The grim, violent story of a Scots family caught between armies at the time of the 1746 battle of Culloden. Young Jeannie Main saves a gypsy's life, and in return receives a prophecy: ""Ye will make a king, and break a king, but will ye ride the kelpie?"" A kelpie is a wild spirit, appearing as a bull or horse, reputed to grant a wish to anyone who succeeds in riding it; those who fail are drowned. As Jeannie tends the wounded, forestalls the Jacobite's surprise attack, and re-encounters the gypsies at several crucial moments, she wonders about the kelpie; then, in her hour of greatest need--both her parents have typhus, and her dear friend Alastair is wounded and in hiding lest he be executed as a rebel--she happens on a huge, black horse and courageously rides it; and though it is indeed only a horse, the act leads to the realization of her wishes for health and safety for her family and for Alistair, who escapes on the horse. As in Mollie Hunter's historical novels, carefully rendered details lend a strong sense of time and place here, with a resourceful protagonist caught up in dramatic events. The first-person narrative is so authentic (""We hawna had a hingin' in the toon for far ower lang"") that a glossary of over 100 words is supplied, but the persistent reader will be well rewarded by the tuneful, vivid language. At the conclusion, both the just and the unjust have been suitably rewarded; yet the consequences of a bitter civil war to the strongly individualized characters--members of a complex, socially stratified society--are realistically presented.