‘That’s the way we’ll take when we go up Ben Buidhe to see the sun coming up.’

Extract from The White Stag Adventure
By Rennie McOwen
Published by Rowan Tree Publishing

The Clan had a war-like air about them as they hurried down to the shore.

“We’ve got to report all this when we get back,” said Clare. “Poachers and a white stag. We’ll have to keep a good lookout for them in future. We can’t let them get away with killing deer on our ground, and we’re certainly not going to let them kill the white stag.”

“Perhaps we could mount hill patrols?” said Mot. “We could show that we’re around and scare them off.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea,” added Michael.

Gavin waited silently, as he generally did, on Clare summing the matter up.

“No,” she said. “We don’t want to scare them off. And we don’t want to be seen. We want to catch them. Tomorrow we can have a council of war, and we’ll start with a full ceremonial parade on the island as soon after breakfast as we can get there.

“Yes, and we must also finish off the roof. We’ve got to have a decent base.”

She made her way to a thick clump of alders beside the shore. There, hidden by the trees, was a little inlet among the rocks. There too was a raft like Gavin’s, but longer and larger, with room for three people sitting one in front of the other.

“Gosh!” breathed Gavin. “How long did it take you to make that?”

“Oh, it’s been here for ages,” said Clare. “Uncle Fergus had it in an old barn at the farm and we think it must have been made for children long ago, or perhaps for fishing from because there are a lot of trout in the lochan.

“We took it down at the start of the holiday. Uncle Fergus and two of his friends helped us carry it down. It’s a bit heavy to paddle, but if there are three of us and you don’t rock it too much, it’s not bad. We’ve even named it.”

Gavin looked at the bow and there, painted in somewhat shaky green letters on the logs, were the words Galley of the Waves.

“Galley is another Gaelic word for a boat or ship,” said Clare, “but generally bigger than a birlinn. We made your birlinn ourselves. Which reminds me… you’d better go and get it, Gavin, and follow us over.”

Gavin had been so full of the conversation that he had forgotten his own birlinn.

He sped off to get it, hopped on board and paddled out into the loch. Gavin found it much easier this time.

Ahead of him he could see the galley bashing through the water, the three paddles making it send up a long bow wave and wake, which eventually rippled back to Gavin’s birlinn, making it rock when it reached him.

Both rafts landed safely.

“Pull them well up,” said Clare. “Gavin, we’ve got a hidden place for the galley. Put the birlinn back where you found it in these bushes.”

Michael, Mot and Clare tugged the galley over the stones and into the trees, where they rolled it into a little hollow among the birches. Then they covered it with old branches and torn-up ferns. It could not now be seen by any casual passer-by.

“What’s your hiding place like, Gavin?” said Clare, coming over to inspect it. Gavin had tugged the birlinn in among the rocks and it was well screened by bushes.

“That’s fine,” said Clare. “Michael, have you got those things to show Uncle Fergus?”

Michael tapped his small rucksack and then, having second thoughts, opened it and looked in. He held out the small interwoven chain and the metal spearhead. “Both safe,” he confirmed.

“Let’s go and eat,” said Clare. “We’ve got a lot of planning to do.”

Just before they left the shore, they turned and scanned the skyline of the hills behind the lochan, but the deer had gone.

Gavin thought the hills looked magnificent. Seamed and rough, steep and rocky, the sun lit up all the little hollows and crags, making them yellow and golden, turning to black when the beams moved on.

“What a great place to go,” he said, pointing to the hills.

“But we are going to go there,” said Clare. “That’s the way we’ll take when we go up Ben Buidhe to see the sun coming up. It’ll be fun. Now let’s get back to the house. Tomorrow we go to war!”

The White Stag Adventure is published on 2 November by Rowan Tree Publishing priced £7.99. The book continues the The Clans series, first encountered in Light On Dumyat; read an extract from this earlier book here on Books from Scotland.

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