When the kindly old lord dies mysteriously and his nephew Lord Antonio occupies the castle high on the hill, the peasant folk in the village below begin to fear him. There are rumours of strange practices and ceremonies, far removed from their Christian beliefs.
Once the soldiers come to collect their young, unmarried women to take part in these secret rites, the villagers are terrified, especially as some of the girls never come home.
Catrin is full of dread when it is her turn; however, she has a secret. Rather than being a maid, she and her swain Elis have plighted her troth and she suspects, to her joy, that she may be expecting their child.
This makes her all the more determined to survive her ordeal in the fortress, whatever that might bring, even if it means she has to resort to witchcraft and enchantment. Might her pact with the devil lose her everything she holds dear?
Over both arms, the woman was carefully carrying a bolt of cloth of shimmering paleness, both masks dangling from her wrist like a red stain the on the pure white silk. The man, who Catrin took to be her husband, came in behind her carrying a jug of wine and a couple of goblets.
The woman carefully laid the garment on a couch, and gesturing to Catrin ordered impatiently, "Put this on!"
Unfortunately, her spouse seemed all too eager to gaze at Catrin. He sat weightily in a chair pouring himself a glass of wine looking at Catrin with an obvious leer as if her disrobing was to be his entertainment.
The woman turned to him, saying sharply, "We don't need you here! She is to be saved for the ceremony not squandered on the likes of you."
She hustled him out of the room, snagging the jug of wine from his hand. As she closed the door, the fine stuff of her over-dress caught. She tugged at it, muttering under her breath as the fabric came free. She removed the garment impatiently and plumped herself down in the chair her partner had just vacated.
She filled her glass to the brim, saying dismissively, "I suppose you're used to dressing yourself."
Grateful to be without a lecherous audience, Catrin quickly stripped off her simple frock and shift and picking up the sleek material of the gown, she slipped it over her head. It slithered coldly over her body.
She stared at her reflection in the mirror. She had never worn a dress so fine or so uncomfortably revealing. The fitted sleeves with their long points falling from her wrists were conventional enough for what she knew of the fashions of fine ladies, but the neckline was slashed to the navel. This deliberately drew attention to her firm breasts peaking proudly on either side of the deep V, her slightly swollen nipples prominent from the chill touch of the fabric.
If this were not obvious enough, there were two long slits up the front of the floor-length skirt, revealing flashes of her bare, slim thighs at her slightest movement. Despite showing so much flesh, she looked oddly virginal, her face pale with uncertainty and her long dark hair falling loosely down her back, framing her striking image. Dear God in heaven, she thought. It was like a wedding gown if she were to be married to the devil.