The Ties That Bind: A Brave Fanfiction

Disclaimer: All* characters are copy write to Pixar and Disney. Only the idea and some of the first names are mine.

Warnings: Language, innuendo, large amounts of fluff, some dark (semi-suicidal) thoughts, playful teasing, and embarrassing parents (poor princes…)

FYI, some parts get a little hot but not too much. Hopefully, I've kept it tasteful, but if that offends you please feel free to skip. Most of this chapter is lighter than the previous ones. Darker scenes are towards the end of the chapter, but hopefully not as dark as previous ones. I'm giving you all a reprieve before I delve much more into Shae and Merida's story.

Also, please forgive any and all missed spelling or grammar usage errors. There may be more than a few and I apologize for that.

Just so you know this chapter fills in the day-long gap between chapter 13 and 13.5. So, even though this is chapter 14, think of it as chapter….uh…whatever fraction comes between the halves…1/4th maybe…so here is chapter 13 & 1/4th

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

The morning light crept slowly through the window of the room. It was as if the sun was reaching out, trying to gently tap the sleeping occupant that lie upon the bed. With the first light that breached her face, Nessa squinted her closed eyes. She was trying to block out as much of the sun as she could and continue to bask in the warmth of the blankets and pillows.

As the light stretched further across her face, she peeked one eye slightly open, groaning at the thought of another day of chores and tedious work.

"Why cannae the sun let us sleep in just once?" she grumbled as she blinked the sleep from her eyes.

"Because even the sun has a schedule to keep it seems…" answered a voice beside her.

Panic flooded Nessa's heart and she bolted upright from the bed. She grasped the blankets and held them to her body. She whipped her head around and saw Colin lying next to her on the bed!

"Good morning to you too, sunshine…" Colin quipped as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes.

Nessa's face heated up when she realized he was shirtless. Had she really let him take her to bed last night?! What had she been thinking?! Another wave of panic spread through her and she peeked down the blanket that she had gripped to her chest. Colin sat up and eyes her, curiously.

A heavy, relieved sigh escaped her lips,

"Well, at least I'm not naked…" she breathed.

Colin gave her a cheeky grin,

"I can fix that."

Her panic immediately turned to annoyance and frustration. She reached out the moment he made his comment and smacked him in the back of the head. Nessa let the blanket fall back to the bed and she turned to face him with a glare.

"What did you do?"


"Yes, you! I donnae see anyone else I'm in bed with!"

"And there better never be anyone else…Oh, and believe me, I can get used to this…" Colin stated with a lopsided smirk.

Nessa opened her mouth to retort him, but he moved too quickly. In a flash, Colin had gently grabbed her cheeks and pulled her face to his, thoroughly silencing her with a deep kiss. Nessa couldn't even pretend to be offended anymore and she laid one hand on his bare torso tenderly. Colin smiled languorously after he pulled back slightly from her.

"That's a good morning I can definitely get used too…"

Nessa, partially dazed, hummed her approval.

"Hmm, but you never answered my question. What did you do?"

"I didnnae do anything Nessa. Donnae you remember what happened last night at all?"

Nessa paused, trying to recall the memory of the night prior. With furrowed brows, her memory of the night prior came back to her.

Nessa and Kenna had been out on one of the tower rooftops talking with one another, when Colin had interrupted them after Nessa and Kenna had gotten into a laughing fit.

"You really should laugh more often, Miss Nessa. It suits you."

His voice had startled her and thrilled her at the same time. Ever since those kisses in the afternoon, Nessa was sure the blush on her face would be permanently burned into her skin. Quickly, Nessa sobered up and Kenna had bit her lip keep from laughing, Nessa assumed.

"And you really shouldnnae sneak up on people like that m'lord. It can scare them." Nessa snapped at him, trying to cover her own nervousness.

She noticed Kenna's glare, but didn't acknowledge it. She was currently too focused on the young lord in front of her. Colin's face was serious and that frightened her more than anything! A snarky, sarcastic Colin she could deal with, but not this side of him. He bowed in apology to them, as if they were Ladies of Court.

"Then please forgive the intrusion, ladies. I meant no harm. I was merely wishing to speak with Miss Nessa for a moment."

Kenna's face broke out into a smile,

"Of course, m'lord. I was just headed back to my room myself. Long day, you know."

Nessa sent a look of begging to her sister's gaze. She knew Kenna had no intention of saving her from this, but she could have at least pretended not to be amused by the situation.

"Goodnight, sister. I'll see you later…" Kenna had smirked at her and winked, "…hopefully…" she teased as she started in the door to the castle keep.

"Kenna!" Nessa shouted, appalled by her sister's innuendo.

Kenna started giggling wildly. She turned to go, but Nessa saw her stop in the doorway. She turned back to her and Colin, who was now standing extremely close to her.

"Oh, one more thing before I go. Would either of you happen to know what the primrose flower means?"

Nessa had looked at her strangely,

"Uh…I believe it means…hmmpphhh…" She was cut of by Colin's hand over her mouth. He had his free arm wrapped around her waist loosely.

He sent a cheeky grin towards Kenna, waggling his finger at her in teasing disapproval.

"Uh, uh, little Kenna. Duncan told me about the reading lessons and all the stipulations involved. You cannae get the answer from us. That would be cheating."

"Drat! I didnnae think he'd tell you. Oh well, it was worth a shot."

Kenna looked over at Nessa who was very confused at the moment. Kenna smiled teasingly once more,

"Do be nice, Nessa. See you later."

With that, Kenna headed inside and shut the door behind her, leaving Nessa alone, once again, with the young Lord Dingwall. A few moments passed and he was still covering her mouth and Nessa was getting frustrated. Sensing her growing annoyance, Colin removed his hand and grinned at her cheekily.

"Couldnnae have you spoiling all the fun now, could we?" He grinned wider.

Nessa rolled her eyes and huffed at him,

"Just what was that about? And what did you say about reading lessons?"

Colin waved it off flippantly,

"A silly thing that Duncan is doing. He wants to help Kenna to learn to read and her goal is to read to him the description of the primrose from some book in the library."

Nessa raised a brow at him,

"And Kenna's going along with all this? Has that girl lost her mind?! What if he wants to…"

Colin cut her off with a gentle touch to her cheek,

"He wonnae, Nessa. Honestly, you worry too much. You're sister's not an idiot. But Duncan's not an ass either, so I think your sister is safe."

Colin raised a brow at her in amusement,

"Besides, wasnnae it you who wanted me to help Duncan and Kenna get together in the first place?"
Nessa rolled her eyes at him,

"Like I thought they would and which you never did, by the way."

"I guess I didnnae have too. They're coming together nicely on their own…" Colin gave a genuine smile.

Nessa raised a skeptical brow,

"You really think that all this can work out?" Nessa questioned him.

Colin knew she wasn't just talking about Kenna and Duncan. He figured she didn't even mean them at all. Moving to one of the outlooks on the tower top they were on, he leaned over and put his elbows on the rail. He looked out over the tournament fields and beyond, into the forests.

Nessa, a little apprehensive, walked over and joined him. She too, leaned over the side and looked out.

"Are you going to answer my question?" Nessa asked quietly.

Colin gave her a sideways glance and smirked. He motioned with his head towards the forests.

"Tell me Nessa, what do you see?"

"An abysmal existence…" She quipped.

"Be serious." His smirk grew.

"I am." She answered.

He gave her an unamused look and Nessa sighed.


Looking out over the horizon, she set her gaze towards the forests and the mountains in the distance.

"I see…trees. Mountains, forests…" she paused and pursed her lips,

"I see…darkness and mystery, intrigue and caution." She stopped and shook her head, looking up at him.

"Colin, what does a forest have to with anything?"

Colin smirked and waved her on,

"Keep going, I'll get to my point in a moment. What else do you see out there?"

Nessa gave a heavy sigh and turned to view the lands once again.

"There is beauty and wonder out there. It can be dangerous, but it can be an escape too. It's adventure and it's calm. But it can be stormy and scary too, at times." She gave a small smile as her thoughts drifted off and she stopped once again. She turned to him a, uncharacteristically shy gaze.

"You werennae really asking about the view, were you, Colin?"

"You werennae talking about the view, were you, Nessa?"

She rolled her eyes at his deflection. He turned to her and took her hands in his.

"You're right, the Highlands are dangerous and mysterious. They, too, are filled with beauty and wonder. It may seem scary and uncertain, at times. And you must be cautious, that is true, but not so cautious that you miss the wonder right in front of you."

Colin paused and looked into her eyes. Nessa's breath hitched in her throat at his gaze. It was the same look he had gotten earlier that day…

"You know, Nessa…the future can be that way too. It is a mysterious and strange thing. It can be dangerous and scary and stormy. And it serves well to be cautious about it but,…when you take a chance and face the future head on, then you can find the beauty and wonder and happiness and…love that everyone longs for. Even you…"

Nessa tried to look away, but Colin placed gentle hold on her chin. Tears formed in her eyes and Colin gave her a tender smile,

"Having someone else with you along the way makes it a little less frightening and much, much more enjoyable. Or at least, so I'm told."

Nessa tried to interrupt,


He shook his head, and leaned down. He placed a quick kiss on her lips, stopping her,

"Nessa, I…I want to you to be that 'someone else' with me. Let's face the future…together. I cannae nor wonnae promise it will always be great. With my family record, I'm sure we'll have plenty of bad days. And it wonnae be easy. We'll have stormy weather; we'll have doubt and pain. That all comes with life and living! But we'll have good days too. We'll have laughter, and joy and…love. Marry me, Nessa. Stay with me. Raise a family with me. Grow old with me. And…love me."

Nessa felt tears falling down her cheeks, the sincerity and earnestness in his request was evident. But, Nessa was terrified! No one had ever loved her like that! Not the way Colin did! She shook her head in disbelief, grasping at some form of denial.

"Colin, you hardly know anything about me. How can you say you love me? That you want to marry me? It doesnnae make sense? You're a reasonable person! And yet you've gotten it in your head that you love me?! You even donnae know me! And I donnae know anything about you. You're at least ahead. You learned more about me from just this afternoon then most people who've known me my whole life!"

She swallowed and looked at him through watery eyes. He was being so sincere and so passionate it frightened her. She swallowed. She had to know something from him.

"Do you love me, Colin? Truly?"

Colin looked into her deep emerald green eyes. He brushed his thumb over her cheek and inhaled sharply. His heart was beating so loudly, he was sure she could hear it too!

He wanted nothing more than to take her in his arms and kiss her senseless as his answer to her. But he resisted the urge and smiled down at her.

"Truly, Nessa? Yes. I love you. I can honestly say that I love you more than I ever felt possible. You say you donnae understand how I could love you from knowing so little about you, but that isnnae true. I know that you are loyal, kind, have a lot of compassion, hard working, witty, fiery, and passionate. You have a brilliant mind that is wasted with meaningless chores. You are strong, not just physically but emotionally, as well. And you give back sarcasm as well as you take it. You are beautiful in every way, even if you donnae see it."

He paused and brushed some of hair back from her face. He leaned close to whisper to her.

"I want you. I wonnae deny that. I love you. I'm attracted to you. I already told you once…you intrigue me. No, you confound me! I want to understand you. I want to protect you. I want to…I want to love you…and for you to love me in return."

Nessa wet her lips and touched his face. She searched his eyes for any type of deception. She couldn't find any and she felt her heart flutter with anxiousness. She knew what her heart was telling her to answer back, but her ever-sensible mind kept denying that this was happening! Her heart screamed at her to tell him that she loved him as well, but her head was telling her to be sensible about it. One last look into his eyes and she decided to compromise with herself.

She took a deep breath,

"Colin, I…cannae say 'yes' to what you're asking."

Colin started to protest, but Nessa placed a gentle but firm finger over his lips,

"I cannae say 'yes'…yet."

She paused and smiled up at him softly. She sighed.

"You may know quite a bit about me already, but, Colin…I hardly know anything about you. I donnae know what you like to do, and I donnae know your family, except for what I've seen in the Main Hall and through the castle. I know nothing of your past and you already know more than most people about Kenna and I! I feel as though, while you've been falling in love with all of me, I've only gotten the glimpse that you show on the surface."

She paused and took a deep breath. She cupped his cheek.

" I do know a little about you, but I donnae know if it is enough...I know you are sincere and a little goofy. You like to tease…"

"Look who's talking…" he mumbled.

Nessa smirked slightly at him, and continued.

"You listen well, and you're kind. Completely brilliant, which sometimes gives me grief. So incredibly insightful sometimes it's scary. You're even a little bit mysterious in your own way. Roguish and…passionate, as well."

Colin couldn't help the smirk that appeared on his face,

"So far you've gotten that all right. I donnae see why you cannae say yes? You do know me Nessa! Is there something else? Anything else I can do so that you'll agree? I love you! Is that not enough?"

She stroked his cheek tenderly,

"It is enough, Colin! But you have to realize that this is a huge decision that neither of us should take lightly! What of Kenna? And Maudie? And my home, here? What of your family? What of your clan? And we really do hardly know anything about one another, if we are honest with ourselves. Regardless of how much we love each other, there should be things considered before…"

Nessa didn't get much further in her thoughts or rant. As soon as she had paused to take a breath, Colin seized her lips with his. Nessa, shocked by his sudden attack, pulled back slightly. But Colin wouldn't have it and closed the gap between them again! She tried again,

"Colin…" she whispered, breathless.

He kissed her again and she tried to pull back once more.

"Colin?" she wet her lips as he pulled back to allow them a moment to catch their breath.

He laid his forehead against hers.

"You love me…" he murmured happily.

"What?!" she asked, bewildered at his behavior.

"You said you love me. You said: 'Regardless of how much we love each other'...So, is it true? Do you love me?" he nuzzled into her hair.

Nessa didn't know what to say! Had she really said that out loud? Her heart jumped into her throat. There would be no getting out of this now, Nessa realized. She had to be honest with him. She pulled back from him slightly and placed her hands on his shoulders. She shook her head, took a deep breath and looked up into his piercing blue eyes.

"I…I cannae lie to you, Colin. I tried fighting it, tried fighting you, but you and your damn stubbornness couldnnae be stifled. I didnnae want it to happen, but somehow…it did. You moved into my life like a storm and you wouldnnae stop! No matter what I did or said, you were always one step ahead. Always there to do or say something that challenged or comforted or playfully teased me at one time or another. Even when you infuriated me beyond reason, I still was…thankful…that you cared…"

Nessa sighed and looked away a moment before gazing back up at him.

"You have to understand, Colin, with the exception of my mother and aunt, the only people that I've ever cared for in this world are right here in DunBroch. Kenna, Maudie, their majesties, the princes'…Merida…they are the only ones I've ever cared for. And I dedicated my life to protecting Kenna! I wanted for and needed nothing else, but…you and your infernal meddling and sweet, but sarcastic nature, have left me undone! It's infuriating! I want to hate you, but I cannae…no matter what I've tried to do, no matter how much I've tried to fight it."
Pausing, she leaned up and placed a soft kiss on his lips, but pulled back before he could try to deepen it.

"Yes, it's true. I've fallen in love with you, Colin. I donnae know when it happened but it did. I…I love you…but…I still cannae agree to marry you just yet…"

She stared up at him and Colin stared back with a furrowed brow.

"But why? Is it because you think we'd be rushing? Nessa, we have the rest of our lives to learn about one another. I know I want to marry you! It isnnae some ploy to get you to my bed…"

Nessa stopped him,

"I know that, Colin. You had an opportunity to take me, and you didnnae do anything of the sort! I've never known a man that wouldnnae have leapt at an opportunity like that. You respected me, and of that I am most grateful. But you are asking me to make a huge commitment! I'd be leaving the only place I've ever really considered home. I'd be leaving my sister behind! My whole life would change in an instant. And what of your parents? Surely, you must have considered them in this too?

Regardless of whether or not we love each other, and we spend the rest of our lives in marital bliss, the fact is…I am still just a servant maid."

"That doesnnae matter to me!" Colin protested.

"It will matter to someone…" Nessa sighed.

"No, it wonnae…" Colin argued.

"How do you know?" She asked.

"I just do, trust me." He answered.

He paused and sighed. He pulled her tight, close to his body. He wanted her to know that he understood her concerns.

"All right, I understand. This is a hard decision for you. DunBroch is your home. Kenna is your sister and you donnae want to leave her alone. But...have you considered what happens if Duncan decides he is actually attracted to or falls in love with Kenna? He will pursue her just as strongly and passionately as I have you. I love you Nessa, and I'm not giving you up. Not now. You've already told me you love me and now you'll never get rid of me. Stubbornness is a family trait that runs deep…"

Nessa raised a brow at him,

"Yeah I got that…"

Colin smirked at her, his confidence returning. An idea popped into his head and her grinned.

" You say that you cannae agree to marrying me yet, correct? Well, there are a few more days left of the games. Let's take some time to get to know one another, like you said. And you can have whatever discussions you need to with Kenna. You can get your affairs in order, that sort of thing. I'm not giving you up Nessa. Just know that now. I'll find a way to get you to say yes, I guarantee it."

Nessa rolled her eyes while shaking her head.

"You foolish man. I believe I already said I would say yes…just not yet. And yes, I agree to your idea. Maybe something will develop between Duncan and Kenna and I wonnae have to worry about her. She can have her happiness and I…" She paused and cupped his chin gently.

"I can have mine too…"

He smiled and pulled her too him. He laid his forehead against hers. His nose brushed against hers and she could feel is shallow breathing on her face. She wrapped one arm around his shoulder and the other she moved to chest, to feel his heartbeat.

He was trying to remain serious but his teasing nature came so naturally. He smirked,

"But, what if you decide that you donnae love me, Nessa? What if we take the time to get to know one another better, as you said. But then you find I repulse you even more than you thought I did before? What will you do then?" he whispered to her.

Nessa gazed up at him an equally teasing smirk on her face.

"You're an idiot."

"I'm being serious." He tried to say with a straight face.

Knowing teasing would just egg him on more, Nessa dropped her playful attitude. She fiddled with the shoulder knot of his kilt and gazed up at him. Colin, noticing her change in demeanor, raised a brow at her and also dropped his sarcasm.

"Nessa?" he questioned when he received no answer from her.

Nessa felt her eyes fill with tears. They weren't for sadness; she was just realizing what was happening to her. He had proposed to her, and she had essentially turned him down! But not really. She did love him! No matter how much she fought. For whatever reason, her heart was telling her to marry him She just need to make sure her mind was as sure as her heart. Hopefully, it would be convinced in a few days time. She took a deep breath and shook her head. She had to speak to him from her heart, not her head for once!

"You never did try to bed me, with or without my consent. You've always been a gentleman, which, for me, is strange, considering my interactions with any man prior. You've helped me, comforted me, argued with me, teased me, infuriated me and…loved me. Even if the rest of me wanted to not love you, I cannae make my heart stop loving you, Colin. So, in few days time, when the clans gather to say their goodbyes to one another at the docks…I will be there. I shouldnnae make such promises but…"

She smiled up at him through glassy eyes

"I'm yours, Colin. I will be by your side on that day, and I will be your 'someone else' as we face the future."

She stroked the place on his chest where she could feel his rapid heartbeat. She tilted her head up and looked into his ice blue eye. She was taken aback at the look of passion that she saw there.

"On that day, and every day after?" his gaze bored into her.

Nessa could hear the shallowness of his breath and she felt her own face flush with heat. She nodded slightly, never taking her gaze from his.

"And every day after." She whispered to him, feeling breathless.

Colin cupped her cheek once again.


In an instant, Colin pulled her into a passionate kiss. Nessa didn't fight him. She had been waiting for this since he had kissed her this after-noon. She wrapped her arms tight around his neck and pulled him closed to her, deepening the kiss. She lost track of all senses while wrapped in his embrace. The need for air gave them a moment to pause, but Nessa found herself pulling him in for another kiss as soon as she had taken a gasp of air. She knew that it was much too passionate for two people who weren't officially engaged, but, in that moment, she didn't care! She loved this man and he loved her…

Colin leaned into her until her back was pressed against the door to the tower roof. When had they even moved away from the overlook? Nessa gasped for air when Colin pulled away, slightly. He took a quick breath and dipped his head low against her neck. She panted when he moved to the pulse point on the hollow of her throat. Her grip around him tightened and she moaned breathily, feeling heat shoot through her body.

Hearing her moan, Colin pulled away quickly! Panting and ashamed, he laid his forehead against hers. He grimaced at his deplorable behavior as he tried to get both his breathing and body under control. But he still couldn't stop himself from placing a few chaste kisses on her nose and cheeks.

"We should….we should stop…" Nessa panted, loosening her grip from his shoulders.

"Aye. We should." He agreed, nodding against her forehead.

"We're not even officially engaged…" she breathed, still winded.

He chuckled quietly,

"No, no we're not." He pulled back away from her, releasing her from his embrace.

He stepped back and watched the pink that had covered her cheeks earlier that day, return. He was sure that his face was twice as red! He couldn't believe what he'd done!

"I…I'm so sorry Nessa. I...I…I didnnae mean too…I." Colin stammered in embarrassment. He brushed a nervous hand through his hair.

Looking up at him with understanding, Nessa shook her head. The embarrassment Colin showed was endearing and Nessa couldn't help but smile.

"Donnae apologize. I…understand…"

"No, youdonnae understand! I..,I…I pride myself in knowing that I can control myself! Control that part of me. I've never lost my control over anyone, or anything, for that matter! I'm terribly sorry, Nessa. I wonnae let it happen again."

Nessa tried to joke with him to ease some of his growing anxiety.

"Well, at least I know you're still a man."

He turned to her with a sobering look.

"That's not funny."

She raised a brow at him,

"It really bothers you that much? That you wanted to kiss me? That we…lost ourselves in the moment?"

Colin started to go off on why but paused and gazed at her. He recalled the reason for their little tryst in the first place. A spark shone in his eyes and Nessa 's concern deepened.

"You know what, Nessa. You were absolutely right, you donnae know hardly anything about me do you? Well, how about we start now?" Colin stated as he sat down on the pile of hay.

She looked at him bewildered but with a small smile,

"What?! Now? As in, right now? Tonight?" she asked, confused.

Colin nodded and patted the seat next to him. Nessa shook her head but walked over to join him. When she seated, Colin took one of her hands in his gently.

"You're not the only one with skeletons in your closet. Let me tell you some of mine…"

A few hours later, Nessa found herself cuddled against his side, their fingers intertwined and her head rested on his shoulder. Over the hours, Colin had shared many stories about his life and about growing up. He had an interesting childhood, to say the least.

Nessa found herself laughing on more than one occasion and even began to share her own stories about her and Kenna growing up in DunBroch. As the night wore on, she felt sleep fall upon her and her eyes began to droop. She tried to stay focused on his latest tale on how he had broken his arm when he was eight, trying to get his little sister's cat out of one of the barn lofts. She smiled sleepily and started to trace the scars on his arm and wrist as he continued his story.

"And so there I was, hanging upside down, from a rafter, almost 40 or 50 feet from the barn floor. And the cat must have decided that I looked more like a bat or mouse than a human, because she tore after me faster than…"

Colin paused his story when he noticed she had stopped rubbing his wrist and arm.

"Nessa?" he asked in concern and looked down at her.

When he looked down he realized that her head was drooped lower and her breathing was even and deep. A small smile graced her lips and she still had her other hand loosely intertwined with his. Once again, she had fallen asleep in his arms.

"At least this time, you didnnae cry yourself to sleep. But if you keep falling asleep on me, I may end up with a complex…"

Nessa made a small noise, like she had heard him.

Colin sat back and just watched her sleep a few minutes. Realizing how late the hour must have been, he decided to take her somewhere more comfortable for sleeping. Careful not to wake her, he maneuvered her, so that he could carry her more easily.

He lifted her with a slight grunt, and then winced,

"Hope you didnnae hear that… trust me it's not you. You're not heavy. I'm just not…very strong…"he whispered to her dozing form.

With it being such a late hour, Colin didn't worry about passing anyone who might get the wrong impression or jump to conclusion. However, he remembered as he was headed towards the living chambers, he didn't remember where her and Kenna's room was.

He let out a tired sigh,

"Oh well, my room again, it is. If she kills me tomorrow, at least I can die a happy man…"

Luckily, he made it back to his guest room without incident and closed the door quietly. Moving to the bed, he began to lay her down, gently. However, Nessa, in her unconscious state, didn't want him to go and she gripped the shoulder tie of his kilt. When he tried to place her on the bed, he was jerked forward by the added weight trying to keep him down. Awkwardly, he hovered over her and cursed.

"Damn. How can I get out of this?"

Careful not to fall on top of her, and make the whole thing even more compromising, Colin tried to untangle her arms from around his neck. He also tried to loosen her grip on his shoulder tie, but the moment he tried, he heard her give a small whimper.

Nessa briefly awoke at the jostling and Colin froze up, completely unsure what she would say, or do.

She blinked rapidly and looked up at him confused for a moment. Then she shocked him! Tightening her grip around his neck she pulled him down onto the bed with her. He rolled to the side to avoid crashing on top of her.

"Nessa?!" His voice cracked a bit from bewilderment.

"Stay, Colin." She gave him a chaste kiss.

"I trust you..." she murmured before snuggling back into his side and laying her head on his shoulder. Before Colin could do or say anything in protest, Nessa had fallen back to sleep. He looked back down at her and smiled at her sleeping form. He reached out and stroked her cheek tenderly with one hand. He wrapped the other around her sleeping form. He placed a gentle kiss on her forehead.

"You've ruined me, Nessa…" he whispered before letting sleep take him too.

The memories of the previous night came flooding back to her and Nessa felt her face heat at the memories. They had confessed their love to each other and, for all intents and purposes, gotten engaged! She also remembered all the passionate embraces and kisses that they shared the previous night. After remembering all of that, it was no wonder that they would wake up together.

Had she really been the one to ask him to stay?! At first she wanted to deny it, but even if she had been extremely tired, she still remembered asking him to stay with her. It was his room after all…maybe her sleep-deprived mind had taken that into consideration when she asked him.

Glancing back over at her love, she blushed when she saw his bare chest once again. She didn't remember him doing that before they fell asleep. She had to wonder why he was in such a manner of disarray. Especially considering neither she nor he had removed her skirts and dress.

The whole of the last day came crashing down on her and she fell back onto the bed with an exasperated sigh. Throwing her forearm over her eyes, she groaned.

"Last night was that good for you, eh?" Colin teased playfully now fully awake.

Choosing to ignore his comment Nessa removed her arm and looked over at him. He had moved from his previous place on the bed and was now lying on his side, with his head propped up with one arm, facing her. He reached over with his free arm and hand and placed one hand on hers. Nessa felt the warmth from last night spread through her again.

"Are you all right, Nessa? I promise you, nothing happened once we were in bed. I kept my hands above the waist." Colin said, raising one hand in defense.

Nessa shook her head at him.

"No, I'm fine, Colin…I just…umm…"she stammered as she looked at him and tried to look into his eyes and not his chest.

"Why are you half naked?"

"Excuse me?" he looked at her bewildered.

"Your chest, Colin!" Nessa's blush deepened.

"So? It isnnae like a man has to cover his…"

"Its improper! We arennae engaged…" Nessa protested.

"Hang propriety! It was hot last night!" Colin huffed.

Nessa looked at him, confused.

"You mean, you werennae trying to get me to…"

Realizing what she had thought, Colin shook his head and explained.

"What?! No! Nessa, I'm used to sleeping in my skivvies! I just got too hot last night. I loosened my kilt tie and let the damn thing bunch at my waist. I wasnnae trying to do anything like that…" Colin explained propping himself up and leaning over her.

"Oh." She blushed again, this time at her own silliness.

"And we are engaged, you'll never convince me otherwise." Colin hovered over her and leaned close to her, nuzzling his nose to hers. Then he pulled himself back up and looked down at her.


She smacked him in the arm playfully,

"You promised to give me until the end of the games this week."

He smirked at her.

"I know, but I'm not sure I can wait that long! I want everyone to know how much I love you…" He started to lower his face close to hers once more.

Nessa felt her breath hitch in her throat. Instinctually, she wrapped her arms around his neck and shoulders. She suddenly felt very breathless,

"Everyone?" she asked with her brow raised. After all the stories he had shared last night she could think of at least one person that he may not want to tell…

Sensing whom she was referring too, Colin smiled softly.

"Aye. Everyone…" he whispered and lowered himself the rest of the way to meet her lips with his.

Unlike their previous kisses, this one was slow and sensual. They took their time and didn't rush. They just allowed themselves to feel loved. There was no need for urgency in this kiss and Colin was determined to pour every ounce of love he felt into it. He wanted her to understand how deeply he cared for her. How much he needed and wanted her! He deepened the kiss and Nessa sighed against him.

They pulled back slightly and he nuzzled his nose against hers lovingly. He laid his forehead against hers and smiled softly. He opened his eyes and met her darkening emerald gaze. She smiled up at him, reached up and stroked his rough cheek tenderly.

"I love you…" they each said at the same time.

Nessa blushed once again and Colin leaned down and kissed her cheek. He started to lean into her once more but a voice from the door caught them both off guard.

"Aww isnnae that sweet! But you know son, your father is going to be livid when he finds out his only son is in love with andengagedtoa maid servant." Lady Caitlin Dingwall said as she stood in the doorway of the room.

Startled by her presence, Colin lost balance and fell over onto the bed. Luckily, he avoided falling right on top of Nessa. Nessa shot up from the bed as soon as she heard Lady Dingwall speak.

"Mum?!" Colin gaped at his mother

"This…this isnnae what it looks like…" he tried to explain.

Caitlin held up her hand to stop her son,

"Oh, I'm pretty sure I know exactly what's going, or at least, would be going on, if I hadnnae stepped in."

Nessa felt her face heat up and she looked away from Colin and Lady Dingwall. How could she be so foolish! No matter what Colin and she might feel for each other, his family would never accept her! Steeling her resolve, Nessa stood from the bed and bowed before the Lady Dingwall. Caitlin raised a brow at the young woman's behavior. When Nessa looked back up, Caitlin could see the water in her eyes.

"Forgive me, m'lady. I…I will take my leave. I wonnae…bother you or your family again." Nessa stammered and headed to pass Caitlin out the door.

Colin watched with wide eyes as Nessa moved to leave the room. Caitlin, on instinct, reached out and grabbed the young woman by the arm.

"I think you misunderstood me, lass. I donnae care whom my son falls in love with or whom he chooses as his bride, all I care about is that he is happy."

Caitlin gave the young woman a once over and then smiled over at her son,

"She is quite lovely, Colin. You chose well…"

Nessa felt her face heat up, both at the compliment that Lady Dingwall had just given and the look of pure adoration and love that Colin was staring at her with.

"M'lady?" Nessa looked at Colin's mother with a confused expression.

Even Colin looked a little befuddled.

"Mum, what…what are you doing here?"

Caitlin looked at her oldest child and smirked. Nessa blanched at how much like his mother, Colin was! Not only was the resemblance undeniable, they shared the same facial expressions too!

"You mean, besides interrupting your morning liaison?"

Colin blushed bright red. Nessa couldn't remember ever seeing him so flustered.

"I told you it wasnnae like that!"

Caitlin raised a brow at her son,

"I'm sure it wasnnae, dear. But actually I came to warn you that word finally got back to your father. He knows about your little show at breakfast yesterday and he is livid. I wanted to tell you, so you would be prepared. Plus, I wanted to ask you if I could spend some time with my soon to be daughter-in-law."
Caitlin turned and gave Nessa a wink. Nessa gave her a small smile back.

"And since she is here, it saves me a trip in locating her."

Colin tried to protest,

"But mum, Nessa and I were going to…"

However, Lady Dingwall interrupted her son once again.

"No Colin, you need to speak with your father in regards to all this. I will be accompanying Miss Nessa today. Heaven knows someone has to warn this poor woman just what kind of crazy she is agreeing too and marrying into."

"Oh, believe me, I know…" Nessa muttered, hoping she hadn't been heard.

Unfortunately for her, Caitlin Dingwall's hearing was as good as her son's. Caitlin turned to Nessa with a cheeky grin.

"You're a firebrand arennae you, Miss Nessa? Now I know why Colin is so smitten with you."

Nessa felt her face flush and she looked over at Colin for help. He just shrugged at her with a smirk.

"That's part of it…" he confessed.

Caitlin looked over at her son with a raised brow. It was her 'subtle' way of telling him to get a move on! Colin sighed and nodded at his mother.

"I guess I cannae put it off any longer…" he muttered heading for the door. Nessa reached out to stop him as he walked towards her and his mother.

"Colin, wait!"

He stopped and looked her, puzzled.


Nessa rolled her eyes at him.

"You cannae go out like that. It isnnae presentable…"

Lady Dingwall smiled at the young woman and nodded to her son.

"She's right."

Caitlin agreed, watching her son and his love with a look of mirth on her face.

Nessa threw the loosened part of his kilt over his shoulder and tied it off with the metal hoop that was customary for the garment. She pulled the loosened part through the hoop and tightened it. She laid her palms flat against his, now mostly covered chest and smoothed out the material. Realizing how domestic that the simple act was, Nessa felt her face flush.

She cleared her throat when she finished.

"There, now you look the part of a young Lord, at least." She teased softly.

Colin couldn't stop the look of love and admiration that covered his face. He felt his heart speed up and his temperature rise. He wanted to take Nessa in his arms and kiss her again, but he knew if her tried it, Nessa would kill him! So he settled. He reached up and cupped her cheek.

"Thank you…"

Nessa's breath caught when she saw the look in his eyes,

"You're welcome…"

Caitlin rolled her eyes playfully and threw her hands up in air in mock frustration,

"Oh for heaven's sake Colin! Just kiss her already and get going! Your father cannae be put off forever!"

He didn't need to be told twice! He leaned forward and brushed against her lips softly.

"I love you…" he whispered to her when he stood back up.

Nessa smiled,

"I love you, too." She answered back.

Colin gave her one last quick kiss before turning to his mother. He placed a sweet kiss on his mother's cheek too.

"Be easy with her, mum. I would like to keep her around a bit longer…" he grinned at his mother.

She swatted him playfully on the arm.

"Oh, believe me, if she doesnnae want to stay, it wonnae be because of me…"

Colin laughed and grabbed he door handle. He paused as he started to open the door and turned to look at Nessa. He had a pseudo-contemplative look on his face.

"Do I even want to know why you know how to tie a kilt drape correctly?"

Nessa reached up and smacked him in the back of the head. An unamused looked on her face.

"I had to dress the princes' when they were younger, you idiot! Honestly!"

Colin gave her a Cheshire cat grin,

"Just checking…"

He leaned back through the door and kissed Nessa's cheek tenderly.

"Love you. See you this after noon."

And with that he was out the door.

When he was sufficiently out of earshot, Caitlin turned to Nessa with a wide grin. She cocked and amused brow at the young woman,

"I think you're going to fit into this family quite nicely, Miss Nessa. "

Nessa gave a small smile to Colin's mother. Suddenly, a thought occurred to her and she gasped,

"Oh no! I'm late for my chores!"

Cailin held up her had to calm the poor girl.

"No, you're not Miss Nessa. I took the liberty to ask Maudie last night if you could shirk your responsibilities for a day. She agreed, especially after my sons display yesterday morning."

Nessa felt he face heat up. She couldn't spend the day with Lady Dingwall! Alone! After twenty minutes she would deem Nessa unworthy of her son and make him leave her. She was sure of it!

Thankfully, Lady Dingwall shared Colin's intriguing way of determining anxiousness and fear. Caitlin laid a soothing hand on Nessa's shoulder.

"You really donnae have anything to worry about with me Miss Nessa. I assure you that you being a servant maid has no bearing whatsoever on my opinion of you. Like I said before, if my son is happy then that is all that's matters to me. You make him happy. And that is something that I greatly appreciate myself."

Nessa gave her a genuine smile.

"Thank you m'lady. I must confess though, Colin and I arennae officially engaged yet. I basically told him I would, but I said I couldnnae agree yet. "

"And you do plan on telling him yes?" Caitlin raised a brow at her.

"Yes! I mean…yes, of course I do. I just have some things I have to take care of first." Nessa explained.

Caitlin shrugged with a smile.

"Well it doesnnae matter to Colin. Since you said 'yet' he knows that still means yes, eventually. He wonnae leave you be until you're his wife. I'm just warning you now…"

Nessa chuckled at her,

"I am fully aware of how stubborn he can be."

Lady Dingwall smiled even wider at her,

"You really do have a sharp wit, donnae you Miss Nessa?"

Nessa blushed but said nothing and the Lady Dingwall walked up to her.

Lady Dingwall motioned out the door,

"Now, you and I have much to discuss, dear. Tell me, did Colin actually woo you or did he just declare he would wed you…."

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Kenna smiled as she walked down the castle halls, occasionally whistling a tune to herself. She had a happy bounce to her step and she wasn't going to let anything spoil it. She had even woken up earlier than normal and finished her chores early so she would have a bit of free time later.

It was late morning, almost time for lunch and she still hadn't found Nessa.

She knew her cousin/sister had never come back to their room last night, but this time Kenna wasn't about to jump to conclusions. She even scoffed at the thought that something untoward had happened last night. Nessa could be many things but easy wasn't one of them…

As Kenna made her way past the queen's study, she overhead two voices talking inside. Curiosity getting the better of her, Kenna slowed down and listened.

"I just donnae understand how they can be so accepting of all of this?! I mean, a maid servant?! Really?! Does the young man have no scruples whatsoever?" A woman's voice screeched from inside the room.

A calmer, masculine voice followed,

"Calm down Tawney, you're getting upset over nothing! Besides this has nothing to do with our family…"

"Oh, donnae you tell me to calm down, Lorne Macintosh! Donnae think I donnae know that Duncan is having his own little tryst with one of these castle harlots! I'm not blind! Our son will not disgrace this family in such a way! Clan Dingwall may not have a problem with muddied bloodlines but Clan Macintosh is traditional and proud! I will not be humiliated in such a way!" Lady Macintosh screamed at her husband.

"Now Tawney, that isnnae fair! You know nothing about that girl or the one Duncan seems to be keen on. If he's serious about her then we should be supportive…"

Lady Macintosh cut her husband off.

"Supportive of what Lorne?! Of having bastards as our grandchildren? As the heir to the proud Macintosh name?!"

Lord Macintosh sighed heavily,

"How about supportive of a love that you and I never had! I know you've resented me all these years, but you shouldnnae punish our son because of it!" Lorne shouted in frustration.

The room took on a deathly cold silence and finally Lady Macintosh spoke,

"Our son will not be with any maid! If he continues to have the same foolish notions as that Dingwall boy then he will be removed from his place as heir and scion. I will not have any more peasant blood in this family line!"

Kenna didn't want to hear anymore! She felt like her entire body had turned to stone. She couldn't believe was she was hearing! Not only was Lady Macintosh being insulting, but she had also called the two sisters harlots! Never! Kenna would never do anything like that and neither would Nessa!

Kenna leaned against the wall and put her hand up over her heart. Her breathing suddenly became very shallow and she felt light headed. She took a big gulp of air and shook her head. She took one last look at the door to the study and then sprinted the rest of the way down the stairs.

She didn't realize where she had gone until she arrived right in front of the library. Not wanting to see Duncan or anyone at the moment, Kenna turned and headed towards the games fields. She passed by Maudie who gave her a curious look, but Kenna forced a smile and made her way out the door.

She still didn't know where to go or what to do! How could Lady Macintosh say such things?! Did she really think that Nessa and Kenna only wanted to be with the young lords for the power and position? Did she not know that they could be in love with the young Lords without trying to make power plays and that ilk?

She was so lost in her thoughts that she didn't notice where she was walking.

She came to an abrupt halt when she crashed into another person. Kenna fell back, but before she actually hit the ground, she once again, found herself wrapped in two very strong, familiar arms.

"Kenna? Are you all right?" Duncan asked in concern.

He was not the person she wanted to see right now! In fact, he was the last person she wanted to see! Kenna pushed herself away from him, her eyes filling with heavy tears.

"Please, m'lord, let me go. I must leave!" Kenna tried to push farther away from him.

Duncan looked at her puzzled,

"Kenna, what's wrong?"

Even as she tried to push past him he reached out and grabbed her arm, gently, pulling her back to him. Kenna turned on her heel and looked up at him. Fresh tears streaked down her face and Duncan felt his heart break at the sight.

"Please, Duncan, just let me go!" she cried trying to pull her arm free.

Not caring about the people around who could see them, Duncan pulled her flush against him and cupped her cheek tenderly.

"No Kenna, I cannae do that…What's wrong? What happened?"

Kenna shook her head, unable to form any words. The horrible things that his mother had said came back to her mind and she sobbed again. Looking up at him with tear stained cheeks, she shook her head and cried,


Those were the only words she was able to even form anymore! Relenting to his embrace, Kenna grabbed onto the shoulder tie on his kilt. She buried her face in his chest and sobbed. Duncan wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight and protected against his body. He placed his chin on the top of her head and tried to soothe her.

"Shh,'s all right Kenna, I've got you. I'm here. I'll protect you…" he whispered to her over and over.

With ever shaking breath and racking sob that shook her body, Duncan's anger burned brighter. Whoever had hurt his Kenna, would pay! Of that, he was immensely sure!

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

It had been hours since Iaighe had left Merida and Shae alone. Merida was doing everything she could think of to occupy herself. Since the magic twine that bound her to Shae had loosened and lengthened quite a bit, she was able to at least move about with out accidentally dragging Shae around.

She had just given Shae another dose of the medicine that Iaighe left for him and now she was sitting next to the dying fire, keeping watch over him. Merida sighed heavily as she watched him sleep. Every now and again he would fidget or mumble in his sleep and Merida would reach over and brush his hair back from his damp forehead. Occasionally, she would sit beside him and hold his hand, whispering to him as his body fought off the infection.

Every once in a while, Shae would groan and whisper out loud. She didn't move close enough to hear what he was saying though. Not after the last time…

Merida couldn't believe that he had kissed her! And she had not only let him but when he had tried to deepen the kiss she let him do that, as well! She must have been out of her mind! She sighed, remembering that she had actually enjoyed the kiss immensely. She didn't fully understand why, but it had hurt her to hear another woman's name escape his lips. Especially feeling how much passion he had put into the kiss!

Merida flushed, remembering the feeling of his soft lips against her own. The feel of his beard as it rubbed against her face. She expected it to be rough and unpleasant, but it was surprisingly soft, if not a little scratchy. She remembered the feel of his grip as he cupped the back of her head pulling her closer to him. It was the fervent way in which Merida assumed lovers kissed. And when Shae had deepened the kiss, Merida had lost all sense of decorum and had moaned into the kiss! It was the most amazing feeling she had ever felt. Merida felt her heart speed up at the very thought it!

She knew he had only kissed her so passionately because he was delirious and thought she was Shannon. She didn't even know who this Shannon was? Was she still alive? Were she and Shae married? Engaged? Merida didn't know! From what little she could piece together, Merida had to wonder if this Shannon woman had been killed during the invasion in the MacGuffin lands. Merida sighed heavily, putting her face in her hands. She knew it was foolishness to get her heart involved in this until she could sort everything out. Or at least, find out the truth…

She groaned in frustration and looked down at the unconscious man beside her.

"Oh, Shae…what am I going to do? I donnae know what wrong with me? I cannae deny that I'm starting to feel something for you. It's frustrating! It was better off when the only thing that I felt was anger and annoyance towards you. Now you had to go and complicate things…" Merida muttered to him.

Her brows knit together as she pondered all of the moments that past few days that Keira had mentioned. The raiders, the wolves, the Revelry, the Viking stronghold…everything seemed to be working towards uniting them, in a way. Merida's look of contemplation deepened. She gazed down at the magic twine that bound them together.

"Could it be there is something at work here stronger than a witches curse?" Merida pondered aloud.

She had thought on this before but all at once the memories flooded back to her:

She remembered the feeling of his arms around her during their dances at the Revelry. Once more she remembered when he had her pressed against the tree to make her be quiet, right before the wolves attacked them.

She also remembered when he had loomed over her in Angus' stall and how her heart beat so frantically in anticipation. She still wondered for a moment if he felt the urge to kiss her. Feeling ashamed, she admitted she wished he would have!

She remembered when she fell in the forest and he caught her. She had looked so deeply in his eyes she was sure she would get lost in his emerald gaze. She waited for him then as well, waiting, watching to see if he would kiss her. Remembering the closeness of their bodies made her shiver from head to toe!

Merida sat and thought about all of the times Shae had protected her. She didn't know if it was out of instinct or unconscious awareness, but it didn't matter. The fact of the matter was that Shae had, on countless occasions, protected Merida for no reason. How was it that a man that had shown only disdain for her could still risk so much to protect her?

He had literally ripped apart a wolf to stop it from attacking her! That feat in itself was almost too unbelievable. But she had seen it happen with her own eyes!

She had been naïve in thinking they could avoid or reason with the raiders. She hung her head remembering the hard looks that Shae had given her. He was upset that she had not listened to his warnings, and now, looking back on it, she should have.

She had never killed another person up until that point! If it hadn't have been for the fact that the raider would have killed Shae, then she may have still not loosed the arrow.

She recalled the night they freed the Fae captives from the Viking stronghold. That was the reason that Shae was in this state now! If he hadn't have sheltered her body from the arrow volley then she would be the one lying unconscious on the ground.

Merida sighed once again,

"It doesnnae make any sense to me Shae…you've acted as though you cannae stand me and yet…you've gone out of your way to protect me. To teach me…help me grow, in ways I never thought I would…"

Her eyes became watery as she looked down at him. She gave him a small smile,

"You've even gotten on my brothers good sides. Harris adores you already and the other two…I suppose they really respect you. They usually only want to train with da' and I. But you…you somehow made a lasting impression on them…" Her brows knit together once more as she turned her gaze down to his sleeping form,

"And you've made a lasting impression on me too…"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Kenna lost all track of time while she had cried into his chest. She had been so distressed that she didn't even know that Duncan had picked her up and taken her somewhere else more private. He figured that the young woman didn't want to be seen in such a state and so he moved them both back to the castle library.

He sat holding her protectively in his lap. He didn't care at the moment about anything else but the young woman in front of him. She had taken hold of his attention and now he couldn't stop wanting to be with her. He couldn't even stop thinking about her, if he was honest. A painful sob shook her body and he held her closer.

She still hadn't seemed to calm any, and Duncan wracked his brain on what he could do to help soothe the poor girl. Suddenly, a memory came to him. Pulling her more onto his lap and cradling her tenderly Duncan began rocking back and forth in a gentle motion.

Duncan remembered his father doing this for him and his sisters if they had been frightened or upset when they had been small. It was soothing and always seemed to calm them, no matter the problem. He even began humming a soft lullaby that his father would sing to them as children. As Duncan rocked them back and forth on the chair he started to feel Kenna relax.

It had taken her some time but Kenna was finally starting to calm down. She owed it all to Duncan for being so caring and considerate. She couldn't believe that he was holding her like this! She also couldn't believe how compassionate and understanding he had been. She had broken in front of him and he was still there for her! He was worried for her, and Kenna couldn't stop the small smile that appeared on her face.

She didn't want to let go of him. She felt safe in his embrace and she didn't have to face the truth. To face him. After everything she had heard his mother say, everything she had accused Kenna of, Kenna couldn't help but wonder if it wasn't true. Was she really acting like a harlot? She wasn't sure anymore…

She squeezed her eyes shut tight and buried her face into the crook of Duncan's neck. Soft tears spilled out of her eyes, but she was no longer sobbing like she had been. She took a shaky breath of air and breathed in his scent deeply,

"I'm sorry…" she whispered.

Duncan, happy she was at least calm enough to talk again, sighed in content and smiled softly.

"Donnae be sorry, Kenna. You're upset. You have every right to cry…"

Kenna shook her head,

"You should be out on the tourney fields not coddling a grown woman who cannae even keep her emotions in check…"

Duncan pulled back slightly and looked down at her. He reached down and turned her chin up so he could meet her gaze.

"I donnae know, I much rather like the coddling…" he said with a small smile.

Kenna blushed and turned her face away. She wanted to thank him to explain to him everything that had happened, everything she had overheard. But, she didn't want to upset him. Would he even believe her if she told him what she had overheard?

She shook her head again and laid it on his shoulder. If he didn't mind then she wouldn't complain either. And if she was completely honest, she didn't really want to get up yet.

Duncan raised a brow at her behavior. Normally, she would blush and excuse herself before trying to remove herself from his embrace. She was very conscious of things like that, he had noticed. It had been drilled into her, he was sure. She was a handmaiden after all. He noticed the far off look in her eyes and he reached out to stroke her cheek.

"Are you all right, Kenna? Would you like to tell me what happened? Is it about Nessa?" Duncan ventured with his questions.

He was trying to get her to open up to him, but he didn't want to upset her again. Kenna smiled up at him weakly and shook her head.

"No, it isnnae about Nessa. Truth be told, I havennae seen her all morning. Last I saw her was last night on the tower roof, so I'm going to assume she and Colin had a long talk last night…" Kenna flushed when she realized the implications of what she had just said. Duncan also seemed to flush pink and he glanced away a moment.

Kenna cleared her throat and started to move from his lap. Duncan loosened his grip on her, albeit, reluctantly. He cocked his head to the side as he watched he get up. He followed suit and placed his hands on her shoulders.

"So, then what has you so upset today, Kenna? Is it something I can help with?" he asked sincerely as her looked down at her.

Kenna felt her face heat up and her heart pounded in her chest! Didn't he know he had done enough? If he tried any harder she would definitely find herself becoming the kind of woman Lady Macintosh already thought she was…

Kenna forced a broad smile and shook her head up at him.

"It's not important, Duncan. You have sisters; you must know how fickle a woman's heart can be…" she tried to wave him off.

Duncan's brow knit together, unconvinced,

"True, but usually it's not without provocation, Kenna."

Kenna looked away from his gaze, her face fallen back into a frown. Duncan sighed and relented. If she wanted to tell him, she would in her own time...he hoped…

" It's all right, I understand. You donnae want to tell me, that's fine. But just know that I am here if you need someone to talk too…"he paused, smiled and brushed some of her hair away from her shoulder,

"…And I have a shoulder you can cry on, anytime you need it."

Kenna swallowed the lump in her throat as she looked up at him.

"Thank you…" she breathed out in a whisper.

Duncan smiled down at her and the memory of the kiss that they had shared yesterday come to her mind. She flushed brightly and pulled away from him. Trying to distract her thoughts from that particular memory she searched frantically for anything to focus on.

Seeing the books that they had been using yesterday, she practically ran over to the table. She grabbed the small book that he had been using to teach her to read out of and turned to him with a bright smile.

"You know Duncan, I have most of the day free now. If you donnae mind, maybe we could continue those lessons you promised...If you have the time, that is…." She stuttered, unsure of why she was suddenly so flustered around him.

Duncan, who had watched her with mild amusement and wonder during her frantic search, smiled warmly at her and nodded,

"I would love too, Kenna."

He walked over and plucked the book from her hands. She jerked her head up at him, a look of confusion and bewilderment on her face. She stood with her mouth agape, ready to protest. Duncan stopped her with a chaste kiss to her cheek,

"It's such a nice day though, perhaps we can continue the lessons in the garden. If you'd like?" He asked before offering his arm to her.

Kenna, taken aback by his boldness, simply nodded her agreement. She shook her head to clear it and took his arm as a warm blush spread over her cheeks. She looked up at him with a soft smile.

"I'd like that very much, Duncan."

With that the two made their way out to the gardens. Unbeknownst to them, though, a pair of prying eyes had witnessed the little exchange between the two.

"Interesting…" the snoop stated with intrigue.

Turning their back on the room, they left the opposite direction of the two young lovers.

Lorne Macintosh turned another corner and then leaned against the wall. He crossed his arms over his chest and a smile grew upon his face,

"Very interesting indeed…"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Colin sighed heavily and leaned against the wooden door that separated him from his parent's guest room and the hall. He really didn't want to meet with his father at the moment, but he decided that he needed to get this over with…

He put on a look of confidence and sauntered into the room.

Lord Murdoch Dingwall was seated with his back to the door. He was looking out the window and onto the tournament fields. He heard his son approach but didn't turn to face him.

Colin coughed into his fist to get his father's attention. Murdoch turned to look at his son. He had a hard look in his eyes and Colin knew what was coming.

"How could you, boy? How could you humiliate the clan in such a way?!"

Colin shrugged nonchalantly,

"I figured that you've humiliated us enough da'. Now it's my turn to take the brunt of it…"Colin popped off.

Murdoch's nostrils flared in anger,

"How dare you, boy! You cannae speak to your chief that way! And especially not to your father!"

Colin looked away, swallowing his own rising anger. He decided to go another way with this "talk."

"The moment that you found out about my little stunt yesterday I bet you were steaming, werennae you da'? You know absolutely nothing about this woman and yet because she is a servant you automatically assume she is beneath us, correct?"

Murdoch blanched at his son's tone. It was cold and serious, very unlike the trickster that his son had become.

Murdoch's frown deepened.

"The thought that she is using you crossed my mind more quickly, son." Murdoch muttered

"Using me?!" Colin looked at his father incredulously. Colin almost laughed.

"I've had to pursue her, da'! She didnnae readily jump into bed with me the first time I met her! I might add that she has made courting her more than a challenge."

Lord Dingwall sighed at his son,

"But why a servant maid, Colin?! You could have any taken any of our allies' daughters and yet you choose a scullery maid? Granted with the passing of the princess, you would never be king, but joining our clan with another…"

Colin interrupted his father,

"That's what I will be doing! Nessa is of DunBroch. She was training to be the next lady-in-waiting to Queen Elinor. She is educated, and very sharp of wit. She is beautiful in ways I have never seen, father. She will be a fine Lady Dingwall."

Murdoch scowled at his son,

"Why are you doing this to me, Colin? Why would you choose a woman you hardly know, a woman you just met? If you wanted to bed a servant why not choose one from our staff? You're the clan heir, for heaven's sake! You cannae decide to marry a servant girl from another clan! What is wrong with you?!"

Colin felt his blood boil. He stepped close to his father and loomed over the shorter man.

"Father, I love her. I donnae know how else to say it. I love her and I want her to be my wife! Mother met her already and seems to approve, why cannae you just be happy for me? What about that whole, 'Find love in our own time', bit that Princess Merida had us all agreeing on? Did you forget that part da'?"

Murdoch's hard glare deepened as he stared up at his son,

"No. I remember, Colin. I was just hoping that finding love in your own time would entail falling in love with the princess or at least a noble woman…"

Colin took a step back, eyeing his father in pity,

"Yeah, well, it's my heart da'. I can give it to whomever I choose. Not you. I do love Nessa, and if you'd give her chance then maybe you could see what I see…" Colin stated quietly.

This wasn't the way he thought their argument would end but hopefully, his father would listen to reason for once. Murdoch contemplated his son's words, but his scowl never lessened. Finally, he looked up at his son, a hard line in his features.

"She would never fit into our world, Colin. She is used to one way and we another. It is the order of things. Besides, you cannae fall in love with someone after a few days, Colin. It's ludicrous!" Murdoch sneered.

Colin sighed and shook his head. He chuckled lightly to himself, remembering where he had heard that before.

"You know, da', I think you and Nessa have more in common then you think you do…"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Nessa couldn't breathe. Lady Dingwall had been sharing stories with her all morning about Colin and his sisters. The poor woman had endured so much when her children were younger, it was a wonder she hadn't gone crazy yet. Nessa wiped the tears from her eyes after another one of her stories.

"Oh, M'lady that must have been a sight! How did you and Lord Dingwall ever handle such rambunctious children?" Nessa asked with a laugh.

Caitlin chuckled along with her,

"Uh, I handled the children. The one time I let Murdoch take care of them, it ended up with Moira* and Fiona* being chased by the hounds…"

Nessa gasped.

"Your husband sent the dogs after the girls?! Why in the world would he do that?!"

Caitlin shook her head,

"Oh, Murdoch would never do that! No, the reason the hounds were chasing the girls was because they had fallen in one of the molasses barrels. The dogs were trying to lick the molasses off the girls. They both hate dogs…"

Nessa found herself laughing again. She could just picture the scene in her head and it only made her laugh harder. Her laugher finally subsided and she smiled at Lady Dingwall, kindly.

"I want to thank you, m'lady. I was very nervous when you said you wanted to spend the day with me…" Nessa confessed with a blush.

Caitlin Dingwall cocked her head to the side,

"Nervous why, dear? "

Nessa's blush deepened,

"Well, it's just…after you found us in such a compromising state this morning, I was sure that you would make Colin get rid of me. I mean I'm not 'Lady' material by any means, and this morning…"

Caitlin wavered it off,

"Oh, Nessa. You have so much to learn about this particular family…" Caitlin paused and grinned at the young woman beside her.

"I donnae care about this morning, no matter what you may think. I do trust my son. And, although he is a man, I also know he is a gentleman, first and foremost. He's not a philanderer by any means. I know that if he says he loves you then he means it. He wants to marry you, Miss Nessa, and regardless of what his father may say, you will be his wife…That is, if you want to be…"

Nessa snapped her head up at Lady Dingwall. She had a worried look on her features.

"I do love your son, m'lady! And I do want to marry him. But…I'm feeling terrified. I cannae be a 'Lady' of nobility, I donnae know how. I've been a servant my whole life! I also have my sister that I've been taking care of since we were children. I know that she wants me to be happy, but I want that for her too. I must sound like a silly child to you right now…" Nessa turned her gaze away, feeling embarrassed.

Caitlin smiled in understanding,

"Actually, Miss Nessa, I know exactly how you feel."
Nessa looked at her with a raised brow but Caitlin's smile never wavered. She motioned for them to start walking and Nessa stepped beside her. They began to stroll through the castle courtyard.

"I've been a member of Clan Dingwall since I was born, Miss Nessa. I was raised in the castle walls along side Murdoch and his brothers. We grew up together, Miss Nessa, as very close friends."

Nessa looked at her in disbelief,

"You were a servant in the castle, as well?"

Caitlin nodded slightly,

"In a way…my mother was the lady-in-waiting to the then Lady Dingwall, Murdoch's mother, and my father was the captain of the castle guard. And I was the rambunctious and very unorthodox only daughter that they had. I started at a young age training to follow in my mother's footsteps. I was going to be the lady-in-waiting to whoever wed the clan heir."

"Lord Dingwall, your husband?" Nessa ventured.

Caitlin shook her head solemnly.

"No, Murdoch wasnnae originally heir to the Dingwall clan. His older brother, Conri*, was. Conri was killed in a…in a duel. This was before the tournament games held by Queen Elinor's parents. So when the games came around, Murdoch had to compete in his brother's stead. I said before that we had grown up as close friends, correct?"

Nessa nodded and Caitlin continued,

"Well, he confided in me before he left that, if he shouldnnae win the tournament games, then he wanted me to be his Lady Dingwall upon his return. I was shocked, to say the least! If he won the games he would come back betrothed to Elinor and if he didnnae win then he wanted me to be his wife! I was terrified of either outcome, at that point. I didnnae know what I wanted or how I felt about any of it. Well, obviously, he didnnae win the tournament. I expected him to be moody and sulking when he came home, but…he just told everyone that the best man won and he was happy for Fergus and Elinor. I still donnae know if he was sincere or not, but he'd not been home a day when his mother came to me in tears."

"Tears?" Nessa looked confused.

Caitlin chuckled softly at her look,

"I had just about the same reaction on my face that you have now…I wasnnae sure why she was crying or what she wanted to see me about. But she stood in front of me with tears falling down her cheeks and all of the sudden she wraps me in her arms and pulls me into a tight hug! By now, I'm thoroughly confused. I asked her what was wrong and then she said something to me that I'll never forget. She said: 'I'm so happy that you can make my son happy. I've wanted you in this family a long time and now it's finally happening.' What I didnnae know yet, was that Murdoch had announced our engagement to his family that morning at breakfast. He haddnae told he was going to do it. He hadnnae even asked me if I wanted to marry him!"

"Did you love him?" Nessa asked quietly.

Caitlin had an unamused look on her face,

"At that moment in time? No!"

Nessa tried to hide her growing smile

"No, I meant, did you love him before he did that…make that declaration, I mean."

Caitlin smirked at her,

"Before he made an ass out of himself, I believe is what you meant to say."

Caitlin paused and then nodded,

"Yes. As strange as it sounds, I did love him. It's true that Murdoch has his shortcomings and he is notorious for loosing his temper, but he was always a good friend to me. He never teased me like some of his brothers did. He always wanted to help me with my chores. He even helped me in my lessons growing up. I'm sure since you were training to be a lady-in-waiting; as well you know how difficult it can be. We have to be educated in some things and unfortunately, ignorant in others."

Now it was Nessa's turn to nod in understanding,

"So you married, obviously."

Caitlin laughed,

"Aye. We were married rather quickly. I donnae know if his father thought we had been intimate before hand, but he was adamant about us getting wed right away. I like to think it was because he was so eager to have me as his daughter too, just like Murdoch's mother."

Nessa smiled at her,

"You and your husband love each other very much, m'lady."

Caitlin nodded,

"Aye, we do. And I think that you and Colin love each other just as much. Or, at least, the two of you can learn to love each other just as much. Murdoch and I had a foundation of trust and friendship years before romance and intimate love entered the picture."

Caitlin stopped walking and took Nessa's hands in hers.

" Your love is still…young. You say you're terrified, and I understand. You hardly know each other, and yet you put trust in a man you just met? I never had that, so that I donnae know what you're going through in regards to that. But I do know what it's like to have a man announce to whole world he's going to marry you, but tell you last…that I understand."

Nessa laughed quietly and Caitlin smiled at her.

"Nessa, I want you to know, that you're welcome in this family and this clan. Even if no one else says it, or acts like it. Murdoch may not accept it at first, but I will be there to remind him that it doesnnae matter that you are not a princess, or nobility. I will remind him of where I came from, and who I was supposed to be. It doesnnae matter where you come from or what you are, it should only matter that you make our son happy, and that he makes you happy in return."

Nessa felt her throat tighten as she gazed at the Lady Dingwall. She hadn't felt anything like this since her mother and aunt had died. This woman was opening her heart and family to her and Nessa was nothing but a complete stranger to her! Forgoing the social norms, she threw her arms around the woman in front of her. Caitlin staggered a bit, not expecting the young woman to do be so bold. Feeling the tears on her neck Caitlin wrapped Nessa in a warm, motherly hug.

"Thank you." Nessa whispered as she pulled back.

Caitlin brushed away a tear on Nessa's face.

"No need to thank me, dear. Just love each other, that's all."

Nessa nodded and pulled away. She was embarrassed that she had been so brash.

"I apologize for attacking you like that, m'lady…"

Caitlin laughed it off,

"Oh, donnae worry about that, Miss Nessa. It was rather nice, to be honest. My girl's havennae done that in quite some time."

Realizing what time it was Caitlin asked Nessa if she wanted to have a bite to eat,

"Would you like to have lunch with me, dear?"

Nessa shook her head and politely declined,

"I'm afraid I cannae, m'lady. I know you said Maudie permitted me a day off, but I should really see if my sister needs help in the kitchens. The young princes can be a handful at mealtimes and I'd hate to leave her to it alone."

Caitlin nodded in understanding,

"Some other time then."

Nessa nodded and bowed to Lady Dingwall. Caitling rolled her eyes at her,

"You know, dear, if you're going to be my daughter-in-law, then you really donnae have to bow to me. You're practically family."

Nessa smiled at her sheepishly,

"It's habit."

"Well, break it. A Lady of Clan Dingwall bows to no one…except her King and Queen…"

Nessa laughed loudly as she made her way back to the castle. Caitlin Dingwall watched her go with a growing smile.

"You chose well, Colin. You chose well…"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

"And these two words are?" Duncan asked pointing to a line on the page.

"Extremely difficult when you donnae know how to read." Kenna huffed, leaning her head against his shoulder.

Duncan chuckled lightly. The rumbling in his chest sent vibrations through her and she blushed a light pink.

"It isnnae funny Duncan." She grumbled with a sigh.

"Oh, come on, Kenna! You're doing great! Just a few more lines then we can take a break, I promise." He smiled over at her.

"You said that a page and a half ago…" Kenna deadpanned.

Duncan laughed out loud this time.

"Well, you were doing so well I assumed you didnnae want to stop."

Kenna rolled her eyes and lowered her head to her arms in front of her. They had retired to gardens after Kenna had swung by her room to grab her satchel and sketch materials. They were both lying on their stomachs and side-by-side in the cool grass. One of Duncan's shoulders was close to Kenna's head and over the course of the lesson Kenna found herself laying her head on it, occasionally. Duncan didn't seem to mind and Kenna was enjoying being close to him. She hid a smile behind her arms when she felt him poke her side.

"Come on, Kenna. Just a few more…" Duncan prodded and placed the book in front of her vision.

Kenna closed her eyes and turned up her nose at him in mock haughtiness. She didn't verbally answer him and Duncan smirked at her playful and lighthearted demeanor.

"You'll never be able to read if you donnae practice at it." Duncan tried to reason.

She stuck her tongue out at him in teasing. Duncan looked at her in faux shock.

"I cannae believe you'd do something so…'indecent', Miss Kenna!"

Kenna opened one eye and grinned up at him, but still said nothing. Duncan was getting a little impatient with her silence, but was enjoying seeing this side of her. Whatever had upset her earlier didn't seem to have a lasting affect on her. Or at least, none that he was aware of.

"You cannae keep this up forever, Kenna. You have to talk some time…" Duncan sighed overdramatically.

Kenna raised a brow at him, almost in a challenging manner.

"All right, that's it!" Duncan called before he leaned in and rolled her over in the grass. Kenna burst into a fit of giggles and laughter. Duncan rolled with her and they ended up moving a little ways from their hidden alcove. When the two had stopped rolling Kenna was pinned underneath the young lord. The two were still in giggles when they came to a standstill. Kenna smacked at his arm.

"Oh, that was really mature, Duncan." She chastised playfully as she tried to catch her breath. .

"Oh, good! She speaks again! I was afraid that with all the learning to read, it might have killed the part of your brain that controls talking." Duncan teased.

Duncan started to push himself up from the ground. Kenna went to sit up herself, but found that she couldn't. The two had tumbled in such a way that they had tangled up their clothing. Kenna blushed bright red when she realized her sash was twisted around his sporran. Duncan pushed up on his arms and tried to pull away but the tug at his sporran gave him pause.

Puzzled he looked down and felt his face flush.

"Oops." He muttered.

Kenna glanced down too and felt the heat rise to her cheeks.

"Um…I can…uh…that is…" she stammered not knowing what to do.

Duncan shook his head,

"No it's my fault. I'll get it…" he reached down to loosen the sash but every time he reached for it he pulled back suddenly.

"Oh, for heaven's sake…" Kenna mumbled after a minute. Finally fed up with waiting she reached down between them, swatted his hand away and tried to untangle the sash herself.

"This shouldnnae be this difficult." She grumbled.

"You're flustered." Duncan stated.

"Well, you werennae much help either…" she snapped back.

Duncan rolled his eyes at her and reached to take over.

"Here, let me."

"No, I've almost got it now." She pushed him away. She pushed him back a little bit more forcefully then she meant to and Duncan lost his balance. He fell back and she fell on top of him awkwardly.

"Oomph!" Duncan grunted when Kenna landed on him.

Kenna winced,

"Sorry…" she mumbled with a look of apology.

She pulled up the end of the untangled sash so he could see.

"…but at least we're not tangled together anymore." She offered him a hopeful smile.

Duncan laid his head back on the ground with a heavy sigh. He chuckled lightly and looked at her with a cheeky grin,

"Yeah, not like that was awkward or anything…"

"It was still all your fault!" Kenna said sitting up. Duncan sat up after her and smirked.

"You never did finish those reading lines."

"I actually never started."

Duncan stood and walked back to where the books were still laying on the grass. He picked it up and tossed it. The book landed in her lap.

"Then maybe you should."

She gave him a mock scowl and opened up the book as he sat down beside her again.

He leaned over her shoulder and pointed to the lines on the page.

Kenna sighed and started to read the letters slowly and watched as they formed words before her.

"Deirdre had finally met her ma…mat…"


"…match. Naoise was ev…evening?…Everything she had wan…ted in a hush…hus…band…husband. He fit her ev…ery want and de…sire, desire. But, Naoise k…k..n..?"


"…But Naoise knew that she was dest…ined… destined to wed the king."

Duncan smiled at Kenna proudly! She had a large grin on her own face as she closed the book and looked up at him.

"I did it! Well, sort of…"

"No, you're doing great! There's only so much you can learn in such a short while and I think you've done amazing!" Duncan praised her.

Without thinking, he leaned forward and kissed her on the lips, lightly. He pulled back and rubbed the back of his head, his cheeks reddening again. Kenna imagined her own cheeks had light pink tint as well.

She cleared her throat and looked down at the book in her hands.

"So…the story of Deirdre and Naoise*, huh? You know I already know that legend, right?"

Duncan shrugged.

"That's actually one reason I picked it. I figured it would be easier for you to learn to read if you already had a gist of the story you were reading. Is that not all right?"

Kenna shook her head.

"No it's fine. It's just…you surprised me that's all. I didnnae figure you would know that story. Isnnae that more of a story for girls, not boys?"

Duncan laughed,

"I suppose you could look at it that way. It's just…it's always been one of my favorite stories, ever since I was a wee lad. Da' used to read to us and my sisters were always asking for this story. Da' always made it end a lot happier than the actual legend, though."

Kenna raised a brow at him,

"And how did your da' end the story, then?"

Duncan looked down at the book in her lap and took it from her. His hand touched hers softly as he did. Kenna felt heat shoot to her face and through her stomach. She looked him in the eye.

"Deirdre and Naoise escape to the Highlands of Scotland and Conchobar is never able to find them. They marry and have many children together and they never have to worry about Conchobar or Fergus or Éogan ever again."

Kenna smiled.

"Sounds like they lived happily ever after…"

Duncan smiled back at her.

"Well, sort of…Da' would make up his own stories about their life after running away and being free. He even named their made up children. It was usually after me and my sisters, but we didnnae care. They had these grand adventures but da' always pointed out that love was what bound them all together. In his happier version, I mean…" Duncan explained.

Kenna couldn't help the smile that was beaming on her face. She placed her hand over his.

"I think I like your da's version better, too. If you'd tell them to me I'd like to hear more sometime…" she whispered to him.

Duncan gazed into her dark emerald eyes with a warm smile.

"I'd like that too…" he whispered back, leaning closer to her.

Kenna's heart jumped to her throat! The distance between them closed and Kenna felt the warmth of his breath on her lips. She didn't know why, but she didn't pull away.

His lips brushed hers in a feather light kiss and her breath hitched. Duncan gave her another chaste kiss, just as light and tentative as the first. His heart was pounding in his ears. He leaned in to kiss her a third time, but Kenna halted him. She placed her fingertips to his lips and shook her head. Duncan gazed into her eyes trying to understand.

Kenna was shaking on the inside! How could she let him do that?! After everything from this morning! The hard words of his mother came flooding back to her. She couldn't let this happen, no matter what she wanted for herself. She couldn't fall in love with Duncan…

" Duncan...I…"Kenna started. However she was interrupted by a loud call.

"DUNCAN! Where are you, son?" yelled the voice of Lord Macintosh.

Duncan glared in the direction of his father's voice. Kenna reached over and guided his face back towards hers gently.

"It's all right, Duncan. We…we can…um…we should continue this later anyway…" Kenna stuttered with a shy smile.

Duncan sighed but nodded. He shocked her by turning his head just a bit and placing a soft kiss on her hand. She pulled back with a blush.

"All right, later then…" He pulled himself to his feet and offered her his hand to her.

Gratefully, she took it and he pulled her to her feet. When she stood up she stumbled forward a bit and Duncan wrapped an arm around her to keep her from falling.

"Whoa, easy." He said with a smirk.

Kenna rolled her eyes and started to pull away.

"Always a klutz…" she muttered aloud.

Duncan chuckled and began to say something back when his father's voice sounded from behind him.

"Duncan? There you are. Good! I need to speak with you. Oh, I didnnae realize you were…um…busy…"Lorne tapered off when he caught sight of Kenna in his son's arms.

He raised a brow at the two as he watched them both squirm under his stare. He had to force the smile from crossing his face as he watched them. Kenna's face flushed bright red and she pushed away from Duncan immediately. She bowed to Lord Macintosh. Lorne could tell the poor girl was embarrassed and intimidated.

"Forgive me, m'lord. I was just…uh…that is to say, the young Lord was merely…" Kenna stuttered nervously.

Duncan stepped in to defend her and explain.

"Da' I was only helping her up. She stumbled and I...caught her…" Duncan looked at Kenna in concern.

Lorne fought back the smile that wanted to burst onto his face. Putting on the sternest expression he could muster, he crossed his arms.

"And just what were you doing out here to begin with, son? Donnae you have a few competitions to get ready for?"

Now it was Duncan's turn to look flabbergasted. He opened and closed his mouth a few times, looking much like a fish out of water.

"I…uh…I…I'm…" Duncan stumbled through his words.

"Teaching me how to read, m'lord. The young lord was helping me with it on his time off. If I had known he had competitions I wouldnnae ever have asked him." Kenna jumped in to save poor Duncan.

Lorne looked away quickly, hoping that he conveyed disappointment or slight anger at his son; when in reality, he was simply trying to hide the smirk appearing on his face.

Kenna was completely mortified! If Lord Macintosh relayed any of this information to Lady Macintosh it could be horrible for poor Duncan!

She bowed again to the lord and his son.

"Forgive me, m'lords. I will leave you to your business. I have chores that I must complete myself." Kenna said in a quick manner.

She glanced up at Duncan, whose eyes shone with hurt and confusion. Her eyes pleaded with him to understand as she turned away. She grabbed her satchel and headed towards the castle.

Lorne watched his son stare longingly at her as she disappeared from sight. He felt bad for his son. The young woman was obviously so used to social demands of class and expectations that she felt embarrassed to be seen with his son when it was not in a private setting. Lorne looked at his son and sighed. He recognized the look of hurt and…was that other look perhaps love?

Duncan was confused and wounded. Why did Kenna run off so suddenly? They could explain their behavior to his father. It was innocent enough! What was she so upset about? He knew whey she had resorted to protocol in front of his father, but it still hurt him. He decided he would talk to her later about it when they could be alone again.

Sighing heavily he turned to his father.

"You needed me for something da'?" Duncan asked tersely.

Lorne raised a brow at his son's short tone. He uncrossed his arms and placed on hand on Duncan's shoulder.

"You know, son…you could always go after her." Lorne smiled at his son.

Duncan looked at his father incredulously.

"Da' it isnnae like that. I really was just helping her lean to read. Nothing was going on…"

"Uh huh…" Lorne looked past his son and down at the ground where the two had been sitting before he arrived. Noticing that the young maid had missed a book he reached down and picked it up.

He smiled knowingly when he read the spine of the book.

"Deirdre and Naoise, huh?"

Duncan felt his face heat up under his father's stare. He cleared his throat and tried to change the subject.

"You wanted to talk, father?"

Lorne remembered why he was looking for his son in the first place. He had wanted to let him know about the argument that he and Tawney had had earlier that morning. However, after seeing Duncan and the young maiden together, Lorne couldn't bring himself to tell his son to stop. Whether they realized it or not, Duncan was most assuredly falling in love with the girl and she with him. Tawney had made serious threats but nothing that indicated that she would follow through with them, or so he hoped…

Lorne decided to leave the argument out for now and try to help mend things between the two blooming loves.

"It's not important anymore Duncan. I'm sorry I interrupted your…uh… lesson. Maybe you can catch up with her in the castle. We can head that way if you'd like…" Lorne offered to his son.

Duncan looked at his father puzzled,

"But I thought you wanted me to practice for my competitions?"

Lorne waved him off.

"Oh, I was just blowing hot air, lad. I didnnae know that the girl would take it so hard!"


"Excuse me?"

"Her name is Kenna…"

"Right." Lorne gave a smile and a nod.

Still sensing his son's distress over the incident earlier Lorne placed a hand on his son's shoulder.

"You shouldnnae worry, son. I'm sure she was simply embarrassed about being caught,"

"But we werennae doing anything wrong!" Duncan insisted with a light blush dusting his cheeks.

"…about being caught breaking social boundaries, Duncan." Lorne sighed after his son's interruption.


Lorne rolled his eyes at his son.

"Duncan, I know you understand that she is a maid servant. Surely you must realize how abnormal a relationship between a young Lord and maid is?"

"You have heard about Colin and Nessa, right? Besides, I thought we were allowed to find love in our own time, father? Follow our hearts and all that?" Duncan snapped.

Lorne put his hands up in a defensive manner,

"Easy Duncan, I'm on your side. But have you considered how Miss Kenna may feel? She was basically raised that she wouldnnae ever be an equal to someone like you. I mean, I was. I just happened to get lucky and be in the right place, at the right time. You've formed a friendship with this Miss Kenna and that is wonderful. And it could grow to be something even more. But there are, or will be, stepping-stones you have to cross along the way. You have to show her that her status doesnnae define her. She may think she is a maid who has fallen for a young lord, but in reality she is a just young woman who has fallen for a young man."

Duncan looked at his father in a curious manner.

"Miss Nessa and Kenna grew up as playmates of the princess, why should they have to consider social standings? You'd think that they would be able to see past that…"

"And I'm sure they can…with people they've known all their lives. To them the princess was great friend, but she was still their Princess. When the end of the day came, the princess still had her title, but they only have the skill that they are taught and educated on for the sole purpose of their station."

"That isnnae fair!" Duncan stated indignantly.

Lorne nodded.

"I didnnae say it was. I grew up as stable boy, remember? I didnnae learn anything of importance until I moved into the castle. Your grandda' took great care to make sure I knew and understood everything a person of nobility was supposed too. He broke social norms by doing that and he received a lot of hate from some of other older noble families in the clan."

Lorne paused and looked at his son in understanding,

"Let's just say, I can understand where the girl is coming from. Being alone with you is one thing, to her. Being seen with you, however borders on her comfort, I'm sure."

Duncan looked puzzled,

"But how can I get her to realize that I donnae care where she came from or what she is? I'm falling in lo…uh…becoming…um…I find myself attracted to her. What if this becomes something…else?" Duncan muttered in a flustered manner.

Lorne smirked at his son,

"Continue to show her that she is just as good as any noble. If you choose her and you love her, then that is enough, I'm sure. That is the best advice I can give."

Duncan shook his head,

"But that doesnnae stop her from being…embarrassed to be with me around other people, will it?"

Lorne mused over the question a moment.

"Duncan, she probably views you as someone to trust, but given the difference in your class, rank, standing, whatever, she is leery of what others will view your relationship as…"

Duncan's brow furrowed.

"That's silly. We're friends and…possibly more, but she shouldnnae care what others may think."

Lorne sighed once more at his son. He wished others could have such an open view of the world, as his son seemed to have.

"Duncan, there are those in this world that will always look down on others who they feel are inferior to them. It makes them seem so much more powerful in their own eyes. Those are the ones who should be considered the lowest in our society. But because of so-called birthright, privilege and power they feel that they have an innate obligation to make sure certain social standards are upheld. When those standards are challenged they rebel against them and the outcome is rarely ever good."

Duncan had never seen his father so serious as in that moment.

Lorne continued,

"You say she shouldnnae care what others think, but think a moment, son. Perhaps she cares about what others think when they see the two of you together, not for her reputation, but for yours. She may be trying to protect you, whether you realize it or not."

"You would accept her, wouldnnae you da'?"

"Of course I would, Duncan. But I'm a different case. I grew up in a servants lifestyle, myself. I'm not saying that she wouldnnae be accepted by anyone. I'm saying that everyone may not accept her. I wasnnae. About ten families disbanded from Clan Macintosh when your grandda' gave me your mother as my bride. It may be the same if you choose Kenna to be yours."

Duncan blushed bright red at his father's last statement.

"Da'! I donnae even know how I feel about the woman, yet! I cannae make a decision like that right now! I mean she doesnnae know a whole lot about our family. You and mum havennae even had a chance to truly meet her."

Lorne's eyes twinkled with an idea. Tawney would kill him if she ever found out he was helping this…'attraction' move along, but he didn't care. He wanted to see his son happy! And if his wife were truly looking out for Duncan, she would want the same. Perhaps if the young woman did spend some time with them, then Tawney would see that she was not what she pictured her as.

Lorne smiled at his son.

"Well, perhaps you could ask Miss Kenna if she'd like to join us for dinner some evening? Or breakfast, even? Your mother and I can get to know her and she can speak with your sisters, as well. If she doesnnae want to though, I would understand. That would be a big request for her, I think. But you could at least extend the invitation to her on behalf of myself. "

Duncan mulled it over a minute or two.

"I'll ask her tonight but I cannae guarantee she would even agree."

Lorne grinned,

"And that is fine. Just let her know the invitation stands."

Duncan nodded to his father and smiled. Suddenly a new voice was heard from behind some large bushes.

"Oh, look Elinor! I was sure I heard voices here in the gardens." Lady Dingwall smirked as she and the queen stepped into view.

Duncan and Lorne ceased their talking and bowed to the Queen and Lady Dingwall.

"Ladies! Good after noon! And what are the two of you fine lasses doing today?" Lorne asked with a cordial smile.

"I was walking through the courtyard and bumped into her majesty. We decided to take a stroll through the gardens together." Lady Dingwall answered.

Elinor nodded and gave a small smile to the lord and his son.

"Yes. It's a little a hard for me to enjoy the games yet…." She said solemnly.

Lorne, Duncan and Caitlin all nodded in understanding.

"Of course your majesty. It must be devastating for you…"Lorne said in a soft tone. He couldn't imagine what he would do if he lost one of his children! It was heartbreaking to see the Queen suffer so.

Elinor gave him a grateful smile.

"It will get a little better as time goes on. But it's still too fresh for me I suppose."

Caitlin noticed the glassy look in the Queen's eyes and placed a comforting hand on Elinor's forearm.

"You lost a child Elinor, we all can only imagine how you must feel."

Elinor's smile widened a touch.

"Yes, well, it is a little easier having close friends and the rest of my family with me. It helps a lot more than you realize."

Caitlin patted her arm affectionately.

"Of course, dear. You have many friends around to help you, never forget that."

Elinor gave a light chuckle.

"Oh, I wonnae. Thank you, Caitlin."

The group fell into a comfortable silence until Duncan's stomach rumbled loudly. He flushed in embarrassment.

"I apologize, Ladies…da'. I'm afraid I havennae eaten lunch yet…" He rubbed the back of his neck nervously.

The three older adults all grinned at him. Caitlin took the young man by the arm and laughed.

"Well, it is a bit later than normal. Why donnae we all head to the castle for a bit of rest and a bite?"

"I think that would be wonderful Caitlin. Would you walk with us, m'lords?" Elinor asked with a smile.

Both Duncan and his father nodded in agreement.

"We'd love too, m'ladies. After you." Lorne bowed once more and motioned to the castle.

The four set off towards the castle together. Caitlin let go of the young Macintosh's arm and slowed a bit. She fell into step along side Lorne.

"So…your son too?" she whispered with a knowing smile.

Lorne cast her sideways glance and a smirk followed behind it.


-|} -[(+)]-{|-

Harris pursed his lips tightly as he exited another room that his father was not in. He had been searching for the king all day and so far, had no luck in finding his father! He was getting frustrated! He had lessons with his mother later that after noon but he really had something important to talk to his father about.

Harris reached the family room and casually opened the door, assuming his father wouldn't be in there either. Lo and behold, his father was standing next to the mantle, gazing up at the tapestry above the fireplace. It was the one Merida and their mother had made together. Harris knew how special the tapestry was to his father.

Fergus looked deep in thought but Harris wanted to talk to him. Pushing the door open enough to enter, Harris stepped inside and closed the door quietly behind him. He walked over to the fireplace and stared up at his father. Fergus still hadn't noticed his youngest sons presence, as he was lost in his own thoughts.

Timidly, Harris reached up, grabbed his father's hand and tugged slightly to grab his attention. Feeling the light jerk on his hand, Fergus snapped out of his thoughts and looked down. Harris could see the tiredness in his father's eyes and he suddenly felt bad for disturbing him. But Fergus smiled down at him.

"Harris! Are you all right son? Do ye need anything?" Fergus asked his boy.

Harris nodded up at his father,

"Yeah da'. Do you think we could talk?" he tried to sound as serious as his ten-year-old voice would allow.

Fergus gave a crooked smile,

"This sounds serious. Should we sit down?" Fergus motioned towards some chairs.

"Um…yeah…"Harris nodded again and walked over to one of the chairs and sat down.

When Fergus had seated himself, he leaned forward and rested his head on his hands, giving his undivided attention to his son.

"All right, son…I'm listening. What did you need to talk about?" he said with a smile.

Harris decided not to waste any time and blurted out,

"Da', how do you get a girl to like you?"

Fergus blanched at his son's swift and blatant question. He blinked, not sure if he'd heard Harris correctly…

"Excuse me?"

Harris sighed. He decided to restate the question and explain.

"I mean, I think she already likes me, but what do I do now?" How do I let her know I like her too? Is there a way I can make sure she like me?"

Harris rattled off the questions he had been asking himself ever since seeing Tahvay again the other day.

Fergus put his hand up to slow down his frantic son.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa…slow down, lad. Start from the beginning. When did you even meet this girl?"

"During the games a few days ago." Harris answered. He wanted to share more but he wasn't sure how his dad would take the news that he had a crush on a Fae, so he decided to leave that part out.

Fergus wracked his brain trying to figure out whom Harris could be talking about. It wasn't so uncommon for some of the warriors to bring their families with them to the games. It could be a girl from any of the clans. Fergus frowned and gazed at his son pensively.

"Well, son, before we talk about that maybe it's time we have a different kind of talk…" Fergus said, a little flustered.

He realized he had never explained to any of his boys about love, growing up and all the things that come with it.

Harris looked up at his father, confused.

"What talk, da'?"

Fergus felt his face heat up, and he floundered a bit.

"Uh, well you know…there comes a time, uh…, in every life, between a man and a woman…uh, when they love each other…and uh….they decided to start a family…."
"Da' STOP!" Harris jumped out of his seat. He put his hands on his father's arm.

"I know where babies come from and stuff like that! I donnae need a lecture on the natural order of things…" Harris blushed bright red, not meeting his father's gaze.

Fergus looked at his youngest son in bewilderment.

"And just how do you know about that?"

Harris shrugged still not looking at his father.

"Merida told me."

Fergus rolled his eyes and sighed.

"Of course she did…"

Harris slumped back in his seat; a dark blush was still upon his cheeks.

"Da', please? Donnae make this any more embarrassing then it already is…"

Fergus cleared his throat,

"You know, I'm feeling rather hungry. Maybe we should take this down to the kitchens. We can grab a bite while we talk…"

Harris' eyes lit up at the suggestion. He nodded eagerly.

"Yeah, I like that idea da'!"

Fergus smiled at his boy as they headed towards the door.

"Thought you might…"

-|} -[(+)]-{|-

"Oh, honestly Kenna, sometimes you're so terrible!" Nessa chastised as she mixed a bit of milk with the flour.

Kenna stuck her tongue out at her sister in a teasing manner.

"You're just upset because it's true!"

Nessa blushed and turned to face her,

"It is not! Now stop saying such things before someone hears you!"

Kenna laughed once more at the flustered look on Nessa's face.

"Good after noon, lassies!" Fergus bellowed as he and Harris walked into the kitchens.

Both girls turned to the king and prince with a smile,

"Good after noon, your highness!" they both echoed.

"What do you have to eat right now? I'm afraid I missed lunch and I could use a bit of something to tide me over until dinner." Fergus grinned.

Nessa wiped her hands off on her skirts,

"All we have right now is some loaves and cheese, I'm afraid. The meat is still being prepared for tonight's meal. I can always go get some fresh vegetables or fruits for you, though…"

Kenna interrupted,

"Actually, we do have a wee bit of stew left, Nessa." She reminded her sister.

"We could reheat it if you'd like that instead, sire."

Fergus smiled,

"Stew for me, lass, if you donnae mind. Harris, what'll it be, lad?"

Harris looked up at Kenna and grinned,

"Stew please! If there's enough…"

Nessa and Kenna giggled at the youngest prince.

"Always for you, Prince Harris."

Harris scrunched up his nose at the address. Kenna saw it and smiled at him,

"Yeah, I remember, you hate titles…"

Fergus gave a gut laugh,

"Aye, son. I know how you feel. But we still have to keep up appearances. Protocol and all that…" He gave his son a crooked grin and Harris rolled his eyes.

"Suuurrreee…." Harris drolled.

As Kenna and Nessa busied themselves with food preparation and cooking, Harris assumed it was safe to bring up the topic again with his dad.

"So da', about what I asked before..." Harris hinted to get his father back on track.

Fergus looked puzzled a moment and then remembered his son's question from earlier. Fergus felt a flush cover his cheeks.

"All right son, what did you want to know, exactly?"

Harris rolled his eyes,

"I already told you, da'! How do you let a girl know you like her…you know…as more than a friend?" Harris felt his cheeks darken.

Kenna and Nessa had stopped talking and were listening intently to the king and young prince. Both girls had large grins on their faces and they glanced at each other, each trying not to giggle.

Fergus cleared his throat and tried to think of something to tell his boy.

"Well, son, I suppose you could give her a present of some sort. Lots of lasses like things like that…" Fergus paused a moment.

Suddenly his eyes lit up,

"Oh, I know! A cloak! Made from one of our own trophies here in the castle. That's sure to catch the lassie's eye, eh?!" Fergus winked at his son.

Kenna and Nessa winced at the suggestion and shook their heads. Even Harris disagreed.

"Uh…no offence da' but I donnae think she'd like anything like that. She's really protective over animals. I think a cloak made from animal skin might have an opposite effect…"

"Oh, well. Okay…" Fergus pursed his lips in thought.

As he was trying to think of something, Lady Dingwall and Queen Elinor as well as Lord Macintosh and Duncan Macintosh walked in from the courtyard.

Seeing the look of deep concentration on her husband's face, Elinor walked over to him and laid a gentle hand on his shoulder.

"Everything all right, dear?" She asked in concern.

Fergus, snapping from his thoughts looked up at his wife and nodded.

"Oh aye, love. I was just trying to answer a question for Harris."

"What seems to be the problem, young prince?" Duncan Macintosh asked casually.

Kenna caught his eye and smiled at him apologetically. He return her gave with a smile and a nod. Gesturing to the young prince with a nod of her head, her expression shifted to one of mischievousness.

"Seems the young prince has an interest in a girl he's met…"

Harris felt his face glow even brighter and he sunk down in his seat.

"Miss Kennnaaaa…." Harris whined, embarrassed.

The room filled with soft laughter and poor Harris wished he could turn invisible at that moment!

"Oh, heavens! This sounds like a family talk and my cue to go and locate my husband. Hopefully, he and Colin havennae killed each other." Caitlin snickered as she turned to the hallway door.

"We havennae killed each other yet mother, but we're close…" Colin smirked as he walked through the door.
"I take it your talk with your father didnnae go so well?" Caitlin guessed.

"Actually, it went better than I expected. I think father still wants to disown me, but at least the banishment and flogging part was removed from his rant…" Colin teased.

Not caring about the audience that he had, Colin walked up to Nessa and wrapped her in a hug from behind. Quickly, he placed a kiss on her cheek. Nessa jumped at the contact and sent him a hard glare. He jumped back as she swatted at him.

"Idiot." Nessa muttered but Colin just grinned at her.

Elinor watched the whole scene with a twinkle in her eye. She sat down across from her son and placed a hand over his.

"You know Harris, if you like the lass so much, you could give her a token of your affection."

Harris shook his head,

"Da' already suggested that. She's not really interested in animal skin cloaks…"

Elinor glared at her husband over the table,

"Really Fergus? Animal hide?"

Fergus shrugged and Lord Macintosh laughed heartily.

"Well, your majesty, he was never an out-of-the-box thinker when it came to matters like this."

Everyone chucked at that and Fergus sent the clan lord a glare.

"Shouldnnae you be somewhere, Lorne?" Fergus huffed.

Lorne laughed again but nodded.

"Actually, I do have matters to take care of. I hope to see you all tonight at dinner."

He looked at Kenna and smiled sincerely as he spoke. Kenna watched the man leave with knitted brows. Duncan, who had seen the whole interaction whispered to her,

"I'll explain later…"

Convinced for the moment, she turned her attention back on the royal family. She pursed her lips in thought. She spoke up after a moment or two.

"Um, if I may interject, your majesties. Perhaps the young prince could offer some flowers from the gardens.

The Queen nodded and smiled at Kenna,

"Yes, that would be an acceptable token, donnae you think Harris?"

Harris pondered it a minute and then shook his head,

"No I donnae think so. She's kind of surrounded by nature all of the time. I donnae think a few flowers would be right for her, but thank you, Miss Kenna."

Kenna shrugged with a smile.

"It was worth a shot."

Nessa glanced at her sister and winked,

"You could always make her something. A piece of art, perhaps, or a song or poem?

Harris turned up his nose,

"I donnae have that kind of talent, Miss Nessa. Besides, I donnae know if she'd like that kind of stuff."

Duncan, deciding he didn't want to be left our, interjected,

"Well lad, do you know anything about her? What she likes, what she does for fun? You know, that sort of thing…"

Harris sat back and thought really hard about what her knew about Tahvay.

"I know she's adventurous. She really likes the forests and the wilds. She loves animals and kind of protects them in a way. She loves her family, but she is sad because she just lost her father and one of her older sister, recently I let her know that she can talk to me if she needs too…"

He paused a moment trying to think of anything else. A goofy grin spread across his face as he thought about Tahvay.

"Oh, and she's really pretty too…" Harris said with a blush.

Everyone in the room smiled at the boy. Colin Dingwall, who had simply been listening quietly up to this point, decided to add to the conversation.

"What would you like to say to her, your highness?"

Harris blinked a couple of times, thinking. The darkness in his cheeks never faltered.

"I guess I just want her to know that I think she's nice and that I like her…a lot. She's easy to get along with and she's fun! I admire her loyalty to her family and how she takes care of people…" Harris tapered off, sinking further into his chair.

When did his question to his father become a castle discussion? This was so embarrassing!

Colin looked over and caught Nessa's eye with a smile. Caitlin saw the look between the two and hid her own behind her hand.

Colin turned to the young prince,

"Then that's what you tell her. Just speak from your heart. Be sincere."

Elinor smiled appreciatively at the young lord.

"There isnnae a simple or magical answer, Harris. If she likes you too, she'll let you know."

"It may take a while…" Colin interjected giving Nessa a cheeky grin. She rolled her eyes, but smiled at the young prince.

"She also may not know how to react at first."

Duncan then glanced at Kenna, who grinned back,

"And you should get to know her better. " Kenna stated with a nod.

"Spend some time learning from her, and maybe sharing something with her she doesnnae know how to do." Duncan added in.

Elinor watched the young adults in the room with a smile. She looked over at her husband with love in her eyes. Fergus looked back at her with the same look of affection and turned to his son. Harris looked up at his father, expectantly.

"Aye. They're right, lad."

"But above all, Harris, be yourself. If she likes you just as you are then you have nothing to worry about." Elinor said in finality.

The ten year old prince became very silent and sat in contemplation. After a few minutes he looked up with a big grin and nodded.

"All right! I can do that!"

He got up from the table.

"Thanks for the advice, everyone! It was really helpful."

Elinor grabbed his hand gently. She smiled warmly at her youngest son.

"Harris, just know that we're always here if you need something."

"And we'll always listen, son. Whenever you need an ear." Fergus added ruffling his son's mass of red hair. Harris grinned sheepishly.

"Yeah, I know. Um…I gotta go now. Thanks again!"

Harris yelled as he took off out the door.

Caitlin Dingwall, who had watched all of that transpire, smirked at the king and queen.

"If I didnnae know any better I'd say that Oenghus* was winking down on us. Honestly Elinor, what were you wanting to accomplish this week?" Caitlin joked as the young people blushed and looked away.

Elinor looked around at the young people in the room and smiled cheekily. She put her hands up defensively.

"I didnnae plan for any of this so you cannae blame me, Caitlin."

The mood in the room sobered up,

"If I had then, Merida would be here and sharing in their joy and she wouldnnae have…" Elinor tapered off, her eyes filling with tears.

Fergus reached across the table and held his wife's hand his own eyes becoming watery. Nessa went to the queen to comfort her.

"Oh your majesty, forgive me. We shouldnnae be acting this way when the kingdom is still hurting from it's loss. I…"

Elinor put a hand up to stop her,

"No Nessa, it's alright. With every sorrow there should be some happiness to share as well. It balances itself out. Yes, I still mourn for my daughter and I will continue. But she would be very cross with me if I tried to take away happiness from one of her closest friends. "

Caitlin chuckled lightly,

"It seems that Merida held you two in high regards."

Fergus laughed loudly, startling everyone in the kitchen.

"That's the truth! From the day that these lasses came to DunBroch, Merida and them were thick as thieves. Remember, Elinor?"

Nessa and Kenna both blushed at the king's outburst. Colin and Duncan grinned at the girls and Caitlin looked puzzled,

"Came to DunBroch? I thought they were born in DunBroch?"

Elinor waved it off,

"They werennae born here, but for all intents and purposes, they are of our clan. And they might as well be part of my family." Elinor stated with a warm smile.

Caitlin raised a brow.

"I sense there is more to this story than that…"

Colin stood and turned to his mother,

"I'm sure Nessa can explain it to you later mother. Right now, why donnae we allow their majesties some quiet time?"

With that, Colin led his mother out the door. Before he left he glanced over his shoulder at the others,

"Are you coming?"

Duncan nodded and followed quickly. Before he left he paused in the doorway. Turning on his heel he walked over, grabbed and apple and then ran out after Colin and Lady Dingwall. Kenna shook her head at him before she and Nessa turned to the king and queen.

"Would you like us to help with anything else, your majesties?" Kenna asked.

Fergus shook his head and turned to his wife. Elinor looked up at the girls with a motherly smile,

"No girls. Go on. I'll make sure Maudie knows I've given you the rest of the day free from your duties."

Both young women smiled and bowed to the king and queen.

"Thank you, your Majesty."

The girls followed the young lords and Lady Dingwall out of the kitchens, leaving Fergus and Elinor alone in the kitchen. The royal couple watched them leave with warm smiles. Fergus rubbed the back of Elinor's hand tenderly.

"I think Merida would be very happy for Miss Nessa, Eli…" he grinned at his wife.

She gave him a knowing look,

"And Miss Kenna, it seems, as well…" Elinor added shooting a playful grin to her husband.

Fergus looked puzzled a moment and then realization dawned on him. His jaw fell open as he sat agape.

"You mean…the Macintosh lad and Kenna?" he pointed to the door in disbelief.

"It would seem so, my love." Elinor smiled at him, then she sighed heavily.

"If only Merida were still alive, maybe she could have found the same…" she gazed off, thinking of her departed child.

Fergus stood and pulled his wife into a tight embrace,

"I know Eli, but…maybe she did find it. We'll never know…"

Elinor nodded solemnly,

"I really donnae want to think that Merida would just run off so foolishly, but we both know how impetuous she could be. If she and the young MacGuffin did find love in each other, then…maybe…they can at least be happy together in the afterlife…"

Fergus held his wife tenderly,

"I love you, Elinor."

"And I love you too, dear."

-|} à-[(+)]-ß{|-

"Kenna, wait!" Duncan called out as he quickly ran to catch up with her. He had missed her at dinner and needed to speak with her. His conversation with his father earlier had left him confused, but strangely excited.

After the after noon impromptu with the royal family, Lady and Colin Dingwall, along with himself, Kenna and Nessa all excused themselves and left the king and queen to themselves. It seemed like a fitting thing and Duncan had hoped it would give him a chance to speak with Kenna once more. He was eager to give her his father's invitation. He supposed it would be his invitation, but on behalf of his father, as well…

However, Kenna had excused herself from the group soon after they exited the kitchens. And he had had an infuriating time catching her for a private chat. It was almost as if she was avoiding him!

He had seen her at dinner, but he could never catch her eye. And if he tried to speak to her, she would turn away quickly from his view. Maybe she was avoiding him…

"Miss Kenna, please wait!" he called again. This time she slowed her pace and stopped. But, she didn't turn around. She stood tense and ridged waiting for his next words.

Duncan caught up with her and reached a tentative hand out to touch her shoulder.

"Kenna, are you all right?" he asked slowly.

Truth be told, Kenna wasn't all right. She was confused and a total mess of mixed emotions. She was incredible happy for Nessa and wished only the best for her sister, but she was also concerned about what would happen to her. Not to mention the plethora of emotions that came over her whenever Duncan was around her.

She felt an intense attraction to the young Lord, of that she had no doubt. But, was it enough to risk ridicule and a possible outraged Lady Macintosh? Duncan had most definitely shown and interest in her and she knew she was attracted to him. Was it love? Nessa would say, no, but Kenna wasn't so sure yet.

She was so confused! She had always believed that love could happen at any time, any place and to any one, but now that she was the one faced with the dilemma she wasn't sure any more…

Kenna sighed when she felt Duncan's calloused but gentle hand on her shoulder. Her ridged stance melted at his simple touch! She squeezed her eyes shut tight and silently chastised herself.

"Can I help you, m'lord?" she asked him formally.

Duncan raised a brow at her,

"Um…have I done something wrong, Kenna? I didnnae think we were stuck on such formality anymore?"

Kenna sighed again, but this time shook her head.

"You've done nothing wrong. But m'lord, what if someone sees us?" she tried to hint to him.

Duncan rolled his eyes,

"I couldnnae care less if someone sees us talking, Kenna. And neither should you. I have to ask you something."

Kenna was taken aback by his nonchalant manner. Her brows furrowed in confusion and she looked up at him.

"All right, m'l…"

Duncan shot her a warning glare and she paused a moment. Pursing her lips, she re-phrased herself.

"All right, Duncan. What is it that you wanted to ask me?"

Now that he had her attention, as sudden wave of nervousness washed over him. He began wringing his hands together in an anxious manner.

"Well, I…that is… um…" he stammered over his own request.

He had been so excited to ask her and now he couldn't even get the request out without choking on the words. Kenna was looking at him expectedly waiting for his request. Duncan glanced away quickly, frustrated with himself. He was fighting with himself over what to do, what to say! It wasn't like him at all…

Kenna watched him with a confused look on her face. She had dropped the hard expression and now she was merely concerned. He certainly wasn't acting like his normal self and it worried her a bit. She reached up to get his attention by tapping his shoulder. Duncan shot his gaze down to meet hers. Now his brows were furrowed, but it was in frustration not confusion. She looked up at him in concern,

"Duncan, are you all right?"

He let out a frustrated sigh,

"No, no I guess I'm not, Kenna…I…I just came to ask you if…if you'd like to dine with my family some time?"

Duncan shook his head at himself,

"Why was that so hard?" he asked himself aloud.

Kenna stood shocked as his request.


"I said…"

She held up her hand to stop him.

"I heard you, I just…donnae understand why."

Duncan paused and rubbed the back of his head.

"Oh, my da' wanted me to invite you. I mean, I want you come dine with us too, but it was his idea. I think it's his way of apologizing for this after noon…"

"He doesnnae have to apologize to me. He's a clan Lord. If anything I should apologize to him…" Kenna mumbled.

"You donnae have a reason to apologize, Kenna."

"We…kissed…" she whispered with a blush.

Duncan chuckled lightly,

"And that's a crime?"

She looked up at him with a serious expression,

"It is when you're a servant." She stated.

"It isnnae generally excepted, Duncan. A lot of people still have reservations about class and status…"

Duncan straightened his back and stood tall,

"My da' said the same thing this after noon and I'll tell you like told him…it shouldnnae matter. We, the unified clans, decided to allow the young people, ergo, me, choose our own fate! We agreed to follow our hearts and choose the one we felt…led to. And not based on family ties, status or power plays. I want that, and I think my parents want that for me as well…"

Kenna winced,

'If he only knew…' she thought

Not noticing her expression, he continued.

"Wouldnnae you like that too, Kenna? To know that you'd found…love…"

Kenna turned her gaze up to his in bewilderment. Surely he wasn't saying what she thought he was…

"Duncan, what are you saying?" she asked cautiously.

Realizing how his words sounded, he flushed. Waving his hands frantically, he tried to explain.

"I didnnae mean…that is to say…I…I…"

The two stood motionless a few seconds. Duncan was flustered and Kenna stood stiff not meeting his gaze. Duncan searched around the hall frantically, trying to find anything to occupy his attention for a moment. When did speaking with women become so awkward?! He felt like a young lad again getting his first crush!

Becoming frustrated once more, Duncan let out an aggravated growl. Not caring anymore and giving into his irritation, Duncan reached out and gripped Kenna by her upper arms, tightly. She yelped in surprise at his sudden move! He hadn't hurt her, but he had scared the living daylight out of her.

Without a moment's hesitation, Duncan pulled her into a hard, firm kiss. Kenna could only stared wide-eyed as he pressed his lips passionately against hers. After a second or two, she melted into the kiss and her tense stance dropped. Duncan released her arms and wrapped one of his around her waist; the other cupped her cheek gently.

Kenna wrapped one of hers around his neck and the other she rested on his shoulder. Duncan pulled her flush against him and deepened their kiss. Kenna whimpered quietly into the kiss and Duncan pulled back slowly. He panted with a growing smile on his lips as he laid his forehead against hers. Kenna gasped for air, trying to gain control over her breathing and calm her pounding heartbeat.

"That was…" she paused to pant, still breathless.

"Wonderful." Duncan supplied as he smiled and nuzzled her nose.

Kenna chuckled lightly,

"I was going to say improper…"

"Well, if you donnae want to know if we get caught then I suggest you close your eyes…" Duncan brushed some of her hair back. She raised her brow at his words.

"Because I'm going to do it again…" he whispered with a smile.

Duncan cupped her cheeks and leaned down into the kiss. Kenna gasped and Duncan used it as a chance to deepen the kiss. Kenna lost all focus on everything except him. She wasn't even sure how long they stood there, wrapped in the heated embrace.

Eventually, the need for air caused them to pull apart, but Duncan didn't let go of her. In fact, he pulled her flush against him and laid his head on the top of hers, holding her close and trying to calm his breathing.

He couldn't believe he actually kissed her like that! He had wanted to figure out his feelings for the young woman before he did something so rash! Sure they had kissed before but not one so…hungry. The others had been slow and tentative, testing the waters, but this one was…passionate and fiery. She had only been standing there, but something came over him he couldn't explain. He wanted to be near her, needed it. Ever since she had kissed him the other day, she had plagued his thoughts almost every minute. So when opportunities kept arising, Duncan took his chances. It was purely instinctual, but he still felt like he should apologize to her. She was the one who may have found the kiss awkward, after all.

"I apologize Miss Kenna." He panted into the top of her head.

Kenna felt her heart ache at his words. He regretted it, she could tell! But she had to play it off or the pain may only become worse.

She shook her head and buried her face into his strong chest.

"It's all right, m'lord. I understand…"

Hearing her hurt, soft tone caused Duncan to become upset. He pulled back from their embrace a little bit and he tilted her face up to meet his. He placed a chaste kiss on her forehead and shook his head.

"No, I donnae think you do. I'm not apologizing because I kissed you. I'm apologizing because I donnae know if you found it…awkward or unwanted…"

Kenna felt a chill go down her spine at the intense look in his eyes. Her heartbeat pounded into her ears and she was sure her face was as red as the color in his tartan. Suddenly the realization of the moment caught up with her and Kenna smiled up at him.

"Awkward? Aye, a little." She answered brushing her fingers down his cheek.

"But, unwanted? No…" she smiled up at him.

Duncan smiled back at her, his confidence rising once more. Suddenly a thought occurred to him that he needed to share with her.

"Kenna I…I'm not sure what I feel for you. I donnae want to ruin something with you because I let…other parts of my body decide for me. My heart has to make the decision and I cannae lead you on until I know…"

Kenna stopped him by laying her finger over his lips. She nodded in understanding.

"I understand Duncan, I do. I find that I'm…attracted to you, but I couldnnae say if I…if I loved you right at this moment. I donnae think it would be fair to either of us…"

"I agree. We should try to take things slow and not rush into anything that may hurt one or both of us…"

Kenna raised a brow up at him,

"You know I figured that out of all the young Lords, you would be the one to watch out for. Now I find out you're a gentleman too?"

Duncan gave a cheeky grin and shrugged,

"Yeah, I have a reputation for moving fast, and I'm not sure how that got started. To be honest I've never even bedded a…um…eh…I mean…"Duncan looked away quickly and blushed bright red.

Kenna giggled at his nervous and embarrassed expression. Now more nervous than he was before, he let go of Kenna completely and stepped back. He coughed into his fist and cleared his throat, trying to calm his nerves. Kenna only made it worse when she touched his arm lightly and laughed,

"Well, at least I know you cannae compare me to another woman, in that regards."

Duncan eyed her curiously a moment and noticed as Kenna realized what she had implied by her statement. She flushed herself and stammered, turning to look at him.

"I didnnae mean…I donnae think that you'd…with me…I mean…uh…"

Now it was Duncan's turn to laugh at her nervousness. Rubbing the back of his neck he gazed down at her. Mortified by her implications, Kenna refused to look him in the eye.

"I think it might be a great time to turn in for the night, Kenna. Would you like me to escort you to your room again?" Duncan asked politely.

Kenna blushed and smiled, but shook her head.

"No, I think we've had enough awkward situations for one day, Duncan. I assure you I can manage getting to my room just fine."

Duncan nodded tersely but smiled back,

"All right. Well, I guess this is good night then, Kenna. I'll see you in the morning."

Kenna nodded and smiled back as well. She turned to head towards her room up the stairs. Feeling a stare at the back of her head, she threw a glance over her shoulder. Duncan was still standing, watching her ascend the stairs with a smile on his face. Kenna hid a smile behind her hand as she rounded a corner at the top of the stairs. Knowing he wasn't following, Kenna stopped and leaned up against a pillar. She sighed happily and the smile on her face widened at the thought of his kiss. All problems melted away when she was in his arms and she would love to feel like that at all times. If Duncan was truly willing to see what they felt for each other, then so was she! She sighed happily once again and turned to continue her trek up to her and Nessa's room. However a voice from behind her stopped her dead in her tracks.

"I see the little whore has made herself at home in my son's arms. Tell, me harlot, how do you plan on hurting him now?"

Kenna turned to face the woman, fear stricken across her face.

"Lady Macintosh!" Kenna gasped in a frightened voice.

"I know you only see my son as a means to rid yourself of your lowly existence, but I assure you that I have seen through all of that since the first time I saw you with him. You're nothing but a power grabbing, manipulative little harlot." Lady Macintosh spat out at the girl.

Kenna tried to defend her honor,

"That isnnae fair, m'lady. Duncan's position has nothing to do with my attraction to him, I promise you."

Lady Macintosh sneered at the girl,

"How dare you call my son in such an informal manner! And I donnae give a damn about your so-called pure attraction to hom. I donnae even care if he beds you every night while we are here in DunBroch. I'll let him have his fun with his playthings, since that's all you are too him anyway."

Kenna felt a fire grow under her,

"Forgive me, m'lady, but you cannae say that! You donnae know what we mean to each other."

Lady Macintosh laughed mockingly at the girl,

"Poor child, you're just a body to keep his bed warm at night. And a whore he can sleep with to alleviate some of his…frustration with. That is all you are, and all you will ever be…"

Kenna was getting so upset, tears sprang to her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. Kenna found herself breathing heavily. She tried to calm herself as she spoke to Lady Macintosh.

"M'lady, I donna know what you think I've done with the young lord, but I assure you, if someone is warming your sons bed at night, it isnnae me. I care for Duncan because of the man that he is, not because of the title he holds. If he wishes to come to me, then that is of his own accord. But I will not stand here and let you accuse me of having sex with a man just to gain his favor or his love! I would never do something like that! And Duncan wouldnnae be foolish enough to fall for it! I have more respect than that and you should have more faith in your son, Lady Macintosh!"

Kenna was breathing hard once her rant was over.

Tawney Macintosh had never felt so insulted in her whole life! Who was this peasant girl, this servant to tell her about her own son?! In anger, Tawney reached out and grabbed Kenna by her face with one hand. She squeezed tightly and watched in satisfaction as the girl winced in pain.

"Now you listen here you little harlot! Even if he gets you pregnant, you'll never be a Lady. No grandchild of mine will come from servants blood…"

"Because it infuriates you that your children already have muddied blood, is that it, mother?" Called Duncan's strong voice.

Kenna glanced sideways and met Duncan's blue eyes with a pleading gaze. He rushed over and grabbed his mothers arm tightly,

"Let her go."

Lady Macintosh obliged and stepped back. She watched as Duncan brushed over the girl's cheeks softly and sneered at them.

"Oh look, your knight has come to rescue you again."

"Mother, stop. I cannae believe you'd do something like this? I thought you and da' wanted me to be happy? I thought I was allowed to make my own choice?" Duncan growled low at his mother.

"And this is who you choose? Do you…love, this woman?" Lady Macintosh asked with a frown.

Duncan pursed his lips tightly and looked down at Kenna's bewildered gaze,

"I donnae know…yet. But I know that I will protect her from anything…or anyone as long as I can…" Duncan paused and looked at his mother with dark, hate-filled eyes.

"You should go, mother. Before one or both of us do something we would regret later…"

Tawney looked up at her son and clenched her jaw. He was choosing the servant girl over his own family! How could he?! She set her jaw and nodded once.

"As you wish…my son." She turned on her heel and headed down the hallway towards her room.

Duncan had wrapped Kenna in a comforting and protective embrace against his chest after his mother had let go of her. She had buried her face into the crook of his neck and shook with silent sobs until she heard Lady Macintosh leave. Duncan whispered soothingly too her the moment his mother was out of earshot.

"Shh…it's all right. It's all right. I'm here. I've got you."

As upset as she was, Kenna couldn't help but chuckle lightly at the sense of déjà vu. She pulled back slightly from him and looked up at his gaze.

"This is a very familiar scene isnnae it?"

Duncan smiled down at her softly,

"I donnae mind holding you, if that's what you mean…"

Kenna blushed and hid her face against his chest once more. Curious, she asked him.

"How much of that did you hear?"

"Most of it." Duncan confessed.

" I followed you after I lost sight of you. I admit I wanted another good night kiss. I wasnnae expecting to find…"

Kenna sighed against him in a shuddering breath.

"Yeah, I know…Duncan I should tell you, earlier today when I was upset…it was because I overheard your parents talking. I heard your mother say some things that upset me and I…I lost it…I apologize…"

"You donnae have to apologize. I heard the things she said to you tonight, so I can imagine." He paused and turned her chin up to meet his gaze once more.

He smiled at her, tenderly.

"I have to say I'm very proud of you, though."

"Proud?" Kenna raised a brow at him.

Duncan nodded.

"Aye. You could have let her bully you even more, but you stood up to her and for that, you have my respect."

Kenna glanced away with a blush. Duncan wiped some of her fallen tears away with his thumb. He searched her gaze and smiled softly at her.

"My mother is wrong you know…"

Kenna looked up in confusion.

"…I think you have the makings of a great Lady…"

Kenna's breath hitched. When it did, Duncan used the opportunity and seized her mouth with his. Loosing herself in his embrace, Kenna didn't care if they were caught or they could be seen. At the moment, all that mattered, was him…

-|} à-[(+)]-ß{|-

The daylight had come and gone and Merida found herself even more at odds with herself then she had been earlier that day. Shae slept on and she watched as he would twist and turn his head at different intervals. She knew he was having nightmares, but she couldn't do anything about it. More than once today, she felt so useless to the poor man.

She sighed and leaned her head back against the rock she was leaning against. She had spent a good portion of the day trying not to focus on her confused and growing feelings. She had teared up a few times arguing with herself over why she and Shae could never be. The first reason being the Shannon woman Shae had called her before.

Once again, Merida found herself thinking on the woman who had obviously captured Shae's attention. He wouldn't have kissed her if he hadn't have thought that she was the Shannon woman. A part of Merida secretly hoped that he might someday call out for her in such a way.

Merida blushed, thinking of how improper it was. Here she was, a princess, pining over a man who may or may not have a lover back at his home. Wait? Pining? Since when did Merida pine for anyone? Oh, yeah, since she started to realize all that Shae had done to help her and protect her. And not to mention when he had kissed her.

It was strange to her, looking down on him now, that she never considered him before. Well, actually she had, but she never told anyone, not even her mother.

The night five years ago, when Merida and the Queen changed the course of fate for all the young people of the Highlands, Merida had a choice in mind.

As she gazed down at him, she smiled softly and brushed some of his damp hair back away from his face. She brushed her fingers down his scruffy cheeks and watched as his grimacing expression changed to one of calmness. Tears welled up in her eyes. She didn't understand why her touch had such and effect on him! It confused her and she was too tired to reason with herself.

She leaned close to him and nuzzled her nose with his, tenderly. The tears threatened to fall as all of her thoughts converged to the same conclusion. She sighed in defeat and laid a kiss on his lips, softly.

"I chose you…" she whispered to him.

Her tears began to fall and she sat up and pulled away from him. It didn't matter if she was going to choose him five years ago, or not any more. He had made a choice himself, and she was not it. Nor was she going to be it. Merida could only watch over him from afar and hope that someday she could find a man she could love…

As she sobbed into her arms she didn't notice as Shae began to stir a bit. When she had moved away from him Shae had actually whimpered aloud but Merida hadn't heard him. However, she did hear him as he gasped and shot up from his pallet!

She ran to his side immediately and tried to comfort the panicked man.

"Easy, Shae, easy. You shouldnnae be sitting up yet. The last time you did you went into a fit. You need to rest." She said, softly.

She laid a hand on his good shoulder and pushed him back down gently. To her surprise, he didn't fight her, but laid back down as she instructed. She watched as Shae's brows furrowed in concentration and he became deathly silent.

Merida sighed heavily. Whatever had plagued his dreams was still fresh in his mind, and it worried the princess. He had being having horrible nightmares. She assumed he had been anyway, given the erratic movements and cries he had mumbled out while unconscious.

She could feel his eyes on her as she sat down on her pallet and slumped forward. She rested her hand against her cheek and closed her eyes. The length of the day was finally catching up with her and Merida wanted nothing more than to rest. But she knew she couldn't. She had to remain awake and make sure Shae was all right.

Are you okay Merida?" she heard Shae ask.

Merida tried to wipe the sleepiness from her person. She also was trying to rid herself of the last remnants of her tears. No need to get Shae worried over something she wasn't going to talk to him about. She rubbed her face wearily and smiled at him half-heartedly.

"I'm fine, Shae. I should be asking you if you're okay, not the other way around…" Merida chuckled tiredly.

"You look exhausted." Shae stated in a rough, tired voice.

'If you only knew…' she thought to herself. Rising from her pallet she grabbed one of the water skins and held it up to him.

"Here drink this. You need it."

Shae greedily accepted.

Over the course of the next half-hour or so, Merida filled Shae in on what had happened while he had been out. She informed him of the Fae Circle being moved and also what Iaighe and Keira had told her about the mists. She doctored his wound once more and Shae commented on the ease that she had in doing so. She reminded him of whom her father and brothers were. Shae chuckled lightly. Taking her time and being as gentle as she could, she redressed his wounds.

When she had finished she sat back and eyed her handiwork. Nodding her approval, she moved away from him. Shae watched as she gathered the salve and wrappings together. She stood and slightly stumbled again. Shae reached up and grabbed her hand quickly to help her stay balanced. Merida shook her head and looked down at him once more with a sheepish smile. Shae frowned up at her.

"Merida, you need to rest! I promise you I will be all right for a few hours. You cannae do this to your body. And I'm in no condition to save you from a fire…" Shae tried to reason with her.

Merida wanted to argue with him, but her body was so exhausted she knew she needed to sleep. But she was also aware that she needed to still take care of him .

Merida looked away, ashamed with herself once more.

"I was trying to be helpful for you, Shae…"

"And you have! But you're not going to do either of us any good if you donnae get some sleep. You're exhausted! You can barely stand, let alone walk. You need at least a few hours worth of rest. Trust me, I've seen first hand what lack of sleep can do to a body." Shae assured her.

Merida was grateful for his concern. It touched her to her soul. She would never let him know that though. So after she put on the façade of an argument, Merida finally laid down on her pallet to rest. As soon as she had laid down, Merida was out.

The very next thing that Merida was aware of was the heartbreaking sound of someone crying. Pulled from her slumber by heavy sobs, Merida sat up and looked towards Shae's pallet. He was sitting on the ground with his gaze locked onto the fire. Quietly, Merida got up and walked over to him.

"I cannae let you go…I…I…just cannae…" She heard him whisper and sob.

Swallowing her fear, Merida reached out and placed a gentle hand on his good shoulder. Shae jumped and turned to look up at her. She offered the deepest look of concern that she could as she stared into his tear filled emerald eyes. She searched his gaze for answers but only found more questions and a pleading look for help in his eyes.

On instinct, she reached down with her other hand and touched his face gently. Merida watched as so many emotions flew across Shae's tear stained face. She had never known a man to cry so desperately! It broke her heart to see such a strong, caring and devoted man in such a disarray! She knew then in her heart, that she wanted nothing more than to hold him and help him.

Did she love him? She still wasn't sure. But she knew that she would do what she could to help the broken warrior in front of her.

"It's all right, Shae. I'm here for you…" Merida whispered to him.

Shae had searched her gaze a moment ago, but upon hearing her words, he lost himself to his emotions. He wrapped his arms around Merida's legs and buried his face into her skirt around her middle. Needing and wanting to add what little comfort she could, Merida wrapped one arm around his shoulders. The other she placed gently on the back of his head, lightly brushing and petting his hair with her fingers to soothe him.

As Shae cried into her, Merida stood and held him, offering him what comfort that she could. As she stroked his hair and hummed to him, she thought back to conversation that she had had once with her mother.

"Merida, dear, one day you will realize that there are far more intimate things that a man and woman can share together besides lovemaking." Elinor told her.

Merida hadn't understood her mother then, but in this moment, she finally did…

-|} à-[(+)]-ß{|-

Phew! Okay so that was 53 pages well planned (not!) I apologize if anyone seems out of character. I had idea's blowing up every which way! So I'm sorry if some of the beloved characters are a little off… *grimaces and waits for rotten fruit to be thrown*

I think a I had a few asterisk (*) notes that I needed to cover…

As you may have noticed I've been sort of mixing in my own back-stories for the Lords and their families. I apologize for deviating from cannon, but I wanted to make them fit with the plot points overall. So if the deviation offends anyone I'm sorry, it's just an author's creative license.

Anyway I changed the Dingwall back-story to include an older brother who was supposed to inherit the clan lordship. But like Caitlin described, he was killed in a duel (I don't have an elaboration on that character, so the duel probably won't be brought up again…unless I think of one and then I may include it if it's important to the story)

So the older brother to Murdoch Dingwall was Conri. Here is his name origin and meaning.

Conri- "Wolf King" - Irish Gaelic.

Also, I mentioned that Lord and Lady Dingwall have two daughters as well. They are Moira* and Fiona*. For Moira I'm giving a few different translations of the name because depending on what origin you use changes the meaning of the name…

Moira – "Fate or Destiny" – Greek origin

"Bitter/uncertain" – Irish/Scottish origin

"Exceptional"- Celtic origin

Fiona- "White/fair" – Gaelic (Strangely, Kenna and Kenneth's names also have the same meaning…)

*Deirdre and Naoise*

This was actually pretty fun to research. This is actually an ancient Irish romantic story, but I thought it would make a great book/story for Duncan to teach Kenna to read from. It's a strange and sad tale about a beautiful maiden, Deirdre, who is destined to marry King Conchobar. But she tells her servant that she would only love a man with hair the color of the raven, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood. (Sound familiar?!) Well, the servant actually knows a man who fits that description. He is a minstrel in King Conchobar's court (Naoise). At first he wants nothing to do with the woman, knowing she is supposed to marry the king but he finds himself falling in love with her. In the legend I found, they run away to Scotland together, but later are discovered by Conchobar and he demands that Naoise die. There is another man, Éogan , who is loyal to Conchobar and he throws a spear at Naoise, killing him. Deirdre is so distraught that in some versions of the legend she commits suicide. In other versions she is given to Éogan as a trophy and she lives out the remainder of her life bitter and hateful.

It's actually a pretty intriguing story/legend. If you feel so inclined you should read more about them.

I suppose lastly, I want to address Lady Tawney Macintosh…

Yeah, my original intention was to have all the Lords be against their sons with the servant girls but then I came up with Lorne's (Lord Macintosh's) back-story and I decided to shift it to Lady Macintosh instead. My main influence for her character is Angelica Huston as her character Rodmilla (the evil stepmother) in Ever After. I don't want to say too much on Lady Macintosh as I don't want to give away some of her more interesting character points for later chapters. I'll just say that you may not completely hate her by the end of this story…

And I think that's it for my authors notes this time…if I forgot something then drop me a message and I will try to answer as best as I can or add it to my author's notes for chapter 15.

I hope you will stick around for chapter 15. We finally get a nice, long, well needed (not to mention long over due!) talk between our two main characters! (Yay!)

I want to thank everyone who has favorited, liked, commented, messaged and followed this story/me! It makes my day to know how many people are reading this story!

I have to give a great big shout out to my beta, Life-without-L0ve, aka gargoylelover on deviantart, for all her hard work and wonderful help and input! I couldn't do it without you!

Also a big BIG thank you to Aggressively Hospitable, aka candyholic85 on deviantart, for her encouraging words! You are awesome!

Also big thanks to: Riorlyne, rockster0810 aka mrssteele12410 on deviantart, marximonto, Shahrezad1, and Shizuka23!

To everyone whom I didn't thank personally, I apologize. Please know that all of you are very, very important to me and I love hearing(reading) what you think of the story. Thank you all, from the bottom of my heart! You are the reason I write!

Thank you all again for keeping up with what started as a little drabble in my head and turned into a 150K+ word story!

Have a great evening, day, morning…whatever time of day it happens to be where you are.

Peace and Blessings Upon You

Gam3 0n!