Malcolm pushed the point of the blade against his neck until a drop of red blood trickled down. "You craven, tell me your name."

"Bethoc," the would-be assassin said in a horse voice.

Malcolm stared at the man who cowered on the ground at his mercy. His tunic bulged at his chest, his shoulders were too scrawny, and he'd never see a man's waist taper so.

Malcolm gasped, yanked the sword away, and stepped back. "A lass."

"Yes." She took a deep breath and sat up. "A woman sworn to vengeance."

As she sat up, her fingers slid over her head, slipping off the black hood of her cowl revealing brownish-red braids pinned on top of her head. Though her black braies and tunic veiled her in the night, she'd attempted her crime under a near full moon. Amateur. No hired killer was she.

"I came for Scot blood in vengeance of my sire. He died by mac Alpin's treason." Her green eyes blazed.

"Who is your lord?" Malcolm fisted his hand around the hilt of his blade and squeezed hard.

She pushed herself to a standing position. "I have none." Almost as tall as him, she looked him in the eye. "My betrothed was killed in the massacre along with my father. I am the only one to avenge their deaths."

Her face was a perfect oval and her pale skin looked translucent in her dark assassin's attire.

"A female whelp. You nearly killed the King." Malcolm sliced his sword through the air. "Take her to the feasting hall. The king will deliver judgment." He jammed the blade into the sheath belted at his side.

Two soldiers grabbed the slender captive by each arm and dragged her to the castle. Cornelia Amiri writing Steampunk/Romance as Maeve Alpin