Highlander's Winter Tale
if the wood cracked. “I rule here and you will obey me or suffer a far worse fate than the one you believe has been delivered upon you.”
    Dawn watched their frightened yet hopeful faces. They wanted to believe that Cree would keep them safe and rid them of the evil that had descended upon them, but they also feared the evil too strong for Cree to defeat.
    “You will all busy yourselves in tending the ill and helping the servants who have tended to your needs since this has begun.” His fist came down on the table again. “Do not make me return here again or you all will regret it.” Cree turned to Sloan. “Have Flanna see this done, and then meet me in my solar.”
    Sloan bobbed his head and Cree walked out of the hall, talking his wife’s hand as he went. They returned to his solar and once he entered, he went and poured himself a tankard of ale. He raised it to his lips, though it never touched them. He slammed the tankard down hard on the sideboard, the ale spilling over the sides.
    “What am I failing to see?” he said angrily.
    Old Mary had said the same. What were they all failing to see? Something in the curse or the tale itself? And why had Alexander said that when the snow melts all that was Cree’s would belong to him when he would once again disappear...or would he?
    Dawn did as her mum’s words had reminded. She stripped away the nonsense and was left with one burning question. Why did evil follow Alexander? No evil-doing was mentioned in the curse. On the contrary, love was to seal his fate. He would find no peace or rest until then.
    A knock sounded before Sloan entered and Dawn took her leave, letting Cree know that she was going to see how Old Mary fared.
    “Keep me apprised of your whereabouts,” he reminded.
    She sent him a nod as she walked out the door, and then hurried up the stairs and prayed that Old Mary was awake. She was disappointed to find the old woman still slept.
    “She had not stirred since you left,” Bessa said.
    Dawn walked over to Neil and pointed to Elsa.
    “She rests comfortably, though I worry she will not wake.”
    Dawn shook her head and wagged her finger, reminding him that he should not think that way.
    “It took me a long time to find a woman I could love and I do so love Elsa.”
    Dawn gestured slowly to Neil, urging him to have faith.
    Neil nodded. “She is a strong woman. Even when they accused her of being a witch she had remained strong and tried to make them see reason. But fear has no room for reason. Not even when she held a talisman in her hand that repels witches did they believe her.”
    Elsa stirred and Neil was right there to assure her all would be well, though he was not sure of his own words.
    Dawn left them alone after telling Neil if Cree came looking for her that she went to speak with Flanna and hurried down the stairs to the Great Hall. It was calmer than before and everyone was busy. No doubt due to Flanna who stood in the middle of the room issuing orders as sharply as Cree. Dawn waved her over and Flanna directed one of the warriors to take her place. His voice boomed as strongly as hers had.
    “You need something?” Flanna asked.
    Dawn nodded and gestured.
    “Aye, I have both talismans with me,” Flanna said, patting the pouch hanging from the belt at her waist. “After speaking with you, I fetched the pouch from the kitchen where I kept it.”
    Dawn patted her chest and held up one finger.
    “You need one?”
    Dawn nodded, holding up one finger to confirm, then gestured again.
    “You want the one for a witch?” Flanna asked surprised.
    Dawn bobbed her head.
    Flanna opened her pouch and withdrew a bunch of small oak sticks held together by a worn strip of wool and handed it to Dawn.
    Dawn took it and pressed a finger to her lips, letting Flanna know she was not to tell anyone about this.
    Flanna nodded.
    Dawn’s hands spoke once more.
    Flanna easily understood. “The talisman that captures a witch’s power is a stone that has a

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