Legacy - By Jeanette Baker Page 0,1
It was not the words themselves that drove a wedge of ice into Mairi’s heart, but the handwritten message that followed, sealed with the royal crest and written in the bold, flowing script she remembered so well. “Lest you believe I have forgotten, know that I have not. We will meet again, Mairi Maxwell of Shiels.”
She did not really believe he would kill her. He was not a man to vent his wrath on women and children. No, Edward would not harm her by taking her life. He would take his vengeance in another way, a way so purposeful, so calculating, so impossible to withstand, that her immortal soul would be forever jeopardized. And then, to assure that David would not avenge his wife’s honor, he would take her child.
David Murray’s son would be a powerful hostage in Edward’s fight against Robert the Bruce. Mairi prepared herself for the greatest deception of her life, knowing that the man she would face was a master of the art.
For days she waited, her nerves frayed and stretched to the breaking point. At meals she forced food past her unwilling lips, knowing that without sustenance the weakness she carried with her from childhood would prevent her from feeding her son. At night she lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling until her exhausted body, crying out for rest, wiped all conscious thought from her mind. She was up before dawn, listening for the sound of armored horsemen at the Bear Gates.
They came at nightfall. Mairi was in the nursery, watching the rise and fall of her son’s small chest as he settled into sleep. His eyes were closed, and she smiled in appreciation at the long black lashes and wispy new hair growing in above his forehead. He was David’s son, but no one with eyes could deny his Maxwell strain. Mairi smoothed the soft down on his head. The heir she had borne David Murray was extraordinary. That, at least, she had given him. If only for this child and nothing else, her blood would be well spent.
The boy was beautiful in the flame-lit wild way of his mother’s people. Black lashes rested like half-moons against his cheeks, and beneath his shuttered lids were eyes the same startling gray as Mairi’s own. They were Maxwell eyes inherited from his Celtic ancestors. Dark skinned and fine boned, that mysterious, warlike race had long ago marched into the mists of time, leaving their legacy in every man, woman, and child in Britain. Some, like Mairi, had the high cheekbones, square jaws, and sharply chiseled features. Others had small frames and pale olive skin. But they all shared the eyes, those eyes that smiled back at her from the face of her babe.
Mairi smoothed his blanket with a trembling hand. Dear God, how could she do it? How could she not? For the babe and for Scotland, she must go through with it. She must battle a legend using only words. God help her if she failed.
I had never heard of Traquair House until the spring of my thirty-eighth year. Looking back with the clarity hindsight so often brings, I now realize my oversight had more to do with fate than timing. For an ordinary tourist, the lapse wouldn’t have been unusual. But I was Christina Murray. By no stretch of the imagination could I be considered an ordinary tourist.
For nearly eight hundred years the hills surrounding the Innerleithen Valley have shielded Traquair House from the world. Fifty minutes from Edinburgh, off Highway 709, between Selkirk and Peebles, the turn is easy to miss. Most travelers, intent on reaching the sites of the capital, pass by the poorly marked detour with barely a second glance. For me, there is no such excuse. For me, to have missed Traquair House borders on the absurd.
For fifteen years Gaelic antiquity has consumed my life. Even now, in moments of depression, when I seriously entertain the notion of giving it all up and opening a gourmet coffeehouse or a used bookstore, I have only to close my eyes and relive that first semester at the University of Edinburgh.
I was nineteen years old, a student in the foreign exchange program on my way to visit Holyrood House, when I stopped in at the museum on the Royal Mile. It was such a small out-of-the-way place, I didn’t expect to find anything important. But Scotland, I was to learn, is filled with surprises.
Reverently I ran my hands over