Baena and Domnall exchanged glances. “It’s not like you to be frightened,” Baena commented. She was not particularly fond of her brother-in-law, but on that night she was glad of the company.
“Did you know that a little more than a year ago, it was Cinaed who led the assault on tis castle.”
“Where you there as well?” she asked.
“Of course. You know Cinaed and I always fight together.”
“Did many die that day?”
Domnall shook his head. “They were not prepared for a fight. All fled, except for an Old Norse woman. I think she was the widow of the man who had once owned the castle. She refused to leave. She even challenged Cinaed to a fight for the castle.”
“What did Cinaed do?”
“What do you think he did? You know he won’t hurt women. And this woman was old and lame. She walked with a stick which she scraped along the floor after each step.”
“A scrape?” Baena’s face drained of colour. “I heard a scraping sound in the bedchamber. What happened to the old woman?”
“Cinaed ignored her, looted the castle for what treasures it had and ordered the men to set fire to the place.”
“Was she trapped in the fire?”
“She shouldn’t have been. None of us would have stopped her escaping, but she didn’t. As the fire built up she screamed an old Norse at us before throwing herself into the flames. I’ve never seen a death like it. We tried to get her out, but none of us could get close enough. It was like a furnace. You know I have Norse blood in me. I cannot dismiss the curse as Cinaed does.”
Baena shuddered, pulling a blanket around her shoulders. “What does it mean?” she whispered.
“I don’t know. You are right, Sister. Very little frightens me. But the instant I stepped into that chamber, the one next to yours, I felt a fear such as I have never felt before. I was certain that if I blew out my candle, I would never see light again.”
“Are we safe? Is Cinaed safe?”
“I feel safe enough out here,” Domnall replied. “As for Cinaed… I don’t know. He does not seem to feel the fear I felt.” Domnall gave a sudden smile. “Perhaps he is a braver man than I after all, but do not tell him I said that.”
Relieved at the flicker of humour, Baena said no more but did her best to make herself comfortable. Both she and Domnall fell into an uneasy doze by the fire. They were quickly woken again. “Everyone awake, now,” Cinaed shouted. “We are marching on.”
“It’s still dark,” Domnall protested. “How can we march now?”
“We’ll not go far,” Cinaed said. “But move, now.” Everyone stared at him. “I mean now. Everyone do as you’re ordered.”
There was much grumbling from the sleepy clansmen and women. But Cinaed yelled at them until they moved.
“You’re in a bad mood, Cinaed. What happened in that chamber?” Domnall asked, as they assembled by their horses.
Cinaed gave a fearful glance back. He pulled Baena into his arms and kissed the top of her head. “God be praised you were not in there.”
“What did you see, Cinaed?” Baena asked softly, as Cinaed helped her onto her horse.
Cinaed looked back at the ruins of the castle gleaming in the moonlight. “It is best if you never know.”
To hear more about the lives of Baena, Cinaed and Domnall and the tumultuous events of 9th century Scotland Kenneth’s Queen is available on Amazon