Chapter 6 : Trudging Towards Destiny
Scene 5 : Trudging Towards Destiny 1
Gramstaf led the way riding his grey mare. He was closely followed by Cedical and Kilabra astride the white stag and Denzred upon his white stallion. Trailing a little distance behind them was Hindral, as she clung uncomfortably to the back of the dire lynx as it loped along in the damp November fog that covered the hills of Northern England. They had been travelling for the past day and a half since they met up with Cedical. Something had nagged at Denzred ever since the encounter with the dire lynx. As he rode slowly he glanced at the fresh poultice on Kilabra’s left hand and it suddenly came into focus. He clicked his tongue and sidled up beside the pair on the white stag. Before he had the chance to break the silence the Daouine Sidhe’s imperious amber gaze impaled him.
“Is there something you require, Man?”
Denzred scowled slightly at her tone as he spoke,
“You know my name fay, so why don’t you address me as such?”
“Isn’t it obvious? Names are wasted on the ephemeral. Mountains, seas, forests…Fay. These things are forever, they deserve names. You do not, the best you can hope for yourself is that you earn your name. Until then to me you are simply… Man.”
Denzred scowled deeply and almost reached for his sword to silence the faerie’s insolence. But then unbidden, his mind’s eye was filled with an image of an enormous pile of burning elven corpses. He sighed and let his steed slow down as he became lost in his revelry. Kilabra faced forward once more as she rode on, a slight smile on her lips.
That should keep him off-balance for awhile at least. Silly mortal gave himself away by constantly glancing at my hand. He would make a terrible gamesman…
Chapter 6 : Trudging Towards Destiny
Scene 4 : Veeva
It was so warm…the deep rumbling…the soft furry quilt. The warmth increased…the rumbling grew louder…an avalanche? Hindral shifted in her sleep. Darkness and yet so warm, the rumbling even louder now as she sneezes. Her proboscis making a noise that sounded like an out-of-tune fiddle mating with the shrill scream of a plummetting eagle. The heat and rumble suddenly withdrawn as her eyes sprung open. Hindral gasped for air as she rubbed her proboscis vigorously. She noticed the dire lynx crouched down next to her, its enormous green eyes inscrutable as he gazed at her. His purr still a low rumble as he breathed.
“Good morning, kitty. I guess I have you to thank for my cozy night’s sleep.”
Hindral slowly got to her feet as she ineffectually tried to brush all the cat fur off her garments. The humans began to stir from their slumber, the Fae just sat and stared implacably at the cat and the gnome. The big cat just sat and stared at Hindral as it purred endlessly.
“You didn’t slip off into the night kitty. Why is that you suppose?”
“Yeah, that’s what I thought too. You must feel some connection with the Svirfneblin that saved your life.” Hindral smiled and winked at the dire lynx. The big cat yawned In disinterest, showing off its mighty incisors. Hindral boldly strolled up to him and made note of the thin white line of fur that hid the sword scar on his side. Then she reached over and scratched behind his ears and between his shoulder blades. The purring increased in volume.
“Well, here’s the deal kitty. If you want to come along you have to hunt for your own meals. But with those teeth and claws I don’t suspect that shall prove to be a problem for you. And another thing, what’s your name?”
“What’s that you say? Your name is Veeva? Well, it’s most splendiferous to meet you sir, I am Hindral.” Hindral reached out and scratched under his chin. Veeva squinted his eyes shut and his lips pulled back in a feline grin.
“Well that settles it then. Welcome to the quest, Veeva. We’re all damned, doomed, or stupid here.” Hindral then leaned in close to Veeva’s pricked up ear and mock-whispered.
“But be careful of that one. She is way too darkly mysterious to be trusted.” Hindral pointed at Kilabra and smirked as she spoke. Hindral then strolled over to the smoking ashes of the fire and added a few branches and tried to get it started up again. She raised her voice as she looked at Gramstaf finally sitting up and rubbing the sleep from his rheumy eyes.
“So Grammy, what’s for breakfast?”
Chapter 6 : Trudging Towards Destiny…
Scene 3 : Saving Lynx
With each gasp of air a slow pump of blood would flow from the twin wounds in the beast’s sides. Hindral looked up at Gramstaf with despair in her eyes.
“Is there anything you can do Grammy?”
Gramstaf knelt next to the fading animal as he questioned Egl to himself, Well is there, demon? If we can do this Hindral will enter the fold for certain.
Yessss, and maybe even the young bard. I can do this but it will cost us both a little bit of our soulssss
Do it then, Hindral does not deserve this grief.
Gramstaf scowled to himself as the interior argument continued. He knelt down next to the mortally wounded animal and gently placed his palms on either side of the sword wound that still continued to leak blood.
“I’ll do what I can Miss Smik. But I make no promises…and even if I do succeed there will be a cost, there is always a cost…”
The old priest held Hindral’s gaze with his glimmering blue eyes for a moment more before nodding slightly and harumphing. He stared intently at the wound as he mumbled under his breath. Hindral could not tell what he was saying but by the tone she would have sworn he was having an argument with himself. Then her vision was dazzled by another bright blue flash, this time from the old priest’s hands. The air filled with the stench of ozone and cat-fear. There was a weak mewling from the big lynx and then its eyes closed and breathing slowed.
“You killed him!”
Hindral’s face reflected her growing panic. Gramstaf placedd his hand on her tiny shoulder to reassure her.
“Calm down, Miss Smik. The beast is merely sleeping off its panic. Look here, the wound is healed. Better than my expectations.”
Gramstaf directed her gaze to the bald white scar surrounded my blood-matted fur. She smiled and realized there would be a matching scar underneath him.
“We won’t know until the morning whether I healed the beast on the inside as well as the outside. So I suggest we get some much needed rest before our quest begins in earnest.”
“Grammy, you never did get around to mentioning where we are supposed to be headed…”
“Yes, I was rather rudely interrupted wasn’t I? We are heading to the final resting place of the Holy Grail and the birthplace of mortals here in the Celtic lands.”
“That is if we even want to go anywhere with a Demon of the Void, Man.” Kilabra grumbled in disgust. Gramstaf scowled slightly as he glanced in her direction.
“Don’t keep us in suspense Grammy. Where is that exactly?”
“We are headed to the Isle of Man, of course!”
His four companions looked at him in amusement and then it slowly dawned on him that he wasn’t making some kind of terrible pun. Hindral palmed her face as she shook her head in disbelief.
Chapter 6 : Trudging Towards Destiny
Scene 2 : Circling Kitties
The huge felines circled around the group, surrounding them on all sides without getting too close. Denzred and Kilabra faced off against them, he with his longsword and shield and her with dual estocs. Hindral looked around in a panic as she searched for a way out of this predicament.
“Any of you tall folk have a plan?”
“We keep killing them until they leave or stop attacking. Seems pretty simple.” Denzred tried to smile down at the Svirfneblin but it only came across as a scowl.
“That’s not very reassuring human.”
“They are being controlled by Satan, knight. They will not stop attacking until we are all dead.” As Gramstaf spoke he tapped his staff on the ground to once again throw blue radiance in every direction.
“That’s not right! They are kitties. You have to be able to stop them, Grammy!”
As Hindral spoke one of the dire lynxes leapt over Kilabra’s head straight for the little gnome. In a blur of motion, the Daouine Sidhe swept her arms upwards and impaled the cat through its sides and pulled it down to land at Hindral’s feet. Her swords were yanked from her hands and flew out beyond the fire with the momentum of the animal. The lynx howled as a red glowing mist flowed upwards from it into the night sky. It lay there bleeding and purring in agony, its eyes once more a bright green. Hindral knelt down and cried out in despair.
“Grammy! Make it stop! Now!”
The remaining dozen lynxes continued to circle the group warily now as Gramstaf looked on in confusion.
“I can do nothing without time and peace, friend Hindral.”
Then a few quiet notes were played, hanging in the air as if they had substance and weight. More notes followed them as the cats circling slowed. A dozen pairs of red glowing orbs focussed on the girl on the stag as she began to play. Her head bowed as she focussed her full attention on her dulcimer. Her playing was slow and soothing, the cats settled and sat back on their haunches as they tilted their heads as one and watched her. Gramstaf’s creased face broke into a grin as he nodded in approval.
“Yes, thats exactly what I needed Cedical Basian.” And he raised his staff skyward as he bowed his head and began to mumble under his breath in latin. As she played his mumbling became clearer and firmer, his strength growing as the blue light brightened. The beacon almost blinding in its purity as he chanted louder and louder, drowning out the soothing melody. With one final word he slammed the staff down and shouted.
“By the power of Christ I compel thee!”
In the next instant, the blue light flowed outward in a silent blinding explosion, enveloping the big cats. They howled in unison and once more red glowing mist poured forth, from all the cats and skyward. Even though their eyes were dazzled by the brilliance the assembled company could see the red mist flow south over the fields. There was a moment of silence as the night returned to the clearing and then the lynxes, excepting the wounded one, stood up once more and slowly sauntered back into the forest.
Hindral looked on in wonder, and then heard a weak yowl issue from the cat at her feet as its enormous rough tongue licked at her boot. She gazed down at it with tears burning in her eyes then she scanned the faces around her as she spoke.
“Grammy save this kitty or I swear I will make sure Satan turns the world into the Hell that he wishes!”
Hindral knelt down and made comforting sounds as she stroked her small hands through the thick silky soft fur of the dire lynx’s slablike skull. Tears dripped from her proboscis as she cooed and tried to comfort the wounded beast.
Chapter 6: Trudging Towards Destiny
Scene 1 : Meeting Cedical
Hindral gazed up at the small human female, impressed by the size of her mount.
“So who are you supposed to be?”
The young woman played a few notes on her dulcimer, Cedical Basian.
“Did I just hear that right? Did her instrument just say her name?” Hindral looked back at her companions in confusion.
Yes, Cedical plucked a couple more strings.
“But how? Thatis impossible!” Hindral stepped closer as the white stag pawed the earth and begin to graze calmly.
The Great Oghma taught me. I am mute. He taught me a great many things…
“”This is incredible! I’m not sure how that is even possible but-”
“Did you say the Great Oghma taught you?” Kilabra looked at Cedical quizzically.
Yes, but there’s no time to explain.
Cedical pointed toward the forest where a pack of dire lynxes with distinctive glowing red eyes were slinking towards them. Denzred swiftly drew his long sword as Kilabra set herself ready for the oncoming attack with her bronze estocs at the ready.
Hindral took a step back as she whispered,”Oh shi-”
The wolves leapt…
Chapter 5 : From the Beginning…
Scene 5 : A Choice without Choice
Denzred gazed at Gramstaf in disbelief for a few moments…then burst into gales of laughter. He took deep breaths as he tried to control himself and wiped a tear of mirth from his cheek.
“Ok, let me get this straight, priest. Satan, the Prince of Darkness, the Fallen One, the Great Deceiver, wants the holiest of holy relics, the Holy Grail, the cup that bore the blood of Christ?”
“Yes he does.”
Denzred looked at Gramstaf as if he had just grown a second head.
“And how, pray tell, will this possibly help him? I assume it would destroy the Adversary if he got near it.”
“My dear Denzred, you are correct that it would destroy him. But Lucifer has many servants willing to bear this holy burden for him.”
“Fine, but what use is an object that holy to a being of pure Evil?”
“Well now we get to the true purpose of this gathering, lad. You see, he will corrupt the Grail with the blood of an unrepentant sinner. A mortal that is beyond the pale. And then all the servants of Satan have to do is take the cup for a walk. And keep walking. If he can accomplish this then he can erase the connection between mortals and their Gods wherever the Cup travels. The only gods that would retain a connection to the World would be those as evil as Satan himself, and there are very few of those. The World would become as damned as Hell itself.”
As he spoke the music swelled even further, closer now. The three with Gramstaf were now looking around as they wondered at the source of the beautiful melody.
“But the Grail has been lost for centuries, priest. No one knows where its final resting place is, since it was lost during the final defeat of the original High King Arthur.”
“Yes, it took Satan this long to track it down. I did say immortals take the long view. If it wasn’t for EGL taking up residence inside my skull there would be no one to oppose his forces. We only have this one chance to stop the Evil One in his plans. The Gods have chosen us to be their saviours.”
“Pfft, I am no one’s saviour, mortal. I only wish to regain my place within the Unseelie Court and that means killing this bloodthirsty Man, not rush off on some fool quest with you.” Kilabra pointed her bronze blade menacingly at Denzred as she spoke.
“Grammy, I have to agree. I was swallowed and puked up by a big fish. No gods were involved in that.” Hindral spun her finger in a circle next to her head as she pointed at Gramstaf.
“And I am beyond redemption, priest. God would never choose one with so much blood on his hands to represent Him. I deserve the death this Fay wishes upon me.”
Gramstaf slammed the butt of his staff on the ground, sending a shower of sparks floating upwards from the fire. Then he pointed a bony finger at each of them in turn.
“Enough! Hindral Smik do you think you would have survived that kraken without the help of Aegir? Kilabra Dalsinien, the Trions did not send you here to slay this man. Your only hope of returning to the Court in honour is by saving the Tuatha de Danaan. And you, Denzred, you will do this or you will suffer in eternity in Hell for the crimes you have committed. This is your only chance at redemption! If you three do not help me then you have doomed the World for eternity!” Gramstaf scowled at them, EGL smirking inwardly knowing he had forced him to commit a single lie.
Before any of them could think of a response to this sudden outburst, the music suddenly ceased as an enormous eighteen-point pure white stag stepped from the trees at the edge of the forest. A slight red-haired girl astride it holding a dulcimer as she looked at them defiantly.
“Now what new happy crappy is this, Miss Smik?” Hindral muttered to herself as she looked on with amazement shared with Denzred and Kilabra.
Chapter 5 : From the Beginning…
Scene 4 : Nero’s Deal with the Devil
As Gramstaf resumed his tale Kilabra swore she could hear a quiet melody float to them on the night breeze.
“Each Pantheon created humans within their own domain, and from there Man spread forth into the World. God was going to create his mortals in the Cradle of Civilization but before He did that, He performed a test and created a symbol. He gave free will to one of his Angels, Samiel.”
“Hold on priest, I studied hagiography in seminary before becoming a knight. This angel sounds important, you would think he would have been listed in the ancient texts.” Denzred raised a skeptical eyebrow as he spoke.
“Oh thats because God gave him a new name. The Jews know him as Lucifer. We Christians call him…Satan. Needless to say things did not go well for poor Samiel. He immediately threw off the yoke of God and thus became the Fallen One. He plummeted to Hell to reside there for Eternity. God had done this with the foreknowledge that this would happen. Satan was created as a warning …a symbol of unfettered free will without morals or ethics. At least that was the Plan. In a world without other gods that may have become the final resting place of Satan. But Satan is the Great Deceiver, and he schemed to find a way to escape and take his place beside God as His equal…or His better.”
Gramstaf stopped talking and looked up into the darkness surrounding the fire as the hint of a smile played across his lips.
“Grammy, what’s the hold up? This tale is just getting good.” Hindral tugged on Gramstaf’s sleeve to get his attention.
“Hmm? Oh yes, of course. As I was saying, Satan kept looking for a way out of Hell. This went on for millennia, there were many unsuccessful attempts. Some were thwarted by God, others by mortals. But that never stopped him from trying again. Immortals always take the long view when it comes to their plans.” Gramstaf glanced at Kilabra as he spoke. Kilabra stared back inscrutably.
“Ironically, Satan’s best chance was brought about by the success of Christianity and Judaism. The Jews replaced the Egyptian Pantheon with their own faith, and did the same to many of the minor Pantheons…Sumeria, Babylon, and Phoenicia for example…Marduk, Baal Hammon, Bel, Tanit and Astarte. Then with the birth of Jesus Christ, Christianity was brought to the heart of the Roman Empire. This destabilized the power of the Roman Pantheon and the Empire began to fall apart. Its borders shrinking back year after year. By the time of Emperor Nero the Empire occupied only the Italian Peninsula. The barbarians were ready to invade and sack Rome, erasing the Empire and the Gods along with them. That was Satan’s chance to strike. He petitioned Jupiter, he laid forth a bargain in which as long as Nero lived the Roman Empire would remain whole. Never to attain its former greatness but also never to shrink either. All he wished in return was that he be made the God of Evil and Debauchery. Jupiter looked down upon the ravening hordes marching down the Appian Way towards His greatest city and agreed… on pain of throwing Satan back to Hell himself. Satan descended from Olympus and stood before Nero in all his dark angelic glory and bequeathed upon him eternal life. Nero can never die…from age or disease or injury. In return Nero gave Satan the grandest temple in the center of Rome to be worshipped by all those that count themselves Roman citizens. ‘Til this very day Nero sits upon his Golden Throne and across the Grand Plaza Satan sits upon his Obsidian Throne.”
Gramstaf shuddered at the mental image that EGL had conjured for him at those words. As he spoke, the music had gotten loud enough for Hindral and Denzred to notice. Its soothing melody flowed over all of them like a cooling spring breeze and they felt no need to be concerned for its presence.
“Well, priest this had been a truly depressing tale but what does any of this have to do with we three, or you for that matter?”
“Denzred, do you honestly think that Satan would be satisfied with just Rome or his newfound godhood? No, the Prince of Darkness wants the World for himself. And he has found the means to do so…the Holy Grail.”