Crystal Throne

                                                                                 By Bert McKenzie 

                                                                                  Copyright 2010

 


Disclaimer: This story is a work of fiction.  Any resemblance to any real
person alive or dead is coincidental and unintentional.

CHAPTER XII

     Robin had miraculously sustained no serious injuries.  He was very
badly bruised and suffered several cuts and abrasions because of his fall,
but other than these and a great fatigue, he seemed to recover quite
quickly.  When the doorway had opened it apparently deposited him in the
great wood at some distance above the ground.  His disorientation made it
impossible to save himself from the fall through the branches of the thick
forest canopy.  It was his great fortune that his boyhood friend happened
to be so close by when he had arrived.  If he had fallen into the
wilderness alone he would surely have been killed by wild animals before
regaining his senses.  Clive nursed his friend's bruised body back to
health in the crudely built forest den.  He brought fresh fruits and water
until Robin felt able to leave the small shelter.  They then traveled
together to the nearest forest fountain for Robin to refresh himself.  He
quickly removed the strange clothing from the other world and plunged into
the cold pool of crystal clear water that welled up around the natural
spring.  It seemed like years since he had enjoyed the opportunity to take
a civilized bath, the icy cold water refreshing and bringing new life to
his battered body.  It must have been several days since he felt this good,
when he took the shower at Scott's house.  The memory of Scott stung worse
than he had expected.  He would truly miss that strangely compassionate
human from the other world.

     Climbing out of the pool, Robin was pleasantly surprised to find fresh
clothing awaiting him.  Clive had been busy, trying his best to alter his
extra greenwood jerkin to fit his old friend.  The garment was very snug,
and a little too short for comfort, but it was the best that could be done
under the circumstances.  Robin was certain that he would be able to find
some of his old clothes still stored with Feguna back in her den with his
old tribe.  The thought of Feguna brought back many memories of his
boyhood.  "How long have I been gone, my friend," he asked as the two of
them sat beside the pool and shared a branch of greenberries.

     "You left the village but three days before me," Clive replied.  "I
have been here in search of adventure for several moons."

     "Then but a few moons have traversed the sky since I departed?" Robin
asked, somewhat mystified.  "Truly time is very different where I have
been.  I was gone for what seemed to be ages.  Several thousands of moons
have I seen in the other land.  I have lived many lives among the people of
the human world.  I have learned their languages and have traveled across
their lands, even to crossing their great waters.  I never expected to find
my friends still young."

     Clive reached out to touch Robin's face.  "You are the same as when I
knew you last," he said.  "There is no time written on your face.  If you
have spent ages in the land of humankind, it has dropped from you with your
return."

     "Then I must travel to Esbereth," Robin vowed.  "There may yet be a
chance to save my friends and rescue my kingdom."

     "I have come to this part of the wood in search of adventure," Clive
told him.  "But it has been a grievous disappointment.  Perhaps I can yet
have my adventure with you.  We grew together as friends.  Now let me serve
you as my king."  Clive got up from the side of the pool and knelt before
Robin in an act of submission.

     "You have always been and shall always be my friend," Robin laughed
and pushed Clive over onto his side.  "You need not serve me."

     "But you are now a king," Clive protested as he stood and helped Robin
to his feet.

     "You serve me best by being my friend.  If it is adventure that you
wish, we may indeed have it, although I would turn back the sun and find
another life to live rather than be a king facing strife among his people"

     Together they returned to Clive's temporary shelter and gathered up
what few belongings he had brought with him from the old village.  They
then set off through the sky trails back toward the first home Robin had
ever known.

          * * *

     As the caravan moved slowly along the prairie, Scott noticed a small
group of youngsters lagging behind.  Upon closer scrutiny he saw that they
were sprinkling powder onto the grass as they followed behind the horses.
He asked his new friend Maynar about the unusual act.  "That is a mixture
of seed and forgetfulness," his companion explained.  "The forgetfulness
helps the land forget that we have passed this way.  The seed helps replace
any plants we may have damaged in our passage.  Thus anyone searching for
us will not have an easy time of tracking our passage."

     Maynar was the short elf who had first questioned Scott when they
picked him up.  He turned out to be quite a jolly sort of person with a
quick sense of humor and an infectious laugh.  He was assigned to supervise
Scott as they traveled.  He said it was only to acquaint Scott with the
customs of the people of Tuatha and to help him adjust to his new
surroundings.  However, Scott felt that it was partly so someone could keep
an eye on him and make sure that he wasn't some sort of spy after all.  He
could tell that a number of the merchants in the caravan felt decidedly
uncomfortable having him in their presence.  Despite Maynar's protestations
it appeared that humans were not only rare in this world, but almost
actively disliked.  Fortunately, his jovial watchdog apparently saw no
reason to keep any information from him.  Maynar confided that it was the
mental image of Robin that convinced Akuta of Scott's innocence.  Akuta was
the leader of this merchant caravan, although he himself was not of the
merchant guild.  Akuta had been one of the high ranking palace guards at
Esbereth, and had gone undercover as a merchant with the first expedition
to bring Robin back to the castle.  After the coup in which Bailor seized
command of the palace, Akuta had slipped away with this band of merchants
to seek news from the rest of the land.  It was his fervent hope that Robin
was merely lost and would quickly be found.  The magic that Bailor used was
that of transportation, although no one knew to where.

     Scott confided in Maynar that he had sheltered Robin in his own world
for a short time and had tried his best to help him return.  The fact that
Scott himself appeared in this land was obvious proof that the doorway had
opened and that Robin should also be here.  Both Maynar and Akuta were at a
loss to explain why Scott should have arrived without his friend.  They
could only think that perhaps his late entry into the circle caused him to
arrive in a different part of Tuatha, in which case there was still hope
that they would yet encounter Robin.  Akuta was fiercely protective of
their secrecy.  He feared that Bailor would have spies searching for their
whereabouts and if captured, they would be returned to the palace dungeons.
Bailor would not want Robin to be found under any circumstances, and if he
knew this was the reason for the caravan they would be quickly and severely
punished.  The steward must not find out that Scott had helped Robin to
return.

     The time problem bothered Scott.  He asked his new friend about it.
"Robin said that this all happened many years ago.  He said he had spent
probably a hundred years or more in my world before he ever found the key
to return, yet you sound like this coup was only yesterday."

     "It was but a few moons back," Maynar explained.  "I have been told by
another human that time in your world is not the same as time in ours.  He
said he had traveled to your world and spent sixty of your seasons only to
return to our world the day after he left.  Would this not explain the
dilemma?"

     Scott suddenly panicked.  "That means that while I'm here in your
world, my friends are all growing old and dying.  I've only been here two
days, but my whole life could have passed by already in my own time!"

     The thought that Jennifer and Troy might have already lived full
lifetimes and died frightened him considerably.  Maynar on the other hand
seemed to be totally unconcerned about his fear.  "Time is not a fixed item
like the length of a tunic or the width of the prairie.  A day may last a
lifetime or it may flash by in an instant.  Your world may be dust by the
time you return," he told Scott.  He then winked mischievously.  "Still,
you may return to find your parents have not yet conceived you.  Worry not
of what you have no power to control.  When you are ready to return to your
land, you will find the time."  He laughed at what he thought was a grand
joke.  Unfortunately, Scott was not able to see the punch line.

          * * *

     Robin knew there was something wrong as soon as they entered the
familiar sky trails of home.  There was no activity whatsoever; they passed
no one.  They had also seen no evidence of the usual border territory
sentries.  The village was never left without sentries posted at the
borders.  It was the way they maintained their knowledge of the outside
world and kept an eye on what was going on around them.  These unusual
details did not bode well.  As Clive and Robin entered the village proper
it was evident that something had transpired.  They saw no sign of life,
yet they heard voices coming from the central platform area.  "Something is
amiss," Robin wind whispered to his friend.  "Let us be cautious."  They
took a high sky trail that passed over the village center so they could
look down on the source of the voices.

     A company of the blue guard were lounging around the central platform,
making themselves free with the village stores of food and drink.  There
was no evidence of any village inhabitants within eyesight.  It was as if
the residents had fled in haste as these guards had moved into the area.
"Let us go to the den of Feguna," Robin said.  "We may find something
there."  They carefully retraced their steps to a lower sky trail and
headed directly to Robin's former home.  From outside the little, four
room, structure looked much the same as it always did.  It was a sturdy
construct of straight branches and thatch woven and held together by the
flax that grew at the edge of the southern bog.  It looked warm and
comfortable nestled on its large platform base against the side of a giant
oak.  The sight of his first home brought a smile to Robin's face, like
seeing an old friend who had long been absent.  The two elves entered the
den.

     Inside all was in chaos.  Feguna had apparently fled in haste with the
other residents, but whoever had come after her had searched with reckless
abandon through everything in sight.  Clothing and broken crockery were
jumbled together on the floor with bits of food and personal effects.
Robin looked about to see if there was anything that might give him a clue
as to the details of the incident.  At first nothing was evident.  But upon
carefully looking about, he spotted an old lesson book from which he had
studied as a child.  It was in a pile with the cookbooks that had been
stored over the food cabinets, as if found there by the ransackers.  Yet
Robin knew his lesson books were always kept in a cupboard near the
meditation porch.  Why was this book so misplaced, unless Feguna had
deliberately moved it to the food cabinets before leaving.  He could only
hope it was the clue for which he had been searching, and would let him
know what had happened.  He picked up the old volume and glanced through
it.  It was a book of maps of the land showing the lay of the great wood,
the plains and mountains, and the major dwellings of the various kingdoms.
In flipping through it, he noticed that one of the pages was carefully
folded at the corner.  Turning to it, Robin beheld a detailed map of the
surrounding forest.  In a thin scrawl, someone had drawn a sky trail path
directly to his old seclusion spot by the forest pool.  That must be the
clue for which he and Clive had searched.  Stopping only long enough to
find some of his old clothing that fit a bit better than Clive's
alterations, Robin quickly headed for the sky trail with Clive at his
heels.

     Everything looked exactly as Robin had remembered it from so very many
years ago.  The pool appeared just as green, with the reflected light, the
waterfall still causing a gentle tinkling sound as it rippled the surface.
There was nothing to be seen out of the ordinary.  "Are you certain that
she left the book as a clue?" Clive asked.  "Perhaps the guards carried it
there and dropped it among the food books.  It may have meant nothing."

     "I feel there was a message there," Robin explained.  "There is
something here for us if we can but find it."  They circled the water and
examined the stones and plants growing nearby, but nothing appeared unusual
or different.  There was nothing to give them the slightest hint that
anyone had been by the place since Robin left it a few short months before.

     "This is indeed a place of great peace," Clive said dropping down onto
the stone bridge over the spillway of the pool.  "I can see why you chose
this as your sanctuary."

     Robin stretched out on the flat rock beside his friend.  "The last
time I was with Feguna she came upon me while a sat here and looked into
the water," he said, leaning out and gazing into the pool.  To his shock,
the reflection in the water looked back at him with different eyes.  It was
not his own face he saw in the green depths, but that of his missing foster
mother.  "Clive, look," he called.

     "This is old wood magic," Clive said as he looked over the edge of the
bridge at the reflection.  "It should be your image, not her's.  Someone
has cast a personal message spell on the water," he explained.

     "What action must I take to retrieve it?" Robin asked as he kept his
eyes gazing at the woman's face in the pool.

     "I know not.  Ask it a question," Clive suggested.

     "Old mother, have you anything to tell me?" Robin tried as he looked
into the water.

     The softly rippling image came to life, as if it were actually
reflecting the face of the old woman as she spoke.  "My child, my liege,"
she said in the voice he remembered so well.  "I fear some great tragedy
has befallen you.  I know all is not well.  The sentries told of the
arrival of the blue guard at the forest gate.  They were armed as for
battle, and they entered the wood in search of our village.  My people,
your friends, have all deserted our homes.  We have heard them close behind
us.  The guard is searching for something or someone.  I fear they are
either seeking you, and you have not won the throne as hoped, or they are
seeking us to punish us for protecting you.  I leave this message in your
memory, for I fear you may never receive it.  Your greenwood tribe has gone
into hiding in the deep wood.  I hear the guard close behind and I know I
am too old to keep up.  If you receive this message know that I died loving
you as my own child.  Be careful and remember your promise to lead your
land as a good king.  I know some day you shall."

     As she finished speaking, the image lapsed back into stony silence.
The only sound that remained was the babbling of the stream.  Tears
streaked down Robin's face at the thought of this gentle woman running in
fear from the blue guard.  "We must find a way to return to Esbereth and
correct this wrong!" he vowed to his friend.

     "But first we must destroy the message spell so no one else can
receive it," Clive told him.  As Robin gazed down at the face of the only
mother he had ever known, Clive tossed a small stone into the image.  The
face of Feguna broke up into a thousand small waves.  As the reflection
gradually reformed itself, it was no longer that of the old woman.  Only
Robin's own eyes looked back from the pool.

          * * *

     "Try to stay hidden," Maynar advised him.  "Stand in the center of the
large group and please try not to stand tall.  The others are shorter than
you."  It was just a little after dawn that the camp realized a large group
of mounted men were riding across the plain, apparently heading directly
for them.  Maynar had provided Scott with a red tunic similar to the other
merchants so that he would blend in, but Scott felt extremely obvious and
uncomfortable in the loose fitting garment.  The elves apparently wore no
undergarments, and the insecurity of being dressed in what amounted to no
more than a night shirt was quite disconcerting.  But Maynar was adamant.
If Scott put on his pants or anything else that looked out of place he
would be spotted immediately.  As it was he did not blend into the other
elves very well at all.  He stood a good deal taller than most of them, and
his facial features were not as delicate.  He was just too human for lack
of a better description.

     The men rode up in characteristic fashion, forming a mounted circle
surrounding the camp.  The were all wearing sky blue tunics and golden mail
overlays; all were carrying swords as well as bows and arrows.  The
commander of the group rode directly into the camp and halted his mount
just a few feet from Akuta.  "Are you the leader here?" he asked
imperiously.

     "I speak for my friends," Akuta replied proudly, not giving way an
inch as the horseman urged his steed forward almost stepping on the tall
fairy.

     "You are not a merchant by birth.  You are too tall and fair," the
mounted man observed.

     "Although I was not born to the guild, may not one accept what role in
life he chooses?"  Akuta responded.

     "Then accept this role," the mounted man said, and kicked out with a
sandaled foot, striking Akuta in the face.  Caught by surprise, the tall
one dropped to the ground like a stone.  Scott tensed with anger and almost
ran forward to help, but Maynar gripped his arm and squeezed tightly to
bring him to his senses.  Several others quickly leapt forward and pulled
Akuta back away from the feet of the leader's horse.

     "Merchants are not allowed to just wander where they please without
leave of the king," the mounted man said in a superior voice.  "Your guild
has fallen out of favor and has been banished from the high council.  You
must have permission before you travel, and your journeys must be planned
and approved well in advance.  You shall follow us to an internment camp in
the foothills where we shall evaluate your status."  The man turned to
leave.  As he did so he was struck in the back of the head by a flying clod
of horse manure.  A cheer rose from the crowd, only to die away quickly as
the man wheeled his mount.  "Your actions shall weigh heavily in my
decision of your fate," he cried as he wiped the dung from his hair and
clothing.  "I shall be generous now, but if there are any other incidents,
I shall have my men eliminate the problem with their swords.  I hope you
understand."  He turned again and rode off to join the circle of horsemen.

     The camp had little choice but to pack up and begin following the
company of guards.  "At least you were not noticed," Maynar said to Scott,
a tremendous grin spreading across his face.  "But that was a foolish act,"
he added as he handed the human a rag to clean the feces from his hands.

 

 

 

 

 

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