Her breath caught. She was about halfway up the stairs when she remembered. She should have realized it sooner, she supposed, but she'd been so preoccupied with getting to the top of the tower in time that she hadn't stopped to think about it until that moment, when she had caught a glimpse out one of the few windows gracing the west tower's winding stairs.
Moving back to the frame, she looked again into the soft glow that was settling over the land as the moon rose higher into the sky. Searching the horizon, she soon found what she was looking for. Across the waters that surrounded her prison stood another tower, one that instead of dread and despair, held hope. She smiled at the sight of it: the guard tower built to protect Lochlorren Castle, her former home. It also happened to be the home of the man to whom she had given her heart. They had grown up together at Lochlorren; she in her gowns and he in his tunics, she the long sought after Lady of the manor and he the faithful Knight charged with her safety. And how well he had looked after his charge! Never need she have worried if he was at her side
That is until he had fallen ill to the vicious plague that had ravaged the land. Her mother had passed away from the disease nearly ten years earlier, but when several of the servants joined her Knight in what became known as the sick bay of Lochlorren, it was concluded that the plague had not yet tired of her Highland home. New charges took the place of her protector, but either they knew naught of the importance of their station, or they cared more for the access to the wine cellar that came with a castle appointment. Whatever the case, it was on one dark and moonless night in the chill of winter when her defenders sought the warmth of too much wine, that her captor had sent a well trained sentinel to steal her away from the castle keep.
It was days later before anyone discovered where she had been taken, and weeks more before she gained word on what was to be her fate. It was through the haughty guffaw of her captor that she learned of what she considered a deep betrayal, for though her father had disapproved of her kidnapping, he was of the mind that the mighty lord holding her prisoner was of better stock for a husband than her Knight could ever be. Should she offer her consent, the Lord of Lochlorren could not complain of his lands being joined with those of another powerful noble. But her Knight had not been quite as pleased. Miraculously, he survived the plagues crippling aftermath and sent a secret missive with a clever page. He would find a way, he told her, to set her free and when the time came, he would send a signal by means of the guard tower flame.
Gazing into the moonlight, she sighed. Could it really have been two years since shed felt his embrace? Had it been two years since shed been secreted away in the name of greed and jealousy? She knew that her captor had acted on the conviction that if he couldnt have her, no one else could. He had returned to her door every day at noon to once again grant her the choice of freedom through the bonds of marriage or being confined to her solitary existence in the tower. Always she held out hope that her Knight would find a way to come for her, climbing the steps each night to the top of her fortress at midnight to await his signal. Lochlorrens guard tower had two visible windows; a flame in the upper window meant that her Knight was unable to slip away unnoticed, while a flame in the lower window told her to be ready for his impending arrival.
Staring out at the tower once more, her breath caught. Aye, she knew now that she should have remembered sooner, but shed been so preoccupied
Still, how could she have forgotten? Had her captor not goaded her for the past several days about certain servants not being worthy of affection? Had he not warned her that very afternoon that he had discovered her secret communiqués, and that any bright spot on her horizon tonight would be snuffed? Looking intently across the waters, she saw no light in either window, but instead her eyes were drawn to a torch being borne along the road between the two fortresses, hastening toward Lochlorren. The sound of hoof beats pounded in her ears, bringing with it horrible images of her loves destruction.
She shook her head. She refused to believe that evil would win this night. Straightening herself, she turned from the window and started up the stairs once more to watch and wait for her Knights promised rescue.