Excerpt: Shadows in the Stone by Diane Lynn McGyver

Chapter TwoShadows in the Stone - Diane Lynn McGyver

Alaura awoke to movement within the sheep stall. In the dim light she saw Isla staring in the direction of Aruam Castle. She turned and looked in the same direction as the child but found nothing unusual.

Isla slipped between the stall rails and entered the dwelling. Frequent wandering convinced Alaura the time to rescue the child had to be soon, before she went missing. She couldn’t keep the child safe if she strayed from the yard in her absence.

A crash inside the dwelling startled Alaura. The once-dark interior exploded with light, but she couldn’t see the source of the noise.

“Where is it?”

She heard a deep voice; it didn’t sound like Keiron Ruckle. After several loud bangs, another voice echoed on the night air.

“Maybe he already has it.”

“Darnacles!” The first voice growled.

“Maybe it’s outside.”

Alaura froze as a large human flung the back door open. Two more men followed him outside. All three brandished swords and wore chainmail armour over rugged clothing of The Trail. They searched the backyard.

“This’ll show Keiron how we deal with traitors!”

She watched in horror as the leading man stepped over the rail, sliced the ewe’s belly from neck to tail and flung it against the back door. The ewe squealed in terror until it struck the ground.

The three men marched down the alley looking for another innocent victim to murder.

Alaura could wait no longer; she had to rescue Isla tonight. She half climbed, half fell from the roof. She couldn’t stomach the thought of moving the dead sheep. Instead, she sneaked to the front of the dwelling where she found the door broken down.

Once inside, her eyes searched the small dwelling, but she couldn’t find Isla. Alaura heard movement outside in the backyard. She crept to a closet, slipped inside and hid beneath the clothing. She cringed from the stench. Keiron must have simply hung up his clothes without washing them.

“Damn!” Keiron spoke in a hushed voice. “They’ve been here.”

“I guess that message is for you.” Another man’s voice seeped through the door opening.

“And yew, my friend.”

Alaura heard a dragging sound—the ewe—and then footsteps inside the dwelling.

“Let’s get the scroll and get out of here,” said Keiron’s companion.

She sensed fear in his voice. Peeking between the clothing, she watched Keiron move a small table by the front door and slide a stone from the wall. He extracted an item then returned the stone and table.

“What are you waiting for?” The stranger paused near the door.

Alaura watched Keiron hesitate and look around. Did he sense her presence? A bizarre expression radiated in the limited light. What did he think of? He almost appeared sincere with a yearning for a dear memory.

Keiron walked with determined steps toward a small window boarded-up on the outside and covered with a faded curtain on the inside. He flung open the material and half smiled at his discovery. “Yer as crafty as your ol’ man.” He pulled Isla from her hiding spot.

“Why are you bringing that?” The man at the door threw his arms into the air.

“They’ll kill her if I leave her here.” Keiron walked out the back door with Isla under his arm.

Alaura watched them disappear down the alley. Though tempted to follow, she held back. Hauflins had excellent hearing, and she had much to learn when it came to following in silence. She gathered her courage and stepped forward. Then she remembered the other dangers awaiting a young woman alone in the alleys of this part of town at night. She felt unprepared to face them. She shuddered, realising she may have lost Isla. Her shaking hands went to her lips. There had to be another way. Turning, she went to the front door, peeked outside and slipped from the dwelling.

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