A deadly quiet lay on the pasture, as night fell and lightning danced in the black clouds of the approaching storm. The King stepped out onto the grass where a sentry stood wrapped in a blanket under the great Oak, staring towards the wall of trees beyond the field.
“You called for me?”
“It’s too quiet, Sire. Something’s out there.”
Lawrence peered through the darkness at the barely visible beginnings of the forest. He listened, but heard nothing. No crickets, no birds. Absolutely nothing.
“How long has it been this way?”
“Since half an hour before sunset.”
“Only one thing could bring this kind of silence,” he muttered. “Even with the storm coming, we should hear more than this.”
He stared at the line of trees, and the absolute blackness under their branches. Wishing it weren’t true, desperately hoping he was wrong, he made up his mind.
“Be ready to dive into the tunnel and throw the traps. You know what to watch for. They’re waiting for the storm. Then they’ll come.”
The sentry turned to him, searching the King’s face in alarm. “They’ve not been here for years! Since before I was born!”
Lawrence returned his gaze, and said nothing.
“You’re serious, aren’t you?”
“Watch,” said Lawrence. “Don’t even blink. Don’t look at the lightning, it will dim your vision. When you see them coming, don’t hesitate. Dive in, pull the ropes that close off the entrance, and run for your life. I will start the evacuation. When we hear the trap close, we’ll start loading and launching the boats.”
“Yes, Sire.” The sentry stared at him for a moment longer, then turned his attention back to the woods, peering into the night and searching for the slightest movement.
“Your family knows to gather your things, without waiting for you?”
“Yes, Sire. They’ll know what to do. I’ll meet them at the boats.”
Lawrence patted his shoulder as he turned to go below. “I could be wrong,” he said. “But I’m not.”
Excerpt from the Prologue