He was a woodsman, a forester, a good man but cursed with the mark of the devil on his face and shunned by many.
She was a dairy-maid, caring and brave, who feared no one.
Drawn to each other on a long and fateful Midsummer Day, can Haakon and Clare overcome the superstitions of their village and the brutal, lecherous knights to break out of their bonds of class and custom and to strive for a better life – together?
"My lady." To her surprise and secret delight, Haakon strode to her and knelt at her feet. Now he looked up and a quiver of laughter furred his deep voice. "It will be my pleasure."
Clare bit her lip, aware that at this moment, birthmark or no, every maid in the village envied her. Impulsively, she brushed his broad shoulders with the oxlips she carried. "A lady's blessing," she said aloud and knew she had done right when she heard a sigh from the older matrons. She tucked a bloom behind his right ear, realizing that his color was suddenly more than the devil's mark: he was blushing.
At once she felt her own cheeks begin to burn. Had she been too bold?
"Thank you," he said softly and lifted her straight off her feet into his arms, sweeping her into the carrying chair an instant later. Clare closed her eyes at the giddy speed, feeling like a tumbling swift but also very safe, and then was sorry again once his warm, strong hands had left her.
He bowed and turned to Father Peter. "I shall walk with you, father."
"That is as it should be," the priest began. A loud cry made him break off, and the priest frowned at the vulgar interruption.
Squire Edwin and a group of young men-at-arms rode into the churchyard, whooping and yelling. One, a lusty youth with a thatch of badly-cut hair, lunged at one of the village girls, tearing at her headdress, but Edwin rode at Clare.
"Fetch me the little nut-brown dairy maid!" the young man bawled, spurring his horse closer. "She will do well for our revels!"