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Return to Rhonan: Chapters 5 & 6

Mark your diary, because every Monday and Thursday, I will post two chapters of my exciting historical paranormal romance novel, Return to Rhonan (that’s four chapters each week). Set mainly in the Scottish Highlands, the reader will find much to enjoy on this mysterious, well-researched journey.

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!


Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters
All rights reserved

Chapter 5

Douglas turned to the door.   ‘Better see the state of the bedrooms.’

Together they climbed the central staircase leading to a landing with corridors off both sides. The master bedroom held a magnificent four-poster bed with Tudor roses carved in the central panes of the head and footboards.  Douglas swept his hand over the headboard, ‘Not in bad nick. Needs a polish, though.’

‘Yeah, these pillows are mildew, why didn’t they get rid of them. God, that coverlet must be crawling. Why bank the pillows so high?’

‘They used to sleep sitting up, as they believed that you could lose your breath during the night if you slept flat.’

Nathan looked at the huge oak carved wardrobe.  ‘Look, there’s a huge wicker basket here, must’ve been for the dogs.’

Nathan strolled over to the wardrobe.  ‘Look, the last owners even left clothes in here.’

‘Yeah, Pevensey did say they left in a hurry.’      

 Douglas stopped abruptly.  “Can you smell that?  It’s like ozone?”

‘Nathan frowned, “Yeah, you’re right.’

‘Strange.’

‘Yeah, but we not far from the sea, so maybe the wind’s blowing this way.’                         

Crossing the landing, they found the Playroom. Nathan laughed, ‘Look at all this, rocking horses, dolls on a miniature sofa, loads of stuff, what with the schoolroom as well. It makes a good museum piece you know.’ 

 ‘We’ll go and have a look at the castle on the way out. I’ve got the map of the underground tunnels in the car, and we’ll need the flashlights.’ 

 As they drove down the drive, Nathan recalled Pevensey’s words, ‘Muriall haunts the place.’  He smiled, looking back at the window of the first floor.  It must be the one with the Princess bed.  He felt his skin prickle as a shaft of icy air passed over his face. He did not see the frail figure clutching a tiny skeleton.,

***

The castle was impressive, although the curtain wall was almost non-existent.  Only two turreted towers and the crumbling walls remained. Open to the elements, the inner hall was immense. One stone staircase on an internal wall led to what would have been the first floor with more stairs of rotting wood leading to the second and third. Against the far wall, the large fireplace and hearth could still prominent.

Nathan shouted out to Douglas from the far wall, ‘Hey look. I’ve found the servant’s underground tunnel to the Manor, and there’s also one leading in the other direction to the graveyard.  Pevensey did say it was on a level with the loch, didn’t he?’

 The tunnel would take a small woman’s height. Bending, they began walking through the small space.  Douglas said, ‘This looks dangerous – I don’t think we should go much further.’

Nathan looked above him, ‘Pevensey did say some renovations took place some years ago. This bit’s okay, see there’s concrete in among the stones.  It must have been done up at some time.  Come on – the vaults are not far ahead.’

Douglas flashed his flashlight to the ceiling, looking warily at the water seepage through the stones above, but it did look safe enough. They stopped at the first vaults almost twenty feet across and over twenty feet high.  The arches built of hewn rocks were rough on the edges adding to the gothic look.  On walking through to an adjacent vault, Nathan leaped forward, flashing his light on a central flat-topped boulder. It was over six feet in length with intricate carvings of skulls and gargoyles jutting from the four corners. ’Hey, look at this.   Bet this was the altar stone for the Hell Fire Club.  Just look at it.’

 ‘No blood.’

Nat laughed but stopped as the laugh echoed through the vaults rebounding back to him. ‘Christ, did you hear that?  ‘

Douglas felt a sliver of ice slither down his spine. ‘Eerie. Let’s get out of here.’

Nat laughed, ‘See, I told you it would be good for tours.  Just think of it.  Bring them down at the stroke of midnight, have a virgin screaming on tape, drums beating – look here’s the statue Pevensey was talking about. Now that’s ancient – pagan. The Hell Fire Club must have loved this. Looks like the God Pan or something.’

Nat said, ‘Didn’t Pevensey say that the legend is, once this figurehead falls, that would be the end of the line of Rhonan?’

‘Yeah, superstition.’ Douglas flashed his light at the dense shadows. Was there something moving there?  Surely not – it was just this bloody place.  ‘Nat – let’s get out of here – we can come back another time.’

Oblivious to his brother’s discomfort, Nat carried on walking deeper into another chamber. ‘Now, this is it.’

Douglas joined him, as he flashed the light around the walls; crucifixes remained on the walls but the correct way up.  Yet the walls held carvings of obscene sexual rituals.  ‘Oh my God – look at this, they must have practiced bestiality.’ 

Peering forward, Douglas said, ‘Sickening – I know they carried out satanic practices – this proves it. ‘They gazed in silence at scenes of men on women fornicating, of men on men and much more.  It left nothing to the imagination. ‘Makes you wonder why they’re still here, doesn’t it?’

‘Yeah, well – it’s history. Think of the graphic carvings of the Romans and the Greeks.  I mean, you couldn’t get anything more explicit than that, could you? They even painted pictures of couples fucking on the cups and saucers and the plates. D’you, remember that party we went to the other year?’

 ‘Could hardly forget that in a hurry.’’ The shadows appeared denser as he said, ‘Anyway, let’s split. We can come back another time.’ 

As they made their way through the tunnel, Nat said, ‘Well, you’ve got to admit we’re on to a winner. They must have had some orgies here. It’s got some atmosphere too – can you feel it?’

‘Yeah – they could do what they damn well pleased down here.  No-one’s going to hear.’

‘Hey, let’s just see what’s in here.’  Nat walked through to a side tunnel.

 Douglas followed. ‘This must be the burial chamber. ‘It’s freezing. What on earth is that?’

As he flashed the light, a statue of a huge stag appeared the antlers over three feet high.  On the wall behind him was a small tablet with the inscription, ‘Guardian of the dead.’

Nat whispered, ‘D’you remember that bloody great stag we saw on the drive-in? Maybe it was a warning.’  ‘Come on Nat−’ As Douglas spoke, his flashlight flickered and died.  Without another word, they began walking – fast.


Chapter 6

Rhonan, North West Scotland.
August 1810

The sea swelled and retreated like the bosom of a troubled woman.  Reining in the horses, Lord Duncan of Rhonan, watched Muriall and Meg clamber up to a shack in dunes over thirty feet high.  As usual, Muriall insisted on her breeches and frock coat, only red hair tangling to her waist gave away her sex. Had she any idea of the danger?

She could be a vixen at times.  Furious that he insisted on escorting her, she’d left him with words sharper than sleet.  ‘I’m sick of your damn face, will you stop following me around.’  She matched him in swordplay, temper, and in bed, but in these perilous times, he would tolerate no argument.

High in the sandy slopes, an older man gnarled with age, crept from the shack, hunger gnawing flesh from his bones, spittle brown from tobacco, drooling from a toothless mouth.    Stumbling after him, a hag with dirt brown skirts torn and filthy, hair wild and white about her shoulders screeched at the two women.  ‘Tis too dangerous for you to be here come in quickly.’

As Muriall went to hug the man, he shuffled back, crying, ‘don’t be coming near me, I stink of the sickness.  All we have left is rotting seaweed and nettles.

Wailing, the older woman pulled her soiled apron over her face. ‘The Master has forced the people to clear the land.  We are cursed Muriall – cursed.’

Holding on to their scrawny arms, Muriall guided the two older people into the mud shack. 

Meg, her stepsister, followed, trying not to retch from the stench within the windowless interior.  She said, ‘We’ve brought you some food and warm clothes. I see you’ve pawned the chairs.’         

Muriall shook her head.’ I’m so sorry – so ashamed of the Earl, allowing this to happen. But now, Nathrach, come try the clothes on.’

With bowed shoulders shaking from the bitter wind driving off the sea, Natrach shrugged on the tweed jacket while Ena retired behind a ragged curtain.   

She emerged, lifting a hem of burgundy wool. ‘To be sure, tis meself is the lady now.’ She tried to smile through the blackened stumps of teeth.  

Muriall stemmed her tears as she watched the old couple unwrap the fresh food, slices of cooked ham, chicken thighs, hard-boiled eggs, soft white rolls, and curls of freshly churned butter.

‘Och Muriall, you and your dear sister, are so good to us, without you, we would be dying now.’   Ena’s black eyes peered out of rolls of crinkled skin. ‘We canna live on seaweed all the time.  Nathrach here had to walk miles to find something we could eat, but he came back with nothing.’

Nathrach stopped chewing on a piece of ham as he said, ‘Aye. The kelpers strip the sea bare, taking all the seaweed. There is none for us to sell. Without you, we would walk into the sea.’

‘Hush now, dear Nathrach.  Once you saved my life.  I will not leave you now.’ Impulsively she quickly kissed his cheek. ‘Don’t go sharing it.  I know it’s hard, but you have to live.  ’  However, Muriall knew that the old couple would share the last morsel with their neighbors or anyone who entered the old shack.                                                         

Standing at the water’s edge, Duncan looking up the beach, noticed the fluttering tatters of a figure shuffling towards him, knees bent outwards, shoulders hunched.  As it drew closer, he observed it was a young man, the eyes almost slanting in the skeletal face.

 Speaking in Gaelic, he said, ‘Master, yerself must have this.’    The man drew a tattered parchment from the folds of dirty clothing. 

Duncan’s stomach tightened as he read the ominous words scrawled in what appeared to be dried blood.  ‘Ye are destroying our homes, and now ye take the very food from the hungry mouths of our bairns.  Death to the devil who forced us from our heritage, our land.  Death to the devil, who has driven us into the very sea.  Death will visit the House of Rhonan.

Black eyebrows beetling together, Duncan’s eyes took on the color of a winter sea.   The group was serious.  This was no longer the wild and rugged land of mountain and loch, of a proud chieftain and loyal clan. It was as if Hell had descended to earth and seized the very heart of man in talons of tin, squeezing out the last drop of blood. He knew there wasn’t any point in giving the fellow money; bartering seemed to be the only method of exchange these days. He plucked out a gold pin from his lapel.  ‘Here, take this and buy food for you and your family.’ Bowing in a dignified manner, the starving man shuffled away.

Grimacing, Duncan vowed he would fight for the tenants on the large estates. The Highland warriors and their families were dragged from their beds without warning. Their homes burned as they struggled to dress and snatch a few precious belongings.   It was a wretched business – starving tenants, now this death threat. His father must be brought to heel. He had to help them, had to ensure the Earl did not drive the tenants from Rhonan to starve.


Copyright.

No part of this book may be stored, reproduced, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the express permission of the author.

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and events are either products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously.  Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2012 Katy Walters

All rights reserved


Other Posted Chapters

Don’t worry if you miss any chapters, since you will find links to other posted chapters here:

All Available Chapters!

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