After an attack by the hordes of Genghis Khan…
Dinner in the castle that night was somber, and afterwards men retired to their beds in exhaustion. Meagan had seen Henryk only once. He had been in a company of guards, engrossed in the battle. She was not worried, for few in the castle were injured. Thousands of arrows had rained over the fortress without finding a mark. In contrast, horse and nomad corpses littered the rampart, and the village was a silent, smoking ruin.
Meagan’s thoughts returned to the Great Horse. Sleepless, she wandered the castle corridors. There must be a way to summon Promise, she told herself. Some way to go home. The Great Hall was silent and few torches were lit. Dogs slunk along walls beneath dark gargoyles. Only the rats were emboldened, scurrying on tables, climbing tapestries and running across wooden rafter beams.
“I see one infidel survives.” The dark form of Janek stepped out of a shadow and stood before her.
Meagan jumped at the voice. “You frightened me, Janek! I didn’t see you there.”
“Really, Maid Meagan, you must be more observant.” He stepped closer. “For your own sake.”
“Thank you, Janek. I will remember that.”
Pattering footsteps approached. A group of clergy entered the corridor, carrying candles close to their hooded faces. It was the Brotherhood on their way to the candlelit midnight Mass. This unsettling rite was feared: the service was also called the Dark Choir.
“Hi Lorenzo, how are you?” Meagan called, for once glad to see him. “Is Brother Bartholomew with you?”
“This is not so high a place. My Teacher is at counsel.” The face of the apprentice was barely visible in the flickering light. “You are found in strange places, Daughter of Eve. You are ever a seeker in darkness.”
“I suppose you might think so. Well, I think I will call it a night.” Meagan said it nervously, backing away from Janek. “Sleep well. God bless.”
She walked quickly to her room, stepping carefully over the sleeping forms of her roommates. The single window glowed with moonlight. Meagan lay on her straw mat and stared into the darkness, trying to calm herself and not listen to the castle’s noises…
Copyright © 2008 John Royce
Eclipsed by Shadow (Book #1 of the trilogy) won national awards including the Eric Hoffer Award for best Young Adult Fiction, and the Mom’s Choice Award for best family-friendly Young Adult Fantasy.