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Chapter 1 : It Was An English Lady Bright
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It Was An English Lady Bright
It was an English lady bright
(The sun shines fair on Carlisle wall)
And she would marry a Scottish knight
For love will still be Lord of all.
- Sir Walter Scott
Dawn had just begun to kiss the mountains with rosy light when Lady Thora, daughter of the lord of Carlisle, greeted the morning from the highest tower of her father's castle. Despite the early hour, for none in her household yet stirred, the young woman was fully dressed.
She had taken especial pains with her attire today, choosing a linen gown the color of a soft cream rose with an underskirt of pale gold. The gentle hues suited her skin and the river of sunlit hair that cascaded down her back, strands dancing around a face that had inspired many a minstrel's song. The emerald of Carlisle, she was called, for the long-lashed eyes she shared with her Irish mother.
Today, those eyes were fixed on the glistening sea that beckoned to her from beyond the cliffs. She had splashed around in those foam-tipped waves as a child under the watchful eye of her nursemaid, dipped her feet in their icy depths as a girl. And as a woman... why, as a woman, the sea had surely brought her the greatest gift of all...
And then she saw him at last, emerging from one of the thatched roof cottages that lined the cliffs below Carlisle Castle. Even from this distance, she could see him stretching his arms, perhaps yawning. He stood gazing at the water for no more than a heartbeat before rushing in, his powerful shoulders disappearing beneath the waves only to resurface again as he swam joyfully, his tawny blond head lifting for air every now and then.
She laughed at the bliss of it all, of how he opened his arms for the ocean's salty embrace. How many times had he told her of his passion for the sea? He had even refused her father's generous offer, turning down richly furnished apartments in the north wing of the castle in favor of one of the tiny huts that the villagers inhabited. Just to be close to the water, the sea for which he harbored an endless passion, a love that he told her had only grown because the waves had brought him to her...
And then Lady Thora - a descendant of one of the most ancient families in the land, youngest child of a lord whose property spanned the length of the Irish Sea, a full-grown woman of eighteen - ran from her room, white silk ribbons fluttering in her hair. Her breath came in gasps as she flew down flight after flight of stairs, rushing through empty halls still heavy with sleep, not stopping until she had burst out into the courtyard.
Her linen skirts clutched in each hand, she followed the path that her feet had trod since childhood, the one that led her from the walls of Carlisle to the sea. Down below, the village had just begun to stir, heavy-lidded men yawning as they went out to feed the animals and women pumping water into wooden buckets for the day's washing.
Thora was oblivious to them all, to the indulgent smiles and the heads that shook at the urgency of young love.
She half-ran, half-slid down the rocky slopes, her bare feet meeting rough sand, her eyes never leaving the shape in the waves.
She waited until his head rose above the water before calling, "Lochlann! Lochlann!"
The man's head turned immediately, his shoulders following suit, and began swimming toward her. The moment he rushed out of the water, arms wide open, she began running to meet him.
Powerful arms wrapped around her, pressed her in an ironically gentle embrace against a hardened warrior's body. She smelled the salty breeze, the summer-sea scent of him, before his lips met hers in exhilaration.
He pulled his lips away long enough to whisper "Good morning, my love," his arms still taut around her body, the water seeping through the linen she had taken such care with that morning. She hardly cared - she wanted to melt into him, to be lost in the waves.
"Good morning," she whispered back, smiling up into the warm kind eyes that she had loved since she saw them first.
"Good morning," he said again, and in a lower voice, he added, "Wife."
The word sent delightful shivers down Thora's spine. She felt the gentle pressure of the makeshift ring he had placed on her finger, nothing but a strand of braided seaweed he had made for her and asked her to wear until her father gave him permission to change it for a band of gold.
"Husband," she answered shyly, laughing at their audacity. "My husband, Sir Lochlann."
She felt him smile against her hair. "That's right," he said, and searched for her lips again.
With that searing kiss, they pledged themselves to one another all over again, not caring that they were being watched by countless pairs of amused eyes. Nor did they know that one of these pairs was looking on not with amusement, but with emotions they had nearly forgotten existed: anger, grief, and malice.
For high along the wall of Carlisle Castle, in a tower just below the one from which his sister had greeted the morning, Salazar Slytherin was watching the lovers with fury boiling in his heart.
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