Everyone’s on pins and needles as the enemy Hibernians finally arrive to take back Princess Isolde.
Here we’re introduced to infamous figures such as Morholt the Destroyer and the warlock Algayre. Then there’s Queen Iseult, the Emerald Queen who’s dominated all of Hibernia for nearly half a century. But King Mark isn’t about to just hand the princess over, no questions asked. A pact needs to be made. A proposal is made.
Chapter 14: The Juggling Act
By Rock Kitaro
The Port of Talons was an inlet harbor shaped like a horseshoe. Ancient walls of limestone stretched up over a hundred feet to conceal its presence from most of the coast. Saltwater entered and passed through its only accessway beneath high arching bridges that connected two collossol cliffs. This strategic seaport was closed to the public, reserved for the purpose of the palace, for receiving and leaving.
Over five-hundred ironclad soldiers had assembled, dotted on the rocky hills that sloped down like an ampitheather. There was a glazing mist. It moved, making the air grainy and tangible to touch. The fog was so dense that no one could see beyond the gap of the two cliffs. It was as if the world simply ended after the gate.
No one made a sound. Save for the seagulls and gushing waves, no one so much as cleared their throats. Everyone had the same grim expression as if they were standing on the front lines of battle. The only one smiling was an eager Princess Isolde, glowing in her white dress and braided blonde hair. As she stood by King Mark’s side, her heart racing with anticipation. She’d been fantasizing about this moment for quite some time.
The Lord Chamberlain, Sir Cador, made it clear that everyone was to be on their best behavior. Anyone accused of shouting or so much as coughing risked getting their teeth knocked out by a fist full of chains. On this, Sir Cador promised to show no mercy.
The Cornish rallied behind King Mark, Sir Ekner, and Tristan, all daunting in black and gold with their banners flapping high in the wind.
The Lothians stood behind King Lot and Queen Morgaus, all coordinated in silver and green, save for Morgaus who insisted on her favorite color of purple.
Gawain was with the Lothians higher up on the hill. Agravain and Gaheris stood his side. The brothers watched in awe as a gigantic ship with seven green sails of dragon wings suddenly took form and emerged from the fog. The dread was sudden and immense. Gawain knew it was the queen’s ship. He’s seen it a dozen times, but never in action. He never thought such a massive ship was capable of moving, let alone float. It was larger than most of the banquet halls, yet it seemed to slide across the water so smoothly that the crests of its wake rolled like silk.
On the other side of the inlet, Morgan sat on her horse from a high precipice. She overlooked the scene dressed like the grim reaper the way her hooded black cloak shredded in the wind. She wasn’t impressed with the ship. She expected nothing less. It was the throbbing in Gawain’s heart that made her purple eyes glower with growing intensity. From two hundred yards out, she could sense the sweltering heat from his tight fisted trepidation.
The ship came to a gentle wood-creeking halt as workers tied the mooring lines ashore. An unloading platform extended from the ship to the dock. Once it was fastened in place, loud horns blared from the trumpeteers. It was a jaunty tune, certainly bringing life to the macabre faces on the hills. And when Princess Isolde spotted Sir Ewangish, she nearly jumped with glee. Sir Ewangish was the same weathered knight who accompanied her to the Picts. He was relieved.
Sir Ewangish was the first to disembark, followed by twenty of the queen’s guards. The Hibernians wore dark intimidating green and black armor and carried long pikes that were sharp enough to pierce chainmail. They marched in a double-file formation, stomping in perfect unison, clanking to create a synchronized cadence of rattling steel. The two lines stopped in front of King Mark.
Ewangish signaled to the ship. The horns stopped blaring.
In its place were soft angelic voices that blended and lifted up to the heavens. Their Latin song was so pleasant, so clean and pure. It alleviated the tension and imbued a subtle breath of optimism. Three girls approached the rails high up on the ship. They held hands and kept singing as they looked down on gawking eyes. They carried and extended their falsettos in ways no one had ever heard. The spellbinding emotion invoked by their voices was truly indescribable. They were the queen’s beloved songbirds. Her treasure.
Then, like an elegant swan spreading her wings, the queen herself approached the platform. She was known far and wide as the “Emerald Queen” and it was for good measure. Even as she neared sixty in age, there wasn’t a single crack in her exquisite visage. Her long flowing hair was so devoid of any pigmentation that it appeared pale green, the same shade as her peridot eyes and the waters that flowed through the inlet. Her long velvety gown was forest green and there was the soft fur of a beaver draping her shoulders.