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Stories from the Verse
Old Verses New
Chapter 29: Hastings 53
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The years sped past. Merlin's attention was turned to the training of the young Wart to be Arthur Pendragon; Lauren remained under his tutelage in name, and continued to learn much, but it was more like a graduate studies program than a tutorial. She did most of the research on her own, Merlin acting as advisor when she needed direction. His words had proved true. She was learning many magics, many kinds of magic, in her studies, and becoming a very powerful sorceress.
So it was that she had very little contact with Arthur and the others as the myth came to life. She warned Merlin about Morgana, but he said there was more there than she knew. He taught the boy in the familiar woods, but always one on one (as he had taught her). They had already agreed that neither of them would be present when their miracle took place, but Merlin did take her to the coronation shortly thereafter, and later to the royal wedding. Finally the round table began, and the age of Camelot truly came to its height.
Merlin was not there to see it. A tree sprite named Nimue enticed him into an oak forest, a fate he had long anticipated and yet failed to foresee sufficiently to avoid. He had said he would not be dead, but vanished from the world for a time. After this Laurelyn Spellsbreath was often seen in her striking gold-trimmed scarlet cowled robe with her six-foot gem-tipped staff walking in the capital city by herself. She healed the sick and tended the injured when the opportunity presented itself, doing what she could to alleviate suffering and encourage justice.
Late one night she was in the familiar tavern choking down a mead while listening to the latest news of the world when Horta arrived and made a scene. He pointed to her.
"That woman," he declared, his English less clear than most, "is a witch. She should be burned."
This created quite a stir, and Lauren saw that it could lead to trouble. She wished she had used that trick of causing everyone to ignore her, but now that she was the center of attention it probably would not work–or if it did, it would only make people think Horta was right. She calmly rose and quieted the crowd.
"This man claims that I am a witch," she said. A murmur passed through the crowd, but it again quieted. "He makes these charges by night to a crowd. In Camelot we believe in the rule of law, and in charges fairly presented and fairly judged. I could tell you he is a vampire; I could persuade you to test him by driving a stake through his heart and seeing whether his body disintegrates, returning to the dust to which he should long ago have gone. This is not the place for such discussions or such tests. If he believes that I am a witch, and if he is indeed no vampire, let him appear in the courtyard of the King at noon tomorrow and speak his charges to his majesty–and may you all be witness that these are his charges. Let him bring them, and no one else."
She stood staring at Horta from beneath her cowl. He might yet strike. She thought it more probable that he had been sent to make trouble, and perhaps had failed, had seen it backfire on him. He broke from her gaze, and stormed from the room.
Several of the patrons cheered, and she smiled and raised her glass to them. But after she swallowed what remained she was more somber, and walked home early, contemplating what she should do next.
The next day she arrived in the courtyard shortly before noon. Horta was not present, as she knew. Yet someone she had never seen called her before the king and made the charge: she was a witch. She stepped forward, and addressed the court.
"Your majesty, and lords and ladies of the court, this man does not speak of what he knows, but of what he has been told to say. He is messenger for the one called Horta. Last night this Horta, as many present today can attest, accused me of this very lie, and I challenged that he was a vampire." Lauren waved her finger menacingly in the direction of the inn as she continued, "but that if he was not a vampire and I was a witch he should appear today to make his case. The fact that he is not here now should be proof that I am no witch, and that he is in fact a vampire. I ask your majesty's leave that I should seek him out and bring him to justice, if I am able."
"May I speak, your majesty?" One of the knights present in court addressed the crown.
"Please, Sir Sagrimore. What would you add?"
"Your majesty, I was present when these words were spoken, and the lady gives a true account of herself and of the villain who has accused her. If your majesty upholds the truth of her innocence in this, I would be willing to accompany her on her quest to discover this vampire and return him for your justice, or destroy him if he be unwilling to yield to the law of Camelot."
Arthur sat for several minutes, while all awaited some word. Then he addressed Lauren.
"Laurelyn Spellsbreath," he said, "you are a student of the wizard Merlin, are you not?"
"As indeed are you, your majesty. He teaches many things to many people. I have learned much wisdom from him, and I believe he taught that to you as well."
"You have also learned magic from him."
"That which you call magic I knew long before I met the teacher. I call it the power of heaven, and I have used it in your midst to help those in need. You have by now heard the missionaries tell of the miracles done by the apostles, and you have, by all accounts, seen such a miracle done on your behalf, displaying you as the right born king of all England. I do no more than that. God has often chosen to bless my efforts."
Again all sat in silence.
Arthur turned to the accuser. "You claim that Laurelyn Spellsbreath is a witch. Others say that you speak for Horta, whom she says is a vampire."
"Forgive me, your majesty," he said, falling to his knees. "Horta is a vampire, and a powerful wizard, and he threatened to turn me into a vampire and force me to kill my own family if I did not speak for him."
It was likely true enough, Lauren thought. Probably he was already a ghoul, but it wasn't worth the effort to try to prove such a thing.
"Laurelyn Spellsbreath, do you wish to try your accuser for false witness against you?"
"Your majesty, I expect that Horta has already fled the area during the night. To me it is more important that he be caught before he can work any further evil. Forcing this poor man to pay for his mistake might be justice, but the delay allows a greater evil to escape. Let this one go, that I may pursue the other the sooner."
"Wisely spoken, Laurelyn Spellsbreath. Sir Sagrimore, you have our blessing and our charge to assist this lady in her quest, and to capture or destroy this Horta and any of his allies who assist him in resisting. You may leave as soon as you are both ready. You are dismissed."
There is a behind-the-writings look at the thoughts, influences, and ideas of this chapter, along with eight other sequential chapters of this novel, in mark Joseph "young" web log entry #86: Novel Conflicts. Given a moment, this link should take you directly to the section relevant to this chapter. It may contain spoilers of upcoming chapters.
As to the old stories that have long been here: