Excerpt from the Prologue
The first thing he unconsciously perceived was the melancholic melody of a flute, accompanied by gentle harp sounds. As always, when he was still half asleep, he turned on his stomach, let his right arm slide out of bed and touched the floor. Usually his Claymore lay there, but this time his hand reached into the nothing. Irritated, he opened his eyes and stretched his head over the edge of the bed to look down. It wasn’t there!
Could he have been so drunk the night before that he had forgotten to put it there? No, he answered his question. He never made such a mistake, even in his wildest times, before the four great battles, when he and his best friend Gawyn had tried to test their limits.
“Never give up your weapon, and if you do, leave it where you can reach it faster than your enemy. These are dark times, and it is vital for you to make my words your own! Do you hear me?”
He felt as if his father’s words, spoken so many years ago, were still echoing in his mind, for he had given them a very powerful emphasis. And not just once. Therefore he had so internalized the evening ritual of laying his sword on the floor just below his bed that even a drunken stupor would not have prevented him from doing it.
“So you have finally awakened!”
His mind was torn from his thoughts by the deep, smoky voice of a woman that he flinched. Jerkly he threw himself on his back, while his hand instinctively slipped across the floor again to reach for his sword, but once again in vain. For a moment he hesitated, but only to prepare himself mentally for an attack which he had to fend off with his bare fists if necessary. While all the scenarios of imminent attacks and their defence unwound in his head, she burst out in a soft laughter. A throaty laughter that slowly grew louder and finally echoed off the walls. Therfore he paused abruptly.
“What you are looking for will not find here,” he heard her say with the swallow of a suppressed laughter in her voice. “And you won’t need it here either!”
Only at that moment he did really wake up and realize that he was not in his own chamber, at all, but …
Damn it, actually where was he?
Irritaded he looked around, ignoring the figure who stood at the foot of his bed, laughing again.
The bed on which he lay was almost twice as wide as his own. The bedclothes were not made of white linen either, but of a fiber completely unknown to him, and it gleamed reddish like liquid metal. It was also so transparent that his bare skin shimmered through it.
His bare skin? Why was he bared? Damn!What the hell had he gotten into here?
Although normally not very ashamed, he gathered the feath-light fabric over the certain area, so that it was covered by several layers of fabric. The stranger acknowledged this with even louder laughter, but then she fell silent.
His gaze instinctively wandered over to her. She was one head smaller than him, which was astonishing for a woman, because he surpassed most of his clansmen only by that very length. But she didn’t seem coarse or unfeminine, as women of her size normally did. No, it was quite the opposite. She was dilicate. Her skin was white like freshly fallen snow and shimmered silver-blue. Her angelic face was framed by pitch-black, silky curls that reached down to her thighs. But there was something about her almost divine appearance that confused him. Something was wrong with her.
The stranger now gracefully moved towards him, fixing him with her eyes. Her glance was so penetrating that he felt his heart begin to beat faster. Not with excitement, but rather with fear.
Fear? Why was he afraid of her? She was just a woman …!
And suddenly he knew what was wrong with her. Her eyes, emerald green, lacked any shine. They looked icy-cold and reminded him of the eyes of a dead frog.
“Who are you? Where am I? How did I get here? And above all, what am I doing here?”
Instead of answering him immediately, she sat down on the bed next to him with a eerie grin playing around her face. He felt like a mouse being lurked by a cat, and, just like what he might have been like, his heartbeat paused before pounding so hard that he could feel it down to his temples. Even in the battles of Killiecrankie and Dunkeld, back in the Great Uprising, when they first suffered a victory and then a devastating defeat, and so many good men found a quick death, he hadn’t felt that way. Perhaps it was because he had known fighting from his childhood on as an important part of his life and had learned to live with the consequences of it. But this was something completely different. Something that his mind simply could not comprehend.
Even though she smiled at him and every move she made gave him a little more of an idea of what she really wanted from him, he wanted to run away from her. But he didn’t want to give himself this kind of nakedness, because he wasn’t a frightened child anymore and certainly not her will-less prey.
“You want to know who I am?” she breathed into his ear when she had come close enough to him, while he involuntarily pressed himself into the pillows to increase the distance between them. “They call me Morgane.”
“Morgane”? The Morgans?”
“That’s the one.
“If you are Morgane, then I am Merlin.”
Again she broke out in her throaty laughter.
“Not only tall, strong and beautiful… No, you amuse me, too. I’ve made a really good choice!”, she remarked more to herself than to him.
“What does it mean? You made a good choice?”
“Do you think I brought you to me on a whim?”
He didn’t answer, he just stared at her.
“I may be a little moody sometimes, my dear”, she continued. “But your salvation had nothing to do with my mood. I have been watching you for a while. I saw you fight in Killiecrankie and Dunkeld. Your wildness and unbridled strength! I wondered if you would use it in other situations as well.”
Her gaze slipped from him to the sheet and then back to his eyes. “Not always, as I realized!”
“You watched me do this?”
Instead of answering him, she bent over him completely, her long hair brushing his bare chest as she sighed softly.
“Won’t you show me some of your strength?”
“I shall what?”, he replied enraged, but at the same moment her lips were pressed against his. Dusten was completely taken by surprise. It took a while before he was even able to react, then he grabbed her by the shoulders and pushed her forcefully away from him.
“Don’t be so shy! We will spend a lot of time together, so as sooner you submit, as easier it will be for you.”
“I will not submit! Never! You can send me back.”
“Send you back? Why should I send you back? And besides, what are you doing up there? You’d better enjoy my hospitality, be grateful that you’re alive because of my foresight, and reward me for it!”
Again she came closer, but this time Dusten was prepared. He turned jerkily to the side, tearing the blanket with him. Morgane lost her balance and landed with her face on the pillow instead of on him.
“What do you mean?”
“If I hadn’t saved you, you’d be just as dead as all the others now!”
“Dead? What are you talking about? Which others?”
“Your father, your mother, the Laird…,” she replied as if it was completely irrelevant.
“What about my mother, my father, and the Laird?”
Morgane rolled elegantly to one side, supporting her head with one hand and looking him in the eye again.
“I’ve already told you that! All dead!”
“You’re lying! It can’t be!”
“I never lie!” Anger mixed in with her lascivious look. “See for yourself!”
She moved her free hand in a circular motion right before his eyes. At first, nothing happened, but then the air inside the circle began to flicker. Everything he saw distorted, became darker and finally an image of the valley where he had spent half his life was formed: Gleann Comhann!