Click here for Part one of this spooky tale!
Carefully shielding her candle, Baena went towards the chamber. At the door she glanced back at the men. The firelight seemed to be far away. She fought the urge to run back to Cinaed and entered the chamber. To her relief the flame remained steady, although it barely pierced the darkness. Slowly she walked towards the bed. It reeked of smoke. Her candle cast a pool of light over the blankets that usually seemed so inviting. The noise of the men by the fire barely filtered into the room. She looked at the doorway, which stood like a bright beacon beyond the chasm of darkness that filled the room. Baena did not undress, but sat uneasily staring at her candle.
As she tried to take comfort from the occasional burst of laughter from the hall, there came a much closer sound that made her start. A faint rustle, as if a cloak was trailing along the ground, came from the corner. Terrified that she was not alone, Baena squeezed her eyes shut and began muttering prayers. The sound seemed to come closer, and then from another direction she caught the sound of faint breathing. Suddenly a hand touched her shoulder and she screamed.
“What is the matter with you this night?” Cinaed demanded. He looked annoyed, but Baena didn’t care. She flung herself into his arms, her body trembling. Somewhat impatiently he stroked her hair.
“I don’t like this place. It frightens me.”
“What is wrong with it? It’s the most comfort we’ve had since leaving Dunadd.”
“I don’t want to stay here.”
“It’s just one night. You’re tired and it’s making you imagine terrors where there are none. Come, lie down.” The frown faded as he met her frightened eyes. “You know I’ll defend you against anything.”
Baena refused to undress and lay very tensely in his arms that night, flinching at every sound. It was obvious that Cinaed was getting more annoyed. He moved across the bed, but Baena followed him, burying her face in his hair, her panic increasing. The flame of the candle flickered again.
“Just lie still,” Cinaed ordered. “We’re neither of us getting any rest.”
Another sound came from the dark corner. It was a scraping sound, as if something was dragging along the cold stones of the floor. Slowly it edged closer to the bed. The flame of the candle flickered more than ever. It was obvious that whatever was scraping along the floor, would soon be right next to them.
“What was that?” she cried, clinging tighter to Cinaed and not daring to turn over.
“Nothing. There’s probably rats in here. Just go to sleep.”
“I can’t. Please, Cinaed, I can’t stay in here.”
With an angry sigh, Cinaed flung on his tunic. Without a word he took her back to the open hall, looking thoroughly fed up. For once Baena did not care that she had annoyed him. She almost cried with the relief as they emerged from the chamber. Outside, in the roofless hall, it was cold, but Baena pulled a blanket tightly around her shoulders and moved even further away from the dark chamber. Never had the twinkle of stars peeking through the rafters, been so welcome. To their surprise Domnall was sat by the remains of the fire.
“Why are you still up, Brother?” Cinaed called. “I thought I ordered everyone to their rest an age ago.”
“I am not sleeping in those chambers,” Domnall said. “There’s something not right.”
“Not you as well,” Cinaed sighed. “I am tired. I am going to bed. Baena, you can stay here with Domnall. Domnall, if you so much as touch Baena I will kill you. Good night to you both.”
Baena bit her lip as Cinaed headed into the shadows. “Cinaed, please stay here with me.”
But an angry snort was the only reply she got as the dark doorway of the chamber enveloped him…
To be continued…