Taran and Rowena lived long and happy lives at Frenich. One short year after their wedding day, Rowena had the first of three children. A little girl, whom they named Elsabeth in honor of Taran’s oldest sister, Elsbeth. Elsabeth was the mirror image of Taran. She had his dark red hair and blue – green eyes with tiny speckles of gold, reminding Taran of the color of the Loch at sunset. A year later, they had their second daughter, named Filena. Filena had Rowena’s blond hair and blue eyes. She was the spitting image of her mother.
For the first three years, the girls were always with their parents. Elsabeth loved spending time in the garden with Rowena, crawling between the rows and playing peek-a-boo behind heads of cabbage. She went from plant to plant sniffing the flowers, sneezing whenever she put her nose too deep into one. She especially loved pretending to dig in the dirt and putting mint leaves in her mouth to ease her teething.
Rowena would laugh when the mint taste made little Elsabeth purse her mouth and suck in her cheeks, as though she ate something bitter. It was exactly the same expression Taran made when he had to change the babies’ messy buttock clothes. When Taran carried her around high on his shoulders, she would howl with laughter.
As adventurous as Elsabeth was showing herself to be, Filena was the cautious one. Dainty and graceful were her movements. She looked so much like her mother and even had the same expressive smile. When Lord Kensley visited the first Christmas, he could not get over the resemblance not only to Rowena but to Rowena’s mother, the wife he would always love. He loved coddling Filena, spoiled her with dolls, and helped her name them.
The year Elsabeth turned four, their son was born. Taran Alfred. He had flaxen colored hair and was built as strong as his father. As soon as little “Tar” started trying to walk, Taran took him everywhere. Taran wanted to be the kind of father his own father had been to him—kind, loving, and firm-handed when needed but not heavy-handed. Tar needed to learn the fighting skills of Highland warriors that had been handed down through many generations. To hunt with falcons. To ride a horse across any terrain and in battle. To know the chivalry of a Scottish nobleman. And some day, he would need to be able to manage the clan Robertson’s vast estate.
When Tar turned three, Lord Kensley came riding down the castle lane with a few of his men and a special surprise for him, the girls, and for Rowena. For Rowena, Lord Kensley brought her beloved pony, “Holiday”, who was now in his twenties. “Holiday!” She squealed with delight upon seeing her old friend. She stroked his mane the same way she did when they were all much younger. Holiday nickered at her. “He remembers me!” She said with such joy in her voice. Her father said, “Holiday will be very happy here with you.”
For his three grandchildren, he brought beautiful Welsh ponies, one for each of them. Tar named his pony “Cricket”. One day, little Tar made the whole family come outside and watch him jump Cricket over a succession of low fence jumps without a hitch. Rowena held her breath each time he approached a jump, praying he would not fall.
His now shoulder length strawberry blond hair was a mess of tangled locks. She marveled at his natural athleticism obvious to everyone even at this young age. The whole family applauded him each time he and Cricket cleared a jump. Tar made it look easy. Even Malcolm was impressed. Mother Philomena and Sister Prudence returned to Frenich to be with Taran and Rowen at Christmas time, just as they promised.
They decided to make it a tradition, and they visited every Christmas after that. They so looked forward to reuniting with their younger brother and Auntie Lili. Most of all, they loved being aunts to the three children.
They seemed to have an endless supply of patience, always ready to tell them stories about Jesus and how important it was to be kind to others. Elsabeth in particular was interested in what being a nun was all about. Once when Fiona asked Elsabeth if she would like to become a nun and come stay with her at St. Columba’s, Elsabeth said in her little girl’s voice, “Aye, Aunt Fiona, but only if me mother and me faither and me pony can come, too.”
Sister Prudence became the cook at St. Columba’s. She held that position until one morning thirty-seven years later she did not appear in chapel for the first morning service. It was unlike her, as she never missed a service, even if it meant she showed up with her hands covered with flour dust or her hair smelling of a woodsmoke from the cooking fire. Immediately, the sisters went looking for her.
They found her on her knees at the altar in her cell, collapsed over the altar rail. She had been praying and had been called home by the Lord. Clutched in her hands was the crucifix that had been her mother’s. Taran brought her body back to Frenich. She was buried next to their parents in the family cemetery.
Just two years after the death of her younger sister, Mother Philomena died in her sleep at St. Columba’s. The sisters at St. Columba’s planted a beautiful rose garden to commemorate her many years of faithful service to God. Taran brought her back to Frenich, too, where she was interred next to Fiona and their parents.
To mark each of his sisters’ graves, Taran commissioned special tombstones. Fiona’s was topped with a statue of a beautiful angel, on her knees in prayer, eyes raised up to Heaven. The inscription is line from an ancient prayer, “Without thy presence, nought, O Lord, is sweet.” Elsbeth’s has an angel standing, with wings spread wide, palms together in prayer. The inscription on hers reads, “Send thy holy angel to be our guide and protector.”
After Lord Kensley returned to Middle Kirk Manor, he continued to nurse his broken ankle, but it did not heal correctly. He walked with a limp for the rest of his life. The arthritis that developed in it was so painful that he reluctantly had to resort to using a cane. One Christmas, Rowena gave him a cane that she had one of the castle craftsmen make.
The staff was made from a branch from one of the Frenich birch trees. For the grip, she designed a lion’s head. It was cast in pure silver. Green jade stones were embedded for its eyes. “See, it’s not so bad to use a cane. It makes you look even more the gentleman than you already are!” From that point on, he carried that cane with him everywhere he went.
Shortly after the death of Earl Strongbow, Lord Kensley entered into an alliance with John of Gault. It allowed Lord Kensley to supply all of the arrows to King Richard’s longbow men. Lord Kensley in turn would pay John of Gault a percentage of the annual receipts from the king. The alliance allowed Lord Kensley not only to avoid bankruptcy, but his workers developed a superior arrow and his arrows became regarded as the best in the country. He visited Rowena and Taran and his three grandchildren as often as he could. He lived to the ripe old age of eighty.
Mother Lorena remained the abbess of St. Martha’s until her death only five years after Rowena and Taran were married. She collapsed while hoeing the garden one unusually warm afternoon in May. One of the sisters found her. Rowena got word of her death and attended the funeral with Sister Prudence, who was visiting Frenich when word of her death arrived.
Auntie Lili remained living at the castle Frenich until her death at the ripe old age of sixty-seven. She loved being a great aunt to the children and filled the grandmotherly role for them, meaning she spoiled them rotten. Not a day went by that she did not play games with them. She loved teaching the girls to sew, especially Fiona. Fiona loved doing anything that let her be creative, whether embroidering a fancy tapestry to hang on the wall of her chamber, or weaving a winter blanket.
As the years went by, Auntie Lili found getting around the castle becoming more and more difficult. The physician said she had contracted an unknown disease (likely multiple scleroses) that was causing her limbs to stiffen and become uncoordinated. Try as she might, she just could not get around as well as she once did. She stayed as active as her body would let her until her death. Until then, the children would not give her a moment’s rest, and she would not have it any other way.
Malcolm became Taran’s business partner. They remained lifelong friends. Malcolm had a heart attack while out riding and was killed when he fell from his horse in 1417. Taran had him buried in the clan Robertson cemetery. A special gravestone commissioned by Taran depicts two falcons in mid-flight. The inscription reads, “Pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health. Lord, let no friend of mine pass without knowing who you are.”
Readers who read this book also liked