The Power of the Dark Lord

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 

CHAPTER XIX

Scott had a definite queasy feeling in the pit of his stomach.  He realized
that if there was any prejudice existing in Tuatha it was against humans.
He also felt that if any group in the land held such conservative,
prejudicial views, it was the Tuathan high council.  And now he waited
outside the king's entrance to be summoned before this very council.  As
consort to the king, Scott had the unenviable task of serving in his
absence.  No one knew what had become of Robin, so now Scott had to give a
report to the council on the status of the land.  Melcot tried to bolster
his courage and confidence by telling him to think and act like the king of
the land.  In effect this was his current position and if he would remember
this, the council could not intimidate him.  After all, they were his
subjects and essentially under his command.  But this was all hypothetical
and did little to help him feel better about the actual situation.

Finally the summons came and Scott walked calmly into the council chambers.
He ignored his inner feelings and walked directly to the ornate chair where
only the night before Robin had been sitting.  The council members were all
standing at their places as he walked in, and they eyed him curiously.
Scott had seen Robin in such meetings many times before when they were not
closed sessions, so he did the same thing he had watched his lover do in
the past.  He nodded to Lorfana, head of the council, and then sat down in
the king's chair.  Shock and surprise registered itself on several faces,
and even some amusement on others.  The council members did not expect
this.  They thought Scott would stand before them as did anyone else but
royalty.  His action put them in their places and reminded them that as
consort he was accorded the privileges of royalty while serving in the
king's stead.  This angered the members who really felt resentment at his
humanity, but no one said anything as the council members took their seats.

Scott began his report by telling of the battle of the night before and the
death of those who had tried to defend the guard house and control the
wheel to the bridge.  He told of Rood's eventual capture and his current
status as well as of the outcome of the battle, the rout of the trolls
thanks in part to the sudden and magical appearance of the van from the
human world.  That morning the wall had been destroyed due to the magical
explosives operated by Stan.  There was now no sign of the trolls, but the
coming night would show if they would return.  Akuta was working with the
army to harvest flashweed to use as a weapon.  Before dusk the men would
fill the troll caves with as much of the highly combustible vegetation as
possible and then ignite it.  Stan offered to add any left over explosives
to the flashweed to make underground bombs.  The troll menace seemed to be
under control for the time being.

The next item to report concerned the missing monarch.  Tears came to his
eyes as Scott described again what he had seen.  A thorough search of the
palace and surrounding area had been conducted, but turned up nothing.  It
was obvious that Robin had been abducted by evil magic.  This coupled with
what had been done to Rood and the unusual or at least uncharacteristic
nature of the trolls' siege pointed to one conclusion.  There was a hidden
agenda here that was being engineered by evil sorcery.  Lastel thought that
this was an attempt at revenge by the inhabitants of the dark world.  After
all, it was Robin and Scott who defeated Melusine, the evil sorceress just
a few months back.  Most everyone agreed, but no one had any suggestions.

Scott finally spoke up.  "My lords and ladies," he began.  "You all feel
that the king has been taken by an inhabitant of the dark world, and you
fear that he will suffer the same fate as his father, to disappear into
that evil land and never be heard from again.  I agree that this may indeed
be what happened to him, but I promise you he'll return.  I shall
personally journey to the Eldritch Mountains in the north and rescue him."

"You cannot, young lord," Lorfana said.  "You have no knowledge of where to
begin looking, or how to go about a rescue against such powers of evil.  It
is suicidal folly."

"Let him do this," Lastel said.  "If he succeeds we shall have our king
back.  If he fails we are no worse than now."

"But this is the king's consort," Hyller argued.  The wood elf seemed quite
upset by Lastel's comments.  "If we lose our lord Scott, we have no one to
rule."

"You would welcome the rule of a human?" Lastel asked sarcastically.

"Hold your tongue," Lorfana said angrily.  She appeared old and feeble, in
fact older than anyone Scott had ever seen in Tuatha.  Yet she still was
able to command respect from her fellow council members.  "My lord," she
said to Scott.  "I would dissuade you from this course of action, if only
for your own safety."

"Thank you for your concern, my lady," he answered her as he stood.  "But I
have to do this.  I must follow my heart."

She stood and bowed to the young man before her.  "We honor you and the
service you do for us.  Good fortune, my lord."  Scott turned and left the
chambers.

* * *

"It is as the old healer said," Caseldra told Sharon as the two of them
scanned several books in the library.  "It clearly says that the only end
to the burning blood is death."

"Read it again," Sharon asked.

The little fairy again looked into the book.  "If ye would recover from the
burning blood, ye must suffer death.

"That's impossible.  You can't recover by dying."

"But you can," Caseldra argued.  "Death is not the end.  When you die your
spirit simply waits for a time in the western islands before returning to a
new life."

"Returning to a new life?  You mean rebirth?"

"Yes," Caseldra smiled.  "The spirit lives on as a new being.  We have all
passed through this world before."

"You're talking about reincarnation," Sharon said in disgust.  "Even if it
were true, which I doubt, that doesn't help Rood.  He'd still be dead and
gone."

"But his spirit will be free to complete its journey."

"I'm trying to save a life and you're giving me new age religion.  Read
from that one on black magic."  Sharon indicated a book they had found that
dealt not with medicine but with magical spells.

Caseldra flipped through the book.  "Here is the recipe for making the
poison used in the burning blood spell," she said.  "Ground bone of a human
must first be mixed with a fairy's blood.  One kretcha fish is slowly baked
over an open flame until..."

"What's a kretcha fish?" Sharon asked.

"A fish that swims in the western seas.  It is very dangerous, full of
poison that can instantly kill a man."

"What does it look like?"

"That is its danger.  It looks like a rock and can be accidentally stepped
upon in the shallow waters.  The poison is carried..."

"It's located in sharp spines along its back," Sharon finished.  "We have a
similar species in our world."  She thought for a moment, and then suddenly
sat up in excitement.  "Tetrodotaxin!" she shouted.

"What?" Caseldra asked.  She could tell that the woman seemed to know
something.

"It's a main component in the zombie drug used by voodoo cults.  A powerful
anesthetic, it induces a coma that is almost impossible to tell from death.
The victim then recovers about twelve hours later, only in the voodoo
beliefs they say the victim no longer has a soul and is controlled by the
one who has taken it."

"That is exactly the same!" Caseldra said excitedly.  "What is the cure?"

"There isn't one," Sharon said.  "The drug wears off and the victim is back
to normal."

"But what about the taking of the soul?" the fairy asked.

"That part's just superstition."

"Then it helps us not," Caseldra admitted in disappointment.

Sharon looked at the runes covering the page of the musty old book in front
of her.  "But it's got to be the same," she said.  "He only was controlled
by the spell because he believed in it."

"No," Caseldra corrected her.  "You saw his eyes.  It explains it here."
She read from the volume.  "The burning blood contains the will of the
master.  When it enters the physical mind it wipes out the thoughts of the
host and replaces them with the will."

"Like a computer virus that replaces a resident program by over-writing
it," Sharon mused.  "What happens when the host has completed this will?"

"When the will is satisfied the burning blood dies leaving behind the
empty, mindless body to die," Caseldra read.

"When the virus program is erased you have an empty computer," Sharon said,
completing the analogy.

"And is there no way to revive this computer of which you speak?" Caseldra
asked.

"Sure, you kill the power and then turn it on again, letting it reboot."

"So Rood must die as the book said," the fairy concluded.  "It is too bad
that he cannot be turned on again to reboot."

Sharon froze in silence for a moment.  She then grabbed Caseldra by the
shoulders.  "Why can't he?  Why can't we turn him off and back on again?
You're brilliant!" she cried.  "All this time Jennifer and Rowana have been
keeping Rood alive by forcing him to breath.  But I keep forgetting that
you aren't human."

"I understand you not."

"If a human stops breathing there is brain damage in a very short time
because of a lack of oxygen.  But your blood chemistry is different.  When
we studied it, it seemed to carry such small amounts of oxygen in
comparison to human blood that I think there would be quite a while before
you suffered any brain damage."

"What mean you by all this?"

Sharon jumped up, grabbing Caseldra's hand and pulling her out of the room.
"Rood is going to die, just like the book says he must.  We're going to
turn him off like a computer in order to 'reset' him."

They ran to the patient's room.  There was no change in the body.  Rowana
carefully pumped air into the lungs and then released it again, keeping him
alive.  "You can stop," Sharon said and took the homemade respirator from
the red head.  She carefully removed the tube and waited.

Rood continued to breathe on his own for another minute, then stopped.
Sharon felt for a pulse and detected a weak and sporadic one.  It grew
slower, and then gave out as well.  "He's dead," the doctor said as she
opened one of the man's eyes and looked at the dilated pupil.

"Oh no," Rowana cried.  "Why stopped you me from causing him to breathe?"
She turned and hugged Jennifer.

"Now what will you do?" the dark haired, little fairy asked as she stood
and watched.  "Will he recover on his own?"

Sharon waited another minute, then again pressed her ear to Rood's chest.
"Maybe I made a mistake," she said.  Then she clasped her hands together,
swung her arms and struck the body hard on the chest.  There was no
reaction, so she swung again and again struck the body with a resounding
thud.

"Why hit him?" Rowana cried in alarm.  "He is gone."

As she said this, Sharon prepared to strike again.  Just as she raised her
hands the body on the platform jerked with a muscle spasm then relaxed.
The mouth dropped open and the lungs sucked in a rasping gasp.  Sharon felt
the wrist and detected a strong, rhythmic pulse.  She placed her ear on
Rood's chest just to assure herself of the steady pounding of his heart.
She felt a slight tug and realized he was attempting to squeeze her hand.
Sharon stood up and looked into the now open eyes.  There was intelligence
there behind the intense blue color surrounding the normal looking pupils.
The corners of the mouth twitched as if trying to smile.

"Can you understand me?"  Sharon asked slowly.  Rood tried to move his
lips.  "Just relax.  You'll be fine."

He managed a soft word.  "Water."

"I shall fetch some," Caseldra volunteered as Rowana and Jennifer both
broke into tears.

"Just a sip now and then," Sharon said, and then gave her patient's hand a
reassuring squeeze.

"Thank you for this gift of life," Rowana said and stepped around the
platform to give Sharon a hug.

* * *

Robin opened his eyes and looked around him.  His last memory was of being
surrounded by darkness.  He tried to strike out at the creature, but there
was nothing tangible, only blackness and a bitter cold.  He then knew no
more until now.  As he looked around he appeared to be in a rocky cave.
There was a torch on the wall that burned with an oily, yellow flame.  It
threw long, dancing shadows around the small vault.  There was only one
entrance, a small hole in the wall opposite him.  Robin stood, and only
then realized that he was chained to the wall behind him.  The links of the
chain showed no lock or opening, giving the impression that they had been
forged around him, which he felt was impossible.

"Welcome, Robin King," a voice said.  One of the shadows on the wall was
not moving with the others.  Robin looked up to see the green, glowing eyes
gazing back at him.

"Where am I?" the king asked.

"Mine this place home has been many years since.  Like it thou?  No need
have I for flame.  This but consideration for thee have made."  The
creature indicated the torch.  "Even eyes thine so sensitive see not in
this place."

"Who are you?"

"Who thou are?" came the response.  "King?  High king of all land?"

"Yes," Robin answered proudly.

"Wrong.  Prisoner mine be thou.  Command I the high king.  Makes me king of
the high king.  I be high king of all land."

"Saying this is not what makes it so," Robin countered.  "I may be your
prisoner, but that makes you not the king of Tuatha."

"Think I no mind have?  Thou child!  Thou usurper!" the black creature
raged.  "Power have thee and title too, but right have thee not.  Stewards
govern until returns the king."

"Yes, stewards governed the land until I became the king," Robin said,
trying to follow the archaic cadence of the high Tuathan.

"No!  Planned for was this.  Stewards govern until returns the king, the
king true.  No child.  No usurper."

"My father was Oberon the Stalwart.  He was the high king.  Therefore I am
the true king," Robin answered.

"And what of thy father?"

"He died in the dark world."

"No!  Lives thy father," the shadow said.  "As long as lives thy father,
usurper, imposter are thou."

"I know you are from the dark world.  Tell you the truth?  My father indeed
lives?" Robin asked, straining against the chains.

"Yes.  From dark world came I.  Lives thy father.  High king of all Tuatha
be he.  High king of all Tuatha be I."

"Wait," Robin said.  A cold chill began to creep into the pit of his
stomach.  "How know you my father lives?"  The shadow creature was silent
and still.  It might have been no more than a real shadow, it was so quiet.
But the green fire of the eyes continued to glare silently.  Robin summoned
his courage and called loudly in the dark chamber, making the walls
reverberate with the power of command in his voice.  "How know you my
father?"

"Your father I be," the voice answered hollowly.

* * *

"Where go we?" Dave asked.  He was finally beginning to pick up bits and
pieces of the language from these two strange boys.  He thought of them as
boys, but it was only because of their stature.  He really couldn't tell
their ages.  For all he knew they might be some unknown race of Amer-Indian
pygmies.  He was actually pretty sure that this was impossible because he
was pretty sure he wasn't on earth.  The stars in the night sky were not
quite right.  There was a similarity, but it was as if someone had taken
the constellations and moved all the stars just a few inches from where
they were supposed to be, and in all different directions.  It was as if he
was looking at the sky from a million years ago, or a million years in the
future.

"We travel to the great wood.  It is far to the east," Franzhe said.  He
seemed to assume the natural role of leader between the two.  After their
original rescue of Dave, the human had been allowed to tag along, but for
the most part was ignored.  Franzhe and Calvar shared their food and water,
and Dave did his part in carrying their supplies, and helping them when
they harvested the unusual fronds or tried to trap small game for food.
But it was still clear that Dave was a stranger and not really a part of
their party.

"Where go you?" Calvar asked.  Of the two, he was the more likable.

"I know not," Dave said and shrugged his shoulders.  "I go with you?"

Franzhe scowled.  "Can we not lose this creature?" he asked his partner in
a wind whisper.  "I like him not."

"He is not so bad," Calvar replied.  "Let us take him to the great wood.
He will then be the problem of the woodlings."

"A good idea, but we will lose him when we reach the wood.  I want no part
of him further," Franzhe said.  "I like not how he seems to die each
night."

"He only sleeps," Calvar said.

"So do the sick.  Perhaps he carries some terrible human disease like the
plague."

Calvar turned to Dave.  "You may go with us to the great wood," he said
aloud.

"Good," Dave smiled.

"But no farther.  You must find others to be with there.  It will be up to
the woodlings."

"Woodlings?" Dave asked.  "What is woodlings?"

"Always, always what is this, what are that.  I tire of such stupid
questions," Franzhe complained.

"Have patience, lord.  He is learning our speech.  Each day he speaks
better."

"But each day he asks more.  May we not leave him this night as he sleeps?"
Franzhe suggested.

Calvar shook his head.  "That would be wrong," he said.  "This one is like
a baby.  Can you cast it out, alone and unprotected on the plain?"

"Yes."

Their conversation was suddenly cut short.  Both elves listened to distant
sounds.  Dave could hear nothing, but he could tell by the way the two
companions were acting that something must be up.  They had the same
intense look he had often seen on forest creatures when they heard an
unusual sound or caught a whiff of a strange scent.  "What is it?" Dave
asked.

"Many people journey this way," Calvar answered.  "Perhaps a caravan."

"Perhaps the answer to my prayer," Franzhe wind whispered.

Dave stood to look into the distance and could make out a dark line on the
horizon.  He turned to tell Calvar, but found that he was alone.
"Calvar...Franzhe," he called, but there was no sign of the two.  He looked
around but they were indeed gone, as was the pack of food he had been
carrying.  "Calvar!" he shouted.

Then quietly a voice reached his ear as if from very far away.  "Farewell,
my lord human.  Good fortune go with you."  It was his last contact with
the two odd little creatures who had rescued him, only to abandon him
again.

"Well, you're on your own again, Dave," he said to himself and began
walking across the plain.  He kept the dark line on the horizon in sight
and struck out in that direction.

 

 

 

 

 

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