The Sons of Gregor MacLeod
Earlier I mentioned my love of prologues. I talked about my GH nominated manuscript WØLFF: Rise Of The Valdyr – and how it killed me to cut the prologue because it didn’t reflect the overall tone of the book.
Well, here’s another prologue I love that I am NOT cutting. I will fight tooth and nail to keep it, lol. So editors and agents beware. 😉
This short prologue from The Sons Of Gregor MacLeod takes place when the hereos are boys, and it features Gregor MacLeod negotiating with his enemies to foster their sons…
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The Highlands, Scotland, 1332
Gregor MacLeod stared down the long, wooden table at the five Highland Lairds seated in front of him and resisted the urge to smash his fists through the wood. Blackhearts, everyone of them.
Drawing a vicious-looking dirk from within his linen sleeve, he leaned back in his chair. His legs stretched out in front of him and his plaid fell open to reveal brawny thighs. Firelight from the hearth danced along the metal as he played slowly with the blade.
The Lairds watched…waited, revealing little in their faces.
They expected to die.
The thought pleased Gregor and he smiled. “’Tis my right, and the right of every member of this clan, to cleave your heads from your necks, to feed your bodies to my hounds. Though in truth I doona think they’d have you – treachery and cowardice sours the meat.” He flipped the blade in the air then dug the tip into the wooden table. “So I’ll take your sons instead.”
Stunned and outraged faces stared back at him. His smile widened.
He would foster a boy from each Laird and make their sons his sons. Bond them to him and to each other so they became brothers, united their clans, and kept the people safe.
It had been his dear Kellie’s wish to her dying day.
“You mule-loving devil. I’ll not give you my son!”
Gregor glanced to his left at the red-faced man who had spoken. Laird MacLean, father of Callum MacLean. A terrible Laird, he had brought disorder and hardship to his clan. Still, Gregor suspected he loved his son. For that, and only that, he commended him.
The lad, seven years old, was the youngest of the five Gregor wanted and already showed signs of reason and intelligence, the opposite of his undisciplined father. Callum would make a good Laird if his skills could be paired with honor and loyalty. Traits Gregor intended to instill in all the lads.
“I’m afraid, Laird MacLean, no is not an option. This isna a debate. You have lost and I am reaping the spoils – your sons. One from each clan who came together and dared attack me. That is the cost of your treachery.”
MacLean swore loudly and grumbled under his breath but didn’t offer any further resistance.
Gregor waited for the next Laird to speak.
“And if we doona comply?”
The question, soft and measured, came from Gregor’s right. He stared at the man two seats down from him. Laird MacKenzie, father of Darach MacKenzie. A tall man, strong of mind and body, the Laird was focused and disciplined. Traits Gregor had seen in Darach, the second youngest of the lads at eight years old.
“If you doona comply Laird MacKenzie, you will be hung, and I will still foster your boy.”
“He’d revenge me.”
“He could try.”
The Laird nodded, still calm, but his cheek twitched before he raised a hand to cover it.
At the end of the table Laird MacKay roused himself. His voice was low, the words halting. He took a labored breath. “I willna give you Donald, but you can have my Lachlan. Donald will be Laird by Michelmaas. He is needed to unite my clan. Lachlan is close to his brother, looks up to him. ’Twill be a good alliance.”
Gregor met the Laird’s eyes. They were tired, troubled. The eyes of a dying man.
Having met both lads, Gregor suspected Donald would make a good Laird, but Lachlan would be great. At only nine years old, he already recognized his mother’s manipulations and duplicity and refused to play her games.
“Aye,” Gregor said. “I’d be happy to take Lachlan and support Donald as Laird.”
The MacKay Laird closed his eyes and nodded. When he opened them, they were wet. Gregor found himself pleased to ease the man’s burden despite being his enemy.
He switched his gaze to Laird MacKinnon who sat in the first seat on his right. The big, tough, blond man had crossed his arms over his chest and glowered straight ahead. Another man who loved his son.
“You ask too much,” he said, when he noticed Gregor watching him. “I canna do it.”
“Would I e’er see him again?” the Laird asked, his voice breaking.
“Aye. You may have the lad back at harvest, but if he’s not returned, I’ll consider it a grievous breach and act accordingly.”
MacKinnon grunted and still scowled, but his arms relaxed. Gregor knew him to be a man with a big heart, loyal and fair. All good qualities in a Laird, but he lacked the necessary discernment to use them wisely. His son Gavin, ten years old, mirrored his father in many ways. He could be taught to look beyond the obvious and see people’s hearts. Judge with his head as well as his emotions.
“I agree,” MacKinnon said and leaned toward Gregor. “But if I e’er discover you are abusing my lad, MacLeod, I swear on my life, I will kill you.”
Gregor nodded. “As I would you if you harmed my own.” He held out his hand to the Laird. “I will teach your son well, MacKinnon.” The big man hesitated before taking Gregor’s hand. MacKinnon would consider it an oath between them ’til his dying day. Gregor was well pleased.
Lastly, he turned to Laird MacAlister, seated two down on the left, father of Kerr MacAlister who was the oldest boy and also ten. He suspected Kerr might be his most difficult charge, but the most rewarding if all went well. He’d never met the lad, but Gregor had heard he stood up to his father who was a mean, controlling bastard.
MacAlister had instigated the attack against Gregor’s clan, persuading or threatening the other Lairds to go along with it. Gregor had known in advance they were coming and had trapped his enemies. ’Twas a gamble that had paid off.
“Naught to say, MacAlister?” he asked the last Laird.
“You’ve no sons of your own. Will you be choosing one of the lads to succeed you when you die?”
Gregor was not surprised by the question. “You’ve already tried to kill me and failed. Doona think you’d be any more successful a second time.”
MacAlister shrugged, his greasy, dark hair sliding forward to hide his eyes. “You misunderstand me—”
“I understand you, all right.” Gregor pulled his dirk from the table and flung it past MacAlister’s ear. A lock of hair drifted downward as the knife embedded in a wooden shield mounted on the opposite wall. “As always, you want my land. MacLeod land. You canna have it. Maybe one day your boy will have it, maybe not. I give no promises to anyone here.”
He looked around the table at each Laird, his gaze hard, unblinking. Finally, he came back to MacAlister. “You will give me your son, or you will give me your life. Choose.”
MacAlister’s nostrils flared before he nodded.
Gregor placed his hand palm-down on the middle of the table, and the Lairds followed suit one by one until five palms lay over his. MacAlister was last.
The ache in Gregor’s heart eased just a wee bit. His Kellie would have been proud.