By Blade and Covenant, Chapter 1

I, the Scribe of the Other Worlds, do not often look into the affairs of the Primary World. But there are instances in which heroes and travelers from the Primary World journey to realms unknown by “pockets” or flashes of magic on the fringes between that world and another. Here follows such a tale, of the courageous man who would rise by blade and Covenant to become an indomitable hero and sire the bloodline of the wealthiest man in the Primary World. -Lamathrath of the Nexus

By Blade and Covenant

  1. The Witch and the Covenanter

Glencoe, Scotland, 1637

“Burn her! Burn her! Burn her for a witch!” Ellery McTavish looked out in dead silence at the screaming crowd of ruffians, trying for her death. Oh but that she had not chosen the calling of an apothecary, but her dying father had had no sons to make poultices for him so she had had no choice but to break tradition. Her fiery locks blew in the wind barely covering up the beauty Mark on her neck that the Inquisitioner had deemed a “devil’s teat”. Had she been but a wee bit taller, perhaps her highland legs could have carried her into the hills away from the mob. The court held before the village elders had been but a mockery. Her sentence had been sure the moment they caught her. A huge mud caked men wearing a mask of black leather shoved her over to the stake and bound her there with tight cords. Father McCusker came forward bearing a crucifix and a torch. “Ellery McTavish, you have been found guilty of practicing magic and consorting with the Queen of Elfland. I willne allow ye last words, lest you cast a spell on us.” She began casting her eyes this way and that, breast heaving, tears running down her mud-ridden cheeks, praying that anyone, even a trow or water horse of legend would save her, she could feel the crackling heat of the flames as it neared the brush and kindling at her feet. Then suddenly…

BOOM! There was the sound of a pistol report, only seven times louder than usual. The burning torch fell harmlessly into a pile of mud and the old priest slumped forward, brains and blood oozing from a gaping wound in his head. Ellery knew practically nothing about weapons, but no ordinary flintlock, she knew could wound like that or have that accuracy, for it seemed that the shot had come from a great distance.  She heard the neighing of  a great Highland stallion, saw the glint of steel out of the corner of her eye, another shot, strange, for a pistol could not be reloaded that quickly. there seem to be a path clearing among the ruffians as discord an invisible force sowed discord among them. There came out of the pandemonium a Clarion Highland voice. “Faer the Laird and the Covenant!”

Ellery heard a great thwak and suddenly realized that her hands were no longer bound. An arm as thick and strong as an iron brace scooped her up onto a galloping horse as she and her unknown savior rode away into the Highlands.

The galloping hooves beat the Highland ground. Ellery shocked eyes saw both hill and glen race past. Suddenly the horse paused. Mighty yet gentle arms lowered into the ground. “Catch your breath, lassie.” For the first time, young Ellery looked up to see her rescuer. He was a tall man of  about twenty-one years of age. He had very plain garb, wearing dark black breeches and worn riding boots. A highland targe hung on his back, and his torso was protected by a heavy plate cuirass such as the forces of King Charlie wore. Long black gloves that stretched down to the elbow were on his hands. A sharp basket-hilt broadsword hung at his waist. The only ostentatious things about his appearance were the bright red sash about his waist and the flintlock that hung from. It was more beautiful than any firearm she had ever seen. The grip was casting in brass and was as bright and shin as white gold. An old man’s face was engraved near the barrel and many lenticular designs were carved behind it, such as French leaflets and flourishes. Ornate signs were even sketched on the barrel itself. But even the firearm was not as beautiful as the man who wielded it. His face was hardened and strong like the Highlands fierce blue Celtic eyes seemed to bore into Ellery use very soul and bespoke a  faith that was as essential to the man as bread and water. A thick goatee decorated his mouth and chin. Curly locks cut in the Puritan fashion yet slightly longer were visible underneath his slouch hat. “Who-who are you, sir?”
The man smiled broadly and dismounted. Removing his hat in a courtly bow. He said with a thick brogue. “I am Killian McGeldenwytt, servant of the Lord, and protector of the covenant, and I am at your service, milady. Like Abraham, I follow the path where the Lord leads me, protecting the weak and innocent and only taking a life when it is absolutely unavoidable. Thus have I said a prayer for the soul of that misguided priest and that the Lord might absolve me of the sin of taking the life of that man of God. For he was a man of God, though I do not agree with his theology. Obviously, I cannot take you back to your village. Therefore you must come with me. I swear by blade and covenant that I will keep you safe. Please, do not fear me. What is your name?”

“My name is Ellery McTavish of Glencoe. I am in your debt for saving my life. I can see that you are a man of faith. Though your appearance somewhat frightens me, I see no other alternative than to journey with you. I cannot return to my home, for they would kill us both. I can see that you are very fond of the Scriptures, and are of the Covenanter lot. As Catholic as I am, you have opened up my mind to new things. I am indebted to you in the Lord. Therefore, where you go I shall go. And as St. Ruth with the woman Naomi, your faith will be my faith. Perhaps the Lord has orchestrated for our paths to cross for a reason. Unless God takes me to heaven, I will nay leave ye.”

“And by the Holy Book and covenant, lass, I shall protect ye in like manner as David did for Jonathan and Abigail. Come. We ride where the Lord leads.”

The two fugitives slowly wound their way through the glens as the days wore on. Killian would leave Ellery in a secluded spot and journey forth into the woods with his claybeg and return with a brace of rabbits.

“I dunne use my pistol,” he said once, “though in truth, ‘twould be easier, for the magazine only holds seven balls.”

Ellery looked puzzled. “I thought any firearm could only hold one shot. Tell me, how did you come by it?”

The young Covenanter smiled wistfully as he looked down and ran his thumb lightly over the hammer. “I crafted him myself. The old man of the mountain, I call him, or simply ‘Old Man.’”

“Another wee thing what baffles me about you is I wonder how a Covenanter such as yourself comes to be in the Highlands and with a Highland brogue no less. Will ye tell me?”

Killian looked away for a long moment and sighed. “Being scaffy does nay sit well with me. I’ll give you the True Thomas truth. I am originally of Clan McDonald, the greatest gunsmith she has ever known. I was cast out of the clan for siding with the Protestants. There is the plain truth, as true as Thomas the Rhymer. I can never return to the outer isles, the original home of my clan. Therefore, having been treated unjustly, I ride throughout all Scotland, defending the weak and innocent, the fatherless. Such is the reason why I came to your aid.”

The young lass did not say a word but could only look at him piteously and think, Poor soul. Poor, poor soul. Those were the last words they spoke that night, and the fire died amidst their silence, for there was nothing more to say. That night, Ellery was troubled by mournful dreams of alienation and abandonment.

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