Knight in Highland Armor

By: Amy Jarecki

Margaret shuddered. God save her, she had no recourse. This day she would walk across the courtyard and marry a notorious knight in the Chapel of Michael the Archangel.

“May I please lower my arms?” she asked.

The tailor stepped back and examined his handiwork. “Slowly.”

“The way you talk, I’ll never be able to move.” Margaret held her breath and let her arms drift to her sides. “Mayhap we’ll have to conduct the ceremony here, where I can stand in this spot.”

Mother stepped beside him and examined the fashionably long sleeves that extended past Margaret’s fingertips. “She needs to have full movement, of course.”

“Indeed. I first wanted to ensure all the seams and tacks are secure.” He tugged at the shoulders and waistline. “Yes. Miss Margaret, you can dance to your heart’s content this eve.”

After Margaret’s headpiece was in place, her eyebrows plucked, her face powdered, cheeks made rosy with soft ochre and lips reddened to the color of her gown, Mother clapped her hands. “Leave us.”

Margaret regarded her reflection while the chamber emptied. She hardly recognized herself. Her new husband would be marrying Miss Margaret Robinson, courtier imposter. She looked like a painting one would find hanging over a fireplace mantel. If only she could impersonate a portrait, she wouldn’t be forced to proceed with marrying the most feared knight in all Christendom.

Mother shut the door and turned. She smiled, holding something in her hands. “I cannot believe this time has come so quickly.” She held out a bold necklace with a crystal the shape of a small egg. It rested in a setting of silver decorated with four pieces of red coral alternating with four silver balls. “This charmstone is part of your dowry.”

Margaret ran her fingers over the garish thing. “My, ’tis enormous.”

“With no male heir, this was passed to me. It has been in our family for countless centuries, and is said to bring good fortune to all who wear it. Those who drink water into which it has been dipped will also be protected by its charms.” Mother held it up. “Wearing this today will bring good tidings to your marriage.”

“Och.” Margaret fingered the large stone. “’Tis too precious to give to the likes of me.”

“No. I daresay its shine is far diminished by my daughter’s radiance.” Mother moved behind and fastened the heavy silver chain. “You have learned well, and I’ve no doubt you will be a fine matron of your keep.”

The matron of a keep? That’s what I always wanted, isn’t it? Margaret sucked in a ragged breath. “Thank you.”

“Few women have attained your level of education—men as well. Though the ability to read and write and calculate sums is admirable, do not allow your skills to intimidate your husband.”

Margaret turned and faced her. “Are you saying I should play dumb?”

Mother ran her fingers across the charmstone. “Not at all. I’m only suggesting you pay heed to your husband’s wishes.”

“Do you think he’ll not want my assistance?”

“On the contrary—I think he will encourage it, just as your father has. But you can be opinionated as well as industrious. All I’m saying is to think about how your words might affect him before you express yourself.” She chuckled. “Men may appear tough on the outside, but inside they wound easily.”

“Honestly?” Margaret mulled over her mother’s words. “I wonder if a man like Black Colin has a sensitive side.” She seriously doubted that.

Mother pursed her lips. “You must stop referring to him so. His reputation comes from the battlefield, where one must be ruthless or face certain death. You’re well aware he’s one of the king’s most loyal subjects.”

Margaret sighed. This conversation had taken on many faces over the past sennight, but always ended by putting her betrothed on a pedestal. No one seemed to care about the trepidation dampening her skin like a clammy cloth.

Mother stepped closer, as if she had a secret the walls mustn’t hear. “Before I leave, there is one more thing we must discuss.”

Margaret met her mother’s gaze. The woman’s eyes softened, almost appeared compassionate.

“Are you aware of what will be required of you this night?”

Heat flared up Margaret’s cheeks. “He’ll come to my bedchamber?” She could but whisper.

“Aye, and as his wife, you must submit.”

This, too, had Margaret’s insides twisted in a knot. Worse, discussing it with her mother seemed so…unnatural. “Will he hurt me?” She wasn’t sure if she’d actually spoken the words aloud.

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