As the mist rolled across the shaggy terrain of the Scottish Highlands in the pink, pre-dawn light, I walked carefully around the bodies of my kinsmen, slaughtered in the previous night’s altercation. When the sun finally peeked over the horizon, they would be gone. Burnt to a crisp, the resulting piles of ash would nourish the heather in the meadow during the next growing season. I examined each body for the slightest indication of life, hoping to find merely one of my kin surviving. I didn’t want to be alone. I didn’t want to have to search for others of my kind. Mostly, I thought the loneliness would drive me to insanity.
As I crested the hill overlooking the moor, there was a subtle shifting amongst the carnage. With my broadsword at the ready, I approached a pile of bodies lying near the precipice. Wiggling out from the bottom of the pile was a dainty hand. It appeared to be that of a young boy – younger than should have been allowed on the battlefield. I removed the broken and bloodied bodies in an attempt to reach the movement at the bottom. These bodies, however, were from a friendly neighboring clan. Their tartan was a deep green with periwinkle and yellow stripe. After moving many corpses, I reached a shield covering the body connected to the delicate hand. Soft whimpering came from beneath the shield, sounds unbecoming of a warrior. Long, auburn waves cascaded from beneath the massive screen. Was this royalty? Was this … a woman?
I carefully lifted the shield, cautious to not inadvertently drop the heavy barrier on the person it protected. The delicate hand gripped the dirt, trying to pull away from the surrounding scene of carnage. As if it had a mind of it’s own, the hand flew to the edge of the shield, in an attempt to protect from more damage.
I laid the shield next to the slew of bodies that I’d removed. Speaking softly, I tried to soothe the agitated woman. She was in her early twenties, and beautiful. Her eyes wouldn’t open, though she tried. Gathering her lean body into my arms, I carried her down the hill, and into the settlement that had been defended in the battle. She shifted in my arms, an attempt to move herself away from the broadsword I was grasping, to keep us safe in the event one of our enemies remained alive. Her gown, dark purple with accents of the family’s colors, pooled around her legs, hiding them from view. The trim-fitting bodice and arms emphasized her lean physique. I whispered reassuring words near her ear, taking in the primal scent of her hair, skin. She seemed to minutely relax, although every muscle in her body seemed to be tense and ready for a conflict.
Upon reaching the settlement, cautious eyes peered out from the windows of the stone domiciles. It took several minutes before a middle-aged male, weary and wounded from battle, extricated himself from the safety of his home.
With carefully worded language, the male asked, “Are you in need of assistance?”
“I don’t know whether she is wounded or merely unconscious.”
The male peered quizzically toward one of the stone homes. Several had been razed, but the bulk of the community remained standing, awaiting the next siege. Emerging from the structure was an old woman.
“I am Sainmhiniu, a healer. Bring her in here,” the old woman stated in an authoritative manner.
Entering the stronghold, the scent of medicinal herbs barraged my nose. A fire erupted, of it’s own accord, in the fireplace as I placed the woman on a bed near the hearth. Carefully placing her on the pallet, I arranged her garment to modestly cover her legs. Sitting on the floor next to her, I maneuvered her hair to frame her serene face.
Sainmhiniu approached the make-shift bed, and an uncontrollable urge to protect the woman splayed upon the berth overwhelmed me. I shifted my position to place myself between her and the healer.
“Warrior, I cannot help her unless you allow me the chance.” the old woman stated, in a calm manner, as she stared directly into my eyes.
“Help her, Sainmhiniu. I know not who she is, nor have I any claim to her.”
“You could have fooled me, Warrior. You behave as though she is your cheile,” the woman spoke, as her face worked into a smirk.
Sainmhiniu began to lay her hands upon the unknown woman as I watched. Every muscle in my body tensed when the skillful hands moved to another part of her body. It was as if I could feel what the young woman was feeling. The warm hands of the healer, laying on my body as they touched another. Odd, this feeling. I’ve heard about this type of thing happening, but never known anyone that had experienced it.
Most members of my clan had been promised to their mates upon birth. I, however, had not been promised to anyone. It was said within our village that I had a greater destiny. The survival of our clan. I was not meant to mate with one of our own. I was meant for battle. For greater things.
Sainmhiniu continued her examination of the delicate female. Sighing, she stated, “This female is not injured. She will need to be monitored closely, and will need to feed.”
“Feed?” I questioned the healer.
“Blood. She is Sumaire. Like you.”
Sumaire. I should have known. I should have sensed this when I first saw her. I must have been too preoccupied to realize that she was one of my kind.
The woman slept an undisturbed, peaceful sleep as I watched over her. I couldn’t sleep, although I tried. Sunrise brought with it concerns regarding the light in the substantial cottage and our safety during daylight hours. My disquiet and agitation grew throughout the day. I fear I wore a groove in the floor surrounding the woman’s pallet near the fireplace, as I paced around it for what seemed like hours on end.
Nearing dawn, the woman began to stir. As I moved about the room, her body would shift, nearly imperceptibly, to face me. When I noticed this behavior, I conducted experiments. Her head followed, and body shifted based upon my position in the room. Curious. It didn’t matter how far away from her I was located.
Sleep slowly left her, and she awoke peacefully. Taking in her surroundings, she first noticed me sitting in a chair across the room. I was watching her, hoping I wouldn’t need to soothe or reassure her that she was safe.
“It was you in the field,” she murmured.
“I fear that many members of your clan perished in the battle,” I spoke in a voice that I’d hoped was authoritative, yet compassionate.
“I am where I was destined to be,” she spoke with clarity and confidence.
Puzzled, I slowly extracted my exhausted body from the chair and floated across the room to her. Her eyes merely watched me cross the room with intense curiosity. As though she were committing my movements, features and countenance to memory for eternity.
As I kneeled next to the bed, she gazed into my eyes.
“Sumaire,” she stated with authority.
“Yes. You’ve been through quite an ordeal. You need to feed,”
“My blood donor/feeding partner/promised one was probably killed in battle protecting me. He threw me to the ground and covered me with his shield. I later heard him screaming in pain. Several bodies piled over the shield during the battle…” she trailed off, recalling the horrors of the skirmish.
“We can discuss the battle, and your presence there, another time,” I stated. “I will feed you until another blood donor/feeding partner/promised one can be located from your clan. Your primary concern at this time is your health.”
“Curious,” she mused, directing her intense gaze upon my face, as though she were trying to commit each detail to an etching in her mind. “You are forthright with your lifeblood. Will your blood donor/feeding partner/promised one not be displeased at the prospect of sharing?”
Our eyes met. The intensity of her gaze, her forthright demeanor caught me off guard. I inhaled sharply, “I have no blood donor/feeding partner/promised one with which you should concern yourself.”
“Ahhh. I see. You are the chosen one for your clan,” she stated, with a smile dancing on the corners of her full, red lips.
Hanging my head, I replied, “Yes. I am. However, do not feel that since I am not promised that I will seek more from you than a feeding partner.” An inner monologue continued the thought, ‘unless that is your desire.’
“Seath,” she said. “My name is Seath.” She paused, again intently staring into my face, searching. “You are?”
“Alec,” I replied, struggling to maintain my composure. To remain in control of my emotions. To refrain from pulling her into my arms and feeding her. Feeding from her. She called to me.