This excerpt is from Chapter 19: A Servant of the Adler (which is German for eagle).
It’s from the point of view of Marion Countess (or Grafin) von Adler
Marion fell into a deep sleep.
There was another knock on her door. This time she got up to see who it was.
“That you again, Ursula?”
As she approached the door, it seemed to swing open of its own accord.
“Fermor? What do you want?”
Ian Fermor held a lantern low down, like Ursula had done. It lit his face, accentuating his curved, aquiline nose, high cheek-bones and thin, pointed chin.
“Come with me,” he said. It was odd, because without a second thought, she did exactly that. She also wondered why she didn’t seem to have any choice in the matter. That was not what frightened her most though. She followed him out of the door, along the gallery corridor and down the spiral staircase. She noticed that her feet didn’t seem to touch the ground. She glided like an eagle, like when they were hovering in the sky and had an eye for their prey. As she walked, she tried to hear the sound of her own footsteps. There was none. She was walking on thin air. That was what frightened her the most.
“What’s happening? Where… are we going?”
“Are you hungry?”
“Yes, of course, we’re all hungry, but –.”
“Then follow me,” Fermor’s voice was hoarse; like he had a heavy cold or a sore throat. “I’ll satisfy your hunger,” he added, which to her sounded more like a threat than a promise. Again she felt fearful of this man’s ambiguous intent and his essential power over her will. She could do nothing to alter it and drifted along after him.
The lantern lit the way ahead; the tranche of light followed Fermor like it was coming from his face, like his face was the light.
He led her out of the north-facing door. Snow was falling from the sky like milk white diamonds, sparkling in the palpable stillness of the night. They travelled – or floated, she wasn’t quite sure what they were doing – along the front of the Schloss until they reached the two barns where the supplies of wheat, seed and corn were stored.
Alexander was hunched in a corner of a doorway. Some guard he was, his snoring would have woken the dead, if there had been any around. None of that seemed to matter, because she noticed she was still wearing her night gown and wondered why her feet and hands didn’t feel the biting cold. Now she came to think about it, she didn’t feel anything. No cold, no warmth, no sensations at all. It was even more curious that Fermor, leading the way, left no footprints in the snow.
He eased them towards a narrow alley that ran between the walls of two barns. Despite the protection afforded it from the elements, the snow storm had deposited a light dusting in the alleyway. It was secluded. She hesitated. What might he do to her?
“No, stop. I can’t go any further,” she said. “Tell me what this is about.”
“I told you, I’ll satisfy your hunger,” he said, turning to speak to her. His face resembled a great bird, his hook-nose and large staring eyes lending him the appearance of a hawk, no, it was more like an eagle.
“Why are you doing this?”
“You helped me, Your Excellency. I want to help you,” he replied. “You are one of us.”
“One of ‘whom’?”
“A servant of the Adler, the eagle, the twin-headed eagle.”
“I’m an Adler and the twin-headed eagle is on my husband’s coat of arms. Is that what you mean?”
“If you believe that’s all there is to it, go back to your warm bed,” he said. “If you have an inkling of a greater purpose, follow me. Higher service is always a matter of free will.”
He glided on without waiting for an answer, leaving her alone and swathed in the night. She felt compelled to follow. Besides, the Adler had encouraged her in the Columbine Inn.
Fermor held the lantern out in front of him; its light seemed to shine through him, like he was transparent or made of air. Either way, it was easy for her to see the way ahead. When they were about two-thirds down the alley, he stopped and said, “I’ve brought you here so you can see it for yourself. You need to remember this place.”
He pointed to the ground and added, “This is it, see here.”
“This patch of grass.”
“What of it?” she asked.
“It has no snow on it.”
“I can see that. And?”
Before he could reply, the end of the alley from which they had come was filled with a swishing light and shouts of alarm. “Oi! Who’s that? Is someone there? Show yourselves! Or I’m coming to get you!”
Alexander had woken up.
“Quick,” Fermor said. “Follow me.” And he floated up into the air, above the barns, and over the snowy landscape as if it were the most natural thing in the world to hover around in a body lighter than air. She glided through the walls of the Schloss (Castle) and was soon drifting into the safe confines of her bedroom. Somewhere along the way, Fermor must have slipped away into the night and she found herself back in her body and in her body.
Justin Newland is an author of historical fantasy and secret history thrillers - that’s history with a supernatural twist. His stories feature known events and real people from history which are re-told and examined through the lens of the supernatural. He was born three days before the end of 1953 and holds a Ph.D. in Mathematics. He lives with his partner in plain sight of the Mendip Hills in Somerset, England.
His novels speculate on the human condition and explore the fundamental questions of our existence. As a species, as Homo Sapiens Sapiens – that’s man the twice-wise – how are we doing so far? Where is mankind’s spiritual home? What does it look or feel like?
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See you on your next coffee break!
Mary Anne xxx