Encroaching north into enemy territory, Morgan, Gaheris, and Agravain think they’ve found their beloved Gawain in a wagon full of slaves. The emboldened youngsters get involved and bite off more they can chew when a horde of soldiers come to reclaim their prize. And, of course, all hell breaks loose when Tristan catches up with them. The Lion of Dumnonia shows them all, what it means to be the king of beasts.
The Word Alive – “Epiphany” (fight music)
Chapter 5 – Companions
By Rock Kitaro
“Sing us a song!”
“No, Morgan. It’s the most annoying thing in the world,” Agravain grumbled.
“Why not? I thought that’s what soldiers do.”
“If you want music so bad, have at it,” Gaheris said as Agravain chuckled at the thought.
“Honestly, you two have got to be the dullest traveling companions ever.”
For six boring, uneventful days the three runaways rode hard and trekked hundreds of miles. So far, they’d managed to avoid confrontation and detection by traveling routes dictated by Morgan. They refrained from venturing out into open fields or flat lands, and instead confined themselves to the dense shrouded woodlands.
According to Morgan, certain areas of the forests enhanced her abilities. Of course, Gaheris was skeptical.
Three hours after sunset, the trio was still going strong. Normally, they would’ve hunkered down and sought shelter for the night. However, they were in the Woods of Frozen Dreams. The trees, rocks, and leaves were all encrusted in glowing baby blue crystals. The forest was riddled with small sinkholes full of milky turquoise water. They couldn’t ride their horses but had to guide them along narrow pathways to avoid plunging in.
Everything was so bright and gleaming that they could scarcely see without squinting. It would have been impossible to get any sleep until they left the forest, thus, they proceeded along a snake-winding trail that was just wide enough for two men to stand abreast.
Gaheris was still annoyed but he stopped griping days ago. Now it seemed as if Agravain had picked up the slack in that department because he was kicking at every crystal that stuck out at him. He kicked one pierce so hard that a chunk flew off and hit Morgan in the back of her head. She immediately turned around and started slapping him with the leather straps of her medicinal bag.
“Alright, alright. Keep moving. I want to get some sleep before sunrise,” Gaheris said as he nudged Morgan along.
“This was a horrible idea. There’s no end to this blasted forest! How do we even know we’re going the right way?” Agravain complained.
“I told you! The Hibernians make seasonal trips into the heart of Pictish territory. It’s our best bet. Also, believe it or not, but I’m drawing power from these crystals. I can feel it coursing through my veins. It’s making me sweat, actually. Damn! Are you guys hot?” Morgan said as she wiped under her neck.
“What are your powers, exactly? You know, besides possessing dogs to jump off cliffs,” Gaheris asked.
Rolling her eyes, Morgan divulged. “These concoctions I’m wearing around my bosom produce a variety of effects. The sand trap, as you already witnessed. I also have one that causes temporary blindness, one for paralysis, another for attracting hens for food, and another for convincing men they’re on fire.”
“Dear god,” Gaheris cringed.
“The rubies around my wrist were made from dragon tears. If I concentrate, I can conjure a scorching fire that burns scarlet red. I’m still a novice with my other abilities but I’m getting better. For instance, I once summoned a spell that gave me the strength to uproot a maple tree. Although I confess, I hate that enchantment. My back hurt like hell for days. I can cast illusions when people are at their worst. I can speak commands and understand almost every woodland creature if I put forth an effort. And unlike Merlin who can only see the future, I can peer into the past. That’s just for starters. Niviane says I have the potential to surpass even her,” Morgan boasted.
“Niviane is?” Gaheris said.
“The Lady of Lake Avalon. Over 400 years old and the greatest wizard the world’s ever seen. It’s who my mother’s been shipping me off to visit every summer for the past three years. Even Merlin can’t hold a candle to Niviane.”
“Is that why you killed my dog? Because of this inexplicable malice for Merlin the magician?” Gaheris barked.
“This again…” Morgan sighed.
“Silence!” Agravain hissed “Enemy afoot!”
With the jut of his chin, Agravain called attention to a horde of blue goblins feeding on the carcass of an ill-fated mule. They were three hundred yards out. These goblins had skinny bodies like skeletons with reflective fish scales, long pointy ears and razor sharp claws. Ten of them were feasting while six others were trying to mate.
Their options were limited. Goblins were vicious creatures that could turn hostile in an instant. They were more agile than spider monkeys so outrunning them in the web of downed branches and razor sharp vines was suicidal in and of itself. The brothers had the same thought. They didn’t have to discuss it. Years of fighting side-by-side rewarded them with that kind of telepathy. In unison, the brothers stepped out in front of their horses and prepared for battle.
“Wait!” Morgan smirked with anticipation. “Let me show off a little.”
Morgan spread out her arms and twirled her fingers towards two sinkholes of milky water flanking the sides of the trail. As she blew in through her lips with a whirling suction, a gust of wind howled, shaking the tree branches and causing a shower of crystals to rain down.
The goblins were spooked. At once, they stopped feeding and started rambling with a confused “hoobling” noise. They turned and spotted the humans. Flashing their fangs, the goblins set off running like apes, pounding the ground with their knuckles and flat boney feet.
Agravain drew his Roman broadswords while Gaheris stretched an arrow through his bow. Morgan whispered an incantation that spewed from her lips like a gust of white frosty air. The powdery air twirled and split into two threads, quickly flowing through her outstretched fingers and down into the sinkholes of milky turquoise water. After bubbling for two seconds, geysers erupted straight up, causing the brothers to recoil with fright.
Water rushed up and gathered to form a massive dome. It remained hardened for only a few seconds before streaming down and materializing into six fearsome warriors riding on the backs of winged stallions. These were enchanted horsemen controlled by Morgan’s own mind. They were solid and chiseled as if carved from dripping wet blue marble.
These magnificent horses neighed with a vibrating siren that sent shockwaves throughout the entire forest. With the fury of madmen, the warriors flew down the trail directly into the midst of the goblin. Morgan moved like a possessed dancer the way she shimmied her hips and twirled with the fingers of a puppet master.
The goblins screamed and shrieked as the warriors fought them with fearsome barbarity. Some managed to evade the low sweeping swords. These angry goblins continued on towards the trio and Agravain was more than willing to engage.
With a sword in both hands, Agravain dashed with bloodlust and excitement. The goblins attacked with sharp claws and powerful jaws, but Agravain was too swift, too nimble, too skilled. His swords had a mind of their own the way they found exposed limbs and hacked at joints. Hard thrusts and stabs were aimed at the core, and he didn’t hesitate for a second to mete out his own coup-de-grâce.
Meanwhile, arrows whistled by Agravain’s ear as a few goblins were sniped from a distance. Gaheris was picking them off one by one. His hand was steady, his eyes unblinking. Gaheris was a sentry, standing guard as Morgan continued her magical dance.
From his left, two screaming goblins sprung from the bushes in a loud shatter and a burst of blue dust. Gaheris calmly turned and shot the closest one in its face. He used his bow to parry the claws of the second goblin and countered by hip tossing it to the ground. Pinning the creature with a knee to its back, Gaheris promptly drove an arrow through the base of its skull. By the time he looked to check on his brother, it was over.
Dead goblins were strewn about. The winged horsemen had returned to puddles and Agravain was wiping sticky blood off of his swords with the tail end of his cloak. Morgan seemed pleased. She was glistening with sweat and panting with bated breath.
“Not bad,” she said with pride.