The Power of the Dark Lord

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 


CHAPTER XVII

Rood's body found clothing stored in the Halls of Healing, and then quickly
crossed the main courtyard while his friends were holding their discussion
on the castle wall above the main gate.  The guiding mind behind his
actions was well aware that others might see the difference in the guard
and raise an alarm.  Consequently, the Rood/creature stuck to the darkest
shadows where he might not be invisible, but might indeed be overlooked.
He arrived at the main gate and carefully examined it.  At that moment his
one good ear picked up sounds of movement nearby, and he slipped even
further into the shadows of the wall.

Rowana and Caseldra emerged from the small doorway in the wall on the
opposite side of the gate from where the Rood/creature hid.  They both
crossed the courtyard in a rapid trot on their way to the white tower.
Neither of the girls noticed the figure in the shadows beside the main
gate.  As they disappeared in the distance behind the intervening
structures, the Rood/creature again slipped out and stealthily began to
creep along the wall.

Again he froze as another figure emerged from the doorway to the guard
house.  This time it was a stranger, a human woman.  She was obviously not
very familiar with the dark castle, by the hesitant way she moved.
Somewhere deep in the new pathways of Rood's brain a sense of recognition
registered itself.  This strange human had been seen before, in fact had
been recently encountered.  The slow workings of the new mind realized that
this was the woman who had witnessed his awakening.  He struck her, but
apparently had done no serious harm.  As she carefully made her way across
the open space, the Rood/creature quietly stepped away from the wall and
began to follow her.  He would have to eliminate her in the same way that
he had eliminated the healer who had discovered him.  The will that guided
him told him to kill anyone that he encountered until he had completed his
mission.  This girl would be dead even now if he had not encountered her so
soon after he had awakened.  The will had not fully asserted itself at that
point.  Now he would correct the error.

Another sound made its way to his one, good ear.  Uncertain of the
direction, the Rood/creature looked quickly around.  Two more figures were
coming from the guard house.  Rather than be spotted, the tall fairy
quickly melted into the shadows of a nearby doorway.  He watched carefully
as Scott and Jennifer came from the opening to the guard house and quickly
crossed the open space before the main gate.  They apparently had not seen
him, so there was no need to pursue and destroy them.  Sharon Gates was a
different matter.  The creature looked back to where he had last seen her,
but she was gone.  The other two humans had distracted him enough for her
to escape.  The Rood/creature stepped from the shadows and quickly crossed
to the spot where she had been.  He scanned the area with his green,
glowing orbs, but there was no sign of her.  Again he had failed to fulfill
the will.  He had allowed her to live.  This caused him intense pain and he
hunched over, letting out a moan.

But there was no sense in trying to find the woman.  She might be anywhere
in the palace.  He would continue on with the plan as imposed by the will.
The Rood/creature turned around and moved back toward the guard house.  As
he reached the doorway he cocked his head to the side, listening for any
sound from within.  All was quiet.  He carefully slipped through the door
and looked about.  The outer courtyard was empty.  A short distance across
the intervening space was a shallow alcove.  Within its recesses stood the
huge wheel that controlled the main gate.  Two guards quietly sat on either
side of the wheel.  They both appeared to be lost in meditation.

As cautiously and quietly as possible, the Rood/creature began to cross the
empty courtyard, making a line for the wheel and its two guards.  He was
two thirds of the way to his goal when one of the lookouts from the
battlements above came over to the wall to call down to the men below.  He
spotted the creature creeping across the space, sword drawn.  "My friends,
arm yourselves!" he cried loudly and turned to dash down the stairs to the
courtyard below.

At the sound of the warning cry the two wheel guards jumped up, immediately
alert.  But even so, it was too late for the man on the right.  As the
Rood/creature heard the cry he leaped across the remaining space and swung
his sword on the startled man, piercing his breast and stabbing him through
the heart.  The other guard came around the side of the wheel, sword drawn
and ready to fight.  As the creature turned on him, he fell back in shock.
"My lord captain!" he breathed.  The Rood/creature took instant advantage
of the hesitation to bring his own weapon to bear.  He swung his sword,
nicking the man's arm.  The wound would have been far worse had not the
guard been prepared for a fight at the outset.  He turned at the last
possible minute, allowing the creature's sword to barely graze his arm.

The captain of the guard pressed forward, swinging his long sword
viciously.  Silver struck silver as the guard parried the blows, causing
the metal to ring loudly.  The guard at the wheel fought defensively, not
wanting to attack or hurt his captain, which put him at a distinct
disadvantage.  The Rood/creature felt no such need for caution and
continued to fight to the death, trying his best to kill the man who used
to serve beneath the captain.  Finally, he saw his opening and slashed up,
driving his sword through the guard's body.

The creature pulled the silver blade from the corpse of the guard and
turned to grab the gate wheel.  He threw off the brake and gave it a mighty
tug causing the huge, wooden drum to begin turning.  Once he had it moving,
it was a simple task to allow its momentum to do the work and keep the big
wheel spinning, causing the barred gate to rise and the drawbridge to
slowly swing down toward the canyon.

"No, my lord!" shouted one of the lookouts.  He had hurriedly summoned his
partner when he saw the beginning of the fight below.  Now the two of them
came running from the stairway, swords drawn.  "Tomar, stop the gate while
I distract him," the lookout called to his companion.  He ran forward,
cutting down with his blade and causing the Rood/creature to swing his own
sword up in defense.  The lookout fought an offensive battle in order to
keep the creature occupied while his partner ran to the opposite side of
the gate wheel and grabbed it, trying to halt its movement.  The creature
realized what was happening and turned back to swing his sword at Tomar as
the elf pulled on the wheel, trying to reverse its course.  The mechanism
creaked and groaned as it halted its movement and began to rotate in the
opposite direction.

The Rood/creature slashed down with his blade, severing both of Tomar's
hands at the wrists.  The fairy fell backward with a cry of pain.  "Tomar!"
the first lookout called, stunned and shocked at the brutality of his
former captain.  The creature again used this advantage to spin around
quickly, his sword held low.  The blade sliced deeply across the lookout's
stomach, all but cutting him in half and disemboweling him.  Again the
creature grabbed the wheel which had been turning slowly under its own
momentum.  He tugged at it, bringing it to a halt.  The ropes and chains of
the mechanism popped and creaked under the unaccustomed shifting in weight
as the huge drawbridge slowly froze in place, and then started its descent.

By this time the sounds of the battle in the guard house had alerted the
men in the nearby barracks who were scheduled to replace the watch at dawn.
They assumed that the gate or wall had been breached and rushed to render
aid with weapons at the ready.  A number of palace guards were also
charging from the white tower on horseback.  They had been alerted by
Caseldra and Rowana and were on their way to the main gate and guard house.
As they reached the gate, the drawbridge crashed down into place, providing
access to the castle for the creatures poised at the end of the canyon.  A
large group of trolls swarmed across the wooden gangway only to be met by
an army of elves and fairies just within the gate, armed and prepared for
just such a battle.

Inside the guard house a group of elves charged to the wheel to raise the
bridge, only to draw back in surprise when confronted by their captain.
One look at the carnage around him and the glow in his eyes told the story
of his treachery.  They lost no time in rushing forward to give battle.
The Rood/creature also jumped forward to actively challenge their attack.
This time, however, he was fighting against overwhelming odds.  The only
thing he had going for him was the men's reluctance to injure him.  They
all fought defensively, and yet were still able to force him back from the
wheel by their sheer volume.  At this point the creature emitted a blood
curdling shriek and plunged forward as if to impale himself on their
swords.  The will that controlled him had told his mind that his task was
complete.  All that was left to do was to destroy the body that had lost
its soul.  As he dived forward, the elves in the forefront drew back and
away causing him to fall forward into their midst.  One tall guard in the
front ranks swung his sword hilt, smashing the heavy handle into the back
of the captain's skull as he fell past him.  The Rood/creature went down on
his face into the stone flagging of the courtyard.  "Quickly, bind him
securely and take him to the halls of healing," the man who struck the blow
commanded.  "You others, help me to raise the bridge," he then said as he
raced to the controlling wheel.  But it would not budge.

* * *

Melcot stood at his station just in front of the doors to the council
chambers.  He was blocking the doors designated as the king's entrance.
Scott and Jennifer hurriedly approached him.  "My lord, we must see the
king," Scott said.

"Forgive me, lord," Melcot replied.  "As I informed the lady Jennifer
earlier this night, the king is in closed session with the council.  We
cannot interrupt them."

"But this is an emergency!" Jennifer cried.

"As I have already said..." Melcot began.

"Yeah, we know," Scott butted in.  "Why can't they be interrupted?"

Melcot was stopped for a moment by this question.  "Well, because...it is a
closed session," he said slowly.

"So?  Is it a law that they cannot be interrupted?" Scott persisted.

"Yes, I think it is."

"And who makes the laws?"

"The king," Melcot answered proudly.

"So can we ask the king about this law you seem a little uncertain about?"
Scott questioned.

"No, we cannot..."

"Because he is unavailable, correct?" Scott continued.

"That is correct," Melcot admitted.  He had an uncomfortable feeling about
the way in which Scott was using this course of logic.

"And when the king is unavailable, and you must decide a law, to whom do
you go?"

Melcot thought a moment.  "The council?" he ventured.

"Who are also unavailable.  And who next?" Scott persisted.

"You, my lord, as consort to the king," Melcot said, looking down at the
ground.

"So go ahead and ask," Scott said.

"My lord, may we interrupt the council meeting?" Jennifer said to Scott
with stilted formality.

"In this matter of life and death, yes you may," came the answer.

"Well, let's go," Jennifer said as she reached for the door.

"Somehow I feel not right about this," Melcot said as he stepped aside.  He
wasn't sure, but he had the distinct impression that he had been hoodwinked
by the two humans.

The two friends opened the doors and strode boldly into the chambers.
Inside Robin was seated in an ornate chair, sitting at the focal point of a
long, semi-circular table.  The twelve council members sat on the opposite
side of the table facing him.  As the two humans walked into the dark room,
Lastel, the delegate from the western kingdoms jumped to his feet.  "What
means this?" he cried angrily.  "This is closed session!  We are not to be
disturbed!"

"So I informed them, my lord," Melcot said, fumbling for excuses.  He had
followed Scott and Jennifer into the chamber.  "But my lord Scott said he
would change the law in this instance and in your stead, my liege."

"What is it?" Robin asked as he rose and quickly crossed to Scott's side.
He could tell that his human lover was already lost in what his human eyes
perceived to be the darkness of the room.

"It's Rood," Scott said, then turned to Jennifer.

"The healer said he's under an evil spell called the burning blood or
something.  Anyway, she said he's being controlled by the dark world.  He
disappeared from his room and no one knows where he went."

"This is bad," Robin admitted.  "We must find him."

"I've already sent Rowana to alert the guard to search for him," Scott
said.

"Well done, my love."  The king was about to add another comment when he
turned his head sharply to the door.  His sensitive ears had picked up the
sounds of the distant battle.  "My lord," he said, addressing Melcot.
"Sound the bell in the white tower.  We must call the entire palace to
defense."  Robin then turned to the council table.  "My lords and ladies, I
beg your leave.  I fear we are in great peril."  He quickly turned again to
Scott.  "Love, fetch my sword, the golden sword of state from our chambers.
I shall await you near the main gate."  With that he turned and quickly
marched out the door, with Melcot following close behind.

"What about me?" Jennifer asked.  "Everyone always forgets me."

"Why don't you go to the halls of healing," Scott suggested.  "If there's
going to be trouble, I have a feeling the healers are going to need all the
help they can get."  With that, he headed out the door and off to fulfill
the errand set for him.

* * *

"We'll get you back home as soon as we can, pal," Stan said to his buddy.
"They got magic furniture like you wouldn't believe."

"What do you mean, back home?" George asked as he stole a sideways glance
at Stan.

"Look out!" Alex shouted as he looked through the windshield.  The grey van
was speeding through the main courtyard heading for the gate.

"Oh shit!" George cried as he twisted the steering wheel, trying to avoid
the running men and horses that seemed to be all around the vehicle.  A
huge gateway loomed ahead of him, and he slammed on the brakes.  The van
bounced onto the drawbridge and skidded to a stop in the center, bouncing
over the bodies of several trolls, crushing them like road kill on the
highway, and causing many more to leap out of the way, diving to their
deaths in the long drop to the ravine bottom.

"What the hell just happened?  Where are we?" George managed to ask.  He
gripped the steering wheel with white knuckles as he breathed deeply,
trying to adjust to the impossibility that just occurred.

When the van appeared in the courtyard, it took the Tuathan army quite by
surprise.  The fairies dived out of the way of the rapidly moving object,
allowing it to race onto the drawbridge ahead of them.  As soon as it
roared by, they quickly regrouped and began slaying trolls that had already
managed to enter the palace.  Meanwhile, in the guard house, a number of
elves tried to raise the bridge unsuccessfully.  The wheel wouldn't budge.
They didn't realize that the counterweighted bridge and gate now also held
the weight of a fully loaded cargo van and its passengers, not to mention
the trolls who were already regrouping and creeping toward the grey, metal
monster that had frightened them and killed several of their number.  The
only thing that seemed to be holding them at bay was the bright light
thrown by the twin headlight beams.

"Guys, I think now would be a good time to get out of here," Alex said as
he saw the trolls massing and slowly coming back onto the bridge.

"Yeah, I think you're right," Stan agreed.  He opened his passenger door as
Alee managed to get the rear doors open.  The fairies began climbing out
the rear of the van as Stan slipped out the side.  "Come on, George.  Let's
go," he said, trying to urge his partner to move.  The balding man only sat
still and continued to clutch the wheel.  "George, move it, man.  These
critters mean business," Stan said as he glanced back at the furry monsters
that had been creeping toward the van.

The trolls were now acting very uncharacteristically.  They had stopped
their advance and squirmed back about at the edge of the bridge, reminding
Stan of nothing so much as dogs who had been beaten by a cruel task master.
When he turned to gaze on them, they dropped to the ground and whimpered.
Taking a chance, Stan took a couple of steps toward the beasts.  They fell
back, giving him a wide berth.  Stan remembered the incident at the storage
caves when Alee had been attacked and decided to try the same tactic.  "Go
on, git!" he shouted and waived his arms.  The trolls scurried back away
from him and off the bridge.  "Shoo, git!" he yelled again and ran toward
the creatures.  The whole mass of trolls turned and fled up the canyon
screeching and grunting.

"How'd you do that?" Alex asked as he and Akuta came around the side of the
van, followed by several of the palace guards.

"I wish I knew," Stan admitted.

"It is your appearance, dark lord," one of the nearby guards said.  "These
creatures seem to follow a leader who is tall and black, like a living
shadow.  Your skin color must fool them into thinking you are this leader."

"How much longer till dawn?" Akuta asked a man who was standing next to
him.

"Several more hours, my lord," came the reply.

"We cannot hope these creatures will stay away for long.  Let us remove the
mechanical wagon from the bridge and close the gate."

The army quickly returned to the main courtyard where the last of the
trolls who had won entrance were being rapidly dispatched.  "Just put it in
reverse and drive slowly," Stan encouraged his partner who was still
obviously in a state of shock, but the man managed to shift the gears and
back the van off of the drawbridge and through the gateway.  The guards
tossed the troll bodies into the ravine from the bridge, and then quickly
withdrew inside the palace while the gate was closed.

Akuta took charge of the cleanup operations.  While the Tuathans carried
their dead from the guard house, he saw to the posting of new lookouts and
guards.  Meanwhile, Stan and Alex tried to ease George over the shock of
his somewhat unorthodox entry into the land of Faerie.  Things seemed to be
slowly returning to normal when Scott came running into the main courtyard
with Rowana.  Akuta took one look at them and ran to see what was the
matter.

"Robin," Scott gasped.  "He's gone."

"Gone?  What mean you?" Akuta demanded.

Scott was unable to say more.  He began to choke with the fear he felt.
"Something took him," Rowana answered.  "A black creature, like living
midnight.  It surrounded him right in front of our eyes, then disappeared."

 

 

 

 

 

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