Legacy of the Blade Series Book Two
Storm MacKeefe is a Scottish Highland warrior on a mission to capture and deliver the leader of the Renegades in return for a bag of gold. What he doesn’t know is that the Renegades are a band of women, and their leader is amazingly blind.
Wren has been blinded years ago in a battle that raged between the English and the Scots. And when the ruggedly handsome Scottish warrior she remembers from that horrific night comes to claim her, she ends up taking him captive instead.
A man who truly wants nothing more than peace to atone for his past mistakes comes together with a blind warrior woman who has learned to be ruthless through the years in order to survive within her life of darkness, in Lady Renegade, Book Two in the Legacy of the Blade Series.
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Storm stiffly repositioned his body, as the wooden chair he was tied to creaked under his massive form. A throbbing in his head was knocking at his brain, beckoning for him to answer. For a moment he almost forgot where he was, wishing he were anywhere but here, a captive of the one he was sent to capture. His eyes slowly drifted open. Gazing around the inside of the underground hut, he couldn’t tell if it was night or day, for lack of even a single window. Then he focused on the slight crack of light coming in from under the door.
What kind of place was this? Would a woman really be so crude as to confine not only her army and herself to such gruesome living conditions, but a young boy as well? The air was musty and dank and smelled of earth and rotting leaves. No such thing as a fire for cooking, or a window for a fresh breeze graced this god-forsaken place.
“What possesses this woman?” Storm asked himself softly. “Only a mole would inhabit a place such as this.”
Gazing around the small area, his eyes eventually could make out parts of his surroundings. Storm eyed what he guessed to be roots sticking out of the low dirt ceiling above his head. Large branches bracing the dirt ceiling served as restraining rafters.
The walls seemed to be lined with rocks piled on top of each other for support, stuck into the earthy smelling soil. He noticed two sleeping pallets made from what looked liked woven rushes, lying in the corner. A small table made from a large flat rock sitting atop several others occupied the center of the room. Logs served as stools. Nothing else but a couple of woven blankets and several bowls and carved wooden goblets occupied a make-shift shelf. Nothing else, that is, that he could see, because of the blasted darkness that was like a hood over his face.
Looking down, Storm was surprised to be seated on the only thing that was close to being called a piece of furniture in the room. Even this was a sad excuse, as it was frail, and crudely whittled from decaying logs.
A shiver went up his spine, not just from the chill in the air, but because he somehow had the feeling he was being watched. Without thinking, he found himself looking for his sword, only to remember that the women had taken away his weapons. They’d also taken his sporran, and even the hidden dirk in his boot, before they had brought him to this dungeon of a place.
Trying to move his feet which felt like boards, Storm looked to the shackles that bound his ankles and started planning his escape. That fool Morganna had shackled his feet right over his boots. No problem getting his feet lose, but his hands would be another story. Well, at least she was daft enough to shackle them in front of his body, and not behind him. That, he could use to his advantage.
“Well, you’ve finally awoken.”
The wooden door creaked as Wren pushed it open and walked into the hut. The sunlight that flashed momentarily into the room before once again leaving him in the dark, told Storm it was indeed daytime. In fact, by the amount of light he had glimpsed, he would say it was well into the morning.
“I guess that bump on the head Morganna gave you last night was a little much.”
Wren sauntered toward him with what he made out to be a bowl in her hand.
At the mention of Morganna hitting him, his attention once again focused on the pain in his head. He vaguely remembered the Welshwoman hitting him with the hilt of her sword, after she had shackled him and all but thrown him into the chair.
“That little whelp packs a powerful blow,” Storm commented twisting his neck to release a knotted muscle.
“Don’t let her hear you call her that, or next time she’ll use the other end of her sword as well. She may be small, but she’s the meanest warrior I’ve got.”
Wren held the bowl forward. Storm focused on the dark contents within, which revealed a handful of berries and some leafy-looking fauna that curled up the sides.
“What’s that for?” asked Storm. “A compress for me achin’ head?”
“It’s something to eat to break the fast,” Wren snapped as she placed it into his hands.
“Ye expect me to eat this?” Storm asked, his stomach growling for something a bit more substantial like a leg of mutton and a tankard of whisky. “Captured nobles usually eat th’ best o’ food and sleep in the richest chambers. The way ye’re treating me is inhumane. Wi’ the way I’m bound, I couldna get me mouth to the bowl if I tried.”
“Are you saying you’re noble, now?”
“Nay, but I am the son o’ a chieftain. I should get more respect than this.”
Wren replied crisply, “It’s what we have. Take it or go hungry.”
“What’s the matter?” asked Storm. “Yer warrior women know how to kill men and steal their belongings but they don’t know how to hunt?”
Something scurried over Storm’s feet at these words, and he looked down to make out the form of a weasel slinking away into a corner. A soft hoot from the other side of the room led him to believe Wren’s owl was perched somewhere in a cove. Storm wondered how he had not noticed earlier that there were animals in this room. But he knew now, that they had obviously noticed him.
“Men make trouble, animals don’t,” remarked Wren turning her back toward him. “Why should I kill something that means me no harm?”
She bent over and removed a badger from the stool before sitting down. Gently, she placed it among the pine boughs covering the floor.
Storm watched in awe at the way a normally aggressive animal such as a badger seemed like a castle cat around her.
“So ye eat grubs from under rocks because yer too sentimental to kill a rabbit or a deer?”
“I don’t kill defenseless creatures, unlike some men.” The tone of her voice let Storm know she meant him.
Why would she say such a thing? Was she referring to her comment last night, of him commanding his hound to kill a woman? And how did she know? He wanted to ask, but was reluctant to bring up the subject. This woman seemed to know so much about him, yet he knew nothing about her.
Storm tossed the bowl to the floor. The badger showed its teeth before strolling over to investigate the contents. He wondered if this woman had even taught her meat-eating pets to crave fruits and vegetables at her request.
“Why don’t ye light a candle?” he asked. “How can ye see what yer doin’, ’tis so dark in here?”
“I’m used to the dark,” she replied, and got to her feet. “Besides, I don’t use candles unless absolutely necessary.”
“Losh, woman!” exclaimed Storm, shaking his head in disbelief. “Dinna tell me ye dinna even want to use a tallow candle because ye’d have to kill an animal to use its fat?”
“You’re a prisoner,” she snapped. “Watch how you speak to me, or I’ll make you suffer.”
“What do ye call this?” he asked. “For me throat is parched and ye’ve yet to offer me a dram o’ whisky.”
She stood still for a moment, almost seeming to contemplate the request. Then slowly, she walked toward the entrance as she answered him.
“All right. I’ll get you whisky. But I assure you you’ll never ask me for it again.”
Storm thought it a strange response, as he couldn’t imagine why she would think he would ever decline the drink of which he was so fond.
Wren placed her owl on her shoulder, and made her way to the door. As it squeaked open, it once again revealed sunlight and freedom, before closing and leaving Storm once again in darkness and despair.
Hurriedly, he worked on his escape hoping to be out of the shackles before she returned. He had been in many a threatening situation before, but always managed to escape. In fact, he prided himself of being the best escape artist in all of Scotland, mayhap England as well.
Stretching, his fingers managed to reach and untie the leather laces that bound his boots around his legs. Squirming his feet around inside his boots, he quickly managed to slide one foot upward and then the other, until his bare feet were free and rested upon the pine needles. He chuckled as he eyed his limp boots which were still shackled together.
“Willna Morganna be surprised to see this?” he spoke to himself as he twisted around in the chair, bringing his toes up to help loosen the ropes that bound his body. With a few more tricky twists, and with the help of his shackled hands and strong teeth, he managed to free himself. The ropes dropped to the ground and he breathed a sigh of relief.
Quickly, he rose to try to get the feeling back in his legs before attempting to walk or free himself of the shackles still encircling his wrists.
The light of day caught his attention once more, as Wren pushed open the door and entered the room. Storm hurriedly sat back down pretending he was still tied up, trying to decide what to do next.
“I brought you a candle,” Wren said as she placed it on the table in the center of the room, and placed her owl on a wooden perch nearby that Storm hadn’t even noticed.
She still hadn’t looked directly at him, but he knew if she did, she would now see his escapades, as the flickering candlelight well lit the underground room.
“Beeswax?” he asked, realizing no stench from fallow permeated the air.
“I’ll allow no other kind among my army.”
She pulled a pouch from under her arm, and poured what smelled like whisky into a wooden goblet she retrieved off the shelf.
“Do me eyes deceive me or is that an animal bladder that holds yer whisky?” asked Storm.
“The animal was dead when I found it,” she explained. “A poacher shot it before I managed to scare him away.” She turned abruptly toward Storm and marched directly for him. Holding out the goblet, she offered him the drink.
Storm sat motionless for a minute, not sure why she hadn’t even acknowledged the fact he was sitting on the chair untied, barefoot, and working on removing his shackles.
“Me many thanks,” he carefully chose his words, letting both his hands grab the goblet while he surveyed her face. There was something strange about the whole situation. She never really looked straight at him, and hardly ever blinked. Of course, it was still a bit dark in there and he could be mistaken, but only a blind person could not notice what he had done.
“You asked for it, now drink it,” she commanded. Without waiting, she quickly turned away and walked over to pet the owl which had fluttered silently to the table and was now eyeing him suspiciously.
“Ye dinna haveta tell a Scotsman to drink.” He held the goblet to his lips and gulped it down greedily.
Wren half-turned her head waiting for a cough or a gag from the potent hell-fire she had just served her prisoner. She had used this trick many a times on guards before she attacked the English camps. The potency of the liquor alone had made many a drinking man fall into an unconscious state for several days at a time.
“Blazin’ fires o’ hell!” cried Storm through a raspy voice.
Wren smiled knowingly, expecting to hear at any moment the goblet falling to the ground as he passed out.
“I havena tasted whisky like that in a long time.”
Wren’s eyebrows dipped as she turned away from the owl and curiously headed in Storm’s direction.
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Losh me! What a grand uisque baugh. Aye, this whisky is truly the water of life.”
“Have another sip,” Wren coaxed, guessing he hadn’t yet tasted enough to effect him.
“Becooz me cup is empty.”
“Empty?” gasped Wren. “And you’re still conscious?”
“Me grandda used to make a mountain magic that tasted jest like this,” he exclaimed excitedly. “I used to drink it since I were but a bairn, barely able to walk. When me grandda disappeared, I was sure his secret brew died with him. Tell me, where did ye get it?”
“Never mind that.” Wren quickly made her way toward the bladder of whisky lying on the table. “Maybe you should have some more.”
She walked back to his chair and held it out for him to take. When he neither answered nor grabbed for the bladder, her arm lowered to her side and she cocked her head like a bird of prey listening for its victim.
Suddenly from behind her, Storm brought his shackled wrists over her head, clasping her arms tightly to her sides so she couldn’t move. The bladder of whisky slipped from her hand into the pine boughs at her feet.
“No wonder ye didna need a candle,” he whispered into her ear which sent a flaming shudder up her spine, “for ye are blind arena ye?”
Wren turned her head slightly and felt his hot breath on her cheek. The smell of whisky permeated his words, intoxicating her to the warmth of the man’s body that now pressed against hers.
“What does it matter?” she asked softly, knowing that once men found out she was blind, they usually avoided her with the same caution of meeting with a leper.
“It doesna seem to slow ye down,” he observed, pulling his arms tighter around her.
“Release me,” she commanded, “or I’ll scream for my army to come to my aid.”
“I dinna think ye’ll do that.”
“How can you be so sure?”
Storm shimmied his body around her so they were now facing each other. She felt her body warming, being pressed against this savage’s strong chest. A wave of raw excitement swept through her, being held so close by a man who had such an unspoken power about him he made her forget she was holding him captive.
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