Day   11

 

The Mists of Time

 

  The roaring of the fierce white waters as the river dropped a level was the only sound that could be heard.  The thick white mist of the early morning covered everything in what could only be described as an eerie silence.  The castle looked down on the river from its heights but as it had been there for many hundreds of years, the river took no notice and continued on its winding way through the lush green forest lands that surrounded the castle.  The mist wrapped itself tightly around the castle giving it an ethereal look, almost as though it was somehow out of time. 

  Suddenly on the bank of the river, a hooded figure appeared.  The figure was tall and well-built and even though hidden by the mist, it was obviously a man.  For a long moment, the man just looked up at the castle and then with the sure steps of someone who knows where he is going, turned and walked downriver.  A wooden bridge slowly appeared out of the mist and the man crossed the river. 

He passed under the archway of what would once have been a very impressive gatehouse and entered the castle itself.  His footsteps rang out in the stillness.  Much of the castle had long fallen into ruin but the mist made it possible to believe that the castle was once again complete. 

  He moved slowly into the misty depths, nothing escaping his attention as he desperately searched for something that only he could see.  He crossed the central courtyard, the grass heavy with morning dew and approached the recently repaired stone stairs that led into what was once the banqueting hall.

  A huge arched wooden door still remained standing event after all that the ravages of time could throw at it.  The door silently swung open and he entered without hesitation.  

The banqueting hall was still fairly complete, standing almost as it would have all those years ago.  Tall elegantly arched windows looked down on the river and across the trees.  He moved across the stone floor and looked up at the balcony that ran the length of the hall. 

  He stumbled on the uneven floor and reached out a hand to steady himself.  The stone of the wall felt gritty and icy cold to the touch but stranger still was the delicious smell of roasting meat, the excited voices and the hearty laughter of the menfolk that assaulted his senses. 

  Row upon row of wooden tables groaned beneath the weight of the exquisite dishes that had been specially prepared for this occasion.  Thousands of colourful flowers decorated every free space while the flickering of the candles provided the light. 

  From the colourful dresses and expensive jewellery of the ladies, it could only be a celebration.  His eyes moved to where he knew the top table was.  A tall man with greying hair and a beard sat next to a beautiful young woman.  Both wore jewelled crowns and that could only mean one thing.  He watched with a growing sense of horror as the king reached down and helped the woman to her feet.  She smiled at him oblivious to everyone and everything else in the hall.

  A noise caused the man to look up to the balcony.  His horror intensified, his heart pounding with fear as he saw a man on the balcony raise a crossbow and take aim.  He followed the line of sight and saw that the bolt’s destination was the young lady standing next to the king.

  ‘No!’ he took a step towards the balcony and found himself alone in the empty hall with nothing but the chill of the early morning for company.  He spun around but the hall was deserted and silent.   He was alone. 

The hood of his jacket had fallen back revealing long dark hair and eyes of a wonderfully unusual pale green.  He moved over to the window and sank onto the hard stone of the window seat.  He rested his head in his hands with a weariness that was obvious in every line of the body. 

  Outside, the first touches of the sun met with the mist that slowly started to clear.  It was the noise of the river that finally pulled him out of his reverie.  He looked out of the window and saw the white waters of the weir as it continued to rush unhindered on its way.  For a long moment, he just sat there, watching and then with a visible effort he pulled his shattered thoughts together and crossed the hall again.  He gently closed the door behind him before moving quickly back to the river. 

  As he passed the gatehouse, he turned and looked back.  He now knew that he had found the right place.  He crossed the bridge and silently reflected that it had been on a misty morning like this that it had all began, so long ago.