While doing research for a novel set in the Middle Ages, Erin and her employer, March, are transported to a time where chivalry and religion exist alongside brutality and superstition. Things are not quite right at the castle, and Erin and March feel sure mysterious Lady Isobeil is involved. 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 handsome Sir Griffin’s squire. She’s immediately attracted to him and grows to admire his courage, quiet nobility and devotion to duty. Yet, she must deny her feelings. Her world is centuries away, and she wants to go home. Despite that, Erin can’t stop thinking about her knight in shining armour.
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.
My gaze wandered from person to person. Some, like Lady Gwyneth and Kat, wept quietly, tears streaming down their cheeks. Others clenched their jaws and blinked away the tears. However they chose to show it, powerful emotion was present on everyone face, with the exception of Lady Isobeil. Her face wore the same intense expression as it had at the wedding when Neil told us Sir Edevane had been taken, almost as if she was deep into some kind of role-playing game.