This is a short chapter, but I hope you all enjoy it all the same!
The next morning I woke early, just as the sun was peeking over the calm waters. Knowing that Father wished for the household to see our visitors one last time before they were to leave for the north, I quickly dressed and broke my fast before a knock sounded on the door.
Without a word of permission from me, it opened and Theresa stuck her head in, a warm smile on her lovely face. "Good morn, Aileas," she greeted me as she pushed the door open even wider. "Yer fither has instructed us to meet in his solar afore we see off our guests."
"His solar?" I asked with a puzzled look as I followed her out the door. I had been preparing to head to the courtyard, not such an intimate place.
"Aye, it should only take but a moment." Theresa kept her lips pressed tightly together, telling all that looked upon her that she was harbouring a secret. "I ken ye doona wish to marry the Laird Sinclair, but I ken ye will be happy once ye are wed."
I was surprised by my sister by marriage's sudden words. "I doona think I could e'er be happy with a man like him. He was so far into his cups last night tha' he could ha' floated a ship." I paused for a moment and bit my bottom lip. "I envy ye and Carbry. Ye got to marry for love, not for ties."
Theresa had lived her life in our household as the daughter of Father's general and his most trusted friend. None were surprised when their plans for marriage were announced as Theresa and Carbry had been sweethearts throughout their childhood.
"Doona worry yerself, Aileas, everythin' will work itself out. Doona listen to Boyd and me foolish husband, they doona ken what they are speakin' of."
"Carbry doesna wish for me to wed Laird Sinclair, he told me so himself."
We stopped in front of the door of Father's solar before Theresa could answer me. Opening the door and walking in, I could see that Mother, Father, Uncle Grant, Rhona and my older brothers were already in the room along with Dougal and his uncle. Upon our entrance, they all turned towards us. Mother's face was worrisome as she watched me closely.
"Thank ye for bringin' us Aileas, Theresa," Father said with a kind smile. "After much discussion, we have decided on what will be done wi' this betrothal." I could feel all eyes turn to me as Father continued. "Aileas, ye will be accompanyin' Laird Sinclair back to his keep. This will let ye ken each other afore ye are wed. We will be comin' to the keep when the marriage is to take place."
I was shocked by Father's words. He could not truly mean for me to go to the home of this man whom I barely knew! It was a barbaric and unthinkable!
"No!" Everyone turned towards the loud outburst only to see Roderick standing in the doorway, his small face holding a fierce anger. "Fither, ye cannae force Aileas to go wi' this man. Ye doona ken how he will treat her!"
I could see Mother nod her head slightly as if agreeing with her youngest son. Father's mouth was drawn into a tight line and Boyd's brows were furrowed.
"This is none o' yer business, Roderick," Boyd told him as he walked towards the boy. "Ye are only a bairn."
"Am I the only one who cares about our sister?" Roderick's face was deep red as he yelled at our older brother.
"O' course no," Carbry stepped in, always the anchor of our family. "I agree wi' Roderick, we shouldna let Aileas go off wi' think man – what if somethin' were to happen to her?"
Boyd shook his head, a soft look coming over his face. "Rod, I promise ye that Aileas will be fine wi' the Sinclairs, they wouldna harm her in any way. Carbry, ye should ken tha' this is for the best."
"Do I no get a say in any o' this?" I asked, taking a step closer to my brothers.
"Na," Father and Boyd said in unison.
"I will bring no harm to yer sister, lad," Dougal tried to assure a fuming Roderick. "I will treat her better than a queen."
"I doona believe ye!" Roderick spat at my betrothed before turning towards out sire. "I will go along wi' Aileas."
It was Mother's turn to give her input on the situations. "Nay ye willna, Roderick. Ye will be stayin' here wi' us."
With that seeming to be the end of the conversation, Dougal and Donnel left the room along with my family, leaving only Uncle Grant, Roderick and myself in the solar. I sat myself down on one of the chairs and took a deep breath. I could not believe that my family would send me away from the only home I had ever known without a care for how I felt about it.
"'Tis no fair!" Roderick said, kicking the leg of the table in front of him. "They cannae do tha' to ye, Aileas!"
"I ken, Roddy, but they are me sire an' we betrothed," I told him in a miserable voice. "They may do as they please."
Uncle Grant cleared his throat loudly before speaking. "Doona worry yerself, Roderick. I held the anger you do when yer fither came to take away yer mither. I could barely let her go."
Roderick looked at our uncle with furrowed brows. "But Fither wouldna e'er do anythin' to harm Mither."
"Aye," Uncle Grant said with a nod. "I had to realize tha' too." With those last few words he stood and left the room.
Roderick and I parted without any words. I returned to my bedchamber to find all of my belongings being packed away in chests to go along with me on my journey north. I moved to the window and watched the ocean, wondering how long it would be before I ever saw this sight again.
Before noon all of the trunks were packed and taken down to the courtyard by Father's men. The yard was bustling with activity. Stable boys ran this way and that, trying to get the right horses to the right men and hooking up the wagon. The men loaded the trunks onto the wagon, letting me notice something I hadn't before. There were more trunks packed than what had come from my bedchamber.
"Mither," I said, hurrying up to her and placing a hand on her arm to draw her attention. "Why are there so many trunks? Have you agreed to letting Roderick come along with me?"
Mother shook her head. "Nay, child, it isna Roderick who is coming with ye—"
"It is Fiona," Boyd informed me as he came towards us, his face set in a stony expression.
"Fiona?" I was taken aback by what he had just said.
"Aye, she is to be comin' wi' ye, Aileas. Ye ken that she is the fondest of ye and she doesna ha' a mither to take care o' her." A sad looked flashed across Boyd's face; he barely ever spoke of Donnella.
"Ye are as bad as Fither!" I told him, fury rising up inside of me. "Ye are sending her only daughter – yer only child! – away to stay wi' some man tha' none of us ken!"
Boyd's face darkened. "Quiet yerself, woman. She is me daughter and I may do as I wish." Boyd ran a hand through his dark hair and sighed. "I am sorry, Aileas. I ken tha' ye will take care o' her an' make sure she comes to no harm."
There was no reason for me to put energy into arguing with anyone anymore, they would not listen. I was to go to the north and live with Dougal Sinclair for the rest of my life. "I will take care of her as if she were me own bairn."
I heard footsteps coming up from behind me and turned to see Dougal walking towards us. "All o' yer possessions are pack on the wagon, lass. Are ye ready to leave?"
I shook my head. I had not even said goodbye to my family. "Please give me a moment, Laird Sinclair." I turned to Boyd and hugged him tightly for a long moment.
"Good luck, sister," he whispered wrapping his arms tightly around my shoulders. "Ye will be fine."
Pulling away from him, I walked to my parents a few feet away. I hugged them then moved onto Rhona and Theresa before stopping at Carbry. He pulled me into a tight hug as if he was trying to shield me from all of the bad things in the world. "If ye e'er need anythin', sister, send me a letter and I will come get ye as soon as I can." Pushing me back and holding me at arm's length, Carbry looked into my face. "Keep yerself safe, Lisi."
I nodded, trying to keep my tears out my sight so not to worry him. "Ha' ye seen Roderick anywhere?" I asked, giving my brother a wavering smile.
Carbry only nodded behind me. I turned to see Roderick standing next to the wagon, his eyes on me. I walked towards him, tears coming again as I saw his face. "Of, Roddy," I sighed as I hurried my walk and wrapped him in my arms.
"Ye doona ha' to go, Aileas," he said into my shoulder, his voice small.
"Aye, I do, Roddy. But doona worry, ye may visit me whene'er ye like." I hugged him even tighter before looking into his face. "I will miss ye terribly."
Dougal came up to us, pulling on the reins of two large horses. "The wagon will be too rough o' a ride for ye all the way to the north, lass. Ye will be more comfortable if ye ride on a horse for the majority o' the journey." He passed me the reins of the smaller horse. "This is me marriage fit for ye," he said with a proud smile.
I bowed my heard at my new betrothed. "Thank ye. I doona ha' one for ye – mayhap if I had kenned about all this…" Glancing over to where my niece stood with her father, I looked back to Dougal. "Where will Fiona be ridin'?"
"I thought she could ride wi' ye if ye doona mind, lass. I doona think she will be too much o' a handful an' she willna take much room."
One more question floated in my mind. "How long will it take to reach yer castle?"
Dougal squinted up at the sky for a moment as if seeing if the answer to my question was floating overhead. "It shouldna take more than a week to get there, lass, if e'en tha'."
I nodded, not wanting to trade anymore words than needed with this man. With his assistance he helped me onto the horse before quickly mounting his own. Boyd strolled forward with a pouting Fiona in his arms. "She doesna want to leave," he explained as he tried to shift her in his arms.
The little girl wrapped her thin arms around her father's neck and buried her face into his shoulder. "No goin'," she said in a muffled voice.
"Ye are goin' wi' yer Aunty Aileas – there will be nay arguing." Boyd used a gentle but stern voice when speaking to his daughter. "I love ye, lass." He kissed the top of her head before detangling her arms from around his neck and passing her to me.
With a little effort I got her in front of me on the horse, secured so she would not fall off. "I suppose this is it, brither."
"Aye, it is. Behave yerself an' take the best care o' Fiona," Boyd instructed me strictly.
I was touched at his concern for his daughter. "I will, ye need no worry, Boyd." I pulled my cloak around me and Fiona, watching as Boyd walked off towards Father. I slowly rode the horse over to where Dougal's men had gathered, getting a feel for this new horse. I had not spoken to any of the men that Dougal had brought with him, not his uncles or his brother by marriage. Besides the youngest man he had brought with him, Fingal, they all seemed to be kind enough men.
"Are ye ready for our new lives?" I whispered to Fiona, placing a kiss on the crown of her head.
"No," she answered simply, still pouting.
"Neither am I, lovely."
Please let me know what you think! Smrae and Isla Corinne, thank you so much for your reviews! :)