Wednesday, January 21, 2015

White Queen Rising (the path not taken)

When Mapper and Raquelle arrived in Gold Hill, they explained little about where they had come from and why, but did say they were interested in meeting the young druid who lived with the wild animals in a hollow not far outside the trading post. With luck and patience, they found Wolfgang, and one fine morning, the three stood at the crossroads below the trading post, making each other acquaintance. As they were talking, they were distracted by a shadow moving across the ground and in their direction. At first it seemed like the shadow cast by a cloud sailing in the wind on an otherwise sunny day. But there was no such cloud. And the shadow was too completely black such that the weeds and stones disappeared beneath it, re-appearing moments later, seemingly unharmed. Mapper, and Raquelle found a hiding place behind a boulder while Wolfgang ran to summon his animal companions. As it drew closer, Mapper and Raquelle heard the sound of footsteps inside the shadow. They noted the ground lay trampled where the shadow had passed. They followed it into the Gold Hill trading post. It was market day, and about dozen people were gathered on the patch of trampled ground outside the caves.

The shadow stopped. From beneath it emerged three walking skeletons, carrying shield and wielding rusty swords. The day traders took refuge in the caves, calling for the deputies. The deputies answered the call, but didn’t go more than a few steps from the entrance to their own underground stronghold. Raquelle and Mapper shot at the skeletons from a good distance.

And then Lareth emerged from the Inn. He raised one empty hand to the deputies, saying,”Leave this to me.” In the other hand, he held his warhammer. He took in both hands as he approached the first skeleton. The skeleton slashed with its sword—Lareth deflected the flows with his steel gauntlets, and then smashed the skeleton to bits with a single blow. He dispatched the second skeleton with similar efficiency. He strode toward the third skeleton, but a large wolf got there first. The wof grabbed the skeleton in its jaws by the femur, and a bear swatted it to the ground. As the deputies charged out from their redoubt, Wolfgang sent Wolfie and Bruno back to the forest. The third skeleton stirrd as if to get up. Lareth, almost laughing, smashed its skull and it was still.

The people of Gold Hill emerged to stare and gawk. There were words written on the skeleton’ shields: WHITE QUEN RISING. Lareth made it clear that the meaning was plain to him, but he left the people of Gold Hill to speculate, seeking the private consultation of Wolfgang and Gerrilynn. “We need to do something soon,” he said. “We don’t want the White Queen to arrive here and . . .” He pointed at the deputies and local farmers, kicking through the bones “. . .have her think that we’re one of them.”

Wolfgang introduced Raquelle and Mapper to Lareth. He was very glad to meet them, and interested to know where they were from. “Not around here, I am sure?”

Amidst discussion about what to do about the White Queen, Wolfgang expressed once more his desire, to “just get out of here, away from these people.” Mapper encouraged the idea, “We could go to Hommelet.”

Lareth was interested. “You are from Hommelet? What’s the news there?”

Wolfgang was also interested. “But I got kicked out of Hommelet.”

“I knew there was something I liked about you,” Lareth said.

But Mapper assured Wolfgang that he would be welcome in Hommelet, that Burne actually needed his help and wanted to talk to him.

Lareth suggested that they should go to Hommelet together—“After we find the White Queen and take care of everything here, Hommelet can be next . . ”

Gerrilynn, as if startled by a disturbing insight, interrupted him, and ended the conversation curtly. “No, I really think we should go now. You can find the White Queen by yourself.”

So sudden and decisive were her words that no one argued and asked for explanation. After a quick last meal, the packing of their few belongings, and settlement of their accounts with the innkeeper, Gerilynn, Wolfgang, Raquelle, and Mapper departed from Gold Hill, turning their steps toward Hommelet. They saw Lareth at the crossroads. When they were nearly out of sight, he called, “Safe travel—and I’ll give my regards to Bandague.”
Lareth's parting comment gave the group much to talk-- and worry about-- over the next few days as they made their overland journey. 
Gerrilynn: "Bandague, I recognize the name . . . who was that?"
Mapper: "There was something oddly familiar about him . . . about Lareth.  I had the feeling he knew who I was."

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