Highland Queen of Shadows (Preview)


Scotland, The Isle of the Shadows, 1411

 “Guard yer right flank, Christina, tis’ always the same,” her mother called out, as Christina fell back onto the muddy ground, cursing herself, whilst Ross looked down at her and smiled.

He reached out his hand, but she pushed it away, scrabbling to her feet and holding out her sword, ready for a counterattack.

“But ye are already dead, Christina. Nay enemy is goin’ to help ye to yer feet and ask ye to try again,” Ross said, shaking his head and laughing.

He was only twenty years old, merely a boy and Christina was angry that he had beaten her, though she was hardly much older at twenty-one and with such an easily countered attack, too. Now, she raised her sword, challenging him to attack her, her mother raising her eyebrows and sighing.

“Enough for today, Ross has beaten ye. Accept it and come inside. Tis’ about to rain, look at the clouds gatherin’ along the loch,” her mother said, pointing out across the water to where an inky sky was gathering upon the horizon.

“Does the weather stop an enemy, too?” she asked, and her mother, named Finola, laughed.

“It does when yer home is an island, and the waters all around are whipped up by the winds. Nay enemy will land here on such a day,” she said, and Christina nodded.

The Isle of the Shadows had been her home since she was very young, her mother, the Lairdess, ruling over the people ever since the death of Christina’s grandfather some ten years before. It was a lonely place, the island lying far out from the shores of Loch Morar, its castle perched precariously upon a rocky outcrop, surrounded by deep forests. The only link to the mainland were several small boats moored at a jetty that lay in a natural harbor below the castle.

“But that does nae mean we shouldnae be prepared,” Christina replied, sheathing her sword in its hilt and eyeing Ross with a smile.

“Then I shall beat ye again tomorrow, lass, and the next day,” he said, winking at her.

“Then she shall need to train harder until she can beat ye, Ross Ruaidhrí,” a voice from behind them came.

Christina looked up to see the familiar figure of Isla Ruaidhrí coming toward them. She had her two swords slung at her belt, a great animal skin wrapped around her shoulders, and her long, red hair was flowing down her back so that she looked every bit the warrior she was, a hardened woman who had fought many a battle alongside Christina’s mother. Now, she drew one of her swords, challenging Ross to fight, as Christina looked on in awe.

She had always respected Isla, the woman whom her mother had charged with training her to fight, one who had taught Christina everything she knew. Now, she circled Ross, the two of them sparring, before Christina lunged forward and disarmed him effortlessly, his sword falling to the ground with a clunk, as Isla now pointed her own blade to Ross’s chest. He raised his hands, laughing in the knowledge of his defeat.

“There ye go, Christina, we are both dead,” Ross replied, as Isla picked up his sword and handed it back by the hilt.

“And two dead clansmen are nay good to us,” Isla said, shaking her head, “ye must train harder, the both of ye. There are dangers lurkin’ all around us, waitin’ to strike at the first opportunity.”

“Come along inside. The rain is beginnin’ to fall,” Christina’s mother said, rising to her feet, just as the first drops of rain pattered upon the surrounding rocks.

A storm was about to break, the wind picking up along the loch and the mountains above obscured by mist and cloud. It was not unusual for such storms to blow up, and with summer ending, cooler weather was now sweeping from the north. Christina was glad of her shawl, and she pulled out tightly around herself, the four of them making their way toward the castle.

It was an ancient place, the battlements more like an extension of the rocks than a structure built upon them, green ad mossy, a great ditch running on three sides, a precarious wooden bridge crossing over the gates, which now stood open, the banner of the Ruaidhrí clan flapping above in the wind. At its center was a keep, built into the rock, the large windows of the great hall now ablaze with candlelight and the promise of a warming fire within.

As they came to the gates, Christina cast a glance back out across the loch, the rain now heavily falling all around them. She could barely make out the far shore, nor the archipelago of islands which ran along the center of the loch, uninhabited, save for a hermit who lived in a cave on the furthest land from the Isle of the Shadows, and whom no one had seen for many years.

As she looked, a sight caused her to pause, straining her eyes to peer through the gathering gloom, as the storm picked up its ferocity, the wind blowing harshly all around. There was something out on the loch, faint at first but gradually coming closer and closer. The rain was stinging her eyes, a crash of thunder echoing across the mountains above, but unmistakably there was something there, and she tugged at her mother’s shawl, causing her to turn.

“What is that?” she said, pointing out across the waters.

“What is what?” her mother asked, looking out to where Christina pointed.

“That, out on the waters?” Christina said, pointing again to where an object rose and fell in the churned-up loch, waves now crashing to the shore below, as another peel of thunder echoed around them.

“I cannae see anythin’ out there,” her mother said, shaking her head and turning back toward the castle gates.

“Nay, mistress, Christina is right; there is somethin’ out there,” Isla said, and now Christina’s mother took her seriously, the four of them squinting through the darkness.

“Are ye sure?” Christina’s mother asked, and Isla nodded.

“Aye, tis” a boat, mistress, but is it friend or foe?” she asked, as the four of them looked at one another with worried expressions upon their faces.

Chapter One

The four of them watched the stricken boat, battered by the waves now sweeping up the loch. It would soon be driven onto land, dashed to pieces upon the rocks which lay all around the island. There was only one place safe enough to land on the Isle of  Shadows, and that was the jetty where the clan’s own boats were moored. But this boat, a small craft without a sail, was being pushed by the wind to the shoreline below the castle where the worst of the rocks lay just beneath the waters.

“There cannae be more than two on board. We must help them,” Ross said, and the four of them hurried back toward the water’s edge.

Christina could see more clearly now, for the boat was about to be driven onto shore, bearing just one person, a man, who was now waving frantically from the stern.

“Help me, the sail is gone,” he cried out as another wave swept over the boat, and it crashed upon the rocks with a sickening crack, the entire vessel breaking in two.

“He has gone under, quickly,” Isla cried, wading into the water, followed by Christina and Ross.

“Be careful, watch out for the waves,” Christina’s mother called out, and Christina almost lost her balance as another great wave crashed over them.

By now, Isla had waded out to the boat and searched in the waters for the man, who seemed to have disappeared.

“Take my hand, Christina,” Ross said, but she gave him a withering look and laughed, despite the seriousness of the situation.

“Why nae ye take my hand, Ross, and I will hold on to ye,” she said, and Ross turned away, a sheepish expression upon his face.

“Help me,” Isla called out, “he is under the bough, quickly.”

Christina waded deeper into the water, she and Isla taking hold of the rear part of the boat and heaving it up. With a great gasp, the man appeared from beneath the water, and Ross took hold of his hand, pulling him into the shallows, as Christina and Isla let go of the bough which crashed back into the water, only to be swept back out into the loch by the drag of the wind.

“Help me,” he gasped as they pulled him back toward the shore, where Christina’s mother was waiting.

“Ye are safe now, but who are ye, and what were ye doin’ comin’ here to the Isle of Shadows?” Isla asked as the man stood catching his breath on the loch side, all of them soaked to the skin, as the rain now fell even heavier around them.

Christina could not help but notice his handsome looks and frame. He had the build of a warrior, his chestnut hair bedraggled, and the growth of his beard suggesting he had traveled for several days. He smiled at her, evidently grateful for his rescue, though he looked around in some puzzlement, as though he had not been expecting to arrive in such a place, the object of his journey a mystery.

“The Isle of Shadows? Tis’ a place I have heard of, but I had nay intention of comin’ here. My boat was blown off course; I had meant to sail along the loch as far as Cartool, but… the storm blew up, and I lost the sail,” he said, “but ye are…?”

“I am the Lairdess of this place, Finola Ruaidhrí, and this is my daughter Christina. Ye have Isla and Ross to thank too,” Christina’s mother said, and the man nodded.

“My name is Lyall, Lyall Donald, and I thank ye for rescuin’ me,” he said before promptly sneezing.

“Whoever ye are, we should get ye inside and in front of a warm fire. There will be time for stories later. Come now, bringing him inside,” Christina’s mother said, and the five of them now hurried toward the castle gates as the storm raged out in the loch beyond.

“I fear my boat is beyond repair,” Lyall said, and Christina nodded.

“Dashed to pieces, but where have ye come from? Where ye goin’? Tis’ strange for a man to be out on the loch alone, especially one so finely dressed as ye,” she said, and Lyall blushed.

“I assure ye, I mean nay harm,” he said as they made their way through the gates.

“Christina, let us offer our guest some hospitality first, then we shall hear his story,” her mother said as they hurried up the steps to the keep.

Christina was relieved to make her way inside, out of the wind and the rain. Her mother’s dogs ran to meet them, sniffing around and barking, as they led Lyall through the corridors and passageways and into the great hall. A fire was blazing in the hearth, and the tables were set for dinner, the smell of roasting meat wafting up from the kitchens below.

“Bring some clothes for this man,” Isla instructed one of the servants, and they seated Lyall in front of the fire, where he reached out his hands gratefully to warm them.

Once again, Christina could not help but notice his handsome face, the noble clothes he wore, and now, in the firelight, a scar which ran along the edge of his cheek, as though the tip of a blade had once caught him.

“Ye dae me much kindness by yer hospitality, mistress,” he said, bowing his head to Christina’s mother.

“Tis’ nae often that we have guests here on the Isle of Shadows,” she replied, glancing at Christina and the others as she spoke.

“And tis’ nae often that one finds such as ye in Lairdship over such a place,” Lyall said, blushing a little as he spoke.

“Ye mean a lass? Aye, tis’ strange to those unaccustomed to such things. This clan is ancient, descended from Robert the Bruce himself,” she said, and now Lyall looked at them with wide eyes.

“Bruce? I see… but then ye are nay friends of the King?” he said, and Christina’s mother shook her head.

“James I is a usurper and nay friend of ours, but neither are our family either. Our claim to Robert’s blood comes through my great grandmother, Christina of the Isles, after whom my daughter is named,” Christina’s mother said, and Lyall nodded. However, he hesitated before asking further questions.

“Then ye are…” he began.

“We are our own people, and this land is ours. We live here undisturbed. But yes, my great grandmother was never recognized as anything but the mistress of a King. Her children had nay claim to the inheritance, and our clan has faded into nothin’ but what ye see before ye,” Christina’s mother said, as the servants returned bearing clothes and food for their guest.

“But yer hospitality remains gracious,” Lyall said as Isla stepped forward, still eyeing him with suspicion.

“And ye? Are ye friend or foe?” she asked, and Lyall laughed.

“Ye have two swords slung at yer belt, and I have nay doubt ye know how to use them well. Dae I present a threat to ye, unarmed and shiverin’ here in yer mistresses’ hall?” he asked, and Isla nodded.

“Aye, but what trouble dae ye bring here? Are ye bein’ pursued? What is yer relation to the King? Ye are well dressed, with a boat and purpose about ye. Tis’ nae a simple peasant who behaves like that,” she said, and Lyall bowed his head.

“May I be permitted to change my clothes and spend awhile before yer hearth? Then I shall tell ye everythin’ I can,” he said, and Christina’s mother nodded.

“We shall give ye a little privacy. Ross, stay with our guest whilst he changes, see to it he does nae cause any mischief,” she said, she, Isla, and Christina now stepping out into the corridor.

“A man does nae just wash up upon the shore,” Isla said when the door was closed behind them.

“Ye heard what he said. His boat was blown off course in the storm. Tis’ an easy occurrence and nae the first time it has happened,” Christina’s mother said.

“He seems sincere,” Christina said.

“And ye are naïve to think so, Christina,” Isla said, for the years had hardened her heart, and she had seen too many conflicts to trust as readily as Christina, something she often chastised her for.

“It can dae nay harm to allow him to stay the night and then see him upon his way, he can be given a boat of ours to use, for I know ye wouldnae wish for a stranger to remain in our midst for long,” Christina replied, for she was not afraid to speak her mind, knowing that one day it would be her destiny to lead the clan in her mother’s place.

“We must know more about him, what if he brings others, what if…” Isla began, but just then, a call came from the passageway, and several of Christina’s mother’s soldiers appeared, with anxious looks upon their faces.

“Mistress, boats, sighted along the loch, a dozen of them coming this way,” one of them called out.

“What did I tell ye? Tis’ surely nay coincidence that a stranger arrives in our midst and suddenly a force is sent against us,” Isla said, as Christina’s mother looked anxiously at them both.

“Sound the bell, bring the crofters into the castle, arm every able-bodied man, we shall go out to meet them,” Christina’s mother said, and Isla hurried off to muster the defense.

“And what of the stranger?” Christina asked.

“He can prove which side he is on. Come, we have nae a moment to lose,” her mother replied, flinging open the doors of the great hall and calling out for Lyall to make haste.




Lyall had been grateful to these mysterious women for rescuing him. His boat had been caught up in the storm, and he was far from an able oarsman. With the sail gone, the wind had dragged him across the loch, and it had only been through good fortune that he had washed up upon the shores of the Isle of Shadows, a strange and mysterious place which he had heard tell of in legend, but had never sought to see.

The stories told of an island primarily inhabited by women, remnants of an ancient and noble clan, now reduced to a few crofters, eking out a living on the harsh shores of a forested island known to none but themselves. To discover that it was true had been a shock and to find such women as these an even greater shock, for there could be no doubting that Finola and her daughter were impressive, an impression strengthened by the presence of the formidable Isla. He was grateful to them for the clothes and the warmth of the fire, eyeing Ross as he stripped off his tunic, careful to keep the precious secret he carried hidden from sight.

“Does it nae trouble ye bein’ under the rule of such as these?” Lyall asked, pointing toward the door which had just been closed behind the departing women.

“Nay,” the boy replied, “ye wouldnae say that if ye had seen the mistress in battle.”

“She is formidable?” Lyall asked as he hung his wet clothes up in front of the fire.

“I have nae seen a man who could defeat Isla in a sword fight, and the Lairdess is as skilled with the bow as she is with the blade,” he replied.

“And the daughter? Is she as feisty as her elders?” he asked, and Ross blushed.

“She is,” he replied, sighing, as though he wished he might tame her for himself.

There was no doubting that Christina was beautiful. Lyall had noticed that even as she helped pull him free from the wreckage of his boat. With her dark brown hair and deep-set brown eyes, she had the beauty of one who could surely possess any man she chose, a woman who could break hearts as easily as win them.

“Have ye possessed her?” Lyall asked, grinning at Ross, who blushed, his features betraying him.

“Nay and ye should keep a civil tongue,” Ross replied, scowling at Lyall, who laughed.

“She is a fine lass, I wouldnae have thought less of ye if ye had said, yes, more in fact,” he replied.

“She does nae look at me like that. I am… we are friends, that is all,” he said.

“And a lass needs friends as much as lovers, especially in such a place as this. Why, tis’ a lonely isle, this… what is it ye call it?” he asked.

“The Isle of Shadows,” Ross replied.

“A strange name for a place, what shadows does it speak of?” Lyall asked for he had always been curious about the stories he had heard surrounding the mysterious island in the loch.

“When the sun shines, it rarely does so here, only in the height of summer, when the days are long, and the sun climbs high into the sky. At all other times, the mountains above cast their shadows down, and nay sunlight falls upon us. Tis’ a fact which has given rise to many stories and…” he said, but at that moment, the doors to the great hall burst open, and the Lairdess and her daughter rushed in, the two women calling out urgently for Lyall to hurry.

“I am nae dressed yet,” he said, pulling the clean tunic shirt over his head.

But he could not help but smile to himself at the sight of Christina’s embarrassment at the sight of his half-naked body. Her mother had appeared not to notice, but Christina had blushed, turning her face away, as he had taken up his breeches, the water still dripping from his body.

“There is nay time, come now, it seems yer arrival has attracted unwanted attention,” the Lairdess said. Lyall felt his bravado slip away as he looked at her in surprise, astonished by her words, his amusement at Christina’s embarrassment now gone.

“What? What dae ye mean?” he said, an unpleasant feeling gathering in his stomach, which felt as though it had suddenly knotted.

“Boats are approaching along the loch, filled with men at arms. It seems a coincidence that ye should come amongst us. Then we should so suddenly receive unexpected company,” the Lairdess said, looking hard at Lyall, who swallowed nervously, looking from Ross to Christina and back toward the Lairdess.

“I did nae mean for this to happen, my boat was swept off course and…” he began, but the Lairdess raised her hand, as Christina gave him a searching gaze.

“There will be time for explanations later. Now, are ye with us or will ye cower here and prove yerself of nay use? Are ye worth our while defendin’ and will doin’ so prove of worth to us? Or should we simply hand ye over to them?” she asked.

“Ye have shown me great kindness, mistress, and if ye will permit me a sword, then I shall prove my worth,” he replied, wishing only to prove his thanks to them and show his courage in battle, for Lyall was a warrior, well used to the heat of battle and not afraid to fight.

“Is it ye that they seek?” the Lairdess asked, fixing him with a hard gaze.

“They seek me, aye, but surely there is nay time to lose. I assure ye that these men are more of an enemy to ye than I ever could be. I will explain everythin’ to ye, I promise,” he said, as the sound of battle now echoed from the walls of the castle.

The Lairdess looked up, then nodded, pointing to Ross and indicating that he should offer Lyall a sword, the four of them now hurrying out from the great hall and into the castle courtyard. The gates had been closed, and Isla was standing upon the battlements, urging the Ruaidhrí to fight, the cries of the enemy echoing across the island.

“We must ride out to meet them. I will nae have the island over run,” the Lairdess cried out, summoning Isla down from the battlements above.

“There were six men in each boat, a dozen boats,” Isla said as she hurried down a flight of steps into the courtyard, arrows whistling over the surrounding walls.

“But we know the island and they daenae, we can take them by surprise, keep them cornered in the bay and drive them back into the water. Gather then men together, the swiftest and best. I shall lead the charge,” the Lairdess said, and Lyall could not help but be impressed by her bravery and stature.

“Yer mother is a fine warrior,” he whispered to Christina, who turned to him and smiled.

“And ye will find her daughter just as fine,” she said, “come now, or are ye to hold back and nay prove yer worth, stranger?”

Lyall smiled, a sword now in his hand, as the Ruaidhrí men now gathered in the courtyard, awaiting the Lairdess’ orders. She was saddled upon a white steed, which reared and snorted in the driving rain now falling in sheets around them, its breath rising in plumes, as though it to bore the fury of its rider, who now called out in defiance to her men.

“This island is our home, and nay usurper will dare land upon its shores without bloody vengeance. Come, my friends, for the honor of our clan, we fight, and we shall be victorious,” she called out, a cheer going up all around, as the great gates swung open.

Lyall found himself caught up in the charge, a mass of men and swords, but at their front rode a woman, flanked by two others, as Isla and Christina drew their swords and joined the Lairdess in her fight. He had never seen such women, for those of his own clan were timid and without such courage or resolve. These women were different, and it seemed they inspired confidence in every man who now followed them in the charge, Lyall included.

How easily they could have handed him over to his enemies and abandoned him in his hour of need. That knowledge spurned him on, and he raised his sword above his head, joining the fray in their war cries, as together they charged through the gates.

They took the enemy by surprise, for the attackers were still assaulting the walls with little chance of breaching them. The castle had withstood many an assault, and many an army had broken itself upon it. Now, Lyall’s enemies turned to fight, the clash of blade upon blade filling the air as arrows whistled around them.

“Let them have it, send them back where they came from,” Isla called out, as the Lairdess’ horse rose upon its hind legs and three of the enemy were cut down by her sword.

Lyall was in the thick of the battle now, fighting bravely, for he had seen many a campaign. His body was covered in scars from the battles he had fought, his sword like an extension of his body, swiping and cutting, felling, and raising. Together, they were pushing the enemy back toward the rocky beach by the jetty. Their boats pulled up, though the storm had plucked one back into the waters, and it was drifting out into the loch beyond.

“We have them,” the Lairdess called out, force them into the water, show nay mercy.

Lyall was next to Christina now, and he could not believe how well she fought, ducking and diving, her sword clashing with men almost twice her size, cutting them down as though they were nettles or wheat in the field.

“Ye fight well,” he called out, and Christina laughed as her sword clashed with that of an enemy, and she cut him down as though he were a mere sapling in the forest.

“I fight very well, though I see that ye dae too,” she replied, just as a cry came from behind.

Lyall turned to see Ross struggling with one of the enemy soldiers, who had knocked him to the ground and was now raising his sword over him. Christina had seen it too, and she charged forward, knocking the man sideways, as Ross struggled to his feet, clutching his side, which was bleeding, before falling back to the ground.

“Nae!” Christina cried out as she swung her sword, knocking the enemy to his knees.

He raised his sword, but Christina was too quick for him, bringing hers down upon him with a sickening crunch. He let out a cry of agony, falling backward onto the ground, and Christina turned, rushing to Ross’ side, where he lay screaming in pain upon the earth.

“We must get him back to the castle, we must…” Christina began, her voice anxious and filled with fear, not for herself but for Ross, but just then, an arrow whistled through the air, catching her leg and causing her to fall, letting out a cry of pain as she did so.

In an instant, Isla was at her side, pulling her to her feet, as Lyall fended off several of the enemy who now charged toward them.

“Take her, run now,” Isla cried out, as Lyall put his arm around Christina and helping Ross to his feet too.

He had just turned to run with her when a pack of enemy soldiers appeared, as if from nowhere, surrounding them, as Isla drew her second sword.

“Nay, stop, help Isla, we cannae leave her,” Christina called out, but there was no time to stop, and Lyall dragged her forward as the soldiers charged upon Isla, surrounding her in a melee of swords and spears.

Lyall clung to Christina, pulling her from the battlefield and back toward the castle. The shouts and cries of the fight echoed across the island, the storm clouds still rolling above, as darkness fell, and the rain-soaked him through.

“Take the lass inside. She is injured,” Lyall said as he came to the gates, where a dozen of the Ruaidhrí clansmen stood guard.

“I must go back. I must help Isla,” Christina gasped, but Lyall shook his head.

“Ye are injured, dae ye want to die on a foolish quest? Ye said yerself she is a great warrior, then let her fight,” he said, as they escorted Christina inside, and Lyall hurried back toward the fight, his sword drawn and ready to enter the fray once again.

Lyall sought Ross, his injuries now being tended by one of the clansmen, and who struggled to his feet, asking for Christina, as Lyall approached. The Ruaidhrí had almost vanquished their opponents, who were now retreating in their boats from the jetty, several of them drifting upon the waters, one burned and sinking into the depths of the loch. The Lairdess sat proudly upon her stead, her sword raised and a look of defiance upon her face, as her clansmen saw off the last of their opponents, a cheer rising across the shoreline.

“She is safe, tis” only the lightest of injuries, a graze from an arrow, but safer that she was taken back to the castle, and…” Lyall began, but just then, Ross pointed behind him, his face turning white, as he fell back to the ground.

“Isla,” he said, and Lyall turned.

There, lying upon the ground, bloodied and beaten, was the body of Isla. Her two swords lay at her side, a dozen arrows protruding from her body, but her face still set in a look of defiance, as the Lairdess hurried to her side, kneeling in the dirt and letting out a piercing scream of sorrow.

“Vengeance will be ours, oh, vengeance will be ours,” she cried, tears running down her cheeks, as she turned her face toward Lyall, who looked down in sorrow at the loss suffered for him, “and what have ye got to say now, stranger? Ye see what happens when our peace is disturbed?” And Lyall could only hang his head in shame.


If you liked the preview, you can get the whole book here

  • Oh, yum! I can taste a grand tale in the making! Who can resist strong women and the men who love them?

  • Those 2 chapters were the best 2 chapters I’ve ever read that totally enmeshed my mind with so many great characters and story paths. I can’t wait until the 9th for your opening day. I can’t wait to read and explore your wonderful artistic mind.

  • This is action packed and already a great read💜💜 please let us know what happens, love it so far! 😁😁💜💜💜

  • Wow! What an opening act! Excitement, mystery, adventure; along with some interesting characters. Can’t wait to see where this story goes. Super start, Ms. Wight!

    • Oh, I’m so glad that you enjoyed it so much, my dear!!! I really hope that you will love the whole story <3. It's coming out really soon. Stay tuned 😉

  • Wonderful!! I love the turn it takes for the women. Can not wait to read this.. paragraph 13… sentence 2… should say ( before Isla lunged forward.. not Christina. Just a suggestion. Could you please put a how to pronounce … beside some of the unusual names and word (ie Ruaidhri) .. not being able to say them or read them may through ne readers off of reading..

  • Thank you for such an exciting start to what I am sure will be an amazing book. cant wait to read all of it.

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