I ran after Undine. But when I came to the main hall, a servant told me she had left the palace. I grabbed my sword and ran outside. Shouting her name, I made a frantic search of the castle yard. When my watchman reported seeing a figure in a white gown running through the meadow, I grabbed my horse and galloped away from my castle.
Charging toward the meadow, I saw no sign of Undine. Bats were flapping in the twilight. A black cloud hovered overhead. A mighty storm seemed to be gathering, as thunder rolled in the distance.
I abandoned my horse at the edge of the cedar woods and headed down the path toward the river. The wind was bending the trees and whistling malevolently. As I came close to the water, I saw a figure lying on the bank: Undine. Her white gown spread about her, she looked like a gull with broken wings.
Her face was hidden as I ran toward her. I reached out to touch her, and suddenly the phantom's screech split the twilight and I found myself reaching for nothing at all. Undine had evaporated into the air! I fell back in horror. Then I started scrambling through the woods, back the way I'd come. I ran like a madman, slipping, crawling, clawing my way through the marsh reeds. My mind reeled with terror - was Undine now a demon? Had the monster taken her shape?
As I came out of the woods into the meadow, the sky broke open. A blinding rain began to fall. As a flash of lightning lit the field, I saw the figure in white again lying near the trees.
I approached Undine's body with dread. Then I went down on my knees and touched her. She did not move; she was unconscious. Her face was scratched, her dress torn and muddied. But I felt great relief - this time it truly was her, not a ghost.
I scooped her up from the ground and tried to stand with her against the windy rain. I stumbled toward my horse, but I could not get near him. He whinnied and stamped the ground, as if a host of spirits were attacking him.
I lay Undine down, then sank beside her. Black night had fallen. The wind blew hard through the meadow as the cold rain battered us.
Then came a deep rumbling noise. It grew louder and louder. I held Undine tightly and waited for this new horror to reveal itself.
HAUNTED WATERS by Mary Pope Osborne. Copyright © 2006 by Mary Pope Osborne. Published by Candlewick Press, Inc., Cambridge, MA.
Excerpted from Haunted Waters by Mary Pope Osborne. Copyright © 2006 by Mary Pope Osborne. Excerpted by permission of Candlewick, a division of Random House LLC. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.