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 XVIII

     "The wound is not severe, but he has lost much blood.  He shall sleep
while his body works to replace the loss," the healer told the assembled
company.  "His mind may come and go.  Be not alarmed.  This is natural.  In
three days he shall awaken and be whole."  She then left to look after
others injured in the fighting.

     "We shall take turns at watch with him," Thomas suggested.  "Rowana,
you take the first.  I am off to the council chambers to try and sort out
these past months."  He left Rowana, Melcot, Akuta, Scott and Clive sitting
in the antechambers.  Robin had been put to bed in his inner room.  Rowana
took a chair and went in to sit by his side.  Melcot and Akuta departed on
an errand to see about the restaffing of the white tower, leaving Clive and
Scott on their own.

     "This has certainly been some adventure," Clive remarked.  "I am sorry
to see it end."

     "Is it truly over?" Scott asked, rising and going to look out of the
window niches.

     "It is for me," Clive replied.  "But not for you, I fear."

     "Why not?" Scott asked, turning to look at the wood elf.

     "You still have unresolved conflict," Clive said.  "You wish to stay
with the king and yet you fear to."

     "How can I?" Scott asked him.  "I know what your people expect.  An
heir to the throne.  That's what got us into this mess in the first place.
And what about my world?"

     "What my people expect? . . .  What about what my king wishes?" Clive
questioned him.

     "What does he wish?" Scott asked dully.

     "He cares for you," Clive told him.  "When he was sick in the great
wood, and on a mind journey, he called your name.  He wants you to be with
him."  Scott felt the duality of the situation.  What Clive said filled his
heart with joy, and yet he knew it could not work.

     "My lord," Rowana called to Scott from the doorway.  "He called your
name."

     Scott entered the inner chambers and walked up to the platform.  Robin
was stretched out on the soft feather mattress, a woolen blanket covering
him.  His face was just as beautiful as Scott remembered it.  He reached
out and stroked the soft golden locks on the sleeping king.  "You should
stay with him," Rowana said gently from the door.  She turned and left.
Scott pulled the chair close and sat beside the bed, taking Robin's hand in
his.  He held it tightly as tears filled his eyes.  He wondered what he
should do.

          * * *

     As he sat lost in thought, Maynar was startled by a faint wheezing
sound.  Turning rapidly, he tipped the chair over and crashed to the floor
beside the reclining platform.  Pulling himself up and looking over the
edge, the first thing he noticed was that the blanket was different.  It no
longer tented up in the center.  He looked more closely and saw an almost
imperceptible movement in the region of the chest.  Rood was slowly coming
back to life!  The mouth moved and a faint sound came out.  Maynar leaned
close to listen.  "Water," the rasping voice said.  In his excitement,
Maynar grabbed the glass pitcher beside the bed and brought it over,
accidently letting it slip from his grasp and pouring its contents all over
the face of the injured captain.  Rood's eyes rolled in their sockets,
trying to focus as Maynar mopped his face and chest.

     Again the voice whispered.  Maynar leaned close to catch the words.
"Maynar," it rasped.

     "Yes, yes?" the merchant smiled.

     "When I can move again, I shall repay you for this," Rood gasped, his
wet face slowly forming a scowl.

          * * *

     Scott had noticed the tiny bottle on the table.  It was clear glass,
about two inches in length, and sealed with some kind of wax.  It appeared
to be filled with a dark fluid that looked like purple ink.  He stood,
wondering what it was.

     "Scott Quartermain!" the voice called.  It so startled him that he
jumped, letting the tiny vial slip from his grasp.  It crashed to the floor
at his feet.  Scott turned to the platform to see Robin looking at him,
those fierce green eyes sparkling.  But the image was quickly hidden from
his view by clouds of bright purple smoke that rose from the broken vial
and completely enveloped him, shutting out the room.

     Robin had felt himself wandering in a mind journey, trying desperately
to return.  He felt that he was swimming in a deep ocean, fighting his way
to the surface.  As he finally broke free, he thought he saw his human
friend standing in his chamber.  But as the man turned he was suddenly
caught in a purple haze, and faded from view.  Robin let himself sink back
under the waves and down into the darkness.

     "What happened?" Thomas asked anxiously as he and Rowana entered the
room.  Clive was on the floor examining the tiny fragments of broken glass.

     "A transportation spell," he said.  "Scott must have accidentally
broken the vial and was caught by it.  It smells like the same one Melusine
used when we saw her depart."

     "How is the king?" Thomas asked, going quickly to his side.

     "He is unharmed.  He slept through it all," Clive replied.

     "But Scott," Rowana said.  "He must be wherever that awful woman is."

          * * *

     Scott awoke in what appeared to be a damp cave or tunnel.  It was lit
by flickering torches on the walls.  He could hear water dripping hollowly
in the distance.  He had no idea where he was or how he had gotten there,
but he knew he didn't want to stay.  Getting up from the muddy floor, he
began to walk down the tunnel, looking for an exit.

     The cave stretched on for miles, winding left and right, many times
doubling back on itself before straightening out again.  At times it
appeared to be descending for a while, and then it would rise again.  Scott
wondered who had placed and lit the torches that were so evenly spaced
along the walls.  They threw long gloomy shadows that pulsed and danced,
adding to the frightening aspect of his surroundings.

     Finally, the tunnel opened into a large, vaulted cavern about the size
of a football stadium.  The tunnel opening was high on the side, a small,
narrow trail leading down the steep, cliff-like cavern wall.  In the
distance, at the far end of the cavern floor were large stones that might
have been some sort of structure.  They sort of resembled the shapes and
forms of Stonehenge, only in much worse disarray.  The entire scene was lit
by an eerie greenish glow, apparently from some sort of phosphorescent
rock.  There were flashes and pulses of light coming from the stone
structure in the distance, as if someone down there was welding something.
Much as he dreaded the thought, Scott felt that he had to go investigate.
This was the only sign of life he had come across so far, and it might be
his only chance to get out of this odd place.  Carefully picking his path
down the steep incline, Scott headed toward the distant structure.

     As he wound his way across the boulder-strewn floor of the cavern,
Scott could hear crackling and popping noises coming from all around him.
They seemed to follow the pulses and flashes of light coming from the rocks
up ahead, leading him to believe that this was the cause of the sounds.
They must simply echo and reverberate in the stone vault, appearing to come
from many different directions.  As he walked he felt something brush his
cheek.  Looking up into the gloom he saw small dark shapes darting about in
the thick air.  "Cave bats," he thought, redoubling his effort to reach the
source of the more intense light.  The flying shadows seemed to be avoiding
the structure he was now approaching.

     He drew nearer and could finally hear a new sound.  A human voice was
talking in the distance.  Scott could not make out what it was saying
because of the other sounds, but it appeared to be having a one-sided
conversation.  As he was about to step between two tall monoliths and into
the source of the flashing light he heard a high pitched scream, dying away
to a low moan, followed by maniacal laughter.  Scott ducked down behind the
rock and slowly edged his way around to observe what was happening.  In the
center of a circular area, surrounded by the broken rock columns, a large,
flat stone table had been constructed.  On the table lay the body of a
young woman draped in black cloth with odd shapes and designs embroidered
onto the material.  Nearby at a stone bench stood the ugly woman he had
seen at the castle.  He realized this was Melusine.  She appeared even more
hideous than he remembered her, with a swollen, bloated body, long stringy
black hair, and an oddly misshapen face, the features appearing to be
arranged haphazardly with no symmetrical order.  She muttered to herself,
and then occasionally spoke to the body on the table.  The flashes of light
came from what looked like bolts of electricity emanating spontaneously and
sporadically from the table, jolting the female figure lying on it.  Every
now and then an extremely large flash would wrench a cry from the tortured
body and evoke laughter from the evil hag.

     Scott fell back behind the stone and slid to the ground.  A brilliant
bolt of light flashed and another shriek ripped the still air.  He put his
hands to his ears and tightly closed his eyes, wishing he were anywhere
else but here.

          * * *

     "I understand it not," Clive protested.  "This makes no sense.  Why
should we lie, it is not right!"

     "We will not lie," Thomas told him.

     "But to keep such information from the king."

     "To keep information to oneself is not the same as lying," Thomas
continued.

     "It is a deception!" Clive argued.

     "I must agree," Rowana added.  "I see no purpose in deception.  It is
not the Tuathan way."

     "You said Robin cared a great deal for this human," Thomas explained.
"You even admitted to me that there was a stronger bond, more personal.  If
the king knows that his friend was here and is now gone who knows where,
what do you think he will do?"  Clive opened his mouth to reply, and then
closed it without saying anything.  Everyone in the room was silent.  "And
what about the council?" Thomas continued.  "They want a king who will
produce an heir.  What do you think they would say to this arrangement of
king and human male?"

     "But what shall we tell him?" Clive asked.

     "Tell him nothing."

     Rowana looked sad.  "And what of his grieving heart?"

     "He thinks he left the human behind in the other world.  Let that door
remain closed.  His heart will mend.  And he will eventually drop this
unusual fascination and turn to an acceptable female."  Thomas rose and
left the room.  Rowana and Clive looked at each other, both aching for
their ruler and his lost love, and knowing Thomas was wrong.

          * * *

     He must have passed out or fallen asleep.  He had no idea how much
time had elapsed.  He was still sitting with his back to the cold stone.
Everything was silent and only the greenish gloom illuminated the nearby
rock.  Scott slowly stood and peered around the corner of the monolith.
The stone table with its inhabitant was still there, only the electrical
flashes were now gone.  Melusine was nowhere in sight either.  Being as
careful as possible, Scott stepped into the circle of columns and looked
around.  Nothing moved or took any notice of him.  Emboldened by this, he
quickly stepped to the table.  The girl was lovely with soft delicate
features and white blond hair.  She reminded him of Robin.  She seemed to
be asleep under the black cloth.  He reached out and felt for a pulse in
her neck.

     As his fingers made contact with her skin, the eyes opened and she let
forth a cry of fear and pain.  "It's alright," he said, trying to calm her.
"I'm here to help."  Gradually the green eyes focused on him and the girl
seemed to relax a little.  "Can you get up?" he asked her.

     "Who are you?" she asked in Tuathan in reply to his unintelligible
English phrases.

     Switching over to the fairy language he answered, "I am called Scott.
Can you stand?"

     "I am held to this altar," she replied.  "I cannot move."

     "I'll help you," he said reaching for her.

     "No!" she said quickly.  "Touch not the stone or you will be unable to
move as well.  The magic causes it to drain the energy from the body's
muscles."

     He carefully pulled the black covering from her body.  Beneath it the
girl was naked.  He reached over and picked up her hands, being careful not
to touch the stone table.  He pulled her into a sitting position, her body
responding like a rag doll.  Scott slipped his arm under her back and swung
her off the altar and onto the ground.  He reached over to get the black
cloth to use as a blanket.  "No," she said again.  "There is evil in that
fabric."

     "Can you stand now?" Scott asked her.

     "I am too weak," she replied.  "Thank you for trying but you must save
yourself."


     "Come on," he said picking her up in his arms.  She seemed to weigh
nothing.  "Let's get out of here."  They set off across the long flat floor
of the cavern, Scott carrying the girl toward the steep trail down which he
had come earlier.  Without references like the sun and moon to tell night
from day, he had no idea how long ago it might have been.  He did not know
if he had been here a few hours, or a few days.  All he knew was that he
had to leave this awful place.

     As they reached the steep trail leading back up the side of the cavern
to the cave opening the girl spoke.  "I think I can climb.  Put me down."
Knowing it would be impossible to climb the trail carrying his burden, he
obliged.  She told him to go ahead and lead the way.  Looking back, Scott
saw her trying her best to follow him, but she was moving painfully slow.
He came back down to help her.

     "Go ahead," she ordered.  "If Melusine returns she will catch us both.
She may be back any minute."  But ignoring her protestations, Scott put his
arm around her bare shoulders and helped her to scramble up the loose
gravel of the path, the sharp stones cutting blue gouges in her bare hands
and knees and red one's in Scott's.

     After what seemed like hours of climbing, they finally reached the
cave mouth and sat to rest a minute.  "Who are you?" Scott asked her.  "And
why was she torturing you?"

     "She was punishing me," the girl answered.  "My name is Ellenia and I
. . ."

     "Ellenia!" Scott said excitedly.  "But we thought you were dead!"

     "Who thought such?" she asked him.

     "Everyone at the castle."

     "Then you came from Esbereth?" she said in amazement.  "But you are
human.  And why would you come to rescue me if you thought me dead?"

     "I came by accident," Scott confessed.  "Actually, that makes twice.
The first time I was pushed into the circle with Robin."

     "Robin," her eyes lit up.  "Then he is safe?  He has returned?"

     "Yes," Scott said.  "So much has happened.  He fought with Bailor and
won.  He will be the king when he gets well."

     "He is ill?" she asked in concern.

     "Just a minor wound," Scott answered.  "You love him, don't you?"

     The girl quickly looked down at the ground.  "Yes.  But he feels not
the same way.  He said he loved me as a sister."

     "You would make a fine queen," Scott told her after a moment of
silence.  "He's a fool not to marry you."

     Ellenia looked up into Scott's eyes.  "You are so very kind," she said
as she looked deeply into his soul.  Her face suddenly became a picture of
concern.  "So that is why he cannot love me," she said.  "He loves you."

     "No," Scott said, standing at the mouth of the cave.

     They were startled by a high pitched shriek reaching their ears in the
still cavern air.  "Melusine!" Ellenia said, trying to stand.  In the
distance Scott could see what looked like a green cloud rising out of the
Stonehenge-like circle.  Flashes of lightning seemed to pulse and throb in
the cloud as it grew in size.  Suddenly, the image of Melusine's face, even
further distorted in ugliness, seemed to appear on the face of the cloud.
She seemed to be scanning the interior of the cavern with her huge,
misshapen eyes.

     "Quickly!  We must run!" Ellenia said, grabbing Scott by the arm and
tugging him back into the damp tunnel.  They began to run down the curving
path, but Ellenia tripped and fell headlong in the muddy earth.  Scott
lifted her into his arms again and ran as fast as he could down the cave.

 

 

 

 

 

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