“Rose, are ye in? Can I come in?” A tall, slender man with grey hair stood in the centre of the
sandy road facing the shoe-maker"s shop. He wore a long black cloak that trailed on the ground
and was covered in dirt at the hem. The relentless rain had been falling for several days
soaking his hair and aging face, but it seemed not to affect him or his endeavours. His
shoulders hung as if they were weary from having walked for days, but his arms were clasped
before him as if to show respect for who he was talking to. He looked up at the second floor
windows and then down to the ground floor shop window to see if there was any sign of
movement within the wooden building. There was none that he could discern.
In the distance, the overflowing rivers that usually flowed along the outskirts of the village of
Kirkfale, crashed down the nearby mountains. The crackling sounds carried through the small
twisted streets and ricocheted off every structure in the ancient settlement, creating a rustling
melody to the backdrop of rising mountains. A solitary bird on a desperate search for its next
meal sliced through the heavy rain. Ignoring the dark, grey clouds that hovered above,
emptying their watery contents onto the ground below, it circled before landing on a twisted
gutter covered in pale moss.
Nestled in the heart of the deepest valleys of the Grampian Mountain Range in Scotland,
Kirkfale was largely unknown to outsiders. The main roads connecting the towns of the North
and East to those of the South had been laid several miles south of the village. With only one
road in and out of Kirkfale, the villagers seldom left the valley and rarely accommodated guests
who dared venture this far into the mountains. It came as a big surprise to many of the
villagers, at first, when they discovered this stranger staying with the owner of the shirt shop a
few months ago, but as the days went on, his presence was more accepted as he flitted
between villagers, making use of their hospitality and learning their skills. Through the course
of gossip, the stranger had been called many names, but one seemed to be favoured above all
others; Black Donald.
“Come on, open up, I only wanna be yer friend,” Black Donald said with a cheery voice.
Truth be known, he was struggling to hide his annoyance, he failed to understand why this one
shop, the last one before the end of the village, had closed when all the others had accepted
him with open arms. This last shop lay between him and his goal. That annoyed him. “I"ll tell
ye what, ye open yer door and teach me ev"rythin" ye ken and I"ll see to it that ye"ll thrive and
become rich beyond yer wildest dreams.” He smiled, but it soon dropped to a grimace. How
dare she resist me.
Despite the rain, the street quickly filled up with villagers when they heard Black Donald"s
persistent shouting. They gathered on both sides talking to one another and wondering why
Rose, the shoe-maker, was not answering. After a few more minutes, Donald turned to the
villagers and pleaded, “Does anybody ken where Rose is? She"s no" answerin" her door.” He
wanted to smile at the gathered crowd, it had not taken him long to alter their perceptions and
turn them to his will and desires. It was easy really; they are so weak-willed. Instead, he looked
pleadingly at those around him but nobody made a move to help. Despite his „power" over
these people, they still showed signs of mistrust, perhaps they are not as weak-willed as I
thought. Eventually, a small boy gingerly stepped forward. No higher than Black Donald"s
waist, he carried a basket in which Donald presumed he had bread, “What do ye ken, Son?” he
said softly to the boy.
“Mister, Rose as awa" th"day. She said she"ll no" be back for some time and if anybody
asked where she was, I was to say that.” The boy beamed at Donald with a grin from ear to
Donald nodded his head, “what"s yer name, Son?”
“Tommy, Mister.” Donald was amazed Tommy showed no sign of fear or apprehension. He
had already recognised the boy but the name placed him as the farmer"s son and he realised
why he had so much confidence.
Taking a step closer, Donald contemplated his next move. “Are ye no" that bairn from the
farm at the top o" the village?” Of course he knew the answer, but manipulating the boy would
get him the information he needed.
“Aye that I am, Mister.” Tommy replied with pride. He puffed out his chest and stood as tall
as he could as if a stick had been pushed down his shirt and trousers.
“Yer father taught me how to gather wool from sheepies?”
“Aye that he did, Mister.” Tommy nodded slightly. The corners of Donald"s mouth began to
curl slowly upwards.
“An" yer mother taught me how to turn th"wool in to a jumper?”
“Aye that she did, Mister,” Tommy maintained his smug demeanour and did not take his
eyes away from Black Donald. If he were anyone else, Black Donald would have found that
disconcerting and uncomfortable, but he was beginning to like Tommy"s charisma.
“Are ye sure ye heard the message right? Do ye have any idea where she"s gone and when
she"ll be back?”
Tommy thought for a moment before answering, “I dinna ken all that, Mister, but I"m tellin" ye
noo, Rose is no" there, she left the other day wi" big bags an" seemed in a hurry.” He stretched
his arms out to signify the size of the bags allowing the basket to sway a little.
“And ye are sure about that noo"?” He wanted to be sure, but he had already discerned from
Tommy that this endeavour was pointless. Rose, the only one who could teach him how to
make shoes, was gone.
“Aye!” Black Donald nodded in defeat and sighed. He allowed his anger well up inside. His
plan had been foiled again, like so many times before. This time, however, it would be different;
he still controlled the moment.
Black Donald looked into Tommy"s eyes, a small part of him was sad that he would have to
do what he was about to do, but he refused to let something like human emotion get in his way.
He looked up to the crowd behind Tommy, “Have I no" paid ye handsomely for all yer
hospitality? Have I no" been generous wi" ma wealth in return for yer skills?” He threw his arms
into the air, “Do ye think I canna hear ye, mutterin and laughin behind my back? What have I
done to deserve yer disloyalty? I could have gone anywhere to learn these skills, but I chose
Kirkfale because I believed ye were a good people. Clearly, I was wrong!” He slid his aged and
haggard hand into the front opening of his robe and then retracted it slowly. As the hand left the
robe, it clasped the hilt of a sword. Within seconds, he had withdrawn the long, thin blade and
had raised it above his head with both hands. His robe lifted off the ground as his arms
stretched up in readiness for Black Donald to make his first strike, his feet barely visible. The
multi-faceted ruby at the end of the hilt reflected rays of red light over Donald"s face creating an
eerie glow. His eyes turned fiery amber and his cheeks wrinkled deeper as he bore his teeth
and began to snarl.
The villagers screamed and ran in every direction, bumping into each other but somehow,
scrambling away. Some ran into their shops or houses and locked the doors the best they
could. “Look at ye all run as if there are places to hide from my power.” Donald"s voice boomed
throughout the valley like a lion"s roar. The screech of a bird sounded high above his head, but
he ignored it, “I"ll find ye all. I"ll slay ye all. Then I"ll burn yer whole village down to the ground.
Not one of ye will escape my wrath. Ye all will be damned to hell and the one who brought this
upon ye, will perish; her and her descendants.” He roared again. Several nearby windows
smashed spraying frantic villagers with shards of glass.
Donald looked back at the boy, why had he not run like the others? He stood watching
Donald, albeit drenched from the rain.
“Mister, why are yer…” He began but stopped when fear struck his face for the first time
since stepping forward from the crowd.
Black Donald swung his sword in one swift motion at Tommy slicing his midsection with little
effort. He watched Tommy"s face as his eyes went bloodshot and maroon blood appeared at
his mouth, “Shame, I liked you.” Without another thought, he turned and singled out his next