Border Moonlight

By: Amanda Scott

Prologue


St. Giles Kirk, Edinburgh, 1386



"No."

The young bride's single decisive word silenced the rustling of the noble wedding guests'

movements and whispers.

The priest, having just asked the stout, elegantly dressed groom if he would take fourteen-year-old Lady Sibylla Cavers as his wife, now shifted his gaze to her.

"My daughter," he said sternly, "I was asking his lordship if he would take you as his wife.

Prithee, keep silent until I address you."

The wedding guests saw only her slender back and thus could not read her expression. But her very posture expressed her indignation.

Her hip-long, wavy auburn hair glinted golden in the glow of the cressets on the arcade separating the new south aisle from the nave. That aisle, as most of Edinburgh knew, owed its existence to the generosity of the bride's father, Sir Malcolm Cavers, Lord of Akermoor.



The groom—nearer Sir Malcolm's age than Sibylla's—turned to gape at her. His jowls were aquiver. His thick lower lip protruded.

Ignoring him, she faced the priest. "It cannot matter how Lord Galston answers you, Father,"

she said as firmly and clearly as before. "I do have the right to refuse him, do I not? My godfather said I do."

"A good daughter obeys the commands of her father" the priest declared.

"I am a good daughter, but I don't want Lord Galston for my husband. The Douglas, my godfather, said I need not have him. Was he wrong?"

The priest stared at her, his heavy frown making most of the spectators glad he had not directed it at them.

They held their communal breath, fearful of missing a word.

Heads turned toward Sir Malcolm. He stood at the foot of the chancel steps, his grim profile visible to nearly everyone save the bridal couple.

His face flamed red and his jaw jutted forward.

The priest looked at him. The bride did not.

"My lord," the priest said. "You know the answer to her ladyship's question. What would you have me do?"

Grimacing, Sir Malcolm shook his head. "Ye can do nowt," he muttered.

The lady Sibylla turned, gathered her skirts in a graceful, swooping gesture, and descended the chancel steps. Head high, acknowledging no one, she turned toward the south aisle.

As the congregation watched in stunned silence, she walked with dignity far beyond her tender years outside into Edinburgh's High Street.



Selkirk, Allhallows' Day, 1387



As fifteen-year-old Sibylla Cavers walked beside her father toward the altar of the wee kirk, she saw that he had invited few guests. But she could scarcely blame him after what had happened the first time he'd arranged for her to marry.

With the banns mysteriously omitted this time, just two lay brothers and a few curious citizens were in the kirk that drizzly November day to view the sacred rite and help alleviate the damp chill. Shivering, Sibylla studied the handsome young man who awaited her with the priest at the altar.



She had never met the bridegroom before. But, as her father had promised, this one did seem a better choice for her than the aged Lord Galston. For one thing, this man was only six years older than she was, surely a better match for her than any rotund graybeard.

The dark-tawny hair beneath his plumed blue velvet cap was neatly trimmed. His expensively clad figure boasted broad shoulders, slim hips, and legs both powerful-looking and shapely in their dark hose. His eyes seemed a bit fierce under jutting eyebrows darker than his hair, but fierce eyes did not scare Sibylla. At first glance, she thought him intriguing.

She had enjoyed a few mild flirtations, and was growing used to men of every age—

including her brother Hugh's friends—making clear their approval of her beauty. So she waited for that familiar look to appear on the face of her intended.

He continued to regard her without any change of expression other than what seemed to be a touch of chilly impatience.

Aware that she had inherited her mother's generous wedding portion on that lady's unfortunate demise ten years before, Sibylla eyed the young man more intently as she offered him a warm smile.

He remained coldly somber.

At the chancel steps, her father moved away after declaring himself willing to give her in marriage. With easy grace, she went up the steps, stopped nearer her bridegroom than the priest had indicated, and said confidingly, "You might at least smile, sir. You look as if you are attending a funeral."

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