Knight in Highland Armor

By: Amy Jarecki

By the time Margaret heard the rap on her door, she’d convinced herself Father would be Scotland’s Ambassador to France, and she’d find her husband in the wonderfully scandalous and delightfully stylish French court.

She grinned broadly when her parents entered. They maintained their serious countenances, though Margaret refused to see it as a bad sign when they did not return her smile. Her parents often refrained from displaying their emotion—a tactic she’d practiced on her brothers without much success.

“The news from the king concerned you, Margaret.” Da was unusually somber.

Surprised King James would pay her two thoughts, Margaret’s breath caught. “Me?”

Mother’s wimple billowed as she stepped in and took Margaret’s hand. “We must set to work at once.”

Margaret gaped at her father over Ma’s shoulder. “My presence at court has been requested?”

Da cleared his throat. “The king has asked for your hand in marriage.”

“My hand?” Tears stung her eyes. “Is our queen dead?”

Father held up his palms and shook them. “No, no. The king has requested you marry one of the noblemen.”

“A nobleman?” She glanced between her parents. “’Tis not Lord Forbes, is it?”

“No, my dear.” Ma frowned at Da. That couldn’t be a good sign. “Oh, just out with it, Robert.”

“Very well.” Father cleared his throat. “You shall wed Colin Campbell, Lord of Glenorchy, and venerated Knight of the Order of St. John.”

Margaret stared at her father. She forgot to blink, and her mouth must also have been hanging open, because her tongue went dry. “You mean to say I am betrothed to Black Colin? The Black Colin of Rome? Famed Black Colin who crushed the Douglases?”

Da tugged on his beard like he did when attempting to come up with a suitable reply. “Aye, but you’re forgetting he fights the enemies of Christendom. Without men like he, our God would not reign supreme.”

Margaret doubted the news of the Douglas demise had yet to reach any part of Scotland. “Without men like he, we’d be sleeping soundly at night.”

Da held up a finger. “Lord Douglas threatened the king.”

Margaret crossed her arms. “Lord Douglas was murdered by the king, and you know it.”

“Stop.” Mother stepped in and grasped Margaret’s shoulders. “We cannot renege on a royal order. You will travel to Stirling Palace and marry Lord Campbell. He’s recently lost his wife and needs a mother for his infant son. You shall swallow your pride and perform your duty for Scotland and Christendom.”

“I shall become a stepmother?” Of course, Margaret wanted to marry, but no young woman in her right mind wanted to marry a complete stranger who’d already—and recently—fathered a child.

Da painted on one of his feigned smiles. “I’ve met Campbell. He’s not as bad as his reputation might suggest.”

Margaret was in no way convinced. Black Colin? Would he beat her and keep her locked in a tower with iron branks holding her tongue?

Mother gestured toward Margaret’s collection of trunks. “I’ve already sent for Master Tailor. There’s scarcely enough time. We leave in a sennight.”

Margaret watched her parents take their leave. Questions swarmed in her head. Black Colin? Is he grey with age? Why on earth would the king choose me out of all the eligible women in Scotland? Does he despise me? But then, the king would see this as an honor. The king has been most kind to the Lord of Glenorchy.

Margaret dropped onto the bed, completely numb. Her life was about to end.

Chapter Three

Kilchurn Building Site, 30th September, 1455.

A half-day’s ride from Dunstaffnage, Colin walked beside his nephew, Lord Argyll. Both men shared the same name, thus Lord Glenorchy preferred to use the younger man’s title. When his brother died, Colin had fostered Argyll until the lad attained his majority of one and twenty. He looked upon his nephew, only five years his younger, with pride. The lad’s impressive height matched his own. Inheriting his brother’s dark hair, he’d grown into a powerful and fearsome lord.

Neither man had broken their fast as they stood shoulder to shoulder in their quilted doublets and watched the mist rise from the depths of Loch Awe.

Colin inhaled the crisp autumn air. “I shall never tire of this site.”

“’Tis peaceful.” Argyll glanced over his shoulder at the newly completed curtain wall. “Do you ever think you’ll be finished?”

“Bloody oath, I will be. I’ve no business maintaining my household at Dunstaffnage.” Colin spread his arms wide. “Not when I am lord over these magnificent lands. Besides, every nobleman needs a castle.” A muscle above his eye twitched. “If matters would ever quiet down.” Since Jonet’s death, getting out of bed each morning had become a chore.

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