Chapter 3:  Stories Untold, Lovers not Known

From where she now stood, she could see the path that had led her to the edge of the cliff. The sigh that left her body carried the weight of centuries. Never, had she planned on coming back here. The memories of love, she thought, would be too much for her. She felt the sun fade away from her that morning so long ago when she had died here. Once more she felt the cool wind wafting off the rain that was sure to come this way.

Starting back down the hill, she was snapping pictures as she went. She was only about a mile from The Dragon’s Breath Inn. At an easy pace she continued walking west and downhill until she found the rock outcropping that the locals called “the priest’s bed”.

“No one”, they warned her at the inn, came to that unholy place at night and “was best to stay away from there during the day, as well. This was the place,” they whispered “of unnatural mating of woman and devil, man and devil, devil and devil. The offspring from such an unholy mating being that of a dragon.”

“The green-eyed witch,” the barkeep, Jamie, made the sign of the evil eye, “this is where she danced with madness during the storms and cursed and killed with just a thought the high born of England.”

“Just wish it could have been that easy,” Ruth chuckled and pushed back the bittersweet vine that was blocking her path. Pausing, she bent over to pluck the wild strawberries that grew in wild adornment on the greenest grass that she had ever seen.

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“Like rubies on emeralds”, she snapped more pictures, “this is just not fair,” she sighed, not caring to mask her loneliness. “Just not fair at all. I miss him,” she said with tears in her voice, to the snail who was feasting on one of the tiny fruits. Lying down on her stomach, she positioned her camera as she captured the snail that was oblivious to his soon to be debut in some magazine.

There on the quietness of the hillside she felt herself slip away, the memories tugging on her. The Keep would not be too much further. With eyes closed she would be able to find her way home from this spot. It had not been called the priest’s bed during their time. But they were right in the naming of the thing, for on those wild and stormy nights it was their bed. Opening her eyes, she watched bits of sunlight play upon bilberry under the shrub. The berries had not yet turned, but soon. Propping herself up on her elbow, her eyes continued upward, noticing where the wild hops grew. Getting up she walked over to the ledge and pushed aside what was surely the offspring of the hops that she had once gathered here and used to brew beer. Hmmmm, she pushed aside the vegetation until she came to the rock wall. With certainty, she was able to find the hand and footholds her beloved had cut into the rock face to make climbing easier. Her heart was breaking, but she continued snapping the pictures of her past happiness.

The church bells were tolling the quarter hour. It was 12:15.

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This morning at breakfast, she had promised Eleanor and Jay that she would be back by one. Their daughter had gotten married that morning at the very church where the bells were tolling. Ruth had been invited to the lunch that was going to be held after the church service. “It’s a small wedding,” they had assured her, “please, come and raise a glass and wish them well on their way.”

The walk back took longer than she thought. There was weld to photograph and wood sage. There was the gurgling of the small stream and the yellow irises were in bloom along the edge. Ahhh, henbane and her great good friend, deadly nightshade still grew here. Useful plants when you are desirous of poisoning those who wish to destroy your family.

Yes, there was several hundred dead very good reasons that the crown had ordered what was left of their keep pulled down and the ground salted. How she did love history. Even today she knew what families had profited from the ill gotten and poisoned goods that had been stolen by the crown. Yes, when a couple of hundred of people die at court one does tend to take notice and write about it.

Oddly, the salt did not take….the fields and orchards continued to grow in abundance. Haunted and cursed. For centuries no one came here. This hillside had been left to quietly find its way into the 21st century. Terrible storms still raged here, but none more horrible than those that raged on all Mid-Sumer’s Eve. That is when you could see the witch dancing on the priest’s bed, or riding through the lightning on her dragon…or so the stories went.

The need to return to the inn became urgent. Of course she would be there to extend her blessing to Kate and Shawn. For this had been her wedding day as well.

With a thought, turning about, she went back to the creek. It would cost her some time and she would be a little late, but she wanted the bride to have a bouquet of the yellow flags that had been gifted to her on her wedding day as well. “Some traditions,” she smiled, “were well worth keeping.”

The rain was going to hold off…she could tell. The air didn’t feel right. Maybe later tonight, but the bride should have a day where she could have pictures taken outside if she wanted.

Getting closer to the inn, she could hear the bagpipes and the laughter. The music stopped. Someone was making a toast. More laughter. Very quietly, she would sneak in and go upstairs and change. Oh yes, she glanced down and picked the grass off her pants, running her fingers through her hair she found a few twigs. Yes, definitely a change of clothes and some lipstick. Yes, definitely some lipstick, after all, it was a wedding.

The moss that grew on the low stonewall in front of the pub was lovely. The Dutch door was open at the top, to let in the air but to keep out any pup, sheep, or colt that might have gotten away from its master. One quick stop and …rats, her key was behind the bar and the barkeep was at the wedding. The cage had been pulled down and there was no way she would be able to get her key. Hmmmm, okay, nothing to do but go in and find Jamie and ask him to open up.

Stepping lightly through the foyer, wistfully she gave a look up the stairs and putting one foot in front of the other she opened the door and passed through the dining room to the back, where there was a tent with tables and chairs. The bride and groom sitting together with their arms around each other while another toast…..

…her eyes were drawn into the tent. She would know that voice anywhere….it didn’t matter what language or dialect…..her eyes went to him….there he stood with his glass raised, kind words spoken from his heart flowing from his mouth.

The strawberry blond hair, the shape of his face, the full force of his smile. That Viking from the north that had made his way into her beloved’s bloodline was still there to be seen in this man. The square hands that resembled a great lion’s paws. The ease that he wore a uniform….huh! Taking another step closer, she could not stop the laughter that welled up inside of her. So, warrior was truly who he was…well, well, she liked that…a lot.

He had finished the toast and there was a round of applause. A slight blush crept into his cheeks. He looked young, but these were different times and life had treated him kindly. She liked that, also.

While at Oklahoma State, her roommate had dated someone who was in the cadre of the ROTC program. One night, her roomie’s date had arrived to take her to a military ball. Always the reporter, she had become very curious and had asked him many questions about his uniform.

That was how she knew her beloved was wearing Army dress blues. Hmmmmm, captain’s bars and what looked like crossed rifles. Infantry. A grunt….ground pounder…the first into battle.  Oh yes, nothing had changed.

Looking heavenward, she said, “I do hope this is not anyone’s idea of a joke.” Well, well, haunted places and things that go bump in the night had brought her back to this place….and perhaps, something a whole lot bigger than that.

The wedding party had stood and was headed out to the pond. There were row boats decorated with flowers and gentlemen helping their ladies into their water bound carriages.

Setting down the champagne flute he picked up his beer. Standing at the far edge of the tent, she watched him as he talked with someone in a kilt…oh, but that also had to be a uniform. Hmmm that was interesting, but everything else was forgotten as she turned her will upon him. All that she was she threw at him, a storm unleashed that she did not know was possible.

First it was the back of his neck, then his ears that turned red. Sitting his glass down, he turned to face her. Ruth hit him with her very best come hither smile. Looking from left to right, he then pointed to himself and mouthed, “Me?”

“Yes,” she mouthed as she nodded.

As he approached, she became more aware of her appearance. A little dirty, a little disheveled, flowers in her arms, her cameras slung around her neck. “Wish I could have planned this a little bit better,” she sighed, “damn, he is a sexy man and I look like a…a….well, not so sexy,” as her smile grew until she thought she could no longer contain the joy that was inside her.

“Hi,” he stuck out his hand, “my name is William, friends call me Will for short, my mother calls me William Hayden when she is outa sorts with me, and you,” his smile got bigger, “you can call me whatever you want.”

There was no place to set anything and while trying to jostle everything to shake his hand, he put one hand on the small of her back and with the other he took the flowers and led her over to the table where he placed the flags and took the cameras from around her neck.

Turning to face him, she shook his hand, “Ruth,” she replied, “I was named for the Ruth in the Bible.”

He shook his head in agreement, “Yes, that suits you. The woman who left everything behind to follow her heart.” His smile got bigger. “I like to think that I can not be surprised and yet, here I am…very much pleasantly surprised. Are you from around here?” William was looking for something, his eyes searching what was left of the crowd.

“Well, not this lifetime,” the smile on her face taking on a different meaning.

“Oh, you’re an American.” His eyes came back to her as his stride took him away. He hefted one bottle and read the label, setting it back down, he picked up another. Satisfied, he poured the Scotch into a glass and walked back to her. He leaned back onto the table and handed her the drink, then picked up his beer.

At that moment he looked like a very comfortable giant cat, a lion that was relaxed yet poised to strike.

He was watching her through half closed eyes. Mmmmm, dreamy half closed eyes. No, eyes, that were full of dreams half closed eyes.

“Yes, I’m an American. Does that surprise you?”

“Nothing about your surprises me.” His voice was quiet, meant only for her ears.

“Really?” she took the challenge. “What would you say if I told you I used to live here, about six hundred years ago… you know give or take a hundred or so …”

“Mmmm,” was all he gave her in the way of a reply. His half closed eyes now looking dangerous. His perfectly formed ass still resting comfortably on the table as he had another drink of beer.

“…and so did you.” There, take that you gorgeous hunk of man. Run screaming off into your world of sanity and quantum physics or maybe you’ll just get up and with a dignified gate and walk away.

He set down his beer and stood up facing her. His face level with hers, his mouth just inches away from her tongue…she could just reach out and lick him before he had her committed.

Instead, he put his arm around her shoulders and walked her over to several young men. “There is someone I would like you to meet.”

“Captain Allister Stewart, of the 10th Princess Mary’s Own Gurkha Rifles, I would like to introduce you to Ruth,” he hesitated as he waited for her to supply her last name.

“Carroll.”

His smile got very big. Very big, like a lion’s great big toothy grin.

Allister, threw up his hands in disgust. “You crazy Yanks! How much,” he gasped, “did he pay you to say that?”

Shaking her head in question, her gaze went from William to Allister.”

“Tell her the bet and give me the money,” Will smiled.

“Damn bloody Yanks!” His friend took out his wallet and proceeded to count out one hundred pounds.

“Well, it would go something like this, wouldn’t it, old pal…” He looked at William and then Ruth. “He told me this morning, that there would be a woman who would come to the wedding carrying a bouquet of yellow flowers and that he was going to marry her.”

Allister looked from one to the other. “You really going to marry this bloke?”

“Just as soon as he asks me….” The grin covered her face.

“Well then,” smiling Allister shook his head, “congratulations are in order,” he said as he slapped William on the back and taking Ruth in his arms he bent her back and kissed her…soundly, with just a little bit of tongue.

.

There was a small parlor off the foyer and someone had built a fire. This was the original part of the inn, dating back to 1680. The rough hewn rock walls made her uncomfortable in a very sad sorta way… he had not said anything since coming inside. Instead they had sat in silence on a small sofa and sipped from the glass of Scotch whiskey that he had poured for her.

Pulling her closer to him, he lifted her hand to his lips. “I could feel you out in the hills this morning and I wondered why you did not come down sooner.”

She turned his face to hers.

“No….” he began, his eyes ablaze…..”you do not know fear…..I know that much. There are many things I do not remember but I do know the witch with the green eyes that haunts my sleep every night. I know what you are capable of and I know in my heart that we belong together, that we have always been together. That I am for you and that you are for me. I am counting on you to tell me the rest.”

Tears of joy or was it relief fell from her eyes.

“It is terrible to feel this alone,” his voice an echo of times past and yet, he sat next to her, fire in his eyes and desire raging from his body.

“It is terrible to feel this alone,” she smiled at him and let go of all the pain.

He put his hand in her hair and pulled her closer. Whispering into her ear he said, “That fucking Allister, he kissed you first. He’s going to have to pay for that….” He was nuzzling her ear, then her neck. “There is going to be a storm tonight, wind, howling rain…” He was kissing her, soft, gentle, just a hint of his tongue. “Howling bodies. I am going to ride you and you are going to ride me and when we are both finished screaming we just might do it again.”

Sitting back his sweet smile touched her soul, “I would prefer the bed.   Unless, of course, you really want to go out to a copse of oak trees and do this the old fashioned way.”

Although he had shaved that morning, she could feel his beard as she ran her hand down his face. “Mmmm, that’s okay, I really am a girl who likes her modern convinces.”

Then, she arched an eyebrow at him. “And you married me afterwards.”

“Yes, I did and yes, I will.”

Never would she get tired of the way his eyes changed color. The blue they were now reminded her of the sky in Arizona.

There were flower bouquets set in the windows ,the mantel, the table. Some one had picked wildflowers from the fields and had set the vases wherever there was a bare spot. William pulled the flowers from one and pulled the petals from the columbines, lilacs, flags, cottage roses and lavender. With a light hand, he scattered them on the floor in front of the fireplace. Pulling her to her feet, he sat her in a chair that he placed in the middle of the flowers that were now gracing the floor, calling to her of other times.

He knelt before her on both knees. Taking her hand and kissing it he said to her, “It is terrible to be so alone. Ruth, will you please bless me by being my wife and the mother of my children?”

So, they had not even begun to reach the end of their love for each other. “It is terrible to be so alone. With all my heart, William, will I be your wife and the mother of your children.”

Standing, he pulled her into his arms. “One kiss,” he said, as he pulled her up to him, “and then, I think we need to find the Bishop and have him say a blessing over us. He won’t be able to marry us, legally, but….,” he paused, “I am on leave for ten more days. We can be married in Copenhagen, they have a three day waiting rule, but at the end of three days, same last name… ” his smile said everything.

Ruth nodded in agreement. “Yes, I would like that.” Rubbing her nose against his in a bunny kiss, she continued on, “Ahhhhhh, William, you do have a last name…?”

His head tilted as he gave her a funny look. He pointed to a space about his right pocket. Shock registered on his face and then he carefully started checking the front of his uniform, the area round the davenport. Sitting back up he said in disgust, “Damn, I am out of uniform!”

“Huh?”

“I gotta get upstairs. I am out of uniform.” He pointed to space above his right pocket. “Name tag goes there. It is not there. Damn! I am sorry but I have to go fix this, right now.”

The seriousness gave way to the laughter that spilled out of him and into the night. “You wouldn’t care to help with that would you?” He was serious but she could hear the throaty chuckle. ” I know, sounds like another line doesn’t it. But believe me, I am out of uniform and therefore I disrespect the uniform. I have to go and correct this. You would make me a very happy man if you would just come with me,” he said smiling as he lifted her hand to kiss it.

Slipping her arm around him they headed for the stairs.

“Ahhh, ….William, your last name….”

Thunder rumbled through the building and shook the windows.

“Sorry,” laughter escaped and he very slowly rubbed his nose against hers. “it’s Carroll.”

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Epilogue

Getting married by an equivalent of an American justice of the peace, she thought, was perfect. William was in his dress blues and she had found a replica circa 1200’s bridal dress for sale in a museum shop. In their traditional dress, she felt as if she belonged here among his kinsmen. The vows were read and the appropriate papers signed. There was a toast to their happiness and then a night of passion.

The Viking Ship Museum in Roskilde took up one day. It was very obvious that he belonged here among these ships that had been raised from the fjords. They spent the day sailing and rowing on a replica ship. Many Danes stopped him and asked him questions, in Danish, of course. After the third time he was stopped, he just smiled and shook his head and said, “Sorry, I’m an American.”

“Have you any race memories, at all,” she finally asked him as they departed the boat and he lovingly ran his hand across the dragon’s face that made up the stern.

“No,” was all he replied as he continued to trace the carvings lightly with his hands. “But I have a real love of the water and also for the craftsmanship that went into making this vessel.”

“Rumor has it that the Vikings make it all the way to Oklahoma,” she said with a smile and a raised eyebrow.

The look on his face clearly said that he had his doubts.

“No really, in the Poteau Mountains that overlook Heavener, Oklahoma, there is a slab of rock that is about 10 by 12 feet and has Viking runes inscribed into it. It is referred to as the Heavener Runestone. Seriously,” she said as she smiled up at him and ran her finger down his nose, “you can’t make this stuff up.”

“Hmmm, so we were looking for you even then…” was all he said in way of a reply.

“Looks like…” she kissed him on the lips.

.

They walked until they found a secluded bench over looking the harbor. Sharing a sandwich it was an impressive sight to watch the Viking long ships come and go.

“What are we going to tell your folks?” she asked as she brushed the crumbs from her lap.

Not missing a beat he replied, “That we met at school, dated my senior year, you were still a junior, I went on to be all that I could be and we just lost touch. Ran into each other in Scotland, decided that we were what we wanted and came to Cope and got married.” His laughter filled her heart. “My mother will just be glad that I got married.” He laid down on the bench and put his head in her lap. “What about you?”

“Same with my mom. She worries about me living in the cabin. She’ll be relieved that I have married a man who can give me central heat and air.”

“Huh?”

“Oh yes, we,” she stressed, “are once again, landed gentry,” she stroked his hair and placed her other hand over his heart. “I told you about the cabin that I live in and it sits on about 15 acres with lots of trees with a view of the river….well, I did, perhaps leave out that there is no electricity or indoor plumbing….I am, ahhh, I mean we are, however the proud owners of a propane tank and a heating and cook stove.”

“Outhouse?” Smiling, he sat up next to her and taking her hand, kissed it.

A great big smile covered her face. “Yeppers.”

Pulling her in for a kiss, “Some things just don’t change”.

She liked the way he nuzzled her neck. “How is it that we were OSU together and that we never ran into each other?”

The smell of her made him just a bit crazy. He pulled his mouth away from her collar bone.

“I have been thinking about that,” he buried his face in her hair. “…mmmmm,” was all he said when he kissed her and looked into her eyes. “It was not our time.”

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They spent the remaining days just wandering the city. They had their picture taken together with The Little Mermaid at Langelinje Harbor.

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Looking at the map, they found the Royal Copenhagen shop, where they purchased the Satyre on the back of a turtle.

They walked down Amaliegade to Amaliegade 10, which was a family owned restaurant where they tasted just about every smoked fish there was to be found this far north. Chased down by Aquavit, the Danes version of liquid fire, flavored with spices from all the lands they had conquered and shipped past the Equator and back. They spent the afternoon, watching each other taste from the traditional smorgasbord that was set before them.

That night found them at the Tivoli Gardens, surrounded by twinkling lights and a concert of Bach playing somewhere on the grounds. The night sky looked like it was lit up with fireflies, which twinkled like the ruby and diamond band that she wore on her left hand.

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They sat, enjoying the night air and the place that was called the most romantic spot in Europe. His arm was around her. Pulling his left hand to her mouth, she kissed the gold lion’s head that had its eyes set with rubies.

“Really, a lion,” was all he said in the way of a purr.

“Mmmmmm.”

Snuggling in, that much closer, she rubbed her face into his chest.

“What’s on your mind?” he asked, tilting her head up to meet his.

“I am not sending the children away or burning down the house, this time.”

“Good, glad to hear that. I’m really not big on having some one else raise our kids…” She could feel the passion radiating out from him. “…. and we’ll be living in government quarters off and on and intentionally burning them down …well…..that kind of thing really tends to upset them. They would be taking that outa our pay for a long time to come.”

The kiss that followed caused the sky to rumble….and then lightning to course across the sky…and then the heavens opened up…..and later that night, their first child was conceived.