Beautiful Darkness

By: Victoria Zak

Daughters of Highland Darkness Book One


Prologue




14th-century Scotland Dornoch Castle

Wee Masie Keith rubbed the sleep from her eyes and yawned as she sat up in bed looking around the moon-lit bedchamber she shared with her two sisters. As she squinted through the shadows, she saw her older sister, Leana, sitting on the window ledge, staring off into the moor. What is she looking at? They were supposed to be asleep.

Quietly, so not to wake her oldest sister, Masie padded across the cold stone floor to the window and tapped Leana’s shoulder. Her sister jumped.

“Masie.” She held her hand to her chest. “Ye scared the devil out of me.”

“What are ye doing?” Masie asked.

Leana waved her off. “Go back to bed before you wake Adaira.”

As the youngest, only seven summers old, her sisters were always telling her what to do, especially Adaira. She could hear her nagging voice in her mind “Masie, ye shouldn’t run down the corridor” or “Masie, eat yer vegetables.” She knew they were only looking out for her best interest, but her spirit was free, sometimes getting her into trouble, especially with her da, the Doughall.

Masie batted her eyelashes, swaying back-and-forth. “Pleeease, let me seeee.”

Leana smiled and pulled her onto her lap. “Such a curious, wee one ye are.” She gathered Masie’s sleep-tangled hair in her hands. “I’m looking for a shooting star.”

“Why?”

Leana kissed the top of her head. “My sweet, innocent Masie.”

Masie knew wishing upon a star meant you wanted to change your fate or wish for something you don’t have. But what she didn’t know was why. Something was bothering her sister, she could feel it. “Please tell me.”

Leana exhaled as she searched the night sky. “The Doughall hurts Mum, and I’m afraid his attention is set on Adaira now. I need a shooting star to wish him away.”

Every time she encountered Doughall, she’d hide behind her sisters, making herself as small as possible so she wouldn’t be noticed. She’d shake with fear at the thunder in his voice when he yelled. Her heart broke more and more with every bruise she saw on her mum’s face. No husband or father should treat his family with such hate. She despised the man.

Masie faced Leana and a tear rolled off her cheek. She wrapped her arms around her sister. “We can’t let the bastard hurt us anymore.”

“Masie!” Leana gasped at her language. “That’s no way for a wee lass to talk.”

“Mayhap, we could wish a big bear would eat him.” Masie sniffled.

“Or for an arrow to pierce his heartless chest.” Adaira stood next to them with her arms crossed as she, too, gazed into the sky.

“I’m sorry, did we wake ye?” Leana asked.

“Nay, I can no’ sleep.”

Masie looked up at Adaira, a bruise marred her left cheek. Aye, she might have been innocent, but she knew more than her sisters thought she did. She’d heard her mother’s cries as her da beat her. She’d seen the cuts and bruises left behind in his drunken rages as he condemned her as an unfit wife for not giving him a son. Sorrow filled her mum’s eyes and the situation was worsening y. Aye, the Doughall was a bad man.

The three sisters sat together, Masie in the middle, gazing at the twinkling stars. Wee Masie squeezed her eyes closed, praying hard to the gods a shooting star would magically appear. Please, if ye grant me this one wish, I promise to eat all my cabbage. She wrinkled her nose but her promise was good.

After a while, the girls grew impatient.

“’Tis an auld wives’ tale. We should go to sleep,” Adaira said as she skulked to her bed.

Disappointed, Masie bowed her head and kicked at the stone wall. “Stupid stars.”

All of a sudden, Leana jumped to her feet. “Did you see that?”

“Leana, enough wit’ yer daft tales. Ye should no’ put these silly ides in Masie’s head. Ye can no’ change yer fate.”

“Nay, look.” Leana pointed down into the moor.

Curiosity-stricken, Masie looked. She couldn’t believe her eyes. “Will-o-the wisp,” she gasped.

Adaira stomped over to the window. “This is quite enough.”

“Look,” Masie exclaimed, jumping up and down.

Adair froze, then whispered, “Fairy fire.”

Leana ran toward the door, only stopping to put on her shoes.

“Where are ye going?” Adaira asked.

“I’m going to change our fate.” Leana smiled at Adaira.

“What? Leana, have ye gone mad? Remember Mum said to never trust fairy fire. Besides, ye do no’ want to wake Doughall. If he catches ye out of bed, he’ll lash ye.”

Ignoring her sister, Leana swung the door open and ran down the corridor.

Masie glanced at Adaira and grinned. “Dinnae ye want to help Mum? Doughall must die.” Masie bolted from the bedchamber, following Leana. “Wait for me.”

*

As fast as her legs could go, Leana dashed down the stairs. For a fortnight, long into the wee hours of the morn, she’d sat and waited for brightest star to appear. Tonight, it was no coincidence her wish had come true. Their fate was going to change.