Gille Chriost, summer, 1525
“Jack! Come back inside, it is time for dinner,” Marion called out from the back door of the castle.
It had been three years since Marion and Fionnghall had gotten married and Marion could not have been happier with her new, unexpected life.
The honeymoon by the shore, York, and Edinburgh had turned out to be exciting and she had enjoyed the fact that she had been able to spend time with Fionnghall alone. They never left each other’s side and everything that they did, they did together.
In fact, Fionnghall had said it many times, he was never going to let Marion out of his sight again. Marion wasn’t opposed to this at all. After all, they had had to go through the fires of Hell to find their way to each other. And now that they were together, there was nothing that could separate them.
About six weeks after they had returned from their honeymoon, Marion had noticed changes in her body. Suddenly, breakfast was impossible to stomach and she was a lot more tired than normal.
When she had described these symptoms to her mother, Eilidth, she had hugged her excitedly and told her she was expecting her first child.
Though this didn’t come to her as a complete surprise, she had been taken aback. She had run to find Fionnghall immediately and told him about her suspicions. He had been just as ecstatic, and the news about the pregnancy had spread all over the town like a wildfire.
And nine months later, she had welcomed her first-born child. The boy was named after Jack. After all, it was thanks to Jack that Marion had even found her way to Gille Chriost. Without him, Lord only knows what would have happened to Marion. It was pure luck and fate that Jack was the one who had found Marion. That had been, ultimately, the start of Marion’s and Fionnghall’s story and it only felt right to name the first-born boy after Jack.
Jack was now two years old and he was growing fast. His feet were always moving and he had a knack of getting into trouble—trouble, which was often covered by the older Jack. In fact, he had taken quite a liking to this little fellow and they spent a lot of time together. He loved to teach him how to take care of his own pony and against Marion’s advice and judgement, he even took the boy hunting.
“They have to start early,” he had said, to which Marion had only replied by shaking her head.
A year later, Marion had noticed that she was expecting again. Having a big family had never been Marion’s goal or desire, but now that she had two children, she couldn’t wait to have a third one. And possibly a fourth one.
The baby girl was named after Deirdre and Marion’s mother. Her name was Deirdre Eilidth and she had dark brown curls just like her aunt. Her deep brown eyes reminded Marion of Fionnghall and sometimes she wondered if she had inherited everything from Deirdre. Then again, her strong-headedness and quick temper soon showed Marion that there were some familiarities in her daughter, as well.
The older Jack raced the little two-year-old up to the back door, by which Marion was standing and holding the year-old baby in her arms.
“Which one of us were ye callin’?” Jack chuckled and lifted his little friend up.
“Me!” little Jack exclaimed and pulled Jack’s hair.
“Of course,” he agreed and put the child down.
“What were you doing? You look like you have been in trouble again,” Marion directed the question to little Jack. He put his hands behind his back.
Marion looked at the older Jack, who all of a sudden seemed to be interested in the birds flying above.
“Show me your hands,” Marion asked.
The little boy reluctantly pulled his hands from behind his back and showed them to Marion. They were covered in dirt all the way up to his wrists.
“We were playing pirates! I buried the treasure and Father will never find it!” he explained the reason for the mud.
“I see,” Marion said, “go wash up, please.”
Jack ran through the hall and towards the kitchen.
“When is Fionnghall coming back? It feels like it has been forever and a day since he left,” Marion asked Jack.
Some months ago, Fionnghall had to leave to make calls to other clans. There had been trouble between the Sassenachs and Scottish and Fionnghall was determined to find out who had been the cause. Now that he had children and a wife, he wanted to keep the peace, at least in Gille Chriost, more than anything. Getting into a fight or starting a war between the English was not on his mind, and neither did he want any trouble with any other Scottish clans.
Before he had left, he had told Marion that if nothing else, he would make sure that all the nearby clans would know that Gille Chriost was off limits and that he would not join any fights. Not now, anyway, when his children were still so little.
Though Marion understood the necessity for this, she still wished that he would have come back already.
Jack pondered her question.
“He should be back any day now,” he said.
Marion patted the back of Deirdre Eilidth, as she was starting to get fussy.
Night had fallen and it was dark outside. The warm summer breeze blew in from the open window and made the curtains flutter. Marion had just put both of the children to bed when she heard talking and sounds of horses from outside. She peeked her head through the window and saw a dozen men outside. One of them she could have picked out from any crowd.
“Fionnghall!” she yelled, with a smile on her face and waved.
Fionnghall looked up and when he noticed who it was that had called him, his face lit up.
“Marion! Come down!”
Marion didn’t waste any time. She made sure that the children were asleep and she ran through the castle and out to the yard. As soon as she opened the front door, Fionnghall was already out there with his arms open wide.
Marion leaped into his arms and kissed him passionately. She didn’t even acknowledge nor care that all of his men were close by, standing around awkwardly and watching this show of affection. All she cared about was that he was home now.
Fionnghall finally pulled away and squeezed Marion closer to his side. Then, he turned his attention back to his men.
“As I was sayin’... I reckon it would be better if we increased the guards at the gate and in the back field, just in case,” he said and his men nodded. They all scattered away slowly and Marion shot a curious glance at Fionnghall.
“Did the trip not go well? What is this about adding guards?” Marion asked as they returned to the castle.
Fionnghall led Marion to the drawing room and asked Addair to order him a meal. It was past dinner time and his journey had been long.
“Well,” he started, “the first clans that we met seemed to be very understandin’ and they swore they had had nothin’ to dae with the attacks in England.”
“But?” Marion asked. She poured him a drink and sat down next to him.
“But… The last two clans made it clear that they daenae consider the English with warm thoughts. The Lairds didnae say it outright, but the underlyin’ meaning was that they may have attacked on the southside of the border.”
“Also, the attacks mean that the Sassenachs may make their way here. Gille Chriost has had no part in any of that, but the English daenae ken that. Fer them, we are all heartless Highlanders,” he shook his head.
He took a sip from his glass and Marion twitched nervously.
“So, what does that mean for us?” she asked.
“It means that we must be careful and increase our guards out at the gate and in the back field. I have nae reason to believe that they would come here, but I daenae want to take any risks.”
The fell silent for a moment, while both of them pondered about this information with more thought.
“Are the children awake?” Fionnghall finally asked.
“No, they are asleep,” Marion replied. “But I am sure that they would want to see you.”
“Has Jack behaved himself?” he asked.
“Which one?” Marion asked and grinned.
Fionnghall burst into laughter.
“Either,” he said.
Marion gave him a thorough run-through about the events of the past months. Before they knew it, it was almost midnight and tiredness made Marion’s eyes sting and burn. But he was finally home after months and she wasn’t about to miss one second of it.
“Let us go check on the children,” Fionnghall said and pulled Marion up.
The children were fast asleep. Fionnghall watched them for a few minutes and Marion let him do so uninterrupted. He had been away from them for a time that felt very long for the children. They would be ecstatic to see him in the morning.
The next morning, Marion was awake long before Fionnghall and the children. She snuck over to the kitchen and helped the servants to prepare breakfast for everyone. Doing something with her hands was soothing for her, so despite the servants’ objections, Marion insisted on helping.
When the sun was starting to climb up the horizon, Marion heard noises coming from the dining room. The children were awake and she guessed, based on the happy screams, Fionnghall was there, too.
She made her way up and witnessed Jack running around the room and climbing up the furniture. Fionnghall was holding Deirdre Eilidth and he greeted Marion with a happy smile.
“I have some amazing news for you,” he said. “Yer parents are comin’ fer a visit with Edith and her husband and their children. The letter says that they are plannin’ to stay awhile. Ye can read it,” he said and pointed to the letter on the table.
Marion grabbed the letter and read through it slowly. There was nothing that could have made her happier at this moment than having her whole family underneath her roof. Her parents would get to meet the children, too, and they would love to meet their grandparents. Marion looked around the dining room and smiled to herself.
After months of being gone and away from his family, Fionnghall was extremely glad to be back at Gille Chriost. Being away from Marion and the children had taken a toll on him and every day that he had been away had made him more impatient.
Now everything was well. Watching Jack playing and Deirdre Eilidth sleeping gave him peace.
Deirdre entered the room yawning.
“Auntie!” Jack screamed and ran right into her hems. It made her laugh.
“Look at ye, the whole family up bright and early,” she said.
The servants brought in some porridge, fruits, and baked goods and the family sat down at the table together. It made Fionnghall very happy to see that his family had grown so much in such a short time.
Deirdre scooped porridge on Jack’s plate and Fionnghall piled his plate full of food. They were all eating with good appetite—all except for Marion.
“What is the matter, Marion?” Fionnghall asked, worried.
Marion smiled faintly and pressed one hand on her lower stomach.
“I don’t think I will be eating breakfast for a few weeks,” she said and winked.
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