The Power of the Dark Lord

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 

 


CHAPTER XXII

The mountain chain rose up before them like jagged and broken teeth.  These
were the Eldritch Mountains located in a parallel range just north of the
Crystal Mountains.  The northern chain appeared to be much older, not to
mention extending for a much greater distance to the east and west than did
the Crystal Mountains which housed the seat of the Tuathan government, the
Palace of Esbereth.  A cold north wind blew icy fingers down into the
valley at the feet of this ancient range and stabbed the small army as it
rushed through their ranks.

"We aren't dressed for this kind of weather," Sharon protested through her
chattering teeth.  "When did winter suddenly hit?"  She looked around, but
was surprised to see the only ones suffering were the humans, hunched over
against the cold blasts.  The fairies were still sitting erect on their
mounts, if anything, looking invigorated by the temperature and wind.

"Nothing seems to bother them," Jennifer said as she rode close to the
doctor.  "You should have seen them in Colorado.  They only wore winter
clothing because it looked good on them.  I think Caseldra would go out in
the snow naked if I'd let her."

Sharon suddenly felt a warm shield from the cold.  She leaned back and
realized there was another rider now sharing her horse.  "I wish not for my
human healer to freeze," Rood said in her ear as he leaned forward and
wrapped his strong arms around her body.  She was about to protest his
actions, but it felt so good and so comfortable that she just leaned back
to enjoy the physical sensation.

The army slowed to a halt.  "These are the Eldritch Mountains, lord," Rood
said as he and Sharon rode up to join Scott.  "I know they hold the gateway
between our world and that of the land of evil.  But I know not where it
may be."

Scott looked up, trying to get his bearings.  When Ellenia and I came down
from them I think it was on a steep path further to the east.  I don't
remember it very well.

"Then we ride to the east," the captain replied.  "I trust you, my lord.
You will know the path when you see it."  The group turned eastward and
again took up the search.

In only a few hours' time they came upon a large, round boulder.  On the
top of it sat a tiny little man.  He was perfectly formed, but no larger
than eighteen inches in height.  Scott stared in disbelief.  After all the
strange things he had seen and experienced in this world, he was still
shocked when confronted with the impossible.  He glanced around at his
companions but no one else seemed to take the slightest notice of the
little man.  "That's it.  I'm finally cracking up," Scott thought to
himself as the group paused to rest their horses.

"Greetings, great lord from the other world," the little man said with a
bow.  Scott stared at him with open mouth.

"Scott, what's the matter?" Jennifer asked as she climbed down from her
horse.

"Matter?" he said as he quickly jerked around to look at the rest of the
party dismounting.  "Jen, do you see anything unusual about this rock?"

The girl looked at it curiously as Caseldra came over to join her.  "It's
unusually round, I guess, but I've seen other rocks like that.  Why?"

"No reason," he snapped tersely.  The two girls eyed him curiously, then
walked away to visit with the others.

"They cannot see me," the little man said.  "Not even the excellent, sharp
eyes of the fair folk will spot me unless I let them."

"Who are you and what do you want?" Scott asked quietly.

"Who am I is not important," the little man replied.  "The question should
be what seek you?"

"I...I'm looking for..."

"Your heart's desire.  I know."  The little creature laughed and cavorted
on top of the boulder.

"Scott, wouldn't you like to join us?" a voice asked.  He glanced down from
his horse to see Sharon and Rood looking up at him, concern showing on
their faces.

"Join you?" he repeated.

"I think you need rest, lord," Rood said.  "You speak to a stone."

The irony of the situation hit Scott, causing him to laugh.  How many
hundreds of movies had he seen where the protagonist spoke to an invisible
ghost or some other fantastic creature and his friends all though him
crazy?  Now it was happening in real life.  "You think I finally flipped,"
he said amid his semi-hysterical laughs.  "Maybe I have.  I'm talking to an
invisible little man that only I can see."

Rood swiftly drew his sword and was almost instantly joined by Akuta and
the others with weapons readied.  "A gnome!" he said.  "They are evil
tricksters who would harm us."

"You believe me?" Scott said incredulously.

"Of course they do," the little man chortled.  "See how they fear me?  They
may be big, but still they fear my power."

"Where stands he, lord?" Rood asked as he looked around cautiously.  "He
will only show himself to one person at a time.  Where stands he now?"

"On top of the rock," Scott said and looked back.  It was now empty.  "No,
he's gone."

The little man laughed heartily at Scott from where he now stood on the
path.  "I cannot be caught that easily," he said as Rood felt around the
boulder.  The big guard suddenly cried out and jumped back.  This caused
the little man to fall to the ground in a fit of laughter.

"Stinging fire weed!" Rood said as he came away from the stone.  "The
backside of this boulder is covered with it and I stepped right into it.
He dropped to the ground, pulling off his sandals.  Long, blue lines were
etched on his feet and calves.

"It's some sort of allergic reaction," Sharon said as she examined his
legs.  "I have some herbs that should help."  She grabbed a small bag she
had prepared before leaving the palace, and removed some plant leaves.  She
then crushed them against Rood's skin and began massaging his legs.  He
leaned back and smiled.  "Is it better?" she asked.

"Yes," he answered.  "But the pain has extended up above my knees."  The
doctor gently rubbed his thighs with the soothing leaves.  "Just a little
higher," he said.  She quickly broke off her ministrations and gave him a
dirty look, and then went back to working on his calves.

Meanwhile the little gnome was speaking to Scott.  "Your heart's desire is
high on this hill," it said.  "You had best hurry and find it before my
friends push it off a cliff.  The trail leads up from behind the rock."  He
then scampered away, leaping into the middle of the group and jumping into
the air to land with all his weight into the middle of Sharon's back.  She
fell forward, landing with her face in Rood's crotch.  The little man
danced off saying, "You had better hurry, big lord.  He will fall off the
hill soon."

Scott jerked the reins and guided his horse around the oddly shaped
boulder.  Sure enough there was a hidden trail leading upward onto the
mountain.  Urging his horse to a fast pace, Scott quickly followed the path
upward.

"Scott, come back," Jennifer shouted as she saw him ride off.  Before
anyone could react, the rest of the horses began to rush off down the trail
to the west.  A high pitched laugher echoed along the hills after them.

* * *

By the time the caravan had reached the eaves of the great wood, Dave had
learned to speak much more fluently.  He could now easily converse with
more intelligence with the other members of the traveling group.  The same
could not be said for Clive.  He didn't have the patience it took to learn
the skill of speaking English.  Also, as the caravan made camp near the
forest gate, Ellenia was beginning to change.  She was no long the
sylph-like woman Dave had first met, but had gained a considerable quantity
of weight.  It was fairly evident that she was pregnant and in a few more
months would deliver a child.  Clive's pride in his mate seemed to increase
with the size of her stomach.

The merchants quickly unloaded a good deal of commodities that were
apparently meant for the wood elves.  No sooner had they made camp and
finished the unpacking, than a great number of bronze skinned, little
people dressed in leaf green jerkins appeared at the edge of the wood.
Clive greeted many of them as old friends and invited them into camp.

That first night at the edge of the great wood was one that Dave would
always remember with great joy and great sorrow.  There was a huge
celebration and the elves sang and danced for hours, beginning at sun down.
Clive spent most of the time dancing with his boyhood friends and telling
them tales of his adventures in the palace as well as stories of the
strange human world.  The other woodlings found it hard to believe that
their old woodmate, Robin, was now the high king of all Tuatha.  He had
been raised with them in the great wood and they had played together as
children.

For the most part, Ellenia was deserted.  She sat alone, a discreet
distance from the others, enjoying the singing and dancing.  Dave noticed
the wistful expression on her face and asked her if she would like company.
"I thank you for your kind attention, lord," she said.  "How like you our
singing and merry making?"

"I like it very much," the human said.  There was a special magic in elfish
music that touched his soul.  He then noticed the sad look on her beautiful
face.  "Are you not happy, lady?" he asked her.

"I am as happy as ever I have been," she replied.  A long silence fell
between them.  Suddenly she turned to Dave.  "Know you anything of birth,
my good friend?"

The scientist was surprised by the unusual question.  "Well, yes.  If you
mean biologically, I studied medicine at UCLA."

She smiled sadly as she place her hand gently on her stomach.  "My son will
need help entering the world.  Help I shall not be able to give him.  In
our world he would die, but I ask you to see that he lives."

"Is there a problem?" Dave asked.  He looked at her face closely.  "Are you
experiencing any pain or bleeding, or any other symptoms?"

"No," she said.  "Swear you shall not tell anyone else,"

"But, lady..."

"Swear!" she said imperiously.

"I swear," Dave answered.

"I feel a coldness in my heart," she answered sadly.  "It is the plague."

* * *

Alee, Faylar and Stan went in search of the horses.  They were no doubt
spooked by the gnomes as a vicious prank.  Akuta, Alex, Caseldra and
Jennifer went dashing up the mountain trail on foot, following the route
taken by Scott.  "I would go with them," Rood protested, but Sharon
wouldn't hear of it.

"This plant poison could get worse if you walk on it," she said as she
continued to massage his legs.

"But lady, if you insist on this treatment, everything else may get worse."
He was already aroused and having a difficult time trying to conceal his
erection under the hem of his short tunic.

Sharon had to laugh inwardly.  This brash young man had been flirting with
her for the past three days and she had continually avoided his advances.
Now that they were alone and she was no longer resisting, he was the one
who was acting frightened.  "I'll have to work a little harder," she said,
sliding her hands higher on his thighs.  "We'll have to take care of any
stiffness you might have."  Rood closed his eyes and groaned as her fingers
slipped beneath his tunic.

Meanwhile, Scott slowed his horse to a walk.  The trail seemed to melt away
in the midst of high rocks.  He got down and began to walk along the narrow
path.  A small cascade of fine gravel fell down from above, dropping onto
him.  Scott jumped back from the wall and looked up, but could see nothing
because of the curving angle of the rock.  As he looked up, a large, dark,
oddly shaped boulder came over the edge of the wall above and fell directly
on him.  There was no time to move aside, all Scott could do was throw up
his arms for protection.  The weight hit him and he fell to the trail,
coughing as dust filled his lungs.  "I must be dead," he thought.  "I can't
possibly be in this position and not feel any pain."  His leg was only
inches from his nose.  He tried to move, and then realized it was not his
leg, but that of someone else.  The shock of this realization caused him to
jump away, scrambling to his feet.  The owner of the strange leg did the
same thing.

As Scott looked up, brushing the dirt from his eyes, he saw Robin standing
in front of him.  "Thank you for breaking my fall, love," the king said
with a smile.  Scott let out a shriek of happiness and fell upon his lover,
kissing him passionately.  Ten minutes later the others of the search party
crested the hill to see the two lovers locked in an embrace.  They all
broke into cheers of joy, knowing their quest had a happy ending.

Once the horses were rounded up, the trip back to Esbereth was pretty
uneventful.  Rood and Sharon had grown much closer during the journey and
the king and his consort spent a good deal of time getting reacquainted,
but on the whole, the three day trip passed quickly.  Arriving at the
palace, they found everyone busy with the two caravans that had met on the
same day just beyond the foothills.  Life seemed to be settling quickly
back into the comfortable Tuathan routine.

The only unsettled business was that of Stan.  He still had not found any
clue to the whereabouts of the missing human scientist.  Shortly after
their return to Esbereth he made an appearance in the throne room to
request an audience with Robin.  "You need no such formalities, dark lord,"
the king said from his seat of shining quartz crystal.  "We owe you much
for the assistance you have already given us.  You may speak to us as
friend to friend."

"You highness," Stan answered.  "I'd like to ask your permission to go on a
journey."

"Of course," Robin said.  "Where will you go?"

"We figure the horse that Strahan was on ran out into the grasslands.  He
either died out there or was picked up by one of the many caravans that
cross the prairie.  That's the only way he could have survived."

"Go on," Robin nodded.

"I'd like your permission to take a couple of your men and ride out to look
for him," Stan finished.

"If you find no trace of the body you would then follow the caravan trails
in search of him?"

"Yes," Stan agreed.  "If he didn't die in the prairie then someone
somewhere must know where he is.  We want to take a look."

"By 'we' I assume you know which knights you want?" Robin asked with a
smile.

"My lord, we would like to volunteer," Alee said as he and Faylar
approached the throne.

Robin grinned broadly.  "Actually, I thought you might."  He again looked
at Stan.  "Dark lord, these two are young and impetuous.  You shall have
your hands full," Robin said in English so the two knights would not
understand him.

"Well, they aren't much of a commando force, that's for sure.  But I think
I can whip 'em into shape," the black man grinned back.

"I have but one condition," Robin added.  "On your journey please follow
the caravan to the great wood.  I desire news of my cousin and my friend.
Express to them my love and tell them all Esbereth awaits their safe
return."

* * *

Eight months had passed since their binding.  Clive stood outside the den
that was built high in a majestic oak.  This was the 'house of joy' as the
elders of the village called it.  This was the den where the children were
born.  Just a short time ago Ellenia was carried into the big, wooden den,
leaving Clive outside to worry.  This was typical.  The mother was always
taken in and prepared by the village women, then the father was admitted as
the time drew close, so he could witness the birth and offer support to his
mate.

But Clive was very agitated.  He could tell that something was wrong.
Ellenia should not be ready to give up the child for at least another
month, possibly two.  On top of that, as she was going into the house of
joy she insisted that Dave, the human she had grown so fond of, be admitted
with her.  This bothered Clive more than he wanted.  He couldn't understand
what was happening.

Inside the wooden hut, Ellenia was unclothed and stretched out on a soft
bed of fern leaves covering a wooden pallet.  She was not having an easy
time of it.  "If the child comes not, they both shall die," an old woman
said.  She had performed the job of midwife many times.

"The father should be called to witness the birth," another woman said.

"But there is no birth," the first woman replied.

"Let me see," Dave said as he came into the room.  Ellenia's mother-in-law
had shown him where to wash and clean himself as best he could.  He was
appalled by what humans would consider the unsanitary conditions of the
house of joy.  Everything was clean, to be sure, but certainly not
sterilized.

The old women protested, but Ellenia and Clive's own mother insisted.  Dave
quickly knelt between the girl's legs and examined her.  "The baby's too
large," he said.  "She isn't dilating and I don't think we can do much
about it.  We'll have to take the child by Cesarian."

"What mean you?" the old midwife asked.

"She can't have this child normally.  We'll have to open her abdomen by
surgery or we'll lose them both."

No one seemed to understand him.  "I trust you, my lord," Ellenia finally
said.  "They shall do whatever you tell them, only please save my child."

"I'm going to save both of you," Dave answered her.

"That is not possible," she said calmly.  "I am ready for my journey, but
please take my son from my body."

Dave knew he was taking a big risk.  This was certainly not the place to
operate with no equipment.  "What wish you for your task?" Clive's mother
asked.

The human swallowed hard.  "Let's start with lots of clean white cloth," he
ordered.  "Then someone build a fire quickly and heat some water.  We'll
also need a very, very sharp knife..."

Hours seemed to fly by as Clive sat in meditation on the little, wooden
porch.  Finally his mother came to him, touching him gently on the
shoulder.  She escorted her son into the gloomy interior.  He immediately
crossed to the pallet where his mate lay beneath white sheets.  She was no
longer large with child, but seemed now tiny and withdrawn looking.

"Are you well, my love?" Clive asked as he knelt and grasped her hand.

Her hand was cold and the grip weak.  "I love you so," she whispered as she
reached her other arm up to brush his tousled hair.  Clive then noticed the
bright blue stains on the cloth at the foot of her bed.  "Fear not," she
said, catching his eyes.  "It is over and our son lives.  The women are
cleaning him before presenting him to you."

"But...I thought..."  The woodling was confused.  He was supposed to be
called in before the birth.

"You were not prepared to see what actions had to be taken," the girl
whispered.  "Had it not been for David Strahan our son would follow me."

"Follow you?" Clive asked in confusion.

"I go on a great journey," Ellenia said.  "It is one I must take alone."

"No!" Clive cried as he began to understand her meaning.  "You must be
well."

"It is too late," she said.  "I follow my parents to the western islands."

"I shall go with you!" Clive said angrily.

"No my lord, and my love," the girl said weakly.  "You must be strong for
our son's sake.  Teach him to be a man, and tell him of me.  Tell him I
loved him so very much, and know that I love you too."  Her voice was
fading quickly as her strength waned.  "Kiss me farewell, my love."

Clive bent down, taking her fragile body in his arms and kissing her
gently.  He felt her relax and go suddenly limp.  "No," he moaned, hugging
her tightly as if he would physically hold her spirit back from its
journey.  He decided to stay here, never to let her free of his arms.

"My lord," a voice said gently behind him.

"Go away!" the woodling cried as he held his dead love.

"But, my lord, your son need you," the woman said.  Clive slowly looked up
and his eyes met those of the little baby in his mother's arms.  They were
the same sparkling green as Ellenia's.  The tiny, undersized child began to
softly cry.  Clive quickly jumped up, grabbing the baby and hugging it
fiercely to his breast, his tears mingling with those of his infant son.

 

 

 

 

 

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