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Highland Wolf Pact:Compromising Positions(11)

By:Selena Kitt

"Aye," Kirstin agreed, doing the same, tethering her horse as well.

Moira had made them all a delicious breakfast. The women had gathered  around the kitchen table, laughing at Donal's jokes-the man's eyes lit  up from the inside every time he made Kirstin laugh-when Raife came in.  He saw Sibyl and froze.

"Come in, eat!" Moira called, waving him into the room. She even bravely  put herself between Raife and the exit, but it was no use.

"I'll meet ye at the catacombs," Raife said stiffly to Donal, giving him  a nod and turning to go. He actually had to dance his way around Moira,  who moved from side to side, insisting he stay and have something to  eat, but in the end, he'd escaped.

The men-Raife and Donal-were already there. Their horses were tethered  across the field. Kirstin couldn't help remembering seeing Donal across  the clearing, head bent, praying at this burial cairn and the memory  filled her with a warmth she was coming to both understand and expect.

They'd tried to talk Laina into coming with them to explore the first  den catacombs, but she didn't want to leave Darrow, even if Moira said  she'd look after him. Not that Darrow really needed that much looking  after-his wound was healing nicely and it had taken all three women  finally telling him their plan to keep him in bed, at least until Raife  came around, to finally subdue him and keep him from jumping on a horse  and heading to the catacombs himself to take part in the wolf pact  reaffirmation.

Laina confessed privately to Sibyl and Kirstin that she was going to  take Moira's suggestion and see if Darrow could alleviate some of the  pressure she was experiencing because she was without her nursling.  Before they left the castle, Sibyl had warned the pair not to do  anything too strenuous, but Kirstin had heard the moans coming from  their room before the two women had even reached the end of the hallway.

"Raife migh' be stubborn, banrighinn, but he's our leader fer a reason,"  Kirstin reminded her. "He's both smart and wise. I've never known a man  wit' a heart any greater, and he's as far from a coward as a wulver  gets. If he knows the righ'thing t'do, he'll do it."

"I just miss him." Sibyl stood at the entrance to the catacombs, taking Kirstin's hand in hers with a sigh. "The stupid oaf."

"Well-he is still a man." Kirstin squeezed her hand. "Which means, he  needs to be pushed-or dragged-in the righ' direction sometimes."

They looked at each other, grinning.

"Let's hope this herbal silvermoon does what Moira claims." Sibyl looked  doubtful as the women linked hands. Sibyl's head came up at the sound  of a distant gun shot. "What was that?"

"Poachers?" Kirstin wondered aloud.

They were on MacFalon land, but reavers-thieves that preyed along the  borderlands, always poised to steal a laird's cattle-were prevalent.  Middle March was like a lost world of misfits, where everything rode  along a knife edge. The English and Scots clashed constantly up and down  the border of their two countries. It was one of the reasons Sibyl was  in their midst in the first place. It had been the English king's idea  to "marry the border"-giving English brides to Scottish lairds all  throughout Middle March.         



"So near the castle?" Sibyl shivered, stepping a little closer to  Kirstin. It wasn't easy being a human woman, Kirstin thought to herself.  They were fairly defenseless. Wulver women, on the other hand, could  take care of themselves if need be, whether they were human or wulver.

"Could be. We ran into some yesterday." Kirstin frowned at the memory  and her eyes narrowed in the direction of those woods and the trap where  she had been ensnared. Had poachers re-armed the trap? It was possible,  she supposed-but for some reason, Sibyl's remark stayed with her. So  close to the castle? They weren't that far from the keep. They likely  could have walked their way back within half an hour. It was hardly any  time crossed on a horse. Poaching on a laird's land was punishable by  death. Would a poacher risk his life so close to Castle MacFalon? She  didn't know. Maybe a hungry one, as Donal had said.

"Did I tell ye, t'was the king's own huntsman who came along and chased  off t'poachers?" Kirstin asked, scanning the edge of the woods for  movement. Her wulver's eyes would be better, but even in human form, she  saw more than any person could, even in the dark.

"King Henry's huntsman?" Sibyl perked up at that. She was English, after  all. Sometimes Kirstin forgot. "Mayhaps he has news about the wolf  pact?"

"Donal says he'll defend t'wolf pact, e'en if King Henry does'na,"  Kirstin reminded her. She didn't see or smell anything-her sense of  smell as a human was seriously impaired, compared to her wulver one-and  decided there was no immediate danger.

"But that would mean war." Sibyl shivered again, although Kirstin  couldn't tell if it was at the thought or because they were stepping  down into the depths of the catacombs. "Between the Scots and the  English. Between the wulvers and... everyone. No one wants that."

"Nuh." Kirstin's blood ran cold at the thought of the wulver warriors  going to war. They'd armed themselves and had ridden out of the mountain  den to save Sibyl and Laina. The memory of hundreds of horses  thundering though the mountain, their usually barred, secret entrance  thrown wide, still gave her gooseflesh.

She really had believed, if Sibyl went back and offered herself to  Alistair MacFalon, that the man would return Laina unharmed and war  could be avoided. She hadn't imagined the depth of Raife's rage at  Sibyl's self-sacrifice or how he might interpret the act. Jealousy was a  strange emotion, she decided, as they reached the bottom of the  catacombs.

It had been a very long descent. They were deep underground and it was dark, dank, and cold.

"Did the huntsman bring any word from the king?" Sibyl asked, reaching up to take an oil-soaked torch down off the wall.

"Lord Eldred said he was disarming traps." Kirstin slipped a flint out  of her pocket and used it to light the torch. "Although t'tell the  truth-I do'na trust 'im any further than I could toss 'im."

"When you're a wulver, I think you could toss him a fair distance."  Sibyl grinned in the sudden, orange-glowing light of the torch.

Kirstin laughed at that.

"Moira said the MacFalon tombs were to the left, that way." Sibyl  pointed and, with her keen ears, Kirstin though she heard the sound of  Donal's voice. He and Raife were supposed to be performing the yearly  wolf pact reaffirmation. It was a quiet ceremony, done once every year  between the laird of Clan MacFalon and the leader of the wulver pack.  Scotsmen were a superstitious lot, and while there was peace between  them and the wulvers, it was a wary one. It wasn't easy for humans to  trust things they didn't understand, and they didn't understand the  wulvers.

"So t'old den mus' be down that way?" Kirstin pointed to the right. It  was hard to believe that she hadn't known this part of her own pack's  history until Moira had told them the night before, while Kirstin  finished the rest of what was left of the woman's delicious stew-much to  Moira's delight.

"Yes, she said the silvermoon was supposed to grow by a spring. Are  there springs down here?" Sibyl frowned at the high, wide, rock walls.  To Kirstin, they were like coming home. Familiar markings and drawings  painted the way. She would have liked to spend hours looking at them,  transferring them onto paper, but there was no time. They were on a  mission to find the silvermoon.

"There're springs in our mountain den," Kirstin reminded her.

"Oh, yes..." Sibyl looked sad at that and Kirstin knew she was thinking  about the hotspring in Raife's mountain room. The pack leader had access  to that spring to bathe and relax in. "So your ancestors once lived  down here? I wonder how long ago?"         



"Generations." Kirstin followed Sibyl down passageway. The ceilings were  vaulted, high. She wondered at the construction of the place. It was a  marvel. Had they carved these out of rock under the ground, or had they  built them up? "Me mother's mother lived in our mountain den. I did'na  e'en know this place existed 'til Moira mentioned it."

Well, that wasn't completely true. Donal had said something about it  yesterday, hadn't he? When she'd mentioning stopping and seeing him  praying. But he hadn't told her its history, not like Moira had.

"It reminds me of home." Sibyl gave a little half-smile and she peeked into one of the rooms. "Your home, I mean."

"'Tis yer home, as well, banrighinn." Kirstin squeezed her hand, peering  into the room and seeing it had once been a woman's room. Dried herbs,  old, hung on lines. There was an old table in the center of the room  with a few old, cracked mortars and pestles. But the room smelled of  healing, a familiar, welcome scent.