The Power of the Dark Lord

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 


Chapter V

Although her horse fairly flew, it still took Rowana painfully long to
return to the palace.  She had to dismount to lead her animal across the
narrow, wooden bridge which spanned the ravine and then again as she
approached the Corridor of Light.  The final approach to the drawbridge of
the castle was through a straight canyon.  A maze of twists and turns led
up to it.  Each of the many towers of the palace was capped with a faceted
crystal which reflected beams of colored sunlight into this canyon leading
to the drawbridge.  The many facets of the tower tops were designed so that
no matter what the position of the sun, blinding rays of light filled the
corridor and rendered sightless all but elfin eyes. Rowana had to quickly
blindfold her horse and lead it down the short canyon and across the wooden
bridge into the castle.

Once inside the gate, she was met by several guards who came running to
assist her.  The gate sentries had spotted her from the battlements and
could tell there was something wrong with the man on her horse.  A healer
had also been summoned and would be on the way by now.  The guards quickly
carried Faylar into the gate house and placed him on a large, wooden table.
In a few minutes a tall, thin woman with almost blue-white skin and long
translucent white hair that looked like spun glass entered the room.  She
was dressed in a floor length, white robe trimmed in green brocade.  She
moved with a flowing grace that made her appear to glide across the floor
rather than walk.  Quickly approaching the table, she leaned over Faylar's
body.  The healer then made the signs of blessing, touching her fingers
first to her temples, then to her shoulders, then reaching out in silent
supplication before she touched the wounded man.  She looked deeply into
Faylar's eyes as she gently held his head.

The healer then looked up at Rowana who was still standing nearby.  "His
physical mind has been injured and torn," she said.  "This is an area of
the body which is difficult for us to reach because of the many thoughts of
the individual that it contains.  I have done what I can, but much of his
healing must come from within.  Take him to the hall of healers where he
may rest and be cared for."  Two of the guards in attendance began to lift
the injured man when the healer stopped them.  She had noticed the burn on
his arm.  She again touched him, placing her hands over the wound.  It
looked no better when she released Faylar and indicated to the men to
remove him.

"Walk with me, my lady," the healer requested, looking down on Rowana.

"I must see the king," the red-headed girl protested.

"We shall begin in that direction," the healer agreed and the two women
left the gatehouse heading for the white tower.  "How came your friend by
these injuries?"

"I know not," Rowana admitted.  "He was to guard the gate between
worlds. When he did not return from his post we went in search of him.  He
was found thus on the trail."

"The head injury was most likely from a severe blow," the healer confided.
"But what worries me is the burn on his arm.  It is from liquid metal
poison."  Rowana did not understand.  "It is not a serious wound, but it
was obtained by contact with human blood."

Rowana stopped in her tracks.  "Human blood?  How is this possible?"

The healer spoke quickly to her.  "Human blood contains large quantities of
the metal poison, iron.  Contact with human blood can burn or cause severe
skin rash.  Faylar must have brushed against an open wound on a human."

"Then someone must have entered though the gateway," Rowana mused.

"Someone who was wounded," the healer added.  "Quickly tell the king of
this, but speak of it to no one else.  There are many who question the
wisdom of humans living in Tuatha.  This will but aid their argument and
cause strife for the throne."  The healer then turned and crossed the
courtyard to disappear in the crowds of people moving about conducting
their daily business.  A chill swept over Rowana as she realized the
importance of what the healer had just said.  She turned and ran as quickly
as possible toward the white tower.

* * *

In a short time a large group of mounted knights were assembled in the main
courtyard.  They waited impatiently for their king and were anxious to be
ready to ride.  No one was sure of what the problem was, but rumor said
that an invasion was being planned by the human world.  Soon they were
joined by Rowana and Akuta.  "What is the cause of our ride, my lord?
Please tell us," one of the men in the forefront asked.  The others quickly
chimed in with agreement to the request and added questions of their own.

Akuta held up his hand for silence.  "Our liege lord will join us soon and
then we shall ride.  Meanwhile the lady Rowana will tell you of what she
knows."  He turned to the girl expectantly.  In a clear voice she described
the blood at the side of the road, the missing men, and finding Faylar
severely injured.  But tactfully she omitted any mention of what the healer
had said about a human.  She didn't want to fan any prejudice among the
king's guard unnecessarily.  As she finished her story, she mentioned that
Melcot had gone on to the gate while she returned to the castle.  As she
said this, her voice wavered with worry and concern.

Before anyone could comment or ask further questions, Robin and Rood rode
toward them from across the courtyard.  They were followed by Caseldra,
escorting her father.  Elnar, a short little man with a long grey board and
almost completely swallowed up in his oversized, dark blue robes was
carrying a bulging bag and grumbling all the way.  He was perched on a big
stallion, sitting directly behind his daughter.  The two of them looked
like children on the back of the big horse.  "We ride," Rood called, and
the company fell in behind as they headed through the gate.

In a matter of minutes the group was heading out of the maze canyons and
down the western trail.  They pulled to a halt as they approached the twin
rock pillars that marked the descending trail.  The dark stain on the
ground was still evident.  Caseldra helped her father to dismount and he
slowly approached the area.  "What can you tell us of this?" Robin asked
him.

"Death as been here, as well as many beings," Elnar said as he looked
around.

"Many beings that leave no tracks?" Rood asked somewhat skeptically.

Elnar was already digging in his bag, ignoring the captain's comment.  He
pulled out a small, glass bottle, only an inch tall.  The little wizard
closed his eyes and mumbled an incantation under his breath, then tossed
the little vial at the nearest stone pillar.  It smashed on impact,
producing a thick cloud of pure white smoke.  The cloud expanded, engulfing
the entire area and surrounded the party.  No sound could be heard but in
the fog the men suddenly saw Alee riding up the trail.  He apparently had
someone bound and thrown over his horse.  Rood was about to hail him, but
as he drew near he suddenly fell from his steed, struck in the head by a
flying stone.  The animal bolted off out toward the prairie, leaving the
dazed guard on the ground.  As it ran away, it charged right toward the
small company of knights passing through men and horses alike.  Only then
did they realize that what they were seeing was a magic image of the recent
past, generated by the thick cloud that covered them.  Alee was suddenly
surrounded by short, little, misshapen men with stubby limbs and large,
bulging eyes.  "Trolls!" Rood exclaimed.  Just as they were about to
attack, one of them fell, shot in the back with an arrow.  Behind the
company were the two relief guards who had apparently just ridden up.  They
were prepared to fight, but before they could they were overwhelmed by a
living mountain of the little creatures who engulfed them, horses and all,
almost like a swarm of ants attacking food.  While the trolls were busy
with the two guards, Alee managed to climb to his feet and run out into the
tall grass of the prairie.  The images showed the trolls holding the two
guards immobile while one of their members slit their throats, allowing the
bright blue blood to flow onto the ground.  This was all that could be seen
as the cloud slowly dissipated, becoming too thin to reveal anything more.
The knights were again standing alone in the rocky pass.

"This explains the lack of tracks," Rood said.  "They must have a stone
door leading underground nearby.  They cannot venture far in the light of
day."

"But trolls this close to Esbereth!" Akuta exclaimed.  "I always thought
they feared the Crystal Mountains."

"It is mid-afternoon," Robin said, looking up at the bright sun.  "We have
a little time to plan before they can be about again.  Rowana, Akuta, go to
the gateway and find Melcot.  Sever the connection between worlds so
nothing can journey between here and the land of humans.  Then return to
Esbereth as quickly as possible."  The two started to leave when the king
stopped them.  "Remember," he warned.  "Make haste.  You must return long
before sunset or the trolls will be out again."  The girl and her friend
headed down the slanting trail.

"Morgan, Caseldra, ride out onto the plain.  Search for any trace of Alee.
He may have escaped if the sun was rising.  But be sure to return before
sunset," Robin commanded.  The two wheeled their hoses and galloped off.
"The rest of us shall return to the palace."

"But what of me?" Elnar whined.  "My daughter just left with our steed."

"You shall have to ride with me, old father," Rood said with a crooked
grin.  He knew how much Elnar disliked him.  Rood reached down, extending
his hand to help the little wizard up, but the old man merely grumbled and
backed away.

"Very well," Rood said as he turned.  "Good fortune with the trolls.  I
hope they find you tasty."  He started to head his horse back to the trail.

"Wait!" Elnar shrieked as he ran after the captain's horse.  Rood turned
and scooped up the old man, tossing him across the back of the big,
chestnut mare like a sack of potatoes.  The company then turned and headed
back toward the castle.

* * *

"What is it?" Franzhe asked.

"I know not," Calvar answered.

"Is it living?"

Calvar looked up into the sky.  "The scavenger birds still wait.  It must
yet live."  The two travelers were crossing the grasslands on their way to
the Great Wood.  They were roving adventurers who decided to travel
together.  They earned a living as minstrels and story tellers, having
entertained at the courts in the Western Kingdoms and were now crossing the
land to see the woodlings of the East.  It was Calvar who had first noticed
the dark circle in the sky.  A ring of scavengers was waiting for a death.
The two friends decided to investigate.

One of the birds swooped down, but quickly climbed back into the sky with a
cry of alarm as the dark shape in the grass moved.  "I think it is a man,"
Calvar said as they watched from a little hill in the middle of the plain.

"If he is alone, he may need assistance," Franzhe suggested.

"Then let us go."  The two headed cautiously down the hill toward the dark
shape in the tall grass.

Dave had regained consciousness to find himself hanging over the back of a
horse.  It was galloping rapidly through the tall grass.  He had no idea
where he was or how he got there.  All he remembered was the dark tunnel in
the little carriage house, then he woke up here.  He tried to move and
found he was securely tied up, although his movements made his position on
the back of the horse more precarious.  The more Dave tried to stay on, the
more he seemed to bounce and slide on the animal's bare back.  It finally
leaped over a little depression and he found himself sailing in the air to
land heavily on the soft grass.  Pain racked his body as he tried to move,
so he relaxed.  His arms were tied behind his back and his legs were bound
together.  He was unable to move hardly at all, certainly not stand and
walk.  He slipped in and out of consciousness as he lay in the warm sun
until he finally saw the vultures circling above.  Dave realized that they
were probably right, and he would die soon.  Unable to move, with no food
or water, and no way to protect himself, he couldn't last too long in this
wilderness.

Dave's attention was suddenly caught by a sound in the tall grass nearby.
He rolled over to see two oddly dressed boys staring at him.  They were
short, maybe a little over five feet tall and had ragged, brown hair and
dark, olive skin.  Each wore a loincloth made of what looked like animal
skins and they resembled members of some unknown aboriginal tribe.  Dave
tried to smile and said, "Hello, can you help me?"  The two continued to
stare at him.  "Do you speak English?" he asked, again noticing their odd
appearance.

"He speaks strangely, and look at his attire," Calvar said.

Franzhe agreed.  "I think he is not of the land."

"You mean he may be from another world?" Calvar asked, his eyes widening in
amazement.  "Think you he is from the dark world?"

"I know not, but he was bound by someone, and for some purpose.  Perhaps he
was left here to die so that he could not harm anyone with his spells."

"I can use the deep communication and find out," Calvar said as he drew
nearer.

"No!" Franzhe exclaimed.  "If he be a demon, he will steal your spirit and
enchant you when you try."  Calvar jumped back in fear.  "Let us leave him
to his fate."  With that the two men turned and headed back across the
grass.

"Hey!  Hey, where are you going?!" Dave called out.  "Come back!  You can't
just leave me here!"

Calvar stopped.  "Hear how he cries out so?  We cannot leave him here.  It
would not be right.  He may be an innocent victim."

"Victim?  He is from the dark world and they are all evil."

The two adventurers resumed their journey on across the grasslands.  "No!
Come back!  I need help!" Dave screamed at the vanishing pair as they
disappeared in the tall vegetation.  "No," Dave sobbed as he rolled back
over on this face in the soft grass.

* * *

"Trolls?" Melcot asked.  "This is very bad.  There has not been an outbreak
of trolls in many seasons.  I fear we are ill-prepared."

"Robin commands that we close the gate between worlds," Akuta said.  "That
way we need not stay here to guard it, and both lands will be safe from
invasion."

"Have you a homing crystal?" Melcot asked his friend.

"Yes," Akuta replied.

"Then cross the gate and unfasten the anchor.  I shall draw it through and
Rowana and I will meet you back at the palace."

"Very well," Akuta agreed and walked down the rock tunnel.  He emerged in
the little garage and went to the wall where the rope was fastened.  He
quickly untied it and returned to the tunnel entrance at the rear of the
structure, tossing the rope in.  He could see Melcot pulling it back
through the rock tunnel.  As he did so, the image wavered, and with a
sucking sound, reminiscent of a person trying to remove his boot from thick
mud, the rock opening disappeared.  Akuta stood in the carriage house
looking at the solid, wooden wall where a moment before the tunnel entrance
had stood.  He reached for the rose crystal that hung from a thin chain
around his neck, but was suddenly struck from behind.

* * *

This had to be a nightmare.  There was no other explanation for it.  Stan
had followed the winding trail up and across the narrow, wooden bridge.  He
continued on until he heard sounds coming from up ahead.  As quietly as
possible he crept along the trail until a bend in the sinuous path revealed
the source of the odd, grunting sounds.  Just ahead he saw what looked like
a group of very ugly and hairy dwarves.  They were struggling with two
tall, blond men.  The little creatures had evil countenances; mouths open
with huge, misshapen teeth and eyes that bulged out in the sockets.  As he
watched he saw another tall blond lying at the side of the path.  The
reclining figure suddenly stumbled to his feet and sprinted off into the
tall grass just beyond the two stone pillars.  The little monstrosities
took no notice of him.

As Stan looked on, he saw one of the odd, little creatures waddle forward
on its bent, little legs and, while making grunting noises that sounded
like a pig trying to talk, it reached out its hand.  One fingertip had a
very long nail protruding from it that reminded Stan of Kabuki dancers he
had seen in the Orient.  As the other creatures held the two struggling
men, the one with the fingernail plunged it into one of the victims' neck
like a knife.  He then pulled his hand along, severing the carotid artery,
and blood gushed forth from the wound while the little figures squealed and
grunted.  To Stan's surprise, the liquid issuing from the dying man's body
was bright blue.  In a moment, the creatures dropped the dead body and
brought forth the second man to deal with him in the same fashion.

Stan had seen death before, but his stomach still churned as he silently
witnessed the grotesque murders.  The creatures suddenly become very
agitated, and the one with the wicked fingernail walked to the rock wall
nearby.  He rapped his knuckles on the wall, and a previously invisible
stone door opened revealing a black interior.  The little creatures swarmed
into the opening reminding Stan of ants hurrying into their hole to avoid a
rainstorm.  Several of the beings grabbed the dead men and carried them
along.  In seconds, the stone opening closed, to disappear completely in
the wall.  Everything was quiet and still.  It might not have even happened
were it not for the evidence of the dark blue stain soaking the ground.

Stan jumped up and ran quickly into the tall prairie grass, following the
same course he had seen the other man take.  He was soon deep in the tall
grass of the plain.  He walked on for a while, keeping the nearby mountains
to his back, and wondering if he would ever find his way home again.  He
suddenly tripped and fell over a body lying hidden in the vegetation.  It
was the same man he had seen escaping from the little creatures.  Stan
examined him carefully.  He was alive, but unconscious.  A large, blue
bruise on his forehead showed where he had been previously hit.  Stan
wasn't sure what to do, so he rolled the stranger over and sat beside him
to wait.

Stan soon became thirsty and decided to go find water.  He walked on
through the prairie, heading down the rolling hills to a natural valley.
Sure enough, at the bottom was a tiny stream.  After refreshing himself, he
retraced his steps back to the injured man.  Stan picked him up, marveling
at how light the body felt.  He carried the unconscious man down the hill
to the stream.  Stan then tore a strip of cloth from the tunic the stranger
wore, and wetting it, bathed the man's face.

Evening was fast approaching when Alee finally awakened.  He sat up quickly
and looked around in fear.  Stan sat just across from him, watching him
closely.  "Who are you?" Stan asked.  "And where are we?"

Alee looked at the strange man with skin the color of burnt wood and
wearing tightly fitting shorts and shirt that revealed rather than hid his
firmly muscled body.  "Please do not kill me, dark lord," Alee said,
thinking this must be the leader of the trolls.

"You speak English?" Stan asked after hearing the foreign language coming
from the man's mouth.  Alee only shook his head at the odd words the
stranger spoke.  Stan carefully reached in his backpack that he still
carried and pulled out a Hershey bar.  "You want some candy?" he asked.
Alee only looked at the offering cautiously.  Stan unwrapped the chocolate
and broke it in two, eating half and offering the other piece to this
companion.  Alee carefully took the candy bar and sniffed it.  He then took
a small experimental bite.

"This is good," the fairy said with a smile, relaxing a little.

"Good," Stan said in English.

"Goo-ed," Alee repeated.

"Stan," the black man said as he pointed to his chest.  He then pointed to
the fairy.

"Alee," the blond man said, catching on quickly.  "You are not of the
trolls?" Alee asked, not understanding why this stranger was being so
friendly.

"Grow-cong?" Stan repeated the unusual sounding Tuathan word.  Alee made
snorting sounds and pointed back toward the mountains.  Stan understood
that he meant the odd little creatures who had killed the other two that
morning.

Alee suddenly froze and sat up, turning his head as if listening to far
away sounds.  The light breeze ruffled his blond hair, and it was only then
that Stan noticed the sharply pointed ears on his companion.  Alee pointed
out toward the mountains.  "The trolls are coming.  They hunt us," he said.

Stan could see the tension in the blonde's body language and again caught
the strange Tuathan word 'grohkongk.'  "If you mean what I think you do,
man we're in big trouble."

Alee looked around, but couldn't think of any escape.  Then he noticed the
tiny stream.  It was a long shot, but it was worth a try.  If they stuck to
the water, the trolls might lose their scent.  And the little creatures
would have to give up the chase in order to be back underground by morning
light.  Alee plunged into the shallow water and began to wade downstream.
"Come quickly, dark lord, if you would live," he called to Stan.

"Yeah, I think I catch your drift," the human said as he grabbed his
backpack and waded into the water as well.  They quickly headed downstream,
away from the mountains and out into the dark night.

 

 

 

 

 

                                                                    Back      Main     Next

                                                                       Discussion Forum