“Leave the feller be, Dash! Now see here, young man,” the old bear shook his head slowly, as if recalling the manners his mother would have surely relayed on the matter of strangers, dangerous seeming ones at that, “it’s clear to us all that you’re not from round these parts. Your manner of speaking tells me that. But Miss Daisy here says you’ve been a gentleman, so we welcome you to our fire. What might be your name?”
“I am verra grateful to ye good sir.” There was a prolonged cough. “I am called Diarnit Collin Parlan MacKenzie. My home is the Western Isles.” Pause. “Hebrides to be sure.” Another pause. “Of Scotland.”
“Ahh,” a collective sigh rolled off the damp shadows gathered around the campfire.
“And what brings ya here?” a gruff voice, almost a burr from the darkness. “And what’s with the sword?”
Diarnit stepped slowly into the light of the fire. The rain had eased a bit and his black eyes sparkled. “I hadna planned to come here. We were attacked. There was a battle. Last I recall, I was leading a charge to defend our family lands when…” his voice trailed off.
The cicadas stopped at the same time and the forest was silent. “To tell ye the truth, I don’t rightly know where I am. The wee cheetie here,” he searched the strangers’ faces for Daisy and found her curled up dangerously close to the flame, “she came up on me by the loch there,” he nodded to the west. “Tended to my arm. For that, I am surely in your debt, M’am. But as to how I got here…” he shrugged. Daisy yawned and rolled over to face the tree.
“You don’t want to scorch them acorns” finally came the response. Dash rose from his spot near the log and padded to the large earthenware tureen suspended above the fire. He began severely poking the contents with a gnarled stick. Then he turned to Diarnit. “Whiskey?”