouldered, muscular man with his tanned skin drawn in against lean-strung muscles. A thick scar ran across his cheek, just missing his eye. His grey-brown hair was cropped close and bristling against his scalp. Cadell was his name. Their lot was to the south, and they rode off swiftly, if cautiously.
Cadell passed the time asking Seumas about his home and family in his oddly-accented gaidhlig, questions he answered guardedly. Although he could easily justify sneaking away to war, secretly handfasting a girl the night before marching, and defying his father’s word to himself or his friends, he doubted he could adequately explain to someone older. Somehow under the scrutiny of the veteran, he didn’t care to risk seeming a fool for his choices.
Cadell himself was a Briton from Strad Clud, a warrior under Eogan an Maol. He told Seumas of his childhood in a fishing village near Dun Breatainn, of his youth training with the warriors in Baile a’ Ghobhainn, of his years fighting the Sassanaich to the east and the Lochlannaich to the west.
“It’s a bloody business, is war. I confess I’m surprised your father allowed you to come.”
Seumas gave a noncommittal noise that could be interpreted as anything.
“It’s easy to think of the enemy as a faceless evil when you’ve never been to battle. It’s easy to think of killing as glorious when you haven’t done it. But when you look into a man’s eyes and see he’s just that – a man – and you still have to kill him or let him kill you, then that’s another matter entirely.”
Seumas nodded. What was he supposed to say to that?
“Take my advice, boy. Keep as far from the thick of it as you can. Kill a man if you must, and hope to God the thought of him doesn’t haunt you till your last day. Because there are wounds you can see – and those will heal quick enough – and wounds you can’t see. Those ones take a long time to heal.”
Anyone else, and Seumas might have scoffed. All his life he’d longed for the glory of battle. Did this Briton think he was so fragile? But a glance at Cadell’s wicked scar quelled him. If anyone knew the reality of war, it was him.
So did this change anything? Of course Seumas was hardly about to turn tail and run back to Dun na Cloich Leith. Nor did he plan to stay away from the fighting like a coward. No, he would fight and he would kill. And if the killing wounded him, within or without, he would heal.
Cadell held up a gnarled hand to stop him, and the two of them listened carefully. They stood still in the low-lying glade, straining to hear anything else beyond the twitter of birds and the patter of random leftover raindrops stirred by the wind. Then Seumas heard it too – a distant whinny of a horse.
At Cadell’s urging, they drew their horses off the road and hobbled them in the bracken. Then they crept soft-footed up the ridge ahead, keeping to the shelter of the trees. The ridge crested over a view of a green valley, bisected by a meandering stream. It would have been a beautiful spot, but for the blight of the camp that spread across the hillside opposite.
Smoke trailed upward from a thousand fires. The noise of men’s voices carried like a distant drone across the vale. They had found the Sassanaich.
Seumas made a quick mental estimate of their numbers. Perhaps five thousand or more. It was a big enough number, though evenly matched to their own. Then Cadell gave him a signal and together they slipped back down the ridge and recovered their mounts.
“Five thousand, do you suppose?” Seumas asked.
Cadell nodded grimly. He turned his horse’s head north and spurred it on. This was no trot through the countryside, no meandering search for signs. Now they had but one purpose. Reach the camp. Carry the message. Warn the Ard Righ that the Sassanaich were nearby.
The war was indeed real. The battle was soon. The pounding of the horses’ hooves matched the pounding of Seumas’ heart.
A new excerpt from Sons of Alba, Book 2: Son of Redemption Click to Tweet
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