What is this? I pulled a crooked twig out of my hair. We were entering the old wood. People usually left this area alone.
Markus started “This used to be a natural preserve. Lords only would stroll through here hunting the big buck. Now it’s mostly forgotten.”
I replied “Mostly?”
“Yep. Thought you’d know about this… anyhow, yep! Druids still come here; druids forget nothing.”
“Is that so?
His voice sank “More than you know.” He shuddered and clanked his teeth. “Anyhow…”
We marched on for miles through jagged thorns and the thickest brush. Sometimes it seemed that he’d purposefully take the most difficult path. We’d approach a trail, take about five paces down it and then he’d veer off into some sticklers.
Ughh “Why are we walking through thorns?”
He’d jovially sing “It-sa-thiiis way! This way today-oh-ohhh-oh…”
There were some small broken dead branches that suggested maybe… just maybe perhaps some form of life trudged through these impassible woods in the last few months. But to meet druids out here? Unless they flew I didn’t see how this was possible.
My companion stumbled over his own foot. Oh gods… please don’t be drunk. Then he caught the other foot in a protruding root, just barely catching his balance by hopping on his opposite leg. He bent back so far that I thought he was bound to plummet on the crown of his head.
“Oh ho! Still got it.” He tried to silently belch and the smell of rum saturated the air around us. I helped stabilize him and he smirked. His breath reeked so strongly my face shriveled as if I had eaten a lemon whole; I could feel my guts churn. He removed the bottled from inside his cloak and attempted to take a swig of it. Dear God, It was empty.
“What in Oshrildin… I didn’t even see you drinking it.”
His body wiggled like jelly. “Ahaaa… hic-sneaky sneak-ic-y… ah…”
He fell back on his arse. Great, Trondelag’s most wanted and my savior is drunk. I looked around. Green thickets and leaves, brown trunks and dirt, and grey decaying wood. Ahead were some boulders.
“Are we even going the right way?”
“We go… that-a-waaay!” He sent the bottle flying some 60 foot ahead, shattering it on the boulders, sending glass shrapnel flying every which way.
“If I didn’t need you I swear-“
“Swear what? Ohhh-hoho, go on. Swear what I dare you. I dare you. Please by all means finish that sentence.”
He attempted to stand with no avail. He fell flat on his back, a dead branch cracked under him and I saw the moment of panic take his face. When he realized his back had not broken he mustered up his don’t fuck with me face again and opened the front of his cloak and then held his tunic open with both hands exposing his chest.
“Come-on then! You’ll what! “
A moment of silence passed; clouds moved above us giving way to sunlight, the wood lit a light, luminescent green.
The angelic, soft nervous voice I fell in love with filled my ears and tickled my spine.
“He’ll do nothing because he is a true gentleman. Gather your composure Markus. This is Sir Ashe, a front-line battalion Knight whom has served in over three wars and survived nine individual battles. “
Her face blushed Ruby red. ” You will show respect!”
I turned to gaze upon my darling Merette. She was adorned in pale green robes, flowing, yet thin. Her form was noticeable; the curved aspects of her body were delicately contoured by the fabric. She had no hood; instead she adorned a small tiara decorated with bits of elk antler. Around her neck lay bulky bone necklaces and she had wrapped vines around her waist like a monk’s rope.
The Paladin had stopped sharing his tale, much to Abeline’s dismay.
She nudged him on but with every suggestion to continue he seemed more and more irked with her. His face seemed almost guilty.
Eventually she gave him some rest and after a long silent march he said “I beaded her that night, unmarried, in the wild, and as an occultist. I beaded her still and have never felt a greater poison consume my heart.”
Abeline stopped rapt as a statue. “Excuse me? Occultist? Eh-hem! She was a druid Sir Ashe and a noble young lady at that it seems. She adored you. Occultist? Please, leave the black magicks in more capable hands if you would be so kind. Your angel has not interest in things of this nature.” She cup her palms and a small flame sprout forth.
“I thought I would have my Merette, in sanctity, as noble clergy, in my chambers… forever my angel. That Merret will still live on in my memory, false though it may be.”
“She loved you, probably still does!” At this point Abeline was talking a mile a minute. “She sacrificed for you, saved your life! You know that fog that rescued you, the shattering axe? Yeah, thank the druids you hate.”
He stopped. Kneeling down he pulled off his leather pack, reached inside, and pulled out a burlap sack. He opened it. I shielded my eyes from the gleaming light. “See these? These are the remains of the axe that would have had my head. Merret’s cult gathered these for me. They had nothing to do with the axe shattering. They intended the fog to initiate quicker. So tell me witch, what saved my life? Was it black magick or Oshrildin’s glory? Glory that I had forsaken for the shadow of a woman?”
There was a strong silence.
“If you can’t tell me, then we have spoken enough about Merette and magick for one day.”
He gathered up his bag and continued on. I put my arm on Abeline’s shoulder. “Well, we asked.” And then we followed behind him. It shouldn’t be long now.