“What does that mean? Is he like a King or something?”
Myra laughed. “He might think he is at times, but nay. My father is the authority here, he and my brothers.”
“Who gave him that title?”
“I suppose you could say it was his father, but in reality he earned it himself. My father has defended this land from the men who would take it. Although the sieges of the past are not as frequent of late.”
Tara turned a worried look over to Myra. “Are you saying that at any time anyone could come along and take all of this from you? All they would have to do is fight you for it?”
Myra attempted a smile. “Aye. But don’t worry.
My family is strong. The men here would fight to the death to keep it from being occupied by another.”
But Tara did worry. Being under siege might sound mysterious in a novel, but in her new reality it didn’t seem the least bit romantic.
Myra explained that the people of the village depended on the MacCoinnich’s for direction and safety. Ian and Lora would often council the population. And when needed, act as judge and jury to their troubles.
“How do you get used to all the people?” Tara rested her leg on a bench. “I can’t go anywhere without running into someone.”
“It was worse before my brothers started their journeys in the future. It was common for the knights and squires to spend their days and nights in the main hall.”
“All of them?” Tara stared down at over two dozen men in the yard. All of them heaving heavy swords and sweating. Duncan’s sweat didn’t bother her, but the others… “I hope they bathed.”
Myra chuckled. “It was quite horrible at times.”
“I should be grateful I arrived when I did.”
“My father needed privacy for this family, because of who we are. If you were to visit our neighbors in the North you would find their halls filled with men.”
“These men here don’t mind that they are treated differently?”
Myra nodded. “I think they prefer their privacy, as much as we do.”
Tara scratched the nose of one of the dogs who prattled around after her. “What do they know about me?” “That you are under Duncan’s protection.”
“Ha,” Tara scoffed.
Myra went on, “They think you are distraught from the loss of a family member. They’ve been told to avoid approaching you at this time. Your accent will be difficult to explain. Even if you came from a neighboring village your speech wouldn’t be as different as it is. You must keep who you are from them.”
“I know. Your mom told me.”
“It wouldn’t hurt if you tried saying a few things as we do, aye and nay perhaps.”
Tara smiled and took Myra’s hand. “Now don’t ye be worrying about me, lassie. I can hold me own.”
Myra wiggled her nose. “That was much too Irish. I think it best you keep to your own accent. We wouldn’t want the men to think you a spy.”
Myra got up to leave. “I need to see to Amber and her studies. Would you like to join me?”
Tara skimmed her eyes over to Duncan and Fin who faced each other off. “I’ll stay here if you don’t mind. I could use a little time alone.”
Myra nodded and went off.
Duncan and Finlay were quite literally, brothers in arms. They taught and exercised their fighting skills daily. Neighboring knights and their ladies sent their sons to train with them.
Duncan wielded his sword with little effort. He lifted it high above his head and twisted his body in all directions as if facing his enemy from all sides at once. There was none faster and more cunning on the battlefield. If his skill alone didn’t set him apart in a crowd, his clean shaven face would have. He had kept it bare since she had emerged from her room weeks prior. He faced ridicule and jokes from his peers, but he didn’t seem to mind.
She slipped from her perch and moved to get a closer look.
Tara sometimes caught him watching her, felt him trying to peer into her thoughts. Lora had provided valuable information advising her how to block him out of her mind. When Tara sensed Duncan peeking into her head, she purposely thought of a running river or some other body of water.
Sometimes, she pictured an animal playing or running. These thoughts blocked and confused him.
She even went so far as to sing rock songs in her head, which always brought a puzzled look to his face when she was near enough to see his expression.
At times like now, when he was busy training, he was too involved in what he was doing to notice her presence. Or at least she hoped so. It wouldn’t do any good to ignore him all day, to blow the effect by letting him know she was interested in how he spent his time.
So, she sat in the shadows of the massive Keep, sang a little Green Day, and watched the men sweat.
Life could be worse. ****
Ian watched as his wife sat patiently with her needlework. “Have they even spoken two words since the first day?”
“Oh, one or two, but only when they cannot avoid it.”
“I have to put an end to this nonsense. I hear rumblings from the men. Jacob asked if he could court her.”
“We can tell the man Duncan is pursuing her, it’s up to him to make it believable.” She snipped off her thread and changed the color.
“How can he make it believable if they aren’t even speaking?”
“Tara’s needed this time, husband. Have a bit more faith in your son.”
“I’ve never been as patient as you.”
Lora nodded her head in agreement. “Growing up an only child has kept your patience short.”
It was an age-old story, which bore repeating. “I grow tired, Lora. I want to see our children have families of their own.”
“You make it sound like you’re at death’s door.
We both know nothing could be further from the truth.”
He ran his fingers through graying hair. “Myra is well past the age of eligibility. Why, by the time you were her age Duncan was almost two and Fin was well on his way to this world.”
Lora removed her eyes from her embroidery and gazed at her husband. Stress and worry etched his face. She put her needlepoint aside and went to him.
“My lord husband, do not take to heart these matters. I’ve seen the goodness ahead for our children. Myra’s husband will come. Forcing her into a marriage was never an option and ye know it. All this needless concern will only remove precious years from them if you allow it to continue.”