The Power of the Dark Lord

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 

CHAPTER XXI

"Where's the saddle?" Sharon asked as she walked up to the big mare that
Rood had led.

"Saddle?" he responded.

"They don't use them," Scott answered from his position on the back of
Robin's own personal mare.

"You expect me to ride bare back?" she argued.  "I haven't been on a real
horse in probably ten years and you think I'm riding to God-knows-where
with you bare back?!"

"Argue this way all human females?" Rood asked his friend.  "I had not seen
it before in others such as the lady Jennifer or the woman at the beach."

"What woman at what beach?" Sharon asked.

Before she could say more, Rood had grabbed her about the waist and swung
her onto the mare.  "Let us go quickly before the others decide to join
us," he encouraged.

"What others?" Scott asked, but the guard gave a slap to the rump of the
mare as he leaped onto his own horse and the two of them galloped off
toward the main gate.  Scott had to urge his mount to race to catch up with
them.

As they arrived at the gate they found that it was already open and the
drawbridge was down.  There had been virtually no sign of the trolls during
the preceding night and the gate had been opened at first light.  Scott had
hoped to be the first one across the drawbridge and through the canyon
before dawn, before the sun was up enough to fill the canyon with the
blinding, reflecting rays from the towers.  Unfortunately, when he and Rood
called for Sharon she was not ready and delayed their departure
considerably.  But now, finally they were off.

The sky was heavily overcast this day which eliminated the reflected light
rays.  The trio was able to quickly ride across the drawbridge and through
the maze-like canyons leading out to the plains beyond.  As they turned the
final bend exiting the rocky foothills, a small company of mounted knights
stopped them, blocking the roads to the east and west.  Scott drew the
golden sword at his side and reined his horse to a stop before recognizing
the troop.  "What are you doing here?" he asked.

"We have come to check the corridor for any sign of troll activity," Akuta
answered.  He was sitting atop a large chestnut stallion flanked by Alex,
Stan, Alee and Faylar on the right, and Jennifer, Caseldra, Rowana and
Melcot on the left.  All were dressed for battle in the short, white and
gold tunics of the palace guard with gold metal breast plates and long,
flowing golden capes.  "And where go you, my lord?" Akuta asked.

Scott glanced at Rood who only grinned his characteristic smile.  "I have a
feeling you already know," Scott answered.

"We have provisions as well as a change of attire for you, lord," Rowana
said.  "You cannot lead us into battle dressed as you are for a casual
ride."

"First of all," Scott began, "I have no intention of leading you anywhere.
This is my job and I'm only taking Rood.  Secondly, it is several days to
the Eldritch Mountains.  I have no intention of spending all that time on
horseback dressed like a member of a royal parade.  And thirdly..."

"My lord, we waste time," Rood reminded him.

"Thirdly,...we waste time," Scott agreed.

"We are going with you, like it or not, Scott Quartermain," Jennifer said
angrily.

"Now wait just a minute..."

"Know you what happened to Robin's father, lord?" Akuta asked.  "He left
for the Eldritch Mountains with only two others.  None ever returned."

Scott looked to Rood for assistance.  The captain merely shrugged his
shoulders.  "You see how very persistent they appear, lord.  This is why I
urged us to hasten our departure."

"Besides," Jennifer began again, "what do you mean saying we can't go when
Sharon gets to?"

"That wasn't my idea either," Scott protested as he again glanced
suspiciously at Rood.

"Give in, buddy.  I think you're out maneuvered," Stan said.

"Well who's going to look after the palace while we're gone?"

"The high council will have to actually make some decisions for a change,"
Rood said.  "And I think the king's guard can keep things under control
while we are away.  Akuta and I spent the better part of last eve
instructing Pelnor in what actions they may take.  They shall monitor the
trolls which seem to be gone anyway, and the caravans should be arriving
soon which will keep everyone too busy to even notice our absence."

"You were in on this from the start!" Scott said in shock and disbelief.

"Lord, wish you to ride or to continue to argue?"

Scott shook his head.  "Let's go," he replied and he and Rood urged their
horses into a steady trot along the east bound pathway.  The company of
friends fell in behind them.  Scott had wanted to rescue Robin, but had no
real idea of what to do once he had reached the northern mountains.  At
least now, with the show of such support and in the company of such
friends, he felt much more confidence.

* * *

"You are human," Clive observed as he examined the dirty man their party
had picked up.  They had been crossing the plain for nearly two weeks.

Clive, the wood elf, and his mate, Ellenia had set off across the Plains of
Morinar in the company of a small caravan.  Ellenia was cousin to Robin,
the high king, tall and pale with light, golden hair that framed her
delicate features.  Clive, on the other hand, was a typical woodling,
short, 5'2" with nut brown skin and sparkling emerald eyes.  They had met
several months before in the early spring when Clive had accompanied Robin
to Esbereth from his home in the great wood.  Ellenia had been
instinctively drawn to the little woodling.  Her green eyes showed the
evidence that there was wood elf blood in her family tree as well, and
perhaps that was what had intrigued her about Clive.  They were joined in
the Tuathan form of marriage just a short time ago, and decided to
undertake this journey so that Ellenia could see the great wood and meet
Clive's family living therein.

"I human," Dave agreed, smiling broadly and trying to act as friendly and
non-threatening as possible.  He hoped these strange creatures would take
him in.  Now that he had been abandoned by Franzhe and Calvar he was sure
to perish if he did not get help.

"Me speak little human," Clive said proudly in halting English.  It was one
of the things he had picked up from Robin who had spent many years exiled
in the other world.

"You speak English?  Thank God!" Dave sighed.  "I'm lost in this vast
grassland.  I don't know where I am or how to get home.  I was traveling
with these two kids who were dressed like Tarzan, and they just
disappeared.  Can you possibly help me?"

"Wait, wait," Clive said, waving his hands.  "Too fast you speak."  He
slowly walked around the tall man, reaching out and picking at his clothes.
He then turned to the two merchants who had picked up the stranger and
spoke quickly to them in Tuathan.  "Prepare a bath for this smelly human.
Then strip him and burn his clothing.  Find him a tunic that will fit;
perhaps he will need to wear something that belongs to Ellenia as he is
much taller than the rest of us."

This brought peals of laughter from the others as they roughly grabbed the
scientist and led him off.  "Wait!  Where are you taking me?" he called
out.

An hour later, Dave Strahan was cleaned and dressed in a soft, blue tunic
that was still a little short on him.  It rode high on his body, barely
covering the essentials when he was standing.  He had no idea how he would
ever sit down.  The man was ushered into a large tent which had been
erected as the caravan made camp for the day.  He was about to protest his
treatment, the way he had been roughly pushed around by these short
creatures dressed in bright red, when he beheld the most beautiful woman he
had ever seen.

"Welcome, my lord," she said in her native language as he drew close.  "We
are honored to have you as our guest.  Whither go you on this plain alone,
unarmed and unprovisioned?"

Dave actually understood very little of what she said.  "I lost," he
replied.

"He speaks almost nothing of our language," Clive explained as he stood at
her side.  "Wish you that I should translate his human speech?"

Ellenia burst into a light laugh, a sound that reminded Dave of tiny bells
ringing musically.  "My love, there is much you can accomplish, but in this
instance I fear you are sadly lacking."  Rather than being angered by this
affront, Clive smiled in agreement.  His mate knew him well enough to be
able to burst his overinflated ego.  "At this time I wish for my cousin or
his consort.  They could help us communicate.  Meanwhile, the two of you
must spend every moment together.  I would you teach him our language while
learning better command of his."

"Not every moment together, lady?" Clive said with a pained look on his
face.

Again came the musical laugh.  "Alright, not every moment," she agreed with
a mischievous twinkle in her eye.  "And my love," she said as Clive was
about to escort Dave from the tent.  "Have someone stitch appropriate
attire for him.  Although he is not unattractive, I fear he shall want to
hide his masculinity as the others of his world.  In my tunics that shall
not be easy."

* * *

Once they were in the lighted tunnel, Oberon indicated a passage to the
surface.  He began to hobble along slowly with Robin following him.  "You
must continue on, my son," he finally said as they paused to rest.  "I
hinder your speed and you shall be caught.  Follow this tunnel and take
ever the passages to the right.  You shall soon emerge into the light of
your world."

"I shall not leave you," Robin said defiantly.

"You must if you would survive.  I cannot travel with any speed.  My old
injuries hinder me."

The young king reached down and gently picked up his father's torn body.
The old man protested, but Robin ignored his arguments and hurried on,
carrying both his father and the torch that illuminated the way.  "Is this
then the dark world?" Robin asked as they continued on along the corridor.

"A piece of it," Oberon answered.  "This is actually a place where the two
worlds overlap.  You could not exist as you are in the real dark world,
just as..."  He lapsed into silence.

Finally they came to a large, brightly lit cavern.  Robin discarded the
torch, no long needing it.  A long, jagged opening in the far wall admitted
the dazzling light from the world beyond.  "Put me down," Oberon said to
his son.

"We are almost free," Robin answered.  "Just a little farther on."

Summoning up his ability, Oberon used the power of command.  "Put me down
now!"  Robin had no choice but to obey.  "He gently placed his father on
the ground.  "If I am to re-enter my world, I shall do it as a king, on my
own feet...what is left of them."  The two kings began to slowly cross the
cavern.  Robin matching his speed to that of the old man who limped along
beside him.

They had almost reached the opening when a voice rang out behind them.
"Stop!" it shrieked, freezing both men in place.  "Turn and look on me!"

A huge image of an extremely ugly hag rose up in the space behind them.
Although changed and distorted, Robin recognized a familiarity in the
vision.  "Melusine!"

"We meet again, young lord," the old crone said through cracked and
blistered lips.  "And you, old father.  Would you leave my service so
soon?"

"I am no longer yours, evil demon," Oberon said.  "Your will is gone.  My
son has reclaimed my spirit."

"How touching!  You would rescue this poor, unfortunate victim from me?"
The image threw back its head, opening its mouth wider than should have
been possible and cackled hysterically.  "You would save the creature that
has served me so well?  Save this creature that has commanded the attack on
your kingdom and destroyed the mind of your best friend?  This creature
that would give you over to my care?"

"This 'creature' is my father," Robin said angrily.  "He is leaving this
place with me."

Again the old hag laughed.  "And what will you take out of here, young
lord?  Will you take your father as he was?"  She reached out a flabby arm,
pointing it at Oberon.  He suddenly stood beside Robin as he had appeared
many years before, a tall, handsome man with yellow hair, dressed in golden
robes.  "Or will you accept him as he is now?"  Before Robin's eyes the
beautiful figure shrank in on itself.  The hair disappeared again along
with the regal bearing and golden robes.  Now the broken and mutilated old
creature stood beside his son, bent and humbled.  "He is indeed your
father, young lord," the voice continued.  "That makes you again a
kingdomless child, and he becomes your liege lord.  Will you take him home
to sit upon the Crystal Throne?"  The image of the burned and disfigured
old wretch sitting on the transparent chair of pure, polished quartz rose
up before the young king.

"I will take what action I may to remove him from you.  I care not what the
consequences may be."

"You think I care?" the woman asked.  "Go ahead.  Take him...if you can.
You may find it more difficult than you think."

"Come, my father," Robin said and started to back cautiously toward the
opening.  He had taken several steps when he noticed that Oberon was not
moving.  "My father, let us depart now!"

"I cannot," came the answer.  "Leave while there is yet hope for you."

"No, come with me," Robin ordered desperately.

The old king turned to face his son.  "I can no longer live in your world.
I have been changed.  I am of the dark world now and cannot go back."

"That is not true," the young king argued.  "It may have been so a time
past, but not now.  The evil force is gone.  You again belong to the land.
I can see it in your eyes."  The old man hesitated, looking back at the
vision of Lillith-Melusine.  She was no longer laughing, and as they
watched her face began to contort with rage.  "You were prepared to walk
from here on our own power but a moment ago," Robin reminded him.  "Do not
give her the strength over you that she no longer possesses.  You can leave
this den of evil and join those who love you."

Oberon turned his body and attempted to straighten his shoulders.  He
slowly began to limp toward the bright light flooding in from the opening
in the rock.  Robin fell into step with the old king, the two of them
turning their backs on the image of the evil woman behind them.

"Stop!" she cried in a voice that was barely intelligible.  "You cannot
defy me!  I own your spirit!"  The sound became a painful screeching behind
the two men.  It changed to a rushing sound, like the raging of a ferocious
wind through tall forest trees.  At the same time the ground beneath their
feet began to shake as loose stones and gravel fell about them.

The old man was knocked to his knees.  Robin quickly bent down to assist
him, only to be shocked by the expression on the mutilated old face.  He
had expected to find fear or pain, but not humor.  Yet the eyes were
positively filled with laughter.  "Can you not see?  We have won," the old
man said as Robin helped him up.  "She is doing what she can to try to stop
us, and she is all but powerless here.  We are too close to our real world
for her to harm us with her spells.  She must try to stop us with falling
rocks.  You are right, my son.  She has lost me.  I can now return home."

The two of them staggered across the remaining distance to the opening.
Just as they were almost to the wall a hazy fog enveloped them.  It was an
apparent last ditch effort by Lillith to keep them from leaving.  Robin
felt his strength draining from his muscles as his arms and legs turned to
lead.  He could barely move his body forward an inch at a time.  Forcing
his muscles to work, he turned his head to look at his father.  The old man
had again fallen to the ground, yet even so was forcing himself to crawl
toward the opening.  "She cannot hold us both, my father," Robin said.  "If
we both continue to fight we shall win our freedom together."

"How true, young lord," a female voice said in his ear.  "If you both are
held, you both are lost to me.  If only one of you is held, one of you is
still kept."

The haze suddenly disappeared from before Robin's eyes as if a switch had
been turned off.  He had been fighting with all his might to try and move
forward.  With the sudden lifting of the force that resisted his movement,
the young king fell forward, catapulting through the large crack in the
wall to tumble onto the rocky ground outside.  He quickly recovered himself
to jump up and look for is father, but he was alone.  "No!" Robin shouted
and turned back to the opening in the wall.  He jumped back, trying to
enter the cavern, only to be met with what seemed like an invisible wall of
force blocking his way.  He could see the mangled body of his father only a
few feet in front of him, held in the clutches of the invisible power.
"Father!" he cried.

Their eyes met over the intervening distance and Robin felt himself being
touched.  The old king was reaching out to him with the deep communication.
"My son, Lillith is right.  I cannot return to my kingdom.  It belongs to
you, now.  It is my time to journey elsewhere."

"No, my father," Robin groaned.  He was having a difficult time maintaining
the contact.  The tears that fought their way to his eyes kept interfering.

"In my death is her ultimate defeat," the old man said silently.  "She
shall no longer have me.  You have seen to that.  Nor shall she have you.
I will see to that.  Live well and be forever a good ruler to our people.
I know you are loved in your world.  I can see it.  Know that you are loved
in my world as well.  I still know a spell or two."  The old figure
suddenly hunched over, throwing his arms toward the ceiling of the cave,
then was instantly replace by a blinding flash of light.  A split second
later a tremendous clap of thunder hit Robin, physically throwing him back,
away from the wall.  The ground shook as rocks and boulders tumbled into
the opening.  Before his stunned eyes, the side of the mountain caved
inward, filing the space that had been the cavern with solid stone.  It all
seemed to happen so quickly that the king had little time to react.  In a
matter of minutes the echoing thunder of the avalanche died away and Robin
sat on the ground amid the rising dust, looking forlornly at the huge pile
of rock that was his father's tomb.

 

 

 

 

 

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