Medieval 03 - Enchanted
think that Duncan
had jilted his daughter for love of you.”
Amber glanced quickly at Ariane. If she were
listening, it didn’t show in her face or in the measured
drawing of her fingers over the lap harp.
“Do not fear for Lady Ariane’s tender
feelings,” Simon said sardonically. “She was raised a
highborn maid. She knows her duty is to wed whoever enters into the
“Lady Ariane must be married to a loyal
vassal of Dominic le Sabre,” Duncan said flatly. “The
quicker it happens, the better for all of us.”
“But—” began Amber, only to be
overridden by Simon.
“And her husband must be someone who has the
approval of both King Henry and Deguerre himself,” Simon
“But you don’t have that
approval!” Amber retorted.
“Simon is as loyal to Dominic as any man
alive,” Duncan said, “so the English king will approve
the marriage. Simon is Norman rather than Scots or Saxon, so Baron
Deguerre will have less to complain of in that regard than if the
groom had been me.”
“Aye. In all ways that matter,” Simon
said, “I am a more desirable husband for Deguerre’s
daughter than Duncan.”
“This baron,” Amber said, frowning.
“Is he so powerful that kings are wary of him?”
“Yes,” Ariane said distinctly.
A ripple of discordant notes accompanied the single
“Had he married me to Geoffrey the Fair, who
is the son of another great Norman baron,” Ariane continued,
“my father soon would have been the equal of your English
Henry in wealth and military might, if not in law. So I was
betrothed instead to a knight whose loyalty is to Henry rather than
to a Norman duke.”
“Now,” Simon said dryly, “all we
have to do is convince Baron Deguerre that his daughter is well
pleased with me. That way there will be no excuse for
“Ah,” Amber said. “That explains
the story Sven has been spreading among the people of the keep and
“Story?” Ariane asked.
Simon laughed mirthlessly. “Aye, and quite a
tale it is, too.”
Ariane said nothing more, but her fingers plucked
an ascending series of notes from the harp. As though she had
spoken a question, Simon answered her.
“Sven is saying that we fell in love when I
escorted you from Blackthorne to Stone Ring Keep.”
Ariane’s hands jerked as the outrageous tale
yanked her out of her unhappy thoughts.
“ Love ?” she
muttered. “What a pail of slops that is! Men have no love of
their betrothed. They love only the dowry and the power.”
Amber winced, but Simon laughed.
“Aye, my lady,” he said. “Slops
“But ’tis a clever tale,” Duncan
said admiringly. “Even the king himself must bow before a
girl’s absolute right to choose her husband. Deguerre can do
“Dominic indeed deserves to be called the
Glendruid Wolf,” Amber said. “His clever plans bring
peace, not war.”
“It was Simon’s idea to marry me, not
his brother’s,” Ariane said. “Simon’s mind
is even quicker than his hands.”
A brief expression of surprise showed on
Simon’s face. The last thing he expected from Ariane was a
compliment, however casually it was delivered.
On the other hand, perhaps she was simply picking
up the threads of the teasing game once more.
“Do you think that Deguerre will believe
you?” Amber asked Simon doubtfully.
“Believe what? That I’ve married his
“That it was a…” Amber groped for
“‘…drawing together of hearts
that defied English king and Norman father equally,’”
Ariane quoted. “‘For love ,
Ariane’s tone exactly captured the mockery
that had been in Simon’s voice when he had proposed marrying
Ariane himself as a solution to the dangerous dilemma of her broken
Simon shrugged. “Deguerre can believe the
tale or he can go begging in Jerusalem. Either way, before midnight
mass is sung, Lady Ariane will be my wife.”
A shout from the bailey below distracted Simon. He
went to the slit window, listened, and gave Duncan a sideways
“You waited too long to escape, O mighty lord
of Stone Ring Keep,” Simon said, bowing as low as a Saracen
would to his sultan. “The serf with the wandering
pig—what is his name?”
“The pig’s?” Duncan asked in
“The serf’s,” Simon corrected,
“Ah, how could one forget?” Simon said.
“Apparently the pig has acquired a taste for apples. By
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