Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Dark Guardian by Donna Grant

A Dark Guardian by Donna Grant

Released September 2006 from New Concepts Publishing

Historical/Dark Fantasy

Donna’s website: http://www.donnagrant.com

Donna’s Blog: http://www.donnagrant.blogspot.com

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The Shields 1:

A Dark Guardian


Donna Grant


Central England, Stone Crest Castle

Summer, 1123

The darkness of night summoned Evil like a warm tavern to a weary traveler; the velvety thickness blanketing any who dared to oppose its will. And the Evil enfolding Stone Crest had one task in mind--the demise of all.

“Faster,” Mina whispered urgently into her mare’s ear. She bent low over the horse’s neck and chanced a look over her shoulder; her hair sticking to her face and neck as the ground raced beneath her.

The dark, menacing road was vacant, but she knew the creature was near. Stalking. Mina’s skin tingled with anticipation and her heart pounded fiercely in her chest as her mare continued to run toward the trees.

A terrible, unearthly scream rent the air. Mina quickly covered her ears and her mare slowed, then stopped and danced around in fright.

“Nay,” Mina hissed while she tried to gain control of the mare. “Run, Sasha, run. Our lives depend upon it.”

The mare sensed Mina’s anxiety because her long legs stretched out and the ground flew beneath them once more. Mina gripped the reins and Sasha’s mane tightly as her blood rushed wildly with fear and dread. The hair on the back of her neck rose but she didn’t need to look behind her to know the creature followed very close.

Mina focused on reaching the clearing. Sasha was fleet of foot, the swiftest of her family’s horses. If anyone could outrun the creature, it was Sasha. At least, she had thought so. Now Mina wasn’t so sure.

A small smile formed on her face when she saw the clump of trees that signaled the clearing was just a short distance away. As she was about to reach the trees, the flap of wings overhead reached her.

Something long and sharp passed in front of her face and sliced across her arm. A frantic Sasha reared, and it was all Mina could do to hang on. Then suddenly, the world tilted and Mina jumped clear as her beloved mare collapsed and lay deadly still on her side.

Mina raised her eyes to the night sky and saw the creature that had come to their small village hovering above her, a sardonic smile on its grotesque face. Its small beady eyes flashed red in the gloom, and she knew her time was at an end.

Long, razor-sharp talons lengthened from its hands. She swallowed her failure like a lump of coal. This wasn’t how it was supposed to end.

Fear immobilized her. She couldn’t even scream. The creature moved slowly towards her, as if he wanted to torment her prior to killing her. Before the creature’s talons carved open her face, she saw a blur of movement out of the corner of her eye. In the next moment, she found herself thrown roughly to the ground and over the side of the hill. The weight of whoever had landed atop her knocked the wind from her lungs in a gush. As they rolled down the hill, she heard the furious screams of the creature.

Just as she thought they might roll for eternity, they finally came to an abrupt, bone-jarring halt. She was afraid to open her eyes and find that another evil had taken her. After all, it had been the worst kind of wickedness that had plagued her village for a month now.

A deep, soft voice reached her ears through her panic. A man’s voice. “Are you all right?”

Slowly, she opened her eyes. Instead of a face, all she saw was the outline of his head. His tone held a hint of concern, but this was a stranger. She had come to mistrust anything that wasn’t part of her village and so she was slow to respond.

“Aye,” she answered at last.

“I was beginning to think the fall had addled your brain.” There was no mistaking the trace of humor in his meaning as he swiftly rose to his feet.

He held out a hand to aid her. She hated to do it, but she accepted his help because she didn’t think she could gain her feet alone after the tumble she had just taken. As he pulled her to her feet, her arm burst into agonizing pain. She could barely move her hand, but she wasn’t about to let the stranger know she was hurt and give him an advantage. It was something she had learned very early in life. One had to be strong to survive in this land.

“’Tis not a safe night for a woman to be out alone.”

She sensed he wanted to say more but held back. They were mere inches from each other, so she took a step back to offer herself more room. “There are many things that should keep people safely inside at night. Including men.”

He bowed his head slightly. “I mean you no harm, lady.”

She didn’t believe that for an instant. Only a wandering idiot would take a stranger’s word.

Copyright © Donna Grant 2006

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