Happy Halloween and a little gift from me to you. Here is a story to send shivers up your spine.
Oh, and the picture is what snow looks like, since it is topical at the moment. My fence is six feet high. The snow is half way up in this picture.
The supplicant knelt, head bowed, in the place of darkness, waiting for a sign, but none came.
“What should I do? One has grievously wounded me and I may never recover. Shall I smite them back?”
A rustling of dry scales rubbing together came from the darkest corner.
“Nothing. Do nothing,” came the sibilant reply.
“Then shall I have no justice?” The supplicant peered, blindly in the direction of the hissing voice.
“Time will bring justice. Time levels all.”
“The culprit will mock me if I do nothing.”
Scales rustled, restless. “The wound can not be ungiven and must heal or fester, as you will it. Hurting back solves no problems. The one who causes hurt must answer in the end as must all. Then, only then will you see justice done. Remember, justice is blind and takes the part of no man. The tip of the balance will decided the matter.”
Ella tried not to stare at the strange man sharing her boat and her life. She didn’t know what to make of him. Mordred had the wide shoulders and slim hips of a born athlete, but the muscles were too well defined. There was not an inch of fat on him anywhere giving him a half-starved appearance, especially around his abdomen, inner thighs and face. Aside from a tanned face and hands, the rest of him was fish white. Most surprising was Mordred’s extreme modesty. His face rivaled the color of John’s scarlet Speedos and he kept his hands cupped over the vicinity of his manhood as if he were naked when he had eventually emerged from the cabin in his swimwear.
As Mordred recited the mantra of ‘you, your, she, her, me and mine’ she could picture him standing on a windswept moor wearing the clothing of an ancient warrior and brandishing a broadsword. He had an innocence about him and yet she knew he was attracted to her, for all he tried his best to conceal it with sudden turns onto his belly when his body reacted. John would have certainly made a move on her by now, were he Mordred, but this man treated her with incredible respect like he really was a knight of the Round Table. In another life, was Mordred a Knight Protector?
Living in England, Ella had enjoyed studying the ancient history of the place. Like any other foreigner, she visited Stonehenge, Tintagel, and Glastonbury along with other sites of importance. Arthur was the good king, and Mordred was the evil bastard son. This was the historical myth, but Mordred, her Mordred, claimed to be the son of Merlin.
“I think you have tanned enough for today. Go below and get dressed.”
He got up awkwardly with his back kept towards her to make a peculiar exit to the cabin. Ella decided not to break out her own swimwear at that point. Gallant, though he was, Mordred might consider revealing clothing as a deliberate provocation. The Knight Protector was a much better persona than the potential ravisher.
When he emerged looking much happier, Ella handed him the wheel, but before she went below to fix lunch, she wanted some answers. “Mordred, I thought Arthur was a good king. If he was not your father, why were you fighting him? Legend tells that he tried to have you killed as a child to keep the relationship a secret.”
Yes, just how immersed in his ancient persona was this man? Was he for real, or a delusional lunatic? She kept coming back to the candles every time she started to doubt him.
He flashed a grin at her. “Who can say who is good and who is evil? I could be called evil, but then Arthur was far from good.” He squared his shoulders as he turned back to face the wind like he shifted a huge weight on them. “Is there anything to eat?”
She had sunshine hair, eyes of sky and a broken heart. Mordred made an effort to learn from her since this was what she wanted of him. He owed her that and more for getting him away from the madness, yet he wished he could help her.
In this moonstruck world, full of wrong magic, he couldn’t even help himself. The last thing he remembered was a duel with Arthur. One final sword strike, within his grasp, and it would have all been over, but then the witch, Morgan appeared. Magic swirled and flashed around him until he woke up surrounded by people with strange ways of speaking. The horseless chariots panicked him. They didn’t believe him, and then the endless nightmare started. Ella was his rock, his anchor in this madness, and he would never let her go, not until he found a way back to where he was. Maybe not even then.
“Yes, Mistress Ella. I was listening to your words.”
She buried her head in her hands, and all the sunshine hair flowed forward in an enchanting cascade. The delightful smell of flowers wafted from her, the same as his own smell now that she had made him learn how to use what she called the bathroom, a vast difference from the forced drenchings in the place of madness. But Ella promised him a more manly smell when they landed. She said there were such things, and he believed her.
Seagulls flew overhead, screaming their need at the two idle people seated not doing the expected from a fishing vessel. Mordred lounged on the deck, soaking up the sun in what he considered indecent attire. Ella insisted he needed a tan to blend in with other folks. She found him the strange garment that was more than a loin cloth and yet less than one. However, he did enjoy her anointing him with what she said would stop him burning. He hadn’t, and he really liked the anointing part.
“Mordred, you are not paying attention at all. If you had been, you would have answered me. I also told you to drop the Mistress thing. It has an entirely different meaning than the one you meant.” Fine blonde eyebrows drew together in a frown over her summer eyes.
“I am sorry … Ella. I was lost in the past.”
He couldn’t. In her world, Ella was a strong woman in charge of her own destiny. She stretched to her limits in accepting his strangeness. Mordred didn’t want to scare her. “I need to be in a place where the wild things are to replenish my magic.”
“You haven’t told me everything.”
“No more than you did tell to me.”
She sighed. “Told me, not did tell.”
He rolled over to toast his back, hoping the cooking process would be over soon. He would have preferred to be fishing while he had his lessons. At least he could be providing for them. He also wondered why Ella did not elect to roast herself in some indecent garment. That would have made things a lot more interesting, although he had to admit her boy clothing was very revealing, even though she was fully covered. Strange world.
What had she done? Water slapped gently on the sides of Fairy Child. Morning sunshine filtered in through the skylight. This boat was all she had to show for the past four years. They couldn’t go back, not when she had aided and abetted Mordred’s escape. The boat money would be eaten by legal fees, and she knew there would be jail time. John would make sure of that. God, why had she ever hooked up with such a bastard? Why hadn’t she seen through him before now? Because you didn’t want to see the truth, a hard little voice whispered.
“Thee be too quiet.” Mordred slid off the seat to kneel in front of her. “I did come to your home, where a good meal was about to spoil for the want of eating. Thy raiments and other possessions were already packed. Thee willingly gave me the raiment of thy man and worked thy magic to give I the semblance of him. This was not asked of thee.” He reached over to wipe a fresh tear from her cheek. “Say why this man doth not deserve chastisement.”
“Because we are both free, and he isn’t worth the effort.” Four years of her life gone. Four years of love, total commitment and trust thrown away when the illusion shattered. A burning pit now resided in the place of her heart. No man would ever get close to her again. “I need to move forward. The devil catches the hindermost.”
Mordred flashed a wicked smile. “Aye, and he can be right in thy path.”
Yes, he could at that. Mordred wasn’t safe. Ella knew this. She had to ditch him as soon as she could, but she had to do so in a way that wasn’t going to get her caught. If she dropped him off in the Scilly Isles, he would be picked up immediately with all his strange thees and thous. Mad man, he might well be, but in John’s pay, no.
“Mordred, you need to learn to speak properly, or you will be caught the moment you open your mouth. Before we make land, you need to learn modern syntax.”
“What be that?”
“No, what is that?” The ocean was calm, and now there they had no pressing need to be elsewhere. What was pressing was her need not to think. Changing his speech was a way forward for both of them.
Book three in the Arthurian Science Fantasy Shadow series. Isn’t it a wonderful cover! Does happy dance!
He sat up. “What sort of boat is it?”
“Fairy Child is a converted fishing boat. She is ocean going with sails and also an engine.
“Fairy Child is Ella in the Gaelic tongue.” Mordred sat up and stretched.
John had never picked up on her choice of name for her pride and joy. Why did it have to be a stranger? “You’re right. However, here is where we part company.” She tried to put all the authority she didn’t feel into that statement.
“Is the boat made of metal, or is it wooden?”
What did this matter? A boat was a boat. “She is wooden.”
“I be a coming along with you, then.”
Damn, and double damn. Why couldn’t she have just said metal? “You said I would be free. You promised I would when I got you clear of the police.”
“I did be saying that I would free thee when thee got me to the place where the wild things are. Thee has not done this.”
With her head spinning, Ella didn’t have the strength to argue any more. She had to get sleep before she passed out. “Fine, here are the car keys. You saw me open the trunk. I want everything in this car loaded onto that boat with the blue paint on the third jetty along. When you have done that, you can wake me up, and I will start her engines.”
She was too tired to care what he did now. Ella opened the car door and stumbled to the jetty. She weaved across the gangplank and somehow got down below to crash onto a berth.
“Mistress Ella.” A hard hand shook her awake. “I have done as thou commanded.”
Dear heavens would this never end? Maybe she could drop him off on the Sicily Isles? Ella fought layers of exhaustion to dig for the boat keys in her suitcase. Everything was neatly stacked in the cabin. He even handed her the car keys.
“Can I possibly hope that you can sail? If I get her out of harbor, can you head southwest with the sails?”
“No bad magic? Just wind power? Yes, this be possible.”
The first thing Ella did on reaching the deck was to hurl the car keys over the side. Spiteful and petty, but if Mordred had locked the car it would be an added charge to John’s account as it would not have the keys. She went to the wheel house, turned on the ignition and fired the engine. Gauges and the radar came online. She had a full tank of fuel, thankfully something she always had attended to whenever she docked after a trip.
“Mordred, can you go cast off the docking lines?”
He looked hard at her for a moment before running to do as she asked. The thought crossed her mind of throttling up and leaving him on the jetty, but she would have to back out, and he’d have time to jump aboard. If he didn’t and was captured, there was still her part in all this. She could face prison time for helping him. John would relish that. No, she would dump Mordred only when he was free and clear.
Mordred ran back up the gangplank and pulled it onboard after him. He started for the wheel house with a peculiar mincing gait that terminated with him sitting on the steps to pull off John’s rubber boots. These sailed over the side to join the car keys.
Ella suppressed a smile. Those boots must have been painful. She maneuvered Fairy Child out of the dock and into the open water. Once more, her hands shook, but this time with exhaustion. Ten minutes later and they hit ocean water. She powered down the engine to join Mordred on the deck. He was staring at the rigging, bemused.
“Right, you said you understood sails. Here is how these ones work.” Ten minutes later and he was as proficient as she could have wished and then some. Whatever else he was, the guy understood sails. He followed her back to the wheel house. “Look at this gauge. It tells you where the land masses are and our position.”
Mordred didn’t stir. “Thee said a southwest route. I don’t need the bad magic things to tell me how to find direction or land.”
“You can’t sail without the radar.”
“I have the sun and the stars to steer by. The smell of land and the sight of kelp, and the seabirds to tell me when I be near safe haven.”
Ella started to argue, but the room swirled to a violent buzzing in her ears. The next thing she knew was Mordred gently tucking her into a berth.
“Thee rest now.”
“No, I …” His grass green eyes seemed to expand, and somehow she was in a field of flowers, brightly colored flowers with lots of butterflies dipping down to drink the nectar. The real world receded into nothingness.
Ella woke to the gentle roll of the boat into a gray light. A faint noise from the other berth startled her. Mordred was curled up in covers, fast asleep. Panic sent her flying to the wheel house. All the sails were furled, the sea anchor had been let down and the boat was bobbing in the ocean, going nowhere. He must have sailed until exhaustion hit, and then made them safe. The goose bumps on her arms died down.
Silver slivers of predawn sliced through the sky. How long had she slept? A quick check on the instruments confirmed that the boat was on course. Ella exhaled. Her stomach told her it thought her head had been amputated. She went down to the galley, just in front of the sleeping quarters to rummage through the food boxes. Perishable food must be eaten first as there was no way of keeping it fresh on Fairy Child. She took an opened packet of bacon, sliced bread, tomatoes, and eggs. Halfway through cooking them Mordred blundered into the galley with a sleepy but hopeful expression on his face. The sounds his stomach made signaled his need.
He had ditched his cheek pads and his wig now the immediate threat had gone. Still he looked startlingly like John. She averted her eyes. “There are plates in the top cabinet over to your left. Can you snag a couple so I can get them warming?”
Ella sighed as she flipped the eggs. “Open the cupboard. Take out two plates. Give them to me.”
Mordred followed her orders, and she put the plates to warm underneath the hob.
“Do you prefer coffee or tea?”
Mordred gave her a blank look.
“I guess that will be coffee as we don’t have juice.” She began a brew. A few minutes later she set the tiny table and served breakfast. Mordred inhaled his in record time. He sipped at the coffee, pulling a face.
Ella finished her breakfast and picked up her coffee, satisfied, comfortable, and then her world crashed down upon her head. John was supposed to be sitting across from her. Why had he done this to her? Where had the love gone? The tears started and wouldn’t stop. She made a break for the deck, but Mordred was there, in her way.
“I be very sorry for the grief. I do know I have caused a rift between thee and thine husband. I do swear I will leave thee in peace as soon as I find my place.”
The tears wouldn’t stop. When she tried to push by him, he didn’t give an inch. She had to get away. “It is not you, it is him.” Those words choked out of her.
Mordred’s arms enfolded her. She howled into his chest, unable to stop. His hand gently stroked her hair as he rocked her.
“Whist now, what can I be a doing to make this right? I never meant to hurt thee.”
His kind words set off more tears. Ella struggled for control, aware she was in the arms of a psycho nut-bar. Oh God, could this get any worse?
Mordred steered her to her berth, pushed her down and sat himself beside her.
“It was him.” A sob threatened to close her throat. “You made things worse.” Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she rocked back and forth, her arms wrapped around her.
“I don’t make war on women. I make war on those who do. Where is he?” A note of steel had crept into his voice.