But no longer would she have that place here. In her clan. Among her kin and the people who loved and accepted her.
Instead she would be sent off to an enemy clan.
A shiver stole down her spine. What would they think of her? Would they be cruel? Would they hate her simply because she was an Armstrong? Would they despise her because of her defect?
Would they taunt her and call her mad and daft? Would they go even further and cause her harm, thinking that she carried evil spirits within her?
She twined her fingers together in front of her as she hurried back to her rock. No matter that Brodie would know precisely where to find her. It was the only place she could think to go when she needed comfort and peace.
As she stared over the rushing water, she realized that she’d no longer have this sanctuary. She’d no longer be able to come and go as she pleased and sit on her rock for hours absorbing the serenity of her surroundings.
Nay, she’d marry into the Montgomery clan. Become the very thing she’d been taught to hate. And while her father let her do as she liked, her husband might not be as understanding.
The keep had been in a constant flurry of activity for days. On the eighth day after the delivery of the king’s message, the Earl of Dunbar arrived as the king’s representative to witness the marriage that would force peace between the two warring clans.
Tavis greeted the earl in the courtyard, and once the earl’s horse was taken away, the two men entered the keep and strode to where food and ale were laid out on the high table at the end of the great hall.
“Alexander extends his regrets that he will be unable to be present for the marriage,” the earl said after he’d sipped from one of the jeweled cups.
There was a gleam in the earl’s eye that told Tavis the king had never had any intention of making an appearance for the wedding he’d demanded. And with his absence, there was no one for Tavis to petition to put a stop to the whole mess.
Dunbar had great favor with Alexander and, in fact, was the highest-ranking earl under the king’s rule. He and Alexander were staunch allies and friends, and the fact that the king had sent his most powerful earl to attend the wedding told Tavis of its importance to their monarch.
“He knows not what he does,” Tavis ground out.
Dunbar lifted one eyebrow, threw back a long swallow of the ale, and then eyed Tavis intently as he leaned back to sprawl in the chair. He looked indolent and arrogant, staring Tavis down as if trying to intimidate him. Tavis hadn’t survived as chief of one of Scotland’s largest strongholds by backing down from a challenge.
He met the earl’s gaze unflinchingly.
The earl sighed and set his goblet down with a sharp bang. “If ’tis any consolation, Tavis, I told Alexander he was mad. I’m well aware of what happened to your daughter, and you and she have my sympathies. She’s not suited for marriage, but unfortunately, you’ve only one daughter and Alexander has it in his head that the only way to force peace between two of his strongest clans is by giving your daughter to your enemy. He feels that if she’s wed to the Montgomery laird, you’ll never raise a sword against them.”
“And what guarantee do I have that they won’t come after my clan?” Tavis demanded. “Of course I wouldn’t raise a sword against the man who holds the life of my daughter in his hands. But what do I have of his to hold in return?”
The earl rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “ ’Tis a good question and one I wonder if Alexander considered. Perhaps he thought the marriage enough to forge an alliance, no matter how wary it may be. He wants peace. Now that we’ve signed a treaty with England, Alexander must focus on internal problems with rebellious chieftains. He needs allies, and the Armstrongs and Montgomerys have always been loyal to the crown, even as they despise each other.”
“I would be willing to sign a treaty with the Montgomerys,” Tavis said stiffly. It was the hardest thing he’d ever said in his life. Swallowing his pride was painful, but for his daughter, he would do anything, even humble himself before his enemy. “They can’t want this marriage any more than we do. ’Tis as you said. Eveline is not suited for marriage to any man. ’Tis why the betrothal to Ian McHugh was broken. Graeme Montgomery would … crush her, and I cannot bear the thought of that.”