From ONE HIGHLAND NIGHT (copyright 2008, Jennifer R. Clark)
Alec passed the Signal Rock and through the slantwise gusts of snow he saw the fire lit upon it. Shots rang out, like the crack of branches bowed and broken, and in his heart he knew they were too late.
Yet he could not turn back. His fate was now bound up with the MacDonalds of Glencoe, and having come so far he would do what he could to save them. If for no other reason than Highland honor--insulted by the prospect of murder under trust--demanded it. And Elspeth wished it.
At length he reached the chief's house at Carnoch, where all was madness.
Soldiers ranged through the house, flushing out servants and driving them into the night to be shot. Two bodies lay already by the door. He slipped round back, and by great good fortune avoided them all, and came into the laird's bedroom. The sight that awaited curdled in his wame.
Alasdair MacDonald of Glencoe, the MacIain, lay sprawled facedown on his bed, still in his nightshirt, a bullet hole in the back his head and his trews around his ankles. In truth, "facedown" was only an expression, for the MacIain's face was missing, blown away by the force of the exiting bullet.
"Ah, Christ, MacIain..."
Sounds of footsteps outside the door drove him into the wardrobe, and he hastily pulled the doors closed behind himself, leaving only a tiny crack through which he could see.
Two soldiers entered, followed by their lieutenant, who instructed them to drag MacIain's body from the house. Before they had moved more than two paces, he heard a fourth man enter the room.
"My Lord Breadalbane!" the lieutenant exclaimed. "We had not thought to see you here this night."
Breadalbane! Och, aye, this scheme reeked of him.
"I was at Ballachulish with Duncanson," the earl replied. "I set out early, before the snow began, to meet Glenlyon here and see his orders carried out. His strength of character is not enough to see this through, so I have come to ensure the old fox is dead."
"He is, my lord. He lies just here, on this side of the bed."
Through the slit Alec saw the form of Breadalbane pass--dressed as a clansman for winter and without his wig--and heard the sound of the earl's laughter.
"Well done, Lindsey. You have meted out the king's justice, and I shall see you are duly recompensed."
It was too much to bear.
He burst from his hiding spot, driven by fury. "You pawkie bastard, I should have kent you would be in this up to your moth-eaten eyebrows, even if the lass had not said as much! Your very presence here damns you to the deepest pit of hell!"
He felt more than heard the click of pistols cocked and trained on him by the lieutenant and his men. Breadalbane rounded on him, eyes narrow and cold.
"My presence?" the earl asked. "I think you shall find that hard to prove. None ken my presence save Lieutenant Lindsey, these two fine soldiers, and MacIain there--" he indicated the body on the floor, "--who shan't be telling tales."
"And me!" Alec lashed out. His breath came in ragged gasps, anger fueled white-hot. "I will tell the chiefs who is truly to blame for this abomination, this slaughter of innocents under trust--I, a MacGregor, who knows firsthand the greed and perfidy of the Campbells!"
The room was quiet for a handful of heartbeats. The earl spoke. "MacGregor, did you say?"
"Aye, and proudly I claim it. We may be a broken clan, but we have our honor yet. I take leave to doubt you had any to start with, and soon all will know it!"
Breadalbane grinned maliciously. "Oh, I think not...MacGregor."
Too late, Alec realized his mistake, made in the heat of his anger.
"You of all people should know: the name MacGregor is proscripted, and all men who claim it are to be put to death. Especially those who do so whilst obstructing the king's justice." Breadalbane turned to the red-coated soldiers. "You there, take him."
He drew his dirk--no room for the sword--and cursed the lack of time to reload his pistols, discharged at Leacantuim against another band of soldiers. But one of Lindsey's men still held a loaded musket, with which he backed Alec against the wall. The other relieved him of his weapons.
"I could kill you now, MacGregor, and it would go unremarked," Breadalbane said. "But I wish to make a lesson of you, to remind your broken clan who holds power. I can still wield the weapons of fire and sword against them. How better to prove it than to execute a favored son?" The earl sneered.
"But to make my statement it must be done in the legal way, with a proper death warrant. Not difficult to get, considering your activities against the Watch and in my own hold. Oh aye, I ken your actions against my daft son, when he thought to capture the prize I so ardently sought. You stole from me, and injured soldiers of the crown in the process. I have witnessess that will testify as much. It will not take so long to make the case against you." Breadalbane waved a dismissive hand. "But speaking of my lost prize, tell me: where is the lass? Was it her Sight that brought you here?"
At that Alec set his jaw hard, and his gaze harder. Breadalbane would learn nothing of Elspeth from him. He would protect her if it was his last act on earth.
He felt a sharp pain as the nearest soldier clouted him in the head with the stock of his own pistol, and then he knew no more.