Morgan has made up her mind to kill Princess Isolde. But how? In the depths of her angst and dark desire she hatches a plan. Even if the consequences pit two warring kingdoms against each other and thousands perish in the fire, Morgan will have her way. Isolde must die.
The Knights with No Lords
Chapter 17- The Elusive White Stag
By Rock Kitaro
The next morning, Morgan woke up with darkness in her heart. Her eyelids opened without any drag or drowsiness in her, just an eerie clarity as if she had been awake for hours.
She sat up and scanned the room. Her mother was sleeping on her pillow. Elaine was at her left while Annaliese, Fierva, and Giselle slept on feather beds that were brought in.
Dusk came with thick clouds casting a blue tint over the castle. Silently, she slipped out of bed and put on her black cloak of wool, before walking to the mirror and combing her fingers through her dark hair, glowering at herself with unblinking contempt. Then, carefully she picked up the enchanted red ruby jewels and wrapped them around her right wrist, fastening them tight with twine.
The hallway outside her bedroom was quiet. The wall-mounted torches had fizzled and there was barely enough light for her see the doorframes and nooks. The guards were still standing, but their eyes were closed, snoring from the pit of their throats. And just across the hallway, sleeping with their backs against the wall were Gawain and his little brother Agravain.
The sight of Gawain in a blissful slumber made Morgan twitch into a scowl. A rush of heat immediately spread up from her chest and burned in her cheeks. The right side of Agravain’s face was resting against Gawain’s shoulder while Gawain’s chin was nestled over Agravain’s bowl-cut hair.
Morgan reached out like a talon ready to rip at Gawain’s face but stopped just as the tips of her fingers touched the curls of his bangs. Her hand moved closer to his neck. She could feel his breath. Her cheeks quivered as an internal battle waged within.
Abruptly she pulled back and stood up straight. The scowl faded. Her purple eyes gazed upon Gawain with the sudden realization that he was simply beneath her. With bated breath, Morgan put on the hood of her cloak and hurried down the hall, disappearing down the shadows of the spiral staircase.
The blue fog had enveloped and spread throughout Chadwyck Forest. The sun was peeked over the horizon but thick rainclouds extended the twilight and pushed back the morning light. Birds huddled on swaying branches. Dew, like glistening pearls blanketed the forest floor, making it soft and slippery
The Lion of Dumnonia was on the prowl. In stealth, Tristan held steady the nock of a single arrow pulled within his longbow. He had anticipated a blue day and as such, Tristan was wearing a pale blue tunic with light brown pants. A dagger was holstered on his waist and there were twelve arrows in his quiver, twelve arrows he carved himself. His leather boots had thin soles, perfect for feeling the soil beneath his feet, careful to avoid snapping any sticks or twigs.
His cold blue eyes were locked with the focus of an apex predator. A fly landed on his cheek and he didn’t react in the slightest. His entire body seemed to glide through the forest in a slow controlled pace. A long eared owl was watching him. Following him. Studying him.
Keeping low, Tristan entered a narrow groove in the forest. A herd of fallows was just beyond the ridgeline but Tristan wasn’t hunting fallows. Tristan was chasing a legend, a myth that only those who had seen dragons and mermaids would be foolish enough to believe. Tristan was searching for the elusive white stag.
According to legends, the white stag was said to appear when the hunter had committed some grave sin and no one but the sinner knew what he had done. It was also said that when a white stag appeared, it was a signal for great tidings in a knight’s quest.
Tristan didn’t care about legends or contradicting superstitions. He’d been festering ever since the Hibernians landed at the Port of Talons. He knew everyone suspected he was just some mindless lapdog, loyal and obedient to the king’s every whim. But that’s only because Tristan respected the importance of discretion.
In truth, Tristan was furious. He clashed with King Mark behind closed doors for more hours than the king had spoken with his own council. Tristan reminded the king of what Morholt did to his parents and his entire village. Tristan reminded the king of old oaths to never trust the Hibernians, to help him avenge his parents. Watching his king break bread with the enemy was sickening. And now that King Mark intended to wed one of them, Tristan didn’t know what to do with himself.
Thus, Tristan came to Chadwyck Forest with every intention to bathe in the blood a white stag. The muscles in his forearms and shoulders began to burn as he kept the bow armed, ready to fire on impulse. His stern gaze scanned the blue forest, penetrating branches of green and brown in search of any flash of white.
Suddenly, there was a crack of splintering wood. A branch snapped. His eyes darted left. There was a glimmer of white. Tristan raised his bow and fired. Almost as soon as he did, a paralyzing fear gripped at his lungs. He had just shot Princess Isolde.
“ARE YOU INSANE!?” she screamed.
Princess Isolde was standing on higher ground next to a tree with massive roots. She was wearing a regal white dress with green trimmings and knee-high traveling boots. Tristan’s arrow had sailed between her legs and snagged the tree behind her, pinning her gown to the trunk.
Tristan squinted with disappointment as Isolde pulled and tugged at the arrow. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t get free. Meanwhile, Tristan turned around and scanned the clearing. The fallows were gone. Even the owl had flown off. If there was a white stag in the vicinity, he had no doubt Isolde’s screaming just scared it away.
“Christ! Why can’t I get this?!” Isolde complained as she tugged at the arrow with all her strength.
Tristan approached and gave the arrow a quick yank. The gown was free. Isolde lost her balance and fell from the ridge. Tristan calmly caught her in one arm and set her upright.
“What are you doing here?” he said.
“You just stuck me with an arrow!” she shouted.
“Correction. I struck your dress. I’ll ask again. What are you doing here?”
Isolde scoffed. She was about to storm off before Tristan’s big beefy hands latched onto her arm. He thought he was being gentle, but to Isolde it felt like a bear trap snagged her.
“I said, what are you…”
Before he could finish, Isolde began smacking him with tight close-fisted punches. By the seventh blow, Tristan grabbed her wrist and turned her around.
“As I was saying. What are you…”
“WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE?!” she screamed. “You’re not even a knight. How dare you lay a single finger on me. How dare you! I’m a princess!”
“Then act like one!” Tristan growled in her ear.
“Insolent knave! I’ll see you flung for the cliffs for this!”
“Well since you put it like that, I might as well kill you now and blame it on some wild beast,” Tristan snarled.
“At least you’d be telling the truth. Because you are a wild beast, you big ugly brute! There’s no sort of gentleman in you. No gentleman at all! LET ME GO!”