Here’s a new excerpt of Sons of Alba, book 3: Son of Courage for your reading enjoyment:
At the front of the sanctuary stood a massive stone laid mostly flat, darkened by age and use. It was the stone from his vision – there could be no mistake. Once, this monolith had soaked up the blood of pagan sacrifices. Now, it held a golden cup, at times filled with the wine of the Criosd’s blood.
Mamaidh knelt here, bowed her head. Under her breath she prayed, and tears fell from her eyes. Uilleam prayed, too. A Dhia, reveal your plan to us. Bring us both healing from the hurts of the past.
After a time, Mamaidh lifted her head, and her smile was like the watery sun breaking through the clouds after a heavy rain. “Come, a mhac. I’ve something to show you.”
He rose, brushed the dust from his knees, and followed her out of the church to a nearby cluster of small cairns and standing stones carved with crosses. She found one, traced the runes.
“This must be Niall’s. See how new the carving?” She smiled sadly. “He was a friend, a monk from Cill Linnhe. It was he who led Seannathair here to rescue me.”
She strolled farther. “And here is your father’s grave.” She glanced over her shoulder at Uilleam, watching him as though she thought he might break. In truth, Uilleam had very little memory of his father – a tall, yellow-haired man with a clean-shaven face and broad shoulders he used to sit on. He’d felt like a giant then. It was his turn to trace the runes. They spelled Alfarinn Wilhjelmsson, he knew.
“I hadn’t seen his resting place,” Mamaidh said softly, laying a hand on Uilleam’s shoulder. “We left before he was buried. It was probably for the best. Your uncle paid weregild to compensate Alfarinn’s family, but it wouldn’t have been kind for their kinsman’s killers to linger here.”
Mamaidh lifted her eyes, swept her gaze across the cemetery, and rested on a cross near the back – one if not old, at least as old as Uilleam.
She dropped her hand, lifted the hem of her leine and walked swiftly to the cross. There, she knelt down, tears coming fresh to her eyes. This was more grief than she’d shown for her dead husband, for her friend the monk, even more than she’d shown when Seannathair had died. Uilleam deciphered the runes as best he could – C-A-W-U-N. It didn’t sound like a Lachlannach name.
There were more runes below – Thrall and Martyr, Priest of Hvitr Kristr.
“Caomhin?” he guessed. “Who was Caomhin?”
Mamaidh looked up at him, her eyes red. “He was …”
The fiosachd came upon him then, an insistent image of the two men duelling – the warrior and the slave. He saw again the slave, bleeding on the ground beside Thor’s altar stone. And now he had a name to put to the dying man, with his dark hair, pale skin, and wide hazel eyes. Caomhin.
“He died …” Uilleam whispered. “They killed him.”
Mamaidh nodded, startled. “He was one of the monks from Cill Linnhe. He could have escaped, along with the others. But he stayed. He stayed to be with me … because he knew I couldn’t go.”
“Because of me?”
“Because of you.” It was a whisper, barely above a breath.
“He loved you.” Uilleam said. “You loved him.”
“Yes.” His mother’s face was a pale bleak ruin of sadness. “I would have married him, had the Lachlannaich – your father’s people – not taken us. I would have run away with him …”
“If not for me.” Uilleam sighed. He had held her here in Thorsbjorg, with stronger ties than any slave chain.
“It wasn’t like that, a chuisle,” she said, her hands going to his. “I love you. I loved you the moment I knew you existed. I couldn’t hold you to blame for the sins of your father. And much good came out of it – as much joy as sadness. Yes, Caomhin died, but his blood watered the new-born church. Without his sacrifice – to stay behind here – your father’s people would still be in the darkness.”
He saw the blood of his vision, soaking into the earth, the church rising out of it like a tree sprouting from the ground before his eyes.
“I had thought I was finished with this place, when your grandfather rescued me.” Mamaidh gazed at the church. “But it seems it is not done with me. Niall is dead. I can’t escape the feeling that I am to replace him.”
She looked at Uilleam, her pale eyes unfocused as they always were when she had the fiosachd.
How could he tell her that he’d had a seeing of his own – that although Thorsbjorg was the end of her travels, it was only the beginning of his?
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