Merlin 2: 17 “Porter's Vale”
It rained for many days what seemed like many more, where low days became late nights and vice versa, bleak dusk of dawn and setting suns not quite all but hot in the glom. It rained so long that kept from quickening to a new town they slept in the rain, Nickolas had been the most discomforted for Ana could easily dry beneath the confines of the storm with a faint spell of immolation if necessary, and Merlin could keep dry within the confines of an air spell. Nickolas could do nothing but suffer through the storm and did so often wondering if the two had not brought the rain. That rain has though now passed and on their journey it has been dry, many days bringing signs of infernality. The realm is swamp until summer’s glare where the trees that root in ponds dry and wither, shedding bark and blighted branches until only sharp forsaken spires beyond the reach of dormancy fill the thirsty bogs among the wiser oaks. By the plains of this porter’s vale a system overlays of summer, from the spring farms a heat had boiled off the steam that became the rains but unrelentingly warm wears-away the water trees much more than many years the past.
The spirited winds hold away the warmth on many hours with malicious exception for the long highs of noon where the desperate varmints of the wood fight for the last of stashed seed and sacred shade, in inoculate anacoluthon the shadows swelter beneath the stoic suns. It is certain dysphoria for the eyes of darkness, weary travelers quick upon portent cudgels, pittance of rains while quiddity is heat and waves grafting the haute forest, savvy birds in alteration and excision of heat abandon their nests and wait close to the trunks for maximum shade, waiting for the evening. There is no yield from suns in commonality unrelenting in armillary patterns rapport and adroit.
Thoughts are eidetic, an ancestral trait of survival short and long, watching but not truly acting. An approve of prompture, blue skies and wilting measure the strength of fire magic is exceptional, for in merely the first night of camp the suns are so bright huddled to the other side of the Earth that dusk never dies, forthwith Ana can use her magic to strike a campfire without a single flint, and in the following days the suns do not set at all. As the heat affects the riders, the elder trees watch the wild weeds with shallow roots twain and fetter as drought becomes fastidious, the durance of this autumn effect puts the seeds of saplings on the dry forest floor and yellows the leaves to the succulents. A babbling brook shows itself to end the corporal sufferance of the steeds direct of their path, alongside the dwindled river is wild Emmer wheat, once sating it appeases the horses greatly, and beyond them a viable green pasture of vouchsafe farm wheat. Most of it growing ceremoniously lavish and majestic, a waving ceilidh in the wind, some of it pruinose where a passing hand could strip and eat it, baked in the heat of the sun up righteously after all.
At the very sighting of the river, the affianced rush from saddle to shore, the stoical sorcerer gracefully approaches on horseback and ushers the steed first to drink before he. Certain to be of affection peradventure it is dowry for youthful children dauntless to fire still wantonly frolicsome in the water as the horses look upon them sternly. The horses wander into the water and reluctant to leave their faces from the river as the heat is still an impediment to the inundation recompense. There is not a ducat worth the water at this unpeopled contingency, but as for yet Merlin remains silent with several troubles which he has foreseen to seek and lie, circumfused and contrarious. As the warm weather brings transom winds to the fields far into the distance waits a farmhouse with mullioned windows, a quarter more directly and manifestly collected with Scandinavian architecture, yare to be traced by the mind but yet ever rapped by mishap and entreaty, the obstreperous winds twine a shepherdess beyond the dried bogs and marshes and thick grass underbrush.
Merlin: “How now!”
Ana: “What is it brother?”
Nick: “A tavern?”
Merlin: “No, a farmhouse…”
Nick: “I think I’ll have the whiskey and chicken.”
Merlin: “But not a soul in sight.”
Nick: “Would you be out in this torrid heat?”
Merlin: “Too right.”
Nick: “A race old erne.”
Merlin: “Loser is the leader, when we tell the people who we are?”
Nick: “Good luck.”
Sure and soon they are off toward the estate to teeming foison as Ana consoles her stag. The churlish Etain knows who approaches the desolate farm, with two in haste and Ana slowly approaching alongside the ford, she uses her Saracen magic to seem nearly invisible in the heat waves to continue her wretched spell at the edge of the field. Ana’s horse is skittish, but persistently frightened eager to walk in the dried shore of the brook, conscientiously aversive to the lewd grass.
There is a lady of the inn, recently having done her morning habits as any other day, a joyful salute to the morn for a safe repast, but this morning visited by vicious mien, gracefully guided by hoary raiment of the scarecrow, the fire became entire salver with her spell and convoluted condescension. Nature more than alive, hewn from lofty dancing in the sun in pail winds and stuffed and strewn into the tattered and trounced attire, draped on lashed broken branches against a border fence a scarecrow to taunt the throngs of carrion murders, with cursed hex the stitches are demonic by possession brought spiritually levied into life by a witch, the ferocious sorceress in practice for tormenting mortals who hast long abandoned her manifestation far from the attention to her pangs for wont delicacy regarding Merlin and the others, whom she keeps a guarded eye as they approach.
Everything warm is malicious and hateful, stubborn and wasteful, as Merlin and Nickolas approach the farm the air is full of dead smoke in undulation that seems an eerie calmness, a scream from the ranch and Merlin on his horse runs beneath overcast canopy between the trees into a clearing, one where gagged and murmuring a woman and two children are bound by hands and feet, tossed to the outer wall of a barn near the door, and a scarecrow leaning against the red wall, legs and arms straight, harmless, and lifeless. Merlin quick to console leaps and darts hastily to them and severs their bonds, unaware of the wandering eyes, Nickolas is alert and roaming, no more to his usual as before to take or leave a trinket he wanders with weapons drawn, unshielded, confrontational, and unmistaken of an evil in the wind.
(Mother)Celia: “Hurry! Untie us!”
She looks cautiously as much as warily to the staring effigy, she and her children runs immediately from the reflection of humanity yet thrice as strong, but as Nickolas secondly arrives, without guard or gasp he is thrown through the nearest wall.
Scarecrow/Kuebiko: “It is you that will be cut and stacked into the barn house.”
Merlin looks to the creature who returns curious sadness as if looking across the distance of a lake's repository. An arrow, pure of iron tip and purely white hot spiraling strikes the fodder-man who pulls the fiery arrow, burning a black line into its birch leather hands and then swatting the fire over its heart. Merlin takes heed of time and grabs the sickle for the fields to cut this foe in two, the bladed tool is unwieldy, ill fatefully awkward, at first strike the blade only pierces but does not cut or wound. The thatch opponent takes the reaper's sickle and with the back of his arm hurls the close-stepping Merlin into the open garret from the barn door. Nickolas rises and the walking bale and ne'er-do-well reaches into Nickolas and pulls out the still beating heart.
Nickolas coughs and convulses, grasping to the heart with one hand and the garb of the demon-bard the other, as if to hand the heart as a gift and gasping as he falls to the ground, staring into the seemingly human eyes of his victor whom blackbirds would humor human efforts or ignore if be the meek and knowing demon that watches Nickolas feign death.
As Nickolas drops to the ground like a sack of potatoes, the scarecrow puts the still beating heart into its vestment cloth, the mother Celia and children Thurston and Mila have long since leapt abound the daily trail. With fear not far to follow, the Scarecrow is swift into the field as if compelled through the switches by desire, ensnared by duty Merlin throws an orb phial filled with volatile light, but it only has effect on the Scarecrow's shadow. The shadow falls to the earth imbalanced with a muted caterwaul to the ground and shatters like a dark mirror, it was frozen only for it to melt as the demon flees aloft.
Ana: “Merlin, save them.”
Ana the red witch with Troy the Phoenix rider, flies into dangerous pursuit, with an iron arrow in her hand. The angered waves of grain crush in the trampling escape of the mother with children on horseback, the rest as an open abattoir grab and pull at the horse’s legs and tear it down until it bleeds as shallow brush forcibly embrace the mother and her children, the scarecrow approaches with an outstretched arm, orchestrating the grass over a great distance.
Likely with the gods in the towers at the ends of the world Ana uses alchemical fire and forms bowers of the sunny and partially mossy side as she is heft, a storm chaser spectacle as the heated winds have willed, the unknowing scarecrow watches only the innocent as prey, dreaming awake of idle fate. Through the isle of the wood downhill a sight of a white pond far beyond the village of pine, avenging hence to the ribs with preserved purity of a stolen heart and a valence of enmity perennially vigorous to vigilance by evil way to strike that which haunts the lands. Nickolas follows as of yore and the same as then once more to stand stoic foothold and defend against guile where deepening darkness bequeaths reflection.
Morphing into primal the suns circle the battlefield, running across the horizon where eyes burn red. As the horses are torn into the earth by the living field, the helpless family all look with suffering fear and premonition of ineffectiveness availing them, the wheat parts for them as they stare, fallen from steeds swallowed by seeds, and with horses asunder the grain holds them incarcerate as each darkening morrow concludes in the soul of the insane murderous Erlking. The sky solely converted the hayfield demon drifts, travelling without walking and carried by hurried winds and lofty living grains, noticing the skies as much as staring with a vengeful smile. The captives never pause to look at Kuebiko only stifle and struggling to escape. The Phoenix like a rightly starved majestic fiend on fire lands, its serenity doth not fear the leeching grains, or they it, and begin tearing at the talons, the bird is unscathed and begins with its beak to tear and swallow the malicious wheat. Ana is lofted downward and swung from an arm, her witchcraft is of elemental purity, with her fiery skills she intends to light the wick of this enamoring evil liberated. She dances with a song of fire as a thin concisely disparate flame leaps. The flame draws its magic from the phoenix, which starts to singe and affront the demon, the demon glides across the ground to her, the anger of the ether keeps the field strong and assaulting the captives and the Phoenix with Troy abound kept at bay as Merlin and Nickolas struggle to flit against the grain in the distance. Getting arduously close, the scarecrow strikes Ana offensively with a stunning rap. Indefensibly drawing a slightly curved-point dirk and heaving it into the demonic creature with a stunning glow, the creature screams and with braced footing backhands ending his pain and sending her aloft through the field of conflict.
Ana stands and pulls the blade through her hand as if to wipe the blood that was not there, as the blade is opened from her hand the steel becomes fire, catching the demon's attention stirring memories of what will always belong to the shadow. In the distance Merlin and Nickolas approach, fighting through the angered grass and wheat, Merlin using magisterial light, bursts of white light, electricity and smoke powder in his hands to repel the advancing overgrowth. Swells in a sea of golden strands hashed by golden wave, Nickolas however is less formidable and benefice, like walking through tar he is slowed by the ever-growth, each step marred and stammered as he falls hands first, and now proceeds as ravaged in his capper with short tattered sleeves and leggings with the fringed edges of his clothes stained red with his immortal blood. The Scarecrow battles Ana slowly at first side stepping, eventually Merlin and Nickolas guided by fire approach and with verve leaps to aid the lovable Ana, an unleashing moxie to the scarecrow, thrashing at him as he had to the field. Merlin assists by freeing the nerve wrecked victims and ushers their freedom while conducting an electrical ceremony, searing and clearing vegetation, and each quarrel getting louder. Every skirmisher with weapons in hand, battle hardened soldiers of witchcraft and siege magic slowly surrounding the enemy, first the aviator Troy upon Majestic Phoenix crawling the surface by rapacious talons and scourging plant remnants with its beak.
Snidely taunts does the demon, edging the phoenix squawks in fear, the scarecrow doubles-back to where the victims were supposed, Ann wields the fire blade into the creature and she is thrown, twice upon the main, Nickolas attacks ripping and tearing, slicing and paring, he plays well but loses to strength of possession afflicted and the demon has chance to tear Nickolas’s head separate.
Scarecrow: “I liked you better dead!”
The Scarecrow shouts an indeterminate word of hate in an ancient language with Nickolas pinned, distending assemblage of glory as he tries to put his thumbs into Nickolas’s eyes in the struggle, the dagger in Ana’s hands howls the furious fires of hell as it arcs in both hands over her to the neck and between the shoulders of their unanimous assailant, Kuebiko turns and strikes once more as thrice she is backhanded, causing hate and madness, and so the earth bows before her wilting and soon burning the pasture-field. In the red skies a sorcery of incineration, drifting sand and burning ash ablaze, consternation of eternal source overthrown until the fiery whirlwind is burning with demon.
Forbore a profusion of blood swiftly consumed by the desperate wheat not wanting to die without the scarecrow maestro to command, irksome glade of the wood, gruesome parlance more than whichever is most unless heroes act thus, his peace was his end, held by the gods that this realm is fire, the sallow grains acquainted therewith release the captives.
Kuebiko: “Ere, thitherward, foreknowledge, these are the trickster’s fields…wroth, for both the snow and the raven queen.”
Nickolas implacable and stained with soot embattles the demon to its knees and easily tears and removes his elder heart, noticing it still flexes mingled with the strands of besom straw having become one with the manifest apparition, from an unabashed banal tossed to the ashen surface, surrounded by embers of specs of wheat in the passing wind, the fields burn and the soil yearning for relief as does the parched patent malefactor, earning fire on its garments from lashing fervent flame and soon a firestorm upon they that observably ascertain the ignited clouds that fear not observation. The blast echoes from the bright black fire fallen as the spell upon the deviant thatch puppet relents, shaking the sky and heavens and firmament.
There stands Merlin listening to the ashes of the wake with eyes of white. A gustily gale of wind protects his refugees alongside each other and a billowing surge of fire blocked by wind-song and surrounding them. Nickolas smolders in the new silence, his skin steams of fomenting dreams and the dry foe smolders anent the sundry fallen ashes, Troy and the phoenix bathe in the immolation of the wicked fiery wave. Troy soon dismounts then helps the riley Nickolas to his feet, allowing the phoenix to roll and lavish the fire and ash with jovial sounds.
Nickolas: “Ouch! Your hand is still hot!”
The family rests on the soil scorn of new growth staring at the scarecrow with her dead husband’s eyes, struggling to writhe in desiccation. Underneath fertile soil small creatures furrow in burrows, what has become echoes of light in the day turn to dark signs in the night, callous the night sky folds and kneads the darkness into a thickened absence of any light, a living nightmare with the sky as water, the rivers to sand and storms to stars, and only the rapacious villains of life beneath a hunter's moon. Here sleeps all the faces of death and the formless armies of the mist, at summer's eve the fog rolls across the waking farms over and through field and barn frame to many sills of slumbering bairn, but at once recedes and in remission diminishes into the wood, and fallow spring rows aching for till on the next warmest day, as the sun's swath brushes light to the lands beyond horizon.
The moisture of the soil escapes the damp hold on roots burnt in the storm and slowly replenishes the heavens, Merlin with eyes aglow stretches out his arms, and with his right hand swings a spell of magic to the encircling clouds, thunder passes around them, getting louder as it closes the periphery of the open sky. This spirit magic created by Merlin requires a cost of ten years of life, and from him it is given due in a matter of moments, taken from him and displayed before their very eyes.
In return it begins a soothing rain from the cool blue sky on the fields continually receiving new life, even so much as finally reaped by the summer wheat, whilst thirsting for the rains and tears of the angels, who spy from their downy drifting empire.