Act One – Scene Ten: In which ice cream learns to melt when children cry

Here is a continuation from scene eight. For those of you still in posession of the original copy of ‘Garawain’ let me know how you think it compares to the original (p.161 Garawain)

Gail stumbled from her bed, finding as she did so that she already grasped Maroward in her hand. She pulled away the sheath, letting it fall by her bed, and ran to find Anne. The others were getting up and frantically searching for their weapons, and Gail could see the surprise on their faces and knew that they had no premonition of danger. Only Hayley seemed undisturbed by the sudden alarm. When Freyn and her guards moved to join with the Elemental he called them back.

“Stay, queen of Kanedon,” he commanded. “This enemy is beyond your weapons. Do not put yourself in danger tonight. Stand aside with me, but send your loose tongued warrior to assist them in my place.”

Freyn checked her pace, and along with Equin she went to join her grandfather. Alken, without need for further command, went to stand with Anne Gretnert and the Princess of Gaeline.

The Paladin was as of yet nowhere to be seen, but Gail could feel him; that was the closest she could come to explaining the throbbing sense in her mind. She knew about where he was, and felt certain that already he could see her, so she stood tall, defiantly.

“Kanedon,” Anne said, hardly glancing over her shoulder as Alken came up. “Run forward to the great tree just there,” she pointed. “Hide on this side of it, and when he passes by see if you cannot cut out the legs of his horse. Then run for your life.”

Alken ran forward. The tree Anne had indicated was about fifty meters forward of their position. He came to it and stood with his back to the trunk, his eyes locked on the Elemental. She meanwhile had turned to Gail.

“Are you ready?” she asked. Gail nodded. “I will be just behind you,” said Anne. “You must hold his attention. Give me a chance to surprise him.” Then she backed up several paces, leaving Gail standing alone in the dark. “Look to your sword for the vision you require,” whispered Anne from somewhere near behind her.

Then all grew silent. Gail felt her heart pounding in hear ears like a noisy drum, and tried to calm herself. She thought of Maroward that had been with her for so long now over so many long journeys, and all of a sudden her mind flashed back to the day when she had gone with Avorier into the second chain gate, and a strange bald-headed boy had stared her down and repeated the question of the Lord Gretnert. It was not an encounter she had recalled in a long time. Indeed, she had not given much thought to it, and it had faded from memory. But now it came back, awoken from some dark corner to run free again over her mind. ‘Why have you got my sword?’ The boy had asked. Or had it been the boy? Had he merely been repeating the words of another as when he quoted Anne’s father? Why was she thinking of all this now, when she should be concentrating on the confrontation ahead of her?

“Anne?” Gail called softly.

“I’m here,” said the Elemental.

“What’s a Spektare?” asked the Princess without looking back.

There was a pause. “It means ‘expected one’ in the old language of Gaeline,” replied Anne. “But it fell into misuse long ago. A prophecy came to the Irithol of the one foretold whom they might expect to come and overcome the monsters; the Spektare.”

“So it’s you then?”

“Perhaps for tonight,” said Anne. “But I could only be called a Spektare, where they will still await the coming of the Spektare at the end of their order. Look to the sky, Queen; he is coming.”

Gail’s grip tightened on her sword, and the words of the spirit flowed over her mind, colliding and becoming mixed with the words of the Elemental. With an effort she cleared her head, bringing herself back to reality and the weapon in her outstretched hand. “What have I got here?” she asked herself.

The response was instantaneous. The sword sprung to life, the blue light from the stones in the blade flashing out and then growing to fill the entire length, transforming steel into a cold shimmering surface. In a moment in built to a peak, and rushed up the blade and shot into her arm, going straight to her head. It set fire to the inside of her body, burning out the cold and setting its forceful barrier within her skin. Then her senses reacted. She could feel the passing of the wind over her hands and face, and hear the crunch of snow under Anne’s boots behind her. She smelt the pine forest, and saw the darkness before her grow grey. The figure of Alken against the tree stood out like a bright flame in the night, as did the Elemental behind her. She could not see Anne, but yet she could perceive her. She could also perceive the Paladin, a little way off, dropping from the sky, through the trees into the forest.

His sword was already drawn, and as his mail clad steed hit the earth the world about him erupted in flame for ten meters or so. Rock, snow, or tree trunk; all burned in the sudden inferno. The cry of the horse came to Gail’s ears, but not so much as the malice extended to her from its rider. She saw him now as she had not before, and no darkness could hide him. Their eyes locked and she stepped out to meet him.

“Hello Leordon,” said Gail. It was with great effort that she spoke, for when she tried her voice nearly cracked for the fear she felt when she saw his eyes. “I did not expect to find you here.”

“I imagine you did not,” replied the Paladin. “You supposed you had outrun me? The foolish have often thought so.”

Gail let Maroward hand loose at her side, though every instinct told her to raise it. Her mind raised, looking for the words she needed to speak. “I don’t see any reason why there should be contention between you and me,” she said. “I see that we are not so different, you and I. What do you say, Leordon? Shall we cast away our sticks and forget our quarrel? Would you not rather live in peace?”

“Peace?” he asked, and there was a breaking in his voice. “I have not known peace in many years.” Then his face hardened, and the Paladin spoke. “Cheap words,” he hissed. “I am called Paladin! I bring fire and fear!” The sword came up, and a great explosion of flame came from it, lighting the trees above his head.

“I had not addressed you, talisman,” said Gail angrily. “Be silent and let your master speak.”

“Master?” it asked, the voice hard and full of hate. “I am master of all this world! The Irith I do not suffer to speak; neither should I suffer you!”

“I doubt that very much,” said Gail with the best sneer she could manage. “Leordon, my friend, these games grow old. Must I waste words with this cudgel more?”

The Paladin let out a roar, and flames sprang from every part of him. Gail had struck a nerve. The horse broke into a gallop, coming on toward her. Then her heart froze and she could not make herself move.

The Kanedonian warrior behind his tree had been positioned about half way between Gail and her enemy. Now as the Paladin passed by, he leapt out at the signal of Anne Gretnert, bringing his long sword around in a mighty swing aimed at the steed’s legs. The timing was perfect. For all his speed the Paladin had no time to react. Though by all appearances the horse was not harmed, it lost its footing and fell headlong, throwing its rider. He however landed on his feet. His advance was not broken, but his grip on Gail was. She breathed again, and raised Maroward toward him in challenge.

But even as the gap between them closed, Anne Gretnert ran past the Gaelic Princess, and came between her and her enemy. Her eyes were bright, and from her dagger came a blinding light. The Paladin checked his advance, startled by the appearance of the Elemental, but even as he swung for her she dodged beneath his sword. Her empty hand wrapped about him beneath his arms, and she hit him in the gut with her shoulder. The force of the attack was many times more than might have been expected from her small figure. Leordon was thrown off his feet, and he landed flat on his back. Even as he fell, Anne raised her other hand with the dagger, and thrust it through his armor into his neck. It buried to the hilt, and the Paladin let out a hideous scream.

One Reply to “Act One – Scene Ten: In which ice cream learns to melt when children cry”

  1. Liking the revision! It seems–while still holding to its surreal element–a lot more authentic. I like the extra time, rather than the Paladin just showing up while they’re en route which seems quite abrupt now that I read the original. Excited for it to be finished!

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