A Few Years Later
Torquil ran out of his room with a maid on his trail. The old maid tried as much as her weary old legs could carry her but she was no match for the speedy toddler. When she saw him headed for the stairs, she knew her part in the chase was done.
“Mariam,” she called to another maid, who she knew was more youthful and could survive the trouble of the little boy.
Mariam came out of Grandmother Isla’s chamber with Isla, who came into the little boy’s path with open arms. Torquil opened his arms in glee as he jumped into his Grandmother’s.
“He is a troublesome one, much like his faither,” Isla remarked, as she kissed the little boy’s head. Isla was quite fond of Torquil, as the boy was of his grandmother. He had his father’s black hair but his mother’s sea blue eyes. She held him as he tried to get down.
“Where are ye off to, ye troublemaker?” she asked him.
“Mama,” he said, with his arms outstretched.
“Where is Theodora?” Isla asked her maid.
“Me lady is with the Laird in the council chamber. They have been there a while now,” Mariam reported. Isla headed for the stairs.
“Best not to trouble them for a while,” she said, as they headed for the room of Torquil’s little baby sister, who was only one and a few months old. Penelope was often a late sleeper. Isla took Torquil back down to play with his little sister.
Naomhan and Theodora listened to the deliberations of the councilmen. Another Laird sought a piece of their land. The councilmen argued that it would only grant the other Laird more land and more power. As much as Naomhan wanted to give the land willingly for planting, he saw that his decision would not rest well with the councilmen.
“Let us hear what the lady has to say then,” Naomhan turned to Theodora. She shot him a look that said she was going to get her revenge eventually for him throwing her at the old wolves. His eyes pleaded with her.
“I agree with the Laird. If our neighbors need our help, we should offer our help. We are Christians and we have vast lands. I also reason with ye all when ye say we just might be lendin’ our neighbors more power and land. Thus, I believe we can reach a middle ground in this dispute. I suggest that we give our neighbors a piece of land for only a period of time—five years, to plant new crops to replace their infested crops. Durin’ this period, they shall give us a certain portion of their harvests,” Theodora suggested.
Naomhan smiled proudly at his wife before turning back to the men. “The lady has spoken. I agree with her idea. What say ye all?” He put the question to them.
They murmured amongst themselves as they always did whenever Theodora gave an idea. Theodora was never bothered by this. Speaking to Isla, she had come to realize that it was the normal thing. They did so for every suggestion that was brought their way so it would seem like they were involved in the idea also.
“Given the lifespan of some of the crops, I suggest that we extend the lease on the land to seven years,” the oldest of the men said. Theodora gave Naomhan a knowing look and he nodded for her to keep a straight face.
“Who else agrees that we lease the land for seven years?” Naomhan asked the other members of the council. With a show of hands, it was decided and the council meeting was brought to a close. The men left, leaving only Theodora and Naomhan in the room.
“Thank ye,” Naomhan remembered to say, before it got him into trouble later in the day.
“I save ye once again. I feel that I should be more valued by those old—” Naomhan kissed Theodora to stop her from insulting the men any further. He knew how it angered her but over time, he knew the men would come to respect her as they had respected his mother before her.
“We should go and check on Torquil and Penelope. I am certain Torquil will have tried to come here,” Theodora told him after he stopped kissing her mouth. He moved his lips to her sensitive neck.
“Naomhan,” she called to him, trying to sound strict, but it was useless. She could feel herself slowly melting into his arms.
“Naomhan,” she called the second time before she pinched him.
“That hurt. What was that for?” he asked her, as he came away from her neck.
“Ye wouldnae listen otherwise. Let us go and check on our children. And I have told ye many times, I am nae ready for another child at the moment. Penelope can barely walk properly yet,” she reminded him and Naomhan nodded sadly. She slapped him across the chest, knowing his foul play all too well. It was same before they had gone on to conceive Penelope.
She walked out of the room quickly before she lost her resolve. Naomhan followed after still pouting, before one of the guards came along the corridor towards them with news. Lily, Theodora’s new-found friend, had just birthed a child, her first child. Lily was about Theodora’s age and the both of them had become fast friends.
“I promised her that I would be there the day she gave birth,” Theodora said to Naomhan, who was still in a soppy mood.
“I will go see her and her family if ye wish. Ye have to check on Torquil and Penelope,” Naomhan offered her. He hurried away with the guard. Theodora watched Naomhan go and even though she knew that he was pretending to be sad, it still got to her and she hated it.
“I will come with,” she shouted after him. Naomhan gave a knowing smile to the guard before sending him ahead of them to ready their horses.
“I ken ye couldn’ae pass up a chance to ride out with me,” Naomhan bragged, as he held out his hand to her. Reluctantly, she put it in his and they headed out, both ducking little Torquil that early in the morning. He almost never slept and was too full of energy that no one could compare to. Naomhan and Theodora had arguments as to who their little son had taken his troublesome traits from. Both his parents were wild and free spirits, so Isla had settled it in a tie. They could only hope that Penelope would be a calmer spirit when she came to be Torquil’s age.
Naomhan and Theodora rode out of the estate for the home of Lily and her husband. Naomhan and Theodora never took out guards when they took their rides along the town. They were loved by everyone and hated by none.
Theodora always enjoyed the times they had to themselves to ride across the country; just the two of them together, just like when they were younger and unwed. Looking at Naomhan whose eyes never left her, she knew he enjoyed it also, even though his ego would never allow him admit it to her.
After about thirty minutes of riding, they came to Lily’s little home. Despite Theodora’s offer to house the couple on the estate, Lily had always politely refused. Her husband was a farmer and they did not want to go far from his land.
Naomhan and Theodora were accepted warmly and they gave their gifts to the new mother. Naomhan stayed outside talking to Lily’s husband about the season and harvests, while they left the women with the newborn.
“He is beautiful,” Theodora remarked, as she carried the newborn in her arms. He reminded her a lot of the time when Torquil had just been born, before he had grown to own the castle and bend everyone to his will.
“He takes after his faither but he has yer nose,” Theodora told Lily, who was still fighting sleep. She did not want to sleep as she marveled at the little human who had just been pulled out of her only a few hours ago. She opened her arms and Theodora put her son back in her arms.
“What will ye name him?” Theodora asked her.
“Robert, after Robert the Bruce,” Lily replied. Theodora thought it was a good name.
“Dae ye ken if it is a boy or a girl?” Lily asked Theodora suddenly. Theodora was caught off guard by the question. She had no protruding belly nor had she seen any of the familiar symptoms.
“A mother ken these things. Ye are with child again, Theodora. Ye swore ye were nae goin’ to have another but I guess ye cannae say nay to Naomhan. I envy the both of ye. Robert might be our only child until things take a turn of fortune for us,” Lily said. Theodora wanted to argue with Lily again as she always did, trying to force her accept help from them, but she knew that Naomhan was doing exactly that outside with Lily’s husband.
She hoped that he would have more luck than she was having with Lily.
They stayed a little longer with the family before they rode back to the castle. She spoke little as they rode back, before Naomhan suddenly pulled his horse in front of her.
“What is the matter?” he asked her.
“It is nothin’,” she lied, and he did not leave her front. He could always read her and she knew this.
“Lily said that I might be pregnant again,” Theodora confessed. Naomhan hummed and started riding away from her. Theodora kicked at her horse and rode after him. It had not been the reaction that she had expected from him.
“What are ye nae tellin’ me?” she asked him. “Ye daenae act surprised by me words.”
“Me mother told me two days ago that ye might be pregnant but I didnae believe her because ye have been naggin’ me every night that ye daenae want another child for now. So, I decided that I would keep mute until ye started seein’ the signs for yerself, and then I shall laugh at ye,” Naomhan said before kicking at his horse, knowing that Theodora would chase after him.
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