Kur part 2; Lord of Light

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In the pines

South of Meenlaragh in Corveen bog the ruins of a small castle lay overgrown by the marsh. Creeping vines covered it like a fur coat as it seemed to sink into the murk.

The sun was slowly sinking into the bog, the light bluing with the strange mists that hovered over the peat and muck. The sounds of birds in the trees were thick and deafening in their splendour. But deep in the hold of the castle there was a stolen warmth and a cloaked merriment.

In the keep a small group of strangely dressed brigands sat around a broken feast table strewn with unappetizing foreign dishes. Fish heads in sea brine, boiled toad, all manner of eels and snakes from the bog writhed in states of death and half-life, insects too seemed to be on the menu.

The feast hall was small and decrepit and dark, only a few sconces were lit, others seemed to be long burnt out or ripped from the walls. All decorations and finery the castle once had were undoubtedly pilfered long ago. All that remained were tattered moth eaten tapestries and a few decorative weapons caked in decades of rust. All but one item seemed unloved and aged. On the wall behind the head of the table hung a decorative harp made of finely hewn wood and encrusted with beautiful shining gems. The carvings on the harp were intricate and spiralled all around the finely crafted instrument. Images engraven were that of various animals and a horned man sitting amongst them.

The brigands feasted under black hoods and armoured cloaks. Their hands were more clawlike than human shining dimly with what seemed like scales and other malformed oddities. Their mouths clacking as they ate as some lacked teeth while others had sharp thin shark teeth shining like daggers in the dim fire light.

Suddenly an odd noise tickled them as if it had been there all along under the sounds of their merriment but only now had they noticed it. A strange whistling like that of many birds singing together but not coming from outside.

The head of the table flipped his cloak and stretched out a scaled humanoid arm. At the end of it were fat toadlike fingers forming something almost like a fin, he held it up to silence the others at the table.

They froze and turned to a darkened corner which seemed to be the source of the strange bird noise. Then came the sound of clinking metal and shaking of chain.

Out of the darkness emerged a huge humanoid figure dressed in a green armour. He had a distinctive covered helmet of which large antlers that looked like tree branches grew out of the top. On his belt hung an ornate axe. It’s handle appeared to be simply a strong birch branch holding a piece of silvery metal which had raw edges. It shone like that of a stone that fell from the sky glinting like a diamond or a quartz in the sconce light. In his hand the knight carried a bow of holly and he whistled as he walked creating an unnerving sound as if thousands of birds filled the room.

“Who goes there?” The head of the table called out. A slender dark figure with a sly hushed voice.

“Fear not, child of the dark depths, I mean you no harm”

The head of the table was confused but sneered when he heard what the stranger called him. “How do you come to know us?” He questioned.

The knight bowed humbly “Forgive me sir, for I have watched you and your countenance speaks to foreign blood, not of this soil.”

“Our blood is older than this soil.” The host spat.

“That too I am aware of, therefore we are the same sir.” The strange green knight bowed again crossing the holly in front of his plated chest.

The head of the table was an alien figure, with bulbous black fishy eyes and glinting scaled skin and a wide mouth full of sharp tiny teeth. “Well then, come sit with us and tell us why you have come visitor.” The man grinned and then scowled at his underling who sat at his side. The underling was a squat creature with huge whiskered lips and wide slanted slits for eyes. He looked up at his master startled and then quickly vacated his seat and pulled it out for the knight.

The knight rose from his bow “Most hospitable of you.” The knight said as he slowly walked around the table. Passing the other inhuman malformed creatures that sat staring up at the stranger with their wide fish eyes.

The knight sat upon the chair and waited for his host to speak. Closer to the light of the table the knight’s armor was more apparent. An unusual set that shone an emerald green with gold inlays and patterns that seemed to replicate trees and roots forming spiral symbols.

“So what is it you seek stranger?”

“I would that you would know me that I would not be a considered a stranger. My name Bertilak de Hautdesert but you may know me as ‘Bredbeddle’ if you so wish.”

The host breathed heavily and spoke through his teeth “Goodly Bredbeddle, wouldst that you would tell me why you’ve come, that I would know you!”

“I find it odd you don’t remember me.” The knight chuckled “For am I not memorable?”

“Should I remember you, have we met before?” The strange head of the table asked.

“I am certain sir, we have met before, in this very room no less.” The knight gestured as he spoke, his armor clinking but displaying no weight as he moved. “Are you not the one they call Forgal the wily?”

“You must be mistaken, I’ve never heard that name before” The host said as he turned to one of his men and signalled for him to bring them more wine.

“One year ago today, we met in this room and struck a bargain.”

“I recall no such bargain, what does this pertain to?” The host asked.

“But you will admit that you are Forgal the wily?” The knight turned his head up and pointed over his hosts head without raising his elbow. “For you have the harp he took from me”.

“Are you calling me a thief?”

“Nay sir, I am calling you the possessor of my harp and one year ago today we struck a bargain.”

“What of this nonsense, what bargain?”

“The bargain made here that I would let you strike me and one year after I would return the strike and reclaim the harp.”

“I tire of this foolishness” The host waved his hand and instantly out of the dark came a curved long blade and cut the knights head from his shoulders.

The helmet with the head fell on the table and knocked over a bowl of live crickets.

The group of brigands erupted into triumphant laughter, all conspiring in whispers as to whom would claim his armor and weapon.

“Fool!” The host spat. “Forgal the wily recognises no bargains made with the tuatha.”

“There is no need for name calling sir” A disembodied voice said.

The brigands instantly stopped their cavorting as the voice seemed to come from all around them. It seemed animal in aspect, as if the birds in the trees were forming words of their own.

The body of the knight had not fallen, still it sat upright in it’s seat and then without pretence it reached for it’s detached head. “I see that you have no desire to honour our agreement” The knight said as he stood and tucked his own head under his arm. “I bid you good day sir.” He said bowing with his head under the crook of his arm as he left the keep.

Forgal looking after him with his wide fishy mouth hanging open.

The brigands sat for a moment befuddled as if they’d been visited by a spirit or fallen to some drink that had given them all the same strange dreams.

Twilight was upon the bog and the world was still and grey.

The knight of green replaced his detached head on his shoulders and sighed.

“Come Daurdabla, apple-sweet murmurer!

Come, Coir-cethair-chuir, four-angled frame of harmony,

Come summer, come winter,

Out of the mouths of harps and bags and pipes!”

Inside the keep the harp glowed brightly and shook, as if awakening. Without ceremony it pulled itself free of the wall and flew across the room with speed of a shot from a catapult, sheering an aged wooden support beam. Part of the roof of the castle falling away and crushing some of the brigands and causing havoc among the remainders. The other brigands erupted from their seats and scattered and cowered. The harp unmolested, moved as a missile with divine purpose and what seemed to be a crude intelligence.

Seemingly looking for a way out and it’s masters hand.

The knight waited and called out again to his harp.

“Come Daurdabla, apple-sweet murmurer!

Come, Coir-cethair-chuir, four-angled frame of harmony,

Come summer, come winter,

Out of the mouths of harps and bags and pipes!”

The ruined castle seemed shake or reverberate creating clouds of stone dust. Then suddenly bursting from the old stone wall the harp flung itself into the knights waiting hand.

He caught it with ease, and regarded it foundly as he swept away the stone dust from it’s gleaming gems.

“That’s two hits I owe you, am I correct sir?” Bredbeddle asked.

His host crawled from the ruins of the castle, through the very hole the harp had made. Forgal was followed then by his remaining cohorts, all with iron in their misshapen hands. They were all diverse and unique in their monstrosity, what odd shapes they were. Some even without half a body but still they stood and bore arms and some even were of humanoid shape with traits of beauty and ugliness combined.

The knight bowed before them again and threw the bow of holly down at their feet as he took the harp in both hands.

“First I will recite the goltrai, the strain of weeping.” The knight said as he started to pluck the harp.

The brigands ignored the strange knight and began to encircle him. Their blades at the ready and their cold blooded hearts steeled for battle.

But they couldn’t help but listen to the sorrowful song that played. With each pluck of the harp they felt their burdens grow and their lament at their imminent defeat.

All of them touched their faces and felt tears, some dropping their weapons and then to their knees to weep bitterly at the sound of the harp.

Then it stopped.

“Now I shall recite the geantrai, the strain of merriment” Bredbeddle said as he started to pluck at the harp yet again. But this time the song was light and with each note the brigands felt a warmth inside and could not help but smile. And even though they fought it they fell prey to furious fits of uncontrollable laughter. Some rolling on the floor, others taken to dancing with their cohorts to the merriment of the song.

And then he stopped and with it their laughter and dancing.

The knight hooked the harp to his belt.

“And now I shall end this medley with the suantrai, the sleep-strain” He said as he withdrew his axe from his belt loop. “You shall sleep deeply and forever and our bargain will be met”.

The brigands regained their composure. The knight allowed them the courtesy of finding the weapons they’d discarded in the bog in their merriment and sorrow.

The malformed brigands slowly surrounded the knight in green armor.

“After you” The knight said.

Even as some stared at the knights open back they feared to be the first to attack. The twilight made him seem large and indistinct, his posture was firm and imposing as if he were an ash tree looming over them to blot out the sun and the moon.

Two of the brigands at his back locked eyes and came to silent agreement. They cried out in their attack with their crude curved swords coming down at right angles to each other.

The knight didn’t move at all as they cried out in exultation for bloodshed.

Until the last second as their blades made their long arch to come down on the knight did he turn. A turn so strange and alien that it seemed impossible. The knight’s torso turned but his leg’s remained facing forward, so as to move abstract of eachother, as if there was no connection at all. The result a broad clinical strike of the mighty axe. Striking with such mechanical ferocity as if it was the hand of a clock separating them both at the hip.

Their bodies falling apart like scattering leaves.

With the same quick motion the knight turned back to face his host. Forgal seemed stunned but motioned with his lumpen head at the brigands at his left and right as he stepped back to get a better angle.

“Where are you going, host of hosts?” Laughed the knight. “My bargain was with you not these lesser creatures”.

Bredbeddle advanced, his movements were deceptively light and fast. He hopped weightlessly like his legs were that of young stag. His axe rose smoothly and quickly in a broad figure eight rising and falling like a leaf dancing in the wind. First cutting the brigand on his left from groin to collar on each side and then coming down hard cleaving the brigand on his right from collar to groin. The body of the brigand separating completely but for a small portion of skin that remained connecting his bisected torso to his lower body.

Forgal recoiled in horror almost falling over himself as he retreated to the woods. His lungs suddenly felt full of liquid and burned as he steadied himself against a tree.

The host turned back and before him stood the green knight.

“I must say this evening has been most eventful, but as all thing, it must come to a close” Bredbeddle said.

“Ww-what are you beast!” Forgal shrieked clinging to the tree holding his weapons aloft.

“I am the wind and rain, I am the sapling and the fawn that sups the dew from it.” Bredbeddle said in that strange inhuman voice.

The host backed up into the tree attempting to get his footing but he could feel himself slowing. The beast in front of him could not know tiredness like this. Forgal cried out as he raised his weapon, his mouth distended in vital terror.

The green knight laughed and with one upward blow he struck the crude weapon from his hosts hands. And with another chopping his host between his open lips cleaving his head all the way through and notching into the tree behind him.

Forgal’s strange body fell away and the green knight retracted his axe from the tree allowing the top of his host’s head to fall onto his prone body.

“I am deeply sorry” Bredbeddle said as he touched the gash he’d left in the tree.

He took off one of his gauntlets revealing a furry humanoid hand brown and speckled with white with long clawlike black nails at the end of each finger. He then ran his bare hand along the gouge in the tree, as it passed over the cut seemed to sew itself together, healing completely without scar. “There we go, as good as new” He said as he patted the tree that now looked untouched and full of life.

The knight slipped his gauntlet back on and returned his axe to his belt next to his harp.

Returning to the clearing in front of the castle he let out a strange whistle or animal call. After a moment the sounds of heavy clodding hooves and appeared before him a great beast.

It was a huge stag with enormous antlers that stretched above his head. On his back sat a saddle made of leaves and roots and twigs likening it to a birds nest.

The stag tipped its head and the knight took hold of its antlers and levered himself onto its back gently with aid of the stags powerful neck.

Atop his mount he surveyed the aftermath of the battle.

“I wonder if this will satisfy the old gods” He sighed “I tried everything in my power to not interfere, but it starts again.” He laughed “Soon I fear I will have no choice but to intervene or be forgotten.” He patted his mounts neck and said “Change is coming” He said with an excited laugh. “A new sun rises - a lord of light”.

With that he turned his mount pulling at the reins made of vines and galloped off into the woods and disappeared into the trees as if swallowed by them.

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