Merlin 2 - 15: The Soldiers of Cromlech
Scudding forlorn clouds distantly drumming the coming storm deep in the distance, if from the canopy the firmament seems a marbled grave of endless enrapture, light of moons has chanced favor on the season the first of berries and small fruits aside the last blooms of black tulips and crimson roses.
In this dawning morning the sky is blue for the last day of spring anent the beleaguered travellers, the ground fertile met by streams of clear water coursing through the roots of the forest, before them is a gory gruesome violent malevolent detail quelled and calmed. They collect their treasures, and then bury their dead, or burn them at the very least spending the better part of dawn burning with waves of flames and smiting mangled wretches with axes, a few surprises for your malice one could say, fortuitous survivors working to subdue the dead and it is distance for them to continue in their trek. A simple morning of cold blue skies, the storm has passed, and Merlin counts his steps inaudibly of a straight line toward the moon from the castle into the heavy forest trees, towing a confused mare.
Merlin: “And one thousand one steps…dig.”
Ana: “You art aware the moon will stray from its path.”
Merlin: “Then I shall visit this time of year.”
Ana alights from her colt for a venerable tradition, Nickolas dismounts his steed with quickly stead, just as Merlin tosses a stone to the ground, and he paces forward only to have her grab him by his collar. The stone glows then blasts a hole briefly scaring their horses. Merlin puts a satchel from his saddlebag, as does Ana. Their ceremony prompts Nickolas to a personal grief, a brief sentimental attachment to all his new acquisitions he tosses the tawdry necklace he wears alongside the rest to their shared amusement. He and Merlin fill the divot and they stare at the sky, ready to begin again their wanderlust. The birds sing as they do, as if any other tumult had just passed, while the dancing winds pass through the weeping willows and breaking birches.
They seek an earnest repose, countermand ere, contrary celerity borne unwonted bethought, wrought by reprieves oft alack. Ever a blatant disguiser, avouch signet of mist covering the dusky floor of the forest. Ana a tenured and profuse mercer ponders what silks she could have for her small fortune and with looks upon her allies reckons the need to save some of it for a rainy day. Nickolas, a swift and dagger tarry whatnot, hard by an unmet billet, carries of a simple notion, insomuch certain trinkets uncovered and obvious in order to taunt countryside robbers and to eventually barter or battle. Lest so availing, by Merlin who carries in modest a sack of rings which he will spell upon a great many of enhancing powers and trade them truncate for tiskets and taskets, or leave them in nooks and crannies for a child to find. Ana the mostly posh wears a magnificent frontlet on her brow, it weighs on parted hair and keeps her face, and majesty of swift embrace she bestows insight where modesty belongs. Nickolas walks as the lord of the glade, a few fine chains about the wrist, about the collar, but proof certain of auspicious audacity are the two fanciful silver blades he cannot release. Not for let or leave he puts promise in skill as he manipulates the weapons in saddled tarry, with the fascinating artisanship, glomming an adolescent could slice the wind, but more so, in the stomping ground they treasure refection and a place to meat.
Merlin: “Doth ye like to keep still a fascicular book Nickolas?”
Merlin had spoken whilst looking ahead of distracted hindsight watching the clades of thrushes and blackcaps scour the riparian floor until the paisley ivy blooms. The guilty ravens waiting all for not to scavenge, in their senescence, wisely in the autumn unfolded and damndest until then, returning a stare at Merlin in great suspect. Nickolas checks for his little pocket book, finds it and relaxes certain that a recreation from memory would ignobly have heavy recensions.
Nickolas: “I keep to words bequeath the tale concern.”
Merlin: “What wouldst thou with my tale?”
Nickolas: “A new day yesterday, but it’s an old day now.”
Merlin: “Why are you pondering?”
Nickolas: “For the avouchment of here is the maiden through whom we have our veneration.”
Merlin: “We are but by our ways to go forth hence.”
They discuss their pekid and peckish demeanor, eventually deciding to make immediate camp in the coming mist at the first sign of dusk.
Concerning an oddment betwixt torques of gold and clothes of stone, festal gage against the wage troth by faith to war, tidings of the water witch Lynn, whom Troy has but once been the only of the wayfarers four who has seen in the utopian aviary, wanders in the light fog near the river. Erewhile the slumbering stone soldiers of Cromlech, with a paean spell and snap of her fingers, rise from the climes of inhumation, leaving hearse and earthen bier for the air above a forgotten cemetery soil. Some with their fingers first to emerge, a deathly-hallowed grasp of ashen stone, surface as vassals to the witch of the lake verily to obey her thoughts without a sound. Listen a mottled porous stone and the kings of marble and ivory weapons, pitch and jet, exception for kin what does not merit grace, hunting Merlin for his death. This mortal soil, deft outré life raises from below the surface, the long-silent ground thrums until a nonchalant violent breach, first a hand of stone, then a group of stone soldiers from beneath the forest dray path, born within the mountains of despair, with signs of wroth upon their faces. Diffident and dressed to kill with stone of any rune for the ruin of man, quite rakish and koiné soldiers camouflaged by stone entreating treachery and loth.
In the morning, a healthy sky covers a forest coveted by dawn where the air brings the clime of freshwater and comfortable breeze. The silhouettes of wolves hiding in the summer pines of dawn, the wayfarers’ woe, neither too harrowed or humble, ever-long ecclesiastic nether-realm stoicism, cold, silent in the sound of the wind, heavy and laden unto the godly statues, frightfully despondent, ethereal pieces of disorder of a solemn pack to roam the outland.
Merlin is a plutonic friend to the wind and if by chance he feels he is falling from the sky while in a lave dream, he will rise from the ground just so in a float of any number of odd positions. To-day he faces the sky with his fingers woven between hands, ataraxic and adrift not more than a foot over ground. Nickolas, the restless, wakes and arises easily as if having slept for ages in a motion that slowly begins the subtle waking of Ana in a dress of war driven red as their notions of breakfast gradually ensue.
Ana: “The best way to wake him is to jump on his chest.”
Nickolas crawls slowly like a cat to Merlin in a momentary suspense with silence and asks him a question, after waiting and watching, in a normal voice no longer a secretive whisper.
Nickolas: “Are you sleeping?”
Despite mention, Merlin does not wake in the woods of Celadon unexplored. Nickolas looks around himself to find not Ana, for she has vanished without a sound into the wild orchard afar using a magic yet modest novitiate spell to usher burgeoning wild apples into rubicund cultivar morsels. As a stick breaks underfoot the same moment as in the distance a sweet and luxurious apple that Ana picks slips her grasp and falls to the ground, Merlin falls with a plump thumped noise and by reaction uses the force of the wind thwarting what he did not presage to his defense, forcing himself to the ground nearly faster. Having no master’s skillset much other than that of a soldier, Nickolas makes hunt with epicurean hunger into the forest to snare a fox from a den or pierce a rabbit in a switch-trap, but instead finds an obsequious statue in the distance gradually discovered to be a stone garrison of seven soldiers within the clearing of the woods.
The cultivated statues of the trees at first are difficult to see in the waking light, parts of the stone are blending with the scenery, a strange camouflage veneer that shifts even as Nickolas moves vantage point. They each face toward the clearest region of the forest floor, slightly facing deep in the woods where the lost souls hide and seeming to face him. Nickolas quickly and quietly makes his way to camp with a wary eye behind him to make a shrift to Merlin. Fore long, Ana returns to camp, without her partner, and tosses an apple into the lap of Merlin who has reset his eyes closed.
Merlin: “I’m more of a spirit awakener.”
Ana: “Myrddin quit falling and awaken thee, have an apple and sweet your tongue.”
She sits then tosses bounteous and beauteously another piquant apple at him to rouse his conscious.
Merlin: “But of course madam Wilt…much of a many night awakening in these crimson apple trees in the glade of trodden trails, upon the river dale.”
Nickolas: “You shan’t lay bard, I have happened upon a fortune I could not carry.”
Merlin: “What ðeode is so soon to bring this raucous after the last?”
Nickolas: “Methinks…men of stone.”
Upon this information, they break camp under a cloud and move to the small valley in which is a small brook and the chiseled masons, and amongst is a captain of exalted rank amidst holding a staff of gold. Formidable are the stone race with fine weapons and crowns of avocation made of dark-dull metal, as if in errand of the hunt they are adorned with tidings intriguing to the thief in Nickolas. Merlin vanguard in the woods now keeps a lacking watch, amazed at this masonic wonder he searches for a sigil or crest denoting which alliance covets these masonry arms and armor. Having mentioned a need slightly for caution he had not urged the most of importance to the order, a caustic irony unfolds.
Ana: “Don’t touch them love!”
Nickolas was too ambitious to halt and as he touched a single piece of jewelry, the soldier came to life in a heavy attack whilst all were in sudden combat. By first assault, caught is Nickolas and thrown, as if he were still a little blond page to the feet of the stone king. Merlin wisps and Ana barely slips from grasps many, as the marble men signal and move in adulatory silence, communicating without words as Nickolas is stuck with aging blades of antique wroth. In forceful numbers, they place the plotting Ana and Merlin in their sights, at full assault as Ana finds a bruising for her barely effective explosive blasts, some with enemies to her grasp giving them the charred skin of soot that stone cherishes, and Merlin finds a beating as he attempts to strike the dolmen dead whilst wielding the winds.
With futility evident and chastening him, adrift and hastily reckless Merlin takes an often-useless amulet from his garb, one he had previously used for campfires and summit mountain passes. Nothing more than a trinket in the past, in desperation he begins a gale-force to topple the stubbornly heavy foes, an attempt to windthrow a lightly armored pawn of the group in small coordination but only hits the newly regenerated Nickolas, which pins him temporarily. In doing so Merlin gets himself grasped, struck, and thrown. Nickolas finds mortality for the huge stone soldier, confused and assuming Nickolas would die upon first death, when he stabs him in the dusty stone neck and ruining his blade. It soon becomes easiest by spiritual way of enchanted artifact to rush and flush the creations with wind and allow Ana to blast them, with luck allowing the air to fuel the sordid fire. Vengeance and menace they must not falter, they must not error, insolent they will have the morrow to mourn.
Suasion and with only two remaining quite steadfast, Merlin ignites by his hand a sulfuric blast to reveal the heart of the quartz king. A small lava chamber flows from the chest, a tumult of arena the surviving warrior flees. These bleak statues hold a face of craze, through the marring combat the soldiers of oblivion with nary an instance of dialogue shall reproach inquisitor.
Merlin: “Feign and feeling faint transgressions shall meet the undertow.”
Sebastian: “Again we rise.”
Nickolas: “Bleed the clouds.”
Nickolas drives a wooden stave into the chest, as it lays it burns in the heat of the dying heart. Connected across the acre, as if a highland ghost in a system of forest, returns the flit survivor to the garden of monolith, his renowned blade rises for a deadly hewing behind Ana with her hair clasped by the other hand. Swiftly she cuts her hair and stands behind the man of stone with a knife between his legs cut through his tartan, causing him to wax qualm and mercy.
Ana: “All men are alike.”
Nickolas: “Don’t move soldier.”
Brach: “That is what I am made to do.”
Ana: “A bit careless are we love?”
Nickolas: “Quite the gift you have dear.”
Merlin approaches carrying the golden staff, Nickolas stares at his wounds while lifting his arms and keeping the taciturn prisoner in sight.
Merlin: “Are you well old boy?”
Nickolas: “I’m feeling a bit heavy and down.”
Nickolas shows his skin thick with sharp blades as is they were dull.
Merlin: “You are heavy handed, it will pass. Staffs of gold…signify bravery indolent one. Give me your sword.”
The blade’s size is deceiving, it is heavy and displays its weight as it falls.
Ana: “Would you be as brave without your precious stones?”
Winston: “I implore you relent my soul…”
Ana: “Greater men than you have asked for such without prevail.”
Merlin: “Who are you?” without answer, “…give over and bid my willing.”
Nickolas: “Cut him down, he isn’t worth his sand.”
Winston: “We are nemesis.”
Merlin: “why did you attack us?”
Brock does not reply.
Merlin: “Nickolas...would you care to lapidate this insufferable functionary and take his diamond eyes?”
Nickolas: “It’d be my pleasure.”
Ana: “Ah, Ah, take it like a man, or you’ll take it like a woman.”
Brock: “Nature always wins, the seasons will rule Midgard.”
Brock fidgets but Ana wrenches his arm behind backwards and cuts him, Merlin points his dagger pulled from thin air to the figure and ripostes. Under pressure, he reaches for the sword on the ground, but without avail for it is taken-up by Nickolas.
Nickolas approaches the confident living statue while slightly sinking into the soil as he walks, strong with a power of mountains, he takes the brutish blade and strikes the stone mercenary, without regard the first striking is the wanton deathblow, shattering the side of the stoic malaise and bringing darkness monolithic. They do divest their claimant foes of accoutrements, after their fatigues, to go forth hence, it is with a mixture of relief and remorse they gather their horses and move along the road by the river. They leave carrying prizes and singing an earthly song, until they cross a letter attached to an arrow amid the road with a message of a single word, “North,” and the signature of their departed ally Troy pinned aground by the unique arrow weighted with porcelain fletching and broad heads, heavy as a bolt half in the ground. They head due north and looking up they do not see him, in passing a young colt charger walks slowly along the river bridled by the corpse riding low in the saddle with an arrow that matches the first, in his back. Merlin, Nickolas, and Ana pass with a glance and a silent prayer, they continue into the distance and when beyond sight the erewhile dead man in the saddle sheds magically his false appearance of fair color and shape to become a dark and swarthy-scarred perception.