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Authors: Carol Umberger

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The Mark of Salvation

THE
MARK
OF
SALVATION

CAROL UMBERGER

THE MARK OF SALVATION

Copyright © 2003 by Carol Umberger.
Published by Integrity Publishers, a division of Integrity Media, Inc.
5250 Virginia Way, Suite 110, Brentwood, TN 37027.

HELPING PEOPLE WORLDWIDE EXPERIENCE
the
MANIFEST PRESENCE
of
GOD.

All rights reserved. No portion of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or any other—except for brief quotations in printed reviews, without the prior written permission of the publisher.

Scripture quotations used in this book are from The King James Version of the Bible (KJV).

Published in association with the literary agency of
Alive Communications, Inc., 7680 Goddard Street,
Suite 200, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 80920.

Cover design: David Uttley
Interior: Inside Out Design & Typesetting

ISBN 1-59145-007-1

Printed in Canada
03 04 05 06 07 08 TCP 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

DEDICATION

To Daniel and David, beloved gifts from God.

Contents

Acknowledgments

Author's Notes

Prologue

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I
AM DEEPLY INDEBTED to many people for their love, support, and encouragement:

Pastor Ken Hohag and his wife Melanie, for inspiring me with their thirst for the Word of the Lord and for showing my family and me what it means to live a life of service.

Lillian Monson, proud member of Clan Campbell, who shared her love and knowledge of weaving, tartans, and textiles with me. What a joy it was to spend those hours learning from you. If there are errors in the manuscript, they are mine alone.

Dawn and Grace Wexler for asking the questions I didn't think of. Thank you, Dawn, for journeying with me as we seek to learn what it means to be women of faith.

Lori, Diane, and Angel for countless cups of coffee and sharing the ups and downs of writing for publication.

Khrys Williams, indispensable critique partner and cheerleader. I couldn't have done this without you!

Lisa Tawn Bergren, editor, mentor, and friend who trudged through a less than perfect manuscript despite a brand new baby and once again, deftly made my story shine. Thank you so much.

And last but certainly not least, my wonderful husband and sons who have come to recognize “the stare” that means I'm lost somewhere with my characters again.

AUTHOR'S NOTES

T
HERE IS ONLY CONJECTURE and circumstantial evidence to suggest that Templar Knights gave aid to Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn. However, the idea caught my imagination and thus Ceallach came to life. I have barely touched on the Bruces' incursion into Ireland. Edward Bruce was crowned king of Ireland in 1316 and was killed two years later in battle there. The succession to the Scottish throne was then settled on Marjory's son Robert Stewart, thus beginning the line of the Stewart kings. In 1324, Elizabeth Bruce gave birth to a male heir, David.

For a list of resources I relied upon, please visit my website at
www.carolumberger.com
. I enjoy hearing from readers and you can reach me at [email protected] or write to me in care of Integrity Publishers.

May God bless you as abundantly as he has blessed me.

PROLOGUE

“Brothers will refrain from boasting of past prowess or brave deeds.”

—from the Rule of the Templar Knights

A
re you sure we can cross here?” Marcus asked his foster
brother. He stared at the fast-moving creek that flowed along
the edge of the stone castle.

“What, are you afraid? You don't trust me?” Robert
taunted.

“Sure, I trust you. But trusting you got our seats whipped
for swinging from the barn roof.”

“We did it, though, didn't we?” Robert smiled in glee.
“That's worth a certain measure.”

Marcus grinned back. Impossible, that this boy would
someday be the king of Scotland. They were all doomed. “Aye,
but my seat is still sore.”

“Then the water will feel good.”

“Until the current knocks us down and carries us to our
deaths.”

“Be bold, Marcus. I'll go first and measure the water's
depth with a stick.”

“Our clothes will get wet.” Marcus didn't want to seem
afraid. He wasn't—not really.

“Take them off if you're so worried.”

“I can't do that. We'll be in enough trouble if we are caught
with our clothes on let alone without them.”

“Then follow me!” commanded Robert, as he plunged into
the stream.

Do you remember that day by the stream, Robert? Or the
time we explored the caves in the nearby hills? I would've
followed you anywhere then. I'm still following you, but the
consequences are far more daunting than a session with your
father's strap. The fate of a kingdom rests on your broad
shoulders. If I still believed in God I would pray for your
success.

—from the private journal of Ceallach of Dunstruan

Scotland 1307

CONCEALED BEHIND THE TREES AND ROCKS on the hillside overlooking the main road to Cumnock, Robert the Bruce, king of Scotland, watched as the English Earl of Pembroke and his troops paraded down the narrow mountain road. Pembroke had acted dishonorably at Methven, attacking Bruce after giving his word as a knight that he would not fight until the agreed-upon time.

The Scottish army had been decimated and Bruce ached to take revenge on Pembroke.

He turned to his natural son, Bryan. “What do you make of it?”

“There aren't many of them,” Bryan said. “We could take them at the pass.”

“But?” At nearly seventeen years of age, the boy was wise beyond his years and an accomplished swordsman. Robert often tested him thus, and Bryan rarely disappointed him with his grasp of tactics.

“Pembroke is making no effort to surprise us. It's as if he wants us to know he's here.”

“Aye, you're right not to trust him,” Bruce said. “Still, we may be able to defeat him if we use the land to our advantage.” They quickly mapped out a plan and called the other officers to them. But before Bruce could give the order to move out, a breathless sentry raced up to them.

“What is it lad?” Bruce asked in alarm.

“My laird, make haste. 'Tis a trap. John of Lorne and his highlanders are coming through the woods behind us.”

Just months before, John of Lorne had nearly captured Bruce at Dalry Pass. Bruce's wife, sisters, and daughter had been with him. To assure the women's safety, Bruce had given all his horses to them and the men who protected them and sent them north out of harm's way. He and his army, such as it was, had been on foot ever since. Fortunately, Lorne and his highlanders would likely be on foot as well.

With brisk efficiency born of countless such close encounters, Bruce issued orders. “James, divide the men into three groups. You escort one east, my brother will take one to the west, and Bryan and I will lead the rest and head south. Circle around and we'll meet at the old cottage at Loch Dee.”

Edward Bruce nodded. “I know the one. God go with you, brother.”

“And with you. Now go!”

Bruce watched as his orders were carried out, but the sound of a baying hound soon sent him and his band of twenty men running. Their pursuers crashed through the brush behind them and it soon became apparent that, for some reason, only Bruce's party was being followed.

Waving his arms, he indicated that his men should scatter and try to diffuse their pursuers. He ran, Bryan beside him, dodging branches and rocks. The sounds of pursuit continued and the hound sounded closer now, obviously excited. Bruce stopped and listened. Could it be? Breath coming in gasps he said to Bryan, “The dog . . . I recognize his voice. He was once mine. Lost him at Dalry.”

“He knows your scent then,” Bryan said. His expression showed that he, too, realized the peril they were in.

“Aye, and a more loyal animal never lived. He'll stop at nothing to be reunited. He'll bring Lorne straight to us.”

“Then we best run faster.”

From the corner of his eye Bruce caught movement. Five men, fleeter than the others, were closing in rapidly. “Look to the right!”

Bruce drew his sword and Bryan did the same. “There!” Bruce pointed to a large rock and they ran and put their backs to it just as the men caught up to them. Three came after Bruce; the other two took on Bryan. With a mighty swing Bruce dealt a blow that sheared through one man's ear and cheek and into his neck. The man went down hard. His two companions retreated.

With a moment's reprieve, Bruce went to Bryan's aid and with a sideways slash of his sword took off the head of one of the attackers. The first two returned to the fray, their anger renewed. Bruce met them, cutting through one's arm while Bryan finished off his man. Bruce killed the remaining attacker and for the moment, they were safe.

Panting, drenched in sweat, they leaned on their swords until the sound of the baying hound sent them running again. Nearing exhaustion, knowing they couldn't keep up this pace, Bruce cried out when they stumbled upon a small stream. “Blessed be our God!” Bruce rushed forward, into the cold water. “That dog's loyalty threatens to be the death of us. We'll use this stream to lose my scent.”

“Aye,” Bryan said as he jumped in, close on Bruce's heels. Within minutes the dog's barking faded until finally they could no longer hear it. They left the stream, boots sloshing with water but they dared not stop to empty them. They walked on, determined to make Loch Dee yet this night.

Just after moonrise they came to the edge of the woods and glimpsed what had been an abandoned cottage the last time they'd come through Loch Dee. But tonight smoke arose from the chimney. None of Bruce's men were camped outside, so the occupants were strangers—enemies until proven otherwise.

Bryan laid a hand on Bruce's arm. “You stay in the cover of the trees, my laird, while I see who is here.”

He stepped into the clearing, sword drawn. “Hallo the cottage,” Bryan called.

After a moment, a man answered. “Who goes there?”

“Weary travelers in need of shelter for the night.”

There was silence and Bruce quietly withdrew his sword. The whisper of metal on metal was like a reassuring friend's hand upon a shoulder. He held his breath, waiting.

“All travelers be welcome so long as they are loyal to our king, Robert the Bruce. If not, be gone with you.”

Bruce breathed a sigh of relief at those words. He couldn't go on much farther. He sheathed his sword and joined Bryan as the door of the cottage opened, casting warm light upon the clearing.

Bryan stood aside, sword in hand but lowered. “Then welcome your rightful king.”

With a look of astonishment the man opened the door wider. Bruce entered and noticed a young woman to his right, dressed in men's clothing. A sword hung at her belt and she carried herself in the way of a fighter. Even more curious, the men with her seemed to defer to her, as if she were the leader. The woman boldly strode into the firelight and he noted that she was but a year or two older than Bryan. She stood before Bruce and bowed. “Your Majesty. I am Morrigan Macnab.”

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