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The Low Road Up the Mountain

Chapter Text

In all of her eighteen winters, she's never once left the safety of their mountain. Sixteen winters spent on the Shay side of Shay Mountain, two winters spent on the Farrell side, one as a Shay being courted, one as a young Farrell bride. Fate had been kind to her, but fate can turn against you as easily as the weather.

The morning mist had only begun to dissipate when Fallon Farrell began preparing a relatively decent and quick lunch for her husband and their cousin. Hasil and Krake would be at the still the better part of the day preparing the family's infamous “Farrell Wine” for the upcoming ending of summer celebrations, leaving Fallon to her own devices.

Cool mountain air surrounded the redhead as she hiked her way from the small shack she and Hasil shared towards the family still, the morning birds seeming to sing only for her. Mornings like this always filled Fallon with sorrow for the lowlanders, sorrow that they could never know such beauty and joy, beauty that at times like this seemed made solely for her. The sounds of bubbling water and cracking corn escorted the redhead the final few feet into the still itself, where her husband and their cousin were working away to be sure to have a large enough batch of shine for the festivities.

“Well now, what brings a pretty little thing like you out here this early Fay? I know I told ya good mornin',” Hasil smiled at his wife as Krake took the basket from her hands, before wrapping his arms around her.

“Just figured I'd bring you boys something for later, since I'm gonna be out for a while,” Fallon smiled softly, nuzzling against him gently.

“And just where are you off to?” Krake raised a brow at the young newlyweds, a faint smile to his lips.

“Meetin' G'Win to go herb hunting for a bit,” the redhead shifted her knapsack from one shoulder to another, causing a light metal clink to be heard.

“Just hunting herbs, hmm?” the older cousin smiled good naturedly to her. Krake knew the sound that came from her bag quiet well, he'd gifted the young couple with a set of four throwing knives made with deer hooves for handles, in a wood box at their wedding last spring.

“Ok maybe a little throwin' too,” Fallon offered a sheepish look. “Is there anything either of ya need while we're hunting?”

Both men couldn't help but chuckle at the admission. “Well if you find the time and it's not too much trouble, we could use some wild honey,” Krake reached for an empty mason jar.

Slipping the jar into the bag with her knives, the young woman flashed her cousin a warm smile, “If we come across a hive I'll be sure to gather as much as I can.”

Giving her husband one last parting kiss, Fallon struck out again towards the main encampment of the clan. The first stop was the greenhouse, poking her head inside and flashing a smile to her cousins within. Apparently Fallon wasn't the only one saying her partings to a loved one, she'd spotted G'Win and Lil Foster in an embrace.

“Am I interrupting something?” Fallon smiled as the pair parted. “I can come back later if ya need me to G'Win,” humor painted the younger cousin's voice as she dipped her head to her Bren'in's grandson.

“Nah, just sayin' goodbye,” Foster smiled. “You two best be gettin' out there before it gets too hot,” the gentle giant gave his lover one last squeeze before departing.

The redheaded pair walked towards the woods in companionable silence, each in her own thoughts. Upon hitting the cool, sweet smelling woodland the duo began lightly chatting as they let their eyes sweep over the trees and ground.

“Krake and Hasil wanted us to keep our eyes out for honey,” Fallon stated simply as she gathered a small bunch of berries.

“Sure,” G'Win smiled slightly, glancing over towards her cousin. “Ya haven't told 'im yet, have ya?” she questioned lightly.

Instantly Fallon froze in place, staring at her older cousin in absolute horror, “How'd you, when'd you, G'Win ya can't tell 'im!” Panic laced Fallon's voice as G'Win laughed softly.

“Ya ain't got nothin' ta be afraid of Fallon,” the healer shook her head smiling. “Haisl'll be thrilled ta be a Fa and ya know it. I don't see why yer so worried bout tellin' 'im.”

“I know yer right, and I'll tell him, soon,” Fallon slumped slightly in relief. “I'm just afraid of somethin' happening.” The younger Farrell knew that her older cousin would understand fully.

"I know Fally," G'Win gently squeezed her cousin's shoulder. "But if somethin' does happen, yer gonna need Hasil ta help ya. Don't hide in the shadows," she smiled taking the jar and filled it from a nearby hive. "Lets take a break fer lunch."

The sight of the dried meat and berries they'd packed was the last thing Fallon Farrell saw, G'win's voice the last thing she heard, before her world went completely black and her own personal hell began.

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Her eyes are the color of early spring grass, that had been Hasil's first thought upon seeing the Shay cousin. Instantly he found himself smitten by Fallon Shay upon their first meeting at the start of spring. By that summer he was seeking out her Fa for his blessing to begin courting, by the following winter Hasil found himself dodging blows from various cousins as he fought through the Gauntlet to earn Fay's hand.

Softly he nuzzled against Fallon's neck, murmuring, “G'morning pretty lady.”

There was a warmth in his half asleep bride that brought a smile to Hasil's face, it nearly killed him to pull away from her.

Reaching for his kilt and shirt, another smile crossed his face as he watched his redhead slowly sit up and yawn widely. “Hate ta leave ya, Fay, but Krake's needin' some help gettin' ready. I'll be back late,” he sighed slightly, pressing another kiss to her lips.

“Mmm, you boys have fun,” the young healer smiled a half-awake smile. “Just don't over do it.”

“Cross my heart,” Hasil smiled back, indeed making an X over his heart before heading out the door of their small shack.

“We're runnin' low on honey,” Krake stated a few hours into their brewing.

“I'm sure Fay'll be back with more soon,” the younger male stated as he pulled out a still warm loaf of bread from the basket his bride had brought a little earlier.

“You really got a gem there, you know,” Krake stated, turning from his work to take a bite himself.

“I know,” Hasil grinned. “Though she seems rather off here lately,” his smile falling as he took another bite.

Instantly the wine maker's brow rose, “Off how?”

“Little things. She's quieter than normal, been sick a little while now, though she said she was takin' something for it so,” the younger Farrell sighed. “I just can't put my finger on what it might be. Hopin' G'Win can figure it out and help 'er out.”

“I'm sure it's nothin' more than women's trouble,” Krake squeezed his companion's shoulder gently. “I'm sure G'Win can set 'er right.”

“Hope so,” Hasil sighed again. “Wonder what's takin' so long to get back here with that honey,” he shook his head, reaching for the work gloves to take out the comb from their own hive.

By the time the sun had begun to sink, Hasil was certain something was wrong. Leaving Krake to finish up for the night, the younger cousin set out following the route Fay'd taken back to the greenhouse. Finding no sign of his wife there, Hasil made his way in the gathering darkness towards G'Win and Foster's place.

“I was just about to head out to see if G'Win was at your place,” Lil Foster frowned. “They shoulda been back hours ago.” Reaching inside the gentle giant grabbed a couple of torches, lit them and passed one to the smaller man. “Come on, we'll head towards the woods. It wouldn't be the first time one of them's dozed off out there.”

The pair began combing the woods after checking Foster's teepee and the springs first. The deeper they went, the more uneasy the men grew, every foot without sign only added to the mounting worry. “Maybe they've come home already,” Lil Foster proposed, “and if not, we'll gather a search party and head out at first light.” Reluctantly Hasil agreed, turning back towards the main encampment.

A few feet along the pass, the pair's torches glinted off of something metal. Kneeling down, Hasil brushed aside a few leaves and berries to reveal four very familiar knives. Gingerly lifting the blades, all color drained from their faces.

“Fay'd never leave these just laying around, least of all out here,” Hasil raised his head to lock eyes through the gloom with his older cousin. “We might be needin' that search party sooner than mornin'.”

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“Lady Ray! Lady Ray!” Lil Foster boomed as Hasil began pounding on the door. An eternity seemed to pass in the minutes it took Annalivia to open the door.

“We need ta see the Bren'in right away,” Hasil panted out. “Emergency!”

Another lifetime as Lady Ray dressed and nodded consent for the pair to enter. Instantly the clan leader could see the panic in her grandson's eyes and hear it in his cousin's voice, still the Bren'in tried to calm them, “And just what's this emergency that ya'll gotta get me outta bed at this ungodly hour?”

“G'Win and Fally's gone missin' Lady Ray,” Foster started after bowing his respects to his grandmother and leader. “Just up and vanished.”

“What makes ya so sure they aren't sleepin' out, escaping ya two for a night?” Lady Ray asked, after all they wouldn't be the first two to sneak off for a few nights without their menfolk.

Quietly Hasil unwrapped the four deer-hoof handled knives and laid them out before the matriarch. “'Cause there's no way Fay'd just leave these layin' in the middle of the woods and walk off, ma'am,” the wiry male whispered.

“Both of ya get as much rest as ya can. Even you can't see in the dark Foster,” Lady Ray stated after a few minutes. “At first light, we'll get a search party together.” Raising a hand to cut off any protest, the Bren'in gave the pair a gentle look. “Go on, there's nothin' ta be done tonight. First light.” With that the cousins were waved out.

Knowing sleep wouldn't find him, Hasil relit his torch and began to wander the woods. Eventually his roaming took him outside of Asa's shack, where the Lostie sat by a fire enjoying the night and peace it brought.

“Evenin' cousin,” Asa greeted, raising his mug. “The missus know yer out prowlin' at this hour?”

“Fay's the reason Asa,” Hasil's face grew serious as he joined his older cousin by the fire. “Fay and G'Win went missin' this morning.”

Instantly the Lostie tilted his head, “Missin' how?”

“They left ta go foraging and never came back. Me and Foster went looking and found Fay's knives and their packs, but no sign of either of 'em,” the younger Farrell stirred the fire slightly as he explained. “Lady Ray's makin' us wait til dawn before we start searching,” he sighed.

“Yer thinkin' there's more to it than the girls just getting' turned around?” Asa asked, passing his cup to Hasil, who nodded.

“Fay'd never leave willingly,” Hasil stated taking a long drink of the shine in the mug. “She's terrified of the idea. The mindset of the flatlanders,” he shook his head, “she can't wrap her head around it.” Quickly the younger male downed the last of his drink.

“Go inside,” Asa thumbed toward the shack behind him, “lay down and do like Lady Ray said, try ta get some sleep. I'm headin' down ta take care of some things, I'll keep an eye and ear out for 'em.”

“Thanks Asa,” Hasil stated softly. Between the wine and the lack of sleep catching up to him, the grief filled Farrell stumbled inside and all but collapsed onto his cousin's bed. He was asleep in an instant and never heard Asa leave.

As the moon rose, a faint groan pulled itself from Fallon's throat. Opening her eyes, the young healer could make out nothing in the cold, damp and dark room, but slowly her eyes began to adjust enough to make out a figure sitting near by. “G-G'win?”

“Shh Fally, don't try to talk,” G'Win sighed in relief, her younger cousin's continued unconsciousness had put her on edge. Reaching for a bottle of water, the elder Farrell passed it over. “Drink, it's safe Fallon.” At least their captors were not totally heartless.

“Where are we?” Fallon found her voice horse and scratchy.

G'Win sighed inwardly. “Stay calm cousin, but we're below, in the city.”

Instantly those pale green eyes went wide in terror, as did her mouth. Quick as a hare, G'Winveer's hand covered the perfect circle of Fallon's mouth before she could scream. “Shh, hush Fallon! It'll be okay, I'm sure Hasil and Foster are already lookin' for us. Just try to calm down. Think about your baby, she needs ya ta keep a level head.”

Gradually Fay relaxed, though panic never left her eyes. “How many are there?” she asked, pulling the thin sheet that covered the urine-stained mattress up over her shoulders.

“Hard ta tell, at least two, maybe more,” the older woman stated, wrapping an arm around the younger. “We'll get outta this, I promise. Just relax.” Rocking Fallon gently, G'win began to sing softly, “O ye'll take' the high road and I'll take the low road, an' I'll be up the mountain afore ye; but me and my true love will never meet again on the bonnie, bonnie banks o' Loch Lomon.”

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As he began trekking down, Asa's mind was pulled in about twenty different directions. First and foremost was the speech he planned to deliver at the town hall meeting, though if Hasil and Foster were right the warning was to damn late. Still, it might deter others from coming up.

Then there was the issue of the girls. Blackburg might be a small town compared to Knoxville or Nashville, but there were still plenty of places the locals could stash two slight, and most likely unconscious, women. Abandoned buildings, the local jail, backrooms, and any number of private residences had the capacity to hold the pair for quiet a while, some with the privacy to torture if their captors so desired that route.

With a few hours to spare, the Lostie began to roam the town, keeping his eyes and ears open. Sadly like most small towns, Blackburg seemed to shut down when the business day concluded, the only signs of life Asa saw were those heading home after the meeting, and the more of them he saw, the more he stuck to the shadows and back alleys. If only he knew how close his duck and weave route home had taken him to his cousins.

As pale light began to fill the Farrell women's make-shift prison, the door began to creak open, revealing one of their captors standing in the entrance with their breakfast. Moving as quietly as he could, James set the tray of cold cereal down on a small table before turning to gaze at the pair huddled together under the sheet. They weren't bad looking for mountain freaks, both with long coppery red hair, the older a bit darker in tone, but still easy on the eye.

Instantly the male froze when he realized the younger woman who was studying his face, burning every detail into her mind to tell the cops or her dangerous kin if she were to escape, and the later of which seemed more unnerving than the former.

“The hell are you looking at Farrell?” James snarled out, using anger to mask the ill-ease those pale green eyes filled him with.

Bruscar,” Fallon stated plainly.

“English,” the male pronounced the word slowly as if speaking to a child, “or are ya to inbred to even know it?” A callous laugh emerged from the captor.

Never once did the young woman, who couldn't be much older than his own sister, blink. Her unwavering gaze slowly killed off the laughter, and her voice caused James to break out in a cold sweat and chills. “Bidh a 'bheinn ag èirigh suas gus a bhith ag ath-dhìoladh air a h-igheanan agus is e truagh cinn an luchd-brataidh agus an cuid ghaoil. Beware lowlander, beware.”

Thoroughly unnerved at this point, the male quickly retreated upstairs to make sure Sally Anne was ready for work.

Back on Shay Mountain, Hasil's eyes popped open as sunlight filtered through Asa's window. Rushing through the woods the smaller male tore his way back to the main encampment calling for every able bodied cousin to join him. Entering the settlement, Hasil nearly collided with Lil Foster, who had already amassed a large group of not just Farrells, but Shays and McGintucks as well, outside of Lady Ray's home.

The sunlight seemed to turn the Bren'in's fine hair into gossamer as she raised the Oak in one hand, the other held in a position for quiet. “As some of ya already know, the first blow was struck yest'rday. Two of our own were taken from this very mountain,” clearly some time in the night Lady Ray had come to the conclusion Hasil and Lil Foster already knew in their hearts.

“Part of ya are to comb these woods for any signs of Fallon and G'Winveer in case I'm as wrong as I'm hopin' I am.”

Turning her eyes to the two waiting men Lady Ray called out, “Hasil, Foster! Each of ya take three and start down in case they're laying hurt on a trail. I want every body back a'fore dark! Ged-Ged-Yah!”

A deafening roar of a call replied to the Bren'in before everyone began to hive off to search. Despite the long night spent below, Asa quickly found himself along side Hasil and another young cousin searching their way down one of the old logging trails. “I didn't see anything last night,” the Lostie stated, pushing back another bush.

“So yer sayin' they aren't,” Hasil started before being cut off. “That ain't what I'm sayin' at all Hasil. I think they're still down there, what we need is to be searching basements and cellars. That's where yer gonna find them.”

A call from the third member of their party caught the pair off guard. “Hasil! Asa! Over here, I think I found something,” Tibereus yelled from a nearby clump of thorn bushes. Tangled in the thorns was a strip of cloth spotted with a bit of fresh blood and the heavy footprints of work-boots.

“Looks like they go halfway down,” the youngest stated. “Probably had a truck waiting to load the girls up in.” Asa's nod of agreeance filled Tibereus with joy. In a flash that joy vanished as Hasil and Asa started down following the prints and stopping once they turned into truck tracks.

“We'll loose 'em once we get into town,” Asa sighed. “Which makes us no better off.”

“Ya can stay behind if you want,” Hasil growled faintly, rising from a squat, “but I'm going down. My Fay's down there and I aim ta find 'er.”

“Tibereus! Head back and tell Lady Ray what's goin' on, then go find Foster and bring 'im here,” Asa commanded. With that they pulled away and began the trek down, Hasil with a knowing he'd find Fallon and hoping it'd be alive.

Chapter Text

Anxiously Hasil paced back and forth as he waited for Tiberus to return with Foster. “We're not much better off,” he growled lightly while Asa stirred the dirt between the marks, “ya can't track tires on road.”

“Maybe not cousin,” Asa glanced up from what he was looking at, a handful of earth in his hand, “but ya can track an oil leak, least a little ways. Might not take us to 'em, but it'll give us a place to start.”

“Which'll make things a bit easier,” Lil Foster stated as he came through the underbrush.

“Let's get a move on,” Hasil stated, letting Foster lead the way. For hours they followed the tire tracks down, breathing a sigh of relief and thanks that there'd been no rain to wash away the tracks.

Once on the main road it took a few minutes to locate the trail of rainbow shaded fluid on the pavement and follow it through town to the Shop & Save, where it dead ended.

“Son of a bitch!” Hasil growled, slamming his fist into a sign. “Now what?”

“Now we search,” Asa stated, the foursome splitting up to cover more ground.

Back in the cellar, the Farrell women dozed lightly in an embrace, each dreaming of home.

A splash of icy water and a violent yank separated the pair, two strong hands snatching G'Win from the bed. “Get your filthy hands off me,” the captive snarled out, lashing out with a booted foot.

A pained grunt emitted from Dennis Palmer as G'Win's foot connected with his most tender area, causing the former miner to tighten his grip. Catching James' eye, Denny drug the older Farrell across the room, shoving her into a straight-backed chair and securing her with a length of rope before heading upstairs to have a beer with the other guys.

There was no fear in James' eyes now as he shoved the redhead's skirt up to reveal the lack of undergarments beneath. Realization dawned in both women's eyes, a scream ripping from Fally's throat as she redoubled her effort to free herself from her captor.

All of Fallon's Farrell pride went out the window as she felt the foreign hand running along her thigh, cold fingers caressing her most personal place, a place only visited by her Hasil until now. “Not so feisty now, are you?” he smirked undoing his jeans.

“P-please,” Fally whispered, her tongue darting out to moisten her dry lips, “don't do this!”

A sharp slap snapped her head to the side, even as a knee roughly parted her legs. The deed was over in a matter of minutes, bruises already starting to form on the shattered woman's thighs leaving a silent testament to the lowlanders' brutality.

Trembling violently Fallon struggled upright, biting back a whimper as she crossed the cellar to release G'Win from her binding. In an instant the older woman was easing the younger back into the mattress, wetting a strip of sheet to gently bath the mess from her cousin.

Silent tears slipped down Fally's cheeks, her voice weak from her screams, “Why? What did we ever do to deserve this, G'Win?”

“Nothing Fally,” G'Win whispered, rocking her gently. “We're innocent here, they're the ones who can't leave well enough alone. Try to sleep Fallon.”

Brushing her cousin's hair back gently, G'Win began to sing softly once more, “The wee birdies sing and the wildflowers spring, and in sunshine the waters are sleeping. But the broken heart it kens nae second spring again, though the waeful may cease frae their grieving.”