Alone in the castle’s deserted courtyard, Ryan Bonfield stood while contemplating the events that had occurred there twelve years ago this day. Although he would pay homage to the family members who had perished that fateful day, his main purpose in returning was to confront the demons released into his life by those events.
Neglected, the castle had fallen into ruin. Once powerful battlements, now little more than crumbling stones, were disappearing rapidly beneath the relentless advances of voracious vines. Bushes and weeds flourished in cracks found between the courtyard’s cobblestones.
Ryan cast his gaze upon the ramparts where he had last seen his father, the castle’s lord. He bit his lip as terrifying memories leapt unbidden to his mind: the ferocious Border Reivers as they came swarming over the walls, his father attempting to fight them off virtually single handedly. His terrified, cowardly response of hiding behind a secret wall panel: and creeping back outside hours later to find the castle’s few occupants, including his father, stepmother, and two stepbrothers, put to the sword.
“Hello Ryan,” said a woman from behind him.
Startled, Ryan jumped and span around. The beautiful, wealthy woman standing there was disturbingly familiar. “Mistress?” he asked unsurely.
“There is no longer any need to address me as ‘mistress,’ Brother,” she said, walking slowly over to him.
“You have never called me that before, Mistress,” he replied, respectfully averting his gaze. Two years his senior, his stepsister had survived that fateful day’s massacre by hiding in an alcove beneath a stairwell.
“Please, Ryan, my name is Miriam.”
“Very well, Miriam.” He looked up. “You are here today to pay homage to your--to our--family?”
“Actually, no. This is the seventh year in a row that I have come here on this day, and it has never been to pay homage to the deceased.”
“Really? Then for what reason do you come here?” he asked, perplexed.
“Why, to look for you, of course,” she admitted.
“Why would you want to see me, Miriam? I am nothing but a worthless coward.”
“You must not speak of yourself so, Brother. I am the coward, not you. I needed courage to overlook Father’s infidelity and accept you into the family after your mother died, but I took the easy way out and persecuted you alongside my mother. As my brother, you had as much right to be part the family as me, yet I treated the lowliest of our servants with more kindness than I did you. Please forgive me, Ryan.”
“I deserve only your contempt and loathing, Miriam, not your apology.”
“Why do you say that, Brother? Why do you hate yourself so? I could never understand why you ran away from our Uncle’s home after he rescued us, those twelve years ago.”
Ryan answer came as though from a great distance. “I was standing right here, on this very spot, when the Border Reivers came swarming over the walls. I watched Father trying to fight them off. I heard him call ‘Ryan, Ryan!’ as they bowled him over. I knew I should have gone to his aid, but I was so scared that I ran and hid instead! What more damning evidence do you need than this, Sister?”
Miriam touched his hand. “Oh Ryan, is that what has been troubling you? Are you not aware that I witnessed the whole incident from that window up there? Father did not say, ‘Ryan, Ryan!’ He said, “Run, Ryan!’ Do you understand the significance of this, Brother? When confronted with death, Father’s first concern was not for me, my mother or for my brothers, but for you…”
“His bastard son?”
“No! For you, his eldest son, and heir,” she concluded.
“Yes, Ryan. Uncle Michael found Father’s will when he returned to the castle to recover any items of value overlooked by the Reivers. The will named you his successor. Ryan. You should also know that since Uncle Michael passed away, I have managed not only his estates, but also our family’s holdings and investments. I have done this in your name, not mine. Please come home with me, and take your rightful place as lord of our family. My husband and I are your humble servants, Brother.”
“And three children.”
“Three children?” Ryan smiled for the first time in twelve years. “Lead the way, Sister.”
For nearly three centuries, beginning in the late thirteenth century, Scottish and English Border Reivers, or mounted raiders, terrorised both sides of the Anglo-Scottish border.
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