Five Years Later...
Malcolm stepped back into the Castle with a heavy, strange heart. “What a long day,” he breathed to his wife.
She patted his shoulder with one hand, while the other rested on the small of her back to help support her own posture. He gave a weak smile at Lillith, swollen with pregnancy of their third child; she was only four months in, but she was showing more than she had with the last two. Malcolm liked to tease her that it was twins. They had stayed quite busy since their wedding, which had only been further perpetuated with how beautiful she was while pregnant, and how wonderful of a mother she was. “Ye should go lay down and rest.”
“If anyone needs to rest, it is ye,” he murmured, kissing her forehead before heading into the dining room. They were greeted by their children, who had stayed inside with a couple of servants during the processions of the day. Brody rushed toward him, wrapping his little arms about his faither’s neck. “Me wee warrior,” he cooed, tickling his son’s belly.
“Da!” he cackled. “Can we go ousside?”
“Nae right now,” he breathed, “Perhaps in a bit.”
“Why nae?” he asked, pouting his lip.
“Yer Maither is very tired,” Lillith sighed, as she was handed their darling Lainie, who was only months away from being a year old and looked more and more like her Maither with every passing day."
“I’m nae tired,” Brody huffed. “Is Da tired?”
“I am a bit,” he smiled. “How about we go to the chamber for just a little while, and then we can go to the cliffside?”
“Mm,” Lillith muttered in a quiet protest. She didn’t like the thought of the children at the cliff, but Malcolm knew better than to even blink when having the children out there.
“All right,” Brody smiled.
The family paced to their bedchamber. In the years that passed, the McCormack’s had renovated one of the ballrooms to be a suite for the growing family. Connan had suggested it as soon as Lillith had announced her pregnancy with Lainie. It had been their third pregnancy, the second having ended in miscarriage. However, it was evident that the couple had no plans to slow down.
“Ye’ll populate every open field of Scotland by the time Lillith’s thirty”, Connan had often teased them.
The bedchamber was organized into a large sitting room, and four moderate-sized bedrooms. Once the new baby, or babies, were old enough to be weaned from their mother, Brody would get a bedchamber of his own. Malcolm sank down on a couch and sighed, trying to ease his mind from the horrible day.
“Careful, careful,” Lillith instructed Lainie as the little girl held to her hands and started walking on Lillith’s legs and worked toward her stomach.
“I’ll take that one,” Malcolm grinned, reaching over and snatching up his daughter. He had never believed it when people stated that children filled you with a love that nothing else could. Once he was a father, he understood it. As tired and as grumpy as he could be, he never had a long face when he walked in and saw the face of his children and wife.
He loved his children equally, while also in their own unique ways. Lainie was just as cute as a button, a truly special place in his heart belonged to her and only her. She had curly hair and baby-blue eyes, chubby, dimpled cheeks, and alabaster skin. Interestingly enough, she had more of a temper than their four year old. The little girl did not delight in the affection of her father, her brows scrunching together and beginning to kick away from him.
“I think she is hungry,” Lillith sighed. Malcolm handed the baby back, who eagerly nestled into Lillith’s bosom as she nursed the child. “I’ll only have a couple months rest before the new bairn comes.”
“They’re going to surely suck ye dry,” he grinned, earning him a playful slap from Lillith.
Their lives that had once been filled with such mystery and adventure, had turned into a blissful routine that many could relate to. Neither of them would trade it for the world. However, they were about to start a new chapter in their lives that they had always known would happen, but never so soon.
Lainie and Lillith dozed off as the baby nursed, warming his heart. Malcolm, himself, began to slip in and out of consciousness, cuddled into the girls, when a little finger poked his nose. He pried one eye open to see his son standing on the couch, hovering over his face.
“Can we go to the cliffside now?” he asked in a loud, childish whisper.
Malcolm’s gaze panned over to Lillith and Lainie, who were sleeping soundly, slumped into the corner of the couch. Perhaps it would be nice to have some father-and-son time, they hadn’t had that in months. He nodded and very carefully peeled away from Lillith, so not to wake either of them. As he guided Brody out the door, Malcolm peered back one more time and tried to memorize the sight of a pregnant Lillith, napping with their beautiful daughter as she still suckled in her sleep.
He had once thought of Lillith as the Beauty of Scotland, but he knew then that the more fitting title was the Maither of Scotland. She absolutely glowed every day when carrying, and caring for, their children.
Brody tugged him along. The two boys found their way outside just before the sun began to set. Finding his way to Bonney, Malcolm hoisted Brody up onto her back before hopping on himself. Bonney was still going strong, though he knew in the next few years, he would need to retire the horse and let her live out her old age in peace.
“Are ye goin’ to hang on tight?” Malcolm asked Brody.
The tiny arms squeezed him just as hard as he possibly could, and he smirked. Malcolm gave Bonney a gentle kick and let her gallop much faster than he ever would have if Lillith were around. She meant well and held their little family together, but she did worry a tad too much. Brody squealed in excitement as they raced over the green countryside. Malcolm was transported back to a time that felt like generations ago. When he had first showed Lillith the cliffside. He couldn’t believe how different things were since then. Almost all for better—almost.
He stopped short of the cliff and hopped down before extending his arms up for Brody. “Do ye remember the rule?”
“Daenae let go of yer hand.”
“That’s me boy,” he smiled.
They walked hand-in-hand along the cliff before picking a spot to sit down. Even when sitting, Brody held his father’s hand. They watched the sunset together and Malcolm’s heart sang. He didn’t think they had ever watched a sunset, just the two of them.
What a perfect way to end a miserable day.
“Da?” Brody asked, picking at the grass with his free hand.
“Will I be Laird one day?” he asked, his nose crinkling.
Malcolm swallowed and nodded, “Aye, ye will.”
“So does that mean I’ll get to order everyone around and all that?”
Malcolm thought about the right thing to say in that moment. He never wanted to depict the Lairdship in a humorous, silly, or glamorous way to Brody—but he didn’t want him to dread it either. “It means that ye will be responsible for everyone,” he corrected. “Ye may get to tell them what to do, but ye want to make sure it is for a purpose. Nae only because ye feel like it.”
“I see,” Brody nodded, though Malcolm didn’t think he fully did. He then crawled into Malcolm’s lap and rested his head on his chest, Malcolm wrapped his arms around him as they watched the sun slowly sink over the ocean.
“Ye will make a great Laird,” Malcolm whispered into his son’s hair, growing a bit emotional as he thought about it. “Ye have yer Maither’s sensitivity and curious mind. Ye have me strength and loyalty. There will have never been a day Aeredale has been more blessed than the day ye step up as Laird.”
“Ye think so?”
His voice was so sweet and innocent and Malcolm closed his eyes. He knew the words he just said to him wouldn’t mean much to him then, but come time for his son to step up, he would think back on that very moment and guide him to the correct decisions for a Laird to make.
“I do,” he nodded, his voice husky as he held back tears. “Ye and yer Grandfaither will go down in history as the best Laird’s in Aeredale.”
“Me Laird,” a voice called nearby.
It took Malcolm a full moment to realize they were talking to him. It was the first time anyone had called him that. He peered back to see a servant lingering near Bonney.
“Ye are bein’ requested in the Great Hall.”
He sighed and nodded, “We need to head back, Son.”
Brody looked up at him with curiosity burning in his eyes, “Ye’re the Laird now?”
“That I am.”
Brody grinned, “Splendid.”
Malcolm could have wept in that moment, Brody sounding just like the man he had learned that word from: Connan. Instead, he smiled and picked his son up and put him back on the horse. Malcolm did have an important job to do as Laird, but what he found to be more important was to continue to be a kind and loving husband to Lillith, and to teach Brody the proper behavior of a Laird.
Connan had died of a heart condition which had stolen away the last couple of months of his life, and Aindreann had passed away from a chill three winters into his sentencing. Malcolm and his dear son were the future of Aeredale. He only hoped they led with the kindness and passion that he longed to.
When the father and son walked into the Great Hall, they were met with a small crowd. Leo and his business partner, Bhaltair, Charles, Violet, their twins, a handful of loyal servants, all of the warriors, and last but not least, Lillith with their daughter on her hip. They stood in two lines, with Lillith and a warrior at the end of it.
He squeezed his son’s hand. “Pay attention, me lad.”
They walked down the aisle, a fiddle sounding somewhere in the background. When he stood in front of the warrior with Lillith by his side, she made quick work of moving to him, kissing Malcolm’s cheek affectionately and whispering in his ear, “I love ye.” She then gestured Brody to let go of Malcolm and to stand by her. He watched his son grab her skirt, looking on with curious and nervous eyes.
“Malcolm McCormack, son of Laird Connan McCormack of Aeredale. As the sole living heir of the title, it is yer divine right by blood, to possess the Lairdship of Aeredale,” the warrior boomed. “Do ye accept the responsibility and honor of Laird of Aeredale?”
“I do,” Malcolm stated confidently, though his insides quivered.
He turned to Lillith who, with her one free hand, unpinned his clan badge and removed his sash. She then, with misty eyes, draped his father’s sash over his shoulder. Since Brody came into the world, they had become ever closer with Connan. Losing him had been like losing a second father to Lillith, even if she would not show it so readily. It was with her strength by his side that Malcolm would take over the Lairdship.
With the sash around him, Malcolm turned back to the warrior. He pinned the Laird’s badge onto the sash to hold it up. Everyone in the room then kneeled and bowed their heads, even his pregnant wife. “Ye are hereby Laird of Aeredale.”
“Long live Laird McCormack!” the room shouted.
Everyone stood and clapped. Malcolm scooped up his son and wrapped his other arm about Lillith. His eyes were misty as he looked about the room. He knew that a Laird was traditionally meant to be feared, and he didn’t know what the future would hold for them, but he was incredibly honored to hold the title as his father had before him. It was his divine privilege that his beautiful family would embark on the journey with him.
Many of the people began to filter out of the room, carrying on with the new Laird then sworn into the title. Lillith peered up at him with loving eyes and a sly smile, “What now, me Laird?”
“I think the Laird wants to retire for the night,” he chuckled, kissing her softly. The family walked to their chamber and all piled into Lillith and Malcolm’s bed. The children soon found sleep but the parents laid awake, holding hands, and anxiously anticipating what would come next.
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