XXXIV – The End Of One Journey And A Deepening Mystery

(Once again I’m late with this opus. I’m finding, as I get older, that my body has become more susceptible to minor things like spring colds and the ever present flu. Thus, the last two weeks have been miserable and incapacitating. Spring, obviously, is not my best time of year. Once again, I’m sorry for this latest delay. To those of you (especially one couple) who have been following these adventures, my sincerest apologies. Off we go again.)

We had finally reached the entrance to the main tower of Ellatan. Like everything else in this underground world, it was huge, ornate and imposing. The builders of this door seemed to have had an overdeveloped fondness for gold which covered the entire front in base reliefs of epic proportions. During my journey it never ceased to amaze me how these people loved big things. For someone who lived in underground caverns, you’d think small would be the order of the day. Must be an ego thing. Go figure.

Passing through, we entered a large hallway which traveled off into the distance. Now, I’m just as fond of walking as the next guy, but I’d been doing a lot more lately than I felt was my allotted share. Anyway, back to that hallway. The whole thing was made of rock black as a moonless midnight. Where they got the stuff from, I was, at the time, unaware. At regular intervals, a dark wood covered that rock in thin rectangles, in front of which stood massive stone statues of warriors in some of the most fantastic looking armor I’d ever laid eyes on. Each warrior leaned upon a huge great sword whose hilt was adorned in an eye burning array of gems. These people might live underground but poor they weren’t.

The floor was made up of octagonal flagstones arranged in a complicated heraldic design. It was a blue orb with filled in areas of green, being gripped in the left front paw of a crimson, sitting Hippogriff. I didn’t catch the significance of the design until later. When I found out what it meant, I was none too happy. At the time though I remember thinking that this Merlyn had to be some kind of really important big shot. ‘Course this giant fortress couldn’t be his home, right? Boy was I wrong! Anyway, we stopped halfway down that hallway as the door at the far end slowly opened. Out walked a robed fellow who I took to be the head butler or something. I said as much to Enoch.

“Say, Enoch. Why’s the staff coming out to meet us? I thought we were going to see this Merlyn guy.”

When will I ever learn to keep my big foot out of my fat mouth. Enoch was not amused. He shook his head and glowered my way.

“That’s no member of the palace staff. He’s Merlyn; Governor of this entire region of Avalon. If you value your life, don’t forget that.”

Sticking my foot in my mouth is one thing, being lectured is another matter. It took a good chunk of my self control not to fall back on the handy tent peg solution.

However, I was in someone else’s house so I had to play nice. No stomp and mangle. Not yet, anyway. After all, I was a Roman, so I had some manners. During all of this, Merlyn had reached us and took my right hand in a VERY firm grip. Gods! This guy might be as strong as yours truly. Merlyn was my height and close to my build, far as I could see from his robes. He looked to be about my age. Maybe a wee tad younger. Hard to tell with these people. He smiled a big toothy grin and spoke.

“Ah Varus! At last we meet! I’ve been waiting quite some time to talk to you face to face instead of through intermediaries. You’ve had quite a time getting to us. Just glad you made it in one piece.”

Okaaay. What did this guy mean by ‘waiting quite some time’? I didn’t know we’d been expected. I said so.

“Hmmph! Just how long have you been ‘expecting’ us?”

He grinned even wider and gently laughed.

“Ooh – – – about since you were born. We couldn’t be sure it was going to be you specifically, but – – ”

“WAITAMINUTE!! What do you mean, since I was born?! What kind’a setup is this?!”

Merlyn drew back at my outburst and Enoch’s right hand went for his sword. Thanks to tried and true reflexes, I grabbed my hilt at about the same time. I stared Enoch down.

“Don’t do it buster. I like you but I won’t hesitate to carve you up if I have to.”

Enoch snarled.

“You started this!”

Merlyn interrupted this eruption of ‘who’s tougher’ before things got bloody.

“Why don’t you and I go into my study and talk about matters over some wine. Think you can stop being a Roman General for a while?”

I was about to snarl something back when I got it. Humor. All in good fun, right?

I eased back on the fury and gave out with a forced smile. Enoch relaxed and went back to attentive attention. Merlyn waved me forward. I was very curious but cautiously uncomfortable. Why was I suddenly feeling like an ox being led to the slaughter?

Chapter XXXV

Published in: on May 23, 2011 at 10:40 PM  Leave a Comment  

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