"We're lost." And forgotten, and with no hope of rescue. Corrigan was getting a little more clear-headed by that point, at least clear enough to notice that the path they had been on was long gone and it was a bit chilly out there. Add in the fact that the horses were about ready to declare a strike, and it was starting to look bleak.
"We're not lost, just..." Scott pulled his horse up short, looking around blearily, thinking more and more about his nice, warm bed. "Tempor... uhm, misplaced."
Corry shook his head, then took to surveying the area again. The moon was out, which shed a little light into the trees, but that didn't offer much in the way of direction. "Is all of Scotland this sparsely populated?"
"Nu uh... we shoulda come 'cross somethin' somewhere by now. Unless we're goin' in circles." Which was possible. He was an engineer, afterall, not a navigator.
"Time is it?"
"Mum's gonna murder me... aye, she'll just string me up an' that'll be the end o' that." Leaning over the horse's neck for a moment, Scott groaned. He could see it -- they stagger in after several days lost; bruised, tired, and too weak to run away -- and then... "I'm a dead man."
Corry laughed. "We established that, didn't we?"
Shooting an irritated glance back, the other cadet sat up straight again. "A'right, really dead this time. Double dead."
"I won't let 'er kill ya. Who'd design the ship if you bit it?" Corrigan nudged his horse up until he was along side Scott. "Besides, you're only my best friend. And think about it! How many Starfleet cadets can say that they got lost in the woods on horseback, drunk, and lived to tell about it?"
Taking advantage of the setup, Scott lowered his voice to an almost sinister level, eyeing Corry with a wicked look, "Who says we're gonna live?"
Frowning, Corrigan held the gaze. "Of course we're gonna live. Someone's bound to find us."
"But how soon?" Having all too much fun, the younger cadet set his horse to a slow walk, circling Corry. "Ye know, there're stories of all sorts in these parts. In fact," Scott continued, lowering his voice further still, until it was just above the sound of the wind in the trees, "once I heard 'bout this group o' highwaymen... y'know, the men who useta jump from the trees and cut the throats of innocent travelers."
A little spooked, either because of the booze or because his friend was very good at taking advantage of bad situations, Corry swallowed hard. "That's bullshit. There haven't been reports of highwaymen for centuries."
"Oh, but ye never know, do ye? Maybe they're just waitin'... waitin' for someone dumb enough to wander away from the lights, away from the safety o' the city..." There was nothing quite like abusing someone's drunkenness. And cultural misconceptions. "Common 'round these parts, all the way up past the third world war, ye know. Cut-throats, radioactive mutants..."
"If there were highwaymen, they'd never bother with two cadets," Corry tried, lamely.
"Waitin' in the trees, watchin' for a chance to leap down--"
Something rustled in the brush, and that was all the influence Corrigan needed to lose his entire sense of reality. He kicked the horse in the side, probably by accident, held on by what could only be the sheer force of fear when it reared up, and only just managed to grab onto its mane in time when it took off at a full gallop.
While watching Corry get repeatedly slapped in the face by woodland brush was good, he couldn't very well be left to find his way anywhere by himself, so Scott took off after him. At least he had the sense to avoid the worst of the branches, though; he counted almost fifteen pained 'ow's' before Corry managed to get his horse back under control.
Scott stopped his only a moment or two behind. "Cor... oh, God, the look on yer face..." Dissolving into giggles again, he almost fell off the horse.
Corry glared ice chips, slipping down and breaking off a thin branch from a sapling nearby. "Just keep laughing, because I'm about to seriously hurt you."
"It was a stick... I threw a bloody stick, and ye lost yer mind." Having no clue what was up with the sapling, Scotty was still damn amused with himself. Afterall, if you couldn't take advantage of your drunk buddy and scare twenty years off of his life, who could you take advantage of? He was sure it wouldn't work, but apparently the timing, the whistling of wind, Corry's already odd misconceptions about Scotland, the alcohol and the entire mood all worked together for this little masterpiece.
Swatting the other cadet across the arm with the branch, Corry waited until the yelp quit echoing before saying, "Well, you have your stick and I have mine."
"I'm not apologizin'..." Scott said, then whimpered and fell back to rubbing at his arm. That'd leave a nice welt, he was sure. "Ye dinna have to get mean about it."
"You scared the Hell outta me!" Corrigan had an obvious debate with himself, raising the branch again, then apparently decided he had gotten the point across and dropped it. "Now, before we get into any more trouble, do you have any idea where we are? Or what time it is?"
"No," Scotty answered, fairly well sobered up himself now. Relatively speaking, anyway, compared to what he had been. "I suppose if we head in one direction, we should end up somewhere."
Corry nodded, dragging himself back up onto the horse's back and taking the reins in hand. He held a hand over his heart for a moment, then gestured. "All right, lead on."
"Turn my back on ye? Ohhhh no, by all means."
"You know your way! I don't!"
Raising an eyebrow, Scott asked, "Ye sure? We are lost, afterall."
Corry rolled his eyes, nudged the horse into a walk, and took the lead.
It was the booms of the fireworks going off in Aberdeen, signaling the new year, that finally gave them the right direction. Of course, by that point, they were both too cold and tired to think about turning around and heading into the city, so they simply sang a few verses to Auld Lang Syne
, talked back and forth about the great days gone by, and came to the conclusion that this jaunt would probably be remembered simply because of its relative stupidity.
So when the lights of the house came back into view, and the two cadets trudged their tired horses up the lane, it was a welcome sight. One of those, 'you're still alive no matter how stupid you've been' sights, which generally greet the baffled, the moronic, and the young and foolish. They had fulfilled at least two of those requirements, and were close on the other two.
Most of the vehicles were gone, though the carriage that the horses had come from and the shuttlecraft in the field were still there. Shaking his head, Scott slid off of his horse and tied the reins to the fence, close enough to the water trough that had been set up for them. He wasn't particularly bothered by missing the celebration in town -- the stunt he had pulled on Corry was more than worth it. If he were an artist, he would have been tempted to paint the scene.
"My butt's gonna hurt for a month," Corrigan complained, following his friend's example. "I've never ridden a horse that long."
"Well," Scott said, amiably, "if anyone tells ye it's like bein' with a woman, ye c'n tell 'em to take a hike."
"That's pleasurable. This isn't."
Shaking his head, Scotty chuckled and headed for the house. He had been riding for years, but had since fallen out of the habit. Morning would probably show just how much, and how many muscles he'd abused. Tossing a glance back over his shoulder, he paused to let Corry catch up, just about ready to toss this night up to experience.
So when the gut-wrenching, blood-curdling, almost inhuman howl came, it was more like being dipped in engine coolant. That instantaneous, frozen reaction of the damned, the cursed, the confused. The horror as it all came to play out, the figures that glowed eerily, the gibbering nonsense, the black-painted faces...
...the hard thud as the two cadets slammed into the ground.
Terrified beyond all possible description, Scotty couldn't even manage a cry of fear. The world had just turned into something surreal, though the logical part of his mind (the part that wasn't working) might have told him that there was nothing to panic over. As far as he was concerned, panic was a good idea, but by the time he realized that, he was already pinned to the muddy ground and a somewhat familiar voice was all too jolly above, "So what d'ye think we should do t' our horse thieves 'ere?"
The other voice, the one above Corry's muffled shouts for help, heavenly or otherwise, replied, "Oh, I dinna know. Skin 'em, maybe?"
"Aye, that'd work mos' times. Wouldna learn anything that way, though."
"D-do... do I get a vote in all o' this?" Scott asked, albeit timidly, once he finally got his breath back.
"'Course not." Grinning merrily, the man stood up and offered a hand down.
Taking the hand, the cadet pulled himself up, not really surprised that he was shaking from head to toe now. Looking over at Corry, it was a little bit of a reassurance to find him in the same condition; muddy, confused, shaking, and otherwise a little dazed. It took another minute to find his voice again. "Cor, these.." pausing for a moment, he tried to find a polite word instead of a curse, "gentlemen
happen t' be my uncles."
"Wonderful family," Corry murmured, eyes still wide.
"Charlie's the name, lad," the one who had Corry pinned said, grabbing his lifeless hand and shaking the hell out of it. "The horses ye decided to borrow
happen to be mine."
"N-nice to meet you."
"This one's Edward," Scott muttered, gesturing to their other assailant. "Mum's brothers, an' both a bit wrong in the noggin."
Edward frowned, swatting his nephew upside the head. "Watch yer tongue, Montgomery. We prob'ly saved ye a chewin' from yer mother."
"A chewin' would be preferable to bein' scared gray!" Scotty protested, though not nearly as seriously as he would have liked. "Were ye just layin' in wait?"
Charlie grinned, oblivious to the way Corrigan cringed when he threw an arm across his shoulders. "We saw ye ridin' back the road... just got here maybe twenty minutes ago. Thought we'd don some warpaint and give ye a proper greetin', o' sorts. O' course, lad, if'n ye want us to tell Cait what happened--" Seeing Scott blanch white, he chuckled, "Well, we dinna tell 'er yet."
"So how 'bout we just use this as a learnin' experience? Ask before ye borrow a man's horses." Quite satisfied with the way it was all playing out, Edward nodded smartly and headed back for the house, basically leaving it at that.
Certainly not about to argue, for fear of incurring motherly wrath, Scotty waited until both men were out of earshot before leaning on the fence with both hands and taking a few good, deep breaths. "Unfair."
"If you wanna call foul, I'll deny knowing you," Corry replied, leaning beside his roommate, likely trying to come to grips with his second scare of the night. "Man... I'm half tempted to just hop the shuttle back to Belfast tonight. At least I know I'm safe on campus."
"Take me with ye, if ye do." Looking back at the house, Scott nodded to himself. "I love 'em, Cor... but ye know that old sayin', 'too much of a good thing' an' all that."
Nodding emphatically, Corrigan had no problem agreeing, "Aye."