Next month on the 17th the Brits in Time anthology will be released from Total-e-bound. It will include my story: In the Dark. Cool, huh. Even better, we are having a Brits in Time contest right now. The first prize is a £10 gift certificate for Total-e-bound books. For info on entering, go here.
Panic rushed through Katherine Wolf, the only remaining member of Bryant the Wolf’s family, as she stared with astonishment through her window, high in one of the castle’s six towers. Along the road leading to her home, dust billowed into the sky—dust that was obviously coming from a band of oncoming riders. Moments later, eight black steeds carrying eight men came into sight. Four wore mail. Knights and their squires…
Katherine’s knees went weak.
No. They could not be coming here.
But they were.
She watched in horror as the horsemen galloped towards the front gate. They stopped as if considering entrance, and Katherine willed them to depart with all her being. Of course, it would not work. She was not a witch as some would suppose.
The rider who had been in the lead held up his hand, signalling to the others to stop. Deftly, he leapt from his horse and pulled off his helm. He shook his head, loosening the damp hair which had been trapped under the metal. Katherine sucked in a breath as his midnight hair splayed in the wind then settled upon his wide shoulders. His black cloak swirled about him, displaying equally black garments below. His beautiful face lifted upward as he surveyed her home.
She quickly stepped backward for fear he would see her watching him, though she was quite sure he would not be able to spy her. She pressed a hand to her middle. Men. Here at her home, the one place she had always felt safe.
Lifting her fingers to her face, she covered her cheek and the rose-coloured streak she had had since birth. Marked by the devil they said. She had been cursed to never set foot from this place or else be burned as a witch.
But what was she to do now?
The men would never find this hidden chamber constructed by her grandfather to hide his treasures. It was likely they would never find the hidden passages which gave her the run of the castle. She was rarely seen, but how long would that last before she accidentally stumbled upon one of the new inhabitants?
* * * *
Calen the Black stared up at the fortress he had been given as payment for his valiant services to Edward while in France. Payment? This fief was to be a punishment for his popularity in court. The King knew Calen would never undermine him, but he had still banished him here to Warg, the castle of death. Some claimed it was haunted and as he saw movement in one of the towers, he wondered at that claim. No matter. No spirit would stop him from possessing his new home and urging the lands to once again flourish.
The degradation he had seen on the ride to the castle had horrified him, but as in the rest of the land, the people had fled—or died—leaving the fields unattended. How much more so here with no lord to oversee them. The entire family of Bryant the Wolf, including Bryant himself, had succumb to the Great Pestilence.
Calen set his jaw, surveying the grey stone structure set against the mountains. It was a modern sprawling construction with six towers reaching into the clouds. A jewel to possess and a nightmare to tame. The death of so many within its walls, victims to an untameable disease sent apprehension clawing across his back.
“She is a beauty,” Alaric, his highest ranking man and friend, commented as he moved to stand beside Calen. Calen realised belatedly that his companions had also dismounted as he had stood there.
“Aye. She is.”
“What do you think of the King’s decree now?” Alaric asked.
“Clement. But he is well known for such.” He swallowed, not believing his words. Edward expected him to fail and perish here.
He would not.