Chapter One September 1290Loch Gannon, Scotland Margaret MacDonald MacMagnus lifted her head and let the wind blow through her hair while she caught her breath. Even after all these years, she still climbed to the top of this headland to wait for her man to come home. Two ships today, and neither of them his, but there were still hours of daylight left. She was not worried, for Gannon MacMagnus was a man to trust. He'd said he'd be home this day, and home he would be. She'd missed him. Wasn't that absurd, to live with a man for nigh on thirty years, then miss him terribly when he'd only been gone a few days? He'd not gone anywhere unusual or dangerous, only to Skye to visit her brother Davey, then down to Ayrshire to visit their oldest son, Magnus, who lived on the lands the king had granted to Gannon so many years ago. And there it was, the sail she'd expected and had hoped to see. Gannon's ship was approaching rapidly from the south, its rail almost under water, its white sail mirroring the foam at its bow as the black hull sliced through the dark blue water. But it was not alone on the sea, for there, in the north, was a second sail, one that made her draw her breath in sharply. A dragon ship. A longship, of Viking design, its wide beam and shallow hull bringing back a flood of unwelcome memories. Dark storm clouds billowed behind it, putting the square sail, red with yellow stripes, into high relief. She clasped her arms and ignored the chill that swept through her, reminding herself that it was not a warship -- those days were over forever. It would be a messenger from the north, nothing more. Still...She looked south, where Gannon's ship was nearing the entrance to the sea loch, and was comforted. Whatever the news the dragon ship brought, she and Gannon would face it together, as they had everything else life had brought them. She turned to start down the slope, then took a moment to look over the glen that was her home, where she and Gannon had built a life together, binding the remnants of her family and clan into a thriving community. The sea loch was now known as Loch Gannon, which never failed to amuse her husband. But the honor was appropriate, for without him, none of them would be here. Across the usually placid waters, ruffled now by the wind, the mountains rose to the north and the east, protecting them from the world beyond. Below her the fortress grew out of the rocky promontory on which it rested, and to which she now hurried, hearing the horns sounding twice, first with the familiar notes that let all below know that the laird of the glen was coming home, then again, with the message that a ship was approaching and that it was not one of their own. Gannon had the men of the clan well trained, and her staff would know to prepare a meal to welcome him and his men home. But she would greet him -- and the visitors -- herself. Rory, her younger son, tall, strong, and ready for the world, met her on the path to the postern gate, his blond hair catching the light, the same pale shade as his father's. He was so like his father. He had Gannon's chin, Gannon's blue eyes, his wide shoulders. And his impatience. "Mother! Do ye ken who it is? Da and who else?" She shook her head, not wanting to betray how breathless her headlong dash had made her. She often forgot that she was no longer young, but her body never did. "Aye, yer father's coming. But the other is a dragon ship." Rory's eyebrows drew together, just as his father's always did when he turned thoughtful. "From Orkney? Perhaps with news of the queen's progress?" Margaret's mood lifted at once. Margaret, Maid of Norway, only seven years old, was on her way to accept the throne of Scotland that she had held since she was three. "Of course. That's what it is. Drason did say he'd let us ken when she stopped in Orkney on her way toGivens, Kathleen is the author of 'Rivals for the Crown ', published 2007 under ISBN 9781416509929 and ISBN 1416509925.