The early Highlanders wore a simple garment plaide is Gaelic for blanket that they spread on the ground, then lay upon and pulled the edges to their sides and belted. This formed a skirt at the bottom, and the upper part of the plaid, or blanket, was pinned at one shoulder. There are several stories of how the kilt came into being. One story is about an Englishman who abridged the costume for the convenience of his Highland iron-workers. Of course, the Scots deny that this story is true. Whichever story is true, the modern kilt was not in existence before
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Stephen Montgomery was one of the hated English. He came to Scotland as a conqueror, saw her beauty and was vanquished.
But still she would abhor him. Yet still she would resist him. She became his reason to live, his reason to love. And still she would deny him. But while clan fought clan, while brother took up sword against brother, and the highlands ran with blood -- their destiny was made Chapter One Bronwyn MacArran stood at the window of the English manor house, looking down at the courtyard below.
The mullioned window was open against the warm summer sun. She leaned forward slightly to catch a whiff of fresh air. As she did so, one of the soldiers below grinned up at her suggestively. She stepped back quickly, grabbed the window, and slammed it shut.
She turned away angrily. Her voice was soft, full of the heather and mist of the Highlands. Heavy footsteps sounded outside her door, and she caught her breath, then released it when they went past. She walked to a small table in the center of the oak-paneled room. She clutched the edge of it, letting the wood cut into her palms. The English were her enemies. A month ago the English had taken her prisoner. Bronwyn smiled in memory of the wounds she and her men had inflicted upon the English soldiers.
Later four of them had died. The man said he wanted peace and therefore would name an Englishman as chief of Clan MacArran. He thought he could do this by marrying one of his knights to Bronwyn. She smiled at the ignorance of the English king.
She was chief of Clan MacArran, and no man would take her power away. The stupid king thought her men would follow a foreigner, an Englishman, rather than their own chief because she was a woman. How little Henry knew of the Scots! She turned suddenly as Rab growled. He was an Irish wolfhound, the largest dog in the world, rangy, strong, hair like soft steel. She looked up expectantly. It was Morag who entered. Morag was a short, gnarled old woman, looking more like a dark burl of wood than a human being.
Her eyes were like black glass, sparkling, penetrating, seeing more of a person than what was on the surface. She used her lithe little body to advantage, often slipping unnoticed amid people, her eyes and ears open. Morag moved silently across the room and opened the window. Ye should hold yer head high and ignore them. She buried her fingers in his fur.
Morag smiled at her, then watched as the girt moved toward the window seat. Morag had held the tiny bairn as she watched the mother die. It was with pride that Morag looked at her charge now nearly twenty years old. Bronwyn was tall, taller than most men and as straight and supple as a reed. It was raven-black and so thick and heavy it was a wonder her slender neck could support the weight.
She wore a satin dress in the English style. It was the color of the cream from the Highland cattle. It fit like skin to her small waist, then belled out in rich folds.
Embroidery entwined with thin gold strands edged both the neck and the waist and fell in an intricate waterfall down the skirt. She bad preferred Highland clothes, but Morag persuaded her to wear English garb, telling her to give the enemy no reason to laugh at her in what they referred to as "barbaric dress.
Bronwyn sat down heavily on the window seat, the satin of the dress flowing about her. She ran her finger along the heavy embroidery. The dress had cost her a great deal, money that could have been spent on her clan. But she knew they would not have wanted to be shamed before the Englishmen, so she bought dresses that would have been the pride of any queen. Only this gown was to have been her wedding dress. She plucked violently at a piece of gold thread. I hope he had his throat cut and lies rotting in some ditch.
The sooner ye have yer English husband, the sooner we can go back to the Highlands. You say the men laugh at me. The man who is to be my husband holds me up for their ridicule. Jamie MacArran would have been proud of his daughter. Even when she was still held prisoner she kept her pride and her spirit. Now she held her chin high, her eyes flashing with daggers of crystal-blue ice. Bronwyn was startlingly beautiful. Her hair was as black as a moonless midnight in the Scots mountains, her eyes as deep blue as the water of a sunlit loch.
The contrast was arresting. Her lashes were thick and dark, her skin fine and creamy. What Scot is afraid of the smirks of an Englishman? Now it was hours past time for the marriage ceremony, and her bridegroom had not shown himself, nor had he sent any message of excuse or apology. The gown would have to be kept fresh until she did marry. If not today, then at another time. And perhaps to another man. The thought made her smile. Fetch me that green brocade gown.
She could walk about the house and, with an escort, on the grounds. The estate was heavily guarded, watched constantly. No harm would come to her, but he meant to put an Englishman in the chiefship. The clan had recently seen the death of Jamie MacArran as well as of his three chieftains.
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His sister-in-law, Judith, had had a few choice things to say about a man not bothering to show up for his own wedding, nor making the effort to send a message of regret at his lateness. For days Judith hovered between life and death. When she woke and learned her baby was gone, one of her first thoughts was typically about someone other than herself. Stephen had not remembered his own wedding date nor given a thought to his bride. Judith, even in her grief and pain, had reminded Stephen of his duties and the Scotswoman he was to marry. Now, three days later, Stephen ran his hand through his thick, dark blond hair.