Tongues have been flapping at the castle all morning. All because of what happened at the masked ball last night. Of course everyone has their version of how events unfolded, but they are all in agreement about one thing.
It all started with the appearance of the mystery woman in a stunning blue velvet gown bordering on scandalous. She got everyone’s attention. Even handsome Sir Griffin, the man who only attended Lord John’s galas because he was seneschal.
You can imagine the surprise when he asked her to dance. Evidently, Lady Mierla’s reaction was priceless. Everyone said she was furious. Fit to be tied. Some even compared her to a fire-eating dragon.
No surprise. She’s been trying to get her hooks into Sir Griffin for ages. Will not take no for an answer. But there’s telling what might have happened if it hadn’t been for the screams.
When we get to this part of the story, everyone starts glancing over their shoulders and crossing themselves. A common occurrence for folks around here whenever speaking of the supernatural. They lower their voices to a whisper and continue.
It seems that Mawde Paisley, the cook at the castle for many years, was startled by someone on her way from the kitchen. The spitting image of Lord John’s son, Trevin. A man who’d been dead for years. Nothing like an uninvited guest to bring the party to an untimely end. Especially when it’s a ghost.
The castle was searched from top to bottom, and guests were not permitted to leave until everyone was questioned. In all the excitement, the mystery lady disappeared. Into thin air.
But I know a little secret. She’s still at the castle. She never left.
Not Long Ago
Erin has met the man of her dreams, but as usual there are complications. It’s one of those long distance relationships, and Griffin is a little behind the times–somewhere around 600 years.
Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Something is not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. However, Erin must cope with crop circles, ghosts, a kidnapping and death before the truth of her journey is revealed.
Forced to pose as March’s nephew, Erin finds employment as a squire for Sir Griffin. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Only she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. But Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armor.
I’ve chosen this passage to post because I wanted everyone to see Not Long Ago is not just about time travel, nor is it just a love story between two very different people. I tried to make it an adventure that will take the reader to another time and allow them to experience life there as seen through the main character’s eyes. This part was an especially emotional scene for me to write. I attempted to portray some of the emotions each of us experience when we’re faced with losing someone we care about, whether it be father, mentor or friend.
Late the next day, everyone gathered on the banks of the river under a clear sky. On a hill above us, archers waited. Beside them men-at-arms from the castle stood at attention. Clustered below were the castle servants and townspeople. Lady Isobeil, Lady Gwyneth and Kat positioned themselves on opposite sides of Lord John, as far away from each other as possible. He stood at one end of a long, shallow wooden boat filled with brush. Sir Maldwyn’s body had been wrapped in linen and placed inside, his belongings next to him. Water lapped against the boat, a strangely calming sound.
The pain on Sir Griffin’s face was almost more than I could bear. He clenched his jaw and gripped the hilt of his sword until I thought it would break. Faces stoic, the other knights huddled together with their squires. No doubt each of them remembered Sir Maldwyn in his own way.
After all, he’d been in service at the castle long enough to train most of the knights when they were still squires. I thought of my parent’s death and the emptiness I felt knowing I’d never see them again. People everywhere stared at the ground, trying to hold back tears.
All except for Deroc. I can think of nothing more poignant than the sight of him standing over his father’s body while tears ran down his face. Over and over, the boy repeated the same words. “I am sorry Father, I am so sorry.” The overbearing bully who confronted me in the paddock had vanished. All that remained was a pitiful little boy, one who mourned a relationship with his father he’d never had, and now, one he would never experience.
Sir Maldwyn’s body lay on the funeral pyre, in the custom of the Vikings, while Father Alford conducted the service in Latin in a calm and soothing monotone, appearing completely undisturbed by all the pagan customs surrounding him. When he said his last amen, Lord John nodded at Sir Griffin. He began to ease the boat into the water. When it resisted, first Sir Edevane and then the other knights joined him. Together, they gave one last push, and the boat floated free.
Sir Sion remained on the bank, alone in his guilt. He didn’t join the rest, likely because he knew they held him responsible for Sir Maldwyn’s death. Sir Sion’s decision made in haste and in anger had ended someone’s life. No wonder he couldn’t bear to meet anyone’s eyes.
When the boat reached the middle of the river, each archer touched his arrow to flame, notched and loosed it. Their arrows arched upwards in perfect unison, only losing sight of them when they passed between us and the setting sun, briefly dazzling our eyes. In the fading light of day, they struck the raft holding Sir Maldwyn’s body like driving rain. Flames shot high into the air and swallowed up everything. Sir Maldwyn was making his journey home to Valhalla in the manner he had wanted. Not a sound could be heard among those of us watching from the banks, except for Deroc’s quiet sobbing. A north wind began to blow, and I thought I heard a faint noise. Somehow, the wind seemed to bring with it the echo of horns in the far distance. I know it couldn’t have been so, but it sounded as though those ancestors who’d gone before him were welcoming a fellow warrior home.
Meet Susan Royal
Susan A. Royal takes her readers on adventures to other worlds where anything can happen and frequently does. She shares a 100 year old house in east Texas with a ghost who likes to harmonize with her son when he plays guitar. She writes SciFi/Fantasy with action, adventure and liberal doses of romance. She is currently working on the third in her time travel series, It’s About Time. Look for her books at MuseItUp/Amazon/B&N. Want to know more? Visit susanaroyal.wordpress.com or susanaroyal.com for a peek inside this writer’s mind. You never know what you might discover.