“I promise, you promise too?” Fiona couldn’t help but to smile at her son as he questioned her. She brought her hand over her heart to mimic his actions. He was growing fast and one day soon he would be gone from her. It was a depressing thought but that is how life circles around for everyone. “Moothheerr…” Her attention was brought back to her bouncing six year old son who was wide awake and surely not ready for bed.
“A promise is a promise, that much is true, and this I promise you William Elliot.” She would keep his secrets, although a bit childish but fun all the same. She watched the boy give a curt nod as his shaggy brunette hair bounced about in a mess on top his head. Just like his father. She couldn’t help the line of thought but it was true, he had the dark hair and piercing blue eyes that seemed to haunt every generation of the Elliot clan. “Alright, time for bed Laird Elliot. The hour grows late and we have a big day tomorrow.” Agatha snatched the boy up in her arms and gave him a tight hug before stepping over to his bed and depositing him in it. She saw the creases line his face as he brought his mouth into a pout as he often did.
“Now no fuss, just settle in and tomorrow will come before you know it my sweet. I will see you in the morning. Dream well, William.” Fiona leaned over and tucked him in before blowing the candles out near the old wooden oak door, making her exit quietly as she was greeted by her lady in waiting.
“Oh come quick mi lady, the capt’n wishes to speak to ye, it is very important.” Fiona couldn’t help but frown at hearing the words. It couldn’t be encouraging news. Not when things were going downhill rapidly between the two clans. The Elliots and Millburns had been on unsteady ground for centuries and the treaty that was implemented thirty years ago had always been so fragile. Anything could break it by just simply slapping a horse the wrong way. She clung to the wood railing as she took the stone stairs rapidly, staying on the heels of her maid who was dressed in her usual blue and red plaid. They soon were scurrying across the grand hall, their heels echoing against the stone walls that felt so cold and empty to her right now even though every fireplace was lit in the keep.
They turned this way and that, Fiona felt she would be ill from anticipation and wished the captain had just met them in the hall. Soon enough they made a final turn into the back gardens of the estate and Captain Daniel Armstrong greeted her with the sight of him and his men mounted on their steeds. She took a deep breath of the cold winter air that wrapped around them all in a breeze. The horses were jittery as they pranced about the area in a nervous manner.
“Mi lady, the Millburns are on our south entrance and I’ve heard from a reliable source that they hae made a pact with the Scotts. Ye and the young laird should leave tonight. Whit men we have left won’t be able to take on both clans. Stogs will likely fall before morrow night; go back to yer family mi lady, go home and take yer son. He is the only heir left to our clan he must live. Be gone by dawn before it is too late, Johnathan will stay behind and make sure ye get out safely, we are returnin’ to the rest of our lads. God speed mi lady.” She watched the group of men turn their horses around and ride off into the darkness. Her gaze shifted to her maid, Katherine. The younger female was already looking at her as they both headed back inside the dimly lit stone structure they called home.
They both released the breath neither realized they had been holding, but both could hear the other’s exhale. “We must pack lightly, gather those who are left in residence, we all must flee this place.” Fiona was the one who broke the silence although she’d prefer it to all be a dream. She heard the response of ‘aye, mi lady’ from Katherine but it was drowned out in the back of her mind as her thoughts continued to race as she listened to her maid’s footsteps fade out in the distance. She wanted to scream, cry, and just be held for a while, but there was no time for any of it. They only had tonight at most before the enemy would arrive and sack Stog. Oh how she wished her husband, Laird James Elliot were still here.
Though she never found out what became of him weeks ago at the last battle, no body was ever found. Rumor was the place was coated in so much blood and mud hardly any bodies could be returned for fear of the other men sinking into the earth themselves. She found herself hurrying upstairs to where her son’s and her own chambers connected. They had to pack light, one bag each. Her husband’s words echoed in her mind as he had told her what to do if the place ever came under siege. She repeated the words to herself out loud. “Pack light, move swiftly under darkness, leave no trace. Go to yer family and live well.” She found a tear chasing down her cheek as she finished the haunting words that were coming true tonight.
Taking an unsteady breath, she stepped into her own room and went to the storage cupboard. She pulled out her smaller of the two leather traveling bags, she also pulled the dresses from the same area stuffing them into the bag. She also collected her husband’s daggers that she could barter with at some point if need be. She went to her vanity wash table and gathered the few pieces of jewelry she owned. She couldn’t help the tears that were streaming down her face as she packed what little of her life she could in a single carry bag. She allowed a few moments to cry as she worked, and then cry no more for all she was losing and had lost thus far in the short time she had been on this earth.
Her feet moved steady, and swiftly as she soon finished in her own room and then tip-toed into her only child’s room. Her son, whom she would leave sleeping for a while longer; she would not turn his world upside even more so yet. Locating his bag in his own storage area she began tossing things inside of it that he would need and things she could not replace. She had one more room to go into before she’d wake her son. Her legs took her down the hall after she finished packing her son’s belongings and into a small room few were allowed into. She took the key from her neck and opened her husband’s library, where he had often worked into the long hours of the night, the same room where they had both found out she had been pregnant, the same room he proposed to her. She took a deep breath as she neared stumbled into the study. Her hands landed on the back of a chair as her gaze fell onto the bracelet that she wore. It has a trick latch that only her husband knew how to undo. She shook her head trying to rid the memories as she grabbed the hall torch to walk into the library room. Moving to the far wall and she removed a wooden plank that was loose on the floor. She pulled out two small leather bags. One she knew was gold, the other was the regular currency of the English crown.
She took a deep breath as she replaced the floorboard and sat at his desk. One he’d likely never sit at again, one which had been in the Elliot family for six generations. She slid a crudely made piece of paper before herself which would suit just fine for this person. She had two letters to write, one to her son just in case and one to her relatives. The one to her relatives would be secure she often wrote to her sister by pigeon, the other she would slip into her son’s bag and retrieve it later if all went well. Her hand was shaking as she jotted out line after line. She folded each carefully as she finished them and then stood once they were complete. She quickly took a last look around the room, at all the books thinking back of all the times she was with her husband here. She then closed the door and said a silent goodbye to him and this place.
Fiona returned to her son’s room where he was still sleeping and in the dim light of a candle, she took a dagger to the thick leather of his bag, causing a small incision and pocket into the leather itself. It would never be easily seen by any, but she would tell her son of it, and only him. She folded the letter into a small piece and stuffed it and the two small pouches she had retrieved from the library into the pocket. Quickly going to work she was glad she had always been decent at stitching, even though her fingers were numb and her whole body was shaking out of fear, she completed her task within minutes. She examined it closely making sure it only looked like a barely noticeable repair to the bag itself. It was so bulky no one would question its weight.
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