Nia opened the cottage door. Mael and Sian were sitting next to the fire, so wrapped up in their whispered conversation, that they didn’t notice who’d come in until the door shut. When Mael saw Lord Rhys, he stood, trying to decide whether to flee or stand his ground. Sian held tight to his wrist.
“Uncle, please,” she started.
“Sian, don’t worry. I’m not here to cause problems. I’m here to listen to what you two wish to do and to give you an option you might not have thought about.” Lord Rhys sat down at the small table. The rest of the men found places to sit. Nia smiled and put water on for tea.
“What do you mean sir?” Mael hesitantly sat down with Sian holding his hand.
“I… we all realized that you and Sian were meant to be together, even if the two of you were being rather thick.”
Lew and the men nodded in agreement and Nia just laughed. Mael went red and Sian looked from her aunt to her uncle.
“I… I didn’t think it was my place to offer for Sian’s hand. Bein’ landless and all.”
Lord Rhys nodded. “That’s part of what I wish to discuss with you. It is clear to my family that you two belong together. We can either have Sian part of a band of brigands, or we can give you and your men the means to be prosperous without lifting cattle, oats or purses.”
Artur began to bristle and Lew thumped him on his good arm. “Shush!” Artur blinked and quieted.
“Yes, I know who you are. You’ve stayed away from my lands, else I’d have sent the Reeve after you.”
“Hurry up you long winded old coot!” Nia hissed as she put a pot of mint tea on the table. She poured a cup for everyone and handed Rhys his.
Lord Rhys took a sip of the tea and then continued. “Lord Idris has deserted his property. The lands revert to the family. My family. However, I have no need of them. Sian being the oldest, deserves the property. I’ve spoken with Lady Tegyd and Lady Nia. We all agree, that if you wish to wed Sian, we would like to give Clewth Hall to you as her dowry.”
Mael started to speak and stopped. Sian turned to him and whispered something in his ear. He nodded, and then stood. “Lord Rhys. I would formally like to ask for Sian’s hand in marriage. If it be right by my men, we’d be proud to run the lands of Clewth Hall. However, I canna promise if they’ll give up the life of the road. That be not for me to say.” He sat down next to Sian.
Lord Rhys turned to Jon, Lew and Artur. “Would you be willing to give it a try?”
The three men looked stunned. Lew nodded, as did Jon. Artur looked from his friends to Mael and then back at Lord Rhys. “I canna speak for Finn, but I’m willin’ to try.”
Sian stood up, walked over to Artur and kissed him on the forehead. Artur went bright red, which made everyone laugh.
“So, how soon before the wedding?” asked Nia.
“If you don’t give Tegyd and Rhoslyn at least a week or more for a new dress and the food, we’ll have a war on our hands,” laughed Rhys.
“An it’ll take fair bit to clean up Clewth Hall,” Lew mentioned. “Oh, and ta move Megan and the lads up from the farm.”
Mael nodded. He turned to Sian. “Could ye wait a fortnight?”
She nodded. “As long as we all work together and you don’t send me back to Briar Rhos to wait.”
“No lass, only for supplies and to let your mum fit your dress,” answered Nia. The two women hugged. “Now, we’ve work to do.”
The men moved up to the hall within two days. Megan and Nia got along from the first moment they met. The two older women ran the men ragged with cleaning Clewth Hall. Lord Rhys had his servants plunder the attics and barns for furniture and equipment. Tegyd, Rhoslyn and the women began to put together the household goods needed as well as making Sian’s wedding dress. Slowly, the hall began to look like a home again.
“Do you think we’ll be ready by the end of the week?” Nia asked Megan.
“Aye. Twitch that Sam with willow and he move right fast.”
Both women laughed.
The hall smelled of roses, lavender and rosemary. The men fidgeted in new clothes and shoes. Megan smacked Finn for picking at his shirt. Lord Rhys cleared his throat and the room quieted. Mael stood next to the fireplace with Lord Rhys off to one side. The doors to the great hall opened and Ladies Tegyd and Rhoslyn lead Sian in. She wore a blue silk dress and a shimmering veil covered her almost to her fingertips. When they reached Mael, they handed her over to him. They moved back into the crowd as Mael and Sian faced Lord Rhys.
“Today we join two souls. Two lives. Two households. I remind you, Sian and Mael to love one another in good times and bad. To trust the other and take council when you must. By the Old Gods and Old Ways, I bind you together as man and wife.” Lord Rhys took a brightly embroidered ribbon and wrapped it around Mael’s and Sian’s wrist.
Mael lifted Sian’s veil with one hand and kissed her. The people gathered cheered.