CATHY M. DONNELLY
It is September 1513. Michael Craig’s brother is one of the 10,000 men slaughtered with King James IV of Scotland at the Battle of Flodden. Michael’s revenge is savage and will haunt him for the rest of his life. That day also ignites in him the ability to see the dead.
Michael travels to Alloa Tower, the home of the prominent Erskine family, to deliver a final message from Lord Robert Erskine to his son, John. He forms an enduring friendship with the family and the Tower becomes his home.
Following another devastating tragedy, Michael seeks sanctuary for his tortured soul at the Priory of Inchmahome. In his quest for redemption, he goes on a pilgrimage on the Camino de Santiago, and is forced to confront the demons that still haunt him.
Michael finally returns to Scotland and his sanctuary once more is Inchmahome. He renews his friendship with the Erskines, earns the respect of the Knights Templar and is entwined in the lives of King James V, Marie de Guise, and their child, Mary Queen of Scots.
When Michael meets young Alice, he recognizes a kindred spirit. They share a friendship that will bind them forever. In a time of danger, Alice is thrown into a world that is not her own. Will Michael be able to bring her home?
Flodden Field, England 1513
Light invaded the darkness. He felt the pain as it pulsed to the beat of the drum inside his head. The outside world tried to force itself upon him but he resisted. He tried to drift back to the place of oblivion but it was not to be. His mind registered the smell. What was it? Blood? His stomach heaved at its sourness. The noise inside his head was outranked by other sounds. Screaming. Moans of pain and despair.
Michael opened his eyes slowly. The sun hung in front of him. He felt the hardness of the ground beneath him. He could no longer embrace the emptiness. He flexed his limbs and was surprised to find no pain. That came in an engulfing wave as he pushed himself to a sitting position, forcing him to snap shut his eyes and cling to the earth with unsteady hands. He waited until it subsided and the world again assaulted his senses. He could once more smell the blood and hear the cries of agony. He felt a sticky cold liquid beneath his hands and forced his eyes open.
The man before him appeared to be kneeling in prayer, his head bowed in perfect stillness. As he focussed, Michael saw the hilt of a sword over the man’s shoulder, the rest of it having sliced through his body with the point pinning him to the ground. Michael jerked backwards. He lifted his hands to wipe his eyes and saw they were covered in blood.
Then he remembered. A terrible, profound, grief overwhelmed him. Robbie was dead. The sadness erupted from his heart and overflowed in hot blinding tears. Still he sat there, without will or need to move, such was the weight of his sorrow.
The cries stirred him from his hell and he focussed again on the world around him. For a moment he hoped it was but a dream, a nightmare, and that it would soon be over. He knew it was not. He stood up and slowly wiped his hands against his legs as he stared at the scene before him. Bodies lay as far as the eye could see. There were swords and shields, stark white bodies and those covered in red. He had to find Robbie. He would not leave him in this field of death. He would find him and take him home.
Panic gripped Michael when he realised he did not recognise the place he had last seen his brother and held him as he died. Robbie had managed a brief smile, despite the pain of the awful wound to his gut, and then he was gone. Michael tried to shut out the memories of what followed but the images of what he had done came flooding back. He took a few steps forward, sank to his knees and vomited.
When the nausea passed, he set about finding Robbie’s body. He stepped over the dead, the almost dead, as he searched. There were so many. They lay crumpled on the ground, body upon body. He saw others walking among them. Perhaps they had seen Robbie. He made his way to the man walking away from him. He shouted out but the man kept walking. He raced after him, stepping over, on, bodies and slipping on the blood. When Michael at last reached the man, he put his hand on his shoulder. The man stopped and slowly turned. Michael felt his heart stop in horror when he saw the axe lodged in the man’s stomach. His guts had slithered out of his body and dangled to his thighs. Michael forced himself to look at his face. Dried blood and dirt were caked on his skin and his eyes stared straight back at him, lost, confused. He held out his hand to Michael. His silent mouthing of the words “help me” tore at Michael’s heart. He could not help this man. He was already dead.
Michael continued to stare at the walking corpse. How could this be? How could this dead man be on his feet?
Michael turned and ran, stumbling and then getting up and running again. When he eventually stopped, he looked back at the way he had come. From the distance he could see many men roaming among the bodies. Were they ghosts also? He thought they must be. A wave of shock hit him. Was he dead too?