A few notes —
Dukes get called Your Grace instead of My Lord when you’re addressing them because…well, nobility.
Regents take over for a kingwho is a minor. It is sometimes the mother, but usually another powerful guy. James V is a real Scottish king who was born in 1512/1513, the son of Margaret Tudor and James IV. Margaret is Henry VIII’s sister. James IV died, and Margaret was the regent for a brief time until she married the Earl of Angus, Archie Douglas. Margaret Mallory is writing a great series set in this time period about the Douglas sisters, so that’s historically accurate.
I am not super well-versed on this period of Scottish history outside of some research and reading a lot of romance novels, LOL. I’m much better with later British history.
Written in 48 minutes. Time for a basic spell check.
When they returned to the inn, Elizabeth expected her father to throw her into the small rented room —
She should have known better.
Jeffrey hurled her into the larger room that he shared with Steven, and Elizabeth wasn’t able to stop herself from falling into a high chest of drawers.
“Father!” Steven surged to his feet, his eyes wide. His sister, Sarah, warily stood and edged behind her brother. “What—”
“What did I tell you?” Jeffrey demanded, stepping towards Elizabeth, his eyes bulging, his nostrils flared. “What did I tell you to do when we arrived at court?”
“What did Lizzie do?” Sarah complained, feeling more comfortable now that she knew it was her sister in trouble. “Is that we had to leave? I wanted—”
Jeffrey silenced her with one look before focusing on his youngest daughter again. Elizabeth pulled herself to her feet, cradling her sore elbow which had taken the brunt of the damage. She backed away slowly.
“You told me to be silent,” Elizabeth said in a small voice. “I tried—but I—”
“Have you thought about what will happen to you in the Highlands?” Jeffrey demanded. “Married to some primitive barbarian? When he discovers your curse?”
Elizabeth hadn’t thought that the laird of the Morgans had seemed all that primitive or barbarous. He had almost seemed kind, if irritated by the situation. But her father’s point remained.
“Lizzie is getting married? That’s not fair!”
Jeffrey stalked forward, grabbed Elizabeth’s sore arm and dragged her forward, towards him. “Why did you speak? Why did you reveal yourself?”
Sarah gasped and Steven swallowed hard. “Elizabeth,” her brother said, anguished. “How could—”
“I didn’t mean to. I just—I was very quiet,” Elizabeth said, her tone pleading as she tried to pull her arm away from her father’s painful grasp. “No one but the regent heard me—”
Jeffrey slapped her, the back of his hand whipping across her cheek, her skin flaming where the signet ring on his smallest finger ripped at her. “You have caused me shame for the last time!” he snarled, shoving her away from him.
Elizabeth stumbled and fell to the floor in a heap. She pressed a hand to her cheek, the warm blood dripping down her fingers.
“Father—” Steven said with a scowl. He pushed past Jeffrey and knelt in front of his sister. He tipped her head back, swearing. “Sarah, fetch some rags. And water.”
“I am not a servant—”
“Sarah,” Steven retorted. “Go.” He grimaced, looking at Jeffrey. “You should not leave marks. Not where they can be seen. If the regent has commanded her marriage—”
Jeffrey growled. “I am her father—she is mine to do with as I please—”
“Has Albany commanded a marriage for her?” Steven cut in. When Jeffrey remained silent, Steven looked at his sister. “Elizabeth?” he said kindly. “What happened?”
“I—I didn’t mean it,” she said, tears sliding down her cheek, mingling with the blood. Steven took the bowl of water and rag from Sarah who flounced away and sat back at the table, sullenly.
Steven gently cleaned her cheek. “That doesn’t answer my question, Bits—”
“Always you coddle her—” Jeffrey threw up his hands. “Keep her away from me until morning,” he said. “Sarah, come.”
When their father and sister had left, Steven just sighed, moved onto wiping Elizabeth’s hand. “Bits?” he asked again.
“It was just Father and I at the front,” Elizabeth said softly. “And I—I saw a flash. I didn’t mean it. You know I can’t—I can’t stop it.”
“What did you see?”
She chewed on her bottom lip. “The Duke of Albany sipping his wine at luncheon. The wine at his side. I saw him falling. I—I told him very softly he should not sip the wine.”
Steven closed his eyes. “OF course you did.”
“I had to—I had to stop him, Steven. He would have died. He was—he was angry at first, and Father started dragging me away, but the regent forced us to stay. He took us to another room. He had someone bring him a rat who licked the wine. He…the rat became ill.”
“He could have had you executed,” Steven told her. “You took a terrible risk—”
“I know,” Elizabeth said dully. “But I didn’t know how else to stop it. I didn’t say anything, and Mother—” She squeezed her eyes shut. “Not again.”
“And what of this marriage?”
“The regent sent for Jason Morgan. A laird in the Highlands—” At Steven’s wince, Elizabeth stomach rolled. “What?”
“Mother,” Steven said painfully, “was from the Highlands. She met Alan Morgan at court. And the Angus’s father, George Douglas. Both of them wanted to marry her, but she spurned them both and met Father in London.”
“Oh.” Elizabeth sighed. “Well, that’s…that’s not too terrible, is it? It’s not a blood feud?”
“You don’t know the Douglases,” Steven muttered. “But perhaps they’ve forgotten. I’ve heard nothing of the son. I can’t—this can’t be allowed to happen. I can’t protect you if you’re in the Highlands, and I can’t leave Annan—”
Elizabeth smiled tremulously. “But it might be okay. If I can just keep my secret, maybe—maybe I could have a chance. I’d like a family. Children. He’s a laird. He’ll want children. Sons.”
“That’s true enough.” Steven pulled her up from the ground, steadying her. He shook his head at her cheek. “‘Tis a shame you only have the visions, sister. If you could heal this before tomorrow, we’d be safer. If you’re under the Morgan’s protection—under the king’s protection—”
“I’m sorry,” Elizabeth said. “I really did try—”
“I know you did.” Steven put an arm around her shoulder to lead her from the room. “You’ll have to try harder in the Highlands.”
Johnny scowled, slamming his mug of whiskey down hard on the plank table in the tavern. “Some Lowland wench? That is who you’ll have to breed with?”
Jason rubbed the back of his neck, uncomfortable with the way Johnny had phrased the insult, but unable to deny the truth of it. The Highlands were not for the weak or timid and he could not imagine a lass from Dumfries could deliver strong sons — she might not even last her first winter.
“And a service to the crown?” Francis said with a sneer. “Mark my words, Albany will have you taking sides yet—”
“I have no desire for court intrigue,” Jason snapped, “and Albany knows this. I’ll marry the girl, we’ll go home, and that will be the end of it.”
“I can’t decide if he really believes that,” Johnny said to Francis thoughtfully, “or if he’s lost his mind.”
“A service to the crown,” Francis repeated. “Details of which you are not allowed to inquire about. Will your new wife tell you?”
“Albany might not want to say so, but I cannot see how I could trust any wife of mine to be loyal if she keeps a secret that might put my clan in danger,” Jason said slowly. “I will make this clear to her. It is possible that the service is done, and she’s simply being rewarded—”
“Listen to himself with the high opinion—”
“She’s the youngest daughter with an unmarried elder sister,” Jason retorted, cutting off Johnny taunt. “Any marriage before the sister marries is a reward. Particularly with a father such as hers.”
And he worried slightly over his future wife being sent home with a father who thought nothing of mistreating his child in the presence of the others. Unsettled, Jason picked up his whiskey and drank.
When Elizabeth had pictured the day she married, she had thought it be in her own village kirk at Annan even if the priest stationed there had always looked at her with suspicion and dismay.
She had never thought to wed in the chapel of St. Giles—kings and queens were crowned in these walls, royalty and nobility were christened, married, and consecrated—
“Ah, my dear Elizabeth—” The Duke of Albany swept inside the small chamber where Elizabeth and her family were awaiting the start of the ceremony. He stopped, stared at her face.
“You have been injured,” he said softly. He looked at Elizabeth’s father. “How tragic to have your beauty marred on this day.”
“I was very clumsy, Your Grace,” Elizabeth said quickly. “I tripped as we returned to the inn last eve.”
“Yes.” Albany pursed his lips, looked at Sarah and Steven. “Leave,” he said to them, sharply. Steven hesitated, but Sarah grabbed his sleeve and dragged him out.
“Your Grace,” Jeffrey began.
“Tell me, Baron,” Albany said, “did you know of your daughter’s gift?”
Jeffrey lifted his chin. “Nay, Your Grace. Perhaps my late wife did, but I—”
“Is this true, Elizabeth?” Albany looked at her. “Did your father have no previous knowledge of your abilities?”
“I—” Elizabeth cleared her throat, prepared to lie and protect her father, but the regent was staring at her, and she had the curious thought that he had known.
He hadn’t questioned her harshly yesterday—had never suspected her of treason or poisoning the cup herself—
And if he knew—if she lied—would he punish her? Would he take away this chance to leave her father? To have a new life?
“Yes,” Elizabeth confessed.
“You ungrateful—” Jeffrey hissed, nearly stepping forward.
“I thought as much.” Albany turned to her father. “I surmised that you might not have come to court prepared for a wedding in St. Giles, so I have brought the bride a gift. As another token of my gratitude.” He stepped aside, opened the door, and swept a few women, one of whom came with an elaborate court gown of blue velvet.
“Baron, let us leave the women to their preparations.” Albany clamped a hand on Jeffrey’s shoulder as he pushed him out of the room.
Elizabeth exhaled slowly, and with wide eyes, turned to the women who were to dress her for her wedding.
Jason tugged at the collar of shirt, disliking intensely every item of clothing he was wearing and longing to shed it in favor of the kilts and looser knits of home.
“Why does everything have lace?” Francis muttered to Johnny.
“‘Tis the French,” Johnny said with a sober nod. “They’re born wearing it.”
“I thought the Dutch were known for their lace—”
“Will the two of you—” Jason turned to snarl at him just as the doors at back of the chapel opened and the baron stepped into view. He held out a hand—
And the girl from yesterday—the woman—took his hand and Jason saw his future wife dressed in an elaborate gown of blue that nearly swamped her petite form. As she drew closer to the altar, Jason’s blood began to boil.
Her skin had been pale and unmarked the day before, but today—today there was a hideous bruise climbing up her cheek, with a red, angry cut just beneath her eye.
Jason stared at her for a long time before looking down at her father’s hands. At the ring he wore on his finger.
He stepped forward to take Elizabeth’s hand from the baron, met her father’s eyes. “If you ever touch her again,” he said in a low, dangerous tone, “I will disembowel you.”
Elizabeth’s eyes widened and she looked at her father who swallowed hard and stepped back from the taller, broader, and younger man.
“Jason,” he told her in a soft tone that no one but she could hear. “Are you all right?”
Her dark blue eyes fastened on his, and he felt a strange tingling down the base of his spine as she searched his eyes for a long moment. Then she nodded.
“Yes, I believe I will be,” she murmured. He turned and they looked to the priest who stepped down to begin the ceremony.