This is an installment from Pan Historia, and the novel, A Spider’s Web, placed in 13th Century Scotland. This istallment is told from the point of view of Sir Bothain MacKay, who is Fanny’s father in the story. Anything I write around Fanny is usually in first person, but this particular piece is not. If the reader would forgive me, I am a bit rusty on third person writing.
(Scotland) Somewhere Between the Highlands and the Sea
ir Bothain MacKay turned in his saddle to look at the heavily veiled and cloaked figure that rode behind him. They would only have to endure the relentless Scottish downpour a few more miles and then they would be home.
It had been years since he had lain eyes upon his daughter, and now it was as if he didn’t know her. She had married a Copt, she did, an Egyptian. As far as Bothain MacKay was concerned, they were barely Christian, barely saved from the heathen Moors that was quickly threatening to overrun the remaining followers of Christ in Egypt. The latest Crusade had been bloody and brutal and the forces of Christendom were taking a beating.
It was in one of the latest battle that his daughter, Frances, had become a widow. Bothain had been quick to go to his daughter’s in-laws and plead his case. It took effort but he was able to convince them that the best thing was for her to go back to the homeland of her father. Her presence would only betray them and at this point, every Christian, including the Copts, were wise to be cautious. They relented only after many hours of terse negotiations, and tearfully the old Egyptian patriarch nodded in agreement. Frances had become as daughter to him.
Bothain looked back again. The gray Arabian mare that she rode snorted in the rain so that her breath was visible. Frances let the animal have her head as they rode up the steep incline toward the family castle. The horse, sensing her new freedom picked up her pace, and quickly overtook Bothain and his own mount, carrying Frances streaking past her father and up the withered cart trail.
Bothain hated the fact that she had barely uttered a dozen words to him all the way from Egypt. When she did speak, she no longer sounded like a Scot, but rather like something foreign and distant. What was worse is that when she spoke she looked at him with her mother’s eyes. Aisha had been a good and true wife to him. When Frances was born he had dared to let himself imagine that he could at long last have a family of his own, even at his age. Someday, he had promised himself, he would take his wife and daughter back home to Scotland. Once Jerusalem was free and under Christian control once more it was what he had vowed to do. But this was not to be. Aisha had died giving birth to a second child, a son. In his grief, Bothain had barely noticed that his daughter grown into a beautiful woman and had married. When he finally did notice, he found that she had flourished, soaking up knowledge like a sponge, speaking both the languages of her father and mother and most of those within Christendom. What also had flourished, he noted, was that she was not a loving daughter. She resented him now, and especially as he took her away from Egypt, which was the only home that she had ever known. Frances had never said aloud that she hated him, but the smoldering expression in her eyes did not conceal it.
The watchers on the castle wall called out loudly to the gate keeper below, “His Lordship approaches!” The thick iron reinforced doors swung slowly open. And it was Frances whose mount came through first. Swrarthed in black, she caught the soldiers inside unawares. One drew his sword to fight off the strangely dressed figure atop the Arabian mare that reared wild eyed at the sudden hostile movement.
“Hold there, you!” Bothain cried out, “put away your weapons! She is my daughter.” He slid from his saddle and reached out to grab the reins of Frances’ mount. The officer on duty roughly nudged the offending soldier with his shoulder sending the smaller man sprawling face first in the mud.
Frances’ face, still mostly veiled, leaving only her eyes showing glared at her father, “Is this Scots hospitality?” she hissed. “I’d have gotten more deference among the heathen Moors!”
Bothain cringed inwardly. It was not good that she openly spoke to her own father in such a manner. Word would spread quickly that his daughter, a widow, did not show a widow’s necessary humility. He came to stand beside her and offered her his hand. With reluctance she took it and dismounted from her mare, leaving an almost too young stableboy to take it’s reins.
“Welcome to Scotland, Lass,”Bothain said looking down at the slight figure. He held her closer to him than he had since she was a very small girl, “I suppose it’s time to be showing you your new home.”
Frances did not reply but pulled away from him, the hate still smoldering in her eyes.