Age of Edward Contest
Your pen name: Jessypt
Title: The Minstrel and The Maiden Swan
Type of Edward: 1740s, Scottish Minstrel
Summary: He filled the hall with songs of love and valor, while his fair maiden watched from across the room. Theirs was a love forbidden yet true. For he was a lowly minstrel, and she was the clan chief's only daughter.
Disclaimer: All publicly recognizable characters, settings, etc. are the property of their respective owners. The original characters and plot are the property of the author. The author is in no way associated with the owners, creators, or producers of any media franchise. No copyright infringement is intended
A/N: There are some historical notes and a glossary of sorts at the end. It might help to reference it prior to reading.
"Will you tell me the story about Edward and Isabella, Nanna?"
I looked at my granddaughter's feverish puppy-dog eyes and knew I'd give her whatever she wanted. I had told her the same story on countless occasions, and yet, each time she came over, she asked to hear it again.
"Not this time. It's long, and you need your rest," I said, patting her gently on the shoulder.
"But it'll make me feel sooo much better," she said, her voice rising and taking on that high-pitched shrillness that often accompanied the beginnings of a tantrum.
I closed my eyes, already tired. The story was long and intense, and it had been a long day.
"Please, Nanna," she said again, her voice soft and sweet.
I chuckled. Even at ten, she still had that childlike spirit I couldn't resist. I knew she'd never make it through the entire story awake as sick as she was. "Okay. Okay."
I climbed in bed beside her, waiting for her to shift around and get comfortable before I began.
"It was 1743 in the Highlands of Scotland. Edward Cullen, your grandfather eight times removed, had just stabled his horse and stood at the end of the path leading up to Craignethan Manor, mandolin strapped safely on his back…"
The brightly lit manor served as a beacon of many things – warmth, shelter, a good meal, and most important of all, the chance of a glimpse at the maiden who'd caught his eye and held his heart for more than half a year. By all accounts, this fascination, this attraction, was nothing in which to indulge, for the brown-haired, brown-eyed beauty inside was the daughter of Charles Swan, Chief and leader of Clan Swan, and Edward Cullen was nothing more than a lowly minstrel.
With a sigh of resignation, he trudged up the snowy path, stumbling on hidden icy patches and clumps of jagged rock. He was admitted into the manor and then into the expansive dining hall with a familiar round of cheers.
The room was brightly lit by countless candles and oil lamps. As shadows danced on the walls, clansmen dined loudly on hearty meat stew and chunks of course, brown bread. Ale flowed freely, and as was to be expected, conversation and hilarity ensued. But Edward's eyes took in none of those details as he scanned the room for the one thing that made the days of tiresome travel worth it.
Isabella Swan was seated at the table nearest her father's. She was stunning that night, much like every other, but there was something about the way the light danced across her features that made her normally porcelain skin appear all the more delicate against the rich blue velvet gown she wore. Her long brown hair was plaited and twisted to sit low at the base of her neck, which served to highlight the gentle curve of her throat, the soft slope of her nose, and her full, pink lips.
Edward admired her, his eyes roving across her face and down to the neckline of her bodice. He quickly averted his eyes. While she was a beauty, she was also a lady, and he wouldn't disrespect her with his lewdness.
A clatter near him drew his eyes away and to the head table, where Chief Swan rose, goblet in hand. He was a tall, solid man with broad shoulders and the girth of a well-fed soldier. His face, ruddy and stern, was covered with a mottled black mustache; his closely shorn hair bore the same signs of age and wisdom. With a rough clearing of his throat, he spoke loud and clear.
"Aye, we hae a fine treat tonight, friends. Edward Cullen has come to entertain ye."
After a few more words and with a flourish of his arm, he gestured for Edward to begin. Immediately, Edward began strumming a familiar, rousing tune about a man and the devil. He sang of ghostly encounters, the hazards of whisky, and ended with a warning to all.
Now, wha this tale o' truth shall read,
Ilk man and mother's son, take heed:
Whene'er to Drink you are inclin'd,
Or Cutty-sarks rin in your mind,
Think ye may buy the joys o'er dear;
Remember Tam o' Shanter's mare*
Edward strummed rapidly, his hand slapping the face of the mandolin in short, staccato bursts, and the clansmen cheered and crooned along side him, mugs of ale in hand. The night progressed as Edward sang of life in the Highlands, of men and of drink, and best of all, love.
Tales of unrequited love and shared passion fell from his lips as he gently plucked the strings of his mandolin. His eyes traveled the length of the room and fell once again on the beautiful Isabella. Their eyes locked in a familiar dance of averting and gazing. Her cheeks took on the flush of a pink rose in bloom, and her eyes were as soft as a doe in spring.
Edward's words of love were for her and her alone. They were not strangers to this shared intimacy. After their first encounter months ago, when the fair Isabella had first served him food and drink in the kitchen of Craignethan Manor, he had walked away mesmerized and hopelessly bewitched.
With each passing fortnight, Edward had returned. He sang new songs, some raucous and lively, others soft and melodic, but it was her eyes he sought and her smile he longed to see. He was often rewarded with the slight upward twitch of her lips, but it was their time in the kitchen he most cherished. It was there, he fell in love with the fair maiden.
After each performance, Chief Swan had dismissed him to "take yer fill in the kitchen. Isabella will see that ye hae plenty to eat."
With growing excitement, Edward would gather his instruments and follow behind her. He'd watch the gentle sway of her hips, listening to the light swishing of her gown as it brushed against the rough floor, and to the very subtle way she'd glance at him out of the corner of her eye.
It was on his third visit that he'd finally gotten the courage to say more than "please" and "thank ye" to her. As she'd placed the plate of food in front of him, he'd looked up to find her watching him closely, a small smile pulling at the corners of her lips.
"Would ye care to join me?" he'd asked, his eyes barely able to hold hers, in an uncharacteristically shaky voice. He was used to singing and entertaining, but to being in the company of someone as fair as Isabella he was not accustomed.
"Aye, I would," she'd said, her voice soft and inviting. She'd taken the seat across from him, and they'd sat quietly as he consumed the meal in front of him.
After a lengthy drink of ale, his face had warmed and his body had relaxed.
"Did my music please ye, Leddy?" he'd asked as his eyes hesitantly met hers.
"Aye, it did. Ye play and sing verra weel, ye ken."
Edward nodded his head graciously.
"Where did ye learn?" she'd asked.
"My da taught me. He said t'was important I know mair than just farmin'. So, he taught me to read, write, dae my sums, and to play the mandolin. At first I didna like it. I was used to bein' outside all day, ye ken, but the mair I played the mair it grew on me."
"It suits ye and yer voice."
Her words were like music to his ears. After he'd finished his meal, he stood and thanked her for the dinner and the conversation and promised to return again.
Their friendship grew, as did Edward's feelings. Their shared meals became lengthy affairs, far beyond what was appropriate, but Mistress Cope, Isabella's former nursemaid and caretaker kept a watchful eye.
With each visit, Edward shared his feelings with her in the only way he knew how. On one such visit, after a particularly loud and boisterous song, Edward took a seat on the rough wooden stool that had been placed in the center of the dining hall for him.
The din died down as he strummed. A melody so lovely filled the room, and as Edward began to sing, it was as if time had stopped. All eyes were on him as he poured out his soul to the fair maiden who had come to mean everything to him.
O my Luve's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June;
O my Luve's like the melodie
That's sweetly play'd in tune.
As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a' the seas gang dry.**
When he had finished, no one moved, least of all Isabella. Tears welled in her eyes, and her bottom lip trembled. He could scarcely breathe at the sight of her before him and for the tension that had bound him so tightly. As he slowly sat up and lowered his mandolin, he dipped his head. To all those in the room, it appeared nothing more than a humble gesture, but to Isabella it was a sign of him giving himself wholly to her and her alone.
"Nanna, do you think she liked him?" my granddaughter interrupted.
I chuckled. She asked the same questions, almost at the same places in the story, every time.
"Indeed, but she had to be subtle about it. In those days, young ladies didn't just make their interest known. There were rules that had to be followed, not to mention Edward wasn't a suitable match."
"What do you mean?"
"Well, Isabella was the daughter of the clan chief, and as such she was expected to marry someone like her, with money and suitable status. Edward had neither. He was the son of poor farmer, from a different clan. Besides himself and his music, he had nothing to offer her."
She wrenched her body to the side, shifting so she could look up at me. "But that's not true, Nanna. He had love."
I squeezed her to me, her heart endearing as ever. "Ah, my sweet girl, that he did. That he did. Shall we continue?"
With the nod of her head, I pressed on.
"Five months had passed, and Edward and Isabella continued their courtship, for that's what it was, unbeknownst to anyone but them and Mistress Cope. She watched her charge and the minstrel from afar for months and knew love was brewing…"
"Isabella," Mistress Cope said one day as she helped the girl into her dress.
"Aye?" she asked, glancing over her shoulder.
"I see ye've taken a fancy to the young minstrel?"
Isabella felt her cheeks heat. She quickly turned her head back toward the window, her back stiffening. "Tis that clear?"
Mistress Cope smiled. After nursing and raising young Isabella into the bonnie lass she had become, she knew the meaning behind the subtle smiles and even subtler shared gestures.
"Only if ye ken what yer lookin' for."
Isabella finished lacing her dress while Mistress Cope immediately set to brushing her long, brown locks. Isabella remained quiet, deep in thought. She thought of their last meal together, the one after Edward had gifted her with what she thought of as her song.
She closed her eyes, remembering the feel of his calloused fingertips gently brushing against hers as she handed him a goblet of wine, the way his eyes bore longingly into hers, and how he leaned in as she spoke softly of her time tending her gardens. But it was the memory of his knee pressing against hers beneath the table that had left her feeling a rush of unfamiliar yet pleasant sensations.
"And are ye plannin' to tell yer father?"
Isabella stepped forward and turned to face the woman who'd raised her after her mother had died. "What shall I say? Ye ken father willna approve. Edward is…"
"The man ye luve."
"Aye," Isabella said brokenly, tears forming in her eyes. "But it willna be enough will it?"
Mistress Cope wasn't sure. Charles had always been tender and lenient where his daughter was concerned, but in this one area, without a male heir to succeed him, Isabella's marriage was one of strategic import.
"That I cannae answer for ye, lass. But per'aps today would be a bonnie time to tell him. He's asked for ye to come to his room," Mistress Cope said as she bustled around the room, picking up articles of clothing that were strewn all around.
"Oh." Isabella knew such a request was unusual. It was rare for her father to send for her. After Renee, Isabella's mother, had died during childbirth, Charles had placed Isabella, and largely all the decisions regarding her rearing and learning, in the very capable hands of Mistress Cope.
"Aye. So finish gettin' yerself dressed. Ye ken yer father doesna like to be kept waitin'."
Aye," Isabella said as she pulled on her wool stockings and quickly twisted her hair in a loose plait. "Dae ye reckon it's something serious?"
Mistress Cope paused and turned to face her. She had heard rumblings that a match had been made between Isabella and a proper suitor, but she could not find out the name of the lad.
"I cannae rightly say, my lass, but ye father is a good and fair man, ye ken. I'll be here when yer finished."
Isabella nodded, her eyes shifting from concern to confidence. Mistress Cope was correct; Isabella's father had always had an even hand when it came to dealing with his daughter.
"Weel, I best be gaun."
As she watched Isabella walk from her room, Mistress Cope thought about the poor minstrel and prayed the young lad had asked for her hand; more importantly, she hoped Chief Swan had agreed to such a match.
"Come in," said a voice on the other side of the rough, wooden door.
Isabella pushed it open and saw her father seated behind the table on the far side of the room. "Ye sent for me, sir?" Isabella said as she closed the door behind her.
"Aye, I did. Hae a seat," he said, motioning to one of the chairs at the table.
Isabella did as she was instructed. As she moved across the room, she felt her palms start to sweat and her heart pound. The look on her father's face was void of all expression as he watched her come closer. Once seated, she looked up and met his eyes. They had taken on a softness she rarely saw.
"How are ye, lass?"
Her fingers twisted nervously despite the small smile that was on his lips. "Well, sir."
In the quiet of the moment, Charles took the opportunity to really look at his daughter. She had her mother's fair skin and gentle sloping nose, but it was his brown hair and eyes that stared back at him. She was the best of both of them, and despite the years that had passed, his heart still panged at his loss.
"I've asked ye here because I've a matter to discuss with ye." He didn't wait for her to respond before pressing on. "It has come to my attention that ye have been keeping company with the minstrel, Edward."
Isabella felt her heart leap at the mention of Edward's name. He was due to return again in any number of days, and she was anxious to see him. She opened her mouth to speak, but her father's raised hand held her at bay.
"I dinnae need ye to confirm it. I ken the young lad has taken quite a fancy to ye, and I cannae say I blame him. Ye a fine young lass, my Isabella; anyone can see it. But I cannae allow it to continue."
"What?" Isabella said, her eyes and mouth widening.
"There are many things I've striven to give ye, my lass, but first among them is a safe place to rest ye head. The clan's at risk of being overtaken if a proper match isna made."
Isabella sat straight in her chair, her hands gripping the edge of the seat until her knuckles turned white and her back became rigid as a wooden plank, as she listened in disbelief.
"James McKay of Clan McKay has proposed an arrangement that'll guarantee Swan lands remain free and safe, while also granting the McKay's mair direct access to our water source. He's also asked for yer hand, and I've agreed."
"But… but I cannae marry him, Father. I dinnae even ken him, much less luve him."
"I ken, my lass, and that's why he'll be joinin' us within the week. Ye'll be spendin' time together, so he can court ye, and we'll hammer out the arrangements."
As her father continued to talk through the details and expectations, Isabella sat shaking her head, his voice drowned out by the sound of her heart pounding in her chest and her blood whooshing through her ears. She couldn't believe her father would do such a thing to her.
"But what of Edward?" Isabella asked, interrupting her father.
"What of him? He's a minstrel, Isabella, and nothin' mair."
Tears pricked behind her eyes as she looked at her father. "But I care for him a great deal."
"In time that'll pass, lass. Ye cannae marry him. And ye'll nae hae any mair meals together. Dae I make myself clear, Isabella?"
Her heart sank.
She looked up at him but couldn't meet his eyes. Numb, she simply said, "Aye, Father," and waited for additional instructions.
By the time Isabella made it back to her quarters, the reality had started to set in. Her father was giving her away to a man she'd never met, whom she didn't love. As she closed the door behind her, she walked toward Mistress Cope and fell into her waiting arms.
When Edward returned not more than three days later, he could sense something was amiss. Isabella's face was drawn, her eyes bore the signs of less than enough sleep, and her smile was barely existent. His heart twinged with concern.
All through the evening he watched her, singing his softer, more melancholy songs in response to her sadness. With each passing song, her countenance fell further, and it was only with great restraint he did not quit his station and go to her when she rose and walked out of the hall.
Charles Swan watched the silent exchange with great interest. He had noticed the less than subtle shared gazes and smiles between his daughter and the young minstrel over the past few months. What he thought was a harmless infatuation on the part of the young minstrel was clearly something more. Isabella's confession in his office had caught him off guard, but he remained resolved. A union between Isabella and James would secure Swan lands long into the future, and despite his daughter's sadness, there was little he could do.
After Edward played the final strains of a song of lost love, he rose, thanked Chief Swan, and moved to take his leave. As he walked out of the dining hall and into the corridor that led to the kitchen, he heard footsteps behind him. Edward stopped and turned.
Chief Swan stopped barely three steps from him, his imposing figure dwarfing Edward's tall, lean frame.
"Chief Swan." Edward forced himself to look into the man's eyes.
"Edward, I've noticed ye quite taken with my Isabella."
Edward's eyes widened, and his jaw slacked in surprised. He quickly closed his mouth, unsure what to say.
"Weel, is it the truth or isna?" Charles asked, his tone growing sharp and more direct.
Edward was unprepared for such a conversation but of one thing he was certain – he was in love with Isabella Swan, and if given a chance, he'd ask for her hand.
He straightened to his tallest and met Chief Swan's eyes. "Aye. 'Tis true. I luve her."
Charles stared at the man before him. He admired the man's veracity and courage. It was rare for someone so lowly to speak with such candor. Before he could discourage the lad further, Edward continued.
"I ken I dinnae hae much to offer in the way of land and money-"
Chief Swan lifted his hand, immediately silencing him.
"Her hand's already been promised."
Edward's jaw snapped shut, and he stepped back, reeling as though he'd been punched. Chief Swan's words roared in his head, over and over again.
"Ye may take ye leave, now," he said with a dismissive wave of his hand.
Edward swallowed and let the weight of Chief Swan's words to settle like a yoke around his neck. As he walked toward the kitchen, he turned to see Chief Swan watching him.
"Take care to watch yerself."
Edward nodded and forlornly walked away. When he walked into the kitchen, his eyes frantically searching for his bonnie lass, she was nowhere to be found. He took his seat at the table they always shared, his heart breaking with every passing second. Mistress Cope brought him a plate and goblet, as Isabella had always done.
"Is she nae comin'?" Edward asked forlornly.
"Nae, she isna, but tak care on the bread."
Edward stared after her, his brow furrowed as he glanced down at his plate. Peeking out beneath the large piece of bread was a bit of parchment. He looked around, assuring himself no one was watching, and snuck the paper into his lap. With shaky hands and another scan of the room, he quickly opened it.
Yer horse is in need of attention.
He reread the note, trying to make sense of it, when realization dawned. With forced restraint, he quickly polished off his meal, thanked Mistress Cope who patted him on the shoulder, and departed.
Breathless, he arrived at the stables. He quickly found his dappled old mare, smoothing her mane with tenderness, all the while searching for Isabella. The rustle of hay in the back stall caught his attention, and with trepidation he walked down the aisle.
Isabella sat just inside the door, her cloak wrapped tightly around her. He was greeted with the same signs of sadness he'd seen earlier that evening – drawn face, splotchy cheeks, and the dark bruising under her eyes. He wondered if she knew she was promised to another. By the look of her, it seemed perhaps she might.
"Isabella," he breathed as he moved inside the stall and closed the door behind him.
She stepped forward, her fingers tentatively reached for him. "You're here," she whispered.
"Aye, a chuisle, where else would I be?" he said just as softly, pulling her close as she buried her fingers and face in the rough fabric of his plaid.
They stayed like that until Edward pulled back and tipped her face up, so her eyes could meet his.
"Isabella… yer father…" He had no idea what to say.
"Shhh," she said as she pressed her fingertips to his lips. "I ken."
But Edward wouldn't be deterred. "Yer to be marrit," Edward said, more statement than question.
Despondent, she replied, "Aye. To James McKay."
"Dae ye wanna marry him, my luve?" he asked, knowing if she said 'yes' he would walk away and leave her be.
"No," she whispered, her words getting caught in her throat. "I dinnae even ken him, but I cannae see I hae much choice, ye ken? Father and James hae already settled the details."
Her furrowed brow and pursed lips immediately led him to take her hands in his own. The comfort he had long drawn from their casual touches paled in comparison to the surge that coursed through him from their joined hands.
The tension that had wound itself so tightly around his chest, suddenly lessened, and for the first time since he'd arrived, he smiled. It was small and slow, but his was met with one of her own.
He listened as she recounted her meeting with her father. All the while, Edward was plotting, wondering if she would willingly accept him with what little he had to offer. In the time he had known her, he had saved a small sum of money. It wasn't much, but it would be enough to care for her until he was able to figure out a different plan.
"I dinnae luve him, Edward, but I dinnae ken what to dae." Her voice cracked under the weight of her burden, and Edward pulled her close, burying his face in her soft hair. He breathed in her scent, relishing the familiarity of it and using it to steady his racing heart.
The hopelessness in her voice tore at Edward's soul. He had thought long and hard about what he wanted to say to her while he'd traveled the past fortnight. He knew he hadn't much to offer her – little money and no home of his own or clan connections. Her acceptance of his proposal was unlikely and had been met with disdain and refusal on the part of her father, but he loved her. He knew there would never be another for him, and so it was with great apprehension that he once again urged her to look at him.
"Isabella, a chuisle, I hae watched ye from afar for a great many days and hae longed to know ye for jus' as many. From the first night I saw ye in the dining hall, to the meals ye served and then shared wi' me in the kitchen, I have grown to luve ye mair than I kent possible.
"I dinnae hae much to offer. No land. No home for ye to rest yer beautiful head, but-" He paused, shifted, then dropped down to his knees, his grip on her fingers tightening slightly. "But if ye'll hae me, I promise to luve ye, to protect ye, and give myself to ye ev'ry day and in ev'ry way. Will ye marry me, Isabella? Will ye be my wife?"
Isabella's heart swelled at the adoration she saw in his eyes. His words were filled with a truth and longing so sure, she could barely breathe. What she felt for him was uncharted and new, but she knew her heart beat and her lungs breathed for him. She tried to envision her life away from her home, without the comforts to which she had grown accustomed, but in the end none of it mattered. Edward owned her heart in a way she never even knew was possible.
She saw Edward's shoulders sag and his head fall in despair as he slowly began to rise. But before he could pull away, she sank down before him, the hay crinkling beneath her knees. "I'll marry ye, Edward. Yes. A thousand times, yes."
At her declaration and acceptance, Edward pulled her into his embrace and claimed her lips, tasting and savoring the woman who owned his heart.
"I luve ye, Isabella, a chuisle. Always," he said against her forehead.
"And I ye, my luve."
Edward knew their time was short, that it was dangerous for Isabella to be outside the manor at such an hour and that she certainly couldn't be seen with him. As he stood to go, he leaned in next to her and whispered, "I'll come for ye, Isabella. Dinnae doubt my heart. Aye, Is yers and always has been."
The catch of her breath was answer enough as he took his leave.
"I think we should skip the next part, Nanna."
"Silly girl, what's the point of telling the story if we skip over the hard parts?"
"But, I just want to get to the part where they're happy and in love," she whined.
I smiled. If only life were that easy, to skip over the hard parts and get right back to the good. "It's the trials that define us, sweet girl. The good isn't nearly as good without the rough bits to help us see that."
"Fine," she pouted. "But maybe tell this part a little faster, okay?"
"The story is as the story is. Are you ready?"
I felt the up and down of her head moving against my side and pressed on.
"The next week passed in a blur of dazed activity..."
Isabella was taken into her chambers to be groomed for James' arrival. Isabella didn't speak, unless she was asked a direct question, and even then her answers were short.
Mistress Cope fretted over her, anxious for the lass who'd become the daughter she'd never had. She tried to coax Isabella to speak, to eat, to sleep, but the lass refused.
On the night of James' arrival, Isabella stood before the fire in her room and felt nothing. She knew she had to steel herself for whatever may come, but it was the whisper of Edward's promise that sustained her.
"I'll come for ye, Isabella. Dinnae doubt my heart."
Her father and James couldn't know about her plans, and she vowed to do what was necessary to ensure they never found out… until it was too late.
As she walked through the corridors, she thought about her father. She had always considered him to be a fair man, but his actions had left her feeling bitter and angry. From the stories Mistress Cope had shared, it seemed Isabella's parents had been in love. Her father had been devastated by Renee's death, so much so he'd shut himself off from others for nearly a month as he drank his sorrows away. Knowing that, Isabella couldn't understand how her father could condemn her to a loveless marriage.
When she arrived outside her father's door, she took a deep breath and knocked. The door opened, and Charles beckoned her inside. Isabella wouldn't look him in the eye, much to his growing dismay. He'd watched as she slowly wilted under the weight of her station. Her father introduced them and quickly left, leaving them under the supervision of William Jencks, Charles' advisor.
James immediately took her hand and guided her to the far corner of the room, where a small sofa sat with a pot of freshly brewed tea and a pitcher of wine. He poured her a glass of tea and wine for himself. Incensed that he hadn't asked her preference, Isabella defiantly reached for a goblet and poured her own wine.
As she brought the drink to her lips, her eyes landed on the stern face of the man whom she was set to marry.
"Ye've got spirit, ye hae," he said coolly as he tipped back his goblet and drank.
Isabella didn't respond. She just sat there silently, waiting for him to talk. She had no intention of engaging with him on any level other than what was required. She refused to make it easy for him, not that he needed it to be easy. Her father had already given her away, the signing of papers and exchange of vows a mere formality.
"So, I reckon by yer silence ye wish to do this the difficult way, aye?" He arched his eyebrow, all pretense of civility gone. The backs of his fingers brushed against her cheek, and she fought against her instinct to pull away.
He leaned forward, his breath thick with the scent of wine, and said roughly, "Yer a fine lass, Isabella. I shall quite enjoy beddin' ye."
Defiantly, she tilted her head up and looked away from him, until his fingers wrapped around her chin and jaw, and he jerked her face to his. "I dinnae need ye to like me or even want me, Isabella, just to give me a bairn or two. The mair willing ye are, the easier it'll be. Regardless, I'll ha ye and ye'll nay hae a say otherwise."
Isabella, enraged and revolted by the feel of his hands on her skin, pulled her face from his tight grip.
"Ye'll willna touch me again, nay hae me in any way. I'd rather die than marry ye, James McKay."
His eyes narrowed, and his lips formed a straight line just as his fingers wrapped around the back of her neck and held her in a steel tight grip. "Dinnae doubt my words, Isabella. I'll hae ye, by whatev'r means required," he growled as his mouth crashed against hers. His tongue thrust forcefully into her mouth as she sat frozen, his words ringing harshly in her ears. She pressed her palms against his chest and pushed him away, fighting back tears and clinging to the only thing she had – Edward's parting words.
Dinnae doubt my heart.
Aye, Is yers and always has been.
I'll come for ye, Isabella.
I'll come for ye.
"Get off me, ye bluidy gowk," she seethed, her hand landing squarely across his cheek. She stood up, her eyes blazing and her body coiled for a fight. "I said, dinnae put ye hands on me again."
She whirled around, her long, heavy skirts twisting viciously around her legs, and left the room to the sound of his cold, cruel laughter and William Jencks looking on.
Meanwhile, Edward sat astride his horse, his body weary and his bones aching from the cold, hard ride. He pulled his plaid tightly around him and pressed on. He was nearing the border of Swan lands, and he knew he'd see Isabella shortly.
Since his departure nearly a fortnight ago, he had done little other than travel, perform, and think of her. She'd invaded his thoughts, every tune, every verse, and still it wasn't enough.
As he passed into the village just on the outskirts of Swan lands, he felt a sense of comfort wash over him. He'd long since left his own lands, but over the years he'd made the acquaintance and earned the trust of the people there. In many ways, they had become the family he'd lost.
His horse came to a stop in front of one of the homes in the cluster of five others. Smoke billowed from the top of the thatched roof, and just the thought of sitting by a warm fire was enough to get him moving. Edward dismounted, his legs stiff from sitting and his arse sore from the ride. He walked his horse over to the barn and quickly set about feeding and watering it.
Shortly thereafter, he walked to the house and pounded his fist against the door.
"It's Edward," he called to the man on the other side of the door.
Edward could hear feet shuffling on the other side of the door and the sound of wood scraping against the metal lock as it opened.
A man, illuminated from behind, gestured him inside.
"Carlisle," Edward said, clasping the older man's hand and gingerly clapping him on the back.
"It's good to see ye home again, Edward,"
"I have to go to the bathroom, Nanna," my granddaughter said, interrupting me just as I was about to launch into the next part of the story.
"Why don't we call it a night, sweetheart. It's getting late, and you need to get some sleep."
"But, we're almost to the good part, Nanna. And if you would hurry up and get through the yucky parts, we'd be done."
I laughed. Always so logical. "Fine. Go to the bathroom. I'm going to get myself a cup of tea, and we'll continue."
I helped her out of bed and watched as she slowly made her way down the hallway and into the bathroom. In the kitchen, I put on the kettle and waited for the water to come to a boil. I thought about where we'd left off in the story. It would be so easy to take a shortcut and jump right to the end. I knew my sweet girl needed the sleep, but I never seemed to be able to shorten things, even when it made sense to do so.
This story was so compelling, a lesson in love and fighting for it, that it just felt wrong to leave parts of it untold.
I heard her little footsteps before I saw her. "Nanna?"
"In here, Sweetheart," I called out.
She came in, her eyes and little body heavy and tired.
"Would you like some hot chocolate?"
She smiled. "Mmmm," she hummed. "Yes, please."
We didn't talk much, just a stray word here or there while I quickly filled our cups.
"You ready?" I asked as I picked up our mugs to head back to her room.
She nodded and started walking. After we both climbed on the bed and settled in, I handed her the steaming mug of cocoa "with three marshmallows," just as she'd specified, and grabbed my own.
"Now, where did we leave off?"
"Edward just arrived at Vicar Carlisle's."
"Oh, right. Yes. Vicar Carlisle invited Edward inside, much as he had done for the past year. Carlisle was known for his compassion and wisdom, admired for it, really. When Edward had wandered into the township on a cold winter night with no place to bed for the night, Carlisle had invited him in…"
They'd formed a fast friendship, talking and sharing with ease. Edward had explained his past, how his family had been killed defending their home against a rogue band of thieves. Edward had been away at a neighboring farm and had returned to find everything in ruins. Vicar Carlisle, having no family of which to speak, had taken Edward in, almost as if he were his own.
Carlisle handed Edward a bowl of steaming broth and a mug of warm ale, and then helped himself to one, as well.
"Yer lookin' qui' haggard, lad. I reckon yer travels hae been long, ye ken."
Edward nodded, his head bobbing slowly as he twisted the mug of ale in his slowly warming hands.
"Aye, but it isna only that, ye ken."
Carlisle waited patiently, knowing with almost uncanny certainty what the young lad was stewing over. He'd seen him at the height of happiness during his previous two visits, had listened as Edward had shared with uncharacteristic exuberance the newly budding relationship with the fair Isabella and her promise to wed him.
"'Tis Isabella. I dinnae ken how to make good on my promise to marry her."
"I havena place to take her, dinnae who will marry us or even how to go aboot it. I can barely think on anythin' but her. I luve her, but is it enough for her to leave her family and her home? Because tha's what she'd be doin', walkin' away from ev'rythin' she kens."
Carlisle sat quietly listening and contemplating Edward's fears. He, like everyone, had heard rumblings of an impending marriage. Of course, he knew through Edward and much to his own dismay, that Isabella was betrothed to James McKay. Why Chief Swan had settled on such an unsavory character, Carlisle could not explain. There were many vying for access to the waterway that connected to the sea. Clans McKay, Scott, and Urquhart had made no secret of their interest, so much so that Chief Swan had had to increase the patrols along the borders to ensure they were kept in check.
Carlisle had no desire to see Swan lands united with the McKays. They were known for their vicious, godless ways, and being bigger and more powerful than many of the neighboring clans, he knew it wouldn't be long before the town was overrun with the likes of James McKay.
"Lad," Carlisle said, "ye bring her home to yer family."
Edward's mouth fell open as he recoiled, stung by the implication and carelessness of the Vicar's words. "But…"
Carlisle held up his hand. "Bring her home to yer family," he said again, that time sweeping his hand around the room. "If she's with ye, Edward, she's part of our family." He paused with a hand on Edward's shoulder. "And we protect our family."
Edward stayed awake much of the night, tossing and turning over the implication of Carlisle's words. He warred with himself over what it could mean for the people in the small township, how such an action would affect their lives, but the vicar was right. Edward had very few choices, and as he made the decision to do as Carlisle had implied – bring Isabella back with him and allow Carlisle to take care of the rest – he finally fell asleep.
The next morning, Edward woke with a sense of purpose. After helping Carlisle in the barn and with the afternoon meal, he washed and groomed, and then dressed in cleanest pair of trews and breeches, a clean sark, his coat, and plaid.
As he walked outside to prepare his horse, Carlisle smiled and teased, "Weel, dinnae ye clean up overmuch."
Edward felt his cheeks warm. "Dinnae be daft."
Carlisle threw his head back and let out a loud guffaw. From anyone else, such a comment might have seemed rude, but from Edward it showed familiarity and trust, two things Carlisle knew were hard to come by.
Once Edward was on his horse, mandolin safely stowed, he waved to the Vicar, who sent him off with well wishes and a reassuring look.
Edward entered the dining hall. As always, the sound of voices echoed loudly against the walls. He set to tuning his mandolin, a mere formality, as he'd taken the time to do it at Vicar Carlisle's house before he'd left.
He approached Chief Swan and bowed low before him. "Chief Swan, I respectfully request yer permission to play."
"Aye, and ye hae it. But before ye begin, I hae an announcement to make."
With a gleam in his eye, Chief Swan rose and called the room to order.
"Tonight is a verra special ev'nin'. As ye ken, Swan lands are of great interest to many of our neighbors. After much thought and consultation, I hae accepted James McKay of Clan McKay's request for Isabella's hand. The two shall be marrit on the morrow.
"This union shall guarantee the protection and continued independence of Swan lands, and will unite our people with the McKays. Rest assured, ye shall ne'er fear for ye safety again."
With that, he looked at James, who sat like the proud warrior he was, and Isabella, pale and grim beside him, and raised his glass. "So, stand wi' me and raise ye goblets to James and Isabella and the strength of such a union."
A loud roar filled the room. Isabella mechanically lifted her goblet as her eyes desperately sought Edward's. His eyes were downcast, and Isabella willed him to look up, to meet her gaze, but he would not.
She set her glass down, feeling the weight of the devastation and hopelessness she had pushed aside earlier after leaving James' vile company return. Her eyes flitted around the room in search of Mistress Cope.
"Such merriment deserves an equally merry tune," Edward called out as he plucked out a vibrant staccato beat, much to the delight of the crowd. A celebration was underway, but as James' fingers dug into her arm, Isabella felt as if she were on the way to her own funeral.
She watched as Mistress Cope wound her way through the room, delivering plates of bread and meat to the people. Eventually, she made her way to Isabella's table, large trays of sweets in hand. As she set Isabella's favorites in front of her, she whispered, "The trees are lookin' mighty fine, my dear."
With a wink and a sly grin, she was gone, but not before bumping into James' chair, causing him to spill his wine on his sark.
"Watch it, auld woman!" he seethed, grabbing a piece of cloth from the table and mopping up the mess.
As Isabella turned back to her plate, she tried to make sense of Mistress Cope's cryptic message. James growled again, throwing his napkin on the table and rising.
"My sark is ruint," he said, exasperated. "I'll be back post haste." He leaned forward, his fingers roughly cupping her face, before she abruptly pulled away from him.
The slight falter in the music was the only sign of Edward's dismay, but it was quickly drowned out by the raucous cheers and James' cold laughter.
Once James was gone, she grabbed her goblet of wine and tipped a large, unladylike portion into her mouth. When she set it down, she looked up to see Edward's eyes were on Mistress Cope. Isabella watched a subtle exchange pass between them but had no idea what it meant.
Isabella puzzled over the Mistress Cope's words, just as Edward shifted to a new song, more melodic and sweet. As he lightly plucked the strings, his low voice sang:
How fair wert thou in simmer time
Wi' a' thy clusters white;
How rich and gay thy autumn dress,
Wi' berries red and bright!
On thy fair stem were mony names
Which now nae mair I see,
But they're engraven on my heart,
Forgot they ne'er can be.
Oh! Rowan tree.…
Over and over he repeated the call for the rowan trees, and when his eyes finally fell on Isabella's she sucked in a breath as her fingers tightened in her lap. Her heart began to pound as realization dawned on her. He had promised he would come for her, and he had sent her a message, one she was assured to get not just from him but Mistress Cope, as well. With great effort, she waited through the remainder of his songs, fighting to keep her expression neutral, disinterested even.
As the evening came to a close and Edward had taken his leave, Isabella sat waiting to be dismissed. She knew her father had no intention of letting her go to the kitchen. He'd made that point quite clear when she'd voiced her dismay in his quarters. Eventually, he rose, as did James, and she was free to take her leave.
"Isabella," James called after her. She had never hated the sound of her own name so much. "I look forward to seein' ye in the morn. It shall be my honor to make ye my wife."
She looked at her father who was eyeing her expectantly, nodded stiffly, and left the room.
Isabella paced the length of her room, certain she would wear a deep path by the night's end. She had been nervous since the minute she'd left the dining hall. She'd barely made eye contact with Edward, but Mistress Cope's words and the gentle beckoning in his song had left no question as to his intent… or her willingness to follow him.
As the sounds in the manor died down, she waited. After what seemed like enough time, she pulled on her arisaid and fastened it tightly. She slowly opened the door to her quarters and gingerly peeked her head out. The hallway was empty.
Quietly, she crept down the hall, her eyes darting nervously as she neared and passed each corridor. The sound of footsteps coming her way sent her scampering into a nearby hallway, her back pressed tightly against the wall. Once they were gone, she judiciously peered around the corner and pressed on. When she got to the main entrance, foot traffic, despite the late hour, had picked up. She grabbed a knapsack that was lying on the floor. With her head down, she exited through the main doorway along with the others who were heading home.
Without looking around, she quickly passed through the field and veered off the main path. Each step resulted in the quickening of her heart and a tightening in her chest. She knew for certain if her father found her, or worse, if James did, she would pay the consequences, but all she could think about was Edward.
The farther she got from the manor, the darker it became. A bird flew overhead, and an icy breeze ruffled the leaves of the trees nearby. She tightened the fabric of her arisaid and pressed on, her footsteps unsure on the rocky ground beneath her.
A few steps later, she passed through the small gate that led out to the pond and the large grove of rowan and ash trees. The old door creaked loudly behind her, and she quickly scampered away, hoping the noise hadn't alerted anyone to her presence.
Away from the lights, her eyes began to adjust, and as she drew closer to the pond, she scanned the area. She didn't see anyone. Her brow furrowed in confusion as she made her way over to the thick copse of trees before her. She had never liked being so close to the forest, especially at night when all manner of creature were on the prowl.
She scanned the tree line, her heart practically beating out of her chest, when she heard the whisper of her name. Her head jerked to the side. At first she didn't see him, but then he stepped out into the open. The warmth she had come to associate with his presence washed over her, calming her nerves and steadying her erratically beating heart.
She ran full speed into his arms, knocking them both off balance and onto the forest floor. "A chuisle," he whispered as his lips claimed hers. She opened herself to him, needing the reassurance that he was real, that he was there.
"Yer really here," she whispered as she pressed her mouth against his once more.
He pulled back and waited until her eyes met his. "I made ye a promise, Isabella. I've come for ye, if ye'll still hae me."
"Aye, I'll hae ye. Forever."
Just as he was about to kiss her again, he heard the snap of a twig. He quickly jumped up, pulling Bella up and behind him. He turned just in time to see James McKay appear before them. Isabella gasped.
"Weel, it seems yer nae qui' as innocent as I might hae thought," James said as he took a step closer.
Edward watched warily, his hand at his side. Like all Scotsmen, he carried what was needed to protect himself.
"But it doesna matter. I shall take ye as my wife on the morrow, and once I dae, it willna matter what I dae to ye." His voice echoed in the empty forest, and it felt that much crueler than normal.
Edward never took his eyes off James. With every step – forward, to the side, and back – Edward grew increasingly enraged. The idea of James touching or hurting Isabella was simply unfathomable. He would protect her at all costs and do whatever it took to prevent her from marrying James.
"Come get me, minstrel," James sneered. "Fight me if ye mean to claim her."
Despite the malice of his words and the infuriation he felt, Edward bided his time. He had no doubt James believed him weak; Edward was a minstrel after all, but years of farming and brawling with the other village boys had made him stronger and quicker than one might suspect.
James quickly sidestepped, attempting to draw Edward away from Isabella, but Edward didn't budge. He waited and watched. He saw the slight stagger in James' step, the tremor in his arm as he jerked forward.
Edward continued to step backwards, urging Isabella to move with him. Step for step she moved until her foot caught on a thick tree root. She cried out and fell backward just as James lunged. Edward pulled the dirk from the sheath at his waist, but not before he felt the burning slice of a blade on his arm as he hit the ground just beside Isabella.
Edward gritted his teeth and twisted around, grunting in surprise and quickly clambering up. James lunged forward just as Edward jumped back and leaned to the side, grabbing Isabella and pushing her away from him. James fell forward, barely managing to right himself before landing on the ground. He picked up a fist full of dirt, rocks, and crushed leaves and whirled around, throwing them at Edward. Debris hit Edward's face, causing him to stumble back as he roughly swiped at his eyes.
James, quickly took the offensive and barreled forward, wrapping his arms around Edward's ribs and stomach, and sent them both careening to the ground. Edward's head hit the ground with a sickening thump that left him momentarily disoriented. James' fist connected with Edward's mouth, blood immediately rushing to the surface.
Instinct kicked in, and Edward bucked wildly, his fingers jabbing into the James' sides. They rolled around on the forest floor, grunts and curses filling the air just as rapidly as fists, knees, and elbows flew. Where James had brute strength, Edward had speed and a reason that went well beyond his own safety to win.
Finally gaining the upper hand, Edward grasped the front of James' sark and jerked him forward then back, smashing the back of his head against the ground. With blood dripping from his nose and lip, he fumbled for his dirk while one hand held a bewildered James to the ground.
Edward glanced over his shoulder and told Isabella to run to the clearing. She looked between the two men, indecision warring on her face at the thought of leaving Edward alone, and started to protest, but Edward's growl silenced her. With one last look, she ran. When she was out of sight, Edward stared into James' bulging eyes, dirk pressed against James' throat.
"Isabella is mine, and ye willna ever lay a hand upon her again. Dae ye hear me?"
James spat in his face, and everything in Edward snapped. Edward viciously lifted his knee into James' groin, causing him to cry out, hunch forward, and gasp for air. Edward's scrambled to his feet and kicked James in the ribs once, then twice, for good measure.
Chest heaving from exertion and anger, Edward stared down at James. His knees were drawn into his stomach, and he was writhing in pain. With contempt, Edward sheathed his dirk, before loping toward the clearing.
Edward found Isabella hiding in the shadows, her body pressed as closely against a tree as was possible. When she saw him, she cried out. His nose and lip was bleeding and even in the dark, she could see the swelling around his eye.
"Edward," she said, her fingers frantically brushing against his face.
He winced. "I'm fine, a chuisle," he said.
Tears streamed down her face. "I couldna live without ye, my luve."
She threw her arms around his neck and brushed tender kisses against his lips, his cheeks, his nose, forehead, and then back to his lips, savoring the earthy scent she had come to associate with him. He gingerly patted her on the back, and as she pulled back, she noticed the gash on his arm. With a gasp, she immediately set to inspecting the wound. It was not deep, but it needed cleaning. With nothing with which to bandage it, she tore a strip of fabric from the petticoats beneath her dress.
"A chuisle, it's merely a scratch," Edward said, trying to lessen her worry.
"Per'aps, but I mean to care for it all the same."
They stayed there for a short while, before the chill of the night began to set in. Edward turned to look at Craignethan Manor.
"Edward, I'm to be marrit in the mornin'," Isabella whispered, the beginnings of the despair creeping in.
Edward's face fell. "Aye, I ken. I fear we must leave at once."
"But where will we go?"
"To Vicar Carlisle's. We can be marrit tonight if yer willin'." He said the last part quietly. He knew their time was limited, that they had very few choices. If Isabella wasn't in her room in the morning when Mistress Cope came to wake her, a full scale search would be launched. "Are ye willin', Isabella? I'll understand if ye say no."
Isabella bit down on her lip, her eyes downcast. She knew what was at stake –
her father, the clan, the very fabric of her life and home, but in the end, it came back to Edward. It had always been him, and it was the tender affection she felt for him that forced her to meet his eyes.
He searched her eyes until he was certain, then nodded. He lifted her onto the horse and climbed up behind her. Together, they rode in the quiet of the night to the outskirts of the village.
After a thunderous round of knocking and some shuffling from inside, Carlisle appeared and quickly ushered them in. Edward took the time to introduce Isabella, though introductions weren't necessary, and explained what had happened.
Carlisle listened intently, his eyes flitting back and forth between Edward and Isabella. When Edward had finished, Carlisle shifted and extended his hand to her, waiting for her to take it.
"Lass, are ye certain this is the path ye choose?"
Isabella's eyes met Edward's, and he smiled warmly. She looked back at Vicar Carlisle. "Aye, I'm sure. I ken it's a risk, that there will be consequences, but," she paused and placed her other hand on top of Edward's, "it's Edward I cannae live without. I wish to be marrit, tonight if yer willin'."
After a moment of additional scrutiny, Carlisle nodded and rose. With quick instruction, Edward left to gather Emmett and Riley, Carlisle's neighbors and soon to be witnesses. A short while later, Edward returned with the rumpled, weary pair. Carlisle gave quick instructions and prepared the documents.
He turned to Isabella and Edward and asked them to state their intentions and willingness to marry one another. They both did, and after a few short words, the repetition of vows, and the signatures of all involved, Vicar Carlisle pronounced the marriage complete. The entire affair took less than twenty minutes.
After a congratulatory word, Carlisle turned and smiled. "I didna ken ye had it in ye, Edward. Who woulda kent a mere minstrel could take on a brute such as James McKay then marry such a fine lass."
Edward grinned, wincing slightly at the cut on his lip. "Bah."
After a few more laughs, Carlisle, having made arrangements to sleep elsewhere, and Emmett and Riley closed the door behind them, affording them privacy to consummate their marriage.
When they'd gone, Edward turned to Isabella and gave her a tired smile. She returned it, though she was nervous. She knew what was expected of her, feared it even. Mistress Cope and the other ladies in the kitchen had left nothing to the imagination.
"Can I get ye mair wine, a chuisle?"
She swallowed and nodded. Grateful for the reprieve, Edward's insides twisted, and his hands shook as he poured them both a healthy portion of wine. He took a long gulp, praying it would calm his nerves.
After a while, Edward guided them to the bed. As he looked at her slightly flushed face, he marveled at her beauty. Her brushed the tips of fingers lightly against the apple of her cheek.
"A rose couldna be mair fair," he said softly.
She sighed and leaned in, more relaxed than before. Edward lifted his hand and slowly brushed it down the soft expanse of her neck. His eyes flashed to hers as his hand hovered above her chest. With a tentative nod, Edward pressed his hand against her heart. "A chuisle," he whispered before leaning in to tenderly claim her lips once again.
With trembling fingers, Edward unlaced the front of her dress and gently removed it and the other layers of clothing she'd been wearing, leaving her in nothing but her shift.
He took in the sight before him – the way her soft curves were visible through the thin material, how her hair hung down her back and across her shoulder, and her swollen red lips – and could barely believe she was real, that the woman he'd loved from afar had agreed to marry him at great personal sacrifice.
With just as much trepidation, her fingers began working the laces of his sark and breeches. When they were fully unclothed, Edward gently pressed her against the bed. As the night bled into dawn, they lost themselves in learning and loving each other.
The pounding on the door startled Edward and Isabella awake. They sat up and looked at each other, both exhausted and confused.
"Isabella Marie Swan, I ken ye in there. Open the door at once," Charles Swan bellowed.
"Edward?" Isabella whispered harshly, her voice rising sharply.
Edward jumped out of bed and threw her shift at her while he quickly pulled on his breeches and sark. He wrapped his plaid around her shoulder, ensuring she was fully covered.
"Dinnae say a word, a chuisle. We are legally marrit, and they cannae dae anythin' 'aboot it."
With a deep breath, Edward wrenched open the door. "Chief Swan," Edward said louder than necessary.
Charles attempted to push Edward aside, but Edward remained firmly in the door. "Where is my daughter? I willna have such treachery under my nose."
"Isna treachery, sir. She and I hae been marrit."
Chief Swan's eyes widened, and it was then that Edward noticed James McKay striding across the courtyard, eyes blazing. He looked worse for wear, with a busted lip, bruises marring his face, a kerchief around his neck.
"Marrit!" James growled, his eyes darting between Chief Swan and Edward.
Edward stiffened, his posture rising. "Aye. She's my wife."
"Enough of this. Isabella, show yerself," Chief Swan called out.
Incensed, Edward stepped outside and slammed the door. "I willna hae ye talk to my wife like that."
A commotion off to the side drew their attention away from Edward. Edward turned to see Carlisle, Emmett, Riley, and a number of villagers walking toward them.
"Vicar, what is the meanin' of this treachery?" Chief Swan asked, striding over to stand in front of Carlisle.
Charles waved his arm towards Edward. "Did ye marry my Isabella and this man?"
"Aye. I did. They both came willin'ly, and there are witnesses to prove it."
James scoffed. "Witnesses, my bluidy arse. How much did he pay ye?"
Carlisle's face tightened. "Lad, ye'll do well to remember ye place. I dinnae need coin to see what is right before ma face." Carlisle's eyes shifted to Chief Swan's. "Ye'd best take yer leave. Ye daughter is marrit, now."
Chief Swan narrowed his eyes and took a step back. "I willna leave before I see Isabella wi' ma own eyes."
Carlisle turned to Edward, who after a brief paused turned and opened the door.
"Isabella, a chuisle, please come outside," Edward said affectionately.
Tentatively, Isabella stepped outside, drawing Edward's plaid around her.
Isabella's eyes met her father's, but she didn't back down. He took a step toward her, and Edward countered by stepping directly in between them. Chief Swan eyed them both, then stalked away, leaving James shouting obscenities and threats in his wake.
"That James is such a mean man," my granddaughter commented as she shifted around to look at me.
"Yes, he is. There were others like him, too."
"There were? Did they try to fight against the Swans, too?"
"They tried, but fortunately, in the time it took for the McKays to form a plan of attack, Chief Swan was able to form alliances with several other clans. With guarantees for access to the water route in exchange for protection, the McKays were forced to back down."
"I bet they weren't happy," she said, her innocent little face furrowing as if in deep thought.
"No, they weren't, but it didn't much matter. With the surrounding clans on the side of the Swans and with access to the water routes, everyone prospered."
She sat back in silent contemplation. "Well, what happened next?"
"Well, after a fair amount of convincing, Chief Swan agreed to recognize Edward and Isabella's marriage. It technically wouldn't have mattered if he had refused because they were already marriage in the eyes of the church, but it opened the door for Edward to swear allegiance to the clan and for their future children to have some claim to the clan leadership…"
Chief Swan, in full dress, stood before the men of Clan Swan. His presence was commanding, his voice equally so. One by one, he called the men, all wearing some manner of the same tartan – sixteen hunter green squares set on a background of midnight blue with three red lines running both horizontally and vertically across the green – forward. In turn, each swore his allegiance to Chief Swan and promised to fight to the death to protect Swan lands.
Edward watched the display with a mix of trepidation and pride. It had been a long time since he'd considered himself a part of anything. His entrance into Carlisle's life had come about by happenstance three years prior, but what he was about to do was something much more significant.
Charles called his name. "Edward Cullen."
Edward walked forward. His arms hung casually down by his sides, belying his anxiousness. He stopped in front of Chief Swan and knelt low before him. Edward's heart was nearly pounding out of his chest. In the year since he and Isabella had been married, he and Charles had come to a terse truce. Charles was still bitter that his authority as Isabella's father had been undermined, not just by a lowly minstrel but by a clanless man to boot.
As was the custom and at Isabella's request, Edward had agreed to swear his allegiance to Clan Swan and Charles, for her sake and the sake of the child she was carrying.
"Upon yer life, dae ye swear to protect Swan lands and the people of this clan?" Charles asked, his voice resolute and unwavering.
"I dae," Edward said, fully confident he would do whatever it took to protect his family, and by extension, Isabella's. "And I offer myself to ye, Chief Swan, to serve in any manner in which ye may require."
"Welcome to Clan Swan, Edward. Ye may rise." Edward did, his eyes meeting Charles' with a newfound confidence and assurance he'd done right by Isabella after all. "Let's let our grudge be nae mair." Charles extended his hand, and Edward took it.
A grand celebration ensued shortly after the ceremony came to a close. At one point, someone thrust a mandolin in Edward's hands, urging him to play. He obliged, playing two celebratory songs, then finished off with the song he'd long thought of as Isabella's - A Red, Red Rose. He smiled, thinking back to all the times he'd secretly poured out his heart to her in front of an audience much like the one before him. No longer. What was once a private expression of his love was something he no longer had to hide. She was his, and they all knew it.
Edward stayed for the requisite amount of time, but he was anxious to get back to his wife. He traversed the corridors that led to the kitchen, marveling at how much they'd come to feel like home in the time since Isabella had given herself to him. He stopped just outside the kitchen and watched as Isabella laughed and smiled with the other women inside. Despite his protests, she had continued to spend time in the kitchen, helping Mistress Cope and the others.
She looked lovely, as always, but it was the sight of his child growing inside her that left him speechless. Everything about her exuded love, warmth, and beauty, and he wished, for just one moment, that his parents could have known her. He was certain she would have enchanted them just as she had done him.
Edward stepped forward and slowly made his way across the hot, bustling kitchen. The chatter died down as he passed and was quickly replaced with giggles and breathy sighs from the other young women as his arms wrapped gently around Isabella's waist.
"A chuisle," he whispered, pressing his lips against her temple.
She leaned back against him, snuggling further into his embrace, and smiled. "And are ye a Swan now, my luve?"
He nuzzled his nose against her slightly damp neck. "Aye."
She hummed in delight, her fingers smoothing gently over her swollen middle. "Thank ye. I ken it wasna a decision ye made lightly."
"There was no decision to be made, a chuisle. Dinnae ye ken by now I'll dae near an'thin' for ye."
She grinned. "Aye, I dae." She chastely pressed her lips against his and whispered. "Now take me to our room. I dae believe I've an honest man to make of ye."
His hearty laugh filled the room as he twirled her around and lifted her into his arms.
"Edward and Isabella raised seven children – four boys and three girls. When Charles died years later, it was Edward who succeeded him. Under his leadership, Clan Swan prospered and grew. But it was Isabella, a chuisle– his heart, his pulse – that made him, a lowly minstrel, Chief above all others."
Silence flooded the room, and I looked down at my granddaughter, finally resting peacefully. What a gift she was to me. I suppose I had Edward and Isabella to thank for the family around me.
Gently, I lifted her off me and climbed out of the bed. I tucked her in, pressed a tender kiss against her forehead, and gently smoothed her hair. As I stood at the door, I glanced back to see a small smile twist on her lips. I chuckled softly, hoping her dreams were sweet, and turned off the light.
Very special thanks to jadsmama, mycrookedsmile, and kdc2239 for prereading, Emmy (pippapear) for fixing all things Scots, einfachmich for the gorgeous banner (see my profile), and to kikikinz and Alby Mangroves for the red pen! This was truly a collaborative effort, and I'm grateful to each of them for helping me translate my vision to paper.
1. There is some disparity in the information about the term "Minstrel." Minstrels were widely known throughout Europe and had been for a good while, but in Scotland, the term "bard" was often more commonly used. Bards, however, were part of an elite class of highly trained entertainers. Unfortunately, in this story, Edward didn't quite fit that category, and therefore, I chose to use "minstrel."
2. There was a divide between the Church of Scotland and the Roman Catholic Church. The historical documents that I came across did not have a solid term for how best to address the clergy in Scotland. After much debate with mother in law, an Episcopal priest, we settled on "vicar."
3. Some names of people and places have been changed from traditional Twlight canon (e.g. William Jencks) or are entirely fiction.
4. Toward the end, there is an event in which all members of the clan swear allegiance to the chief. This was an opportunity for those men who were clanless (broken) to come underneath the protection and banner of a new clan.
A glossary of sorts:
Leddy – Lady, term of respect for one of higher standing
Ken/kent – know/knew
Dae – Do
Aye – Yes
Ye/Yer – You/Your
Gaun - Going
Gowk – idiot/fool
A chuisle – literally translates to "my pulse" but is a Gaelic term of endearment for my darling or my love.
Trews – Trousers
Sark – shirt
Plaid – an overcoat or cloak
Arisaid – female cloak, outerwear
* Tam o' Shanter by Robert Burns - http: / / en . wikipedia . org /wiki/Tam_o'_Shanter_(poem)
** A Red, Red Rose by Robert Burns - http: / / en . wikipedia . org /wiki/A_Red,_Red_Rose
*** The Rowan Tree by Lady Nairne – http : / / cityofoaks . home . netcom . com /tunes/RowanTree . html
Thanks so much for reading! Voting begins next week. Please take the time to read the other entries as well! Lots of good ones. http : / / www . fanfiction . net /community/Age_Of_Edward_2011/95685/