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 XXI

     There was a deepening of the silence in the cavern.  Scott looked up
at the screen realizing what the man had just said.  He was renouncing his
claim to the throne!  Scott turned to look at the hideous mass of flesh
that had been Melusine.  He wondered what she would do now.  He expected a
shriek or a cry or perhaps even for her to turn and attack her two
prisoners.  But he was totally unprepared for what actually happened.

     The bloated body seemed to sink down upon itself, collapsing into a
pool of rotting decay in the middle of the stone floor.  Obscene whistling
and gurgling noises emitted from the remains like the sounds of escaping
gasses.  "We've won," Scott said softly to himself, and then he turned back
to the screen.  "We've won!" he managed to shout, his voice echoing and
reverberating in the hollow vault.  "Ellenia, we've won!"

     He looked over at the girl.  She was looking back at him with tears
streaming down her cheeks.  "Thank you, Scott," she said softly.  He tugged
with returning strength and the chains, no longer held by the evil magic
dropped noisily to the ground.  Rushing to her side, Scott tugged Ellenia's
chains loose as well and pulled her thin body away from the stone pillar.
"Thank you, Scott," she cried again.  "Thank you for saving us."  She
collapsed against him, sobbing freely into his shoulder.

     "But I did nothing," he protested, holding her and trying to comfort
her as she slowly gained control of her emotions.  "It was Robin."

     "Heard you not what he said?" she asked, looking up at him with tear
stained eyes.  "Heard you not why he turned down the throne?  He refused it
for love.  For your love."

     "You mean . . ."  He slowly began to realize what she was telling him.
Robin had publicly declared his love before the high council and most of
the inhabitants of the palace.  He could not produce an heir to the throne
because of his love for another man.  There was only one man he could
possibly mean.

     Their tender moment together was interrupted by a tremendous crash.
One of the stone monoliths had fallen and smashed to pieces just inches
from where they stood.  "We must flee," Ellenia said as the ground began to
quiver and shake.  The other stones rocked precariously around them.  Scott
helped the girl out of the circle and they began to run across the floor of
the cavern, the sounds of the rock structures crashing down behind them.

     Dust and dirt were everywhere.  The entire mountain seemed to be in
the grip of a massive earthquake, stones rolling down the cavern walls and
the ground continually pitching and shuddering.  "What's happening?" Scott
shouted over the roaring protest of the surrounding stones.

     "The gate is collapsing in on itself!" Ellenia shouted back as they
began to scramble up the steep trail to the cave mouth.  "When Melusine
died in our world, her spirit was forcibly sucked back into hers, much like
water being pulled through a hole in the bottom of a bucket.  In the
process it is taking the gateway and everything around with it."  The climb
was increasingly difficult as the two had to dodge sliding rocks and
falling debris.  Finally they managed to reach the cave entrance.
"Quickly," Ellenia called.  "Run as fast as you can.  This whole tunnel may
be pulled into the gateway, taking us with it."  Scott glanced back over
his shoulder to see what looked like a rapidly widening hole opening from
the far end of the cavern.  It reminded him of nothing so much as a
gigantic mouth devouring the earth before it.  The two of them sprinted up
the cave as quickly as they could run.

          * * *

     The castle was in turmoil.  Never before in the long history of Tuatha
had a high king attempted to abdicate.  Although he had not actually
accepted the throne, Robin was their king, duly affirmed by the council and
duly crowned.  He had now publicly renounced all that this meant.  "And
why?" Thomas asked rhetorically.  "For love.  A noble and worthwhile
sentiment.  But not just any love.  No.  He has to proclaim his love before
the high council and half the population of the palace . . .  his love for
another man.  And not just another man but a human as well!"

     "Please, my lord," Rowana tried to calm the old man.  "You shall
become ill if you refuse to relax."

     "What are we going to do?" Thomas asked as he fell into a waiting
chair.  "Do you have a solution?"  He looked directly and pointedly at
Rowana as if she ought to have an answer since she wasn't ranting about the
situation.

     "If I may be so bold, lord," Melcot came to her defense.  "Perhaps if
he was originally told the truth about his human friend . . .  I mean about
his disappearance we would not be debating this course now."

     "That's right," Thomas said, jumping up from his chair.  "Blame me for
trying to spare his feelings.  Blame me for trying to do what was right for
the kingdom.  Just like has always been.  Blame the humans for the mess the
Tuathans make."

     "Lord, that is not fair," Rowana said, quickly leaping to the support
of her intended.

     "Well, where is he now?" the old man asked.

     "In his chambers," Melcot answered.

     "Try to keep him there while I go speak to the high council.  Maybe we
can still salvage some of this mess."

          * * *

     The torches flickered and dimmed as they threaded their way through
the tunnel.  A strong wind seemed to pull at their heels and draw the
flames back down toward the gruesome cavern behind them.  Finally, with a
last shuddering gasp the ground stopped shaking as all of the lights
disappeared leaving the two in the inky, underground darkness.

     "The gate has closed at last," Ellenia's voice said, coming from
somewhere nearby.

     "Can you lead us out of here?" Scott asked her, reaching out and
feeling for his companion in his blindness.

     "I cannot see," she replied.

     "But I thought your people could see in the dark."

     "We may have better vision than humans, and we may be able to see when
you cannot," she told him.  "But when there is absolutely no light, then
there is nothing by which to see."

     "Then I guess we go by feel," Scott said, making contact with her
outstretched hand.  They went much more slowly, feeling the rough stone
wall and following the tunnel in this fashion.  Scott's one fear was what
would they do when they reached the smaller cavern up ahead, the one that
held several possible exits.  They would be unable to pick the right tunnel
they had chosen before.  Just as he thought about this his hand reached out
and made contact with nothing.  The wall had fallen away into empty space.
"I think we're in trouble," Scott said.

     "No, look," Ellenia called excitedly.

     "You can see something?"

     "Yes," she replied.  "There is just a faint spot of light directly
ahead.  It must be the tunnel to the surface."  She squeezed his hand
firmly and they headed in the direction she indicated.  They walked on in
the darkness for a very long time, Ellenia getting more and more sure of
herself with each step as the light filled her elfin eyes and showed the
way.

     At last Scott thought he could make out a dim shape in the darkness.
They now raced forward and were soon running out of the cave mouth and into
the dazzling light of day.  They were standing on a grassy mountain
plateau, the blue sky and bright sun shining overhead.  Even though the
light was blinding to Scott's slowly adjusting eyes, he had never seen
anything so beautiful before.  They ran about, breathing deep lungfuls of
the fresh mountain air and dancing on the short clover.  "Lady," Scott said
as they finally collapsed to the ground in laughter, "I hope you know your
Tuathan geography.  I have no idea where we are."

     "We are in the Eldritch Mountains," she told him.  She pulled him up
and pointed off into the distance.  "That must be the way home."

     "Why," Scott asked her.

     "Because the sun is sinking this way which means that direction must
be south."

     "And south is where we want to go?" he asked.

     "Of course," she answered.  "We had best begin our journey at once."

     "Fine, but why the haste?" he questioned.

     "Had you not listened to the words of Robin?" she responded.  "He said
he was to return to the other world and seek you.  He knows not that you
are here.  If we return not to Esbereth immediately, we shall return to
find the king gone to your land while you are already in his."

     "Sounds like quite a mess," Scott admitted.  "Well what are we waiting
for?  We have a castle to find.  How far is it do you think?"

     "But two days journey if we can find a nomadic village nearby that
shall lend us a horse."

     "And some clothing for you," he added.  They headed across the plateau
and down a narrow, wooded trail heading toward the flatlands below.

          * * *

     "My lord, you cannot go," Clive told him.

     "I must," Robin replied.  "You are the ones who have given me the
strength to search for what I have been missing.  I must return to the land
of humankind."

     Clive and Rowana exchanged glances.  "We must tell him.  It was wrong
to keep the information from him in the first place," the girl wind
whispered to her friend.  He nodded to her.

     "You will not find him, lord," Clive said, trying to stop him as Robin
attempted to put clothing into a small traveling pack.

     "Of course I shall.  Once I get to their land, I know where to go to
find his dwelling."

     "He is not there, lord," Rowana added to what Clive had said.


     Robin stopped his preparations and turned to look at them.  The two
had guilt written all over their faces.  Robin sat on the reclining
platform.  "What are you trying to tell me?  I sense there is some hidden
matter here."

     "Thomas wanted us not to tell you.  He felt that you were best served
by not knowing," Clive stammered.

     "I felt it was a deception," Rowana said quickly.  "We both felt so
and we tried to tell Thomas but . . ."

     "Out with it.  What tale are you holding back?" Robin asked anxiously.

     "Your friend was in our land.  He somehow followed you here when you
entered the circle in his world."

     Robin jumped up from his seat and grabbed Clive by the shoulders, his
face a picture of ecstatic joy.  "Scott, here?  Where is he?  How could you
not tell me?  Where may I find him?"

     "You were ill, lord and on a mind journey," Rowana continued the tale.
"He was sitting here with you, and must have accidentally broken a
transportation vial.  We found the shards of glass and he was gone."

     "Then the image I saw in my journey was not an illusion," Robin said,
remembering the picture of Scott fading into the purple haze.  "He must
have broken the transportation spell that Bailor had as an escape from
here.  But where could it have taken him?"

     Clive felt the tears rising has he tried to finish the story.  "We saw
Melusine disappear in the same type of spell.  When I came into the room I
could smell the same odor.  We fear he has gone to join her, lord."

     "The dark world," Robin concluded.  He stood in silent thought for but
a moment, and then turned to continue his preparations for a journey.

     "What is your purpose, lord," Rowana asked him.  "You cannot mean to
go to his land now.  There is no reason."

     "I go not to his land.  I follow my father's footsteps now," Robin
said tersely.

     "You mean to travel to the Eldritch Mountains," she asked in shocked
horror.  "No, lord," she said grabbing him and hugging him tightly.

     "My dear lady.  Can you not see.  I have no choice.  If my heart is in
the dark world, then I must travel to the dark world to retrieve it.  I am
no longer king here.  I have no reason to stay."  The girl sobbed as she
held her king and her friend.  Clive dried his eyes and turned to leave the
room.

     "You shall not stop me, friend," Robin called to him.

     Turning, the woodling looked back to Robin.  "I go to make
preparations for our journey.  I know I would not stop you, and so I must
needs go with you."

     "No," Robin protested.

     Clive interrupted him.  "I told you long ago in the great wood that I
traveled with you for adventure.  I fear the story is not yet good enough
to win a beautiful maiden.  We must add another chapter or two."

          * * *

     "Our journey will begin as soon as you finish your business with the
council," Rood said as he came into Robin's chambers.

     "No, my friend," Robin told him.  "I shall go alone."

     "No matter what you or anyone else may say, you are still my king and
I am still the captain of your guard," Rood corrected him.  "I shall go
with you or you shall not go.  Besides," he said, grinning his lopsided
smile, "Clive said you gave him leave to go with you.  A king cannot show
such favoritism."

     "Then let us leave now," Robin said, anxious to be off.

     "My lord, we must wait to hear the words of the council.  Old Thomas
has spent many hours before them.  He is old and should not see to such
things without rest, but he has completed this for you.  We must wait out
of respect."

     Robin sighed heavily.  "I shall wait no more than another day.  If
they be not ready by then, we shall hear their words if and when we
return."

     "My lord, I fear you mean not to return," Rood said, looking deeply at
his friend.

     "Not without the object of my search," Robin vowed.

          * * *

     Slightly more than twenty four hours later the high council was
prepared to meet in the council chambers.  They had requested the presence
of Robin and Thomas, although the request sounded much more like a command.
As the sun climbed over the horizon, the two men accompanied by their
friends in the palace guard headed across the courtyard toward the council
chambers.  The gallery was packed, spectators vying for a chance to witness
history in the making.

     Rood again knocked on the doors with his sword.  Again the voice
called from within, "Enter and give testimony."  The doors were opened and
Robin and Thomas entered the floor of the chambers alone.  They quickly
strode to the center of the room and stood facing the semi-circle of
council members.  Robin knew this was not going to be pleasant.  The long
faces on the old men and women assured him of this.

     Lorfana rose to address him.  "My lord, we have weighed your words
heavily and have listened to the testimony of your advisor.  We cannot say
that your rejection of the throne pleases us, as we had all hoped you would
rule as a good and just monarch.  But we understand your reasons for your
refusal."

     "Well, that's that," Thomas whispered to his young charge.

     "But mistakes have been made on all sides, my lord," Lorfana
continued.  "We were in grievous error to allow Bailor to seize the kingdom
from you.  We were in error to try to force you to bind with the woman of
his choice.  We were yet still in error when but three days ago we told you
that you must keep your succession uppermost in your mind."

     The old woman paused for effect.  "None of us on this council are of
the same cut as you.  We understand not your special needs as relates to
your heart.  But we understand one thing.  To be a Tuathan is to be true to
one's self and the land.  We acclaim you for your honesty and integrity.
For these reasons we realize that you would make an even better king than
we had ever hoped.  We must needs request you reconsider your decision and
again choose to rule from the crystal throne."  She stopped and awaited his
answer.

     Robin stood in stunned silence.  This was not at all what he expected
from this group of people.  He could not possibly make a decision on the
spur of the moment while she stood watching him.  "My lady," he began, "I
must ask for further clarification to this request."

     "Granted, my lord," she replied.

     "You had wanted to fix the succession to the throne.  How can this now
be accomplished?  You realize that I will not bind with a female and
produce offspring."

     "We realize it, lord," the old woman answered with a pained look on
her face.  "We have decided that when you feel the time has come, it will
be your choice to pass the throne on to your designated heir.  You may have
freedom to select your son or daughter from anyone in the kingdom."

     "Then what your are saying . . ." Robin was confused.

     Hyller jumped to his feet.  "Cannot you see?" he called in a voice
filled with anger.  "Are you as blind as your human advisor?  We want you
for our king with no restrictions.  Just accept it, can you not?"

     Robin and Thomas looked at each other, both breaking into smiles.  "It
makes no difference to them," Thomas laughed as he hugged his young king.
The room broke into cheers knowing that Robin would accept and they finally
would have their high king and ruler at last.

     Robin turned and held his hand up for silence.  "My lords and ladies,"
he said when he could again be heard.  "I would graciously accept your kind
and generous offer but for a commitment I now have.  I must needs travel to
the Eldritch Mountains.  If I return I will accept the responsibility."

     "No," a voice called angrily.  It was Hyller again coming to his feet.
"No, that is how we lost the king your father.  We cannot lose you as well.
If you go on this foolish quest your land shall die!"

     "But I seek someone who may be found there.  I cannot rest until my
heart is satisfied," Robin said.

     "Then let it be satisfied without that tiring journey, my lord."  The
voice was that of a woman.  Turning they were surprised to see Rood and
Melcot standing just inside the testimony doors.  Between them stood two
dusty travelers dressed in the hooded cloaks and rough garments of the
northern nomadic tribes.

     "Who is this woman?" Robin asked, surprised that his guards would
allow such an interruption.

     "One who loves you very much," she said coming forward into the light
and throwing back her hood.  As the beams from the skylight lit her dusty
face and dirty hair everyone in the room gasped in astonishment.

     "Ellenia!" Robin breathed.  "Is it really you?"  He took a step toward
her and then the two of them ran together, hugging each other tightly.  "I
thought never to see you again."

     "And I you, my lord.  But I was rescued by a brave knight."

     "Where is this knight that I may thank him properly?" Robin said,
looking up.

     "Here, lord," the other traveler said as he stepped forward into the
beams from the skylight and removed his cape.  His brown hair was now
matted and his face was streaked with the dirt of a fast two day travel,
but Scott stood proudly in the council chambers, looking at the man he
thought would never come into his life.  Robin stood transfixed, looking at
the vision before him, afraid to move, lest he break the spell and it
vanish again as it had before in his chambers.  "Will you not thank me,
lord?" Scott asked in English.  Robin slowly walked toward him until they
were but inches apart.  The king reached out and stroked the dirty cheek of
the man that had become his heart's desire.  He hugged Scott to him in an
embrace that he wished never to break, tears of joy streaming down both of
their faces.

     After a time, Robin pulled himself back and smiled to his lover,
speaking in English.  "I am the king.  I must finish my duty as one, and
then we shall have the rest of our lives together."

     "And I understand that's going to be a very long time here," Scott
replied.

     "My lords and ladies," Robin said, turning back to the council, but
not taking his arm from around Scott.  "I accept your offer and shall
ascend the throne at my next earliest convenience.  I ask but your
indulgence of one day."

     Lorfana smiled in relief.  "Thank you, my lord," she said.  "But may I
ask a question.  Why need you a day?"

     Looking back at his friend resting under his strong arm, Robin replied
in English, "That is about how long it may take to get you properly cleaned
up."

          *   *   *

     The party left the council chambers to retire to their various
assignments.  Robin took Scott to introduce him to the water fall and pool
in the royal bath.  Melcot and Rowana left to make plans for their binding.
And it fell to Clive to escort Ellenia back to her old quarters so she,
too, could clean off the dirt of her travels.  As they walked across the
courtyard Clive asked her, "Do you like stories of adventure, my lady?"

     And as in all real fairy tales, they lived happily ever after.
        
                         *     *     *

If you enjoyed this story, the characters return in The Riders of Tuatha.to
be submitted next.  Thank you for reading my work.  I appreciate your
comments at bertmck@aol.com

 

 

 

 

 

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