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THE DARK SOUL by ROB J. PEARCE

© ROB J. PEARCE

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* signifies italics *

Written in American English

PROLOGUE


*Culloden Moor Battlefield east of Inverness, Scotland - April 16. 1746*

Stuart gasped for breath, eyes squinting as his boots sank into the wet ground. He charged beside his father’s MacDonald highlanders and with confidence, screamed his war-cry. From the English lines, cannons blasted deadly canister shots in their direction. Shrapnel hissed, tore holes through clothing and leather gun sacks, and then hacked into the bodies of his clansmen. He watched, mouth agape as brave men cried out and drop by the dozen as his thoughts of victory melted into the fear of reality.

Groaning through the effort required as an example of courage for his clan to follow, he pressed on. Ahead lay the wall of red-coated English soldiers, six thousand strong and glaring forward at their rampant enemy. Stuart noticed the bayonetted muskets glisten in an array of three meticulous formations as the English leader, the Duke of Cumberland, sat aloft his horse and commanded..

“Father!” Stuart shouted. “The English artillery! Most of us won’t get within striking distance of a sword.”

No reply came. He watched his father’s time-scarred face scowl for a brief second. Bonnie Prince Charlie was no general and they all knew the clans battling for Scotland’s independence were leaderless. But the MacDonald highlanders, supported by the other clans, still strived to drive the English out of Scotland.

Pungent smells of iron and blood he left in his wake as he ran past fallen highlanders. Most suffered and died, leaving widows and children behind for the clan to nurture. He pounded through the churned ground, his muscles grousing, and swore not to hesitate. Those injured soon perished from the grapeshot sprayed from the cannons or faced the dread of helplessness as English bayonets stabbed the last life from their bodies.

A cannonball whistled past, he took a step to his left and scrunched his face as he turned and looked behind. The ball plowed through a group of Scots; limbs, dismembered and scattered, were all that remained of the gallant. But the heavy shot continued on, smashing into those who followed.

*My god! Cousin Duncan*, he yelled as his sixteen-year-old relative lost his right arm and shoulder. Before the ball lost momentum and came to rest, dozens of men screamed and died, undone by mortal injuries. He shuddered, bile rising in his throat as he concentrated on staying upright.

As the highland and lowland Scots raced toward the enemy like ferocious packs of wolves, their war-shrieks howled above the calamitous din. Morning fog and gun smoke, thick and gray, peppered the air as Stuart struggled to see. *A blessing*. The leading clansmen closed to within musket range of the redcoats. With their arms extended, the first line of English discharged their muskets and kneeled to reload. Although Stuart could not see well, his heart dropped and mouth opened because he saw enough to know what was to come. The second row of redcoats aimed and fired. The third line followed, and his kin fell—dozens of heroes never to rise.

The Scots paused to fire a return volley. Stuart’s ears rang, but they had no time for another shot, so they flung the empty weapons aside and drew their pistols. At last, English soldiers died. He heaved his broadsword from the scabbard hanging on his hip and peered ahead as the leading highlanders smashed into the first line of the invaders. They swung and stabbed with practiced skill, hacking their way through, but their foe fought back and held. The battle was hand-to-hand, but the vanguard of Scots had dwindled to only a few desperate men, slicing open enemy flesh in the hope of victory.

Stuart, and those around him, still struggled through the marshy ground and had yet to reach the battle. With thirty yards to go, he focused on a sergeant of the English artillery. Yells and screams rang in his ears as another wave of highlanders arrived at the redcoat line. The sergeant’s wide, glaring eyes projected his fear as the end of the Scots’ furious charge threatened to overrun his position.

Stuart shouted a warning as a slow match was lowered to the cannon’s fuse. Canisters of musket balls and shrapnel exploded from the muzzle and ripped through the air. The noise drowned his shout, and death rode the hail of metal.

Although few and outnumbered, those Scots still left continued to push forward and engage. Divots of mud and sprays of blood stung Stuart’s eyes making him stagger and reach out with his hand to keep his balance.

He saw his father’s long broadsword glisten above the masses and sprinted. “Father, use the force of the pendant! They’re tearing us to pieces!”

For one moment, a brief second, Lord Ranald MacDonald of Keppoch paused and reached for the chain that hung around his neck. He pulled out the silver box he always kept on his person for fear someone else would steal it and apply its power.
“It will destroy the invaders and bring us victory! Use it, Father!”

He waited, desperate for his father to respond as he panted forward. Lead thudded into the surrounding earth. “I’ll not accept help from that gift of the devil. We have English to kill; run harder!”

Time and noise were against him, so Stuart didn’t argue. Though it had only been minutes since the first cannon had fired, a third of the MacDonald highlanders had fallen. Twenty yards farther and he would engage with well-trained redcoats. He gripped his broadsword; it felt heavier than usual. His breathing became jagged as he glanced forward to where the artillery sergeant waited and timed his reaction to inflict the greatest damage. The Englishman touched the slow match to the cannon’s fuse. Boom!

The sound of death echoed over the field as again, musket balls and metal seared the air. Lord MacDonald lifted his broadsword high, ready to make his first strike against the English soldiers. Stuart bumped into him when a lead ball tore into his father’s throat and threw him sideways to his knees. His father dropped his sword, gripped his neck, and gasped for breath. More shrapnel ripped through his chest and stomach as he fell.

Unable to tear his eyes away, Stuart cried, “Father!” as life departed his lord. *I must turn the battle to our favor. My kin need not have died*. With his lips parted, his breath coming out in pants, Stuart eyed his slaughtered clansmen. He gathered his wits, crawled closer, and reached for the box that hung from his father’s neck.

Startled as a clansman dropped dead next to him, his eyes unseeing as they gazed at the sky, Stuart ignored him and focused on the box. He was the rightful heir, Lord Macdonald, chief of Keppoch. In its silver box, the pendant was his to command. His hand slipped under his father’s coat, his fingers closed around the clan brooch. He grabbed the silver box. Its power, nestled inside could save them; he knew it could turn the battle.

His thick glove couldn’t work the fine clasp that secured the lid, so he cursed as he used his teeth to tug it from his fingers. English left their lines and were driving back the surviving Scots. Swords clanged, fighting grew closer and his clansmen screamed as they died. The redcoats thrust bayonets deep in every highlander they encountered as they advanced into the field of death. Stuart glared upward; a shadow settled over him and then rammed the butt of a musket between his shoulder blades. As pain radiated through his neck and down his spine, he tumbled forward, turned and stared up at his assailant.
The clan treasures flew from his hands as the redcoat pointed his musket and Stuart looked straight up the bore, but it wasn’t a musket ball death would ride. A bayonet’s shiny steel blade pierced his stomach.

*We’re not supposed to die like this; I have to use the blue pendant,* his thoughts cried while shock deadened his senses. But a whimper left his lips. He knew his story was finished and the clan was his only thought.
The redcoat twisted the bayonet, drew it back then plunged it downward again. He gurgled blood, and his vision began to blur as he watched his enemy’s eyes fix on the clan’s treasures. It had fallen a short distance from him. The pendant, in its silver case, shimmered as the earth under him vibrated. Cords of vibrant blue light burst from the corners of the box, snaking through low grass towards his outstretched hand.

*Witchcraft,* was the word Stuart heard as the redcoat kicked out in fear. The brooch and box slithered into a patch of mud near bracken and heather. A grunt and a loud groan bellowed, the redcoat’s mouth opened wide, as he reached to grip the end of Scottish steel that protruded from his stomach. Justice arrived wearing a MacDonald plaid as Colin Boyle, the clan blacksmith grinned and twisted his sword to tear at his hated enemy’s innards.

Stuart grinned revenge as he looked up at the doomed redcoat who turned to face his killer, but dropped to his knees then collapsed forward as he gasped his last breath. Yanking his blade from the redcoat’s gut, the highlander glanced at Stuart, briefly nodded to him and ran towards another English invader. Four steps, and he toppled as a lump of shrapnel tore through the air and smashed into his head.

Unable to talk or move, Stuart’s blue eyes began to dim as he stared at the box being tromped into the mud by the boots of fighting highlanders. As he lay dying, a voice spoke to him. It came from the silver box. ‘Fear not, young Lord MacDonald. We have planted a seed; your clan will again be great.’

The noise began to abate, and smoke drifted away carrying the souls of so many. Scattered over the left of the battlefield lay the flower and youth of the MacDonald clan. Lord Ranald’s line of succession had ended, and within twenty minutes, the strength and courage of Scotland died.


ONE


*Present day, 2020.
Culloden Moor historic battlefield, Scotland*

“Tony, are you sure this location is correct?” Lieutenant Angus MacDonald fixed his eyes on the uneven ground stretching far in each direction. On this field, his relatives, the Lord Ranald MacDonald and his only son Stuart had lost their lives during the Battle of Culloden.

Their names rang soundly in his mind as he fought to hold back a tear. During his youth, his father had told him of the gallantry of the MacDonald highlanders that day. These tales had inspired him to join the military, to become a U.S. Marine. Three months ago, he suffered several injuries during his final tour of Afghanistan causing an abrupt end to his active military career.

Tony Baker, Angus’ godfather stepped away from his many students. They had pitched tents, set up a workstation, unloaded excavation equipment from vans and began to wave metal detectors across the ground. Waiting for their machine to beep, they chatted and smiled in the hope their team detected a relic of interest.

The managers of the historical site had granted permission for Professor Tony to lead Edinburgh University students on a training dig. Culloden Moor’s history gave them the motivation needed to make the lessons of a proper excursion educational yet entertaining.

“Where did my ancestors die, Tony?”

He pointed to the distance where bracken, heather, and bogs were dense which made the walk a laborious chore. “The precise position is unknown, but the MacDonald clan advanced over there, along the left of the battlefield.”

Three students overheard the brief discussion and drew closer. “Digging where the clan fought hand-to-hand is best,” said a student as he approached. The young man, Bruce, was usually quiet but seemed very observant. Another student beside him, Maggie, gripped her tool belt and smiled. “You took the words right out of my mouth.”

Angus looked back at the students and questioned his reason for coming. For many years he had wished to visit Culloden Moor, but he dreamed he and Tony were alone, not with a torrent of pupils who took up most of Tony’s time. At least no one pestered him. Maggie kept her distance. Seamus was the most social, taking several opportunities to question him related to his service in Afghanistan, but not so much as to annoy him. Bruce stayed quiet and observant.

Turning his back to them, Angus led the way to the place Tony pointed to earlier. When the three students saw he had not minded them tagging along, they hurried in stride with him. Soon the actual search would begin; they hoped to discover an artifact of worth. Tony trailed along just in case Angus had questions when he reached the location.

“This is serious terrain,” Bruce frowned. “I’m having difficulty with the bogs, I can’t identify them under the grass and plants.”

“Just imagine the highlanders running through this shit to reach the enemy’s line,” Professor Tony said.

“The poor bastards. I’m already winded,” Bruce said. Rain clouds gathered over the past hours. Strong wind tried to snatch his breath.

Angus had no trouble walking through the bracken and heather. The Marine Corp trained him to watch where he stepped. He jumped over tall grass to avoid stepping in a bog. The students were a different matter and struggled to find solid footholds.

“Near there!” Tony called out from behind Angus and pointed. “Maps show the place as the location where the brunt of the MacDonald clan fell.” Pointing up ahead where the ground was level, he added, “English redcoats were over there, well-armed and trained. They were the most skilled regiments in Western Europe and outnumbered the undertrained highlanders who never had a chance.”

Knowing he stood where the stories of his youth took place, a smile stretched across Angus’ face. He folded his arms over his chest then his grin disappeared. The disaster of that fateful day flooded into his mind and he understood the Scots’ tactical disadvantages. The English had taken position where the land was flatter and less marshy. But the Scots needed to charge through five hundred yards of heather, bracken, and puddles caused by rain the previous evening.

The students drew closer, their attention on the flag that showed where the English’s line of defense had been. “We should dig in that place,” Seamus suggested. “It’s flat here. We’ll be able to make better use of our time. The sky looks angrier.”

Angus wanted to move in that direction as well. From that vantage, he could stand where the English stood and visualize more of the battle that changed Scotland’s history forever.

“We can dig only a small patch,” Tony warned. “I’m not sure our permission included this far out, but if we leave things as we found them, I guess no one will be the wiser.”

The group walked together this time, lifting their legs high to step through tall grass. Angus stepped near some bracken, something wrapped around the ankle of his boot. He looked down at his foot, his chin lowered further than he expected. No longer could he move his arms as his eyes rolled up into his skull and visions of rain crashed against his face. Fog and gun smoke entered his nostrils. The roar of cannon filled the air and screams of dying men closed in and surrounded him. As he became dizzy, he fell and the side of his head landed hard on grass. Dazed, he blinked his eyes and tried to focus. His eyes locked on the face of his dead grandfather from three hundred years ago, Lord Ranald MacDonald. He shook his head again, waited a moment then looked once more. It was his ancestor because he had seen old portraits. *Jesus, what’s happening to me?*

“Professor!” Maggie screamed in alarm, dropping her shovel to kneel beside Angus.

“He showed no sign of any problem before he fell, he just fainted. What can be wrong with him?” Bruce said, staring at Angus’ right boot with bracken tangled around and up to the shin. It was a peculiar sight because it had interlocked, which was impossible. Bruce reached for the plant then yanked back his hand, the roots didn’t release from the earth. The stems pulled tighter, squeezing the leather of Angus’ boot and creating an impression.

Maggie peered at the bracken, her brows arched as it moved and interlocked with the faintest of blue glows emanating from the soil. She grabbed a small knife from her pack and cut through the stems, then fell back as the ground shivered.

Seamus felt the shaking and took several steps backward. Concerned something may rupture from the soil, he hurried forward and dropped his shovel to help Bruce and Maggie. Tony pushed Seamus out of the way to get closer. Angus’ eyes blinked, but the rest of his body lay still. None of his muscles seized, and nor did it look as if he was in any physical distress.

“Help me pull him back!” pleaded Tony as he hooked his arms underneath Angus’ to drag him to where a patch of grass lay flat. It wasn’t an easy task, and he groaned trying to pull Angus’ tall body. Bruce reached for his legs to help, but fell on his rear when it looked as if other bracken reached for Angus. “What the hell is this? What’s happening?” he asked, glaring at Tony.

Maggie pushed back at the bracken and gripped Angus’ ankles. Bruce stared at the ground because it rippled beneath him as if something under the surface moved. He grimaced and wanted out, but he forced himself to help Maggie grip Angus’ legs. The four of them dragged Angus a short distance. His eyes stared from their sockets as he looked up at them with parted lips, but his breathing was normal. After his eyes rested on Tony, he gripped a part of Tony’s shirt and pulled himself into a sitting position.

“Are you okay?” Tony asked. He knew those who died under his command in Afghanistan still pain Angus and wondered if his fainting was a symptom of PTSD. Angus had sobbed the day they discharged him with honor. Tony long suspected his tears were not because his military career ended too early, but because his entire unit had been lost. “What happened, Angus?”

He did not respond; he sat shaking his head.

Bruce, staring at the bracken, heard this question then looked at Maggie. She didn’t notice Bruce her because her eyes fastened on Angus as she waited on his answer. *How did the plant become trapped around his boot? Something blue came from the ground. Why?*

Angus struggled to his feet. “I don’t know,” he answered. “One minute I’m walking, the next my foot got stuck and I couldn’t move. I remember that.”

“Your eyes…” Tony began because they looked glazed and anxious. “How are you now?”

“Like a live wire,” Angus tried to explain. “As if I’d walked on an energy of sorts.” He shook his head. “But not electrical. After I stood, I sensed myself lose control.”

“Energy?” Bruce repeated; his tone as if he doubted. “You said you stepped on something. Maybe you did because the ground moved…”
“It moved,” Seamus added. “A rumble, small, but noticeable, the movement frightened me.”

“Electricity?” Maggie asked as she scanned the surrounding field. “It couldn’t affect the plant as I saw,” she added. “The bracken stretched and interlocked, impossible!”

“The wind, Angus’ boots,” Tony rationalized.

“No wind or boots involved,” Bruce said and tightened his mouth. “It spread and netted around his boot. Maggie and I noticed.”

“Okay,” Tony said in a tone that suggested he wanted to understand them. “You both believe something moved, so maybe it’s under the dirt.”

“Whatever it was gripped my foot,” Angus said as he started back to where he had fallen. But after a few steps he stopped, shuddered, and placed a hand up to his forehead.

*Young lord* came a whisper. Angus stared ahead in the voice’s direction, but when he looked at the others, he sensed from their actions that none had heard.

They lowered to the ground where Angus fell, the students and Tony watched as the bracken waved in a slight breeze. The stems, instead of staying solid and straight, hung limp as worms and the fronds swayed in the same direction the plant bent.

“I’m not an expert on plants, but these were odd,” Tony said.

Bruce looked back at Angus, realizing he had not come closer and then he looked at Maggie. “Was it just me or did it look to you as if this bracken gripped his boot on purpose?” he whispered.

She stared back, her brow furrowed. “What?”

Bruce, presuming she hadn’t seen what he had, or wanted to stay silent, lowered his head from embarrassment. “Nothing,” he declared as she looked away.

“We’ll dig here, we may find answers,” Tony said. “Be careful and remember your training.”

Maggie nodded as Seamus and she reached for shovels and took care while they removed grass and a small layer of dirt from the site. Tony gripped the shaker screen and got ready. Bruce lowered his backpack and pulled out a kit to detail their actions and record any finds. It was slow work as the soil was sticky and difficult to sieve. Bruce grabbed a trowel and began to help as Angus watched for ten minutes and stayed three paces back from the students.

Seamus had been using his spade, scrapping it deeper into the ground when it touched solid matter. “Something is here,” he said as his face beamed.

“Don’t get your hopes up,” Tony warned with a smile. “It may only be a stone. Use a coal scoop shovel, remove that loose soil, but be careful. We’ll sift the dirt.”

Maggie and Bruce dropped to their knees with trowels. They brought each layer of soil from around the solid object to Tony and tipped it on the shaker. Angus tried to get closer, but when he moved his foot only a step, his eyes rolled upward and dizziness returned.
*Here, young lord,* the voice called again from the dig.

“Did you guys hear that?” Angus asked and stepped backwards. “I know this sounds crazy, but I swear someone spoke from near your dig.”

Bruce heard no sound, but there had been a slight movement under his feet. “Professor Tony,” he stammered. “Something’s in this ground for sure.”

“Be careful,” Tony warned. “None of us appreciate the complete history of this place. Maybe there’s gas trapped beneath. Who knows what’s happened on this moor in the past three hundred years?”

Thunder clapped above them. Everyone looked to the clouds as a bolt of lightning lit the sky.

“We better hurry,” Tony suggested.

*Lord MacDonald…*

“Okay!” Angus said. “This is crazy. I’m hearing the voice again, the ground is moving beneath my feet and the weather’s turning for the worse.”

“You’re not imagining the movement,” Bruce said, standing tall. “It vibrated again. I’m difficult to frighten, but I’m getting freaked out the longer I stand here. I must know what’s below the ground!”

With care, he scrapped the soil, then paused and picked up a dustpan to collect soil for inspection.

Seamus spoke in a low voice. “I found something. Hope it’s not just a clod of dirt like last time.”

On removal, it appeared a large lump of hardened clay, but not heavy enough. Moving it from the ground and onto grass, he prodded and poked it with care. Solid pieces broke away; metal gleamed up at him.

“This is no rock,” he said, lifting the object and hurrying to Tony.

“No, not a rock,” Tony repeated, his eyes fastened on a small piece of gleaming silver trapped in the clump of packed mud.

“Hey Professor!” Bruce yelled to get everyone’s attention. “I found something too!” He ran closer and settled the object on the shaker.

“What is it?” Angus asked, unable to approach because dizziness may return.

Tony ignored Bruce’s find being transfixed on Seamus’. Maggie placed a scraper and brush in his open palm. He doubted either of the tools were practical, but he needed to be careful. The odd shaped chunk of soil was larger than his hand, as grey as ash and hard as cement. He brushed where metal shone but none of the covering dirt moved.

"Give me a bottle of water," said Tony as he lay the lump in a coal shovel. “Soaking it a while will make it softer.”

They stood and watched as the hardened dirt soaked up the water, leaving none on the shovel. Tony waited, then picked it up and forced his thumbs into the sides, pieces broke away and more silver shone.

“My God,” he whispered, then looked in the direction where his other students played or were hard at work. It was the size of a cigarette pack, but wider. “This piece looks ancient,” he said. “I’m talking ancient. Oh, God,” he repeated and stared at the others. “Engraved on top is a single eye; I know this image. In Homer’s Odyssey, he mentions a cyclops named Polyphemus, the son of Poseidon. It’s the same eye, but there’s another image. The infamous thunderbolt created for Zeus by three brothers who were also Cyclopes. Hesiod wrote this in his poem, Theogony.”

Maggie stared at the engravings with slanted brows of confusion. “You refer to Greek mythology? We are standing on a Scottish battlefield.”

Tony lowered the silver box and leaned closer to study the find Bruce made. Dirt had fused with it, but it was easy to see the object was a golden clan brooch. The kind worn by gentlemen hundreds of years ago.

Angus stared up at the sky. Dark clouds gathered overhead and raindrops started to fall. Thunder clapped and bolts of lightning flashed in a violent display of white light.

They glared at one another, then let loose small laughs at the coincidence. Zeus had been the god of the sky who used lightning to evoke fear, and the students knew this because history was their love. Tony’s mention of Zeus appeared to spark the thunder clouds.
“Grab me a sieve,” Tony instructed with a grin across his face.

“Please tell me we’re keeping what we’ve found and not handing it over to the authorities,” Seamus said.

“We must hand it over,” he answered, then looked surreptitiously at his students before his eyes fixed on Angus. He noticed and sensed why Tony had given the answer.

“What about the fern?” Maggie questioned, stared at the ground and stepped near the bracken. No longer did its stems bend in any direction. It stood as straight as arrows as it should have from the start.

“Let’s pack up and reach the vans before we’re drenched,” he said, and forgot the plant as it now looked normal.

Bruce, Seamus and Maggie gathered up the supplies. Tony placed the silver box and brooch inside his backpack and walked close to Angus.

“I thought today may be a boring lesson on excavation techniques, but it’s proven to be more,” Tony whispered. “I think we’ve found something, Angus. Something huge.”

“You think we found the artifacts? Bit of a coincidence, don’t you think?”

“I’m not sure because there’s been no time to think,” he frowned and scratched his head. “What do you mean?”

“Voices, vibrating earth, visions, bracken and God knows what else,” sarcasm obvious in his tone. “I think we were found, not the other way round.”

“Shit, Angus. Bit of a stretch.”

“’Stretch, my ass! Think about what’s happened and for Christ’s sake don’t open that silver box until the students are gone.”

“Alright, but settle down before you lose the plot.”

Nobody said much as they met the other students underneath the tent. They left any talking to Tony, but he did nothing more than give the others a glimpse of the brooch.

“I’m not well,” Angus said, his breath deeper than normal. Tony studied Angus, he had never been the kind to complain.

“Is it serious? Will I take you to the hospital?”

“No.” Angus said.

After they packed their tools and returned to the vans near the Culloden Visitor Center. Maggie leaned in close to Angus and said in a whisper, “Professor Tony told me you’re related to Lord Ranald MacDonald who died here. I studied him online after I learned that Culloden Moor was to be the first location we’d practice excavations. The lord had a fascinating history. I know three portraits of him exist and I Googled them. One painted when he was young, and two after he became a father and much older. Those two later versions appear an entirely different man and people question if they are of him. But the portrait of when the lord was younger...?”
“Yes,” Angus asked after a moment.
“You look just like him.”


TWO


In Washington D.C., Angus' father, Connor MacDonald, read the text that had come through from his good friend, Professor Tony Baker.

*I must talk to you, so please stay by your phone and wait for my call.*

The message implied urgency. Connor squinted his eyes as he remembered the time he was the Executive Officer on an Arleigh Burke class destroyer and the action he had seen throughout the Middle East. The navy involved him in several shore incursions; twice as an intelligence official embedded with squads of SEALs. Death was never far away, and he knew the effects it had on the minds of those left behind; Angus was one such person, and he lowered his head as he thought of the problems his son suffered.

At 2 p.m., he was sitting in his home office in Washington DC when Tony's call came.

“Connor, something amazing has occurred. I can't remember being so excited," Tony began. “Who'd believe the MacDonald Clan's connection with Culloden Moor would prove so astonishing? Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself."

Tony knew it had been Connor's love of military intelligence, which saw him leave his ship to work at the Pentagon. He excelled and became an aide and advisor to the secretary of defense before the present incumbent.

“You’re always open-minded, imaginative, and have an excellent memory for detail. Traits I lack, so I hope you can use your intelligence skills to aid me.”

“I’m happy to help, Tony, but get on with the story.”

“We've discovered artifacts which only affected Angus, although, many students were closer to the object.” He paused for a moment. “I'm intrigued to understand, but first, don't worry because Angus is fine."

“Tony, you’re talking gibberish. Slow down and tell me what do you mean, affected how?"

“He was dizzy and passed out," Tony continued to speak to prevent Connor from asking too many questions. "But he recovered fast, and he's been fine. To understand, you had to be there. Something happened on the moor. I have a premonition, it involves the artifacts. We're now back at the hotel in Inverness. I'm hoping your knowledge of the MacDonald family tree, the history of your clan, and the Battle of Culloden can help me. I've cleaned them and must decide what to do next."

“I said, slow down please. You found these on the moor?" Connor asked with a hint of disbelief.

“Yes," Tony answered. "They look authentic," he added as emphasis.

“Describe them to me."

“One is a golden brooch with the MacDonald coat of arms embossed along with the clan's motto, by sea and by land."

Connor sat back in his chair and gave this serious consideration.

“Connor, the other artifact is a small silver case. Angus believes this piece spoke to him. Don't ask why, but I believe him,” trying to slow his speech and enthusiasm. “Inside the silver box is a round pendant with three gold and glass leaves attached to the front. It's three inches in diameter with a gold rim. This rim holds a magnificent blue glass center; it has writing on the front and the back. Connor, I've studied both pieces this past hour. They're old and genuine."

“Shit," Connor said and sat forward. "Can you send me photos? Maybe if I see each piece close up I can offer something that may help figure out what you've found."

“I'll do that now. After you've given them a good look over, call me on Skype."

***


Tony hung up and prepared his camera. After getting the lighting right, he took many photos from several angles and sent the best images to Connor via email. He opened Skype on his laptop before walking to kitchenette to make coffee.

Angus appeared in the kitchenette's doorway, having awakened from his nap. When he noticed the artifacts lying on the coffee table in the living room, he drew closer, glaring.

Tony turned his head. "I just been on the phone with your dad. I've sent him photos and he'll call on Skype after he's looked at them."

Angus nodded and focused, staring at the items which Tony had cleaned. Odour from the solutions still permeated the air as Angus sat near. The marines had trained him to be calm, but he was not confident as he frowned and hung back from the artifacts. Gold gleamed from the brooch and light scattered from its surface. The blue glass of the pendant became hypnotic. Angus stood because the pendant seemed to tug at him; so strong it appeared made of otherworldly energy.

"So beautiful. What is it?" Angus asked.

Tony stopped what he was doing and turned. "Nothing I've ever seen in Scottish history compares. It's not Scottish! The inscriptions on the pendant are Greek and Norse. Your father won’t be able to read the Norse inscription. I wanted him to review the treasures before I discussed the writing. How are you now? You've acted fine since we left Culloden, but are you dizzy being near the pendant?"

Angus reflected for a time and said, "You now think, for sure, these pieces caused my dizziness?"

"I do now?" Tony said, turned away, and grabbed a clean mug. "You trod on the location where we found the box, and it looked to me as if the ground had an effect on you. What else may explain why you collapsed as you did? No one else reacted as you even though we stepped in the same place."

Angus started to argue, but stopped himself. He mentioned to Tony that when he fainted, he'd dreamed he was there the day of the battle on Culloden Moor. It was too real. The heavy smoke, the sounds of battle and men dying, the face of his ancestor lying dead with blank eyes; his mouth open as if he had just taken his last breath.

“Something strange happened on the moor. I can't explain, but can sense it even now."

"Shit, why didn't you tell me that earlier because it may be important?"

"It’s confused me, Tony, but to answer your question, I'm not dizzy. I'm…," he paused for a moment to find the proper word. "Strange, good, energetic."

The unmistakable sound of a Skype call interrupted them. Tony and Angus moved and sat in front of the computer, clicked a button and Connor peered back at them from Washington D.C.

"It's good to see you're okay," Connor said with his eyes on his son.

"I'm fine, Dad."

Tony leaned forward, somewhat curious. “Did you have trouble seeing the inscriptions? Greek on the front, but Norse on the rear. It staggers me!”

“Dad, were you able to read the Greek writing?” Angus asked, his excitement heightened the same as Tony's.

“It reads, *when you are blue, you are no longer you,”* Connor answered then stared at Tony. “The Norse? You interpreted it before you called me earlier?”

“The Norse on the back says, *'If the moon through the blue you see, then you know me,'“*

Angus stared from his father to Tony. “What's it mean?”

“I don't know, I've seen nothing in the past to compare. What intrigues me is the Greek and Norse together. Both cultures worshiped gods of Greek mythology, and Norse,” he answered and shook his head. “What I fear is one of my students telling someone what we've found and people coming for the pieces before I can date them and figure things out.”

“Your students presume you'll turn the finds over to the authorities,” Angus said. “Even if they discuss it, I doubt it will go any further than that.”

“I'm not the only professor of history and archaeology at Edinburgh University. One of the other professors may learn of our discovery. They may contact me, or the Culloden Visitor Center, hoping to find information.”

“The students only saw the box and brooch.” Angus stared at the pendant then at Tony. “None of them knows the contents.”

“That can be your answer, there was nothing inside,” Connor said, his eyes riveting from Tony to Angus. “Let’s take a little time to study the objects and we can make a decision about them later.”

“I inspected the brooch. There's no doubt in my mind it belonged to someone in the MacDonald clan. I want to know how the brooch and box tie together,” said Tony running his fingers through his hair. “More to the point, I want to know why Angus seems to be effected somehow.”

Angus turned because from the corner of his eye, he thought he saw movement. But no one was there; his eyes returned to the pendant. A strong urge to pick it up consumed him.

Without care, he stood and walked closer to the coffee table as his father and Tony continued their conversation. He picked up the pendant, frowned and stared at the Norse inscription before he moved closer to a window with its drapes drawn. “You said, 'If the moon through the blue you see, then you know me,' right?”

Tony glanced at Angus as he pulled back the curtains and held up the pendant.

“Stop,” he screamed, but it was too late.

Angus looked through the blue of the pendant's glass to where the moon hung hidden behind rain clouds. Although it wasn't visible from where he stood, he saw it through the glass. But the glare grew brighter until sight of the moon disappeared, now they were encompassed in a blue glow.

Tony jumped to his feet as blue light filled the living room, its movements suggested something that crawled and attempted to invade. This was impossible as light is not slow, but it was light! The hue of the blue became so distinct that Tony stumbled back and leaned against the computer desk. It grew so thick he could no longer distinguish any of the furniture, the ceiling, or the floor. He breathed fast, his eyes darting everywhere, and he peered at his body and watched the blue crawl along his skin and over clothes.
His hand swiped his arm, but nothing happened and he turned to the computer and turned its screen so Connor could witness the blue and Angus.

Connor had been fidgeting with his screen settings. One moment he and Tony had been talking, the next his entire computer screen turned a bright hue of blue, leaving it difficult to see Tony. The blue hue moved from his monitor. It dripped to the floor and spread across the carpet and up the walls. He knew from Skype vision that the blue came through the internet from Scotland. As he stood and glared as blue light filled Tony's hotel suite in staggering proportions. Tony had been trying to wipe the color from his hands, but stopped; they watched Angus.

The blue had affected Angus more. The hue hadn't only covered him, but shimmered from his skin and rolled and wove its way across every inch of his body, including his hair. But he didn't appear to notice as he stood arms outstretched.

“My God!” Connor cried when Angus' feet lifted inches off the floor. His chin stayed elevated, and his arms stretched wide to both sides. Greek and Norse words tumbled from his mouth, his slippers dropped to the carpet and his feet looked as if they glowed with bright blue energy.

“Can you see this!?” Tony asked.

“Yes, I've been recording the whole thing through Skype. Do something!” Connor pleaded, staring at the pendant still gripped in Angus' hand. Blue cords splintered out from it and traveled over his body as if a twine. He became wrapped as tight as a mummy. “Tony!” Connor begged as Angus' body rolled and his head snapped back, yet his eyes stayed on the moon; Greek and Norse words continued to flow from his mouth. “Take it from his hand! The pendant; It's hurting him!”

Tony took several steps toward Angus, his eyes glaring. When he got close, the blue cords snapped away from Angus' body and shot in his direction. He felt no pain as his body flew away to the wall where he was lowered to the floor.

Connor leaned back from his monitor, mouth agape, as the energy that had lifted Tony across the room snapped through the Skype screen. It stuck to his skin; a small piece at first that soon grew larger. Connor pulled his head back, glared and tried to rub it away, but it clung to him.

Tony moved back to his computer, but still had his eyes on Angus. In a flash, the blue which had arrived in a moment vanished just as fast. He hurried closer to Angus because Angus stumbled as if drunk.

...continued






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