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part three.

The Castle

Celidon was the first to notice that something was amiss. He arose from his place on the rug by the fire, growling low and deep. The great green hound positioned himself between his fairy and the doors. Tristan froze. He knew that growl. Closing the window with a snap he pulled his head back inside and spun around on the window seat upon which he had been kneeling. He held his breath as his eyes scanned up and down the corridor before they finally settled upon the castle’s front doors. Hodain and Cafall began barking seconds later and then three slow knocks echoed through the castle.

‘Who is it?’ the Prince asked his familiar telepathically as he climbed free of the ledge entirely and stood to his feet.

The reply came in a single, deliberate word packed with nuance, ‘her.’

Tristan ran, pushing his way past the guards who hurried to open the doors and breaking into a sprint once he was clear of them. He skidded around the corner, the soles of his boots squeaking against the tiles as his fingers scrabbled at the stone work. He propelled himself forwards into the door that lead into the great hall. They opened with a creaking of hinges before colliding with the walls on the other side with a great crash. Arthur, who was standing at room’s centre deep in conversation with his leading commanders and the members of senate, turned to his son with grey eyes full of questions, his eyebrows quirked in a combination of impatience and curiosity. The Prince panted as more footsteps began to approach down the corridor at his back, and his three canine companions poured into the hall.

“Lorraine,” he managed at last, as the sounds behind him grew louder and closer, “it’s Lorraine.”

Arthur held the prince in place with his gaze for a moment, before beckoning him inside. “Excuse us a moment, friends,” he said to the room’s other occupants, “I will recall you soon enough.” They nodded, their faces bearing identically serious expressions and filed out through one of the side exits. The commanders rolled up the paper that had been laid out upon the table and carried them out with them, leaving Arthur alone with his son. They had not been gone long when the main doors burst open again. Tristan spun around with wide eyes, and Celidon crouched low, snarling. Arthur meanwhile took a step forwards, his expression cool and positioned himself between the new arrivals and his boy. It was indeed Lorraine, but the female deity was in no state to pose a threat. She lay unconscious in the arms of a large, dark-skinned man. “Zed,” the King said with a stiff nod of his head. He turned, gesturing towards the long rectangular table that stood on the dais at the head of the hall.

“Your Grace,” Zed said in greeting in his deep voice before crossing the room and placing Lorraine down upon the wooden surface that Arthur had indicated.

“I will have a room prepared for her,” the king said evenly as Zed turned back towards him, “in the east wing. You will excuse me if it takes a little time; those rooms are not usually used for guests.” The room that he had in mind was located in the eastern tower above one of the guard rooms. It was as far from the family quarters as possible. He scanned the face of the remaining deity, reading a tension in the jaw that he had not seen before. Considering it, he turned and rested a hand on Tristan’s shoulder. “Can you go and supervise that for me, please?” the king asked. The boy nodded, frowning a little, but left the room quickly enough with the dogs at his heels.

“I assume,” Arthur began, his weight upon his hands as he leaned forwards against the round table that stood between them, “that Lorraine’s current condition is the result of whatever just occurred at the pantheon?” He paused, pouring himself a goblet of wine from the jug at the centre of the table, “and that you are here to bring me more bad news.” The King was beginning to associate sudden and unannounced appearances by the originals exclusively with disaster. He filled another goblet for Zed and pushed it across the table towards him, manipulating the metal so that it glided over without spilling a drop, “let’s get this over with.”

Written by Merlin

    • part four. -
    • part five. -
    • part six. -
    • part seven. -

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