Medieval 03 - Enchanted
Autumn in the reign
of King Henry I .
Stone Ring Keep, home of Lord Duncan and Lady
Amber, in the Disputed Lands at the northern reaches of Norman
“W hich will it be,”
Ariane whispered to herself, “a wedding or a wake?”
Ariane stared at the dagger in her hands, but no
answer came to her save that of candlelight running like silver
blood over the blade. As she looked at the ghostly blood, the
question rang again within the silence of her mind.
A wedding or a
The answer that finally came was no comfort to
It matters not. They are but
different words for the same thing .
Beyond Stone Ring Keep’s high walls, the wind
wailed of coming winter.
Ariane didn’t hear the mournful cry. She
heard nothing but echoes of the past, when her mother had pressed
the jeweled dagger into her daughter’s small hands.
In her mind Ariane could still see the dark flash
of amethysts and feel the cold weight of silver. Her mother’s
words had been even more chilling.
Hell has no punishment greater
than a cruel marriage bed. Use this rather than lie beneath a man
you do not love .
Unfortunately, Ariane’s mother had not lived
long enough to tell her daughter how to use the weapon, orupon whom. Whose wake should it be, the groom’s
Should I kill myself or should
I kill Simon, whose only crime is to agree to marry me out of
loyalty to his brother, Lord Dominic of Blackthorne
A yearning tremor went through Ariane, making the
rich cream and russet of her tunic quiver as though alive.
Dear God, to be so blessed as
to know that kind of fidelity from my family !
Dark nightmare turned, threatening to break through
the wall Ariane had built against it. Grimly she shifted her
thoughts from the night she had been betrayed first by Geoffrey the
Fair and then by her own father.
The blade of the dagger bit delicately into
Ariane’s hand, telling her that she was holding the weapon
too tightly. Distantly she wondered what it would feel like when
the dagger bit far more deeply into her flesh.
Certainly it could be no worse than her
“Ariane, have you seen my—oh, what a
lovely dagger,” Amber said, spotting the quicksilver gleam as
she walked into the room. “’Tis as finely made as any
The voice startled Ariane out of her grim reverie.
Taking a slow, hidden breath, she loosened her grip on the jeweled
dagger and looked toward the young woman whose golden outer tunic
highlighted the color of her eyes and hair.
“It was my mother’s dagger,”
Ariane said to Amber.
“Such extraordinary amethysts. They are the
exact color of your eyes. Were hers violet, too?”
Ariane said no more.
“And your thoughts,” Amber continued
matter-of-factly, “are the exact color of your hair. The
darkest part of night.”
Ariane’s breath caught. Warily she eyed the
Learnedlady of Stone Ring Keep, who could
discern truth simply by touching someone.
Yet Amber wasn’t touching Ariane now.
“I don’t have to touch you,”
Amber said, guessing the other girl’s thoughts. “The
darkness is in your eyes. And in your heart.”
“I feel nothing.”
“Ah, but you do. Your emotions are a wound
that has been concealed rather than healed.”
“Are they?” Ariane asked
“Aye,” Amber said. “I felt it
when I touched you the first time. Surely you must feel it
“Only when I sleep.”
Ariane slid the dagger back into its sheath at her
waist and reached for the lap harp that once had been her joy. Now
it was her consolation. The dark, graceful curves of the wood were
inlaid with silver, mother-of-pearl and carnelian in the form of a
But it wasn’t the harp’s elegance that
lured Ariane. It was the instrument’s voice. Her long fingers
moved, calling from the strings a chord that was in eerie harmony
with the storm wind, a wildness that was barely contained.
Hearing the harp speak for the silent harpist,
Amber wanted to protest the combination of fear and rage and grief
that burned just beneath the Norman girl’s calm surface.
“You have nothing to dread from becoming
Simon’s wife,” Amber said, her voice urgent. “He
is a man of intense passion, but it is always
For an instant Ariane’s fingers paused. Then
she nodded slowly. Gradually the sounds she drew from the harp
became less wild.
“Aye,” Ariane said in a low voice.
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