‘Tis time the sidhe repay their debt, the faerie thought as she cracked open a shutter and peered at the sleeping woman. Aye, she was a pretty one. Not like herself, but beautiful enough. A plan had been hatched long ago but now was the time to put it into motion. Both were ready for it and if she did not take action soon, then there would be no going back. The fate of many souls rested in Tèile’s hands. She smiled to herself as she flew up above the keep. The sleeping spell was ready. The woman’s clan would not have the slightest clue what had happened. Her grin widened. She so enjoyed toying with humans.
Wisps of mist rose from the ground and swirled around Alana’s ankles. She thrust out a foot to watch the white haze dance about her before glancing over her shoulder at the keep in the distance. Tucked against the mountain and cut off by a shallow river, the tall stone castle seemed almost insignificant. She blew out a long breath and watched as it too misted.
Though pleased to be free from the keep, and her father’s watchful eye, a sense of foreboding struck her. Alana frowned as she tried to recall why she had come out onto the moors. In truth, she barely remembered getting dressed yet here she was, in her pale blue plaid, hair braided, drawing in the early morning air. Only the foggy remnants of a dream remained, something that beckoned for her to come here.
And how was it there were no men to stop her from leaving?
A strange occurrence indeed, for her father never left the castle walls unattended. It had been deathly quiet. A morbid thought occurred to her and she wondered why she did not check that all was well. Had they been attacked overnight? Were her kinsmen dead? Nay, surely not, for there would be triumphant victors crowding the halls of Dunleith Keep by now and she would either be killed or captured.
The whole morning had been strange. Her first clear memory was standing in the moors and staring off into the distance as if awaiting something. A prickle danced over her skin and she spun wildly, feeling as though fingers had tickled down her spine. Ach, either someone played games with her or her mind was addled. She huffed. Too much time spent cloistered away.
Specks of orange sunlight filtered across the mountains, dancing between the cracks and valleys and Alana tilted her head. The urge to keep going, to see what lay over the other side warred within her. She so missed being outside, missed her freedom.
Da would have a fit.
With a sigh, she turned back to the castle, the stone tower seeming more grey and oppressive than ever before. Hitching up her skirts, she strolled leisurely back, taking her time to admire each wild flower as she went. She ought to walk quickly. Should her father discover her absence, he would no doubt lecture her on the dangers of her actions and would certainly remind her their enemies were everywhere. Ach, she saw no—
She spun wildly as the heavy thud of hooves sounded. A brown horse bore down upon her, barely a few paces away. Alana squeaked in surprise as the rider snatched her plaid and hauled her into the saddle in front of him, not even slowing the mount as he positioned her firmly in his arms. She scarcely comprehended how it had happened. One moment there had been no one and then suddenly… A ghost mayhap?
She tried to wriggle in his hold but a strong arm pinned her to his chest. “Release me, ye fool.”
“I think not, my lady.”
Alana scowled as the deep timbre of his voice singed through her, setting her senses on fire. There was something wildly disturbing yet familiar about it. Her heart hammered heavily as fear penetrated her surprise at being caught unawares. If he were an outlaw or an enemy clansmen she was as good as dead.
“Ye cannae kidnap me on my own lands!” she protested. “My da will have yer head, just ye see.” Alana tried to keep her voice strong but even she heard the wobble in it.
“Be still,” her captor commanded as she fought against his hold, the growing distance between her and the castle stealing her determination. “Ach, I told ye—”
The press against her chest loosened marginally and the world rushed past as she dropped to the ground. Dirt scraped across her face and hands as she tumbled along and a sharp pain slammed up her wrist as it jarred in an attempt to brace herself. The back of her head crashed into the ground and her vision clouded as she skidded to a stop.
Sweet Lord, was she dead? She ached everywhere. Alana blinked but the world remained out of focus. A shadow came across her and a jolt of panic flew through her. She attempted to turn onto her side but she could not. Her body refused to move.
She blinked again, drawing in harsh, raspy breaths.
“Ye daft lass, ye could’ve killed yerself.”