Chapter 6

     Catherine wondered if the reason she had become increasingly nauseated was because she was not facing forward in the carriage. Cold though the air in the carriage was, it was not fresh, and she found herself wishing she could have her face in the wind, bitter though it was. Only Consuelo was aware that she had been ill. When they stopped the carriage for the women to traipse off into the brush several times, she had vomited her breakfast. Afterwards, she felt better, but the motion of the carriage had become increasingly disturbing to her equilibrium. She thought she would certainly become seasick when they boarded ship, and she was very sympathetic to Francis' suffering during his journey over water. She hid it well as they were riding, however, concentrating on a little mental game of counting the hoofbeats of the nearest horse outside, while wishing they could just stop so she could lie down.

     It was thus the journey continued. Catherine told herself many times that if she could survive the mental asylum, she could survive this trip. She was actually grateful to have Consuelo with her at night when they stopped in small inns along the way. Francis was even more of a hero to her when she realized why he had sent the girl to her. A man who could unselfishly care so much about the welfare of a servant girl was indeed a kind man.

     And he was ever gentle with his words to her, his promises and reassurances. Had she not loved him before, she would have by then. And her uncle only smiled the indulgent smile she remembered from many years ago when she'd been a small child. Catherine believed he was happy for her, she believed him when he claimed remorse for letting her be taken away to the mental asylum. It seemed all was going to end well. After this journey through the northern part of Spain, she did not think she would ever return, and she did not care. England would be much colder for longer during the year, but Francis would provide her with all the warmth she needed. In return, she would take very good care of him and his household. He would never know what had happened to her, but she would prove she was worthy. She determined she would not fail him.

     It took more than a week to reach the northern coast, and when they were near, Catherine realized the direction they were going would take them to Castle Medina, not to San Sebastian. She had glimpsed out the window, staring as the road they were on cut through the small town of Terrelavega. Had they been going directly to San Sebastian, they would never have gone so far west.

     She looked sharply at her uncle. "Why are we here, Uncle Fernando? Surely you do not wish to subject Francis—" She looked at her beloved, saw his frequent frown return, that little furrow between his brows.

     "No, I wish to see for myself. We have a full escort. You will all wait in the carriage."

     "What is the meaning of this, Don Santoña?" Francis said, turning to look at the other man. "Wait for what?"

     "We are going to Castle Medina," Catherine said before her uncle could answer. She felt a bolt of fear that Francis would find this intolerable and end their engagement. The look on the young man's face changed, and for a moment his skin lost its healthy color and his mouth opened in such a vulnerable way, full lips parting, that her heart felt constricted. She saw his hand suddenly come across his stomach—a gesture she had only seen him make once since his coming to rescue her.

     But quickly he jerked his hand away, and his face hardened, frown turning into a scowl. "So you want to see if we are lying?"

     "No. I want to see to a proper burial for those who died here. Insane though he was, Catherine, do you not think your brother deserves one?"

     Catherine looked from Francis to her uncle and nodded, remembering the last time she had seen Nicholas. He had lain at the bottom of the pit, his body broken on the rocks. And beside him had lain the doctor. Perhaps it had been wrong to leave them so, no one to bless their souls, bodies left to rot on unconsecrated ground.

     "This is too painful for her," Francis said. Oh, she thought, he looks as he did when he questioned Nicholas about Elizabeth. Giving no quarter, his voice so firm, his lips pressed together with determination.

     "She will wait in the carriage."

     "You do no know the way through the castle," Catherine said. Going back into it would not be so difficult. She had not suffered there. "I will guide you."

     "You will not, Catherine," Francis said. "I will not have you entering that evil place again. I will show them where the chamber is."

     "But Francis, no—"

     "It is no place for a woman."

     "I lived there. It is nothing to me." She tried to smile, but she didn't think it looked genuine.

     "Catherine," said Don Santoña, "I am sure it will be a most unpleasant return. It would be best if you stayed in the carriage."

     She looked into her uncle's dark eyes, knowing she could not win. "All right. I will stay behind." Her eyes found Francis', and he nodded, then leaned forward and took her hand.

     "I will not worry so much about you if you stay in the carriage." He looked at his host. "But I would have appreciated being told you had this errand in mind. I would not have protested. Catherine needs to be vindicated completely."

     "Yes," said the older man. "So there will be no aspersions cast upon her name when she arrives in England."

     Catherine dropped her eyes and felt her stomach clench in shame. Oh, Uncle, none that you know of, but there is a truth I can never tell. I pray Francis will never know.

     She then caught him looking at her, and felt her face warm with another burst of shame. He squeezed her hands, then released them gently.

     "Catherine has done nothing wrong," Francis said. "She is a lady. And that is how she will be presented as my betrothed."

     She could not quite look into his eyes, and turned her head to look out the fogged window instead. Lord protect him, she prayed. He is my savior on earth.


     Unlike his first arrival at Castle Medina, the carriage Francis was in drove straight across the bridge over the moat to the entrance of the old, dark structure. He felt his hand go across his stomach and jerked it away as he looked at the place. It was as forbidding as it had been the first time, the plant growth, trees and vines, all winter dead, the odor of decay and abandonment in the humid air. The sound of the surf pounding against the rocks below the cliff on which the castle perched could be heard as a distant booming, ominous and unsettling. And the sky was overcast and grey, adding a bleakness to the scene.

     It was comforting to have four of the trained soldiers accompanying him and Don Santoña into the castle, though Francis carried his own rapier. Not that there would be anything to find but corpses. When he and Catherine had left before, she'd had Maximilian lock up the place, sending Maria and the cook home with a generous severance. There were no servants here any more. Only rats and death and isolation.

     Don Santoña used the key he had taken from Catherine's things at some point—Francis suspected he had done so when she had been locked away. The large door swung open and the air that flowed out was cold, but smelled no worse than any other castle he'd been in. The odor of mildew and mice and dust hung in the humidity and swirled about them as they went inside. Guards carried lighted torches.

     Nothing appeared disturbed or vandalized as one would suspect in a castle containing considerable riches. Its reputation was frightful enough to keep even the bravest looter away.

     Francis found his heart was not steady. It had been in this place he had been put through a terrible ordeal. His nightmares centered around the dungeon of this very structure. Returning here was returning to his worst fears. And yet, he was not alone.

     But what if they planned to get rid of him here? What if it was Don Santoña's intention to dispose of him and then Catherine? Just the thought made his blood pound. I would not give in without a fight, he told himself, hand clenching the hilt of his rapier. I could teach them a thing or two about swordsmanship.

     "Well, Mister Barnard?" asked Don Santoña. "You said you could show the way?" He offered Francis a torch.

     Francis looked at him, then nodded, taking the torch. "Yes. Come." He crossed the main foyer to the decorative grillwork door, opened it and continued in the corridor beyond to the door leading down. The door was not locked, and as he led the way down into the darkness, he felt a tightness around his chest, and for a moment feared he would not be able to breathe.

     The sound of one of the guards coughing as the acrid stench of the torches sought to suck the breathable air from the narrow stairs, reassured him. Francis told himself that it was the torches in the confined space that made it so difficult to draw a breath, not his considerable dread.

     Squaring his shoulders, Francis led the way through the lower level, at first intending to pass by his sister's terrible grave. He realized that Don Santoña needed to see, however, and stopped.

     "What is it, Mister Barnard?" the older man said, having never seemed to comfortable addressing Francis by his first name. It was a familiarity to which Francis had not been able to adjust either.

     Francis held up the torch toward the iron grill doorway beyond which he could just make out the disarray of the opened tomb. "That is where my sister was interred. It is an unfortunate element in the horror that took place here. I feel you should see it. And we should, perhaps, reseal it."

     Don Santoña nodded. "Show me."

     Francis nodded and took a breath before entering the chamber. Francis had restored the lid to its proper place after Nicholas Medina had fled, but had not attempted to reseal the tomb. He led the way past the heap of discarded masonry and into the tomb. The air was even heavier here, and the smell of death was strong.

     "Do you wish to see her, Don Santoña? It is a difficult sight." Francis hoped he refused. He did not want to see that corpse again.

     "I fear I must."

     "Very well." Francis stepped back as the Spaniard waved two of the guards forward. Francis thought they looked pale and frightened. But they pushed the heavy lid up without protest or comment and stepped back. Only Francis did not take part in the collective gasp of horror, which filled the small room.

     A few months' time had done little to change the state of the corpse within. Her face was still sunken and dried, frozen in a rictus of horror, her hands formed into claws, the darkness of dried blood on the sleeves of her shroud.

     Francis only glanced at her, then away. He listened as the lid of the sepulcher was pulled back into place, and then he looked at the obviously shaken Don Santoña.

     "She was buried alive," he said in little more than a whisper. "How terrible!"

     "Can your men reseal the tomb?" Francis asked him.

     The older man looked at him as if coming out of a daze. "What? Oh, yes, I will have two of them stay to do that while we continue on."

     Francis listened as it was determined that a proper job would be impossible without mortar and replacement stones, but a temporary one would suffice until spring when Don Santoña would see to hiring a mason to come out.

     The two men elected to stay did not look comfortable remaining behind in such a disturbing place, but Francis could already hear them moving stones as he and the other three men moved away.

     It was not pleasant to contemplate a return to the torture chamber, or even less so, the room beyond. The odious atmosphere of the castle seemed to thicken as they approached the door. Francis was relieved his hand remained steady as he used the key Don Santoña handed him to unlock the door.

     The cavernous room was awash with shadows dancing in the torchlight. The rack appeared a long bed, the brazier a bucket, and the iron maiden seemed to hold some pale, ghostly occupant.

     "Watch your step," Francis said, holding the torch high to see his way as he descended the curving stone risers. He had no interest in seeing anything in this room, and deliberately did not look at the objects of torture. Instead, he turned his head toward the door leading to the room where he had experienced hell on earth. It made his heart pound to think of it.

     "This place has the stench of death," said Don Santoña, his deep voice hushed. "As if someone lay rotting in this very room."

     "No," Francis told him. "It is not this chamber." But he smelled it, too. A rotting corpse, somewhere nearby.

     "There," said one of the guards, pointing to the iron maiden. "It is coming from that."

     Don Santoña and Francis looked at each other, then both approached the dreadful box.

     Francis felt his face twist into a deeper frown as he looked at the small, barred window in the device. There was a body in there. He could see the paleness of dried flesh, smell the decay rising from it.

     "I don't understand. Who could it be? There was no one in there when he showed us this room."

     "We must find out." Don Santoña nodded to his men, and they released the strap around the iron maiden and opened it. The body which fell out, made a sickening sound, and a fresh cloud of the terrible death stench rose up. They all put something over their noses and mouths—Don Santoña, a handkerchief; Francis, his cloak; the guards, the crook of their arms. Two large, fat rats scurried from under the material enclosing the body.

     The body was of a woman, as the gray dress, which appeared more of a shroud than a proper dress, indicated. There was enough left of her face to see the high, wide forehead, the thick, luxuriant black hair. Francis started, his mind throwing up a fierce denial when the image came to his mind. This woman looked like the painting Nicholas Medina had done of Elizabeth. Francis had not seen his sister since he was a child of thirteen, but this woman looked like what he remembered of her.

     But how could it be Elizabeth? She was interred in the tomb above. Unless . . . unless that woman was someone else? But why? And how?

     "Do you know her?" Don Santoña said, having backed up a few steps.

     "I . . . I don't know." His eyes rose from the unpleasant visage at their feet. "She looks like Elizabeth. But how?" The music, he thought, who else could have played it? Nicholas had heard Elizabeth whisper his name, even the servant girl Maria had heard a voice. Could it have been Elizabeth? Could Nicholas, in his madness, have caught her and placed her in this ghastly box?

     Francis backed away, shaking his head. "I don't know."

     The Spaniard just looked at him a moment. "Another mystery to unravel, no? Show me this other chamber. We will decide what to do with this woman's remains afterward."

     "Yes," Francis nodded, still shaken and confused. "I will show you." He moved toward the door leading to the room with the pit. It had been closed, but not locked, and the door opened with a shove.

     Francis almost could not make himself move inside, but he managed it after what seemed a long hesitation. He was totally unaware that he had his hand and arm pressed to his stomach. He lifted the torch high as he stepped to the side and the others entered.

     "Careful. There is a drop," he said quietly, watching Don Santoña's face rather than look at the rest of the room.

     It was a huge chamber that three torches did not adequately light, even with the two barred windows high up in the walls, which let in rays from the gray afternoon outside. But the form of the room became clear as their eyes adjusted. Nightmarish figures painted on the high, vaulted walls, figures in black cloaks with red eyes. There was a deep pit occupying most of the place. Above it there was only the wide ledge upon which they stood and the small rectangular island rising up in the middle. Above the island was the instrument of torture unlike anything of which Francis had ever heard before coming to Spain. At one side of the ledge narrow stone steps began, jutting out from and following the wall of the room half way around it, giving access to the apparatus.

     The pendulum was still, hanging dead center over the low stone table on the island. The shaft of it was long and ended in a curving semi-circular blade. There was a dark stain along its razor sharp edge, and once Francis' eyes fixed on it, they would not move.

     He was back here. A place he had wanted to deny ever existed. And the very thing he saw so frequently in his nightmares was just over there, just across that little pull-up bridge. Francis felt blackness growing at the edges of his vision, and he was unaware how his breaths came in sharp jerks.

     "Mister Barnard!" said a deep voice very sharply.

     Francis heard it, tried to shake off the darkness around him and in him and respond. It was the sensation of being shaken that did it. Don Santoña's face came into focus in front of him, and the blackness retreated.

     "What?" he said, panting without even feeling it.

     "Where did you see Nicholas Medina last?"

     Francis could not see his own wide eyes or pale face. He only knew he felt clammy and hot, yet he was shivering. "In . . . in the pit." He gestured toward the floor, but did not look as the other men did.

     "There is a body down there. Is that Catherine's brother?" Santoña looked at him without acknowledging Francis' obvious shock.

     Francis made himself take a step closer to the edge and look. He let the memory come then, and remembered seeing Dr. Leon lying face down, and then Don Medina on his back nearby. There was only a single body there, and it was face down. Nicholas Medina's body was not there.

     The jolt of realization went all through Francis' body. Don Medina was alive. He was alive.

     He turned frightened eyes on the Spaniard. "That is not Nicholas Medina. That is Dr. Leon. Nicholas must be alive!" Francis wanted to run out of the chamber, but he realized quickly that he was letting his fear over come him.

     "Yet he fell down into that pit? How could he have survived?"

     "I do not know. He knew this place. If there was a way out, he would find it."

     Don Santoña nodded. "There must be a way down there. We need to find it and retrieve the doctor's body. And perhaps Nicholas did not survive. He may only have crawled to some corner not visible to us here."

     "Perhaps." But Francis didn't believe it. He felt a chill now that he couldn't shake. He wanted out of this castle right now. But he would not be unmanned by his fear, and he did not suggest leaving.

     "It is day is growing short. I do not want to do this now, without all the men. We will return to Terrelavega for the night and come back in the morning with a priest. If they cannot be properly buried, at least they can be blessed.

     "What of the woman in the torture chamber?"

     "We will cover her body for the moment. Come, we all need some fresh sea air."

     It seemed to take forever for one of the guards to go upstairs and return with a drape to put over the dead woman's body. But once that was done, they all returned to the upper cellar to check the progress of the two working to reseal Elizabeth's tomb. It was decided to leave it unfinished for the moment.

     It was an escape from hell to come out into the castle proper, and like entering heaven to pass out of its front doors. Francis shook his cloak in the cold wind, wanting nothing more than to shake the odor of death from him. It had been worse than he'd feared. The reality of his nightmare was all too clear. He wondered as he climbed into the carriage if he would ever sleep again.

     "You both look so pale," Catherine said as they settled in. "Did you find them?"

     Looking at her was a balm to Francis' shot nerves. "Yes."

     "But not your brother," Santoña told her. "We are coming back tomorrow. You will stay in town while I see to everything."

     "Nicholas? You didn't find him? But I saw him lying—"

     "He was not there, Catherine," Francis said. "But we found—"


     Francis looked at his host and sighed before returning his gaze to the woman. "The body of another woman. She had been locked in the iron maiden. I do not know when. She looked like Elizabeth."

     He hated giving her such a shock, but she seemed as strong as she had proven herself to be. "It was not the same body as in her tomb?" At Francis slow head-shake, she continued. "And Nicholas? Do you think he is alive?"

     "If he has survived this long, it is because he knew a way out of that pit."

     "I believe his body is probably there, but we just could not see it," said Don Santoña. "I am sorry to have such disturbing news."

     Catherine looked truly perplexed. "I loved Nicholas. He was only ever kind to me. But I know he went mad. I do not know what to feel."

     Francis took her hand in his. "Do not trouble yourself, Catherine, until we know everything."

     "How can you be so strong? It must have been torture for you to go back into that horrible place."

     He felt her hands squeezing his and smiled wanly. "I will not lie and say that it was easy. But you are completely exonerated from all disbelief."

     "Oh, definitely," the older man said. "But try not to worry, Catherine. We will take care of everything tomorrow. Then we will go to San Sebastian and await the ship."

     She nodded, and her eyes found Francis', and he perceived a compassion in them he had not seen since he had lain in that witchdoctor's bed having his wound tended. It made him uncomfortable at the same time it comforted him. He leaned forward and lifted her hand for a kiss. "Soon this will be behind us, though I do not look forward to tomorrow."

     "You may stay in Terrelavega, Mister Barnard," said Don Santoña. "I would not wish to subject you to that kind of trial again."

     "It is no trial, it is a duty. That woman may be Elizabeth. I will see that she is properly buried."

     "As you wish."

     But Francis did not relish the idea. He dreaded it. He dreaded the idea of going down into that pit to look for the madman who had subjected him to torture. He dreaded not finding Nicholas more than he did finding him. This could not be over quickly enough. A trip at sea, sickness and all, would be a welcome change.


     Terrelavega did not have more than a lowly inn for travelers' accommodations. Santo Tomás would have been closer, but it was only a small village and offered no lodging for strangers passing through. But after the foray into Castle Medina, Francis didn't care. His mind warred with thinking of the dead woman's body and of his own memories of the trial under the pendulum. And to think, Catherine had lived in that house for some time. She had told him she had lived there with Nicholas for a time before he married Elizabeth. She had gone to keep him company. How could it have not affected her? he wondered. How could she remain so untouched by the evil that place exuded in its very stones? How could she be immune to it?

     Even Elizabeth had been disturbed by it. His strong-willed sister had succumbed to the overpowering atmosphere of the place. It was unbelievable. Perhaps it was Nicholas Medina who had driven her to that point. But what of the body? In truth, the woman in the iron maiden resembled Elizabeth more than the one in her tomb. Could Elizabeth have been alive? Had he hidden her somewhere down there? It seemed impossible to believe when he thought how much Nicholas had seemed to love her.

     But Nicholas Medina had gone mad. Utterly, horrifically mad. In his mind he had become his infamous, evil torturer father. Francis still saw his face clearly, hovering above him, spouting his mad diatribe about hell. Followed close on that were images from Francis' memories and nightmares, not the least of which included his being cut in half by that terrible blade.

     So who was that woman? he asked himself, ripping his mind from thoughts of the torture. Was it Elizabeth? How long had she been there? Some months obviously. She had to have been placed there after the castle was empty. That would likely mean that Nicholas has survived his fall and freed himself from the chamber. But would he have placed some poor woman in that terrible box and just left her there? If he was hiding in the castle somewhere, would he have not done something else with her body? Perhaps he'd forgotten about it? No, Francis thought, he would not have forgotten. Torture was his life. No victim would have been left forgotten. She would have been tortured also, perhaps put under the pendulum, at the very least buried alive.

     None of it made sense, and Francis tried to put it out of his mind while he was with Catherine and her uncle in the dining room. But the other man speculated about all of it after their meal was over. Francis had eaten little. He drank half a bottle of some low quality red wine, but it did not help him forget. It only gave him a headache and made him tired. He knew Catherine wondered at his silence and was concerned about him, but he was in no mood to talk. Infernal Spain, he thought. Will I never be out of this country?

     He heard little of the conversation at their supper and retired after seeing Catherine to the room she had been given. It was one of the poorest he'd seen so far, but it was better than that which he and Don Santoña were sharing. There were two narrow bunks in the cold room, one over the other, and barely enough room to turn around. The straw mattresses stank of stale sweat, and Francis wrapped his cloak about him and lay on the top bunk.

     Santoña came in some time later, and with him was a young woman—a serving girl, Francis noted, turning his back to the door. Francis had expected the older man to question him once they were alone, he had not anticipated this. But there was no other room for either of them to take, so Francis lay on his bunk and endured the sounds of lust from both of them and the rocking of the bed frame. Irritating as it was, it caused a helpless reaction in his own body, and Francis could not stop thinking of himself with Catherine. He was aroused and frustrated, and fought them both in the silence of his bed. After it had grown quite in the room, he dropped off to sleep.

     He did not dream of the torture he'd endured, of Don Medina or his terrible dark castle. Instead, he dreamt a passionate dream of Catherine. They were in England on a winter day trying to keep each other warm. Passions rose and found them together, entwined in an intimate embrace. He woke with a moan as his pleasure escalated into a stunning release. It was a dream unlike any he'd had since his youth, uncontrolled and nearly wanton. But it warmed him and he slept more deeply than he expected.

     When he saw Catherine that morning before breakfast, he thought she looked especially beautiful, if pale, and his memory of the dream made him smile and briefly forget the task he had before him today.

     "You seem prepared to go back," Catherine said.

     He nodded. "Yes. It must be done."

     "I am sorry, Francis," she said gently, looking up at him as they stood in the hallway. "I would not have wished this on you for anything in the world."

     Francis smiled and kissed her hand. "Nor I you. You are a kind and gentle woman, Catherine. And as beautiful as any woman I have ever seen." Her eyes shown with appreciation.

     "You are very kind, sir."

     "I love you." He held his arm out to escort her into the dining area.

     A few minutes later, they were joined by her uncle, and Francis began to let in thoughts of what he must do today. "Did you know Elizabeth?" he asked Catherine.

     Her eyes dropped from his. "Yes. Not well."

     Francis wondered at her reaction. He thought perhaps she did not like Elizabeth. It wouldn't be too surprising. He had heard tales of his sister's difficult behavior, her jealousy of other beautiful women. "Do you think it is possible that she did not die as we think?"

     Catherine's eyes cut up to his, then away. "I do not see how. Her body was found. She was diagnosed—"

     "By the doctor whose body lies in the pit?" Don Santoña asked.

     "Yes. He pronounced her dead."

     "He was wrong," Francis said, remembering how he had disliked Dr. Leon. "He caused them to bury her—inter her prematurely."

     "If that was Elizabeth," said the older man. "I have thought about this. Is it possible that she staged her own death?"

     "For what purpose?" Francis said, shocked and insulted. He was incensed that anyone would think a Barnard could do such a thing.

     "The inheritance perhaps? She had nothing from your family, no?"

     Francis nodded. "That is true, but I cannot believe my sister would do something so sinister." He looked at Catherine. "Do you think that is possible? Out of all of us, you saw her last."

     He watched her face briefly lose its composure. She looked uncertain and uncomfortable by the question. "Yes, that's true, but I did not know her well."

     Francis softened his voice and his face a little. "Catherine, do not be afraid to tell me how you felt about my sister. I know she was a difficult woman. Especially to other women." He reached across the rough wooden planks of the table and touched her wrist. "It might help us."

     Her eyes went from Francis' to her uncle's before dropping to her plate, where he noticed she had touched little of her food. "I do not wish to disrespect the dead."

     "You did not like her?"

     "She was cruel," said the woman softly. "Cruel and devious."

     Francis looked at Don Santoña, then back at Catherine. "Do you think she was capable of the act of pretending her own death? And if she did that, who was the woman in the tomb? That would mean she had murdered some poor girl. I find I cannot believe that of my sister. How could she orchestrate such a thing alone?"

     "I do not know, Francis." Catherine looked at him, her eyes soft with sympathy. "I only know that I did not trust her. I felt she was using Nicholas. Forgive me."

     "There is nothing to forgive."

     "Mister Barnard," said the older man after a brief silence, "did you not say that this doctor pronounced your sister dead? If it is true that she was fabricating on her own death, would this doctor not be the logical accomplice for such an act? He could have ensured that she not be interred alive, but that someone else was."

     Francis tried to get past his belief that a Barnard would never sink so low. He looked at his fiancé. "Do you think that could be possible, Catherine? Your brother lost his mind. Is it not possible that he was driven to it by these occurrences we could not explain?"

     Catherine's hands came together and wrung each other. "I do not know. I even thought it was she once myself. But I could not see how that was possible."

     Don Santoña looked at Francis. "We must find Nicholas. He is the only one who knows."

     "Yes, you are right." Francis sighed. "We must be careful. He is a formidable man."

     "You will need me to be there," Catherine said. "I know the castle better than anyone besides Nicholas."

     "It is too dangerous," Francis said. "You will wait here."

     "I am the only one. You will not find him without me. If he is still alive."

     "I am loath to say it, but she is right," the Spaniard said. "We will need her."

     Francis didn't like it at all. And, as if to emphasize his trepidation, a crashing boom of thunder heralded the arrival of a violent storm. "You will be guarded at all times."

     "Of course she will. We all will. I would try to hire a few men from town, but it was difficult enough getting the priest to agree to come. The history of that castle has poisoned the minds of all the men here. We have only my soldiers on which to rely."

     "They will be enough," Catherine said. "Nicholas is only one man."

     Only one madman, Francis thought. Sometimes one is enough.