Daughters of the Dagger 04 - Amethyst (10 page)

BOOK: Daughters of the Dagger 04 - Amethyst
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“This is delicious, what is it?”

“’Tis a form of cider – apple wine, is what it’s called.”

“Then this shall be my drink from now on,” she said with a nod of approval.

Gilbert sat on the opposite side of Marcus, and she was secretly glad that he wasn’t next to her as the man rather scared her. He kept giving her glaring looks all through the meal, and Amethyst knew it was because Marcus had given her his mother’s ring.

“Time to dance,” said Matilda happily from next to her. She jumped
up and started to pull Amethyst out of the chair.

“Oh, I don’t want to dance,” she protested, causing Marcus to turn his head in the middle of a conversation with his father and furrow his brow.

“Why not?” he asked.

She hadn’t really thought he’d want to dance, nor had she wanted to be so close to him with everyone watching. Besides, while Amethyst was very learned in book knowledge as well as very good when it came to
doing manual labor, she was not very skilled when it came to dancing.

“I … I am rather clumsy at the art of dancing,
I’m afraid,” she admitted to Marcus.

“Then I shall guide you and you will not miss a step.”

She had no idea who this gallant man was as he sprang from his chair and escorted her to the floor to dance like a chivalric knight courting his lady. The servants quickly cleared the tables and took the long boards off the trestles to make room.

“Marcus, there’s no need for that,” she heard his father saying from the dais. “Let us g
o to the fire and have some more beer and discuss the borders, shall we?”

“Not now,” he told his father, his eyes fixed on Amethyst. “This is my wedding night, and all talk of battle and defenses can wait until the morrow.” Marcus
led Amethyst out to the floor. Matilda hurried after her, picking up the train of the gown and throwing it over Amethyst’s arm.

“Cousin,” she said to Ma
rcus. “Do that dance you devised where you dip the girl so low that her head almost touches the rushes.”

“You devised a dance?” Amethyst
asked, being very interested to hear more, but at the same time feeling herself starting to panic. She didn’t know how she was going to make it through the steps to begin with, but now she would have no idea of what to do, and she did not like being at someone’s mercy.

“’Tis easy,” he said, taking her arm and promenading her across the floor. “Just follow my lead.”

Marcus had no qualms about doing the steps he’d concocted while the rest of the occupants were doing a traditional dance. He twirled her around and she found herself falling right into step, though she didn’t know what she was doing.

“You are an excellent leader,” she told him
, starting to feel a little more comfortable around him.


’Tis funny, but for some reason I thought you’d be leading the dance tonight,” he answered with a slight grin.

“I do like to be in control, if that’s what you’re trying to say.”

“I’ve never met anyone like you before, Lady Amethyst.”

“I like when you use my name, Lord Marcus,” she told him.

“Well, we are married now, so I think calling each other by our familiar names will suffice.”

She clumsily missed a step and
stumbled. His arms were out to catch her instantly, and he turned her mishap into a dance move and dipped her back so far that her head almost touched the rushes spewed across the floor. She could smell the lavender and rosemary he’d used beneath their feet to permeate the air with a fresh scent.

Then he pul
led her up quickly, and she fell right against his chest. She felt the warmth of his body right through his tunic, and he must have felt hers as well. He stopped dancing and just held her in his arms, both of their faces so close that she thought he was going to kiss her again.

“You know that we’ll be sharing a bed now that we’re married,” he told her.

“I … know,” she said. Her mouth was dry and her tongue darted out to wet her lips. She stopped suddenly when she noticed his eyes fastened on her mouth.

“We will be expected to consummate the marriage
tonight as well.”

“I … understand.” Just the thought of it had her knees
shaking beneath her gown. She was so nervous and so tired from working so hard today that she wasn’t even sure she
could
consummate the marriage.

She was no stranger to the act of making love, as she’d done it once, years ago. It was
during the time when she was traveling with her uncle. But she was very young then, and her uncle had no idea she’d been seduced by the stable boy. She was so ashamed by what she’d done, that she’d never told anyone about it, not even her sisters.

But he would know
her secret once he took her to his bed and discovered her maidenhead was already broken. She feared more than anything, his reaction or the fact that he may not want her once he found out.

“Amethyst, I wanted to say …”

He never had the time to finish, as a sentry rushed into the great hall, shouting at the top of his lungs.

“The Scots have crossed
the border,” he shouted. “And they are headed right for this castle.” The music diminished and everyone stopped dancing. Their eyes were wide in shock as they listened to the man’s announcement.

“Nay!” shouted Marcus, dropping her hands and
unsheathing the sword at his side. “Men, gather your weapons quickly. We have no time for armor, so don chain mail instead.”

“What’s happening?” asked Amethyst as the happy mood of
her wedding was suddenly gone and everyone started rushing around in chaos.

“Sir Gawain, stay here with ha
lf my men and get atop the battlements quickly. The rest of you, follow me,” ordered Marcus. “We need to try to head them off before they get close enough to take the castle. We are far from ready to defend ourselves. Damn, I wish our defenses were secured.”

“I’ll come with you
,” said Gilbert, pulling his sword from his sheath and motioning to his men. “Kill every last one of those damned Scots,” he shouted. “Take no mercy, men.”

Then with a war cry, they were off, and Amethyst was left standing there by herself
once again.

“Come on,” shouted Matilda, grabbing her arm and leading her across the room. “We need to get to safety.”

“Wait!” she said, pulling away, and fighting her way through the commotion back to the dais. She picked up the purple rose Marcus gave her that was lying on the table, and turned around, only to bump into an archer, hurrying across the room with his bow in his hand. She almost fell, but caught herself on the edge of the dais, having to drop the rose in order to grab on to the table.

The rose fell down into t
he rushes, and she tried to reach for it, but before she could, trampling feet smashed it to pieces.

She stood there in shock, looking at her rose, flattened and being trampled by every person who ran past.

“Let’s go,” said Matilda, pulling her away. The shouts of everyone around her echoed loudly in her head. Amethyst broke loose of Matilda’s hold and darted out into the courtyard. There she saw Marcus getting atop his horse. His squire handed him a lance, and the new boy, Ben, handed him a battle axe. He had also donned a chain mail tunic though he’d had no time to dress in his armor. She knew this was not enough protection against the Scots’ double-edged claymores.

He looked so fierce atop the horse, instructing his men. The border lord was back, and gone was that gentle man who gave her a rose and made her smile.

“Peter, bring Benjamin with us,” he instructed his squire.

“He’s just a boy!” Amethyst ran over to Marcus. “You can’t take him to fight the Scots. He’ll be killed for sure.”

“If he’s to be a squire, he needs to be exposed to everything,” Marcus growled. “And we need all the help we can get, as we are severely outnumbered.”

He looked out across the bailey, and tow
ard the borderlands where the Scots could be seen emerging in the distance. Several torches lit their way, as the sun had already set and night was rolling in. “We need to go, right now!” he shouted to his men. “Bring the torches. And archers, bring your tar-dipped arrows. We’ll try to scare them off with fire.”

Gilbert led the way o
ut of the bailey with several of his own men on horseback as well as some on foot following him.

“Let me help,” said Amethyst. “Ther
e must be something I can do.”

He just looked down from his horse and shook his head. There was a darkness in his eyes
as well as a simmering fire. That scared her. He looked rugged and dangerous, a true warrior. But behind the fire in his eyes, she also saw a hidden sadness. And she suddenly had a sinking feeling in her gut that he wasn’t going to return.

“Get to safety,” he told her. “Both of you,” he said to Matilda
who had rushed up to her side.

“But …
” she started, but Marcus had no patience for her, and his old self showed through.

“D
o as I say, wife, and do it now.” And without even a good-bye, he kicked his heels into his horse and sped away. Peter was mounted on a horse and pulled Benjamin atop the steed with him, handing him the lord’s banner fluttering from a tall pole to hold. And with that, he took off after Marcus.

Severa
l men with torches followed, as well as a small army of men both on horseback as well as on foot. And at the back of the pack were a group of servants with supplies in their arms should the battle go on for days, and the kennelgroom with some of the hounds that were trained to kill.

She heard shouting off in the dist
ance, and the sound of loud, shrill noises that sounded like some kind of horn. She knew it was the battle cry of the Scots. For the first time in her life she felt deathly frightened, as she had never actually been so close to a battle before.

“Amethyst, quickly, we need to get inside the castle,” said her uncle
, running up to join her.

She followed him and Matilda as they made their way inside, looking over her shoulder one last time as Marcus disappeared into the dark of the night.

“He’ll come back, won’t he?” she asked her uncle.

“Well, he is a border lord, sweetheart. If anyone has a good chance of surviving a battle it’s him. He’s been trained for this. It’s what he does.”

“I hope you’re right,” she said softly, then brought her hand to her mouth and kissed her wedding ring. She didn’t want to be a widow before she’d even had the chance to consummate their marriage. She tried to stay positive, but she had the terrible feeling that she may never see Lord Marcus – her husband, ever again.

Chapter 10

 

It was well into the night and though Marcus and his men had been able to keep the Scots from getting close to the castle, none of the soldiers had yet returned. Amethyst was atop the battlements, trying to see what was happening in the distance, though her uncle had instructed her to stay inside.

“Here you are, Amethyst,” said Matilda, climbing the stairs to the
top of the walkway to meet her. Many guards were positioned around the battlements as well as atop the towers with their weapons at the ready. The drawbridge was pulled up, locking them safely inside the inner bailey walls. However, since the gatehouses were not yet finished, and the moat was dry, there was virtually no defense should the Scots ride right up to the castle gate.

“Matilda, I think that’s Marcus,” she said, grabbing the girl’s hand and peering into the darkness. She could see
a wounded man leaned over on a horse, riding up to the dry moat. He was followed by another horse carrying two riders, one holding a bannered pole. “Lower the drawbridge, quickly,” she shouted to the guards.

“Nay, it’s too risky,” ca
me the voice of the guard closest to the gate, standing atop the watch tower. There were two towers, one on each side of the gate and inside were the mechanisms to work the drawbridge as well as the iron grate over the door.

Amethyst knew in her heart who it was before she even made it to the front of the castle walkway. She looked down
to confirm her suspicions, and saw Marcus slumped over on his horse, and his squire and Benjamin on a horse behind him.

“It’s Lord Marcus and he is wounded,” she called out. “Now
lower the draw bridge and open the gate at once and let him in.”

She took off a
t a fast run, descending the stone steps from the battlements much too fast for such a dark night. Matilda was right on her heels. She rushed to the gate and stood by the heavy wooden doors, waiting for the guards to open them. She could hear the rattling of the chains and the squeaking of the gears inside the towers as the drawbridge was lowered slowly. Then two guards slid the drawbar from the entrance and opened the doors at last.

The portcullis,
or iron grate, was still down protecting the entrance and she could see right through it as Marcus rode his horse over the drawbridge. She could tell he was wounded badly, holding his side. And he was bent over in a laying position atop his steed. With every step the animal took, his body slipped further and further to the side. His squire jumped from his own mount and caught Marcus just as he fell from the horse.

“Open the portcullis!” she screamed. “He’s hurt. Open the
damn gate already.”

With the sound of a turning winch,
the heavy iron grate slowly moved upward, creaking as it disappeared up into the wall between the two towers. She ducked under the gate as soon as it was high enough to get through and ran to her husband.

“Marcus, what happened?” she scream
ed, coming to his side. He was leaning heavily on Peter, blood flowing from several gashes in his body. His wounds looked deep. And by the trail he left behind him, she could see he’d lost much blood.

“Let me help,” she shouted, dipping under Marcus’s shoulder, letting her body bear half his weight.

“Amethyst,” he said through hooded eyes.

His face was gashed and bleeding as well, a
nd he was covered with dirt and several burns. His elegant clothes he’d worn for their wedding were now naught more than shreds of cloth only half-covering his body. The Scots had obviously used their claymores on him, as even his chain mail had been pierced through. She wanted to cry out in horror when she saw him, as she realized he was close to dead. Instead, she tried to stay positive and forced a smile. She was the wife of a border lord now and it wouldn’t suffice to cry or show emotions every time her husband went to battle.

“You’re going to be fine,” she told him. “I’m going to mend your wounds.”

“I … I’m so … sorry,” he said, flinching in pain with every word he forced from his mouth.

“Sorry?” she asked
. “For what?”

“For … dying
.” His eyes closed then, and his legs gave way under him. His body came crashing down and it was all she could do to try to stand under the heavy weight of his muscled body wearing not only his chain mail but also his heavy weapons.

“Let me help,” said Benjamin, taking
Lord Marcus from her and assisting Peter to carry his body. “After all, it is my fault he is in this position.”

“Your fault?” she asked, following them into the courtyard where several guards ran up to help. “What do you mean, Benjamin? What
happened out there?”

“The battle is still in full array,” Peter informed her. “The Scots are putting up a hell of a fight.”

“I shouldn’t have gone with,” said Benjamin, looking to her with tears in his eyes. “I wasn’t ready for battle.”

“I don’t understand,” said Amethyst, racing after them. “Will someone please tell me what happened?”

“Lord Marcus took the blows that were meant for Benjamin,” said Peter. “He fought heroically. Four men attacked at once and he brought them all down, though he didn’t fare so well at the end of one of their claymores.”

“That’s right,” said the boy. “If he hadn’t jumped in fr
ont of me, I’d be dead. And now, because I am worthless, Lord Marcus is going to die instead.”

Amethyst stopped in her tracks, and Matilda ran up next to her.

“What happened?” she asked in horror, looking at her cousin’s wounded body.

Amethyst watched as t
hey hauled Marcus into the keep. His eyes were closed and he wasn’t moving. A trail of blood followed him across the courtyard.

“My husband was heroic,” she said with tears in her eyes. Then she reached out and took Matilda’s hand in hers. “An
d I believe that he is also going to die.”

 

*

 

Amethyst sat through the night with her husband’s hand in hers. She had done the best she could to clean his wounds as well as sew them up. There was no healer present at the castle, and she’d been assisted by Matilda as well as her uncle. Her uncle had seen many wounds in his days of building, as accidents happened all the time. But this, he’d told her was the worst he’d ever seen.

“Will he live?” she asked her uncle in a soft voice. He sat next to her on a chair while she sat on the edge of the be
d. Matilda was lying near the hearth atop the Persian carpet, and both Peter and Benjamin had fallen asleep on the floor of the solar as well.

She’
d tended to their wounds too, but they were mere scrapes and bruises compared to the gashes on Marcus’s body. He lay naked, except for his braies, his body covered by a sheet. She put her hand to his forehead and realized a fever had set in. This was the worse thing that could possibly happen. And he’d yet to gain consciousness.

“Amethyst, darling,” he
r uncle said, with his hand on her shoulder. “We’ve done all we could.”

“Don’t make it sound as if there’s no hope,” she told him.

“Sweetheart, he’s taken some pretty bad blows from a very large sword,” explained her uncle. “And he’s lost a lot of blood, as well as been taken with a fever. You have to face the facts … it doesn’t look good.”

“Where’s his father?” she asked with tears in her eyes. “He’d know what to do. He’s a border lord as well. I’m sure he’s tended
to wounds worse than this.”

“He’s still fighting the Scots,” said
Peter in a small voice, pushing up from the ground. “We would have stayed to help, but our allegiance was to Lord Marcus. We knew we had to get him back to the castle quickly.”

“You did the right thing,” Amethyst assured them.

“I hope we won’t have to give him that honorable burial he told me about,” said Benjamin softly, but Amethyst still heard him. She felt as if she were going to burst into tears, so she jumped up and left the room.

It was already daybreak when she ran out into the courtyard, trying to just get away from everyone and think. She found herself near the back of the castle, and ducked under a trellis with many vines and orange blooming flowers to try to hide away.

That’s when she realized she was in some sort of garden that was barely visible from the courtyard. She made her way forward, seeing the sun streaming in bright rays and almost illuminating her path through the tall bushes that made some sort of passageway. As she followed it along, she looked up to see the climbing roses on archways over her head. She knew immediately she must have stumbled into Marcus’s secret rose garden.

The path wound arou
nd and around, forming a labyrinth, and finally opened up into a small circle in the center. There was a shrine of some kind there, with opened sides and grass beneath it.

A stone bench was just outside the shrine,
and she dropped her body atop it, hiding her face in her hands and just cried. She hadn’t been there long before she had the odd sensation that someone was watching her. Her head popped up and inside the shrine stood an old, gnarled woman in a hooded cape.

“Why are you crying?” the woman asked in a crackly voice.

“Because Marcus is going to die.”

“Ah, I see. You are speaking of a loved one?” the woman asked, coming forward. When the sun hit her in the face Amethyst could see that the woman’s eyes were clouded over.

“I am speaking of my husband,” she told her. “But who are you? I haven’t seen you since I’ve been here.”

“Does he love you?” the woman just asked, instead of
answering her question.

“I … I don’t know,” she answered honestly. “We haven’t known each other but a few days, and I don’t believe he holds many feelings for me at all, but I can’t be sure.”

“And do you love him?” she asked, coming closer.

“I … I’m not sure about that, either,” she said.

“Well, these are the things you need to find out. And if your husband is dying, shouldn’t you be at his side instead of out in the garden?”

“I tried to heal him,” she said, wiping away her tears
with the back of her hand. “But he has a fever. I don’t know how to help him.”

“Are you giving up
so easily?”

“Nay!” She rose to her feet. “I would never give up.”

“Good,” said the old woman, holding out her hand. “Soak this in water and use the water as an elixir. Get him to drink it somehow as well as put it on his wounds.”

She took what the woman gave her and opened her hand to see an amethyst stone.

“It’s a gemstone,” she said and looked back up to the woman. “How can this help?”

“Gemstones hold many different energies,” she
told her. “Amethyst is good for healing on many levels. It is used for regaining sobriety as well as ridding one of negative energies and also negative aspects of themselves.”

“But can it rid one of a fever?” she asked curiously, turning the stone over in her hand.

“It can help relieve the pain. And if it is used in love, there is no telling what will happen. But it is up to you, dear. Now go to him before it is too late.”

Amethyst just stared at the gemstone in her hand, wondering if it could actually help. If was a crazy idea, but she had no choice in the matter, and she would do whatever it took to save his life. “All right, I will try it,” she said, looking back up to the woman. But the old woman was not there anymore, just an empty spot where she once stood.

A shiver ran through Amethyst
, and she wondered for a moment if she’d imagined the whole thing. If she hadn’t been holding the gemstone, she wouldn’t have believed it.

She longed to be with Marcus, and
took off at a run through the labyrinth, making her way back to the solar. She knew the old woman was correct in saying that she needed to be by her husband’s side. She only hoped that this amethyst stone could help. And she hoped that she wasn’t too late to try to save his life.

BOOK: Daughters of the Dagger 04 - Amethyst
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