The Storyteller by thewhitelady
Summary: A collection of shorts, taking place during Jamie's youth
Categories: Outlander Characters: Brian & Ellen Fraser, Ian, Jamie, Jenny, Murtagh, Other
Genre: Action/Adventure, Canon Divergent, Drama
Spoilers for: None
Warnings: None
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 5 Completed: No Word count: 5573 Read: 11212 Published: 21 Apr 2017 Updated: 21 Apr 2017

1. Chapter 1: 1727 by thewhitelady

2. Chapter 2: 1727 by thewhitelady

3. Chapter 3: 1735 by thewhitelady

4. Chapter 4: 1735 by thewhitelady

5. Chapter 5: 1735 by thewhitelady

Chapter 1: 1727 by thewhitelady
A fine mist had settled over the Highlands, heavy clouds resting casually atop the mountains as though it were just another day of damp Scottish weather and not a reflection of his own emotions. It had been four long days in the saddle, riding hard, day and night, though he knew he wouldn’t make it to make it to Broch Tuarach in time. A few miles out from the house he spotted a lad trailing him, though he wasn’t hard to miss. It was not like the boy to listen to instructions, regardless of the consequences, but he knew that he wasn’t to be that far away from the courtyard on his own.

Stopping, he swung out of the saddle with a groan, pretending to check the girth on his spotted brown mare to give the boy time to catch up. It was impossible not to smile at the snaps of twigs and crunch of dry leaves as the boy crept closer. After a pause, he felt the press of the lad’s sword against his side.

En garde!”

He turned and pulled his dirk from the sheath at the same time, assuming a defensive position.

Prêt.”

The lad was not dressed for play, wearing a proper shirt and waistcoat, tan breeks and silk stockings all covered in various mud and grass stains. He had assumed the third parry position, a wooden sword grasped firmly in his left hand pointed out to his opponent, while the right stuck out behind his small body, palm up. No words were spoken between them before the boy made the first move, lunging forward off his back leg. He easily deflected with the flat of his dirk, trying not to laugh at the way the boy muttered his next move before he made it.

They kept on in a playful lunge and parry but the boy was becoming more aggressive, now banging two handed with his sword against the side of the man’s dirk.

Arrêt! Enough!”

Grabbing the wooden sword by the blade, he yanked it free from the boy’s grasp.

“What’s wrong wi’ ye, lad? Ye ken ye shoulda be so far from home.”

Gabh mo leisgeul, a ghoistidh.

The lad’s chin drew to his chest bashfully and the man sighed at the sight of the drooping copper curls, making him look every bit the six-year-old he was.

“Been practicing your English?”

Tha, beagan.

“That doesna sound like English, laddie.”

“Sorry, Godfather.”

He handed the boy the wooden sword back hilt-first, the corner of his mouth twitching with the hint of a grin as the lad shoved it into his belt so it was at the ready.

“Now, time to tell me why ye’re out here all alone, and dressed for kirk. Yer Mam will no be happy ye’ve made such a mess of yerself.”

The boy dragged a toe through the dirt with mud covered shoes, making a wide arch before finally looking up into the face of the man he loved as dearly as his own father. The boy’s dark blue eyes were red tinged and tears were beginning to well up as he searched for the right words in his second language.

“My brother’s deid, ken.”

Though he was using everything he had to hold them back, his small body shivering with emotions, the tears finally pushed their way over the edge of his eyelids and down his cheeks. The man dropped to his knees and pulled the boy into his arms, letting him cry into the plaid that rested against his shoulder.

Fois sh́orruidh thoir dha.

God rest the lad, indeed. The pox was no way for a child to die, wasting away from fever in front of his parents. From what he’d heard it had taken days and the boy had held on for much longer than anyone had expected, making them think he might pull through, before taking a turn for the worst and dying suddenly.

Mo ghille… mo bhalaich,” he said against the boy’s soft red curls, his heart breaking at the sound of sobs. “Jamie, be strong. All will be well.”

Reluctantly, the boy pulled away, wiping his eyes with two small fists.

“Shall I take you home then?”

A quick nod and he was hoisting the boy onto the saddle, watching fondly as he immediately leaned forward to wrap his small arms around the mare’s neck in a friendly greeting. He swung up behind and nudged the mare into motion, letting Jamie hold the reigns as they made their way up the tree lined road toward the archway that marked the Fraser estate.

“Murtagh?” the boy asked, but continued without waiting for a response. “Dinna tell my Mam that I was greetin’, aye? I dinna want her to be sad for me, too.”

A man of few words, Murtagh merely grunted in agreement and patted the boy’s head.

“Murtagh?” the boy asked again. “Will ye tell me a story?”

“After you finish your supper, maybe,” Murtagh said. “We’d best find out how much trouble yer in first. I’ve no doubt everyone is searching the fields for ye.”

Ignoring the potential for punishment for wandering too far from home, Jamie leaned back into the safety of his Godfather’s arms, letting him take over leading the horse.

“Can it be an adventure story?”

Murtagh looked down into the face of his beloved Godson. Innocent blue eyes shone like the water in a loch, still bloodshot from tears, below a shock of curly red hair that turned a deeper mix of copper and auburn every year he grew. He was the spitting image of his mother in every way, from ginger hair to cheekbone and chin, with the exception of his father’s familiar eyes.

“If it’s an adventure story ye want, a ruaidh, an adventure story you shall have.”
Chapter 2: 1727 by thewhitelady
It was eerily quiet in the dooryard in front of the Lallybroch estate. Murtagh was leading the mare, Jamie still perched on her back proud as a peacock. An unfamiliar man came around the corner from the blacksmith and stopped short when he saw the pair of them.

“Found him, my Laird!” the man yelled out and Murtagh looked up at Jamie with a sigh.

“Well then a bhalaich, there’s nae hiding now.”

The look on Brian Fraser’s face as he came around the house and spotted them was an equal mix of anger and fear. It was a look that Murtagh hadn’t seen on the man’s face since they fought together at Sheriffmuir in the ‘15, watching kinsmen fall around them as they stormed the battlefield. He never thought he would ever see that terrified look again, but his youngest running off barely a week after the death of his eldest was enough to leave any father panicked.

“James Fraser!”

Murtagh had just put the boy’s feet back on the ground when his father reached him. The resounding smack delivered to the lad’s bottom was loud enough that Murtagh felt his own arse tighten up in sympathy. Tear tracks were still visible on his cheeks from his last cry but in front of his father Jamie wouldn’t let them spill and Murtagh couldn’t have been more proud of the lad.

“Where have ye been? Yer Mam is sick wi’ worry and yer puir Nanny, thinkin’ she’d lost ye.”

Tha mi duilich, m’athair!

“Yer sorry? Look of the state of ye, lad! Yer good clothes, no less.”

“Brian, a charaid, it’s my fault,” Murtaugh said. “He saw me coming and came to greet me. We were sword playing and he fell in the muck.”

“Whether that tale is true, or no, he still ran off after he was told to stay near the house. His brother isna cold in the ground yet and he’s already into mischief.”

“Leave him be!” A feminine voice called out above the rest.

Ellen Mackenzie Fraser was a tall and elegant woman. Though her limbs were long and delicate, she was the strongest woman Murtagh had ever known. Wee Jamie was a solid lad, big for his age, but with a simple ease she hoisted the boy into her arms, oblivious to the dirt, and rested him on her hip. The lad’s arms and legs wrapped tightly around his mother and his head quickly found a comfortable resting place just under her chin.

“He’s no but a bairn,” she said, kissing the crown of his head.

Brian’s hands went to his hips and he shook his head, “He’s no a bairn anymore, Ellen. He’s heir to this estate and he needs tae learn responsibility.”

“There’s plenty of time for that, a ghràidh,” she said firmly. “Until then, he’s my wee babe. Come now, a chuisle,” she addressed the boy. “Let’s find Nanny and yer sister so they ken ye’re safe, and go into the kitchen for a bannock and honey.”

In the curve of Ellen’s shoulder as she walked away Murtagh caught sight of a single blue eye peeking back from behind a curtain of curls. Smiling, he gave Jamie a wink.

“That lad will have no discipline if every time he runs foul she gives him bannocks and honey.”

“Brian, I ken ye’re worrit about him, but he’ll be okay. He’s a good lad.”

It had only been a few months since the last time Murtagh had been to Lallybroch, but his friend appeared ten years older. Brian’s skin was more rough and weathered than he remembered, deeply creased between his eyebrows, with frown lines hard carved along the outside of his lips.

“He doesna sleep. Since Willie…” Brian ran an anxious hand over shiny black hair, adjusting the simple leather thong that held it back away from his face. “He wakes in the night. It takes a moment before he kens why his brother isna there on the bed next to him, but when he does…it’s tearing Ellen apart.”

It was unimaginable to Murtagh what it truly felt like to lose a child, but he knew what it felt like to lose a brother and it was a pain no six-year-old boy should have to go through. Jamie had been Willie’s shadow from the moment he could walk. A skilled woodworker, Willie could always be seen with a small knife and a block of wood, making yet another wee bawbee for his little brother.

The bond they shared was rooted in blood but it was genuine love for one another that made them inseparable, no matter whether it was day or night. There would have come a point where Willie would have needed to let Jamie go, but it should have been so the older boy could learn the skills he needed to be a Laird, not because he had reached eternal rest.

Crossing his arms tightly across his chest, Murtagh made a quick decision. “I’ll stay with the lad tonight. Give you and Ellen some rest.”

Brian waved the other man off, “Dinna be daft, it’s not yer burden. I’ll have Mrs. Crook make up the south cottage for ye.”

“No my burden?” Murtagh asked rhetorically. “Tis why I came, to help ye in yer time of need. He’s my Godson. Besides, I promised the lad a story.”

To Murtagh’s surprise, Brian’s face broke out in a wide smile and he started to laugh, low in his throat. “You and yer stories. I am surely glad to see you a charaid.”

It was warm in the armchair by the fire and warm in the depths of Murtagh’s belly thanks to a few healthy drams of Brian’s best whisky. Nanny had brought Jenny and Jamie upstairs to put them to bed, but it wasn’t long before Jamie was running into his father’s study in his nightshirt, all knobby knees and freshly brushed hair. The lad launched himself into Murtagh’s lap, settling himself comfortably with expectation in his eyes.

“A story then,” Murtagh said, wishing he’d spent a bit less time enjoying the whisky and a bit more time thinking up a tale to tell the boy. “This is all true. I heard it from my Da, who heard it from his. It’s about a great Scottish warrior, who fought at the right hand of Robert the Bruce, King of Scots–”

“What was his name?”

“His name?” Murtagh drew a blank, looking desperately around the room for some inspiration. “Why his name was…Sheumais Alasdair Calum MacCoinnich Frisealach.”

Jamie sat up straight as a board, his eyes wide with genuine shock. “Murtagh! That’s my own name!”

“So it is! Ye didna ken ye had the name of a great warrior?”

“Ah, ‘s math sin!”

Murtagh couldn’t help but smile at Jamie’s awe and excitement, the lad not questioning for a moment whether he’d made up the detail of the story’s protagonist sharing his name. The story was more violent than Ellen would likely have approved of, but Jamie was rapt, not able to tear his attention away from the tale of the great Scotsman, a swordsman like no other, able to hold off three grown men with one hand.

It wasn’t long, amidst the story’s climax at the great Battle of Bannockburn, that the lad’s eyes began to droop and he was soon a dead weight in his Godfather’s arms. For a moment, Murtagh just appreciated the heavy warmth pressed against his chest and imagined what life would have been like had Jamie been his own son. Dismissing the thought, he hoisted the boy into his arms and set to take him to bed.

“I will be a great warrior someday, too,” Jamie’s sleepy voice grumbled against his shoulder.

“O’course a bhalaich, a bonny fighter you will be,” Murtagh replied, knowing that the chances of Jamie ever being anything other than a Laird and farmer were slim, now that he was heir.
Chapter 3: 1735 by thewhitelady
The road to Lallybroch was long and lonely, surrounded by a vast wilderness of wide open moors, thick forest and today a thick mix of sleet and rain. Murtagh had come directly from Beauly with a package for Brian, and looked forward to a warm fire, a hearty meal, a stiff whisky and a good night’s rest before he was called upon again. The road turned rocky in the final descent into the Valley and Murtagh dismounted his spotted mare, cursing Brian Fraser for building the house in a place that was damn near impossible to reach with any level of convenience.

The courtyard was quiet, but given the poor weather that was to be expected. It was coming on November and looked like it was going to be a rough winter ahead. He didn’t have a chance to call up to the house before a lad ran out from behind the stables, checking over each shoulder suspiciously. Murtagh immediately recognized the teen and called out to stop him before he could sidle his way into the barn.

“Ian Murray! What are ye up to, lad?”

Like a deer in headlights the scrawny brown-haired boy looked this way then that, his hands nervously fumbling with the pockets of his jacket.

“Jus’…waiting on ye, Mr. Fraser. Himself is inside wi’ my Da, if ye care to leave yer mount. I’ll take care of her for ye.”

The lad held the reins while Murtagh hoisted his heavy saddlebags free, throwing them over his shoulder along with his bedroll and canteen. He paused only a moment to watch Ian lead the spotted mare toward the warmth and safety of the barn where she would get some well earned rest before heading in the direction of his own.

He found Brian and Auld John, Ian’s father, in the speak-a-word room deep in conversation. Not wanting to interrupt, he waited, taking a moment to appreciate Brian’s fine kedge - the walls lined with book shelves overflowing with novels and philosophical prose in a variety of languages on one side, the other with farm ledgers and knickknacks the Laird had collected over the years.

Murtagh couldn’t help but lift the corner of his mouth in a smile upon seeing a familiar lump of quartz, found while exploring a cave he and Brian discovered on a hunting expedition. Murtagh had seen it first, a shimmering prism protruding from the rock face, giving icy cold light to an otherwise bleak environment. Without a moment’s consideration, he’d knocked the crystal free with the hilt of his dirk and handed it to his friend, knowing it would be inappropriate to give it to Ellen himself.

Other trinkets once belonging to the gone but not forgotten Lady of Lallybroch filled the shelf - a flower press that she would use to leave hidden treasures for the children inside their books, a key ring with the master key for every door in the house, a tortoise shell comb with one tooth broken off and a miniature portrait of Janet, all shiny black hair and her father’s blue eyes, holding a ruddy-faced baby James.

“Murtagh! I didna see ye there, man. How was the journey?” Brian asked, moving across the room in a few long strides to grasp his friend’s hand.

“Long,” Murtagh said briskly. “Looking forward to a wee rest.”

“And ye’ll have it,” Brian said with a smile. He walked back toward his desk, calling over one shoulder. “Did the auld man have anything for me?”

“Aye,” Murtagh reached into one of the saddlebags and pulled out a leather purse, heavy with coin. “This being the most important giftie sent along by Lord Lovat - payment for three loads of hay.”

He went to hand Brian the bag but was stopped short when the man’s hand pressed it back into his chest, the edges of the silver pressing into his palm.

“Hang on to that, will ye? I have another small thing to ask of ye.”

“Anything, a charaid.”

Brian motioned to John to pass him the letter they had been looking over and he glanced down at the words on the page with a heavy sigh. It was long, two pages if Murtagh had to guess but he couldn’t get a good enough look at the red seal in order to see who it was from.

“I’ll be needing ye to go to Beannachd.”

Murtagh felt the bottom of his stomach drop uncomfortably. He couldn’t image what possible business Brian would have with Dougal Mackenzie that he would need to make the trek to the man’s estate, especially with a full purse. The confusion on his face was question enough that he didn’t need to speak.

“I need ye to take Jamie.”

“What? Why? We shouldna allow the Mackenzies to poison his mind–”

“It was part of my marriage contract,” Brian interrupted. “Mine and Ellen’s. She made an agreement with Colum that our son would foster with Dougal for a time. They’ve got a fine tutor arranged for his studies, they’ve sent along the man’s credentials and he looks to be quite well equipped to handle a boy of Jamie’s fine intelligence. They’ve horses there for him to tend and of course he’ll be learning Dougal’s trade.”

“Stealing kine and terrorizing the tenants? Aye, important skills for a lad of 14 to ken.”

“Murtagh,” Brian said with a warning tone. “Dinna forget where he comes from. Like it or no, that boy is a Mackenzie and they’ve just as much right to him.”

“What right?!” Murtagh asked wide-eyed. He knew he should be easier on Brian, that this wasn’t a decision he made lightly - or one he wanted to make at all - but he didn’t have any choice in the matter and was just trying to make the best of it. Arms crossed tightly across his chest, he moved toward the window, staring out at the courtyard below and the cold, damp fields that stretched out beyond.

“Did they no consider that he’s yer only lad? If anything should happen to him…”

“I did consider - on their behalf,” Brian said. “I canna keep him curled up in his plaidie safe at home for the rest of his life, a charaid. As he is my only heir, I dinna think I trust Dougal Mackenzie to keep a proper eye on him. Which is why I’m asking ye to go wi’ him. Keep him safe and out of trouble.”

The tension of the room was broken abruptly by the sound of Murtagh’s laughter. His head shook in disbelief as he leaned closer to the window, squinting out into the distance. Turning, he was not surprised to see Brian and John’s faces pursed in curiosity by his outburst.

“I suppose ye’ve already told Jamie of this news?”

“Aye,” Brian nodded. “Sent the lad up to his room to read his bible and hopefully rid him of some of the more unsavoury phrases that happened to come out of his mouth.”

“I wouldna be so sure about that,” Murtagh said with a smile. Both men continued to look on with a mixture of suspicion and confusion, glancing between the bearded man and the window. “I just caught sight of Young Ian darting across the field ower yonder…on my horse.”

Murtagh didn’t think Brian had a chance to even take a breath before he was calling for a servant to bring Jamie down from his room, none of them seemingly shocked when the woman returned looking nervous, eyes bouncing between the three men.

“Master James is not in his rooms, my Laird,” the young woman said quietly, giving them a quick bob before shuffling out of the room to avoid whatever wrath might end up pointed in her direction.

“This has the smell of a plan about it,” John commented dryly.

Brian nodded, both hands going to his hips. He glanced at the miniature in the book shelf, Jamie’s soft cheeks and tiny hands brought to life with loving care by his wife’s undeniable skill.

“We dinna have to worry about Dougal Mackenzie not doing right by the lad. I’ll kill him myself.”

In a flash of black hair and white hot rage, Brian was out the door and headed down the stairs, Murtagh hot on his heels.

“You canna thrash the lad to death!”

They came to an abrupt halt at the bottom, Brian turning to his old friend with a sardonic smile.

“By the time I’m through wi’ him, he’ll wish I had. Now come on, they shouldna be hard to find.”
Chapter 4: 1735 by thewhitelady
Jamie paced nervously along the tree line, anxiously waiting to see Ian come over the crest of the hill. As soon as his father told him he was being sent away to live with his uncle, forced to leave behind everyone and everything familiar, he knew he had no other choice but to run away. His plan was to live rough for a little while until his Da realized they couldn’t do without him at Lallybroch, then he would go home to stay and forget this foolishness about fostering with the Mackenzies. That was a fate that had been intended for Willie, not him.

A horse sounded in the distance, the beast’s hooves pounding against the ground amongst the heather and gorse. With an eye to the north he waited, relieved to see that it was in fact Ian coming, but the horse was cause for concern. The only person he knew that had a spotted mare quite like that one was Murtagh, her who was named Gràinne, as were all who came before her - she who inspires terror. In some ways, Jamie was impressed to see Ian still on the mare. She was a humbling ride - he’d seen her buck off even the most confident rider. Even he had gotten tossed off her back once or twice before.

“Are ye mad, taking that horse?” Jamie asked, before Ian’s feet could even hit the ground in his hasty retreat from Gràinne’s saddle.

Ian let out a groan, leading the horse into the trees and out of plain view as quickly as possible.

“I gathered everything ye told me to and was headed to the barn for a mount when Murtagh arrived unexpectedly. He spotted me and I took the mare for him as to not look suspicious-like, but by the time I got to the barn doors Jenny was inside fussing about wi’ her wee lambs. I couldna very well go in, or she’d know what we were about.”

“Only if ye told her, eejit.”

“You ken I canna lie to her!”

Jamie made a noise at the back of his throat to vocalise his opinion of Ian’s softness for his sister.

“They’ll be looking for her soon,” he pointed out, gravitating toward the horse who was making a quick meal of a patch of grass lucky enough to have survived the winter. He stroked her long, smooth neck, happy she was distracted enough to forget to try and bite him.

“I willna stay long,” Ian said as he unloaded the saddlebags. A small wheel of cheese, five bannocks, a few bottles of ale and quiver full of enough arrows to ensure Jamie would have no difficulty keeping his belly full while he was in hiding.

An old black alder stood tall next to the spot where Jamie set up his camp, not just providing shelter from the elements with it’s leaves, but a hollow that had once served as a home to some long forgotten creature was now a small storage area to keep food cool and away from animals. Jamie put as much as he could into the tree, put a single bannock into his sporran and stashed the bottles in a bush. He kept a weary eye on Ian who was carefully watching the horizon through the trees just as Jamie had not long before.

“Ye’ll be going then?”

Ian nodded. “I have te. I’ll be back wi’ more supplies as need be. As ye said, they’ll be looking for the horse. I’ll tell them I took her to look for you, but I didna find ye.”

“I need to hunt,” Jamie said abruptly, taking up a bow that only a year before had nearly been as tall as he. He’d recently gone through a growth spurt and along with insatiable hunger had come long arms and legs, a base of lean muscle and strength enough that he could handle a small deer on his own. If he was lucky, he might find an older roe deer doe, which would be easier to take down.

“It’s too risky here, Da kens all the fine spots. I’ll go west-”

“Ye cannae do that! If the Chisholms catch ye, that’s poaching.”

Jamie waved him off. He’d been hunting on Chisholm Clan land for years and had never been been caught. There had been a near miss when one of the Chisholm’s tacksmen spotted him emptying rabbit snares two years earlier and chased him for near on a mile, but it had been a long while since he’d last seen any of them sae close to the border.

There was a moment, after Ian had left and Jamie found himself alone in the forest once more, that he felt the tiniest ripple of fear run through him. He was rarely alone, typically accompanied by his Da, Jenny, Ian or Murtagh, and the woods were dark and full of unknowns.

He’d brought Ruaidhri with him from the stables - a two-year old sorrel colt his Da had charged him with caring from the day he was foaled - but even the sound of the horse foraging through the trees behind him wasn’t enough to quell the pang of loneliness.

“Be a man,” he told himself, before setting out for the west to hunt.
Chapter 5: 1735 by thewhitelady
The sun still set quickly, so early in the spring. Jamie knew to expect it but it still came up on him suddenly; dusk and the quick retreat of the warmth that the air had held through the day. His hunting expedition was not as fruitful as he’d hoped it would be, but he still made his way back to camp with two large hares.

His first thought had been how pleased Mrs. Crook would be with him, she might even give him an extra large slice of her amazing meat pie for his efforts. Just as quickly, he shook the thought loose from his mind. He wouldn’t be back there anytime soon, regardless of how his plan worked out. Father always told him that if he wanted to be treated like a grown man, he had to act like one. His self-sufficiency was how he planned to prove how much of a man he’d become.

The camp was only illuminated by a small amount of moonlight, and Jamie was thankful he was able to see just enough to get a fire started. He started stacking the kindling he’d collected earlier, feeling the grip of a cold chill run up his spine at the eerie silence. Jenny would tell him that someone had just stepped upon his grave, and the feeling was unsettling enough to make him believe it.

There was no rustle at the edge of the camp, no telltale sound of breathing and the cold chill began to seep from the base of his spine, deep into his belly. He was alone. Ruaidhri was gone.

Jamie rushed to the tree where he'd tied the horse up, shocked to discover that the lead line was gone. Ruaidhri was young and had never been on his own before. If he had broken loose he was sure to run into trouble with another animal, or hurt himself on the dangerous terrain with a halter still wrapped about his head. If he had been taken, Jamie was sure to never see him again. He’d yet to be branded, nothing tied the colt to Lallybroch.

He couldn't lose Ruaidhri - he’d already lost so much. Willie was gone, Mam was gone, he was about to be shipped away from the only family he had left and now his most beloved friend, whom he had told all of his deepest feelings to for the last two years, was gone. It was too dark to venture out looking, he’d have to wait until morning to find him.

Defeated, Jamie collapsed to the ground in a pile of rotting leaves, ignoring the damp spreading against his bottom. He wanted to cry, he wanted to yell, he wanted to hit something but most of all he wanted his father. Da would know what to do. He would tell him a story from his own past of a similar situation to arm him with all the knowledge he would need to fix the situation. He would be out looking for the colt in the pitch black, moving easily across the land for he had the stars and the moon for a guide and the confidence of knowing every square inch of this estate.

He was lucky, Jamie realized, to have the father that he did. Brian Fraser was a great man - compassionate and caring while still firm and fair. At times, Jamie found his father to be more strict than the fathers of other lads his age, but he had never let him down, never led him astray, never put him in harm’s way. He would be a great man someday because he was the son of a great man.

With a heavy sigh, Jamie wiped his nose on the cuff of his jacket, doing his best to keep his emotions at bay. He was a complete fool. Not just because he’d managed to lose his horse, not just because his grand adventure to prove his manhood hadn’t even lasted a full night, but because he didn't trust his father to make the right decision on his behalf. He'd come out to the woods to show how grown up he was, but he realized that his choices had merely proven he was still just a silly lad. The way to show his maturity was to go to his uncle’s with his back straight and head held high and then come back the same way.

One more swipe to dry the moisture from his face and he stood. The house was in the distance, he could barely make out the lights. He had to find his horse and make things right and there was only one way to do it. Standing tall, he pushed out his chest and lifted his chin.

“Be a man,” he told himself, before turning for home.
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