Meg Anne Brighton Books

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The great horned owl had soared through the dark night becoming nervous and fearful as he approached the magnificent medieval structure—Ludwig castle. Snow-capped mountains bounded the spiral, coned, magnificent castle and created a surreal fairy tale apparition on a high, rocky cliff.  Beneath, a roaring ocean with mountainous waves, threatened to climb the jagged cliff. A full moon and bright stars illuminated the castle, and the small, quaint village of Wicket could be seen in the distance a few miles away.  Below, scattered sparsely about, were a few small cottages with colorful red roofs and shutters.  It was a welcoming sight, and Herris was relieved to be home after his long journey. He had rehearsed his speech well, for he would be the bearer of bad news.

Herris had seen the form of his Master as he stood by the window.  Damien was a princely man, but could be dark and foreboding if anyone dared to cross him. The window flung open wide and Owl’s expansive wings cleared the window, and with a swoosh he flew into the stately study; and dropped the silver shoe at his master’s feet. The slipper landed on the soft carpet unscathed.

 Damien smiled and grabbed up the slipper and gazed at it imaging the girl who had worn it. He dreamed of her nightly and had been anxiously awaiting Herris’s arrival for news of his betrothed. Raven had arrived earlier and told of his coming.

The monkey quickly scathed Damien’s vestments of breeches and brocades until he was sitting on his shoulder. He craned his neck, his big dark eyes locked on the slipper.

The room was extravagantly furnished with seventeenth-century furnishings and paneled with rich, dark oak.  Ornate drapes of crimson velvets and rich brocades hung from the windows.  A library of bound books lined two walls, and a roaring fire burned in the massive fireplace.  Luminous shadows danced over the wall from the light of silver candlesticks.  Renaissance art hung throughout the room, and the faces in the paintings of those who had lived before seemed to come alive.  They, too, had looked expectant as they awaited news of the young girl.

 Herris landed on the heavy, wooden, oak perch that his Master had made especially for him.  He had attempted composure worthy of a great horned owl, but his nerves overtook him, and his head had begun to spin erratically.   

 “Make him stop!  Make him stop,” the little monkey screeched as he lept to the ground, throwing his tiny arms around his Master's white leggings.

The Prince reached down and picked the cowering monkey up and stroked his back to calm him.  “What is it, Herris?  What has happened?”

Herris somehow found his voice, but his words seemed much too loud, too deep.  “Stephanie has been kissed, Sire, and I think she is quite taken by the mortal.”

Damien’s face—once calm—had contorted with rage, and fire flamed from his nostrils.  “She’s mine,” he cried out loudly, sending echoes throughout the cavernous castle.  “Wizard promised her to me.” 

Snitch shrieked loudly in fear, and Herris drew back, spreading his expansive wings to maintain his balance.  Raven peered out silently from a dark corner.

It was as if a dagger had plunged into Damien’s heart.  He had never felt such pain. “No other man shall have her, I will not allow it,” he lashed out.  “Our wedding is being planned. I’ve searched the world for jewels to adorn her and filled the castle with art.”

“Master, she is very beautiful, and the mortal is very handsome. The Seal of the Blushing Rose has fallen away, but you cannot bring her into the kingdom until she is nineteen and nine days.  Until then, many things will happen in her life that you cannot prevent.  Many men will want her.”

“Do you not think me worthy of such a creature?” Damien ranted. “Am I not generous enough to you, my friends, servants, and the people of Wicket?”

“You are kind, Sire.” Owl lied. “Most of the time,” he uttered under his breath.  “It is not you but Blood Eyes who carries out the cruel and heinous whippings and torture.”

Damien tapped his pointing stick as he stood staring at Owl, his chiseled jaw twitching. Then he turned and went to the window looking out at the waves thrashing against the cliff. The weather fit his mood.

The great horned owl sat silently on his perch staring straight ahead.  Without his Master’s eyes on him, he found the courage that he needed, and found his voice. “Even Wizard cannot make your hearts beat as one, Sire.”

Damien’s dark eyes flashed. “Am I not handsome enough for her, Owl?  Is that what you’re saying,” he said striking the stone fireplace hard with the stick. He straightened his shoulders and stared hard at Owl. “Are you oblivious to Wizard’s powers?” he barked. “Have you forgotten that when she drinks the wine from the Chalice on our wedding day, she will lose all memory of earth?”

The great horned puffed up courageously.  “It’s just that—what do you know of love, Sire? You have only had wenches.”


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