Chapter 54

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AN - Chapter written on my travels. enjoy! Az x

Chapter 54

"Father?" The shock was still settling like a mantle upon Artair's shoulders. "Rohesia's father died...it's why she was in the predicament with the English to begin with. What with her mother wanting to marry her off to the highest bidder who did not mind a defective wife." The anger started to seep through the shock. If this was actually Rohesia's father then he had failed her in the extreme. The pain and suffering he had heard she had gone through since her father's death was more than any should go through in a lifetime, and especially one as beautiful in body and soul as Rohesia.

His arms still wrapped tightly around his daughter, Percival took a moment to give his daughter's husband a through once over. He was a strong, sturdy lad, who obviously had a good head on his shoulders from the way he tried to handle the situations he had been thrown into. Also Rohesia had had no fear of him, no hesitation from what he had managed to see of them together both in the village and before.

"I have been following you for a long time. Trying to keep my distance. But when your wife tries to poison you to death, it makes you realise a few things about your life." Percival looked down as his sobbing daughter pulled back from clinging to his neck. Her pale face a little splotchy, the very end of her nose shone red as she wiped the back of her hand underneath it. Her vibrant hair pulled back in a messy braid with escaping tendrils creating an electric halo around her. His eyes sought the exact replica in her, looking upon the shine created by the diminishing tears. Yet his daughter had never looked so beautiful to him. She was perfect in his eyes and always had been. He should have done more to stop the torture his wife had put her through, but he had not known the full extent of it until he faked his death.

By then it had been too late, but involving himself so obviously was to put the two of them in danger. While her mother thought her useful she would at least be alive. For her mother had always hated Rohesia, never having wanted a child in the first place, she saw in her daughter what she never wanted and a failure in not being a son, which then became even more defective after a fever that was no fault of her own. Percival on the other hand had seen nothing but perfection from the moment he had held her. Never having cared whether he had a male heir other than to ensure that any daughter of his was well cared for after his death.

When it became obvious that a male heir was never to present from his wife, he had started making arrangements for Rohesia. Upon his wife beginning to poison him, he had put his plan into place, only needing the time to set himself up amongst his mother people before he could return for his daughter. Though upon his return, he had found the place in turmoil and mercenaries being sent after her. Finding a place within that group had not been hard, neither had been putting them off of her tracks. And so he had watched from afar as his daughters love had been bestowed on a bloody highlander. His mother may have been Scottish, but she was a lowlander, nothing like the barbarians of the north. Or so he had thought until he had seen the gentleness and knightly manner Artair had treated his daughter with. Whilst not being his first choice, he was definitely a good choice for Rohesia.

Whilst he had been reminiscing, Rohesia had reached out a tentative hand, hesitantly brushing her fingertips against the scruff on his chin, her eyes taking in everything about him, roaming his face as if to memorise the contours once more. As if seeing something that was so familiar for the first time through new eyes. A trembling smile coming upon her lips. "How?" There was hardly any sound to the word. But he knew his daughter's voice well enough by now as to recognise what was being said. Taking her beloved face between both his rough palms, he made sure she was 'listening'. "That is a long story, but a tale I will gladly tell when I have you somewhere warmer." Looking up he caught Artair's guarded and watchful expression.

"I promise I will tell all, but suffice to say that I am on your side right now. He should be proof enough of that." With a nod to the lumbering form of Alfred as he packed some of the snow against his wound, the white turning red almost instantly, the glares he gave those surrounding him were hot enough to melt the whole of the barren landscape around them. Father Thomas came up at Artair's elbow. "What do you want to do with him?"

Percival raised an eyebrow in Artair's direction, waiting for him to make the decision, he would stick the male where he was, but he had no idea what Artair may need him for in his plan to get Rohesia to safety. "I will defer to you in this. You obviously have an idea of what you wish to do and this is your terrain. If you think him useful then so be it. But the moment he is not then he is mine. Understood?" Artair grinned at the old man, unable to keep in his amusement at this. His bloodthirsty nature may not be the norm for him, but if anyone dare harm his daughter, then woe betide any who get in his way.

"Aye, I think we will have to take him with us, on the off chance that he actually decides to tell us why he tried to help her for so long, before selling Rohesia out because he did not get his way." The glare Alfred sent in his direction told Artair all he needed to know on the males reasons, but it did not tell him the motivation for why he would subject Rohesia to the treatment he knew she would receive at the hands of her mother and future husband. There was no forgiving that.

Taking a deep breath Artair stepped forward. He did not want a fight here, but he was Rohesia's husband now, and father returned from the dead or not, he was not letting her go. He needed to make this clear to the old man, while at the same time showing Rohesia the compassion she would need at this time, without looking as if he was ripping her away from the only person who had been kind to her for the majority of her life.

Making the first move, he stepped slowly closer and held out his arm, palm up. "Artair MacKay, you would be Baron...?"

The old man gave a thin, but meaningful smile. Extending his own right arm to clasp his wrist in a deceptively strong grip. "Just Percival now, the Baron title was lost when I officially died, not that anyone really checked that I was dead, or noticed when the bodies were switched." With a bone crushing squeeze, Percival let go while Artair now knew the type of opponent he was up against. With a final glance in Percival's direction, Artair held his hand out again, this time for the man's daughter. Trying not to show his fear of her turning it down now that her father had returned. It seemed an eternity, yet it was less than a second later that his heart gave a painful pump as with a watery smile Rohesia reached out to claim his hand within her own small grip.

With a gentle tug, she willingly came to his side, where he pulled her into his embrace, but allowed her the freedom to choose which direction she faced as he knew her need to be involved in a conversation as much as the next man. With a small hand placed upon his chest, he choked back the cry of triumph he wanted to let loose and smiled gently upon his now radiant wife. "Artair, may I introduce officially my father to you."

"Aye, Rohesia, I am glad to see his return is so joyous for you. But right now, I agree with his assessment from earlier, we need to get you somewhere warmer." Father Thomas was at his elbow in a moment. "How are we going to work this with only three horses?" The little man was still somehow smiling, grinning at Percival.

"My Lord, can I offer you my horse?" Father Thomas made a rather elaborate bow in his direction. Which Percival waved away. "Nonsense, I am no lord now." With a grin at the equally grinning priest, he went on, "I have my own horse." With a shrill whistle, the faint sound of hooves sounded from the trees that were too far to travel by foot in this weather, but on horseback it was a matter of moments before a beautiful chestnut mount was pulling to a stop beside Percival. With a solid pat to his neck, Percival grinned. "Though having being a Baron does coming in handy for some things." He nodded once more in Alfred's direction. "Who is he to ride with? I do not entirely trust myself."

Artair was thoughtful a moment. "Father Thomas, how do you feel on holding the reins of Alfred's mount in order for us to continue? If he wishes to stay and die in this frozen wasteland so be it, I will not tie him to the saddle, but I am not risking him leaving with a mount of his own."

With a flourish the priest gave a nod and spritely jumped upon the back of his horse once more, which seemed an impossible feat for someone of his stature. Though reluctant Alfred was still willing to move with them, even if he was not willing to talk at this moment. Well, Artair knew a few techniques to make him talk in the future if he still did not find it within himself to do so. With Rohesia before him on the horse once more, he gave a solid kick to its sides, it was time to be home, and they still had a long way to go.

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