No Word from the Castle
By Sally Madison
Having heard no word from the castle, the senior officer stationed with the troops consulted with his subordinates. How strange that they were given an order to prepare for battle, but the general has not appeared, to lead them. The would-be heroes of the day lost their patience. The senior officers and their servant rode to the castle to investigate. They approached the castle, expecting to see the workings of the morning, but there was an ominous silence. They cautiously approached, confused why there were no sounds or activity at all. The officers proceeded, leaving the servant tending the horses.
The front door easily gave way at the officer’s touch; no sounds were within. He prepared himself with his sword held high, expecting an enemy at any second. No one was about, in any of the down stairs rooms. He silently climbed the stairs, searching around each corner, examining each of the rooms for signs of the General’s presence.
The officer searching the kitchen saw no signs of a breakfast being prepared, no dishes, kettles, or fire in the hearth. Finding the stairway to the dungeon, he raced down. He grabbed the iron bars of the door and shook them as hard as he could, but they did not give, and no key hung near by. He only managed to arouse a few rats, he presumed. Going back upstairs, he checked the gardener’s room and the maid’s room, but no one was found. All was quiet, as if they had vanished.
The officer in the barn stood stunned. There were no sounds, because there were no horses. He looked for signs of horse hooves in the dirt – nothing. The horses had vanished.
The officers met in the dinning room. Comparing their findings, each one was perplexed at the silence. The captain leaned against the table, drawing attention from another officer who noticed a note on the table. The note reported that the Turks had brought the plague with them. What’s this? A plague?! How can this be? Where are the officers? They would not have deserted without notifying their troops, even if there was a plague. Confused, they walked out to their horses, which had been held by the servant. They spoke among themselves, but not so quietly that the servant couldn’t hear. What kind of a trick was Allah playing with them?
The servant’s eyes widened as he listened to the officers; fear struck his face. They all rode back to the troops. The servant led the horses back to their rope corral. The servant, bursting with excitement, crouched down to whisper to the others who had encircled him, looking for news. “There is plague at the castle. All are dead.” They stood quickly and responded loudly, “What? Overnight? All dead? Plague?” Getting louder and louder, they drew the attention of the soldiers. Turmoil erupted, “Did we hear ‘plague’?” “Plague at the castle.” The rumor was echoed, again and again. Panic set in. “Plague!”