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Somewhere in the Highlands
Ian’s eyes flew open as he lay perfectly still inside the dark, dank cave he had called home for…months. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed.
Nor did he care.
He didn’t move, didn’t even blink as he listened. The only sound that met his ears was the shrill sound of the howling wind. But for an instant, he had sworn he’d heard his brother’s voice.
More and more he heard Duncan calling to him, beckoning him to leave the mountain.
Ian scrubbed a hand down his face and sat up. His breath billowed white before his face. A glimpse through the cave’s entrance showed Ian the sun had risen on another day.
How many days had he lost this time? It could have been hours or weeks that his god, Farmire, had had control. As awful as that was, Ian feared what Farmire had done while he’d been in control.
It was one of the reasons Ian had made his home in such a remote place. The farther his god had to go to appease his need for blood and death, the less likely Ian was to harm someone.
At least that was his hope.
Ian dropped his head back against the jagged rock of the cave and squeezed his eyes shut. By all that was holy he’d never felt so isolated, never been so desolate in all his two hundred plus years.
And it was only going to get worse. So much worse.
Ian thought of MacLeod Castle and the people who had become a family to him. He missed the sound of the waves crashing against the cliffs, the aroma of fresh baked bread, and the laughter as they all sat in the great hall and ate.
He missed the other Warriors.
But most of all he missed his brother.
Ian rose to his feet and walked to the cave’s opening and looked out. Everything as far as he could see was covered in a thick blanket of white so blinding he had to squint to look at it.
There were no footsteps leading to or from the cave, and since it wasn’t snowing now, maybe Ian hadn’t ventured from his hideout.
If only he could remember…. But it was like huge holes in his memory whenever his god took over. Though he tried to get a hold of his god, Farmire was too powerful. Ian’s grief over losing his twin only compounded things to allow Farmire to gain the upper hand in the first place.
No one had understood the bond between Ian and Duncan. As twins, they had shared everything. If Duncan was hurt, Ian felt his pain. If Ian had needed Duncan, he’d been there without Ian having ever called for him.
The fact they had also shared a god as twins only strengthened their bond.
Ian remembered when they’d had their god unbound. It had been Deirdre, an evil Druid, or drough, who had caught them and unbound their god.
The pain had been excruciating, unimaginably agonizing with their bones popping and muscles shredding as the god stretched inside them. But it had been nothing compared to the strength of the god now bellowing inside Ian’s mind.
No longer was Ian able to share Farmire’s greedy and insatiable hunger for battle with Duncan. Now, Ian contended with it all on his own.
And he was losing badly.
Ian recalled how he and Duncan had found a way to gain control over their god together. It hadn’t been easy, but they’d had each other.
Even locked deep in the depths of Deirdre’s mountain prison they’d learned to face whatever came their way. Together.
It had been Deirdre who had taken Duncan’s life just four months earlier. It had been Deirdre who had taken the only brother Ian had ever known.
And it had been Deirdre who had put Ian in the predicament he was in now. The drough had known exactly what she was doing when she killed Duncan. She’d known Ian would then get the full powers of his god – and the full rage.
Many Warriors never learned to control their god, and the god soon took over. Which is what Deirdre wanted in her quest to rule the world.
Ian had been a proud man growing up in his clan. He’d even been a proud Warrior, despite the primeval god inside him.
Now, he hid away from the world because he couldn’t rule his god. He wondered what Duncan would think of him. Would his twin scorn him? Would Duncan pity him?
Ian scratched his head and felt the long, dirty strands of his hair. The hair felt foreign to him. Ever since they’d been young lads, Ian had kept his hair shorn to his head to help others tell him and Duncan apart.
The last time he’d cut his hair was before Duncan had left with Logan on their mission to find an artifact that would help them destroy Deirdre once and for all.
They had killed Deirdre once already when they’d rescued the youngest MacLeod brother, Quinn, from her clutches. Though they had killed her body, they hadn’t destroyed her soul.
“Unfortunately,” Ian mumbled.
Ian thought of the Druids and their pivotal role in the lives of every Britain beginning thousands of years before. The Druids had been the ones to rule the land, not kings or clan leaders.
There were two sects of Druids. The mies, or good Druids, whose magic came from the earth and elements. And the droughs, who, upon their eighteenth year, gave their souls to Satan in order to command black magic.
It had been the droughs who had called up the primeval gods from Hell to help the Celts send Rome from their shores. Those gods had inhabited the strongest warriors from each family, creating immortal Warriors with the strength and power of the god that had taken them.
When the droughs couldn’t send the gods back to Hell with their magic alone, it had taken both the droughs and the mies to bind the gods in the Warriors.
Since Deirdre hunted and killed both droughs and mies in order to steal their magic and grow hers, there were few Druids left in Britain. Those that remained stayed hidden.
Ian had never felt animosity, never allowed himself to hate as he did for Deirdre. His loathing grew each day his god took control of him. Because Ian knew, once Farmire was in complete control, Ian would be Deirdre’s.
“I’ll kill myself first,” Ian stated, his hands fisting at his side.
“Nay, brother. You need to live.”
Ian didn’t acknowledge Duncan’s voice, though it sounded as if his brother stood right next to him. It was just proof that Ian was going daft.
At least he was alone and his friends at MacLeod Castle wouldn’t have to watch as Farmire slowly pulled him under.
But Ian missed the other Warriors.
He missed Fallon MacLeod’s calm leadership. He missed Ramsey’s infinite knowledge, Logan’s teasing, Hayden’s eagerness for battle, and Arran’s steadfast friendship.
He missed Quinn MacLeod’s recklessness, Lucan MacLeod’s easy laughter, Galen’s constant eating, Broc’s silent gaze, and Camdyn’s quiet presence.
There was also Larena, the only female Warrior and Fallon’s bride.
Then there were the Druids. The MacLeods had welcomed all Warriors fighting against Deirdre into their castle, but they had also made it a sanctuary for Druids.
The MacLeods had turned their ruin of a castle into a home once more. It was a place where no matter what you were, you were welcomed to sit at their table and share a meal.
It had helped that Ian, Duncan, and Arran had stood by Quinn while they’d been trapped in Deirdre’s mountain. Ian had known as soon as he saw Quinn that the Warrior was someone important.
Ian thought back to when he first met Quinn. Quinn had been battling his own god at the time. There had instances where Quinn admitted he had nearly given into his god at one point.
It was too bad Quinn wasn’t with him now to help Ian win this constant battle of wills with Farmire.
Even if Ian hadn’t been snatched from MacLeod Castle, he knew he would have left. Only a fool would stay and endanger all that they had worked to protect.
And Ian wasn’t a fool.
“Brother, you must eat. You will need your strength to battle Farmire. The weaker you are, the more control he has.”
Ian knew Duncan was right, but to get food meant he would have to leave the cave. But the voice in Ian’s head, whether it was his brother or not, was correct.
He did need to keep up his strength to fight Farmire. Not that Ian thought he had a chance at having the control over his god as he once did, but he wasn’t going to go without a fight.
Ian glanced down at his kilt and the large red and green plaid covered in mud and muck. He needed a bath as well. Which, in the cold, was going to be grueling.
The freezing temperatures wouldn’t kill him because of his immortality, but it might help to keep his god away for a while.
With his first ghost of a grin in days, Ian stepped out of the cave.