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Chapter 19: Only For Death



They were at an impasse. Both sides were holding back. Brian knew that they were outnumbered by at least a hundred men, yet the McKinnon clan that stood behind Aedan and Joseph were hesitant to rush into battle against the man that had once been a part of them. Loyalties were being tested and it seemed as though things were not going to go as smoothly as he had hoped.

Even worse, he had lost sight of Justin. The younger man had been pushed back into the crowd of Winterberry's men and he couldn't be sure that his lover was fully out of harm's way. Not that Justin couldn't handle himself. He had to believe that he could. Still, the boy was vulnerable, still bound and having no weapons to speak of.

The slight nudge he received from Benjamin's boot, as his friend halted his horse beside him, pulled him back to the situation at hand.

"Why are they not advancing?" Ben asked, his confusion masked carefully from their own men.

Brian's own face remained just as calm. "They wish for us to attack first. They assume I am senseless. But I am not senseless. Nor do I have a wish to die on this day."

"So we wait?"

Brian stared at Aedan as his brother slowly made his way back and forth across the line of McKinnon men. The man was speaking, guiding his clansmen. Probably turning their minds against Brian. Riling the masses until there was no doubt in their minds that he was evil and was, even now, bringing shame to the McKinnon name.

A loud round of cries went up from the opposing side and Brian's suspicions were confirmed. There was nothing stopping any of them now. It would soon be a matter of kill or be killed. And he intended to be alive after the battle was over.

"Benjamin," he had to call out twice, as his second was still dazed by the sound of his own family crying out in battle against them.

"Yes?" Ben asked, never tearing his eyes away from their enemies.

"Take a quarter of the men. Lead them around the perimeter of the forest. Attack from the right. The Englishmen will be easy enough to take down, but..."

"Aye," Benjamin nodded in agreement, a tight-lipped grimace marring his classic features. He understood completely. To have even a remote chance of walking away from the fight, they would have to do considerable damage to the number of opposing McKinnon men. "I will not fail you, Brian."

Brian looked into his old friend's eyes, the trust and emotion deep and palpable between the two, and gave a curt nod. Thy quickly clasped forearms and then broke away, each man going in opposite directions.

***

Lindsay stood upon the tips of her toes and worried her thumbnail between her teeth. "Can you see anything?"

"No more so than you," Melanie replied as she worked to subtly move Lindsay closer to the shelter that had been provided for them.

Lindsay broke free of her hold for the third time and began jumping up and down. "Something is happening. Brian... He's moving..." Without a word of warning, the woman rushed forward towards the rows of men so that she might hear her husband better.

"...we are not here to take land. We are here to protect our own. To protect that which is dear to us. Our homes. Our livelihood. Our families..." Brian paused at this and looked as though he were thinking of someone. Perhaps her. Lindsay patted her slightly rounded stomach absently.

"Lindsay!" Melanie scolded, grabbing her arm and pulling her forcefully back towards the guards that had been assigned to protect them. "You cannot risk your life, or your child's, just so you might watch the men play with their swords!"

Lindsay would have responded but at that very moment Benjamin thundered by on his horse, a battalion of men riding behind him. "What...? Where are they going? They must stay and fight!" Lindsay cried out, now worried that perhaps they would never return home should their men be overcome in the battle. They would not have a home to return to.

"Lindsay, please calm down," Melanie soothed, taking Lindsay into her arms. "It will be fine. Brian knows what he is doing and he has instructed his men well."

"Yes..." she whispered, relaxing fully into the woman's embrace. "Thank you. I realize you are right." Lindsay looked up into Melanie's eyes and smiled shakily.

"Ladies. I have been instructed to see that you are returned safely home." The woman turned to see one of the young warriors lumbering towards them, two horses following behind him.

A few moments later, Lindsay was lifted onto a large horse in front of Melanie and smiled as the other woman's arms wound around her middle. Though she was worried about her husband as well as Justin, she found it difficult to think of anything other than Melanie's touch. "I wish I could have spoken to Brian before leaving. And poor Justin...," she said as they rounded the bend and cleared the area of the battle.

Melanie looked over her shoulder and sighed. "You will see them both again."

Lindsay nodded against Melanie's shoulder. "I pray you are correct."

"As do I, love. As do I."

***

They were surrounded. McKinnon men had flanked them, just as he had predicted. They seemed endless in their numbers and he wasn't sure how much longer he could hold them off. The blood had already begun to spill.

Finally, Benjamin and the rest of his men crested the hill and attacked, giving their enemies pause. With renewed force, Brian led his men further into the melee.

***

As soon as his father had handed him over to his own guards, Justin began working to free himself. Brian may not want him any longer, but he would be damned if he was going to submit and become just another tool in his father's schemes. All too soon, though, he had realized that he would need nothing less than a sharp blade to ensure his release. The simple chords seemed as though they were forged of steel to his tired arms.

Justin kept his attention focused on the sounds emanating from the men around him. The fighting had spread and even the guards that were holding him were beginning to draw their swords in preparation for attack. He knew that he might not have many chances to break away from the four men that flanked him, so he quietly waited for the chance that he knew would eventually present itself. That chance finally came more than an hour later, in the form of Brian's second in command.

***

Benjamin had killed more than a dozen of Winterberry's men, wounded twice as many. He had been trained upon getting deeper into the fight and helping Brian fend off Aedan's men, but then something had caught his eye. A certain blonde head had appeared from between the guard of four men and he knew that it might be the only chance they had of getting the other man back.

A quick glance confirmed that Brian had the main front under control and the rest of the men had jumped into the brawl without hesitation. No need to worry about them.

Without another moment's thought, Benjamin charged towards the cluster of men that surrounded his friend's lover.

It only took three blows to free him. The first man went down without so much as a flick of his wrist, as he was caught unawares. The second and third went down, but it was only after giving Benjamin quite a challenge. The final guard had turned and ran as soon as towering Scotsman's eyes had fallen upon him.

Justin looked up at him with grateful eyes and turned so that Benjamin could cut his ties. "You alright?" Justin nodded mutely, still a little raw from all that was happening around him. Benjamin picked up one of the fallen men's swords and tossed it to the younger man. "If you cannot fight, then at least keep yourself protected."

"Benjamin!" Ben, who had already turned back to the fight, whipped back around. "Why?" Why did you help me?

Benjamin smiled and put a reassuring hand on Justin's shoulder. "Brian...I think he might be devastated should his plan fail. Even more so upset should his lover be truly taken from him.

Justin's mouth gaped open in silent shock. "Than-Thank you," he finally sputtered. Benjamin nodded to him and then promptly disappeared back into the throng.

***

"Did you hear that?"

Melanie groaned. Lindsay had been playing this game for the past half hour and it was beginning to wear on her already tattered nerves. "No. There is nothing to hear."

"Melanie, I swear to you..." Lindsay cried. "I keep hearing odd sounds from within the trees."

It was true enough that they were surrounded by forests on either side. Still, she fully believed that Lindsay was merely reacting to the stress that she was now feeling over the battle at their backs.

If truth be told though, Melanie had a sense of impending doom, and had felt this since they had started on their journey home. Was it possible that Lindsay's fears were getting to her?

"SIR? Where are you going?!" She heard Lindsay scream. Glancing over her lady's shoulder she saw their guard dismount and run headlong into the line of trees to their right. "Why would he leave us?" Lindsay asked, clasping Melanie's hand.

"I...I do not know." It was odd. More than odd. There was reason behind this and Melanie was now sure that it did not bode well for them.

Moments later they received their answer. Half a dozen Englishmen, all donning Joseph Winterberry's insignia charged out of the forest, tossing the limp body of their guard down upon the path before them.

"What is the meaning of this? What do you want?"

"Turn back," one of the men said, scowling dangerously at the women.

"We will do no such thing!" Melanie railed. "Perhaps you took no notice of the battle that is taking place at this very moment!"

"Melanie," Lindsay whispered, reaching back and placing a reassuring hand on Melanie's leg. She almost laughed at how quickly the tables had turned. Now, in the blink of an eye, she had turned into the frantic one and Lindsay was trying to calm her. They were quite a pair.

Before anymore could be said, their horse was turned and they were being lead back towards the field of battle.

***

It had been quite a fight. Bodies littered the area, the tunics creating a rainbow of color all around them. Only it was not a grand site. In fact, it was quite horrific. Much of the color was the McKinnon green. Many of the men that had grown up beside him, now lay dying at his feet. Still, Brian surveyed the area with keen eyes, detaching himself from thoughts that might sway him into feeling emotion.

The quickest way to death in a fight was to get lost in emotion. Sure, if you were in a frenzy, then you might take a few people out with the ferocity of your attack. But, in the end, you are not thinking clearly if you are too caught up in feeling things. It is without a doubt that you would eventually be overtaken by someone who is seeing clearly enough to get the upper hand.

When Brian saw Joseph Winterberry, he knew that it would be nearly impossible to keep his emotions in check, but there was absolutely no way he was going to allow the man to live. Not after all that he had done.

His wife and his cousin had been taken captive. He had not yet been able to check on the women, so he had no way of knowing if his and Lindsay's unborn child was alright or if, somehow, Joseph had managed to hurt it as well. He had killed Lindsay's father. And...of course, there was Justin...

With a loud barbaric cry, Brian charged at the man. Joseph looked up with wide eyes.

Swords were drawn and, at the very last moment, the steel clashed. Brian jumped out of range and plunged back, hoping to catch Winterberry with a quick rebound. The man was agile, though, and blocked the sword, all the while turning so that the blade could not have cut him, even if the block had missed its mark.

From the corner of his eye, Brian noticed one of Winterberry's men, sword drawn, heading straight for him. Before he could develop a strategy for taking care of the younger soldier while holding Joseph at bay, he saw a familiar blonde step between him and the second attacker. With two fast sweeps of his sword, Justin had stuck the other man and turned to see Brian and Joseph facing off.

He wondered if Justin would say something. Would he want to keep the peace, to spare both lives? How would he fell, should he have to see one of them slain?

Seeing the hesitation on Brain's face, Joseph used this to his advantage and ran at Brian, sword poised and ready to kill.

"BRIAN!" Justin yelled in horror.

Brian flinched at the sound of Justin's worried cry and moved just enough so that the blow struck his side instead of his gut as it had been intended. Though he knew the wound could not possibly be fatal, Brian touched the bloodied spot and fell to his knees in pain.

"FATHER NO!" he heard Justin scream repeatedly. "Nononono! I pray you do not!"

"Justin," Brian whispered as he tried to pull the world into focus. The last thing he saw was Joseph swinging his blade toward him and Brian prepared himself for his death. But not before one final, "I love you."

***

It did not take very long at all, once they had returned to the scene, to figure out just who had the upper hand.

"You two stay with them," one of the Winterberry men directed, as the other four ran into the fray.

Lindsay glanced back and forth to the guards at either side of their horse. She tapped Melanie's shoulder and moved her eyes to the left, pointed to herself and moved her eyes back to the right. Melanie begrudgingly nodded and held up three fingers. Three. Two. One.

At the mark, Lindsay put her boot to the head of the man on her right. Kicking him squarely in the ear, she watched him crumple to the ground. Melanie, having done the same to the other guard, had already slid to the ground and held her hands up to assist Lindsay down as well.

"We'll need to find shelter out of the way..."

Without warning, Lindsay leaned in and kissed Melanie's lips gently but with great passion. It was a kiss that spoke of everything Lindsay could not say. All too quickly, the two parted.

Melanie blushed and brought her fingers to her lips as though she might be able to hold the sensations inside of her. "Lindsay?" she whispered, as her eyes fluttered open. But Lindsay was not there. "LINDSAY?"

Lindsay ignored Melanie's cries, quickening her pace as she walked away from the woman she loved.

***

"Justin, GO! Go back to camp. This doesn't concern you."

"Like Hell it doesn't concern me! What has happened?"

"Tell him Joseph," Lord Rushworth taunted his opponent as they circled one another. "Tell him what you've done. I'm sure he'll be so proud. Ah...but perhaps he was all part of the plan. Did you let him in on this? Is he to follow in his father's footsteps?"

Justin blocked his father's sword as it was only a hairbreadth away from Brian's neck. "No," he said quietly.

"Move aside boy!" Winterberry said as Justin moved himself between his father and his lover.

"No. You will have to kill me first!"

"That can be arranged, my son." Justin was shocked by his father's words. He knew that his father thought little of him, but he hadn't realized that it had come to this.

"I should have let Rushworth kill you," Justin spat back. "At least then, I might have had a chance to remember my father as a good man. Not the...the serpent I see before me today!"

His father growled angrily and Justin heard Brian stir. He would have to act if he didn't want the man hurt any further. Without warning, Justin lunged at Joseph, swinging wildly but with purpose.

When the sword found no mark, Justin let out a grunt of frustration. "You fight with your heart, my son. Did I not teach you anything?"

Justin's face screwed up in supreme anger and hatred. "I fight with my heart...but at least I still HAVE one!"

Charging back at the man, he allowed Joseph to block the blow, while moving close enough to kick the man in his groin.

The cry of an injured animal was the one Joseph gave up as he sank to his knees in agony.

Justin moved to stand above the pained man. "Rest waits only for death! Isn't that what you have always said father?! ISN'T IT?! Well...here is your chance! Rest in peace!"

For all that the man had done wrong, Justin would take his life. For all that the man had done to hurt those that Justin loved, he would not blink while doing so.

"NO!" Joseph finally choked out, his eyes wide as he saw the glint of sunlight on the steel of his old sword. Moving to stand once again, he managed to put his hands up in front of him, a gesture of surrender.

"Justin!" Brian yelled, the man finally stirring. Justin was past the point of hearing anyone though. This had to be finished. Right there, in that moment.

His sword went up and he screamed a blood curdling scream as he went to take his father down with one strong blow. Before he could swing the blade, he saw Joseph's eyes go wide and glaze over in shock. The tip of a second blade, now stained crimson, protruded from the man's chest and he fell to his knees revealing Lindsay.

To Be Continued...



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