Legacy - By Jeanette Baker
MOOT HILL, SCOTLAND
“Hurry.” Mairi’s voice broke the hush of moonless darkness. “We must be back at Traquair before morning.”
In silence the two men hoisted the large irregular stone into the cart and tied it down with rope. Then they settled the other, nearly identical stone in its place on Moot Hill.
Mairi could barely make out the burly, black-clothed figures through the dense fog. When at last she saw one of the men jump into the cart and take up the reins, she breathed a sigh of relief. It was nearly done.
“’Tis finished.” The voice at her elbow startled her. She turned to her loyal retainer. A look of worry marred Peter’s usually cheerful expression and not without cause.
He would return to Scone Castle at dawn when crofts and villages stirred with the first light of a new day. Wearing the livery of the Maxwells, he would lift the counterfeit stone from its resting place, secure it to the cart, and, in full view of curious eyes, carry it through Dollar and Stirling, past Edinburgh and Linlithgow, across the moors and through the borders until he reached the gates of Traquair House. He would answer questions along the way. No one would doubt that Scotland’s Stone of Destiny had been taken to the stronghold of the Maxwells.
With a smile that lit her entire face, Mairi raised her hand in farewell.
“Take care, m’lady,” Peter warned. “Keep to the woods. There are brigands on the roads.”
Her journey back to Traquair was made without incident. It took three men to drag the stone up the narrow stairs and then down the long, twisting tunnel into the burial crypt. When they were finished sealing the door, Mairi handed each of them a pouch containing five gold coins. “Godspeed,” she whispered in a choked voice. “Perhaps, if the Bruce is victorious, we shall meet again.”
The men looked at one another and shifted uncomfortably. “Dinna fash yourself m’lady,” the oldest spoke gruffly. “There is naught for us here. Wales is no’ such a bad place.” He grinned. “The gold will help.”
Mairi nodded and stepped aside. “Godspeed and stay out of sight.”
Night had already fallen by the time Peter reached Traquair House. Again it took three men to carry the boulder through the entry into the small hall. Mairi covered it with a cloth and left the room, locking the door behind her.
She held out her hand to her henchman. “I am in your debt, Peter. You have served me well. How can I ever thank you?”
“Bless you, m’lady. What you do is for Scotland. ’Tis I who should thank you.”
She pressed a pouch of gold coins into his hand. “Make haste. Send word when you reach Wales.”
He nodded and would have said more, but the tight look of pain on her face stopped him. “Farewell, lass,” he said softly. “May we meet again in heaven.”
Peter had served the Maxwells for as long as she could remember. She turned away, unable to watch him walk through the hall and out the door. All that was left was to wait for Edward.
He would come. She knew it as surely as she knew the familiar sound of her child’s cry. After five long years, she would once again look upon his face. Only this time it would be different. It would not be her lover’s face that she saw. It would be the face of Scotland’s enemy, her enemy. There would be no tenderness in his expression, his mouth would not curve with laughter, and his eyes, those incredible eyes that could glow with warmth and passion, would be the cold, ice-flecked blue of the North Sea.
Mairi shivered. She was afraid. He had threatened to kill her if she married David. There was no one to prevent him from doing so. Her husband was an outlaw, hiding in the Highlands with Robert the Bruce.
Edward had bided his time and waited for such a moment, waited for David to choose sides, knowing as surely as a hawk knows the lee of the wind that he could have chosen no other way. Even were David here at Traquair, there was nothing he could do. Once Edward issued a command, it was executed.
The royal herald had come two days before to the very gates of Traquair House, proclaiming that the king would ride into Scotland with an army of men to take up Scotland’s Coronation Stone, the Stone of Destiny, and bear it into England as a reminder that Edward Plantagenet was king of