03 February 2018

Wedding Excerpt from A Restless Knight, Dragons of Challon, Book 1

Dragons of Challon 
Book One

As they rode out of the fortress, destined for the kirk, Tamlyn spotted a magpie landing on the open gate.  Her breath sucked in.  One magpie was a foretelling of sorrow.  She breathed again as a second one fluttered to sit by the first, then a third.  And fourth.  The presence of the birds caused the cold bile of unease to rise in the pit of her stomach.

Challon, riding at her side, noticed her dark mood.  “What brings forth such a scowl on this joyous morn, my lady?”

She glanced back to the birds, seeing three more had perched alongside the others.  “The birds.  ’Tis most peculiar for them to roost there.  Lore sayeth when they gather in numbers they are foretelling the future.  One means sorrow.  Two for mirth.  Three bring blessings for a wedding.  Four be an augury for a coming death.”  Her words died as the images of the nightmare flooded her mind.  Cold dread rushed through her being.

“Only blackbirds with white feathers, naught more, Tamlyn.  Likely, similar to the ones that haunt the passes.”

“Nay, those be ravens.  Magpies have the white markings and are smaller.”  She stared at the birds sitting in a row.  Their heads turned slowly, their eyes following her as she rode passed.

  Julian leaned over in the saddle and placed his hand over hers.  “’Tis seven birds only.  Mayhap, they heard tides the Dragon of Challon weds his beautiful betrothed this morn and wish to witness it.  What augury does seven magpies speak?”

“Seven herald a secret that must never be told,” she told him.  Unsure what they truly forewarned.  Did their presence warn her not to tell Challon of her dark dream, of things yet to come?  Would he even believe her if she warned him?  Oh, she wished she could speak to Evelynour.  She would ken their message.

He gave her a soft smile.  “Pay it no need, my lady.  I make my own luck.” 

They reined their horses before the church, and Moffet rushed forward to take the leads.  Pagan rubbed his muzzle against the mare’s neck, murmuring to her.  Challon lightly smacked the nose of the randy horse and pushed him back, so he could lift Tamlyn from the sidesaddle.

As Julian set her upon her feet, his eyes locked with hers.  The breathless moment spun out long threads, as he seemed to want to speak something of grave import.  Her heart swelled as she hoped he might finally say he loved her.  Instead, he placed a kiss to her cheek.  “You are beautiful.  A bride worthy of the Dragon of Challon.”

 When he saw she was still feeling skittish, his hand lightly circled the side of her neck and gave it a small squeeze.  Growing concerned, Challon looked down on her.  “Those birds?  They still bother you?”

“Unsettled me a wee bit,” she admitted.

A cloud passed through his dark green eyes.  “Be that all that distresses you?  Not having a second think on this marriage?”

She shook her head.  “Nay.  Truly that does no’ plague me.  As I spake before, ’tis the will of the Auld Ones.”

“I would wish for acceptance, not resignation.”  He took her hand and led her to the steps of the ancient kirk.  The throngs of people, lining both sides of the road, fell in behind them, following.  Malcolm, dressed in his robes of the Culdee, stood on the top step, waiting.

“We bid well-come to Tamlyn and Julian who have come to plight their troth...”

As her uncle began the ceremony, Tamlyn nervously glanced about her.  So many people had gathered to witness the union of the Chosen Daughter of Clan Ogilvie to the Black Dragon of Challon, their new lord.  Everything around her had a pall of unreality.  She trembled as she tried to concentrate on the faces of the people of Glen Shane.  Most were vague to her mind, as if she were having trouble focusing on their features.

Though she had convinced Challon there was no need to move the wedding date forward he had still insisted.  Through the Kenning she finally sensed he was simply eager for the ceremony to be done, to put a seal to their bonding.  She had asked him to learn to tolerate the ways of her people, so she had to accept his will as well.  They reached a compromise, and Malcolm agreed the wedding could take place within a sennight’s time.

 To her right, in a line behind Julian, stood his brothers, both dressed in the black livery of Challon. After them, came Baron St. Giles, though he wore ramients of greys.  ’Twas Clear to all the men bore the stamp of Challon.

The days passed in a flurry of activities.  With all the preparations, there was barely time to catch a breath.  Despite the hectic rush, concern over the continued absence of Lord Ravenhawke had cast a dark note.  Challon sent out riders in all directions, but none had seen the handsome black-haired man.  At Coinnleir Wood, her cousins admitted sharing a horn of mead with him, but had no idea where he could have gone.

Much to their surprise, early yestermorn, he had shown up at the gates of Glenrogha.  His clothing was neat, he was clean.  In spite of his pristine condition, he seemed disoriented.  When he finally was able to talk coherently, he spun a long tale about being taken and held captive by the Faery Queen.  Challon had laughed, thinking his cousin merely made up a story to cover his absence.  Tamlyn wondered.  All had heard how Thomas of Erceldoune was carried away by the Queen of Elfland, so many of Glenrogha’s people cast little doubt on Damian’s explanation.

The long, thick lashes lifted and Damian’s eyes collided with hers.  St. Giles’ eyes were green, a trait of Challon, but a grey-green, neither one color nor the other, yet both.  Their lightness was emphasized by the trappings of grey clothing he wrapped himself in.  The pale gaze seemed to look right through her.  The way he stared at her set Tamlyn to unease.  

Before Beltaine, he had watched her, but it was with a coveting, a sadness, knowing his feelings weren't returned and could never be.  Now...well, she was not sure what she saw in his eyes.  A question?  Only, Tamlyn had no idea what that question was.  Oddly, yestereve he had sought her out and declared himself her champion.  The avowal surprised her.  Emotions lived within him that had no right to exist.  His haunted eyes seemed to speak to her.  But what?  Regret?  Reassurance that all was for the best?  Envy?

Her questions were pushed aside, as Julian turned to follow the direction of her eyes.

Malcolm’s voice carried for all to hear.  “Therefore, if any man can show just cause why these two may not lawfully be joined together by God's Law and the Laws of the Realm, let him now speak, or else forevermore hold his peace.”

Julian lifted at warning brow at Damian, who had the grace to lower his eyes to the ground.  Turning back, Julian sent her a stare of reproach.  A proud man, he would not brook her looking upon another in favor.

At Julian’s silent admonishment, Tamlyn quailed inside.

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