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April 16, 1746 – Drumossie Moor, Scotland—the Culloden

Brody MacCaulay woke to a pounding head and gut-wrenching
thirst. What happened? The wind and sleet had blown through. Smoke from blazing
canons no longer choked him. He no longer heard the deafening din of battle.
Silence hung around him, slit at times by weak cries of wounded men.

Cold weight pinned him upon icy ground. He could scarce draw
a breath. Fingers dangled in his face. He felt the hand. Cold and stiff. He
jerked back his own. Slowly he realized three clansmen crushed him against the
frozen earth.

Even as his heart flamed hot hating everything English, the
sound of approaching voices alerted him to lie still. He dug numb fingers into
blood-dyed ground to keep from springing up and using his dirk.

Duncan, Collin, and Da were dead. He’d seen them fall. Sharp
pain bit into his chest. He gritted his teeth. And Angus? Brody’s stomach heaved.
Only a protecting angel could have spared Angus. Darkness, black as the smoke
of gun powder, descended deep inside Brody’s mind. For certain his favorite
brother lay dead, too.

Brody wedged his anguish deep inside his heart, slammed the
door, and disciplined his thoughts into calculated coolness. He was a warrior.

The voices drew closer. Clipped. Not softly burred.

A sliver of moon lit ice upon the ground, casting enough
light to see heaps of bodies, twisted limbs. The voices grew close. Two scarlet-clad
English soldiers stalked among the kilted bodies.

A wounded Highlander looked up at them and begged. “Water.”

With cold-blooded deliberateness, one of the soldiers ran
him through with his bayonet, strangling the Highlander’s weak voice into silence.

Brody slammed his eyes shut, hardly dared suck in a breath,
and counted his heartbeats. English voices spoke so close that hair on the nape
of his neck spiked. As the awful sound of a bayonet slashed into a nearby body,
he fought back bile rising into his throat. “I say, I do believe we’ve
dispatched all the wounded Scots.”

“Right. Nasty job.”

The first soldier snorted. “Sure to be an awful stink.
Letting all these bodies rot.”

“Good riddance, say I.”

Boots clumped off. The voices faded.

“’Tis almost light.” Brody’s own whisper, though hoarse as a
rusty hinge, infused him with courage. Somehow he lived. He must fight his way
to Ma and Fiona. Protect them before the English hunted them down. A piper’s
family proved precious booty for scavenger soldiers. With Da and his brothers
dead, his duty lay in protecting Ma and Fiona.

He’d do whatever it took.

He struggled free of the weight sprawled atop him. The dirk
lay half-frozen to the ground beneath his cheek. He gripped the handle of the sgian-dhu,
worked it free, and jammed it into the sheath on his right leg. Panting, numb
hands planted on frozen earth, he pushed to his knees. The scent of bog-myrtle
and blood clogged his nostrils. He gazed over the silent battlefield.

What he saw would haunt him forever.

Thousands of men lay still in the blue moonlight. The
strength and youth of Scotland’s Highlands sprawled in heaps across the great
expanse of the battlefield. Pale twisted limbs gleamed in the cold light.
Bloody clan banners lay beneath bodies already stiff.

A stab of guilt pierced Brody’s rage. Why had God spared
him? If his brothers hadna sent him to the rear, there would not be a male
MacCaulay left alive. Mayhap that was why he found breathing so unnatural. He
shook his head. Dizziness. His pulse pounded, increasing the thundering pain.
Touching his bloody left temple, he closed his right eye. The carnage before
him went black.

He whispered, “Canna see with my left eye. Appears my head’s
no’ as hard as Angus insisted.”


Brody shoved aside the heart-stopping thought of his
brother. For Ma’s sake, for Fiona’s sake, he must escape before English
sentinels spotted him. Hunched double, hiding among the bodies, he retrieved
his targe and pipes and strapped them atop the claymore on his back. Despite
the cold wind, sweat beaded his forehead. Belly pushed into frozen dirt, he
crawled south toward the line of trees growing by the river Nairn. He’d head
for high country. Find a place to hide.

Barely able to see his own hands ploughing the earth, he crawled
between bodies of family, friends, acquaintances drawn close in the heat of
battle. Bodies, clad in blood-drenched tartan stared wide-eyed at the waning

Hurry! Daylight threatened. If the English found him,
he’d be murdered.

“I willna give them that satisfaction.”
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