Lord Hrotha's castle cast a shadow over the south of the kingdom, its spiraling towers grasping the sky like the fingers of a clawed hand. The western tower was taller and thinner than the rest, sloping outward from the walls at a sickening angle. In the village the peasants said that this tower had no door and no stairs, yet contained a solitary room at its peak. No one could reach it except the raucous ravens who guarded the fortress heights.
"What terrible, precious thing does Lord Hrotha keep in the western tower?"
The young knight Guillaume de Santerre had come to the south to serve his patron Lord Clouzin. The sun had begun to set during the ride to the manor, and as he passed Hrotha's castle a single lighted window shone atop the pitch-black spike of the cursed keep. The sight had chilled him to the marrow.
"Lord Hrotha keeps a bitter dove in his dovecote," answered another knight. Guillaume started. The knight smiled. "At least, that's what the ravens say. Didn't yo