The King’s Messenger stood in the doorway.
Late spring air cooled as the sun slid towards a dark serrated horizon. Curls of blue smoke served as a beacon, guiding the Messenger towards the warmth of the peat fire which burned gently before dissolving into the highland mist gathering over the settlement.
The heat rejuvenated weary limbs which had carried him for three days to this remote outpost of humanity. The glow from the fire cast a gently flickering light into the room, illuminating the faces of the family who sat quietly, contemplating the patterns dancing in the flames, and the cattle which stood at the far end, downwind and away from the hearth.
“Is this the house of Taine Rory Mhor?’ The family looked round, startled by the figure, silhouetted in the entrance, against the setting sun. A tall red–headed man stood, eyeing the stranger with suspicion. “Who is asking, friend or no?”
“I have brought a message from John De Balliol himself for the ears of his cousin only. If that is you sir, then I would ask that you step out into the air.”
Taine moved through his family, his brothers and their offspring. This house was the focal point of their small settlement, where everyone gathered for the evening meal, to eat, talk, and discuss important matters. He’d been expecting this day to come. News of the invaders from the south had reached even this remote settlement, and contact from the King himself could mean only one thing. “John De Balliol commands that you travel with me to Gowrie. Edward Longshanks advances from Berwick with his army and the King intends the lineage not be broken or spoiled with impurity.”
Taine had expected to be asked to supply soldiers to help the King. “Gather your brothers, and cousins. Tell them to assemble with their families here at noon tomorrow.” Taine was confused. “I don’t understand. What use does the King have for women and children?”
“Only he himself can tell you that. All I know is that you should make preparations for a great journey and that you shall never return to this place.”
Taine Rory Mhor had sworn unquestioning loyalty to his cousin, the King of Alba. Being asked to give up not just his home, land and livestock, but that of his entire family could only mean one thing.
Four days later, Taine, his six brothers and twelve male cousins met with the King at Scone Abbey to discover their fate. “My faithful cousins, I have brought you to the seat of our kingdom to entrust the fate of Alba into your loyal hands. Edward continues to undermine my rule, challenge my authority and question my control. He plans to subjugate our people. He thinks me a fool, but I intend to turn this to my advantage and ensure the sovereignty of the people of Scotia for a thousand years. It will be Edward and his line who will find themselves fools and untruthful kings.”