The winds blow across Old Man Storr.
The mists settle about the lochs.
Clouds trail across the high reaches.
In the highlands, I am at home again.
-- in the year of our Lord 1692
Salt hung thick in the cold, damp air. It accumulated on the green glass view ports of his mask. Waves slapped and harassed the tar smeared hull of the birlinn. The oars bruised and harried the water, seeking a purchase by which to move just a scant length forward. The breeze cut through his red leather cloak, probing and slashing. The drifting scent of fish and the bark of seals made his eyes water. It had been too long since he had seen these shores. They were coming into view in the murky, fog laden sunrise that cast the hills in blood and fire. Buildings popped up along the edge of the bay, marking the main village center of Feur.
He drowned out the sound of the captain and his son clattering about the deck. He was home. That’s all there was to it. Ten years he had not felt his feet on his own land. It pained his heart and he was only too glad for the mask that hid the tears flowing down his cheeks.
It had taken him ten years, and yet the last half a mile to the dock, with his heart in his throat, felt like time standing still. As the boat eased up to the posts, he jumped up eagerly to the decking, not even waiting for the mooring lines to be tied off. His tooled leather boots, soft and warm, clicked against the wood smartly, echoing hollowly above the water. The dock hand jumped back and crossed himself quickly at the masked man. It never was a good sign when a beak doctor swept into a village.
He was almost to the end of the short dock when the captain called out to him, stalling his progress. He turned to the portly man, sparks of sunlight glinting off the glass in his mask, casting green dots across the planks.
“We’ll get your luggage off. Go get yourself fed and come back with a hand,” the captain waved. The beak doctor returned the gesture. He turned and continued his ascent into Feur. Squaring his shoulders, his blood red cloak swept gracefully down his back and ended just a scant inch from raking the ground. A large gold and turquoise circular brooch pinned the mass of leather to his right shoulder. The hood drooped over his eyes. The gold of the brooch only helped to draw attention to his beak, a symbol of who he was within any European community.
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