Continued From Summary/Preface
Southern Scotland, 1307
It was a nice day in mid-spring and the evening sun was like a golden ball in a cloudless blue sky. The heavens were glorious and the large trees of the rich forest surrounding the village danced gracefully in the cool breeze as groups of colorful birds darted to and fro among their branches.
All was fine with nature, but for the commoners of the large village located a day’s ride beyond the Scottish border, it was pure chaos and panic.
The news of the crushing defeat the Scottish armies had suffered in battle against the invading English armies had spread very fast, carried on the fleet feet of deserters. But most frightening of all was that the man leading the English armies was none other than the Black Wolf, the devil himself and he was now marching into Scotland unchecked by anyone. Every villager had gotten the terrible news and even some of the women and little children were weeping with fear, they knew the consequences all too well. The Curse of Scotland was coming with his armies, the devil himself who ripped the bellies of pregnant women open and ate babies for breakfast was at their doors and no one could stop him.
The King and his Barons had run off to shut themselves away in their mighty castle fortresses as they prepared for the siege that would surely come and the common people of the land were left to cater for themselves in the face of the invading English armies. It was every man for himself now and all of Scotland knew it.
The wide road coming up from the south ran straight through the village on its way northward to the town of Moltonrose. It went right through the village square where it was met by the road coming in from the Abbey of Deliburgh that had its grounds to the east of the village. Normally, the wide road wasn’t a very busy one unless it was a big market day, but today, it was crawling with pedestrians, villagers foraging for food in preparation for the coming war or those moving their families and belongings out into the shelter of the forests in a bid to get out of the path of the advancing English army.
Two nuns in the green robes of novices sat on a large fallen tree trunk to one side of the village square taking in the chaotic scene as they talked and arranged a bunch of freshly picked flowers in a small basket on the tree trunk between them. They had picked the flowers from among the flowering bushes that grew richly all around the village square, stripping them carefully of unwanted leaves before arranging them into the basket. They worked slowly and unhurriedly, keeping their eyes mostly on the wide road as if expecting someone
The two nuns were very lovely young women and even their plain mode of dressing could not mask the nobility of their birth. They were step sisters, daughters of the Lord of the domain.
Jennifer, the older of the two was a rare beauty of nineteen. She was tall, healthy bodies and pale skinned with very long hair that was a startling white color and cat like blue eyes, both of which were very unusual for a Scot. Her younger sister, Emilia, was a superb Scottish beauty two years younger; she was of average height and size, dark-haired, and creamy skinned.
Jennifer hadn’t always been very beautiful. In fact, she had been born rather plain except for her pale yellow hair, flashing cat eyes and a terrible temper. With the full bloom of womanhood came a most remarkable transformation that began with her hair going all white and the temper dying away. All that transformation had taken place in the four years she had been confined to the Abbey, banished from her home by her father, and some many people did not know of it.
Jennifer’s unusual hair, fashing cat eyes, and fiery temper made her unpopular in her father’s castle, particularly after her mother’s death and the remarriage of her father to a woman who never liked her. Jennifer had run wild and done many things that had the common people hating her or being scared of her. The mysterious death of the daughter of a clan chief who she had openly fought and cursed in the town led to her being branded a witch and following the advice of his new wife Jennifer’s father had banished her away to the Abbey where she had stayed for years without him visiting her even once. Her gentle spirited stepsister, Emilia, had only come six months ago to join her at the convent after being banished there by their father as well.
It was more than four years now since Jeniffer had last seen her father and the big castle that was her home. Four lonely years and then that very afternoon, just out of the blues, a missive had come to the Abbey saying that her father was on his way to see her and her sister. Unable to contain herself, Jennifer had taken permission from the Abbess to leave the grounds and come out to the village square to wait for her father as the massive had instructed. Her sister had come with her.
The two nuns had been picking herbs for a while and watching the chaos around as they waited. No one bothered them, none went close to them, the villagers knew well enough who they were, their father owned all the land around right up to the town of Moltonrose, it was all his domain.
A tight group of twenty fierce looking horsemen soon came galloping quickly up the road towards the village square and the pedestrians scattered before them, making way. The men carried the standard of the Earl of Moltonrose, their Lord, and everyone certainly knew where he coming from and what had happened there.
The party of riders had ridden hard all day and they were tired as were their mounts but they could not stop because danger was behind them and there were so many things to be done in preparation to meet that danger.
At the head of the mounted party was the Earl of Moltonrose, a lean grim-faced man who sat straight-backed on his warhorse despite the fifty-one years under his belt. He had been in many big battles and skirmishes before but never a defeat so heavy as the ones he had just suffered. He’d lost so many good men today, but painful of all was the loss of three of his five sons, all killed in heat of battle.
The Earl’s heart was as black as the evening sky was bright, his bitterness was great and all of it was directed at that English devil, the Black Wolf. That devil from the pits of hell had killed his sons, one after the other, including his beloved heir but still wasn’t done. The Black Wolf and armies were marching into Scotland now and there was no one to stop them.
The Earl had no doubt about where the Black Wolf was headed now. He was one of the most powerful nobles in Scotland and his lands one of the most productive. The Moltonrose Castle, which was one of the largest in the south, guarded the direct route from the turbulent southern borders north to the Scottish capital of Edinburgh, where the king was. The Black wolf would surely be at the gates of Moltonrose before the sun rose again and so there was a lot to be done and little time to waste but first he needed to talk to his daughter, everything hinged on her now., his castle and entire domain!
The Earl galloped on towards the square in the short distance ahead, his close behind him.
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