To Love A Highland OutlawBy: Riley Moreno
Loch Lomond, Scotland, October 1421
Jane stared out over the loch, with its still, dark waters that reflected the light of the afternoon sun. Winter would be coming soon, and the geese and ducks who floated with such serenity on the water would fly away, only returning after the months of bitter cold had passed. A light breeze rippled across the surface of the water and fluttered through her long, dark hair, and she felt its chill on her pale skin.
She wished that she could fly away too; all she wanted was to see distant lands, fresh sights and joyous wonders, instead of being stuck in this little lakeside village, where she had spent all twenty-one years of her life.
She had just finished a day of hard work; milking cows, picking vegetables and grinding oats and barley. A hard day, like every other day. There was great beauty in this place, with its rugged hills, dark and luxuriant forests, and the vast, flat stillness of the loch, but the longer she stayed here, the more she felt that she was starting to resent it.
Why couldn't she go out and explore the world, like her brothers had been able to? They had traveled all over Scotland – and not only that, they had traveled all over the British Isles, and through Europe too. Their father was an important man in the village; he and Jane's mother had been manufacturing a specific type of tartan cloth that sold very well all over Britain and in Europe. Jane, however, because she was a girl, was never allowed to travel with her brothers as they transported the cloth to clothing fairs all over Europe. Instead, her father made her do all the things that a servant would do, because, as much money as he had, he was too cheap and stingy to hire anyone.
Well, at least today's work was done, she thought to herself. The sun would be setting in an hour, so she at least had a little bit of light left with which to enjoy the rest of the day.
“Jane! Jane, where are you? There's another batch of oats that need milling!”
Her heart sank as she heard her father's croaky voice calling out to her. She could have sworn that she had finished milling all of the oats. Apparently though, there was still more to be done.
Not now. Not when I've only got one hour to myself. I'm not going to have that hour taken away from me for work that doesn't even need to be completed in one damn day. No!
Jane peered out to the right, where the edge of the loch curved back. That was where their house was – a large stone cottage, bigger than most in the village. Her prison, as she sometimes thought of it. Her father was trudging around the garden outside the cottage, calling out her name. He hadn't seen her yet – and he wasn't going to either. She gathered her skirts up around her, bunching them above her long and slender thighs so that she could run. She took off at a fast pace towards the trees nearby, and reached them after a minute of heavy sprinting. Panting heavily once she was inside the cover of the trees, she turned around to stare back at the house. She breathed out a sigh of relief; her father hadn't seen her. He was still walking around the garden, shouting out her name. He would be angry when she came back, but that didn't matter. She would worry about that when the time came. For now, she had an hour or two to herself to relax, and to do whatever she felt like doing.
She turned around and started to skip along the narrow footpath that wound through the woods, humming a tune to herself as she did.
After a few minutes she reached a clearing in the woods, where a number of mushrooms and berries grew. She smiled to herself; if she picked a few mushrooms and berries, she would have a perfect excuse as to why she had been in the forest while her father was looking for her. She knelt down and started picking a few berries from a thorny bush.
“Oh, I wish something interesting would happen to me, just for once in my life,” she said quietly to herself.
“Be careful what you wish for, because you might just get it,” rasped a gruff, hoarse voice from the darkness behind her.
Jane jumped up in surprise; she had not expected anyone else to be here.
“Who's there?” she asked nervously. She knew every one of the villagers here, and many people from nearby villages, and this man's voice hadn't sounded like anyone's voice she recognized.
“Did you ever hear the story of the big, bad wolf?” growled the voice. “Because you look a lot like Red Riding Hood, oh yes, you do, you pretty young thing...”