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No Quarter by David M. Howell--first 5 pages

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The Old Oak Tree

Spring 1754

GLENEALY, IRELAND—The boy paid no mind to the grit and stones that cut into the soft flesh of his bare feet. He was all consumed by the rumors, if true, he was going to kill that son-of-a-bitch Emmet Rafferty.

The shallow brook defined the trail. Littered with weather-smooth stones, it meandered through the thick forest like a glistening ribbon. Oisin Lambert hung to the shadows of its edge. The mud of the bank was black and soft, his bare heels sunk like spoons into pudding. Talk was his older sister, Muirne, be occupying the rake Rafferty.

The boy of just twelve years pushed strands of shoulder-length blond hair behind his small, white ears. He was short for his age, teased by town folks and clan alike that he carried clurichaun blood in his veins.

In the fading light of dusk, he could make out two figures humping against a huge oak. He squinted. A waxing gibbous moon rose early to dance on the branches of the forest beyond the creek. In its blue light, Oisin watched as Rafferty’s knees separated Muirne’s legs, lifting her with every thrust. She gasped, her voice hoarse and gravelly. Oisin stared, he felt his man-hood shift as he watched her round breast rise and fall. Oisin bit his lip as a distraction.

He couldn’t fathom his sister’s betrayal of Oakley Riagáin. Rafferty had no station; Oakley was a clan chief. As he watched her head twist from side-to-side, their eyes met. She visibly choked back a scream.

Muirne panicked, Emmet released her and she him. Oisin wanted to caponize the violator; prove he was a man. He would be a legend in the clan. The boy who avenged the clan chief, the voices in his head echoed. Destiny was not in folklore or songs. It was standing before him trying to button his breeches. Oisin pulled himself from the thorns and charged his sister’s lover.

* * * *

Emmet barely had time to pull up his breeches when Oisin came upon him with a knife at arm’s length. The rake stepped aside the blade, causing Oisin to stop short of stabbing Muirne in her liver. The boy paused his eyes riveted to her plump, breasts.

Emmet shoved Oisin knocking him to the tall grass and roots of the oak.

“You have shamed the clan!” Oisin accused his sister. “Cover yourself, whore.”

The boy struggled to get up as Muirne pulled on her chemise and brushed down her petticoats. Emmet pulled on his waistcoat keeping an eye on the short blade glinting in the moonlight.

“Run and beg forgiveness for your tryst,” Oisin demanded in as near a strong voice as he could muster.

Muirne looked at Emmet before dashing between the two adversaries. “Don’t a-go hurtin’ me Emmet, brother,” she called over her shoulder as she escaped toward the village.

“Oh, shist,” Oisin muttered across dry lips. “Never mind what she says, Rafferty, I mean to take your bollocks for a prize to Oakley Riagáin for what you done to his betrothed.”

Oisin jabbed at Emmet.

“Son-of-a-bitch,” Emmet cried, backing away. Little Oisin was nothing more than an imp. To die at the hands of such would be an embarrassment.

Oisin charged. Emmet grabbed his wrist wrestling the boy to the ground. But he was stronger than he appeared and quickly had the upper hand, the knife only inches from Emmet’s throat. Frantically, Emmet searched for a weapon while holding off Oisin.

He landed on a melon-size rock and brought it hard into Oisin’s temple. The boy, dazed, fell from his attack, but refused to surrender the blade. Emmet brought the rock down again crushing the boy’s skull. The knife slipped from the young hand.

“Son-of-a-bitch,” Emmet panted. He looked down at the mauled face of young Oisin. “Shit…”

He leapt off the body, the rock still in his hand. He threw it into the creek. With a stick, he prodded the still body. “Shit.”

Emmet looked down the trail, Muirne had disappeared into the depths of dusk. He knelt beside Oisin. “You bastard. Son-of-a-bitch.”

Emmet grabbed the boy’s wrist and dragged him into the underbrush hoping to hide the killing. He looked around in the fading light. He picked up the knife and threw it in the creek. He would never be able to explain this. Oakley and Oisin’s older brother, Faolan, would be certain to seek retribution.

Panting, he leaned against the old oak. He needed to think. He had intended to woo Muirne with the gold buckles he’d found in the shop the night before. He checked his pocket; they were still in his waistcoat. Emmet sighed, thank god his brother was such a simple soul. He probably hadn’t even noticed they were missing. If he could get back to the shop, he could take whatever coin Caleb may have saved. He prayed it would be enough for passage to Scotland or anywhere away from Glenealy. Of course, he’d have to convince Muirne to run away with him. He thought he heard a cough from the brush. Emmet turned and began running toward Glenealy. For Emmet, running seemed to solve everything.


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