A Highlander Marked by Fate – Extended Epilogue
Kirklinton, Twenty Years Later
There was a huge splash, and Margaret let out a shriek, as Rory plunged into the woodland pool from above, spraying her with water, as she sat at the edge by the waterfall.
“Rory, you are like the children, even they are old enough now not to leap into the pool in such a way,” she said, laughing, as he emerged, his hair streaked down around his ears, dripping wet as he climbed out onto the bank.
He shook himself, spraying her with water and causing her to shriek and run from the side of the pool as he chased her.
“Then ye must jump in too, Margaret. Tis’ a hot day, come now, ye need to cool off,” he cried, as she ran from his embrace.
“I have no desire to get any wetter than I already am,” she cried, but it was too late, and now he had her in his arms, carrying her back to the water’s edge.
“I shall dae it, I shall dae it,” he cried, holding her over the water, as she let out a scream.
“And I shall never speak to you again, you awful brute,” she cried, as he pulled her back and brought her into his embrace.
“Would I dae such a thing?” he asked, and she laughed.
“Not if you valued your life, you would not,” she said, and he kissed her.
“Another day, perhaps,” he said, smiling as he set her down carefully on the ground.
“How nice to be alone,” she said, laying back in the sun and smiling up at him.
“Just as we used to. Dae ye remember the walks we would take out here after we were married, the days we would spend here by the pool,” he said, and she nodded.
“Without care or worry to our name,” she replied, and he nodded.
“And we are still blessed with few worries to this day,” he said, coming to lie down in the sun next to her.
“Oh, you are still wet, Rory, I hope the sun will dry you before we walk back to Kirklinton,” she said, and rolled over and kissed him again.
“Well, now that ye are wet, why nae join me for a swim,” he said, looking at her mischievously.
“No, besides, we had best get home. Otherwise, Evie and Hamish shall be at Kirklinton before us,” Margaret said, rising to her feet and stretching out in the sun.
It was the height of summer, the sun casting dappled shadows through the canopy of trees above and the birds singing all around. Together, Margaret and Rory walked hand in hand through the forest, speaking of old times and remembering the past.
“I wonder what tales we shall hear from the children,” Rory said, and Margaret laughed.
“They are hardly children, Bryce and Hanna are grown up and are almost of age. They are growin’ up fast,” Margaret replied, as they came to a fork in the forest path.
“Perhaps we shall gather some mushrooms to take back with us. There was a dampness in the air last night, and now this heat from the sun. There are bound to be mushrooms aplenty beneath the shade,” Rory said, pointing along the path.
“Well, we must be quick, the sun is well past its midpoint, and we still have an hour or so to walk back to Kirklinton,” Margaret said.
“We shall look over here, come now and … oh,” Rory said, as they entered a little clearing, only to find a little old woman, bent double and picking mushrooms from beneath a tree.
She looked up as they approached and nodded to them.
“The Laird honors us with his presence, God bless ye, sir,” she said, bowing to him.
“Good woman, ye daenae need to bow to me. How did ye know I was the Laird, have I met with ye before?” he asked, and the old woman smiled.
“There is nay mistakin’ ye for the Laird and this yer fair and beautiful wife. May there be much blessin’ for ye to come in this life and the next,” she said.
“We had hoped to gather mushrooms to take back to Kirklinton, but ye need them more than we,” Rory said, nodding to her and smiling.
“There are plenty of mushrooms for us all, sir. The forests are yers, and ye have kept the peace here these many years past. The earth can spare mushrooms for us both, here take a few of mine,” she said, offering the ones she had picked.
“Good woman, nay, ye are too kind,” Rory said, but the old woman insisted, thrusting them into Margaret’s hands and fixing her with a smile.
“Aye, and ye have been the blessin’ that he sought, that which he knew nae,” she said, as though talking to herself.
“What dae ye mean?” Rory asked, but the old woman only smiled and tutted to herself.
“Only the words of an old woman who has seen much of life, sir. But I know that now yer life will be blessed, I am certain of that,” she said, and she waved them off, as she made her way from the forest clearing, waving to them as she went and beginning to sing.
“What a curious creature,” Margaret said, looking down at the mushrooms and back at Rory, who shrugged his shoulders.
“The woodlands are full of such strange people,” he replied, taking her by the hand as they walked together out onto the moorlands.
The afternoon sun had turned the heathers a rich and beautiful golden purple, the moorlands stretching out in front towards rolling hills in the north. Margaret breathed in the fresh scent of the breeze, which seemed sweet and invigorating after the closeness of the forest.
Together, they walked towards Kirklinton, eager to return and see Evie and Hamish. The sun was at its afternoon point, and tonight there would be a feast to celebrate their reunion, for it had been a month since last they had seen one another.
As they approached the turning to Lochrutton, they paused by the graves of Isla and Fraser, now buried together after Isla’s death some ten years previously. Margaret stopped and picked a posy of flowers from the wayside; the two of them entered the graveyard, laying the flowers and pausing for a moment to pay their respects.
“I often wonder what my father would make of these long years of peace,” Rory said, sighing and looking out across the moorlands.
“He would be proud of his son for all that ye have done to make that peace work,” Margaret said, slipping her arm through Rory’s.
“He would be astonished to think that the Musgraves have given us nay trouble in all these years,” Rory replied, shaking his head.
They set off along the track towards Kirklinton, the castle appearing particularly beautiful in the late afternoon sun with the banner of the Elliotts fluttering above.
“On days like this, I almost like the old place, though I should still prefer to reside in Armstrong castle,” Rory said, as they came to the gates.
“And you would be miserable there, for you would never receive a single visitor or hear anything from anyone,” Margaret said, smiling at Rory, who laughed.
“Aye, perhaps ye are right,” he said, as they came into the courtyard.
It seemed that their guests had beaten them, their horses just being stabled. A moment later, there came a call from the steps of the keep, and Evie and Hamish hurried down to greet them.
“We thought we were late in arrivin’, but it seems our hosts lingered in the forest,” Evie said, embracing Margaret and Rory in turn.
“Someone wanted me to swim with him,” Margaret said, shaking her head.
“Ah, well, we called in on Caitlin too, she is well,” Evie said, and Margaret smiled.
“She is always a good friend to us, we see her often with Hector as they drive their sheep upon the moorlands,” Rory said, as the four of them made their way inside.
“Tis’ good to be back at Kirklinton. I may nae have called it home these many years past, but it shall always be so,” Evie said, as they entered the great hall, with its long tables and the Elliott coat of arms hanging proudly upon the wall.
“The scene of much happiness and heartache, that is what I always say,” Rory said, settling himself down by the hearth.
Margaret sat next to him, and Evie and Hamish sat opposite.
“What of Grant and Ailsa, will we see them while we are here?” Evie asked, and Margaret smiled.
“Elsa is away visitin’ with Owen at Lanercost, she loves to see her uncle, or so she says,” Margaret replied, shaking her head.
“And Grant?” Hamish asked.
“Away down in Lochrutton today, though he shall be back by nightfall. Tis’ strange how they call upon him when someone is sick, he is just like our father,” Rory said, and Evie smiled.
“Those healin’ hands,” she said, and the others nodded.
“And what of your children? Though they can hardly be called children any longer, just like our own. How quickly they grow up. It is twenty years this month that we were married,” Margaret said, glancing at Rory, who smiled.
“Bryce is headstrong like his father, Hanna is a gentle creature, shy and timid. She spends most of her time upon the moorlands, it would dae her good to see her cousins, she and Elsa have always got on,” Evie said, and Margaret nodded.
“But enough of the youngsters, for now, we should drink a toast to these past twenty years,” Hamish said, and Evie nodded.
“Aye, a toast to the Laird of the Elliotts and to his wife, a true Elliott if ever there was one,” she said, as Rory called to the servants for whiskey to be brought.
“I have not felt like an English woman in many a year, I have not set foot below the border in twenty years, though my accent continues to betray me,” Margaret said, as glasses were handed around.
“An honorary Scot but a true Elliott,” Evie said, raising her glass.
“Then let the toast be to peace and prosperity, to thanksgiving and to good health and long life,” Hamish said.
“And for ye and yer clan too, Hamish,” Rory said, raising his glass.
“Two names and yet one true family and friendship. For twenty years, we have enjoyed that peace, and may it last another twenty years, for so long as we have breath, we shall make it so,” Hamish replied, and they clinked their glasses together and drank.
“And let us toast the happiness of marriage too,” Evie said, smiling at Margaret.
“And the strength of us women for putting up with these two for so long,” Margaret said, laughing as she turned to Rory and smiled.
“I shall remember that lass, and I shall remember to be less merciful the next time ye beg me nae to throw ye in the pool,” he said, and leaning forward he kissed her, as they toasted the happiness of marriage and the hope of a future yet to come.
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If you want to know what lies ahead in our story, you may want to get the sequel…
Owen Elliott’s attempt to save Charlotte from danger results in despair and anguish. But when their paths cross again years later, neither knows who is standing in front of them. And yet love always comes unexpectedly and takes refuge in their hearts, ignoring that one should never fall for the enemy… At least if you don’t want to have your heart broken once again.