Title: Silver Knight
Author: Caron Rider
Series: The Silver Series
Release: February 24th 2012
Genre: Y/A, Fantasy
Source: Lightning Book Promotions
Buy: Amazon | Caron Rider | B&N | Print
When seventeen-year-old Diana recognizes an elderly priest in a video on YouTube, she realizes that reincarnation is real and that she’s been alive before! Every night in her dreams, she relives her past learning that it’s kill or be killed. Now a bishop at the Vatican whom she saved in another life calls on her once more. She is needed to help defeat evil within the catacombs of Rome. But when she arrives in Rome, she meets Alexander – the man of her dreams! Through the centuries she has loved him…betrayed him…been killed by him. Will she give him another chance or this time will she strike first?
In the milky duskiness of the early morning light filtering in through tall, narrow windows in the outer wall, I paused holding very still. I held my breath, listening, waiting. Nothing. As its loathsome smell wafted through the hall, it crept somewhere close but I could hear nothing. Where was it? I took another step forward, cautious with my heart throbbing in fear.
In a hall of an ancient castle, my side hugging the cold stone wall, I continued forward. My breath blew out in a cloud of mist, while an icy draft occasionally moved tapestries hanging along the walls. At the very edge of my consciousness, I knew I dreamed. I had gone to my bed in happy anticipation of a good night’s sleep, for I had not had a nightmare in over two weeks—a rare occurrence. Maybe I had finally outgrown them…maybe not.
But now, frozen by cold and dread, my shaking hands were empty when I looked down at them, and I began to panic. I didn’t have a weapon! What if it found me? How would I defend myself? What if…hold it! Focus. Breathe. I stood in a castle— there had to be something.
The ceiling arced above me supported by strong, wooden beams black with age. The faint scent of English roses rising from wooden bowls full of fading flower petals failed to mask the stench of the thing. A fox, trapped at the base of a tree, surrounded by horses and hunting dogs, stared out at me in equal terror from a lovely if disturbing oil painting. There at the very end of the hall, standing in a slightly darker shadow, I saw the outline of a thick man holding a long stave with a metal tip that barely gleamed. A suit of armor! I sighed gratefully.
As I took a step forward, there came a crash from behind me down the hall. I whirled around to see a ball of blackness roll from a doorway that hid a staircase. It slammed against the opposite wall with a wet squelch and uncurled to glare at me through yellow slitted eyes. It took a split second to notice that it stood about a foot high and had a slick, slimy head with no discernible ears. Below a long snout filled with many, many sharp teeth that gleamed in the faint light, it grinned evilly at me. One step backward, then I turned trying to run flat out. But there were only stockings on my feet below my thin, muslin nightgown, which gave me no traction on the smooth stone floor.
Only a few steps further, then the creature—the demon, my mind whispered—plowed into my back sending me to the floor screaming.
I awoke from the nightmare sitting straight up in bed gasping, the shriek still echoing from the walls. Then I fell back against the warm pillows, still feeling the claws digging into my back and the teeth latching onto my shoulder. I gave it an experimental shrug. Yep, still worked. I heaved a sigh and rolled out of bed wanting to wash the sweat off in a hot shower before getting ready for school.
My last days as a junior! Breathing in the fresh morning air, I walked across the William Tindall High School campus towards its main two-story building that housed the majority of students. Woohoo! Second to the last day of school. Students milled around in an upper parking lot next to the gym with its attached auditorium and band rooms, reluctant to head to class before the tardy bell. The final large building in the complex housed just the freshman—the annex. The probability that older students would send the little freshman screaming (or corrupt them) led to their very own separate academy.
Later that morning as I weaved between my fellow students heading down the hall to my English 11 class, Mr. Jakes stopped me. He was our assistant principal in charge of discipline and was rather short and round, wearing small, square, wire rim glasses. You wouldn’t think that he’d be tough just by looking at him, but I’d seen him get in this guy’s face once, and I never wanted to be in that position. He did not yell, quite, but using seriously stern, loud ranting, he became extremely intimidating. I’d never seen anything like it.
“Diana, just to let you know, you’ll be in charge of the book club next year. Over the summer, you’ll need to put a list together of books so that the club members can vote on what to read.”
Mr. Jakes sponsored our school book club, Authors Abound, and our president had just graduated. We only had six current members, which included Sam, Maggie, Manning, Vera, Amy, and me. So I’d kind of thought that I’d be up for president this year, since I had seniority now. I’d joined the club as a freshman, and the others had come on board the following year. So here we were, seniors at last! Or at least we would officially be seniors in two days. Happiness swelled my heart because I loved the club that we’d nicknamed AA.
Our motto: Friends don’t let friends not read.
“Sure, Mr. Jakes, some of us have already talked about maybe the Lord of the Rings series. Plus we’ve already got some new members lined up for next year. We’re supposed to meet in the library later today to make sure we all have cells and emails.”
“That sounds fine but just be sure to let everyone give some input.”
“Okay.” I was glad that my fiasco with his son, Tommy, hadn’t caused any trouble between us. Tommy was a close friend of Sam’s as they’d both been on the football team together. Since Sam was dating my best friend Maggie, we’d all ended up hanging out as a group pretty often, going to movies, the mall, that kind of thing.
So when Tommy suggested that he would give me a ride to the Junior-Senior Prom last month, I didn’t think anything of it. I mean, I’d bought my own ticket, so I just thought, friends, you know? Tommy thought differently. Awkward. Fortunately for me, he’d been a senior this year and, upon graduation last week, had joined the marines like his father before him. He would leave for boot camp at the end of June. Semper fi!
When I finally got to English, Maggie was already there talking with Allie Newton. Maggie wasn’t beautiful, in fact, she was kind of ordinary looking…at least until she looked at you. Then when you met her green eyes flecked with gold that filled her face, you forgot she was ordinary—because she was anything but. We’d known each other forever—well, since kindergarten. We’d become fast friends when we’d spied a caterpillar climbing the chain of a swing on the playground at the same time. We’d agreed to remove it carefully, and take it to a tree at the edge of the field.
“It’s on YouTube. Just search demon priest,” Allie said, brushing her black hair from her shoulder so that it hung straight, half-way down her back. She had an unusual fashion sense for a teen in that she liked dresses. Not your normal, skin tight, short, totally hot looking dresses but dresses that were long and flowing, covered with little flowers and lace collars around the neck. Because she felt like she towered over everyone (she didn’t), she always wore toe flats.
“What’s on YouTube now?” I wondered aloud sliding into my desk, wearing my typical jeans and Nike’s, my light brown hair curling wildly around my face. My friends hated my hair, but it was pure jealousy. My hair almost always looked the same, even after swimming. While their hair was matted and knotted with chlorine, I just had to give my head a shake, run my fingers through it and my hair curled up, drying perfectly, even after being windblown from the open car windows. They moaned, attempted to use a brush, and usually ended by pulling on hats, and I would sit there with a Cheshire smile.
“There’s a priest video that’s gone viral. He asks for warriors because he needs help with demons!” Allie explained. Demons, great—a shiver crawled down my spine as dream teeth tightened on my shoulder.
“There have been all kinds of groups sprouting up across the country claiming to be his ‘warriors’ apparently,” Maggie added, and I raised my eyebrows.
“Not to mention the Demon Lovers website for devilish dating. Millie sent me a link as a joke!” Allie laughed.
“Well, there’s all kinds of nuts out there, I guess,” I said wishing the topic would change. Fortunately, Mr. Mason came in and walked to the front of the room to begin class.
“Now remember everyone, your paper is due tomorrow. No exceptions!” Our assignment had been to write a final term paper on one of Shakespeare’s plays, our choice. I had chosen to do mine on Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, traditional star-crossed lovers seen in fictional literature as compared to historical fact. It appealed to me because tragedy could have been averted with just a little trust and communication. Maggie had taken on Hamlet. They were both pretty decent papers but just needed a little more tweaking before tomorrow.
When the end of the day rolled around, I headed to the library for the AA meeting. I pulled open the door, closed my eyes, and inhaled through my nose, loving the odor of paper and leather bindings flavored with some vanilla potpourri Ms. Poe, the school librarian, would put out. All the current members, plus a couple of new students, stood near the podium at the far end of the long rectangular room.
The library was wonderful—probably the coolest library in the state with its twelve-foot high ceiling and walls filled with books. At the opposite end of the room from the podium, students could find ten cubbies that had computers set up for research. Spaced out evenly in the middle of the room, three rows of double-sided shelving full of books that we simply called ‘the stacks.’ In the corner by one of the doors sat a dilapidated but cozy sectional sofa that someone had donated, perfect for when you wanted to sit down and read a chapter or a magazine.
“Hey, guys, why don’t we arrange the chairs?” I started dragging some chairs into the open space near the podium to create a circle and the others pitched in. We had a ritual that we simply had to perform for all newbies. So when everyone was present and sitting down, I began.
“Hey, everybody, my name’s Diana.”
“Hi Diana!” All of the current members shouted back at me with a grin, and the new wannabe members laughed in surprise.
“It’s been two weeks since I last read a book.”
“That’s okay, Diana, we know how busy the end of the school year is. It’s all about baby steps,” Sam was always good on the uptake.
“We’ve come together to put book titles down on a reading list for next year, plus welcome new members to the club. So without further ado, let’s just start on my right and go around the circle so that you can introduce yourself.” There were only two interested kids this time. In the fall when the freshmen came in, we’d probably pick up a couple more.
The first guy just kind of leaned forward in his chair, waved his hand, and said, “I’m Rob.” He was a junior, and I’d seen him around. I thought he might be interested in Vera, which might explain his sudden interest in the club, but we’d take what we could get. After all, we got Sam because of his interest in Maggie, and he’d turned out okay.
“Hi Rob!” We all responded.
“Umm, it’s been, like, a few months since I last read a book.” Though obviously self-conscious, he appeared willing … just the kind of member we needed.
“That’s okay, Rob, in this club, we’ll get you reading again,” Maggie volunteered. “Friends don’t let friends read alone!”
“I’m Maggie and, sorry, but I read all the time,” she said, grinning in appreciation at our “Hi Maggie!” response.
“I’m Sam. I only read when she makes me!” He pointed to Maggie with a grin, and she stuck the tip of her tongue out at him, as the rest of us gave a “Hi Sam!”
The next and last newcomer fiddled shyly with a thick strand of blonde hair hanging down her shoulder. Her current status as freshman would change in just two days to sophomore. “Hi, my name’s Gabby,” she paused expectantly, and we didn’t let her down.
“It’s been three days since my last reading.” Okay, she’ll fit in just fine, I thought.
“I’m Vera. I read a lot but really love being able to discuss it with the gang here.”
“I’m Manning. I’m a sci-fi freak.”
Sam gave him a high five slap as we exclaimed, “Hi Manning!”
“And last but not least, I’m Amy,” she said smiling around at all of us.
After the final “Hi Amy!” I said, “Good, that’s great.
Welcome all. Now let’s get down to it. It’s been proposed that we read the Lord of the Rings series. Any thoughts?”
“Well, how much time are we going to spend on each book?” Manning asked.
“If we include The Hobbit then we could spend a quarter on each book,” Sam suggested. Sam, Maggie and I had spent all weekend over spring break watching the movies one after the other. He truly wanted to read the series now.
“I don’t know. That might be too much Tolkien for me,” Vera said. “What about the one about Percy Jackson?”
“Okay, let’s throw some titles out there so that we can decide books before we think about the time,” I suggested. “I want to read that Dean Koontz book Intensity.”
“I want to read Twilight,” Amy said. I added Twilight to Percy Jackson, Intensity, The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings on the list.
“Lee Child has a new book out called The Affair,” Rob volunteered. I guess we all looked blank because he added, “He writes books about an ex-army MP investigator who goes around the country and ends up helping people in trouble. You know, gangster types might be leaning on a store owner who’s a single mother. So this guy, Reacher, will blast them. My dad likes his books, so I’ve read a couple, and they’re cool.” So I added it to the list.
“I heard that Terry Brooks has a new book out in his Shannara series. They’re kind of like the Tolkien books in that there is usually a quest involved but not quite so wordy. I can’t think of the name of it right off hand,” Maggie said. So Terry Brooks’ book went on the list. I’d look it up later.
“Okay, any other suggestions?” I asked. Everyone looked around and just kind of shook their heads. “Great, then we have a fair list to choose from. Before we leave, make sure I have your email address and cell number. This summer I will ask everyone to vote on what our first book will be. I will be the only one to know who votes for what, so don’t worry that anyone will pick on you for your choice. And have a great summer!” I ended with a smile.
* * * *
The next morning I awoke in another cold sweat sitting in my bed but this time with the taste of ash in my mouth. Most people don’t think about dying very much or the many ways in which you can die. I think about it frequently…dream about it, in fact, virtually every night. As a child, my parents didn’t understand why I had such nightmares. Or how I could even know about the different ways in which people could die or be killed. After all, I started having the dreams when I was ten, not exactly the age at which to know about being burned at the stake. I had what many would describe as an idyllic childhood up until then. My dad worked as a geologist for Shell, and my mom had opened her own dental office.
They’d started dating in high school. Running to get to the covered walkway because rain poured down, my dad had knocked my mom into a massive puddle. You wouldn’t have thought that would lead to romance, but who can explain the older generation? She said he’d bent down to help her up, and when they looked into each other’s eyes, they just knew they were meant to be together. They’d gotten married while still in college and moved to our current neighborhood when they’d graduated. We lived in a good-sized two-story brick affair, in a quiet well-manicured neighborhood where the Home Owners Association had a hissy fit if you forgot to mow your lawn or trim your hedges.
I attended Tindall High in Springfield, which always met its Average Yearly Progress requirements, and made decent grades most of the time, chemistry being the only subject I seriously struggled with. Pretty normal, right? But every night dreams of being hung, stabbed, choked, poisoned, tortured…it seemed never ending…reeled through my head.
Becoming a serious insomniac and developing a terrifying fear of the dark, my folks finally took me to see a doctor when I turned 12. But here it was five years later, and still no one seemed to understand why I dreamed such terrible images, least of all me. Vivid imagination they said. Huh, I actually felt like those horrific deeds happened to me.
The doc put me on drugs, of course, and that did help some —for a while. Some nights no dreams came at all. But with the drugs came a feeling of being trapped, trapped in an abyss of darkness that nearly overwhelmed me, and I would wake choking, struggling for breath.
Why is it that our species fears the dark? It is an innate fear that even when logic tells us that nothing is there, we listen, hushed of breath, trying to quiet our heartbeat and we know…we know that something is there! In those dreams, I crawled through mazes of darkness with unspeakable things chasing me, and the creeping fear became worse than any death I had suffered in my earlier dreams.
I didn’t want to see people get killed, and more importantly —to me anyway—I didn’t want to be killed. I felt that I knew them all…those dream people, feeling sorrow at their passing, sometimes finding tears on my cheeks upon waking. But edging through darkness, feeling rough, cold walls under my hands and along my back, never knowing what was lurking in the shadows or when something would attack, was the worst. I refused medication after that.
The dream this night had begun in darkness when I first heard the woman crying and then slowly a field took shape around me. The sky looked that perfect crystal blue of spring with just a few puffy white clouds above. Seemingly a lovely innocent day breathed a cool, light wind across my skin. In the distance was an exceptionally large manor house, or an exceedingly small castle, not sure which, but I thought it remarkably picturesque in the green countryside.
Then I heard the woman weeping, “Alexander, please. Please not this. I did not send for him! I would never betray you!” I realized suddenly that I was the one begging.
Looking up, I saw that iron manacles surrounded my wrists and a chain led from them up through a ring at the top of a tall pole. My arms stretched over my head with my back pressed to the pole, pulling me up enough so that my bare toes just brushed a rough wooden platform. As I looked around in a panic, I saw straw and sticks piled on the platform, and under it, I knew another mound of wood and straw must sit ready to burn.
Before the platform on the ground, a tall, dark haired man stood watching grimly as workmen placed the bodies of two slaughtered pigs among the wood. That was something of a mercy since the pig fat would make the fire burn hotter and, therefore, I hoped faster.
His black brows were pulled into a ferocious scowl across his straight nose. He didn’t look particularly old, mid-twenties maybe, his skin appeared tanned from being outdoors constantly, and he had just a shadow of a beard on his square jaw. He wore a slashed leather jerkin and a black sword belt over a red doublet with black hose. It looked like he had come straight out of Elizabeth I’s court, and I wondered if my love of Shakespeare had finally made me demented.
The thought of burning—probably one of the most painful ways in which to die—caused me to feel a terrible, aching fear.
“Please…just kill me! Use your sword—please not this!”
“You should have thought of what would happen before you betrayed me, Diana.” His voice was harsh as if he too were in pain.
“But I didn’t bring him here. I didn’t tell anyone. I swear to you.” The truth rang behind the words. I truly had not committed the crime for which he was sentencing me. Oddly, I did not even blame him for what he was about to do—simply wished he wouldn’t.
A monk had traveled into the province asking the peasants about haunted areas. He had told old Martha that he would get rid of any evil spirits that had been killing innocent people. She had told him about a cave in the hills where through the years people had been found dead, drained of blood with deep slashes across their torsos. No one would go near the place alone though sometimes children would challenge each other to enter it.
She told him that it had been several years since anyone had been killed, but if he looked for evil, he could find it there. I imagined that I could hear her toothless cackle in my head as she would have relished telling the stories of the cave. What she did not know was that I had taken care of the “spirit” years ago and that the people did not need to fear the cave any longer. I couldn’t exactly tell her though. She would have thought I was a witch if I told her that I’d gone and “killed” the spirit living in the cave.
It was just after I had been to the cave, years ago now, that I met Alexander. I was in the village with my mother visiting her childhood friend Jane. Alexander was riding his big, black monster of a horse, Nightmare, when he saw us and stopped to speak with Elizabeth, smiling down at me. He made such a magnificent picture on that horse, sitting so tall and straight with his dark hair ruffling in the wind that I stared at him in wonder. When we were introduced, I remember that he found my name intriguing.
It was not long after our meeting that he and my father had arranged our marriage. I considered myself lucky and went willingly into the marriage. He was healthy, young, and wealthy. Not to mention handsome—much better than old man Tellus who liked to pinch me while drooling down his chin. But…I didn’t know. I didn’t know that he was part of the Dark. I didn’t know that he recognized that I was of the Light.
The cave incident and our meeting were several years in the past as I dangled with my back against the pole. We had been happy together, I thought. He had given me freedoms that women were not usually allowed…education, for instance, I could read and write. That was part of the problem. He thought I had written to the monk—sent for him. Sent for the monk to come kill him.
It had been terrible luck that Alexander had been close to the cave when the monk approached it. Again, it was unfortunate that the monk recognized Alexander as being a demon.
Alexander said that the monk had shouted ‘I have come for you, foul beast’ and charged him. He took that to mean the monk had come specifically for him, and the only way that would have been possible, in Alexander’s mind, was if I had written to the monk.
“They call you Alexander the Black because they think you have a black heart. But I know you. I know how you struggle against evil. You don’t have to do this. You will find out too late!” I gave the sobbing shout as a man approached carrying a burning torch. He looked to Alexander and Alexander nodded. He tossed the brand into the wood stacked beneath me and the crackle of fire began. The wood caught immediately and flames burst upward, smoke curling up from my feet like that of a silver stuck demon. And then I could think of nothing but the pain as the flames licked their way up and around me. Hearing screaming, some part of me was surprised when I realized it was me, my voice roughened with smoke and strain. I do not know how long I burned before he finally took pity, but the last thing I saw was Alexander the Black Hearted taking aim at me with a cross bow to grant me mercy at last.
In the 1990s, I began teaching adults to use computer software, hardware, and networking. After several years, my clients became younger and younger until I found myself tutoring high school dropouts to pass the GED. I found working with at-risk teenagers so rewarding that I changed my undergraduate major to Education.
Upon graduating from the University of South Alabama with a B.S., I began teaching high school history and continue to teach history classes online. Always wanting to encourage students’ creativity, reading and writing skills, I have put together a collaborative story telling effort at http://telling-tales.wikispaces.com.