Finally, he lifted his head, his eyes glittering as he carefully rolled the message back up.
“Graeme Montgomery has sent word that he will arrive for his bride according to the king’s dictate.”
The reaction from her brothers was immediate. Brodie pushed forward and her gaze yanked to him as he spoke.
“This is a farce! The king cannot be serious. Surely he isn’t so evil as to send a lamb among lions.”
“Montgomerys? On our land?” Aiden asked, his expression clearly aghast. “ ’Tis something sworn never to happen lest the earth be bathed in blood.”
Her neck ached from wrenching back and forth from person to person to keep up with the conversation, but she lost much. Everyone was talking at once. She only understood bits and pieces, most of it exclamations, oaths, and speculation as to why the king would do such a dastardly thing.
She’d never seen Graeme Montgomery. It was God’s truth, she’d never seen any Montgomery at all. It was hard not to picture an aging, paunchy man with a bulbous nose and hideous features. She’d never bothered herself with any conversation dealing with the Montgomery clan, because they simply did not interest her. She knew they were her clan’s sworn enemies and that her father would die before ever allowing a Montgomery onto his land.
Her father and brothers were warriors who were unmatched by any other in skill and strength. It was boastful of her to think so, but she’d seen nothing to alter her biased opinion of her kin.
So she’d always felt safe from any outside threat because the Armstrongs jealously guarded their borders, allowing no one to pass unless given permission to do so.
Once, long ago, such an encroachment had happened. The Montgomerys had raided and many Armstrongs had paid with their lives. Including Eveline’s grandmother. Her grandfather, who was then laird, had grieved mightily and had died avenging his wife’s death. He’d killed the Montgomery laird but was struck down by another of the Montgomery warriors.
So many deaths, and Eveline had no idea what had started it all. She’d only heard bits and pieces of the story in passing over the years. She should have listened harder when she had her hearing, but for her, the Montgomerys were monsters of the dark. Almost a fictional beast that bards carried tales of. They certainly had never been a threat in her lifetime.
And now she would be delivered into their fold. Sent away from the safety of her clan and her beloved family. Married. Expected to be wife to a man she considered a myth.
She nearly shivered before catching herself. She didn’t want to upset her mother by allowing her fear to show.
Turning away, she left the great hall once more, not even bothering to see if she should stay. She often did things such as that, leaving abruptly and on a whim. No one seemed to even blink over it any longer, and if it was thought odd once, now it was accepted behavior.
She simply needed to sort through this upheaval to her life. How could she face someone not of her own clan? Her clan loved her even if some were wary of her affliction. There were some she’d caught murmuring prayers when she crossed their paths. Were they worried that her daftness was easily passed to others? That if they touched her, they too would be afflicted?
The mischievous part of her wanted to reach out and touch them, just to see if they’d react as if being burned. Or if they’d run screaming in the opposite direction to seek out the priest.
But then she promptly felt terrible because they were still her clan, and it wasn’t their fault that she was different. They didn’t know any better, and Eveline hadn’t done anything to change their opinion. And most were very kind to her. Many went out of their way to do things for her they thought would make her happy.
And she was happy here. It had taken her a long while to sort through the confusion of her accident and subsequent illness. She hadn’t understood why her hearing had been taken, but she’d been taught not to question God’s will.
Now, she had a place. She’d learned to understand much of what people said by watching their mouths. She wished she had the courage to speak, but with no way to know how she sounded—or if she could even form the words after not speaking for so long—she remained silent, locked in her quiet world with only the memory of certain sounds to echo softly in her head.