Blood of the Clans Ch. 39byRoyceConnors©
Stuart didn't want the guests to dwell on the words of Argus and quickly made his way into his part of things again. Tom noticed the faint look of worry in his eyes and wondered what Argus knew that could make him feel like that. He whispered his thoughts to Deb, who nodded her agreement to his thoughts. Stuart started to speak and cleared his throat of his nervousness, before starting in.
The birlinn carrying Heather and her mother, along with Therese and guests, sailed out of Loch Alsh and up the north coast of Skye. The morning light was trying hard to break through the mist rising from the water, making it hard to see obstacles in front of them. Glenn knew the route they were taking, having sailed it numerous times in the past. He kept the coast of Raasay to his port side, watching for the channel between it and Rona.
As the craggy mountain ridge curved away, he sailed towards the tip and passed the two small outcroppings of rock jutting from the water. Fisherman in small boats were tending their nets off the coast of Rona, the teems of fish swarming to the rich feeding grounds.
By mid-morning, they had sailed around the tip and headed for Loch Dunvegan. The mist had broke and clear skies prevailed for the day, as the birlinn touched the shore. The castle looked spectacular after all the preparations and the grounds were truly immaculate.
Garreth and Grayson, along with Julia and Peadair, were there to greet them and help them alight on MacLeod land for the first time. The young women waved enthusiastically at their beaus, as Anne recognized Julia and shared a softer wave and a warm smile. The moment each man held his woman, they were embraced together and kissed with all the longing each had in their heart. Julia and Anne looked at the couples and smiled at them, then turned and walked together up the long, steep passage, sharing pleasantries and assisting each other up the climb, knowing introductions could wait. Peadair stayed with Glenn at the boat and made sure everything was unloaded and directions given to where each item was to be taken. Once the servants had cleared everything, Peadair took a moment to ask Glenn how he was holding up now.
"I'm better wi' it Peadair. The tribute Grayson paid tae my family and kin has brought a peace tae oor hearts. His idea of a village has everyone making plans fer cottages and buildings. I've had a chance noo tae deal wi' it and came tae terms wi' what's happened. The only thing I ask from God, is tae see James MacRae and his lot serve eternity in hell fer what they've done. I'm willing tae send them there by my own hand." Glenn told him, the truth of his words clearly showing in his eyes.
Peadair patted and his friend's shoulder and nodded, knowing in his heart he would be feeling just the same. The two walked up together along the passage and Peadair turned the talk to the good times at hand, not letting him dwell in his bitter misery of loss.
Garreth and Grayson took their ladies on a tour of the castle and then to their chambers. It took no time for either couple to be kissing passionately once the doors were closed.
Julia and Anne had walked through the gardens to the altar that had been constructed. They sat beside it and talked of the ceremony and what oath they wished them to say. Both agreed on a version performed by the priests at Iona Abbey, that had been done at joining MacLeod's for over two hundred years. Anne mentioned her ancestors in Glengarry had performed much the same ritual as Julia's kin had done. They ran through it several times, to make sure they remembered everything and smiled happily they wouldn't be any cause for concern for the ceremony.
The two couples arrived in the gardens and came up to the women sitting on a low garden wall. Julia and Anne smiled brightly, seeing the love so clearly evident in the eyes of their offspring. Garreth proudly walked up with Therese holding his arm and walking close beside him.
"Mother, it is my pleasure and honour tae introduce ye tae my betrothed, Lady Therese de Mornay de Trecesson. Lady Therese, this is my mother, Lady Julia MacLeod." he said proudly.
Therese was showing her nervousness, but Julia's smiled softened her fears and she felt more at ease and smiled back.
"It is my privilege to meet so fine a lady as you, Lady Julia." Therese said, as she curtseyed deeply to her.
"My dear child, It is I who am privileged tae meet ye. I've heard so much about ye and noo that ye stand before me, the rumours are'ne true enough." Julia praised her.
"You have heard rumours of me?" Therese said in surprise.
"Yes, many. I was told ye were beautiful and ye are. I heard ye were very much a lady and that's true as well. My son has told me some of your past as well and I wish to offer my condolences on the loss of yer parents and step-parents." Julia told her, as she held her hands out to her.
Therese took them and saw the compassion in Julia's eyes.
"I will always miss them, no matter how much time passes. I look forward now to being the wife of your son and making him happy and proud to have me as part of your family." Therese told her sincerely.
"Ye will be a very welcomed member tae oor family and clan, Therese." Julia told her and held her hands firmer to show she meant it.
Therese beamed widely, her smile showing her heart-filled happiness, Julia's smile showing much the same.
Garreth felt a rush of happiness consume him, seeing his mother and Therese take to one another so well.
"I can't believe in two days time, that oor children will be joined and soon tae become parents themselves." Anne spoke out,
"I know, Anne. It seems we were only feeding and dressing them not so long ago." Julia replied.
Garreth reddened a bit, as did Grayson, a slight embarrassment at remembering their youthful times past.
"I know my parents would be so proud that Garreth had chosen me and would welcome him as a son. I know in my heart it is true." Therese confessed.
"Therese, the more we talk and I get tae know ye more, the more I feel the same. I don't think Garreth could ha'e made a better choice than ye. I look forward tae ye being my daughter and sharing many moments together. I always hoped William, would bless me wi' a daughter, but I was gi'en two fine boys instead. Noo, ye can be what I always hoped fer." Julia told her, her emotions coming to the surface and tears forming in her eyes.
"Oh, Lady Julia, I so wish for that myself. It has been so long since I could share thoughts with my mother and have longed for that in my life."
Garreth literally beamed with pride, at hearing and seeing his mother and Therese bond.
"Would ye like tae walk wi' me through the gardens and we can talk together?" Julia asked her.
"It would be my honour and pleasure to join you, Lady Julia." Therese said happily and curtseyed.
"My child, ye may call me Julia." she told her with affection.
"It would be an even greater honour, if I may call you mother." Therese asked shyly.
"I would like that very much, Therese. Yes, ye may call me that." Julia told her, her own emotions now showing again and the tears welling in her eyes.
Garreth watched as his mother and Therese hugged for the first time and could see that they were accepting of each other. His heart couldn't fill with anymore happiness, than he was feeling at that moment.
Therese and Julia excused themselves and were soon walking and sharing things about themselves.
Grayson stood with Heather, who was holding his arm and looking at her mother.
"Grayson, I too could'ne be happier and could'ne imagine a finer man fer my daughter tae join wi'." Anne told him, letting him know he too had made hearts happy.
Grayson looked to his friend and both of them smiled happier than they ever had before. Heather looked at her mother and she too smiled happier than anytime before.
Garreth helped Anne up and offered his arm to her, then the four walked back to the castle and left Julia and Therese to bond.
"Yer worries were fer not, Garreth. I think yer ma and Therese are going tae accept one another and be quite close. I could see in yer ma's eyes that she likes her and Therese likes her." Grayson told his friend.
Garreth smiled in embarrassment, at having his worries exposed.
"I'll let ye's in on a wee secret. Julia was quite taken wi' Therese e'en before ye's arrived. She told me everyone she spoke to, could'ne say enough nice things about Therese. She was in a bit of awe of her tae be truthful. She sounded too good tae be true. Her a lady in France wi' a chateau and lands, obviously a great deal of money and power as well. She's very proud, Garreth. Of ye and who ye've chosen tae join wi'." Anne told them.
Garreth literally beamed with pride, upon hearing how well he had pleased his mother.
"Well there ye go, Garreth. It can'ne be said any clearer than that." Grayson joked with him, pushing him playfully, then clasped his hand to the back of his head and pulled him into a semi-hug.
The four continued on to the castle, obliviously happy, even though war was being readied to be waged upon them.
Tioram was also alive with sounds and smells, a mass of humanity mingling together. Weapons were given a fine edge by the smithy and then honed to a razor sharpness. Others trained in battle moves, the loch awash with birlinns, as they practised tactics and manoeuvres.
Arabella and Braedon sat side by side, while Robert, Sorley, Colla, Donnie Donahue, Liam O'Bannion, Neil Kennedy and Sean Donnely sat around them. Their cheery mood was still evident with the raucous talk between them, but Arabella started to quiet them down.
"Ì wish tae make an announcement, one which brings great joy tae my heart. My brother Grayson, has chosen tae join wi' Lady Heather MacDonnell. At the same time, Laird Garreth MacLeod has chosen tae join wi' a dear friend of mine, Lady Therese de Mornay de Trecesson. They'll be ha'ing a hand fasting ceremony at week's end and I'd like fer ye's tae join me in attending. Ye know there'll be plenty of food and drink and it would honour them both if ye came. What say ye's? Two days hence we'll sail fer Dunvegan and celebrate a great day?" Arabella put to them. "We'll be back soon after tae tend tae things again."
A unanimous cheer went up and laughter took over once more, as greater celebrations were to be had. The time passed quickly and as scheduled, a finely decorated birlinn was pushed off the shore and ten men rowed down the loch, until they reached the mouth and raised the sail. The off-shore breeze quickly filled the arcing canvas, straining it tightly and soon hair was blowing back, as the boat skimmed over the waves. Arabella and Braedon sat with the guests, enjoying the early morning warmth of June, their affections quite clearly showing, by the way Arabella sat close and laid her head on Braedon's shoulder and laughed at things he said. When he put an arm around her, murmurs were whispered amongst everyone, that another joining was in the making.
The birlinn made its way into Loch Dunvegan by mid-day, to rousing cheers from the castle. Banners waved in the breeze, along with hands happy to see their arrival. Once the birlinn was still, Arabella was assisted down, followed by Braedon and the others. Garreth and Grayson stood amazed, as they saw who was coming out to meet them.
When the birlinn emptied, everyone stood waiting for someone to say something, until Arabella spoke out.
"Grayson, I brought a few friends along, I hope ye don't mind?"
"And great friends they are, indeed!" Grayson shouted out happily, before hugging his sister and then turned to Braedon.
They looked at each other in hesitancy, searching where they stood with each other.
Grayson looked quickly to his sister, who smiled softly and nodded once. He turned back to Braedon and his face broke into a worried smile.
"Am I fergi'en, Braedon." he asked cautiously.
"Only if ye can fergive me, Grayson." Braedon said back, his face clearly making his request sincere, as he held his hand out to him.
"Aye, I will, but I don't understand." Grayson replied, not knowing why he asked for it, but shaking wrists firmly.
"We'll talk of it later, dear brother, fer now, let's get everyone up tae the castle and introduce one another properly."
"A good idea, Bella." he smiled at her and then hugged her close and shook her lovingly.
"Garreth, let's ha'e oor guests enjoy some drink and food, after their voyage. Lead on my friend and host, let us be merry and bless the day with the best of cheer." Grayson shouted out.
Rousing cheers went up from everyone and Garreth led the procession up the seawall passage and into the castle courtyard. All the ladies were seated on benches in the shade and rose when everyone appeared. Arabella saw them and quickly made her way over to them.
"That's the last ye'll see of yer women noo." Peadair joked.
"Aye, let them gab their heads off. Gi'es us peace tae enjoy food and drink and get tae know oor new friends." Garreth joked back.
The men made their way into the hall, the walls ringing with boisterous talk and laughter. They sat around the table and servants quickly brought glasses and the clan drink, filling a good measure in each. When Garreth saw that every man had a glass in hand, he raised his to them.
"Men, it's my privilege and honour tae ha'e ye at Dunvegan. Grayson will agree how surprised we were tae see ye's on board. Tae oor new guests, I welcome ye's and we'll come tae know each other as friends. Tae my old friends, it does my heart good tae see ye's here. Though the days ahead will be joyous and filled wi' merriment, I know ye's are here tae prepare fer the days after, when peace will no longer reign o'er the clans. We ha'e time fer talk of those days in the days ahead, but these ones are fer oor pleasure tae enjoy the life we know and value. Tae the Highlands, Tae Scotland." Garreth toasted, roaring out at the end.
Loud cheers of approval were heard, before glasses were emptied and filled again, the first of many toasts to be made that day.
The ladies sat in the quiet shade, happy to be away from the yelling and laughter and the bawdy talk of sex the men were getting into. They enjoyed a cool cider with ginger root and cinnamon, specially made for the occasion. Their talk was much more subdued and far more subtle, but the content was very much the same. Therese and Heather kept their dresses a secret, wanting them to be a surprise for everyone, much to the dismay of the other women, despite how much they pled. Anne and Julia did go through the ceremony with them and what was to be said and what was to happen. Therese's face took a quick turn of worry, when she heard that Garreth and her wrists would be bound by a ribbon.
"What's the matter Therese?" Arabella asked her, noticing her look.
"I do not have a ribbon for the ceremony. I did not know about it, Bella. What shall I do?" Therese fretted.
In a quick thought, Arabella untied the red, silk ribbon holding her hair up and passed it to Therese.
"This will do just fine, my sister. No tae worry, I'd do anything tae make sure yer day went right." she told her.
Therese looked at the ribbon and held it delicately in her hands. Tears of happiness filled her eyes and she hugged her friend closely, almost toppling them off the bench. Therese kissed Arabella's cheeks several times each and smiled happily, knowing her joining with Garreth would go off without a hitch. Arabella giggled at the attention she was given and the women laughed along. Heather quietly remembered the kisses she shared with Therese that day in her room and wondered who else had done anything like that before.
She had laid in her bed that night and touched the spot herself, starting with thoughts of Grayson, but soon returning to Therese and how she had made her feel, when the pleasure consumed her once more. Anne noticed her daughter's skin flushing and asked if she was alright. Heather flushed even more at being noticed and said she was fine and not to worry, that it must just be the heat. Only Arabella caught the look towards Therese when she was first asked and wondered why. She put the thought away and considered another.
"I do hope Sloan Fraser can make it safely back tae Stalker and return in time fer the ceremony. He's bringing a young lass and her three brothers tae Tioram fer safety and once she has bathed and changed intae the clothes I left fer her, they'll be making their way here. My heart goes oot tae them. The troubles they've had tae face already in their young lives. It's a shame so it is."
The other ladies knew little of what had happened, but knew it must have been dire for Arabella to feel the way she did about it. It only took several questions, before she was relating what she had been told by Sloan. By the end, every woman was feeling the way Arabella was about it and pledged to make them feel welcomed and safe amongst them.
Stuart stopped there and turned to Argus in private.
"Nothing happened tae Sloan on his way there or back did it?
"No, as far as anything I've read about, the voyage was uneventful." he answered.
Stuart thanked him and continued on.
The birlinn carrying Sloan and Kyla arrived late in the day before the ceremony. Peadair had come down to greet them and usher them into the castle. Sounds of celebration were filling the castle and made it easy for the couple to feel at ease. Peadair looked for his brother, but found Arabella first. He told her the couple had arrived and were waiting at the courtyard entrance, so she quickly made her way through the throngs of people towards them. Sloan smiled upon seeing her and looked at Kyla, visually introducing her.
"Sloan, I'm so happy ye could make it back safely in time. And this must be the sweet, wee lassie ye told me of. A pleasure tae meet ye, Kyla Fraser." she said to her.
Kyla was speechless and looked lost in all the goings on. Sloan gave her a little shake and brought her out of her stupor.
"Lady Arabella MacDonald, this is Kyla Fraser. Kyla, this is the chieftess of the MacDonald's of Clanranald at Castle Tioram."
Once Kyla realized who she was, she fell to her knees and thanked her for everything she had done for her. Arabella looked embarrassed at the display and helped her up, giving her her handkerchief to dry her eyes.
"Not tae worry, child. It's the least I can do fer what ye've been through and what Sloan
has offered tae us in aid." she told her softly. "It is I who am in yer debt fer all ye've done tae help us." she finished saying and bowed her head to her.
Kyla stood in awe, at seeing a powerful woman pay such respect to her.
"M'Lady, I don't understand." Kyla managed to say, curtseying to her.
"Not tae worry, Kyla. I know ye don't understand. Just know ye are welcome here and at Tioram and will be looked after." Arabella told her, smiling to ease her confusion.
Kyla held onto Sloan and looked up to him. He kissed her forehead and smiled at her too.
"Ye and yer brothers will ha'e a place tae call home, once all the fighting is o'er, that's what her Ladyship is saying tae ye." he explained.
Kyla looked at Sloan in wonderment and once she understood what was going to be done for her and her brothers, she fell to her knees again and took Arabella's hand and kissed it, then held it to her cheek, her tears releasing in abundance.
"Thank ye, thank ye. I know not of hoo tae thank ye any more." Kyla choked out, tears pouring from her eyes as she looked up to Arabella.
She helped Kyla up and gave her a hug and another smile, brushing her hair back from her face.
"I must say though, ye do look lovely in my dress. Ye fill it out quite well, ye do." she remarked, as she looked Kyla over.