Blue Bells of Scotland: The Trilogy
Adventures, Mysteries, and Miracles in Time 
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Blue Bells of Scotland
Book One of the Blue Bells Trilogy
 Central Scotland, 1314

Birches and firs engulfed Shawn, rocky outcroppings and boulders. He wondered that Allene threaded her way so surely among them. "You know where you're going?" he asked once.

"Surely," Allene said. "And before your injury, you did as well."

They fell silent for several furlongs, their energy going into pushing through dense underbrush. Brother David tried to hide the limp that held them up. Shawn wrapped an arm across his back, helping him along. "Wouldn't it be easier where there aren't so many trees?"

"We may as well play a trumpet to signal to Edward's men," Allene said. "Do you remember naught? They’ll see us for many furlongs, out in the open."

"They're looking for a monk," Shawn said.

"Aye, they were," said Brother David. "But it's someone who knows you. When the soldiers say they saw a man playing harp, they’ll begin looking for a minstrel in a plumed hat."

Shawn's insides turned a peculiar shade of cold. His throat became stiff, though he tried to swallow several times. He stopped, unable to move.

"Och, Niall," Allene said sadly, placing a hand on his forearm. "You’re yet so changed from who you were. I thought you’d see that immediately. Come, we can scarce afford to stop and be fearful, now."

"But...." Shawn managed a step, and stopped again. He yanked the green-feathered hat, and threw it on the ground. "But I look like a peacock!"

Allene snatched it off the ground, horrified, and stuffed it in her robe. "We canna have them finding it, now!"

He gestured at his jewel blue and poppy red tunic. "I look like a neon sign!"

"Knee... what?" said Brother David.

"I glow in the dark!" Shawn snapped, his anger building with his fear. "It's fine for you two, all in brown, but they'll see me for miles even in this forest! Why didn't you tell me they'd still be after us!"

"Sh, now," Allene said, squeezing his arm. She pushed a branch aside, pulling him through. "I thought you knew."

"Then what's the plan?" Shawn asked. "I have to get out of these clothes."

"I’ve naught else for ye to wear," Allene said.

"Then we find something else. Is there a town, a village, anything where there might be people who wear--" he gestured wildly at his bright minstrel colors, "--who wear anything other than peacock feathers!"

"The town is north" said Allene. "’Tis the wrong direction."

"And I'm wearing the wrong clothes." Shawn spoke low and clear-- the Shawn who ran an entire orchestra and everyone in it to his liking. His eyes shot darts. A birdsong stilled, and its singer lifted in flight, fleeing the tension.

Her jaw came out. "We'll go as planned."

He pushed his face close to hers. "Plans changed when they saw me dressed like this."

They stood in the forest, staring one another down.

"Come now," Brother David tried. "We’ve no time for this."

Shawn ignored him. "The soldiers saw which way we went. They'll go that way, not toward the town."

Brother David's arm flashed up suddenly, yanking Shawn down in the underbrush. Shawn twisted, yelling. The monk's hand clamped over his mouth. "We’re not alone!" he hissed.

Shawn became still, the smell of the vegetation twisting into his nostrils, hot and heavy. A spider dangled before his eyes, dropping to the earthen floor on its web. And he heard the voices calling, far off. They listened, pressed on the forest floor, not breathing. Allene's eyes, close to Shawn's, grew big with fear. Her arm, touching his, trembled. The voices came nearer. "Take us to the town, Allene," Shawn whispered. He covered her hand with his. She nodded. Slowly, she raised her head, her hair once again covered by the brown hood.

After seconds, ticking by each like an hour, she motioned, and started inching through the underbrush, slowly, so slowly. Shawn's heart pounded, a timpani out of control, banging in his bruised chest. He kept his breathing shallow and silent, straining to hear the soldiers. Thrashing and swearing told him they were to the left, far off, but still close enough to make the sweat run down his back. He crept behind Allene, listening the whole time. They inched... paused...listened... inched.

"Campbell! Give yourself up!"

The voice bit into his being, stopping his heart. He froze.

"Campbell!" The voice shouted from far off.

"They're bluffing," Allene whispered. But her voice shook. They crouched on hands and knees in the rich vegetation. Her fingers clenched Shawn's hand till he thought the bones would break.

"Campbell!" The sound echoed through the woods. A squirrel stopped chattering, paused, and darted up a tree.

Allene's face, close to his, drained of color. "Dinna do anything foolish, Niall. Ye canna fight so many."

"Are you insane?" he hissed. "What makes you think I plan to fight them?"

Her fingers relaxed a fraction on his hand. "Ye've been known to be over-confident," she murmured.

"I'm all about running. Cowards live longer," Shawn whispered back. "Go!" He felt for his hat, remembered she'd taken it, and pushed after her on hands and knees. Brother David breathed heavily at his heels. Shawn hoped the man would survive the nightmare journey.