by Philip-Todd Franklin
The flapping of wings and crying birds along the large line of trees in sight of the excavation site was the only evidence of the sudden flash of darkness that momentarily appeared and was gone, leaving a woman dressed in a form-fitting black uniform with a grey sash tied round her waist, the rest hanging at her right side. Slowly she made her way over to the edge of the trees, staying just within the dark shadows, and she began to watch the events unfolding before her.
Moment by moment she continued to watch the figure dressed in black armour drive back the figure in white and toward another who was partly buried beneath dirt and rock. She smiled evilly as she determined that the black-armoured figure was slowly winning this battle. Take care of my problems, my son, she thought. Then I shall determine the true damage to Merlin’s eternal prison.
As she continued to watch the battle, the sound of something or someone approaching from the depths of the forest slowly reached her, and she quickly turned. Standing just behind her was a tiny form dressed in what looked like a black and white tuxedo with little gossamer wings sticking out the back. The little fairy looked up at the woman and locked his eyes to the woman’s before gracing her with a sad little smile.
“You!” the woman hissed, keeping herself from losing her composure and blindly charging toward the fairy, an attack that she knew from experience would be fruitless and a waste of time. Instead, she continued to stare as she slowly began to raise her hands up, trying to pull off the gestures of an old spell before the fairy could take flight and avoid her.
Softly, the tiny fairy shook his head, his sad smile never leaving his face as he spoke. “It’s so sad, Morgana, that with your long, extended life, you have not yet learnt. Your plans are all for naught, as the Great One is finally free and soon shall see you properly chained.” She had only half-listened to the prattle the fairy had been spouting, but she did make out the words that made her very heart sink and sent a cold chill up and down her spine.
The battle behind her now forgotten, she tried to speed up her spell-casting, only to see a flash of bright white light for a moment as the fairy disappeared, leaving her shaken to the core. I must make my plans and contingencies for whatever that old fool should try, she mused. Without turning back toward the battle, the woman known as Morgana le Fay quickly changed the last two symbols of her spell, and in a flash of darkness she disappeared, her last thoughts being, Surely Samuel can take care of the trouble here.
Roger Knight continued to stare at the scene playing out before him, thinking that the figure he had recognised as Matthew Stone was about to meet defeat or much worse. He was just about to charge the black-armoured figure, who had began to swing his black sword toward Matthew’s helmed head once again, only to see at the last second what looked like Matthew’s own sword shoot up, parrying the blow.
For a few seconds Roger continued to watch the battle as Matthew was slowly able to make his way back to his feet, and once again the two were exchanging blows. How long can the boy continue against such a foe? Roger asked himself and did not find an answer.
Wanting to help somehow, Roger quickly turned back round and started looking within the opening created by the explosion, which seemed now like a lifetime ago. He didn’t really pay much attention to much within the large chamber as he started to enter, only thinking to himself, There has to be something that will allow me to help the lad somehow.
Even during the battle, as he fought to regain his footing, Matthew had noticed his friend and mentor standing at the entrance to the hidden chamber. He smiled beneath his helm as he began to fight anew, almost as if the battle had only now just began. “I would offer you the chance to surrender, but I doubt you would take such a precious offer,” he said to his foe.
For the first time in over at least a century, Samuel Davis was finding himself very much winded, and his arms were slowly growing very tired of swinging his sword Cleaver back and forth against his white-armoured foe. He had from the first swing and parry noticed that his foe was wielding the ancient sword called Defender, one of the very swords that had been known to belong to an original knight of the Round Table of Camelot. He desired to own the very blade himself, yet he was finding this upstart proving to be nearly his equal in an art he had long ago thought forgotten by the very sheep and cattle that his mother wanted to rule so badly.
He was pulled out of his thoughts as he felt Defender slide across Cleaver and slice across and within his own dark armour. Crying out in shock, Samuel quickly dodged back and forced Cleaver out in front of himself. Glancing down, he could see his own blood beginning to flow in the slice of his armour, and he winced, thinking, Mother will have my hide for this. I must finish this now, or all will be lost. Moreover, with those words he forced his tiring body to charge at his foe, a scream escaping from his throat.
Quickly glancing round the chamber, Roger’s eyes seemed almost drawn toward what looked like a small dagger within a leather sheath. Not knowing why, he quickly moved over and took hold of both the sheath and the wooden handle of the dagger.
For a second there was a quick flare of light, and a single word appeared before his mind’s eye: Cinder. Roger pulled the dagger from its sheath and looked at it for a moment. Still not completely understanding what was happening, he nearly stumbled as he ran back toward the entrance to the chamber, ignoring the piles of other items within.
With a gutter roar of his own, Matthew met Samuel’s charge, and the two foes completely missed their targets with their swords, yet crashing their suits of armour into each other before backing away and once again beginning the dance of thrust and parry back and forth.
In a move that seemed to cost Samuel dearly, a ringing blow to the side of his helmet, he feinted to the left with Cleaver, only to quickly reverse the swing and bring his mighty sword up and down onto Matthew’s right arm, slicing deeply into the armour enough to hit bone before stepping back once again.
Making his way out into the open, Roger once again looked toward the battlefield. To his horror, it seemed that there was new damage to Matthew’s armour, and he was having to try to wield the heavy-looking sword one-handed, as his right arm was limply hanging at his side. Once again, without really understanding what he could do, Roger held his arms wide, sheath in one hand and dagger handle in the other, and he said as loud as he could, “Cinder!” From the tip of each of the items, bright red light shot forth and quickly formed a cage of flames round Samuel, separating him from his bleeding foe.
Noticing the cage of flame, Samuel screamed a cry of anguish as he slapped his left gauntlet against a place on the right of his armour, and he slowly began to fade away, leaving only his voice for a moment as he left. “I shall not be denied forever. Surely both of you shall die, I so swear this!”
A moment after Samuel vanished, Roger returned the dagger to its sheath and quickly made his way to Matthew, speaking as he went. “I hope that this madness is over, and that you can explain what all this is about,” he said, indicating Matthew’s gleaming suit of white armour.
Matthew slowly lifted the face-guard on his helmet, gracing Roger with a sad smile. “At least for the moment we shall find some rest, Dr. Knight.” And he promptly crashed to the ground, unconscious from loss of blood.
Morgana le Fay appeared within a dark, ancient stone chamber, and with a mere flick of her wrist and snap of her fingers, twelve large stone braziers within the chamber were lit with an orange-coloured flame. Anger swelling within her, she quickly began to stalk her way toward a bookcase filled with ancient-looking tomes, many with cracked binding and faded lettering. “Who was that fool in the white, and where did he come from? Is he one of that fool Merlin’s flunkies?” she said to herself.
With purpose, she gingerly grabbed one of the books from the shelf. Quickly walking over to a large wooden table, she placed the book upon it and flipped through the pages with extra care, slowly scanning for a particular page. “How did that interrupting, annoying little pest even know to be there? His master’s been dead and buried too many years for it to matter anymore.” So many questions continued to scramble through her mind as she continued her scan of the book.
Roger Knight looked at his friend and assistant, knowing that there was not enough time for him to locate the single camp phone they had; by the time rescue crews could arrive, Matthew Stone would be long dead. He looked again at the dagger and sheath within his left hand, and a wild thought began to enter his desperate mind. Besides causing damage, can this also heal? With only the prayer of hope, Roger slowly slid the dagger back out of the sheath, and once again held his arms out wide.
“How do I work this daft thing properly?” he said to himself, seeing that nothing had happened from his own prayers.
Slowly, a white glow began to take form round the armour, covering Matthew, and for a moment it continued to grow in intensity until it was nearly blinding. Roger covered his eyes after trying for a few seconds to watch, not having any idea of what he was seeing as the large gashes in Matthew’s armour began to slowly close. Amazing, he thought as even more of the many nicks and dents began to disappear. He could only imagine that the same healing effect was happening to Matthew’s own skin.
“Roger! Roger Pendragon!” a feminine voice began to softly call. “Come now — ’tis soon will be England’s greatest time of need. ‘Tis soon that her mightiest champion shall be needed.”
Looking away, Roger replied, “Who’s there? Who knows my story that even I do not know?”
“Return to the chamber of wishes and secrets,” the feminine voice continued in response. “Come back to the cave of history where yon weapon thou has once did rest.”
Slowly, Roger began to rise from beside Matthew and looked back at the entrance to the site they had been trying to excavate. “Within thou shalt find a beginning and an end — a circle of a story that has never had an end,” the feminine voice said once again.
Without a second look at Matthew, Roger slowly began to make his way toward the excavation site. As he neared it, he noticed the soft white glow that now seemed to be escaping from within. Had Roger taken a moment to glance back at his friend, he would have noticed the shining white armour that had been covering Matthew slowly fade away in the same white mist and light that had first marked its appearance, leaving Matthew lying upon the ground, breathing softly and resting peacefully. But as if in a trance, Roger did not turn back as he continued toward the excavation site, slowly entering the cellar-like chamber before him.