The last day of October, the last post for ‘Moon Goddess’ month, which features Chapter Four in its entirety, and introduces Daroth, Lamorna’s betrothed.
Perched on the low stool by the door, Lamorna scooped up a handful of peas from the bowl on her lap and let them trickle through her fingers. She was not making much progress shelling them for her thoughts were elsewhere. With Vanora, to be precise. She wondered when Vanora had decided to become, what was it she called herself? A wise woman? Had her mother been one? And who was the ‘she’ these women served?
The unfamiliar sound of hoof beats in the village intruded. Lamorna looked up to see a pair of riders walking their horses towards her. With a gasp, she jumped to her feet and darted into the house. “Mam! Mam, come quickly. Daroth is here. Daroth and his father.”
Reena hurriedly wiped her hands on her apron before smoothing back her hair. She frowned at her wide-eyed, fidgety daughter. “Lamorna, calm yourself. Put the bowl down, and wipe your hands.” She led the way out of their house.
By now, the riders had dismounted in front of the house.
“Master Elford,” said Reena as she dropped a small curtsy. “What an unexpected surprise. You should have sent word–”
“But we did, Mother Reena,” said the older man. “The lords on the hill know of our visit for that is where we will be staying, Daroth and I.”
Standing behind her mother, Lamorna could not help but frown; she did not like the way this man was addressing Reena as if she were some lowly peasant woman; calling her ‘mother’ even though he was obviously older than her. And the way Reena was reacting to him, as if he were a highborn lord. Lamorna had never paid much attention to her future father-in-law before but, in those few minutes, she decided that she did not care very much for him at all.
The younger man stepped forward and bowed. “Mistress Reena.” His voice was deeper than Lamorna remembered.
Reena’s smile widened, and genuine warmth filled her voice as she greeted him. “Welcome, Daroth.”
Straightening up, he turned to Lamorna. “Lamorna. You are looking … well.”
She graced him with a small smile. “As are you.”
With a snort, Elford said, “Where is Logan?”
“In the fields.”
His mouth twisted in a sneer.
“I will send for him,” said Reena. “Lamorna, run and fetch your father. Tell him Master Elford is here.”
Lamorna opened her mouth to protest that surely this man could wait until Logan had finished, but Reena did not give her the opportunity. Already, she was nudging her daughter forward.
“Hurry now, there’s a good girl.”
“But, Mam, I’m not allowed to go to the fields alone.”
Reena glared. “This one time will not matter, I am sure.”
“I will accompany you,” said Daroth.
An instant smile lit up Reena’s face. “That is very kind of you–”
“There is no need,” said Lamorna.
“It is no bother at all. Besides, after all this time on horseback, I would welcome the chance to stretch my legs.”
Realising she had no choice, Lamorna turned and started to march out of the village. It was no struggle for Daroth to match her pace with his long stride and that, strangely, added to her bad humour. It did not help matters that some of the villagers had stopped their chores to stare at the young couple. By the time they reached the outskirts of the village, Lamorna was almost running.
“There is no need to hurry,” said Daroth.
“Mam said I had to.”
“My father can wait–”
“I do not think he would want to.”
“You seem … angry.”
Without looking at him, she shook her head.
“Clearly, something is vexing you.”
Glancing up at him, for he was so much taller than her, she again shook her head.
“Lamorna, please slow down. I know I said I wished to stretch my legs, but I have no desire to run. A gentle walk will suit me.”
She stopped, arms crossed before her. “Walk then and I will match your pace.” When he did not move, she looked up at him, askance; he was gazing at her curiously, a small smile on his well-formed lips. With an unusual mix of wavy, black hair, and hazel eyes, it was easy to see why he was thought of as handsome. Aware of a fluttery feeling in her stomach, she hurriedly looked down. “What is the matter? Why won’t you walk?”
“Will you not tell me why you are angry? Is it because we have arrived unannounced?”
“I said, I am not angry.” Her frown deepened for he remained where he was, gaze fixed on her.
“You say you are not, but your manner says you are.”
Not knowing how to react, she turned and took a couple of steps away from him. “It doesn’t matter.”
“If it’s upsetting you then it does matter.”
Pressing her lips together, she glanced at him. “Why do you care?”
“Because, well because you and I, we’re to be …”
Lamorna could not deny that he sounded as unsure as she felt; the realisation released some of her annoyance. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to be rude.”
“Why are you not allowed to go to the fields alone?”
She turned sharply and stared at him, causing him to step back. “Why do you ask that?”
“It-it’s what you said when your mother told you to–”
“It’s nothing. I’m not allowed to anymore, that’s all.” She started walking briskly again.
“Did something happen?”
“What? No! Do you always ask so many questions?”
“I don’t know, maybe I do. But I’m, I’m only trying to … I don’t know,” he finished softly, head down, arms hanging at his sides. “I do not mean to annoy you. Let us to go your father and I promise not to say another word.”
Daroth looked so dejected, Lamorna’s indignation melted. She did not even know why she’d felt annoyed. And she had to admit that he was only trying to be friendly, which was more than she was doing.
“Papa believes it is the only way to keep me safe,” she said.
Frowning, he shook his head slightly. “Safe from what?”
“The lords, they don’t take married women.”
“Oh. Does that mean … we are to be married soon?”
“No,” she said before she could stop herself. Slowing her pace, she could feel a tingling across her face and knew her cheeks were reddening; how could she be so thoughtless?
“Is it so distasteful, the thought of marrying me?” His brow furrowed as his shoulders slumped.
Tugging at her braid, she rubbed it against her mouth before replying. “It is not to do with you, Daroth. It is the thought of marrying; it frightens me. It means I must leave my family, my friends. When I leave my home to go with you, you will be the only person I know …” And I do not even know you that well, she thought as she hugged herself, giving silent voice to the fears that chilled her.
“It frightens me also,” he said softly.
She frowned. It always seemed to Lamorna as if he acted like a grown man, more than his sixteen years; what could he possibly be afraid of?
“I know I will not be leaving my home but, being a married man with, in time, my own household … there is so much responsibility, I wonder if I will be up to the task.” Looking into her eyes, the colour of charcoal, he rubbed the back of his neck. “I am afraid of disappointing my father; of disappointing you.”
Seeing this vulnerable side of Daroth, which seemed more convincing than the adult façade he always presented to those around him, made Lamorna feel as if she were truly seeing him for the first time. “If we’re going to be afraid together, I don’t think you will have much chance of disappointing me,” she said with a smile.
Running his long fingers through his hair, he smiled, causing dimples to appear on both cheeks. “Come, let us go find your father.”