30 January 2012

Merlin 2:24 “Hamadryad”

Merlin 2:24 “Hamadryad”
M.J. Banks

A verdant green floor with patches of the blackest soil, the roots of straining fingers holding the sediment without impediment for smooth greys and wrinkled dark barks, the air hangs thick with a river for an overcast sky the clouds heavy pass hastily, the sound of nigh is dense beyond its foremost distance causing silence and the sounds of nature to be captured in condensation. The brightest white of quite delight the plight of right where summers knight a unicorn stands rangy, a swift charger of speed as any steed standing with mud only to its hooves no deeper even if it were to concede to sleeping as if it were not keeping watchful eye and eating moss to feed. Upon its gentle brow a majestic horn, the spiral shadow of it the only color not fair, at zenith a pointed thorn so sharp to be a blade suspect to oft forbade its daring foes forewarned who do not live to tell their tale or so much tell it well if they had stayed, the books have done it well relay this day that knaves do not avail.

Turns of the wind have brought the cold of season’s shifting, the trees are strong and their branches high without hitch and pine, the cones have begun to drop and the few leafy trees are weakened in the wind, the phoenix’s glory is turgid and distempered by the frigid air. As the skies pass in unrest the ground is a stricture layer of fog that covers the entire forest, intractable through the clouded ground the phoenix fails to move any farther and sits contemptibly stubborn, the fog that rolls is at their knees and it grows from the phoenix a slowly billowing nest of cloud.

Standing replete of desolation on a dreary midday overcast where the air is heavy and the darkness tall as the trees, in the forest they spy a unicorn, the likes of which beheld they never yet. It is showing signs of anger behind Alerion and Troy and as he begins to slide from the phoenix it turns its limber neck to see the white horse with a horn on its head, without haste the phoenix leaps into the air before its wings can even open, Troy struggles to stay saddled as they vault upwards and stirring the fog with flustering wings on char that glow as embers in the passing wind. The unicorn scrapes its front hoof on the dirt and snouts to display anger, its head lowers and eyes take forward a stare anxiety as it faces Merlin, he holds a wand as he watches the creature.

Ana: “Is that necessary?”
Merlin: “It scared the familiar didn’t it?”

Ana prepares for the worst as she plays a fire with her fingertips, the unicorn notices her and him again with a restless nature, a sacrosanct and infinitesimal window of light begins to glow at the end of the wand, the unicorn resigns its anger and bowing sighs a silent breath of steam into the fog covered floor, it partially looks to the left, then turns to the right and runs into the afternoon of autumn.

Nick: “That was worth what is this dreary life.”
Merlin: “If another one comes you can fight it for us.”
Nick: “I would rather you turn it to stone.”
Merlin: “If that wouldn’t just anger it, I don’t know if I could.”
Nick: “We’re not alone.”
Ana: “Perhaps, but I’ve never met one who’s lived to talk of a unicorn.”
Nick: “No, I mean we’re not alone again.”

A shirtless boy stands in the forest with skin covered or colored by ash, his hair is dark the color of blackened oil with accordant sheen, tattered trousers and filthy feet, sick to seem the woes of lost at night the child leans against the nearest tree as if wounded and tired, a ruse to keep concerned travelers the child disinterested of hunting the unicorn is sick with vampirism, with a wild smile of fangs the vampire child attacks Nickolas.

Ana reaches to pull the blood fiend from Nickolas, putting her hand between them she fiery blasts it away from him, it sees Merlin and attacks him opportunely but is tossed into the air with the power of harnessed lightning that flashes at first contact against his skin, thrown to the ground a safe distance from the other and stunted an arrow lands piercing into its leg from on high.

Merlin: “Resend it to God.”
Nick: “A redress with no questions?”
Merlin: “It will not answer, and if there are more, we’ll know soon enough.”

Nickolas thrusts a knife into the creature, it does not make a sound only hissing and violent resistance that doesn’t last, a raven is calling in the distant fog. The silence unnatural breaks as the figure of the ice witch in the distance vanishes just as soon as she is spotted, captured only in a glimpse, as the skies have washed ashore the wind still blows with thin tepid rain.

The tree spirits gather, dryads, soldiers of the earth, some with seeds in and falling from their hair, in warren of a marcher lord, quietly approaching.

The ground is soft and long forgotten by travelers, there is bright darkness on the moss covered ground, at midday the fog is gone but the sun doth not shine. They find a road in the woods and follow it, they are quiet and tiring and between dawn and dusk they make camp, as Merlin sits roadside Nickolas and Ana make their way into the land fervently covered in moss, leaving him to notice how the road narrows barely noticeably. Troy lands briskly and gracefully on phoenix Alerion and looks for the others, Merlin points to the woods without speaking and putting his finger to his lips he shushes him.

Eventually Merlin and Troy begin to converse in isolation of what behooves purpose betwixt what has vexed withal forthcoming, the subtle questions of kin and despicable advice of brethren, jesting and discourteous in admission to the treatment of levity, indifferently apropos pecuniary costs of spells in store against the future, defraying éclat in consummate quandary the stage is set and trap endeavoring livelihood. Through the consolation of a thousand savage comforts Nickolas and Ana after hours on the forest floor decide to rejoin party with impoverished improvements of questionable safety standard, there are dryads gathering.

Thy wood people are armed unto the tooth, spears and daggers, bows and arrows, sharp thorns and cusps. Charged to protect the vampire they believe Merlin and his fellows to be guilty of murder. They make the trees grow over the unsuspecting phoenix but the boughs fear the eternal fire and refuse to grasp, but the hysteria is crossing inception as Troy rides aback with arrow strung and drawn tautly, in flight a view of many foes. Highly calculated the smaller Apple nymphs move first they approach cautiously but Nickolas does not wait to attack, perhaps of having met them before this he fights as if battling a deadly bounty. Out of love Ana battles, her touch doth not fatality as irreverently it dries them to brown bark. Nickolas proves that they can be killed. Not as small a second wave of Walnut nymphs slightly larger than the last emerge, Troy rides into flight as the trees begin a deadly nest, Merlin uses the power of an echo to send the wind away from him in all directions.

While they gather themselves the phoenix and Troy make clear from trees as their senses are deafened, the phoenix flies blind as its vision returns sharing the affliction with Troy. Ana takes one of the creatures by the throat in the commotion just before she is cut. The nymph cannot breathe as she takes its dagger and sets it afire before throwing it into the ground. A flame tries to slowly spread from the ground where the dagger is struck. A mightier group of soldiers emerge from the Ash trees, this time as nymphs they are as tall as Troy and their skin tougher still, and larger still are the nymphs from the Oak and are tall as Merlin. A few of them step forth with their fingers in the air or their palms forward to usher a growth of the moss and mist that does not so easily singe, outnumbered they stop their fighting with many spears pointing to them.

From behind the shoulders of others comes their margrave, a regal dryad warrior of frontier carrying a hollow spear wrapped in vines holding clench a sharp silver tear at its end. Nickolas from raze and separated throwing his sharpened knives is begrudgingly brought to them with bloody knuckles by wooden warriors with knives stuck or broken in their hardened skin.

Margrave: “Do not move fire gods.”

Merlin looks to Ana who shrugs then smirks symbolizing uncertainty, the dryads forcibly escorting Nickolas toss him to his knees before the others.

Ectra: “This one is already dead.”
Marcru: “He says that he is not with them.”
Margrave: “Is this the familiar Nickolas?”
Ana: “Pay up.”
Merlin: “I’ll have to owe you.”
Nickolas: “Perhaps I am, perhaps I am not, what is my consolation?”
Margrave: “You were forbidden trespass to the moss.”
Merlin: “Then should he not stand trial.”
Margrave: “That is where you are going.”

Through the forest of many short springs with spears at their heads, higher and more ethereal is the frost of morning having never left the waning day as the walk to fears of a carrion paragon of a raving maniac presiding over a dryad court.

The sky is falling and cloudy ceiling is lower, there is an abrupt disdain close to numb and inflexible spawning, the sound of breaking rock and tumbling gravel from the spirit of the fog. Despondent from abundant convenience, sitting amid the green pine, bleeding a thick coat of pitch sap, a mortised stronghold growing new boughs and burgeoning leaves of flourish, tenured and proscribed terror in autonomy, an awful lot and a Hamadryad. A judge king of nature known for silent subtle shadows in droves and boasting the amenities locals prefer including the rustic isolation of wilderness. Merlin begins seeking ways to evaluate destructive and powerful faculties in the most objective manner possible. The actuarial anxiety is sickness agleam anent a gallant slew of faces fiat and flagrant heath. The nymphs set in lieu of content climb trees as if strength were not relevant.

Hamadryad: “You stand at a court with several charges, a twelvemonth of unicorn terror remains portent by you.”
Merlin: “Where are we?”
Hamadryad: “Where the trees are poets and the saints were to dwell in their stone house.”
Nickolas: “I did not mean to disturb, they are unbeknownst to the import of this dilemma.”
Merlin: “We carry no charge of burden thee, what cause to this?”

Merlin looks around as if to mention the dangerous situation, but slowly turning as to count enemies and look for an exit, the hamadryad rises and walks toward him as they both keep partial focus on the sky. The nature king stops and looks to Nickolas.

Hamadryad: “He must pay the price of his churl machination lest his forsake the thrice.”

Nickolas struggles to resist being grasped by the guards on his arms as the hamadryad tilts the spear point to Merlin.

Hamadryad: “Thine vetoed sylvan.”
Ana: “What?”
Merlin: “We’ve killed their pet.”
Hamadryad: “More than a pet druid, an emissary now overset, missing of your mistake.”
Nick: “To be pore in meditation…!”
Ana: “…and of grief…”
Hamadryad: “To stand the test of time, the perennial heartbeat of the forest, the veins of reach to being leaf, too cold the sky!”
Nick: “Nourished by mother earth,” consolatory, “sated by the tears of the Valkyrie.”
Hamadryad: “…and what is earth exegete? Do you know wizard?”
Merlin: “I presume you want me to say Asgard…”
Hamadryad: “… o lo, the Aesir… guardians who are nowhere, and do nothing…”

The margrave looks to the east and then the west, a nod of affirmation to the guards and Nickolas is taken unto seizure.

Nick: “I’ll be fine, hasten thee to Vanogan or be viands.”

Nickolas poorly beseeches his beloved Ana as he is torn unequal by tethered yoke. The soldiers put vines about his arms, a pusillanimous growth that becomes an intrepid overgrowth, in the distance he lets out a scream as the vines begin to tear him into the swamp, and Merlin looks to the Hamadryad, breaking the angered stare with the forest king. Hamadryad tilts his head and listens to the air, the sound of Nickolas ends with his breath being crushed, falling into a ground of broken boughs, through branches and dying dry vines, pine and chestnut cones and burs and strewn leaves, which once had stood the mist, sand-buried and eaten by the roots of many ages.

With not a taste of stirring fog, steam and mist evade the skin of the Hamadryad, acclimate to the air, another dryad comes forthwith from the nearby tree to climb and watch the funerary embrace of Nickolas.

Hamadryad: “A voice in the mist wishes your death…”

Merlin grabs the spear of hamadryad with one hand and the other a blast of wind to push him back, with a heavy turn Merlin spins in a circle and wields the spear’s blade across the throat of the king.

Merlin slides across aback athwart the ground slalom as ice steppe, from above the phoenix and Troy the fire tamer shoot a flaming arrow to the ground next to Ana. With magic she raises a pillar flame and paints a circle in the air around her, with her hands outward her sides it blasts, burning bark stretching into the distance igniting several of her foes and dismounting others from their oversight in the limbs, an expanding circular wall of fire just as other adversaries are mired drying to arboreal anchors while the vanguard flame echoes into the evening lighting the way thru the trees. She is gone and running thru the scape before they can cope as reinforcements come from the distance and beneath the ground turning clod and moss.

In the distance she flees tearing a trail of cursed earth behind her as they close near, following the light the best of their hunters glide, pausing in stretching reaches for her but forced to move from tree to tree to tarry and gaining ground. Causing aversion in her pursuers Troy flies and pulls her into the air away from them, by locking hands upon arm she is lifted pursuant to the sky.

Ana: “Put me down, I cannot endure the overture of fire.”
Troy: “Are you certain?”

It is anything but certain as her eyes turn dullish, the color seems to fade as the bird exhausts a swooping tug of cold and earth pulls the phoenix, Ana displays a listless fever and signs of fainting and aphasia, a graceful tho slightly cumbersome landing the flailing dizzy Alerion, she dismounts then opens her eyes.

The whites of her eyes are burning sand around the black lines of her skin, she glows slightly thin in the dusking light, her fingernails so molten they could scrape steel as a thin layer of fire rolls from the back of her hands up her arms, and fire in her footsteps. As soldiers of earth’s growth approach the fearful phoenix shakes its head and takes again to flight. The closest soldier drives with hands forward to choke her but is split in two and turned to ashing embers, others suffering explosions of magic deposition, her hands with blasts she raises fearsome resistance and drives them to escape her torrid assault.

Merlin is desperate to leave the combat as he drifts over the underbrush, he holds the weapon he has stolen and uses it to cut at whips made of vine and pierce the hearts of his foes by driving them into trees, he must keep moving when not warring. Ana approaches what she hears in the distance attacking and destroying another batch of woodland nymphs to scare others into retreat, Merlin sees them catch and begin covering her with roots, and she blasts out of the enrapturing growth as he fends for himself. Merlin is striking what he can with lightning, from his free hand, from the silver spearhead, and when he pierces an enemy with it he strikes them from their core.  He fights his way toward Ana, they dread her but hate and attack him, and after laying them low he takes to her aside and they begin running for dear life.

The wizard is alive anew with torn clothes as the magic of the lunar light embellishes him, swift over scene he sweeps pulling Ana behind himself a fiery tumult burning in the wind, but they are halted as they are surrounded. Merlin’s make is torn clothes and Ana clean but abashed, the Hamadryad stands before them with a strap around his neck, staring with angered eyes.

Ana: “Travail he in working with his hands, which is good.”
Merlin: “That he has whereof he shall give to needy.”

Merlin holds out his arm, the age told in the lines on his palm and a message by a frozen teardrop in his possession, rolling from his hand it falls to the ground, at the earth it begets a wave of white fire in all directions. The area is woven rigid and broken with bodies fallen to the blast, giving them both the chance to run again, beyond the power of the light in the dark recesses of the forest more nymphs follow to assault, but lo and beholden is a clearing to a field covered in moonlight.

Ana is reinvigorated to run but her wounds are filled with white light and she is struggling to continue, from their side she blasts a predator and continues paces from the forest line, while fleeing the dryads Merlin pulls her into the field as she is weak. They do not follow but throw spears at them both, tho wisely they are not looking behind their escape. In several moments they realize they are not being followed into the pasture, but the spears are still flying so they run again to further distance themselves, eventually stopping to see the little green men waiting by and crawling in the trees, some caterwauling and others without motion.

Ana: “Why did they halt?”
Merlin: “I don’t know, I’ve never had to run from one before, I can’t help but think he got us into something I could’ve calmed by word.”
Ana: “No, they wanted him dead already.”

Their respite besets a golden dale of wild grass in a moonlit pasture with the silence of the moon.

Ana: “I feel like piss, what was that spell?”
Merlin: “It eats at fiery spirits, and unfortunately the last one I had.”

There is deference to the night, the scribes of fate and the endless morrow, heard not more, as distance and darkness become eternally compelling fears that by sunders steps them on their make to refuge.