01 - Chapter 1 - The Mearan Bride
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The Mearan Bride 



Chapter  1





(Summer 1128)

Lady Noelie Ramsay pushed an errant strand of hair away from her face and looked around her. The nearby river was offering a cooling breeze that the Mearan party was taking full advantage of.

"Rhemuth is perhaps another hour away," said Sir Jolyon Ramsay, Noelie's father. The family--Jolyon, his wife Lady Oksana, their daughter Noelie and their elder son Brecon--were riding to Rhemuth for the wedding of Brecon to the Princess Richelle Haldane. The match was quite an advantageous one as Richelle was the granddaughter of the late King Malcolm Haldane and a first cousin once removed of the current king, Kelson.

Noelie gave a mental frown at the thought of Kelson. Noelie knew exactly what would happen as soon as they arrived at Gwynedd's capital. Lady Oksana had let it be known that she very much wanted a marriage between Noelie and Kelson. He was nice, kind, good-looking...and not the Haldane that Noelie wanted. She almost flushed visibly with the memory of the Haldane that she did fancy.

It had happened the previous summer when the Mearans had been in Rhemuth to arrange Brecon's marriage. Richelle, her sister Araxie, their mother and stepfather had been there. So had Kelson and two of his other cousins, Rory and Payne. Rory had been 17, and less than a year away from his knighting. Like his cousin the king, Rory had the black hair and gray eyes that were typical of the family, and, also like Kelson, wore his hair long in a border braid.

Nothing had happened-just a few times of holding hands and a lot of longing looks. But both Rory and Noelie had been bred to duty and family honor. Both were well aware that many, from Noelie's mother to Kelson's advisors, wanted the king to marry her. Should that happen, she would be Queen of Gwynedd, wife of Rory's cousin and liege-lord.

But Noelie did not want to be a queen. That was her mother's dream, not her own. What she wanted was a man who was a prince and future Duke.

Noelie was distracted from her musings by the appearance of a party of riders coming from the direction of Rhemuth. Guards were escorting a young man and two young women. Brecon's eyes lit and a broad smile appeared as he recognized his betrothed, Richelle riding beside her sister Araxie. Noelie was just as interested in Rory's presence.

The Haldane party drew rein as they neared the Mearans. "Welcome," Rory said, giving a half-bow to all from his saddle. Richelle's eyes were gleeful as she observed her betrothed's surprise. "I hope you don't mind that we rode out to greet you," she said.

"Not at all," Brecon assured her, moving up beside her and placing a kiss to her palm, "Especially since I wasn't expecting to lay eyes on you for another week."

"The weather was nice so we decided to leave Horthanthy early," Araxie offered.

"I certainly won't complain," Brecon responded.

The two princesses soon rearranged both parties to their satisfaction, and a much larger group continued on to Rhemuth. Noelie's parents led along with Richelle's stepfather, with Brecon and Richelle behind them. Rory rode between Noelie and Princess Araxie, and spent most of the trip back paying compliments to both of the ladies that he was escorting. Noelie spent the trip trying not to blush and wondering what in the world had come over him.

On entering the castle courtyard, the Mearans could see that the King of Gwynedd and others of his family were waiting on the steps to greet them. Noelie could only hope that her mother would wait a while and be a little more subtle than usual in her quest for a king as a son-in-law.



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