The midnight air had begun to sag and drip on the ancient pitted stone walls. A rogue cockroach scurried, bouncing across the spear-chipped pockmarks, along the worn battlement, etched by shoes of metal and leather, just ahead of the dark night wraith. Gliding silently as a barn owl hunting for food over the scrubbed age-beaten grain fields, the dark shadow swooped and stopped, swooped and darted, stone shadow becoming warm body shadow crossing the battlements. The gibbous moon slowly waltzed with the last entrails of the evening’s storm that had done nothing but make noise and tease the drought-birthed famine-crazed farmers.
Her silk slippers danced in a long established and ritualistic pattern, as the night wraith traced a path that she did not have to see. Each step a note in a song long written in the blood that coursed through her veins, as she raced against time, and listened against a cry or shout of awareness. Her step pauses in midair, then as if her foot like a hound, were delicately sniffing the landing in the deep shadows of the stone piled wall; her outer three toes almost curled over the edge of a hole along the edge of the stone wall, used by the warriors for relief as they walk the perimeter. She moves her foot the critical few inches and continues on her path.
If she could see the moon as it slips between drapes of veiling clouds, she would see a curious red pall covering all but the uppermost tip of the horn. But she has no need to look, for the power tainting the moon surges through her blood like a storm in the high mountains: howling, wailing, screeching and cutting with the sharpness of a honed sword powered by the bloody sweat-stained muscles rippling from the war-soiled, beast leather jerkin.
A small pebble hit against harder stone. The night shadow froze, now melting into the colder corner of stone against stone. Her heart was playing the staccato rhythm of a frightened mouse as curved swords from the sky sought silent death; the rushing blood pulsed in her ears, and she strained to hear the low whistle she needed to finish her journey.
Crouching in the cold of the stone, the same old battle raged, as she knew that the new ways required her to be in her chamber awaiting her wifely duties to her liege and husband. The moon overhead beat in the darker depths of her soul and called her to a duty that was all but lost in the modern world of science and the new religion of men in dresses wielding power far beyond a broadsword or claymore. The fire in her blood demanded her presence on the ramparts at the mid hour of night as it had for millennia of her mothers before and one night would of her daughters as well.
The low whistle of a distant loon echoed through the outer rims of the castle keep, answered by several more in and about the walls. Slowly, she reached out with tarantula-like fingers, crawling and testing the section of wall as she searched for the one stone that was warm and vibrated with a life that though long dead, lived forever. The fingers, as her eyes, belied the vacant face that was no more seeing than if bound with leather and blinded by the tannin of torment from a life given to that which was not in the heart, but burned in the depth of a soul tied to an ancient belief and it’s practices; even ones that were self-destructive.
As she withdrew the sought-for stone from the wall, she began the long banished ritual that, before the night was out, would cause her tortured body and soul even more pain. The heat of the stone grew in her hands as energies matched and the harmonious chords called out to the others. Echoes surrounded her: gritty scrapes of stone on sandstone pathways, fabric rustling against fabric. She acknowledged the pull that was inside of her and listened to the sounds of the gathering as they came like moths to a flame . . .