Galen de Marlowe woke with a cry, sat up in bed, and stared sightlessly into the darkness. Panting, he felt drops of sweat run into his eyes as he tried to master his breathing. He swallowed hard and began to inhale deeply. The linen sheets stuck to his bare skin, and he tossed them aside, swearing as he wiped his forehead and brushed damp locks of brown, sun-streaked hair from his face.
Naked, he rose, found a candle and lit it. The small flame revealed a chamber bare of the luxuries to which he was accustomed. Galen pulled on a robe of black velvet lined with fur and went to the window. Throwing open the shutter he'd hung there only a couple of months ago, he leaned against the embrasure and inhaled the damp night air.
The moon floated in a silver mist in a sky full of glittering stars. A cloud sailed across the bright orb like a slow distant ship on the ocean. He closed his eyes for a moment, and when he opened them, the cloud had vanished into a great bank of thunderheads. Galen knew there would be no sleep for him this night.
The same vision had awakened him countless times for nearly three months now. Galen was used to visions. He and his brothers had inherited special gifts from their mother, a dark-haired, fey Welsh noblewoman, skills that they'd hidden from the world for fear of being accused of witchcraft. Having reached the age of thirty-two, Galen had become skilled at interpreting the visions. Sometimes they referred to the distant past and meant little to him, but this one was different. It was about the future of the royal family, and it was about his friend, Edward, King of England.
The vision always began the same way. He felt himself transformed into a raven, black, gimlet-eyed, and fierce. He flew high above the ground, guided by a bright ribbon of water. Rolling emerald hills and fields of barley and grass floated beneath him until he came to a cluster of buildings upon the bank of the river. He recognized the spires and buttresses of Westminster below him. Tiny boats and river taxis dodged between slow-moving barges and larger sailing vessels. He flew on past Charing Cross, and glimpsed the Fleet River, then St. Paul's Cathedral, followed by Saltwharf, Dowgate, and London Bridge. As he sailed over Billingsgate, he glimpsed a soaring white tower surrounded by high defensive walls. He knew this was home, for in his dream he was one of the fabled Tower ravens.
He angled down, gliding rapidly over the ring walls, past the Bell Tower, St. Thomas's Tower, and Traitor's Gate. Swerving, he flapped his wings and then dove for one of the projecting towers in the great white keep that dominated Tower Hill. Then the vision changed; he changed. One moment he was flapping hard, trying to land on a crenel, and the next he was in the chapel, facing its elongated nave. He stood, suddenly a man on a man's legs, in the vast chamber with its massive rounded arches supported by thick pillars. He looked up at the tribune gallery above the arches, and there glimpsed a shadow as it flitted from archway to archway.
The shadow exuded evil. Galen felt an overwhelming urge to follow it, and he raced up to the gallery, through a narrow doorway, and up a flight of winding stairs in one of the towers that formed the corners of the keep. The shadow moved with supernatural speed, darted around a bend in the stair and stopped at an unguarded door. Without aid, the door swung open with a long, moaning creak, and the shadow floated across the threshold.
Galen stopped several steps below, for the closer he came to the mysterious shadow, the more fearful he became. His heart was drumming hard against his ribs. His skin was clammy, and he trembled with a terror that emanated from his wildly beating heart. He forced his foot to move to the next step and the next until he reached the doorway. Inching his head around the door molding, he peered inside a small chamber with a vaulted ceiling and a tester bed draped with damask hangings embroidered with the royal coat of arms. The hangings had been shoved aside to reveal two boys with golden hair who so resembled the king that he knew they had to be the sons of Edward Plantagenet.
Without warning, the shadow separated itself from the darkness around the bed. By the time it reached the boys it had coalesced into the shape of a man, and in the man's hand a pillow. Galen tried to move, but his legs had grown as heavy as lead boulders. As he struggled, the man lowered the pillow over the boys' faces. Galen shouted as he watched the pillow being pressed over the boys' mouths, but no sound came out. He struggled there, horrified and helpless, as the small bodies writhed.
Then, suddenly, Galen was jolted out of his human body, back into the form of a raven, the remnants of terror still clinging to him like the putrid flesh of a corpse. In an instant he was flying over a battlefield where two armies fought, one under the king's banner bearing the white rose of York, the other under the red rose of Lancaster. He spied the damascened armor of the king, its helmet closed, obscuring his face. Galen landed in a leafless tree as the battle raged. He couldn't see what happened to the king, but he heard the screams from men around him. Lancastrian foes surrounded a Yorkist knight, closed in, and stabbed him viciously. Galen stretched his wings, struggling to find his hands while the bloody attack continued. The knight screamed, and he screamed back, and that was when Galen woke.
Galen shook his head and rubbed his eyes, trying to rid himself of the evil vision. He hated his gift of sight, and he'd prayed to God to deliver him from what he could only see as a curse. His prayers had gone unanswered. Experience had taught him that acting upon matters so far out of his hands could only yield tragedy. He'd sworn never to rush into action on account of his gift, for once, long ago, he'd done just that and caused the death of his wife and children.
Excerpted from The Legend by Suzanne Robinson. Copyright © 2001 by Suzanne Robinson. Excerpted by permission of Bantam, 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.