The sun hadn’t yet risen when Lochlann roused her.
“Get up! Quickly now, we’re off.”
“Now? But the sun isn’t even up. What’s going on?”
“Donald said we must move now. Get up!”
Wondering what the fuss was about, she sat up, moaning at the pain in her muscles. Lochlann offered her a hand up, and she gratefully accepted.
Outside, Donald already had the wagons set and the horses harnessed. He stared impatiently down the road.
“Hurry up, lazy gits! Now!”
She scrambled to her bench, relieved he hadn’t tied her hands again this morning. He had either forgotten, or was in such a hurry he didn’t care. It allowed her to rip off another strip from her dress. She did so about a dozen times over the trip, tying them in places where Éamonn might see. It wasn’t much, but all she could think of.
What had been the panic? Had he spied Éamonn down the road? Hope soared in her heart as she craned her neck, but only saw darkness in the pale starlight. The moon had set, and she only heard the jingle of the horses’ tack. With a click of his tongue, Donald got both mares moving. The mule let out a bellow of protest, but he started off, as well.
The water glittered to the left, with more black mountains in the dim starlight. She nodded off several times during the harrowing journey. She’d only gotten a few hours’ sleep before being roused, and dozed in and out while the wagons bounced along the road.
She could have sworn she heard hoof beats other than their own, but that must simply be her active imagination.
All sorts of sounds lived in the deep of the night. Usually, they kept to themselves, only intruding upon waking folk with padded feet and the forgotten dream of terrors past. Sometimes, however, they would reach out and jerk someone from sleep’s embrace, an abrupt transition into the waking world. Such a brusque change left a person gasping, with peripheral awareness of slithering in the darkness. Katie knew there was a thing out there, something she couldn’t see or hear, questing for her, to hook and drag her into the night. It made her whimper in fear. Lochlann’s arm tightened around her shoulders.
What was out there? She had heard of fearsome beasts in the wilds of America, but couldn’t think of any equal horrors in Scotland. Unless you count the monster in Loch Ness, but that would be no worry to someone on land. Water horses were a danger, appearing on land as a beautiful horse. The foolish person who dared ride such a gorgeous beast would soon find himself drowning as the creature returned to its lair beneath the lake.
Irish legend told of a headless rider called the Dullahan, who rode a black horse and carried his severed head under his arm. Rumored to be a fearsome creature, it used a human spine as a horsewhip. If the Dullahan stopped riding, someone died.
She hoped it wasn’t the Dullahan following them in the black of the night.