Marrying a Highland Outlaw – Extended Epilogue
Hannah Macdonell loved the snow. It was like a magical transformation that changed familiar places into something altogether different. Lacy icicles stretched from the castle ramparts lending it an air of mystery, a place that fairy-folk might inhabit instead of the mere mortals who went about their daily business there.
Today there was an air of excitement abroad at Castle Macdonell. Only days ago, Hannah’s brothers Blaine and Errol had returned from the Isle of Mull with their wives, Ivy and Edina and Ivy and Blaine’s twin girls, Mirin and Alba. This time, they were accompanied by Edina’s sisters Skye and Margaret.
The castle was bustling, filled with the joy of the season, as preparations were in hand for holiday feasting.
Hannah and the others had been out collecting holly and ivy to decorate the great hall and create ribboned wreaths to hang on the castle doors. She entered the solar where the lasses had gathered and were busy with their nimble fingers creating the decorations. She looked around at the smiling faces with a joyful heart.
At times she’d been lonely in the castle, especially when the men were absent – sometimes for days – visiting outlying villages, patrolling the Macdonell lands, ever-watchful in case Sir William de Coughran should attack the castle again.
But today, all was peaceful. There was a definite thrill of anticipation in the air. Not only was Christmas Day fast approaching, but this was the day when Taveon and Payton’s sister Arya would be returning from The Priory, where she’d been languishing for several months, safe with the good sisters. Now, finally, as there’d been not a peep out of Sir William de Coughran and no sightings of his men anywhere on or near Macdonell land, Payton, as the Laird of the Macdonells had decreed it safe enough for Arya to return home.
Her bright presence had been sorely missed and Hannah was eagerly awaiting her return. Although regular messages had been conveyed to the convent, there was so much to tell her. After all, Arya had been whisked away to safety the very morning following Hannah’s capture and abduction to Lochnell Castle. There were so many adventures to recount, not the least of which was the story of Hannah and Taveon’s wedding.
Hannah had embroidered two cushions for Arya’s chamber. While there were no longer any colourful hangings in the room, she’d found an elderly workman from the village who had plastered the walls and painted them with Arya’s beloved roses, along with bouquets of other flowers. Now Arya’s bedchamber glowed with color and beauty.
As the morning wore on, the excitement grew. They had stopped work and were partaking of a soda of rosewater and honey and some almond marzipan cakes, when the twins came running in. “She’s comin’,” they chorused in unison.
Hannah flung aside the arrangement she’d been working on and put down her cup of rosewater. Straightening her skirts and tucking her hair under her lace cap she raced out of the solar, heading pell-mell for the keep.
The others followed more decorously.
Hannah dashed outside, arriving at the keep only seconds behind Taveon and Payton. She fidgeted from foot to foot, waiting while the gatemen drew up the unwieldy iron gate. The cart was slowly approaching when an impatient Arya leaped down and raced toward her brothers and Hannah, her arms open wide.
They all met in a tangle of hugs, tears and kisses.
Arya was introduced to the newcomers and it was clear from the smiles all round that not only Ivy and Edina, but Blaine and Errol, had taken to her at once.
Arya was glowing, seeming so much more grown up than when Hannah saw her last.
“Ye look beautiful,” Hannah exclaimed, holding her newest sister-in-law at arm’s length. She was clad in a navy-blue cloak trimmed with white fur and, with her mane of red curls tumbling down her back, she looked exactly like a true princess.
She hugged Hannah tight. “Oh, Hannah I cannae wait tae hear all yer stories. It was a terrible morning when I left, knowing that ye’d been abducted by that monstrous man.”
“And if nae for yer brothers’ courage, I might still be his captive,” Hannah responded, her mind darting back to the awful blackness and the sudden terror when she realised she was once again in Sir William de Coughran’s clutches.
Arya’s blue eyes misted with tears. “It almost broke me heart tae miss yer wedding tae Taveon.”
Hannah hugged her again. “But ye were with us in all your glorious roses. Me dress was rose-pink in yer honor and the roses were everywhere.”
They entered the castle arm-in-arm, leaving the servants under Maggie’s instructions to bring in the luggage.
The remainder of the day passed in a happy blur of catching up. Hannah recounting the details of her kidnap and the journey under threat to Lochnell Castle.
“Were ye very afraid, Hannah?” Arya asked.
“Aye. But mayhap I was more angry than afraid,” Hannah responded, “yet when I spoke with Fyfe de Coughran and he reassured me that he would nae make me his wife, I believed there was hope.”
Arya’s eyes widened. “And then my brothers came tae yer rescue?”
“And me brothers as well,” Hannah added, laughing, “with our most loyal friend Gillebride. Once I saw them, I knew that, somehow, they would take me tae safety.”
Arya sighed. “I have nae exciting stories. My life with the sisters was tranquil and contemplative. I did a little embroidery, but I confess my fingers are nae deft like yers. I spent most of me time in the garden.” She looked up, her blue eyes sparkling. “I learned so much about herbs and healing that it’s certain ye’ll come tae think me a witch. It’s nae only roses, but I wish tae grow my own herbs here at the castle. I’ll spend much time learning all I can from Sister Margaret in the infirmary.”
“Come now,” Hannah said, tucking her arm into Arya’s. “I wish ye tae see yer bedchamber and tell me if ye like it.”
Christmas day was a day of thankfulness and feasting and the days that followed were pleasant, family times, that had been all too rare over the past years of war.
Hannah was thankful for having her family together for the very first time. Since Arya’s arrival two days ago, along with her sisters and the children, they’d fallen into a pleasant routine. After breaking fast, they spent the morning in the solar, chatting, gossiping, embroidering and mending. After lunch they would all venture out into the snow. They’d made snowmen, tobogganed down the slopes beside the castle walls and waged snowball wars.
Occasionally Taveon and the other men joined in, always the targets of a flurry of snowballs.
Five days after Christmas, Hannah was re-entering the keep after their afternoon outing when Taveon caught up with her, warming her cheeks with his kisses.
He took her hand as they walked inside. “Payton has asked that as soon as ye’ve shaken the snow out of yer hair and taken off yer boots and cloaks we all meet in the solar.”
She raised a questioning eyebrow.
“There is news. A messenger came this morning from King Robert.”
“Does that mean…?”
“Hush, love, Payton will tell us all. Make haste tae the solar.”
Hannah collected the others and, once they’d changed out of boots and cloaks into slippers and shawls, they all assembled in the solar, waiting for Payton.
Would this be the news they’d so long awaited? A message from King Robert, accepting their petition to join his side in the war against the English king?
When Payton walked in, grinning from ear to ear, it was clear that whatever his news, it met with his approval.
“I ken ye’re all anxious tae hear what I have tae say. As ye ken, the chiefs of Clan Macdonell are in agreement with my proposal that we swear allegiance to our rightful King, Robert the Bruce. We sent him a petition several months ago and have been waiting for his response.”
“What this will mean tae Clan Macdonell is that we will be allied with the other Highland clans who are fighting with the Bruce. Following the wedding of mmey brother, Taveon, we are already allied with Clan MacKinnon, and an allegiance tae King Robert will provide us with his patronage and protection. Our strength will increase and we’ll nae longer fear the likes of traitors such as Sir William de Coughran.”
A cheer went up and cups of mead were passed around.
Hannah turned to Taveon. “Are ye now tae journey tae kneel afore the King?”
“Aye, lass, we will journey tae Glasgow in the new year when the snow has melted. There we’ll meet with the King and his lords.”
Her face fell at the thought of being alone again, without her beloved by her side.
“Dinnae fash,” he said “Ye’ll be with us, along with all yer sisters and the weans.”
“Oh!” she gasped. Then she leaned into him with a big smile, her heart beating fast. “And, at last, I’ll be married tae a man who has knelt in allegiance tae the true king!”
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