These were dark times for the highlanders. Since Culloden, Angus McLeod had been one step ahead of Cumberland’s redcoats. Reaching Raasay had been impossible so he headed to his mother’s people, the Macdonalds of Keppoch.
Walking by Loch Morar, he noticed a glint in the water. Curious, he left his sword and boots at the lochside and waded out. Ripples broke the still waters – the wake of otters swimming below the surface perhaps?
He was thigh deep when he reached his target, the stones under his feet slick with algae. The sun slid behind a cloud as he leaned forwards, plunging his arm into the water.
Something snaked around his wrist and tugged; already off balance, he fell. He had the presence of mind to take a lungful of air before his head plunged underwater. His free hand dragged the loch-bed, his fingers snagging on the handle of a dagger, hand closing around it instinctively.
He turned, stunned to find himself gazing into startling blue eyes, a beautiful humanlike face surrounded by a mass of flowing hair. Her lithe body ended in a silver-scaled tail, swaying sinuously as she pulled him deeper.
He followed, captivated by her sensual smile, until a ray of sunshine blazed through the water, breaking the illusion – showing her for the sea-hag she truly was. Stringy hair surrounded a sallow-skinned face, with colourless eyes and a gaping maw filled with pointed, blackened teeth.
Angus struggled in her grasp, her clawed fingers tearing his skin. Desperate to breathe, bubbles escaped his lips. How long had he been underwater? One minute? Two… longer?
He remembered the dagger in his free hand, slashing it down her arm. She let out a silent shriek and released him. He desperately pushed for the surface and salvation.
As he dragged himself out of the water, he remembered the legend of the Morag, the loch monster said to appear only on the death of the laird. Had old Alexander Macdonald fallen at Culloden then?
He swept up his belongings, backing away as the Morag appeared, her gaze following him with a vindictive glare.