Orb's Year 937
The young man winced and bowed low. "I am Ryker and I am afraid I have most distressing news for you."
Crystal pointed to the door. "As of this moment you are no longer welcome in my home. If I hear that you have seen my husband, I will petition the King for your arrest for infidelity!"
Tracy scoffed as she turned to leave, "If it were a crime to be unfaithful, half the kingdom would be under lock and key!"
Crystal fumed as she waited for Tracy to saunter from the house. The nerve of the woman, she thought angrily. She didn't care about half the kingdom... she cared about her husband!
Crystal glanced at Ryker sharply, "What do you mean?" she asked. "What happened to his first wife?"
Ryker assumed an innocent expression, "Why, she was kicked to the curb without her first born because she dared to bear the Laird second half-class child. Even though he had just left his mistress' warm bed..."
Crystal stared in shock at the servant. Had Angus lied to her about his first wife, as well? She shook her head. It shouldn't matter. She was Brock's mother now. She would protect him. "I find myself in need of an ally in this house, as well as a house-cleaner. Perhaps you would serve this capacity," she suggested.
Ryker bowed low, "Of course, mi'lady."
"What I cost you?" she demanded. "I removed a woman from my household that had carnal knowledge of my husband!"
Angus scoffed, "I never said I was a saint! I'm a man!" he argued. "I have a man's needs!"
She would just need to be strong enough to not let it bother her...
Except, she thought, perhaps he had not been abandoned as Angus would have her believe. The tingle of doubt hovered in the back of her mind.
Orb's Year 938
"No! Three at one time?" he asked, duly impressed.
Angus shrugged lazily and furthered his outrageous boast. "What can I say? They are well-impressed by my mounting skills!"
Both men dissolved into braying laughter.
And his other benefactor... Once he'd told Evelyn Farrier that he'd wormed his way into the Laird's household, she'd been quite eager to pay for any information that might help her gain her son back.
Ryker shook his head, though.
There was no way the self-centered Laird would ever give up his heir. Lady Farrier held false hope on that count.
Why couldn't he just be proud of him? he wondered for the millionth time, like Mama!
"Tell your Mother I'm going to the Pub! I won't be back until late," Angus called over his shoulder.
Angus glanced around the Taveryn's Kitchen, hoping to find someone to work his charm on. No luck tonight. Oh well, there was always tomorrow!
Orb's Year 939
"Papa said he'd take me out to the joust! Can you believe it? I wanted to grab my wooden sword before we leave!"
Crystal frowned. Angus was taking Callum to the joust? This was a first, she thought. He'd never wanted her or Brock anywhere near the fields when he competed.
Callum wiggled from her arms. "Mama, men don't need hugs!"
Crystal's eyes widened. It was as though Angus was talking through her child and it scared her! With a wavering voice, she released him. "Well, men might not need hugs, but young boys love hugs from their mamas!"
Callum giggled, "Oh mama!" he said before dashing off.
Crystal stood a moment with her hand pressed to her aching heart. Angus was stealing her son from her...
"Aye!" Callum cheered excitedly. "I just know you'll defeat them all with one mighty swing!" Callum exuberantly pretended to vanquish imaginary enemies with his sword.
Angus laughed and he ruffled Callum's hair. "Let's go meet Chandler and get suited up!"
Crystal grabbed Brock's hands. "His inability to love is not your fault. It's not my fault. It's his problem!" she tried to reassure him.
"Then why does it hurt me so badly?" Brock asked softly.
Crystal pulled Brock into her arms and held him as he cried. "I don't know," she said sadly, understanding his pain all too well.
It soon became crystal-clear why Angus was grooming Callum in Brock's place.
Brock's mouth dropped open as his father's finger drilled into his chest. "But... but... surely as your heir..."
"Ha! You are no heir of mine! You might not even be my son! Your mother is loose with her favors!"
Angus' eyes widened at Brock's outburst, but then he bent over with laughter. "You think Crystal is your mother? Nay, son. She is just your step-mother. Your true-mother bore a half-class and has lowered herself to life as a merchant," he scoffed.
Brock felt deflated. Crystal wasn't his mother? He had another mother? Bits of memories seemed to flash before him. He couldn't picture her... but he could smell her... hear her...
"You are not my heir. You are a disappointment." Angus stalked angrily away.
Past angry at the abuse Angus had hurled at Brock, Crystal approached Ryker. By now, Ryker was quite knowledgeable about her husband's activities. Of course, Angus would never believe that a lowly servant was spying on him!
She slipped him a message. "Please deliver this with all speed," she said urgently. "It is gravely important."
Angus grinned, "Aye. And all the lovely ladies swooning! Why what kind of gentleman would I be if I didn't help pick them up from the ground?"
Callum laughed along with the men he idolized. It never even really occurred to him that it was dishonorable towards his mother until she approached with a serene expression.
Then, guilt slammed into him full-force and he looked down so he couldn't see the hurt in her eyes.
Angus sighed, "I will humor you as I am finished eating already. But, I am soon to head to the Kitchen with Chandler for a time."
"I hate to impose on your time with such honorable pursuits," she said, wincing the sharpness of her tone. She needed to talk to him about Brock and if she made him defensive, he would never listen.
Angus narrowed his eyes, sure he'd heard an insult. "What is it you want, wife?" he snapped. "And be quick about it."
Crystal attempted to appear serene and calm. Taking a breath, she began, "It's about Brock..."
Angus' impatience came full-front. "Not this again!" he thundered. "I've told you to leave it alone! I'm surprised you're not happier that your real son is heir to this castle. Who cares about the foundling?"
I care! Crystal raged silently. And how could he be so unfeeling towards his own blood!
Glancing towards Callum, who listened intently, she attempted to begin again, "While I am overjoyed you have selected Callum to be your heir, I still wish to speak to you..."
Looking towards Chandler, he grinned and shrugged his shoulders as if to say, 'Woman!'
"No, let's be off! The night is young!" he said to Chandler, clamping him on the shoulder.