Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Fantasy Revealed, part 3

Since I was unable to give you the next installment of "Fantasy Revealed" yesterday, I am quite proud to submit it today for your enjoyment.

Fantasy Revealed, Part 3
By H.A. Handy
Copyright (c) 2005 by H.A. Handy


My breath caught in my chest. Avalon, THE Avalon was where King Arthur was taken. They were all talking now, suddenly alarmed and I was having something pushed into my hands and I drank again that oddly sweet liquid and found myself sitting on the ground with my back against the log I had recently been sitting on. Ella and Enyo were at my side looking just as concerned, their hackles half-risen, and were looking suspiciously from one person to the next. Cappa was purring on my shoulder as she usually did when I was sick with the flu.

“It’s all a bit much,” I said, looking from one worried face to the next, animal faces included. Dremor gave me a half smile and nodded.

“I suppose it would be,” he said. “This is our world, our life, and you have just been thrust into its very depths without any warning. Still, Fredrik said you would be brave and up to the challenge.”

“That’s good to know. When do I get to meet this Fredrik?” Dremor smiled down at me then and rubbed my shoulders. His touch helped relieve some of the tenseness that was beginning to build there.

“Soon, I promise. You stay here and protect the entry way. If someone is following us, or tried to follow us, they will attempt to come through the pass at Willow Bend.” The others nodded. Dremor whistled, a high pitched sound that almost made my ears ache, and horses came galloping up.

They were beyond beautiful. In fact, they looked like something from a fantasy novel’s cover art with their long flowing manes and the richly decorated bridles and saddles. There were six in all – a white one, a black one, a red one, and a brown one. Dremor went directly to the black one who nuzzled Dremor’s hand and made those soft horsy sounds of endearment. Dremor stroked the long mane and patted the broad neck lovingly. He led the horse close and introduced him, literally, to the dogs, the cat, and to me. The horse’s name, as far as I could make out, was Wellborn. In greeting me, the horse bent his neck close and nuzzled my hair and made those same grunting gruffling sounds horses make. The horsy smell was wonderful and brought back memories of when I was a little girl and used to ride almost every day on the farm. It had been years since I had ridden a horse.

Dremor helped me to stand unceremoniously then, with strength I’ve only read about in novels and seen on movie screens, he lifted me easily into his arms and then stepped into the saddle. It all happened so fast I felt my heart beat hard and the world seem to flash by. I was seated across his lap and Wellborn’s saddle. Cappa was handed up and she nested herself quite serenely in my lap. Ella and Enyo, uncertain about the new animal, barked a few worried barks before dancing on the front feet. How horribly they must have been feeling! They were in the wilds and their mom and their cat were being taken away on some huge beast with someone they didn’t know.

Dremor touched the flanks of the horse with his heels and we were off like a literal shot. I glanced back and saw the dogs following at full speed. I just hoped they could keep up!

We went through a valley in no time, up a small hill and through another valley, across a stream and then into the deepest woods I’ve ever seen. There was a path before us weaving in and out of the trees and Wellborn and Dremor navigated it with seeming ease. I would have closed my eyes had I not been afraid of slipping off or becoming violently ill. The breakneck ride gave me the will I needed to ask for my own mount the next time, I decided. I believe I would have felt more in control in riding a horse alone, than in being the passenger as I currently was.

The forest ended suddenly and I saw we were on the crest of a hill. The path opened up into a broad road which led to a blue and green city of dazzling color and beauty. I can’t say it was a ‘fairy tale’ city, because I didn’t really see so many towers, but there was a tower, set at the main rear of the walled city. It glistened in the sunlight like a magnificent green gem with a gray-black roof.

The city was huge, walled, and there were people moving about at the outskirts of the wall in a make-shift town of its own. Horses, animals, people and smoke all seemed to merge and mix together there.

Ella and Enyo came up beside us, panting hard. Dremor slid off of the horse with me in his arms, and sat me simply upon my feet. Cappa sniffed the air curiously, as did the dogs. I knelt, just as much to get my legs back under me fully as anything else, and patted the dogs. They were proud of themselves, and tired. It was so easy to see it in their eyes. Even Cappa sniffed at their noses and didn’t try to smack them.

With the reins in his hand, Dremor reached out to me and I took his hand and stood. Slowly, in silence, we began to walk toward the city. Ella and Enyo followed after, probably glad at the slower pace we now had. As we walked down the hill the gates of the city were filled with horses and riders heading our way at full speed, flags of blue and green stripes in several hands. They were already upon us when I squeaked and hid behind Dremor.

For his own part, Dremor didn’t seem to be too happy. His brow furrowed and he looked up at the elves on horseback with distaste, or perhaps distrust.

“Is this her? Is this the keeper?” asked one of them, standing in his stirrups to get a better look at me. Dremor slid a protective arm around me and pulled me close against him.

“She is,” he said. His voice held something akin to malice. “Where is the normal guard?”

“We’ve replaced them for a bit. Lord English thought the wizard was getting too upity so our band took over the guard. It isn’t right for a human to tell an elf what to do,” he sneered.

“This human has been helping us elves for centuries, why should now be any different?” Dremor demanded.

“Lord English says....”

“I don’t care what Lord English says!” Dremor snapped. “When the proper guard is prepared, we will enter the city, but not before.”

“We ARE the proper guard, Lord of Drem.” The leader made a circling motion with his hand and the riders encircled us.

“This is not how I wanted your entrance into Avalon to be,” Dremor said to me softly. “Come.” Together we began walking. The mounted guard kept us directly in the center and walked with us. I suddenly felt more like a prisoner than anything else, and I didn’t like the feeling. I wished the horses would all just spook and run into the forest!

As if I had commanded it, the horses began bucking, kicking, rearing and headed into the forest. Some riders were dismounted, others were holding on desperately. A branch took out the leader of the guard who ended up lying on his back.

Dremor looked down at me curiously, and then he smiled, “Shall we?”

“What just happened?” I asked when we had not gone very far.

“I’m not sure. Wellborn said you had a wish, and since you are who you are, the mounts obeyed.”

“Who am I?”

“The keeper of ... something important,” he said, “I wish I had more of an answer than that.” A heavy sigh escaped Dremor as he looked to the city that was becoming enormous the closer we came to it. “It appears things have changed since I came to get you,” he said. “Lord English has long wanted to push Fredrik into the shadows. He believes an elven kingdom should only have elven ministers.”

“Do only elves live in the kingdom?”

“No, there are many humans, some dwarves, and even a few giants. The fairy queendom is to the south and some trolls live in the farthest reaches of the north, but they don’t have any say in matters of government because of their history and their very natures.”

“So, it doesn’t make sense to have only a majority without the rest of the populace being represented.”

Dremor chuckled and took my hand. “We are not a representative government. We have a king. A very good king at that, but he is growing weary and Lord English fancies himself as the regent of King Arthur’s son, should something happen to King Arthur.”

“King Arthur? THE King Arthur?” Dremor smiled at the city that seemed to be made of glistening gems and living wood.

“Welcome, to Avalon my lady,” he said, bowing low to me.

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