| Knight's Treasure |
By Amanda Scott
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Stirling Castle, April 1380
The Earl of Fife, hereditary governor of Stirling Castle and third son of the King of Scots, sat behind the large desk in his audience chamber, sternly regarding the well-dressed young man who stood before him. Fife was a good judge of men, and this one seemed more confident in his presence than most. Fife’s formidable personality and ever-increasing power intimidated most men—with good reason.
“Who sent you here to me?”
“I came of my own accord, my lord,” his visitor said. “I own, though, that I came to you because I think we can help each other. I am told that, rightfully, you should be heir to the throne of Scotland but must bow to a lesser man.”
“It is true that I am more capable than my brother Carrick will ever be of ruling this country as it should be ruled,” Fife admitted. “However, Robert the Bruce set the order of succession years ago and ordained that it must go to the eldest son.”
“But the Scottish Parliament can alter that order, can it not?”
“Aye, if one could persuade them to do so.”
“I’m told also that you are a religious man, a follower of the Kirk of Rome.”
“That is true enough,” Fife said.
“If the Pope were to support you instead of the Earl of Carrick as the next King of Scots, would that not increase your chances of persuading the Parliament?”
“Aye, sure, but what would his holiness ask of me in return?”
“We seek information about the death of a cousin, the son of my late father’s brother. He disappeared whilst trying to find and return an item of some value to the Kirk of Rome. His own men believe he died at the hands of certain Scottish nobles.”
“What is this cousin’s name?”
“Waldron of Edgelaw, my lord.”
Fife leaned forward. “And these Scottish nobles. Do you know their names?”
“The Sinclairs, my lord, likewise cousins of Waldron on their mother’s side.”
“I did hear rumors about his death,” Fife said, “but my sources told me that from all they could learn, he died in a fair fight. Tell me more of this item he sought and why you think the Sinclairs had aught to do with his death.”
“First let me assure you that if you can aid me, his holiness will be grateful. You may be sure of great financial reward as well as holy favor.”
“Then something of great value is involved,” Fife said. “What is it?”
His visitor nodded. “They told me you were astute, my lord. ’Tis true that what Waldron sought was of enormous value, but it does belong to Holy Kirk.”
“Aye, sure, and I’d faithfully see it returned,” Fife promised. “But what is it?”
“Treasure, my lord, stolen from the Kirk nearly a century ago by the Knights Templar. Those who sent me believe the Sinclairs guard it now. Likewise, a woman now in their care but who is soon to marry and depart for the Highlands spent a fortnight with my cousin right before his death. Her name is Lady Adela Macleod.”
Fife was thinking. He said musingly, “Sir William Sinclair was one of the men who attempted to carry the Bruce’s heart to the Holy Land.”
“Aye, sir, and a Templar.”
“Perhaps, but you are the second man in as many weeks to speak to me of hidden treasure. I must think on this. Return tomorrow, and we’ll discuss it further.”
Roslin Castle, Thursday, May 10, 1380
“Smile, Adela. We brides should look happy on our wedding day!”
Lady Adela Macleod turned to her younger sister, Sorcha, who was certainly beaming brightly enough for both of them. But although Adela tried to obey her command, she knew her own smile was feeble at best.
She had hoped that her second wedding, unlike the first, might proceed without undue fuss or drama. However, although she knew that Roslin Castle’s highly trained guardsmen would prevent the kind of trouble that had cut short her first ceremony, she had already seen more fuss and ado than she liked. And she knew that before the day was over, she would see more. Nervously, she fingered the gold chain necklace her mother had given her the year before she’d died.
Sorcha reached to push back a long, thick strand of Adela’s straight honey-blond hair that had managed to slip over her shoulder to the front of her tightly laced golden velvet gown. Letting go of the chain, Adela stood quietly, even submissively. Sorcha’s pearl-trimmed caul and the simple blue, shoulder-length veil that matched her silk gown concealed her own curlier, amber-golden hair.
Adela reminded herself that fuss had been inevitable. Not only were there now two brides and bridegrooms instead of one couple, but when one’s hostess was a powerful countess in her own right, one had to expect such an occasion to merit extraordinary pomp and circumstance. And when one’s younger sister had married the countess’s favorite nephew by declaration a fortnight before, one could scarcely cavil when the fond aunt and one’s own fond parent insisted on a double wedding to sanctify both marriages properly.
Even her father, Macleod of Glenelg, had had little say in today’s wedding plans. His word was law back home in the Highlands, but Adela had not expected him to object to anything, because he planned soon to wed a widow in comfortable circumstances, which included a fine house in Edinburgh, seven miles away. The royal court was presently in residence there, and she knew that Macleod would do nothing that might stir gossip or jeopardize his own nuptial plans.
She had therefore understood from the outset that this wedding would be a grander occasion than her first attempt, which had taken place in the Highlands mere weeks after the death of the first Lord of the Isles. But the result was beyond anything she had anticipated. Her hostess, Isabella, Countess of Strathearn and Caithness, and the rest of the powerful Sinclair family had spared no expense.
Adela had not mourned any lack of splendor the first time. But after all the effort and expense, and in view of her own considerable gratitude, she thought it a pity that she could not feel more enthusiasm for this wedding.
As she waited near the chapel entrance with Macleod and the other members of the wedding party while the small but noble audience crammed into the chamber began to quiet down, she wondered why she did not care more. After all, other than the much larger group of friends and kinsmen unable to squeeze into the tiny chapel but assembling now in the castle’s great hall for the wedding feast to come, nothing but the setting had changed—and Sorcha’s role, of course, and Sir Hugo Robison’s presence today at Sorcha’s side.
Adela’s bridegroom remained the same. And a generous, kind man Ardelve was, too. He was fond of her, she knew, and would make few demands with which she would not willingly comply.
So far, he had asked only that she manage his large household in Kintail near Chalamine, her family home. It was a responsibility that she expected to enjoy far more than the near decade of running her father’s much less manageable household.
Although Sorcha insisted that Ardelve was too old and pompous to make a good husband, Adela liked him. To be sure, he was nearly as old as her father, had been twice married and widowed, and had a grown son older than she was. But his children had raised no objection to the marriage, and his cousin, Lady Clendenen, the wealthy widow whom Macleod intended to marry, stood in the front row now with an approving smile, waiting for the ceremony to begin.
As a result, Adela believed her marriage to Ardelve would be as happy as anyone could wish. So what, she asked herself, was wrong with her? Why did she not feel something?
She normally felt things deeply, and she normally expressed those feelings easily. One had to do so, after all, if one was to manage a castle full of servants, let alone to manage such an unruly sibling as Sorcha had been or a father as blustery as Macleod could be. Even the youngest of her sisters, the elusive Sidony, had required just the right degree of Adela’s self-expression. But now—
So lost in thought was she that when Sorcha touched her arm again, she started violently and nearly cried out.
Sorcha’s smile faded to a worried frown. “Pinch your cheeks,” she said. “I vow, you look as pale as chalk. Is aught amiss? Does your shoulder still hurt?”
“Nay, it has healed,” Adela said, ignoring the ache that lingered from an injury a fortnight before. “I’m quite well.”
“You don’t look it,” Sorcha replied with her usual candor.
“Easy, lass,” Sir Hugo said, laying a restraining hand on her shoulder.
Not, Adela mused, that anyone—even the tall, hand-some, imperious Hugo—could restrain her sister unless Sorcha chose to allow it.
Hugo smiled as he said, “Doubtless you are recalling the last such occasion, Lady Adela. But no raiders will interrupt today’s festivities, I promise you.”
Since he controlled Roslin Castle’s security, Adela knew he meant what he said. Politely if automatically returning his smile, she said, “Indeed, I have no such fear.” She could hardly tell him she felt nothing at all, that it was as if she were in a dream, disembodied, watching four unknown figures about to walk to the altar.
The look that crossed Hugo’s face then nearly matched the deepening frown on Sorcha’s. Adela saw his hand squeeze her sister’s shoulder a little harder, as if he sensed without looking that she was about to speak.
For a wonder, Sorcha kept silent.
Hugo said quietly, “You should not wonder if you do not feel a bride’s usual excitement, lass. It can be only natural for you to feel wary now. I’ve seen similar reactions in brave men after one battle, about to face another. I warrant it must be much the same for you now.”
“Pray, sir, do not concern yourself,” she said. “What happened to me cannot possibly match aught that occurs in battle. I suffered no hurt, after all. I do not believe he would ever have harmed me.”
Hugo’s grimace revealed his disagreement, but he did not contradict her. He said, “I think the piper is about to play.”
Macleod had stood quietly beside her, taking no part in the conversation. Now he said, “Aye, lass, and we’re to go first, ye ken, after your maidens. So hold your head high. Ye look well, even if ye’re no wearing blue for good luck.”
Adela took a deep, steadying breath before she said with forced calm, “I pray you, sir, do not tell me blue is a luckier color than yellow-gold, for I don’t want to hear it. Last time I complied with your superstitions. I even agreed not to marry on a Friday that fell on the thirteenth of the month. Only recall what those precautions won me.”
“Aye, sure, but it might ha’ been worse had ye no worn blue. Never ye mind that now,” he added hastily. “That gown becomes ye. It brings out the green flecks in your eyes and makes your hair look like golden honey flowing down your back.”
Adela tried to ignore the thought of sticky honey oozing down her back, reminding herself that he rarely paid compliments and was thus out of practice.
He held out his arm to her, and the fact that her maidens were walking up the narrow aisle between flanking rows of standing guests, nearing the altar, recalled her to her wits. Obediently, she placed her right hand on his forearm and waited.
Sorcha and her younger sister Sidony had served as Adela’s bride-maidens for the first wedding, but she and Sorcha had four attendants this time, three of whom they scarcely knew.
Sidony, blue-eyed and fair, looked beautifully serene as she led the way in, wearing a gown of pale rose. The next two were Sir Hugo’s younger sisters in lavender and pale green. The last was their cousin, another niece of Countess Isabella’s, in a straw-colored gown. All three had arrived only the day before.
Sorcha and Sir Hugo were already legally married, having taken advantage of the ancient Scottish tradition of simply declaring themselves husband and wife. Therefore, they would walk to the altar together. Sorcha had said she couldn’t imagine why they need marry again. But Countess Isabella had declared that she intended to see them properly wed by her own priest, and that had been that.
When the four maidens had taken places on each side of the shallow steps leading to the altar, where Ardelve and Isabella’s chaplain waited, Adela and Macleod walked up the aisle toward them. Sorcha and Sir Hugo followed, all accompanied by the piper’s tune.
Although only a few years younger than Macleod, Ardelve was a handsomer, more dignified-looking man with a trim beard and grizzled dark hair. For the occasion, he wore a high-crowned, white-plumed hat, a black velvet, sable-trimmed robe belted over parti-colored hose, and fashionable pointed-toe shoes.
Standing straight and proud beside Isabella’s chaplain, he watched his bride walk toward him, and when his gaze met hers, he smiled.
Adela replied with the same smile she had summoned up for Hugo but did not look away from Ardelve, grateful to have the excuse to avoid meeting the eye of any on-looker. She lacked the energy to smile and nod, and just wanted to have the ceremony and subsequent feasting behind her.
She reached the halfway point aware only of her hand on Macleod’s arm and of Ardelve’s smiling face before her. Then, an abrupt movement to her right and the clink-clink of something falling to the chapel’s flagstone floor caught her attention.
Turning her head, she looked straight into the jade-green eyes of one of the handsomest men she had ever beheld.
He had finely chiseled features, gleaming chestnut hair that curled slightly at the ends, broad shoulders, a tapered waist, and muscular, well-turned legs. And he displayed the three latter features to advantage in an expertly cut forest-green velvet doublet and smooth yellow silk hose. His cap bore a curling bright yellow feather.
He had begun to bend down, so he had certainly dropped something. But whatever it was lay where it had fallen, because as Adela’s gaze collided with his, he froze. Then, slowly he straightened, his gaze still locked with hers.
His remarkable green eyes began to twinkle. Then, impudently, he winked.
Startled, she wrenched her gaze away and sought Ardelve again, relaxing when she saw him, still smiling calmly. She did not look away again.
The piping stopped when she reached the two shallow steps that led up to kneeling stools awaiting the bridal couples before the altar.
“Who gives this maiden to wed this man?” the priest inquired.
“I do—Macleod o’ Glenelg, her father,” Macleod said clearly.
The priest beckoned to Adela, and releasing her father’s arm, she went up the steps to stand by Ardelve. Sorcha and Hugo followed, taking their places at her left. All four faced the altar.
Isabella’s chaplain stepped in front of them. After a long moment of silence, he said, “I be bound to ask first if there be any amongst ye today who kens any just cause or impediment to a marriage betwixt Baron Ardelve and Lady Adela Macleod. If ye do ken such, speak now or forever hold your peace.”
Adela shut her eyes, for it had been at this point in her first attempt to marry Ardelve that the interruption had occurred.
Today, aside from brief shuffling of feet, silence reigned.
Because Sorcha and Sir Hugo were sanctifying an existing union, the priest did not ask the same question about them, and Adela was glad to note that they both seemed blissfully happy.
She had seen them only once since their declaration, because immediately after Hugo had declared them married, they had removed to Hawthornden Castle, a mile down Roslin Glen to the north. Three days later, Adela had accompanied her sister Sidony, their elder sister Isobel, and the countess to pay them a bridal visit. But she had not seen them again until that very morning.
Isobel, now Sir Michael Sinclair’s wife and thus daughter-by-marriage to the countess, stood in the audience with her husband and his mother. There had been no time for their other three sisters to travel to Roslin for the wedding.
When the priest spoke Adela’s name, she wrenched her attention back to the ceremony, responding as he bade, and doing so calmly and clearly. The ceremony was mercifully brief, and although the nuptial mass to follow would last the usual time, she could recite her responses by rote and would not have to think.
When the priest declared them husbands and wives in the sight of God, Ardelve took Adela’s hand in his and did not let go until they took communion.
When the mass came to an end, Adela hoped no one would ask what she had been thinking about or if she had enjoyed her wedding. The entire ceremony and service had registered little more in her mind than mere passage of time.
Isabella did not allow the bridal couples to linger but whisked them off to the great hall to receive their guests and begin the wedding feast. Laughter and music greeted them long before they entered, because the festivities had already begun.
Musicians in the minstrels’ gallery played lively tunes until the bridal party appeared in the doorway. Then Isabella’s chamberlain stepped forward.
“My lords, my ladies, and all within this chamber,” he bellowed. “Pray rise to make welcome Lord and Lady Ardelve, and Sir Hugo and Lady Robison!”
As cheers broke out and the music resumed, Adela noted that two long boards for guests extended from the dais where the high table stood nearly the full length of the lower hall. Space had been cleared on the near side of the hall for the entertainers Isabella had hired to perform during the feast.
As they walked through the clearing to the dais with the others, Ardelve bent his head to Adela’s ear and murmured, “I would speak privately with you, my lady wife, afore we feast. If you will oblige me, Isabella has offered the use of her solar.”
“As you wish, my lord,” she said, hoping she had not done something to vex him already. Remembering her reaction to the green-eyed man, she dismissed that. Ardelve had shown no sign of being a possessive husband or a jealous one.
Crossing the crowded dais, they approached the door in the center of the wall behind it, skirting the high table, which would soon groan under the weight of gold and silver platters and trays of food, and jugs of whisky and wine, not to mention the guests’ goblets and trenchers that were already in place.
A Sinclair gillie thrust the door to the solar open for them.
Nodding to the lad to shut it behind them, Ardelve led Adela away from it, then said without preamble, “One hesitates to speak to a lady about her looks other than to compliment her, my dear. But all this splendor seems to have tired you. If you want to leave, I’ll gladly make our adieux and retire now to our bedchamber.”
“’Tis kind of you to offer, sir, but it would be unkind of us, not to mention most ungrateful, to do such a thing after Countess Isabella has put so much effort forth to honor us.”
“Faugh,” he said. “Isabella does what she does for Isabella or for Roslin. In truth, I am weary myself. But if you are sure you are feeling well …”
“I am, sir,” she said. “I am a little tired but no more than that.”
He looked searchingly at her, then said, “If it is any relief to your mind, you have naught to fear from me on this night or any other. If you want time to adjust to our marriage before taking up all your wifely duties, I will understand. I am in no great hurry, Adela, and would understand your preference for a more peaceful place to get to know your husband. Do you take my meaning, lass?”
“Aye, sir, I do,” she said, aware that she was blushing. “My sister Isobel explained what my duties will be. You are most kind, but I want children, and I have no objection to taking up my wifely duties whenever it shall please you. Moreover, if you do not want to stay for the feast, you have only to say so.”
He patted her hand. “I am content,” he said. “My household stands in great need of your woman’s touch, and I have need of that, too. Your thoughtfulness only makes me look forward more eagerly to our years together. You are right, though, to remind me that everyone here worked hard to provide our wedding feast.”
“I, too, am impatient for our return to the peace of the Highlands, sir.”
He smiled again. She thought his smile a particularly charming one and responded this time with her first natural smile of the day. No matter that Sorcha thought she was making a mistake. Sorcha, after all, had married Hugo, a man who always wanted his own way and made no secret about it.
Since Sorcha’s nature was much the same, Adela was certain that sparks often flew between them. With Ardelve, she was certain she would enjoy a more peaceful, more comfortable life.
He touched her shoulder, and then, as she turned toward the door, he moved his hand easily to the small of her back. She was astonished at how reassuring it felt there as they moved to rejoin the boisterous company. They took their places at the high table next to Sorcha and Hugo, the four of them standing behind chairs at the central places of honor facing the lower hall. Looking at the other guests nearby, Adela congratulated herself on her decision to marry Ardelve.
Members of the Sinclair family comprised much of the company on the dais, and thanks to Countess Isabella’s insistence, the seating order was unusual. Instead of the traditional arrangement with all the men at the left end of the table as viewed from the lower hall, and all the women at the right, the countess had declared that the bridal couples should take central place, with all others deferring to them.
Therefore, Isabella stood on Ardelve’s right, with her eldest son, Henry Sinclair, owner of Roslin, on her right.
Henry was also Prince of Orkney, a Norse title inherited through his mother’s family. In Scotland, though, even the heir to the throne—not to mention lesser men of the royal family—were earls and thus took a dim view of anyone else in the country claiming the title of prince. So, in Scotland, Henry was Earl of Orkney.
Beyond Henry stood Macleod with his intended wife, Lady Clendenen, between them and an empty space at Macleod’s right. Her ladyship, reluctantly entering her fiftieth year, was a plump, personable woman with fair, smooth skin, nut-brown hair, and pleasant features pleasantly arranged, who claimed kinship with everyone of importance in Scotland. Her lively brown eyes often twinkled, but to her ladyship’s oft-spoken chagrin, she lacked height. Even Adela, at just a couple of inches above five feet, was inches taller than Lady Clendenen. Standing now beside Henry, who was well over six feet, the plump little woman looked diminutive.
Sorcha stood on Adela’s left with Sir Hugo beyond, then Isobel, Sir Michael Sinclair, and Hugo’s father, Sir Edward Robison, flanked by one of his daughters on Hugo’s side and an empty space at the end. Everyone at the high table faced the other guests, who had all gathered around the two long trestles extending from the dais.
After the countess’s chaplain had spoken the grace-before-meat, the company noisily took seats, the carvers entered to the accompaniment of Prince Henry’s pipers, and gillies began bustling about with jugs of wine, ale, and whisky.
Adela sat quietly, speaking only when someone spoke to her. After a time, she caught sight of the handsome young man she had noted in the chapel.
He was speaking to one of Sir Hugo’s sisters, the elder, she thought. But the two girls’ gowns and veils were of similar color and style, and they were nearly the same height, so she could not be sure.
Glancing past Sorcha at Hugo, she was not surprised to see his frowning, intense gaze fixed on the same couple. She was certain he must be a most protective brother and had no doubt that he would have stern words for his unfortunate sister. Adela sighed. To think that her own sisters had once expected her to marry him!
Turning to Ardelve, she smiled as she shifted aside to allow a gillie to pour wine into her goblet. When the lad stepped back, she began to reach for it but pulled her hand back when she remembered there would be toasting.
Beside her, Ardelve said, “Take a sip or two, lass. No one will mind. The carver is flashing his knives, but they’ll be piping food from one end of this hall to the other for a while yet, so I’d also advise you to eat some bread with your wine.”
Another gillie, overhearing, instantly offered rolls from a basket.
Adela took one gratefully, tearing off a bite-size piece and eating it before she tasted her wine. It was fine claret, she was sure, but her sense of taste seemed to have deserted her along with the rest of her senses.
Ardelve also sipped wine, and when the ceremonial presentation of the first course ended, Adela was able to eat in peace, buffered on one side by Sorcha and on the other by Ardelve. Gillies kept food and wine flowing, musicians played, and the company remained noisily cheerful. The claret was heady for one who rarely drank more than half a goblet of any wine, and Adela began to relax.
At her left, Sorcha chatted merrily with Hugo, and doubtless most improperly, too. Adela had noted that the two seemed to talk about any subject that entered their heads, and she could not approve. In her opinion, people—ladies, at least—should display more decorum. But she had long since stopped trying to persuade Sorcha of that. She just hoped her irrepressible sister would do nothing to make the countess regret her unusual seating arrangement.
“Where is Sidony?” she asked when Sorcha next turned to her. “I’ve not seen her since we came into the hall.”
“I’ll wager she went upstairs to look in on our new nephew,” Sorcha said with a grin, referring to Isobel and Michael’s firstborn child, now a fortnight old. “She spends more time with him than with anyone else, and you can see how relaxed Isobel is. Had her bairn been lying upstairs alone all this time, she would be fidgeting by now.” Stopping a passing gillie, she asked for more wine.
“Dearling, you should have let Hugo give him the order,” Adela said.
“He is talking to his sister Kate,” Sorcha said.
Adela saw that the girl she had seen flirting with the handsome stranger was now sitting between Hugo and Sir Edward. The latter was chatting with the lady on his left, so she decided Hugo must have summoned Kate, because he was talking to her and looking very stern.
Kate looked annoyed, too, as well she might, Adela mused, remembering that she herself had once emptied a basin of holy water over Hugo’s head when she had had enough of his lecturing. Trust the man, a notorious flirt himself, to call his sister to order for harmless flirting.
Adela recalled, too, that people besides her sisters had expected her to marry Hugo and she had even considered doing so. Now she wondered at herself. She liked him very much. He was handsome, charming, and a famous swordsman.
But he had an annoying tendency to order people about, and she preferred not to have orders flung at her. Sorcha dealt with him better than she ever could.
Ardelve would suit her better. She would live close to her own home, see old friends and family whenever she liked, and he was wealthy enough to provide every comfort. Moreover, he never snapped orders at her.
She turned to smile at him again.
He was staring at his goblet as if he considered refilling it, but he sensed her gaze, for he turned his head and said, “I think this wine has turned. But I’ll not complain, for you are so beautiful that I believe I must be the most fortunate of—”
To her shock, his face froze, except for his lips, which opened as if he gasped for words to finish his sentence, and his right hand, which clutched his chest. Then, just as she realized he was gasping for air, he slumped awkwardly against Isabella.
The countess exclaimed and tried to hold him, but he collapsed to the floor.
Adela stared in shock.
“Sakes, I didn’t think he was even in his cups,” Sorcha exclaimed.
“He isn’t,” Hugo said, leaping up and moving swiftly to Ardelve’s side.
“Adela, turn away, my dear,” the countess said in a firm voice. “And, prithee, try to compose yourself, for you do not want to cause a stir. Indeed, I am sure this can be naught that should distress you.”
“His eyes are open, but I do not think he sees me,” Adela said without looking away.
Hugo still knelt beside Ardelve, but after only a cursory examination, he looked up and said gently, “I’m sorry, lass. I’m afraid he’s gone.”
She gasped, and tears sprang to her eyes.
Isabella signed to the minstrels in the gallery, and they began to play a lively tune. Startled, Adela looked up to see a trio of jugglers run into the clearing in the lower hall. Acrobats followed, doing flips.
As she began to turn back to Ardelve, she saw that although nearly everyone had turned to watch the entertainers, at least one person had not.
The man with green eyes was looking at her.
Excerpted from Knight's Treasure , by Amanda Scott . Copyright (c) 2007 by Lynne Scott-Drennan. Reprinted by permission of Little, Brown and Company, New York, NY. All rights reserved.Back to top