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Bride of the Viking Laird – Prequel Bonus Scene

Bride of the Viking Laird

Early 1307, Isle of Skye,
Castle of Clan MacLeod of Harris and Skye

Haldor MacLeod was set on murdering his own brother right there and then at the training field, if he didn’t stop teasing him. Arne MacLeod gave a grim chuckle, his ice-blue eyes fixed on his face. “I cannae see any way out fer ye, Haldor. The king commands it and when the King commands, we dae his bidding.”

Haldor and his two brothers, Ivar and Arne, had been warming their bones in the frosty morning, sparring, honing their sword-play. But Haldor was not his usual lightning-fast self, seemingly preoccupied, his concentration somewhere far from this training area behind the castle keep.

They were ready to lower their swords, beads of sweat on their foreheads. Haldor growled, easily dodging his brother’s sword and parrying with a thrust of his own.

Arne threw up his hands. “What ails ye? Are ye dreaming of the buck-toothed, cross-eyed lass ye’re being forced to wed? The one who’ll nae warm yer bed fer ye but laugh at ye behind yer back?”

Without giving Arne a chance to move away, Haldor slid his foot behind his brother’s knee, bringing him crashing to the ground.

“Take that fer yer wicked teasing brother,” he said as Arne clambered to his feet. “I’ll nae care a fig what the wretched lass is like. She’ll never warm me bed because I’ll never take her there.”

Arne laughed. “Whatever ye say, Haldor. Ye’ll be tied tae this lass fer the rest of yer days. And ye’ll need tae take her tae yer bed if ye’re tae sire an heir.”

Ivar, who’d been watching his brothers sparring was shaking his head. “Arne’s right, brother. Ye’ve nae choice. But dinnae fret. An advantageous marriage will help tae fill the MacLeod’s coffers again and boost the numbers of our fighting men. We’ll need both if we’re tae prevail against the MacKinnon.”

Ivar held up Arne’s son, Thorsten, who was yet a wee bairn, less than one-year-old. Playing uncle to his brother’s baby was one of the few things Ivar took pleasure in. The boy was swaddled against the cold, but he waved his plump arms, watching his father and his other uncle rumbling together.

“Look, wee Thorsten. See yer father and yer uncle wielding their swords with all the skill of a pair of neeps? Why, if ye could hold a sword I swear ye’d dae a better job of it than those two.” He laughed and the little boy laughed too, a sweet sound in the chill morning air.

Arne walked over, grinning. He brushed away the dirt and hay clinging to his kilt, none the worse for having being bested by his older brother. Tiny Thorsten, named after Ivar’s twin Thor, who lost his life protecting their family, raised his chubby arms as his father approached.

“Dinnae tell the lad such stories.” Arne reached for the boy. “Listen to yer old Da, who’s the finest swordsman in all the Hebrides.”

Ivar grimaced as he passed the lively bundle over to Arne. “Phew. Ye’ve the reek of a polecat, brother.” He glanced at the wean’s fresh pink cheeks. “A sweet-smelling bairn should nae be up close to such a sweaty, unshaven barbarian.”

Arne chuckled as he cuddled his wee son close. Thorsten’s nursemaid, Muriel, stood nearby, tucking her plaid cloak around her and blowing on her hands to keep them warm.

A scowling Haldor collected their weapons. “I’ll take these back to the armory. After that mayhap I will stroll on the battlements. I’ve nae a thought in me head yet fer breaking fast. I need tae think about this order from King Robert and what it means. I’ve nae mind tae marry.” He heaved in a deep sigh. “But ye talk sense when ye speak of the advantage it brings tae Clan MacLeod.”

After leaving his brothers and depositing the swords, dirks, lances, leather shields and their assorted bows and arrows at the armory, Haldor mounted the steep stone steps that took him to the battlements. After offering a salute as he passed the guards standing to attention at the entrance, he strolled along the narrow stone ledge until there was no one in sight.

Spread before him was a sight that always lifted his heart. His eyes scanned across distant forests, snow-capped mountains rising into the clouds and green fields strewn with rocky terrains. In the distance, he saw the dark blue of the sea, glimmering in the glow of the rising sun. Below him was the village – a scattering of white thatched cottages, all with smoking chimneys – where figures wrapped in their cloaks and shawls were already going about their business in the fields beyond and in the narrow village streets.

This was his domain, and on succeeding to the Lairdship at the death of his father, Laird Ulf MacLeod, he’d sworn on his life to protect the lives of his Clan members and all their lands and the surrounding sea.

This was why he would marry.

Although he had no wish to bring a bride to Castle MacLeod, King Robert had decreed that he should wed a lass from one of the wealthier Clans whose allegiance was already owed to Robert the Bruce. But The Bruce, in his wisdom, reasoned that strengthening alliances between the clans that already followed him, would also strengthen his position in his battles against the English in his endeavours ensure Scotland’s freedom.

The King had even gone so far as to specify the clans from which Haldor could choose his bride. He’d offered three: MacDonald, Fraser, and Mackenzie. These were selected because each of these clans were led by chieftains who had daughters of marriageable age. More importantly, because all three held secure and extensive lands, which ensured their ongoing fortunes.

Haldor huffed, his breath steaming in the cold morning air. The King, in his generosity, had allowed Haldor to at least view each of the lassies when he could well have made the choice himself. Thank God for small mercies.

There was no way he could refute the wisdom of Arne’s words, however distasteful he found them. In his heart he understood that the marriage ordered by the King was the one thing that could save his clan from either penury and hunger, or being conquered by the MacKinnons. Or all of those fates.

He cursed aloud, shaking his head in despair. “By the blood of all the saints and martyrs how has it come to this?” He cast his mind back to the beginning of his Clan’s troubles. Ever since the chief of the MacKinnons, the Laird James, had gotten it into his mind to wed their sister Dahlia, there’d been naught but strife.

Dahlia disdained the MacKinnon. She loathed his cruelty and his arrogance, and he, apart from viewing her as his possession, cared little for her. She was a beauty to be claimed as his own, to be paraded as a trophy, evidence of his victory over the MacKinnons. Enraged, when Dahlia refused his offer, he’d stolen her anyway. Taken her against her will and kept her prisoner inside his castle.

It was during the brothers’ efforts to free their sister that Ivar’s twin, Thor, had been murdered. Ever since that terrible loss, Haldor had vowed vengeance. The death of the laird’s younger brother was a mighty stain on the clan’s honor and one which must be avenged. Since then, three years of skirmishing had taken their toll. Cattle had been stolen or killed, villagers had been beaten, their homes ransacked, fishermen had had their boats holed and sunk. Despite all their efforts, Haldor, weary from the ongoing feud and with the resources of Clan MacLeod at breaking point, admitted there was no recourse but to follow the King’s bidding.

He’d once fancied himself to be in love. But that was when he was a young lad, still wet behind the ears, knowing little about the ways of the world and that loving fiercely and passionately was no guarantee he would ever achieve his heart’s desire.

But then the lass he’d believed he loved, Astrid Jensen of the Outer Isles, had been abducted by privateers and, despite his frantic search for her, was lost to him.

That had been ten long years ago. There had been occasional rumours from travellers that she’d been glimpsed on board a ship that sailed the Baltic. One of the Hanseatic traders who had visited the castle swore he’d seen her in Hanover. But those reports were always vague, lacking the evidence he needed to seek for her in the north-east waters.

He kept the image of Astrid close to his heart. When he dreamed of a lass, it was her face he saw. When he was hard in the night and ached for relief, it was her bonny lips and breasts he lusted for. As the weeks, months and years wore on, her image had faded, but the vow he’d made to never give his heart to another, remained strong and certain in his mind.

After filling his lungs with the crisp, chilled air, he watched the steam forming as he breathed out slowly. Then he turned and made his way back along the battlements and down the stairs. He would go to his study now and prepare a message to be sent to the King, advising of his agreement with the request.

He found his brothers and sister in the great hall, where they’d been breaking their fast.

“Join us, brother,” Dahlia said, placing her hand on his sleeve. She would understand the pain of being forced to wed where there was no love most of all.

“Nay, I thank ye,” he remained standing. “I’d like the company of all of ye with me in the study. I’m hastening there now tae write a reply tae His Majesty’s demand. I would like ye all tae read it, as the lass I choose tae wed will be yer sister too. Me decision concerns ye almost as much as it concerns myself.

They trailed after him to his study without a word. The air was chill, the fire in the grate having only been lit minutes before. All four rubbed their hands and stamped their feet, pulling their plaid woolen cloaks more firmly around them.

Haldor went to the table while the others arranged themselves at his side.

Of the four, Arne was the only one attempting a smile. “I look forward tae another sister in the castle. Dahlia’s long face needs brightening. Mayhap when she has another lass tae chatter about embroidery patterns and coloured silks and which herbs to strew among the rushes on the floor, she’ll be much happier.”

Dahlia glared at him. “If ye think that’s all that concerns us lassies ye’re an ignorant bumpkin. Who d’ye think keeps an eye on the servants and manages the kitchen and all the coin that’s spent on traders and farmers?”

Arne gave a cheeky laugh. “Why our Seneschal, Thomas Urquhart. He’s the good lad who sees tae it all.”

She pshawed loudly, refusing to take his bait. Shaking her head, she turned her attention to her eldest brother, Haldor.

A manservant entered and placed two sticks of red sealing-wax, several sheets of parchment, an array of quills and two bottles of ink on the table. Haldor smoothed out the King’s message and read it aloud one more time, even though by now they all knew the words by heart.

He leaned back, studying their faces. Even Arne was serious now.

“So, I intend tae send King Robert a message that we will arrange a meeting with the lasses at midsummer. I will make me choice once they and their accompanying entourages are here. The Clan chiefs will attend. There will be a grand celebration, a feast tae mark the occasion of me choosing a bride. And within days we will be wed.”

He turned to Dahlia. “Once I have handed this letter tae convey it tae the King, ye will see tae the preparations fer the feast. And ye…” his attention swung to Arne and Ivar, “…will arrange messengers tae travel to the castles of me prospective brides, tae advise the date on which I expect them and their families tae gather at Castle MacLeod.”

Once he’d written his letter of acquiescence to the King’s command, he read it aloud. They all nodded their acknowledgment of this major turn in the fortunes of the clan.

Haldor folded the letter and heated his sealing wax before dripping it onto the parchment and pressing his seal upon the scalding wax, to be unsealed only by the hand of the King.

He passed the missive to his manservant who placed it in a small leather satchel which the messenger would bear to the King’s court at Carrick.

His siblings rose and Haldor dismissed them with a nod. Each of them well understood, without needing to hear it from him, that, even though this was a good turning point for the clan, it was a bitter moment for Haldor.

Alone in his study, Haldor splashed two fingers of whisky into a glass and sipping it, he let his anguished thoughts coalesce. He made his mind up that whatever charms the lassies might present to him, he would make it his business to select the plainest among them. One with scrawny hips, a flat chest or a fat belly, with a broad nose and squinty eyes, pock-marked skin, lank hair the colour of a mouse, and a high-pitched voice that squeaked when she spoke.

He knew his bride would never win his heart, but he’d make certain he’d choose a bride who could never arouse his lust either.

 

  • I would have enjoyed reading the whole book. It seemed very interesting,I look forward to finding it and reading the entire book.

  • I’m very excited to read this story. This prequel chapter has me guessing that ĥe will be very surprised at his choice of bride. Thank you Kenna. ❤️

  • Great start! I guess he’s gonna fall head over heels for the prettiest and there will start the troubles ha ha! Looking forward to reading.

    • Hello my dear Cyndy! That is amazing, thanks for sharing it! I hope you enjoy the book that it is now available on Amazon!

    • haha thank you so much my dear Raelene! Glad to let you know that the book is available on Amazon!

    • Thank you my dear Trudy! I am glad to let you know that the book is already available on Amazon!

    • Thank you my dear DIane! I am glad to let you know that the book is already available on Amazon!

    • Thank you my dear Barbara! I am glad to let you know that the book is already available on Amazon!

    • Thank you my dear Sharon, I am glad to let you know that this book is already available on Amazon!

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