Friday, May 18, 2012

"The Sacrifice" a romantic fantasy novella by Shirley Martin

She must die! 

No, Briana couldn't bear it. The holy day of Samhain approached, when the veil between the real world and the Otherworld disappears, and demons stalk the land. To placate the gods and protect the people on the eve of Samhain, the druids choose the most beautiful woman in the land to sacrifice--to knife to death!
A seer with special powers, Briana's adoptive mother knows it is Briana the druids have chosen to sacrifice. You must run, she tells Briana, escape! Reluctant to leave all she holds dear, Briana knows she must escape and flees in the dead of night.
The druids order their most trusted enforcer to capture Briana and bring her back. Why have they chosen him? Weylyn agonizes. He has loved Briana for years. Which choice will Weylyn make--love or duty? 


        Gods, no!  Today was Samhain!  They’d never get back to their village in time!
        They plodded on, and Weylyn’s face held an expression of grim determination.  But she knew the demons would find them tonight. 
     Darkness fell.  No!  She grabbed his arm.  “Weylyn–“
     ”Don’t say it.  There is a sacred circle nearby.  We shall take refuge there, for ‘tis said the stones will grant us protection.  And the sacrifice . . .”  He shook his head.  Was he happy they would arrive too late for the sacrifice–through no fault of his–or did he feel remorse that he had failed the druids, no matter how great his effort?
   “Soon, Briana, soon we shall reach the circle of stones.” 
     The fog densed, and moisture dripped from the trees.  She clenched her hands and looked in all directions.
     He pointed ahead.  “There!  I see it.  We’ll make it to the circle in time.”  Past thick strands of evergreens, they reached the circle of stones, set on a grassy, level plot of land.  He dismounted and lifted her down carefully, so she could lean against the stones.  “See, I told you–“
     Screams and howls rent the air, screeches and the heavy thud of feet.  The earth shook, the screams getting closer. 
     “Weylyn!”  Forgetting her ankle, forgetting everything but her horror, she clung to him.
 The horse bolted, rushing off into the night. 
      Weylyn shook his head.  “No time to lose!”  He picked her up and set her across the stones, then stepped over them. 
     Strange creatures moved among the trees, bright eyes shining in the dark.  A monster approached them, closer, closer.  No!  Gods, no!  Briana screamed.  
     “Weylyn, please, what are we going to do!”   She held Weylyn fast, her heart pounding with fear, with horror, with a terror greater than any she’d known.  His heart thudded next to hers as he pressed her body to his. 
     No, no, no! 
     The demon neared them, its eyes gleaming with intensity.  The stench of rotten meat fouled the air, and it grunted as it moved with slow, plodding steps.  Shorter than they, it had a solid build, its squat body covered with fur.  Saliva dripped from its mouth.  Razor-sharp teeth glittered as it opened and closed its thick lips. 
     “Stay behind me, Briana!”  Weylyn threw off his cloak and drew his sword from the scabbard.  The demon breached the space between them, only feet away.  It grunted as it moved, swaying with each step. 
     Faint with fright, Briana threw off her cloak and tugged at one of the stones to hurl it at the demon, but they were too big for her to dislodge.  She glanced up.  “Weylyn, look!”  Another brute menaced them, then another and another. 
     Weylyn’s head turned from left to right, his body flexed to fight.  How could he defeat them?  The demons would get them, devour them.  Gods, save us!
     The earth shifted beneath them.  Briana pressed her hand to her mouth, stifling a scream.
     “Briana, hold onto me!”  They moved back together, the monster still advancing.  No matter how they moved, the ground shifted, then gave way.
     “What?  What?”  Briana screamed again.  She clung to him as they plunged down, down, down, until she thought they would fall forever.  They finally stopped, and in spite of her sore ankle, she felt as if she’d landed on feathers.
     “Well, now.”  A feminine voice greeted them. “We have company.  How nice!  We don’t get visitors often.”
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