A distant sound of thunder woke the Wizard from his sleep. He sat up, stretched, yawned, and looked out the castle window. Dawn was just approaching. Clear skies, a purple hue on the horizon, no sign of rain.
The woman in his bed mumbled and frowned, she was stirring from her sleep.
“Sshh.” The Wizard said as he kissed his fingertip and touched her forehead. The woman sighed and eased back into her slumber, a smile on her face. He looked at her for a moment, her hair askew, accentuating and highlighting her face. She was young, she was beautiful, and for this moment in time, she was his. He traced her naked shoulders with his eyes, absorbing her every tiny detail. He followed the curve of her shoulder down to the swell of her breasts, hidden under the covers. She stirred slightly. He sighed softly to himself and lazily scratched his beard.
The Wizard slowly got out of bed and threw on his cloak. The sound of thunder still echoed in the valley below and reverberated off of the mountains. “Time to see what this is all about,” he thought.
He left the bed chambers quietly, padding across the stone floor into his private study. The Orb of All Seeing sat waiting on its pedestal, gleaming in the first rays of the morning sun. The Wizard walked up to the Orb and gently ran his fingers over it. Gently caressing it, touching its smooth shape. “Much like that woman’s face,” he thought. A smirk played upon his lips.
“Show me.” He said. The Orb of All Seeing lit up, coming to life. Swirls of color danced inside the sphere, lightning played upon its surface. Dazzling flashes of light bathed the Wizard, engulfing him. He bent forward, closer to the Orb, scanning the pictures that flashed before his eyes. Seeking.
No, not that one. No, not that one either. “Ah, there.” The swirls and colors solidified into an image. “That’s the one.” The Orb slowed and stopped, showing the Wizard what he wanted to see. Many miles below, deep down in the valley, sat a castle. A black flag hoisted high and waving proudly from its highest parapet. Outside the castle walls, the moat surrounded the castle, a deterrent for those who would try to invade it; the drawbridge was up.
On the other side of the moat, the riders were approaching. This was the sound of the thunder. “They are coming out in force this time,” chuckled the Wizard. From where he gazed, the thunder was dull, mute. But down there, it must have been deafening. “Quite impressive,” he thought. “They are truly serious.”
In front of the castle the riders stopped. Sunlight reflected off of their polished armor, dazzling to the eye. Over two hundred men sat upon horse, their war cries filling the air. As one, they all raised razor sharp swords and incredibly strong lances to the sky. Their colorful shields gripped and ready for battle. It was truly a sight to behold.
The castle remained quietly defiant. No archers on the ramparts. No lowering of the drawbridge to meet the knights in battle. No sound of trumpets or drums calling for battle. Not a soul stirred.
The Wizard concentrated intently, focusing on the men on horseback. He could see some of their faces now. Helms up, eyes flashing. They were angry. Defiant.
“We know you have her in there! Bring her out! Give the maiden back to us, you vile bastard!” One of them cried. Cheers and shouts of agreement accompanied him.
“It’s the same as last time,” the Wizard thought. “Always the same. It’s sad, really. Almost pathetic. Predictable.” A maiden would disappear from the neighboring kingdom, and inevitably, the knights would show up to this particular castle, demanding her back. The end results were always the same too, the Wizard had seen this scene play out many times before. And yet, something was different this time. There was an energy about this particular scene that the Wizard hadn’t felt in a very long time. Something was going to happen this time, something different. That excited him. “Perhaps I need to go down there and take a closer look,” he thought.
“What’s going on? What are you doing?” The woman stood in the doorway to his study, draped in a bearskin blanket. She was rubbing the sleep from her eyes. She was beautiful standing there, yawning.
“Nothing much to concern yourself with, my dear. But if you must know, the knights are down at the castle again, wanting their maiden back.” He smirked as he said this.
“Another maiden is missing? When did this happen? Do you have any idea of who it is?” She asked.
“Of course I know who the maiden is. She went missing last night. The maiden they are looking for is you.” The Wizard pointed at her and laughed.
“Me?! The maiden? They are looking for me?!” She asked, perplexed.
“Of course, darling. And I’m sure they think you were taken against your will. All maidens are taken against their wills, didn’t you know that? And taken by none other than the Black Knight, no less.” The Wizard smiled.
“That’s not what happened!” She protested.
“Of course not my love, but try telling them that.” He pointed to the knights in the Orb. “Lord knows what would happen if they ever thought that you went willingly, enthusiastically even.”
She rolled her eyes and breathed a sigh of exasperation.
“Go get dressed. I want to go down there and get a closer look,” the Wizard said. “Something big is about to go down, something different, and I want to be there and see what happens. I want you to come with me and bear witness.”
The woman turned and went back to the bed chambers to put on her clothes. The blanket hung low off her back, showing her skin, the curve of her spine. The Wizard watched for a moment in admiration. He then went back to studying the images in the Orb. “Oh yes, something big is about to go down. I can feel it,” he thought.
To be continued….