Highland Legend (Scots and Swords #3) - Kathryn Le Veque

Part One



Chapter One

Edinburgh, Scotland—The Ludus Caledonia

The Month of August

Year of Our Lord 1488

He could see his opponent across the arena floor, through a haze of dust that seemed to conceal just how badly injured his opponent was.

But no amount of dust could dampen his bloodlust.

It was time to go in for the kill.

His heart always started pumping in a moment like this. It had been a long, drawn-out fight with a hairy brute from Saxony known as der Bär, or the Bear. He’d been brought to the Ludus Caledonia, the premier fight guild of Scotland, by an arrogant Saxon lord who was positive he could make a wagonful of money on the fights.

His warrior against a tertiarius—the Cal’s top warrior.

Magnus Stewart was that warrior. Known as the Eagle, he watched the Bear pace on the other side of the arena known as the Fields of Mars. He could hear the roar of the crowd, men who also had bloodlust now that they knew the Bear was wounded. A wounded bear could be a dangerous thing, but Magnus was confident he could deliver a blow that would end this match.

Truth be told, he was becoming weary.

But not weary enough.

He was going to skin that bear.

The field marshals had checked upon the condition of the Bear to ensure he could continue and were satisfied that the man could withstand more pounding. On the opposite side of the arena, Magnus was pacing, anxious to move, anxious to win yet one more fight in a long line of fights that had seen him emerge the victor.

And to the victor went the spoils.

He was ready.

The field marshals signaled for the bout to continue. It was a surprisingly warm August afternoon. As the last vestiges of golden rays beat upon Magnus’s bronzed skin, he approached his injured opponent. He began to circle the man, preparing to deliver what was his signature move.

A kick to the side of the head.

One blow to the Bear’s already damaged skull and the man would be no more.

The Bear, however, wasn’t stupid. He tracked Magnus as the man skirted him, walking circles around him, then reversing course in an attempt to disorient him. Magnus had the ability to block out the world around him when focused on a target, one of the gifts that made him such a great warrior. He was a true hunter. Even now, all he could see in this vast arena full of people was the man in front of him.

It was time to end this.

The Bear roared and the crowd roared along with him. Magnus used that moment to make his charge, knowing that the Bear would hear the roar of the crowd and more than likely be distracted by it. He rushed the man as fast as he could run, and that was very fast, indeed. His feet were light, his muscular legs pumping, and as he got within about ten feet of the Bear, he suddenly went airborne.

The Bear, who had been expecting a head-on charge, was unprepared when Magnus used the man’s own chest as leverage against a vicious kick to the skull.

The Bear fell like a stone.

The crowd in the arena went mad. They cheered their champion as Magnus threw up his arms, signifying his victory. Money began to rain down into the arena as people threw coins to signify their appreciation. Since this happened frequently, Magnus had two servants he trusted who would run out onto the field and collect the money that had been thrown at him. They would collect every last coin for him and he would give them a cut.

Tonight’s haul would be a big one.

The crowd screamed and cheered for him for at least five minutes, which only fed his indomitable pride. His record for the longest cheering was twelve minutes, but tonight he didn’t feel like soaking up their adoration for too long. He had already had three bouts today, ending with the Bear, so he was ready for some good food, some good wine, and hopefully some good companionship.

He knew that particular kind of companionship, the female kind, was already clamoring for him at the gates that led from the public area into the staging area because that was where the wealthy matrons gathered.

He expected a long line and much bidding tonight.

Waving to the crowd one last time, he made his way to the exit of the arena floor, where other fight-guild warriors were applauding him. He did