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Glaistig of Glenmuir by Anna Reith

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Deep in the Scottish Highlands, tales of an ancient creature grace the hillsides. On the Glenmuir estate, there are different concerns.

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Description

There have always been Glennisters at Glenmuir but, for Andy, an employee of the estate, the family is little more than a blight on the Highlands. What is the connection between him and Nicky Glennister, the young laird of Glenmuir, and what of the strange creature that legend says roams the land?

 


This short story is also available in the volume ‘Black Ice: collected stories‘, which can be purchased in ebook and paperback formats.


 

Additional information

Writer

Anna Reith

ISBN

978-1-907623-23-3

Kindle ASIN

B0083TG8JW

Length

4,500 words (15 .pdf pages)

Available formats

.pdf, .epub (provided as a .zip file)

Cover design

Anna Reith

Read an excerpt

GLAISTIG OF GLENMUIR

© Anna Reith. All rights reserved.


Andy laid the last of the pheasants, the product of the day’s shooting, on the tarpaulin in the back of the Land Rover. Their plumage flamed copper and steel blue in the dying sun, though there was no illusion of life in them; they were too heavily matted with dark, ruffled stains, their bodies hanging limp and shattered.

The smell of warm metal rose and met with the soft scent of their feathers, and the slight coppery faintness of fresh blood. Behind him, Moss, the black Labrador whom he’d raised from a pup, prowled with stiffly wagging, low-held tail. The dog knew the day was done, and he wanted his dinner, his bed, and a fire to toast his belly in front of… just like any other worker.

Andy glanced down at the dog, sparing him a brief nod and a word of assurance. Moss’ wide, gentle jaws—capable of biting through a bird’s neck, or bringing back a raw egg unscathed—spread around a pink-tongued, lolling grin, and Andy shut the door on the day’s business.

He lifted a hand to Matt, the Land Rover’s driver, signalling the job completed, and relief filled him as the engine turned over. The shooting party had yet to go back to the house. They were still milling around, quacking amongst themselves, though a few turned to look at the sound of the engine’s thrum.

Andy forced a terse but polite smile to his lips. It came out more as a stiff grimace, but he’d made an effort, and no one could say otherwise.

Through the trees that framed what everyone insisted on calling the woodland walk—and in his day, there had been no such thing; there was woodland, and you might walk through it, but you did not pretend that nature had been daintily arranged around you—the house was visible, standing like a cliff at the edge of the sea.

It was old, in part. Not an ancient seat, and no great rambling pile, but a respectable late seventeenth century affair. Its broad grey side rose up from the heathland and leered out of the trees like clouds made solid; a quietly determined, squarish hunch of a thing, islanded in the patchy lawns and gravel circles of manicured grounds. Successive generations of the family had left their marks upon it, naturally. There had been remodellings, rebuildings, and the additions or demolitions of chimneys, windows, and sometimes entire wings… but Glenmuir endured. It remained the same, more or less, and today the thick, evening light touched it in much the same way as it would have done three hundred years ago.

And yet, today was not like any other day.

No other day at all.

There had been Glennisters at Glenmuir for longer than anyone cared to remember. Andy knew that. Aye. Since his great-grandfather’s time, and before.

They had never been a noble family, but the Glennisters had brought money and, more than that, stability to the Glenmuir estate and the village that depended upon it. They had become as much a part of the local landscape as the red deer in the park… fleet-footed, ghost-shadowed things that seemed to glow auburn in the dusk and made fools of all but the most seasoned hunters. Like them or, Andy thought with a grimace, like the bloody tourists.

Glenmuir, as so many other estates, had been reduced to that now. Corporate holidays, private functions for wealthy clients, and even the odd wedding in the summer months. It was why, today, Andy found himself chaperoning a herd of city stockbrokers who could barely hit a barn door between them. He swore the majority of the birds had simply dropped dead from shock at the noise. You’d only to look at them—old meat, with torn feathers, weathered eyes, and the scars of years on their beaks and toes—to see it, but the brokers still trudged about in their Le Chameau Wellington boots and Barbour jackets, shotguns broken across their arms, gobbling around the congratulations lodged in their throats.

It made him want to heave, but he locked his smile in place, nodded to the beaters that their work was done, and told the shooting party—if they cared to head back up to the house—they would find a fire lit in the Great Hall and drinks served before dinner. He whistled up Moss, and tried to avoid having to talk to any of the stockbrokers on their way back across the grounds.

It wasn’t right. Not today. Not… at this time.

The heathers and brackens of the moor encroached on the land here, no matter how much money young Mr. Glennister had lavished on landscaping it. He’d wanted undulating grass, neatly mulched borders, and wildflowers down to the woodland, so the shooting parties had some nature to look at on their way to massacre the wildlife. Andy could have told him it would be pointless. You couldn’t tame Mother Nature like that, tell the plants where to grow or the soil how to thrive. The land knew what it was, where it had been, and how its future would unfold. No sense in pretending otherwise.

Over at the far edge of the copse, just past the bend in the track that, in springtime, was carpeted with grape hyacinths and alliums, something moved in the trees.

It was a deer or, rather, the shape of one. That surprised him. They didn’t usually come near when there were shooting parties about. Mr. Glennister was of the opinion they shouldn’t come this far into the grounds at all, but fences really weren’t something they took notice of… as Andy would have thought someone who’d spent his whole life on the estate would have known.

Of course, young Mr. Glennister had spent plenty of time away. Boarding school, as a bairn, then Oxford, and London, and all those rites of society that seemed as foreign and distant to Andy as the moon.

None of the shooting party noticed the deer. A doe, just ghosting her steps through the trees, a whisper against the bracken and barely visible between the rough-grained trunks.

Even as he blinked, she was gone.


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