Donal

Donal

His last came from Archie, whose tone possibly hinted at some
concern for the weight and upkeep of it. He hadn’t misspoken, the mass of
it fell in thick waves over her shoulders and tumbled carelessly down her
back, the ends of it nearly touching the ground between Iain and her.
Nervously, she fussed with the wimple, her freckled cheeks glowing
pink by the light of the fire. Thinking she intended to return the wimple to
her head, Iain placed his hand over the fabric and her hand, stilling her. She lifted her green eyes to his again, her worry sincere.
“It’s fine, lass. More comfortable, aye?”
“You only startled the lads,” Duncan chimed in. “Haven’t seen
anything that bonny since the last time Archie smiled at us.”
She laughed, still nervous, and sent Duncan a winning smile. Her
hands stilled though, and she quipped, with a recovery that was quickly
becoming endearing to Iain, “I don’t suppose any of you would have a
comb?”
“You’ll get your gawking, lass, but no’ a comb,” Duncan said cheerily.
“But how do you comb your own hair?” She wondered.
“With our hands, lass,” said Duncan.
“Sometimes with Hew’s hands,” Donal added. “Much softer than my
own.”
This spawned more laughter, and conversation resumed, even as so
many pairs of eyes kept on Maggie Bryce and her magnificent bounty of
hair. While she listened to the talk around her, she very slowly and with
bare motions braided the length of her hair, evidently wanting to draw no
more attention to herself. A few minutes later, she stood, appearing at first
to only need to stretch her legs, walking around the circle of men, and then
pacing a bit at the deepest part of the cave. She returned and addressed all
of them, “Whom might I trouble this time to escort me to the bothy further up the hill?”
Hew leaned forward eagerly, which had Iain wondering if the lad,
though proficient with a long blade, had the strength to carry her such a
distance, and through the deep snow. But before Hew, or even Iain could
claim the job, Daimh, who sat directly in front of where the lass stood,
jumped up and offered himself.
The lass smiled kindly at the twin and arranged her hood once again
over her head as she and Daimh made their way to the entrance. The lad
said something to her, Iain could not hear what, and she turned and grinned at him, returning some words that had Daimh chuckling in appreciation.
Iain’s brows lowered over watchful eyes, and then more so when Daimh
playfully made a generous bow to her and she answered this with a notunimpressive curtsy before they laughed yet more and Daimh lifted her into his arms.
Chewing the inside of his cheek, Iain kept his gaze on the opening
while Archie and Duncan engaged in some heated debate over what Robert Bruce’s best chance at success might be in the near future. Duncan thought diplomacy was his only hope at this point, winning over the Scottish earls first, the church second, and the people after that; Archie scoffed at Duncan’s idea, saying that more battles, fought to take back from England what was rightfully theirs, was the only course of action that would keep the crown upon his head, and make him a true king.
Iain lent only half an ear to this discussion. When it seemed more than
enough time had passed for Daimh and the lass to have gone and returned, Iain rose and strode to the doorway. The earlier brightness had given way to a distressing gray, the sky and clouds heavier with still more snow, it seemed. He stepped out of the cave, further along the ledge, and glanced up toward the third hut. The pair was nowhere to be seen, must still be within that next bothy.

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