People in this real character may not be based on tales (yes! this nonsense starting line changes in every chapter, or hadn’t you been paying attention?)
Prince Bastion Grey Joshua could feel the warm sun on his cheeks and chest, cool wind blowing furiously through his hair, and could hear the loud thuds of the horse hoofs on the ground around him as he, Merklin and Rook galloped hard across the open plains and fields, through the enchanted forests, across rivers and streams, through small villages and farmlands. His heart too was racing with the excitement of this unexpected adventure; to save his little sister, his dad the king, and in his mind’s eye while galloping, he imagined all those he would save in different heroic ways.
Occasionally they would stop to have a quick snack, drink from a sparkling brook, and feed and water the horses. Grey and Merklin practiced their sword fighting skills, checked weapons and discussed fighting tactics for their battle against the Red Wasp. Merklin hoped that Grey would remain safe by standing behind him on first attack. Brave and fearless as he was, he was still a boy and could so easily be hurt. He also knew that even together they would stand little chance against the witch but had to try, come what may. Hopefully the poison darts would be enough of a surprise and defeat her! That first night, they lit a small fire, and slept out under the stars, weary from such a long ride.
Always hidden from view but never losing their trail, the last surviving and most powerful Terraloon named Mog, followed. All Terraloons had implants, allowing tracking connection with Tallia the Red Wasp, but this creature Mog, named after Tallia’s home world, was her lead guardian warrior and had many additional implants embedded, enabling him to understand basic human language through images in his brain, and also direct communication with his mistress. Tallia’s frantic search for this man Merlin had set Mog off on a determined trail eight months ago, via the known last location of the wizard, until he found an old pair of shoes discarded at that site. His incredible senses, including those of smell greater than that of any dog or wolf, led him slowly and carefully across many hundreds of miles of varied landscape, through caves and canyons, until he found Merlin’s hideaway in that giant tree.
Mog knew how important it was that this man be taken alive to Tallia, to reveal to her the location of the powerful glowing blue stones. He had waited patiently for many months near this tree, remaining well hidden. The Fire Bee dragon lizards always came to him, attracted by some strange force of nature, a force unknown even to Tallia. They were actually from this planet and not the world he came from, and yet they were strongly obedient to his simple clicking commands. He had instructed them to remain hidden from humans, but if discovered to run and hide. However, if pursued, they were to immediately attack and kill them all, and hide their bodies.
Mog now knew, since receiving that image two days ago, that he was the last of Tallia’s guardians on this continent and would not risk discovery until he had brought this Merlin to her unharmed. Seeing Merlin and the other two humans ride off in the right direction, toward Tallia’s location, pleased him immensely.
At sunrise the following morning Grey awoke to the homely smell of a welcome breakfast sizzling over the fire. He rose and walked over a little stiffly to join the two men. His bottom and legs still ached from the hard ride. “Come and sit down, mister sore bum” joked Merklin. The simple sweet honeyed porridge was welcome as were the oat biscuits and an apple. They were sitting cross-legged in a large grassy clearing with woods to the south and west, chatting and discussing the best direction of travel for the day. Grey was also listening to the various bird sounds and looking toward a little village in the distance, smoke rising lazily from a few of the thatched roof cottages. A sudden shrill and rush of birds, up above the trees to the west caught his attention, until the birds settled again a little north of their previous position. He saw movement between the tree trunks, deeper into the woods, below where the birds took flight, of a large dark animal and wondered what it was.
“Are there bears in these woods Master Merklin?” he asked curiously.
“There are rumoured to be a few but not this close to a village” he replied “Why do you ask?”.
“I thought I saw something in the woods over there” Grey said pointing “but it was very quick and too dark in there to see clearly”.
“If you were more certain Bastion Grey Joshua, then we would have to warn the villagers of a possible bear, but as things are I think we will continue north avoiding the village folk. Urgency dictates we move on as quickly as we can” stated Merklin standing and readying his horse.
The Terraloon Mog saw the boy staring in his direction and remained hidden and still. The sudden buzz of his communicator startled him. He closed his eyes and concentrated on the incoming sound and images from Tallia. The images indicated that he must return to her side. She did not know that he had found Merlin, the man she had sought for so many years. His sending device was faulty so he could not give her the good news. Her locator showed that she was back at the Crater. He was in a quandary! He could race back and be with her in under eight hours, potentially losing Merlin, or continue to capture Merlin and be a day or two later at her side?
Mog intended to grab Merlin when he had moved closer to the Red Wasp’s location. He didn’t wish to risk killing him by carrying him for too long, especially if he struggled and yelled, attracting others. He didn’t know how to subdue a human without severely damaging it. If only he could inform Tallia and ask instruction. He decided to continue following, sure that it would be his owner Tallia’s wish; if only she knew that he would bring to her feet the human she had frantically sought these many years!
The third morning all that changed! Mid-morning Mog received a more urgent command. Images of being at her side were repeated three times, which he knew meant to get to her side as fast as possible. She was not in critical personal danger otherwise he would receive the red flashes overlay. He smacked himself hard to the side of his head trying to get his damaged sending device to work but to no avail. Travelling alone he could now reach her in less than three hours. Carrying the human alive would, he estimated, take him about six hours, unless it was dead. He could no longer delay and decided to act.
Grey, Merklin and Rook had slowed to a canter and then to a walk, to relax their horses a little, riding along an overgrown path through the tall shady woods, finally emerging into the bright sunshine on the crest of a hill. The hill sloped down to the valley below, to a stream where they would stop for a short mid-morning break and rest the horses.
“We have probably seven or eight hours to go if all goes well” said an exhausted Rook.
“Indeed! Should be there by sundown thank the stars” agreed Merklin. “I don’t think the horses could keep up this pace for another day. So let’s hope all is well, that the castle is secure and that we can have a long hot bath and a decent meal. Er…no offense to you Rook, you’ve cooked all those frogs and turnips very well. Haha!” laughed Merklin.
Although weary and sore, they all felt a lot happier now that they were closer to civilization. Ten minutes later all three horses, the boy and two men were face down in the stream, the horses lapping and the boy and two men gulping the cold fresh water greedily, splashing about. Grey dipped his whole head under water for half a minute, enjoying the refreshing coolness only water can provide. He could hear some sounds underwater including the neighing of the horses. He pulled his head out, dripping, and the sound suddenly got much louder. Merklin and Rook were holding the reins of the horses, which were disturbed, neighing, nodding their heads and pulling away.
“What’s the matter girl?” shouted Merklin, patting her neck. Grey jumped up and took his horse’s rein from Rook, to help bring them under control.
“Look” gasped Rook, pointing.
Suddenly there it was, black and massive, standing still and ominous at the top of the hill they had just come down. They all froze in horror! Grey knew it was no bear but it looked like something he had seen in one of Merklin’s books.
“Terraloon!” whispered Merklin terrified. ”Don’t move, unless it charges us. Oh no no no no this can’t be” he shook his head in deep sorrow, knowing it unlikely that any of them could survive. Merklin believed that the last Terraloon in existence was the one killed by Amelia’s charm. He had never actually seen one and it truly was terrifying. It radiated absolute confident physical power like no other animal, but the added intelligence in those harsh glaring large eyes, made it the most dangerous creature on the planet.
The Terraloon stood upright and just stared at them, motionless. They stood paralyzed in total fear just staring back, until the pulling by the horses forced action.
“We must ride for our lives” jabbered Rook, ready to run.
“No, wait!” ordered Merklin quietly. “We must hope it returns back to the woods. If we run it might decide to chase us. I don’t know if it can outrun a horse or not. If it moves toward us then jump on your horse and ride as fast as you can. But hold your horses as still as possible.” he whispered.
“I’m really scared!” admitted Grey.
Merklin felt his belt and lifted the safety catch to his dart gun. ‘Why was it standing there so still? Was it a strategic thinking creature? Is it considering the best way to attack us?’ he pondered. The horses were getting too agitated to hold them much longer. Should he let them go and possibly draw the monster away from them? Does it eat horse meat? No, he couldn’t risk losing their only fast means of escape. Would Grey’s protective charm work the way Amelia’s had? No, he couldn’t risk Grey’s life on chance either. Would his poison darts effect it? So many options, but none gave Merklin any real hope. ‘Please move back into the woods and let us be’ he prayed, heart racing dangerously, holding his breath.
Grey had previously never really felt fear, and since Merklin had given him the charm pendant, had felt more composed in so many ways. He was told of Amelia’s charm and its miraculous effect on a Terraloon, but staring at it now felt chills of dread run up his spine. There was no supporting army alongside to give him confidence. The three of them faced the giant creature alone and he didn’t have a clue on how to do what his younger sister had done to defeat it. Was he a coward to feel scared? In his dreams he would have bravely charged it with his sword. Was it fast or slow moving? Could he dodge and stab it with the exCaleebra?
His questioning thoughts were soon answered. With an impossibly fast series of leaps, the Terraloon hurtled toward them, and within about ten seconds and a loud thumping final leap, stood directly before them, standing absolutely still again and glaring into each one of their eyes in turn, with terrifyingly alien but intelligent eyes. The horses broke free from their fear-frozen hands, and bolted away at a gallop. Merklin realised that this creature would easily have outrun their horses and killed them all.
It now stood immensely large, just ten feet in front of them, displaying massive hands and feet, shining dark almost black skin.
“Please don’t hurt us. We are friends. What do you want?” Merklin asked, attempting a soothing voice, but right hand directly on his dart belt trigger. Mog opened his enormous mouth, showing his teeth, and closed it again, staring directly into Merklin’s eyes. It suddenly bent toward them and roared so loudly that all were paralyzed and Rook fainted instantly. Merklin fired his weapon as a sudden reflex action, and the arc of darts blasted out in a cone, hitting many parts of the Terraloon’s body, but bouncing off harmlessly. It didn’t even flinch but continued to stare intently at Merklin.
“Er…that was a mistake… sorry!” said Merklin weakly. Mog slowly lifted his enormous left arm, pointing at Merklin and said in a voice so deep it was more like a rumble of thunder “You! Come! Now!”
Finding astounding courage, Grey took a step forward and yelled “I’ll go with you! Leave these men alone!” hand on his sword hilt.
“No Grey!” Merklin cried out. “Step back!”. Mog looked at Grey, took a step forward and bent down glaring into his eyes and baring his teeth, just one foot from Grey’s face. Suddenly he roared so loudly that the brave little youngster was blown off his feet onto his back. A second later the Terraloon grabbed Merklin around his waist with one gigantic powerful hand, and holding him over his shoulder bounded away into the distance.
“No!” screamed Grey leaping to his feet, drawing his sword and running after them. He realized after a few moments that he could never catch up and stamped his feet furiously, trying not to let the recovered Rook see the tears welling up in his eyes. He stood still, staring at the disappearing figures in the distance, totally numb and transfixed, only half hearing Rook walking up behind him and standing respectfully quiet alongside.
Twenty minutes later, the horses had circled around and had settled down enough to be eating grass, when Grey and Rook found them in a clearing alongside the wagon trail.
“Spot!” yelled Grey happily then walked up and patted his horse. “C’mon Rook, we must rescue Master Merklin” he yelled, regaining his positive attitude and having purpose again. Merklin’s horse was led alongside Rook’s as they trotted ahead with purpose. Even if they don’t find Merklin first, they must still urgently rescue Amelia and everyone else from the Red Wasp. Neither Rook nor Grey spoke about what the Terraloon might do to the old man he had taken, but horrid thoughts entered their minds.
Mog had traveled at great speed for half an hour or so, avoiding too many damaging jerky movements, but noticed that the human’s body was already limp. He lay the Merlin human down across his arms in front of him, cradling his head and shoulders in his left hand to stop the head flapping around like before. It was still breathing. Good. Suddenly another communication came through from Tallia. He stopped in a clearing and lay the Merlin down on the grass. He closed his eyes to concentrate on the images and sounds relayed. The joy he felt in bringing such a valuable present to his great ruler was quashed. This instruction was very clear. ‘As of now he was not to touch or harm any human… he must avoid all contact with humans… he must return to her side’. He looked at the human laying there. So fragile. Should he leave immediately or try to wake it first so that he could report to Tallia, that it was definitely alive and still worth pursuing? He could easily return and find it, now that he knew it’s smell. But not much point if it was broken and couldn’t talk. First he would fetch water from the stream.
Grey and Rook saw them in the valley! The big creature was standing over Merklin, who was laying prostrate on the ground. “Oh no, he’s not moving Sir,” cried Rook. He had been instructed by Grey and Merklin not to address Grey as royalty, until back at the castle. No one must overhear that he was a Prince.
“Leave the horses here! We’ll go on foot around that valley below and creep up on them” said Grey boldly. He was starting to enjoy being a leader. Rook loose-tied the horses back into the trees but within reach of grass to eat. They could break free if they pulled hard, which they would if he and his Royal Highness didn’t survive. Rook knew that they would almost certainly be killed, but would never question or disobey his Prince. He said a quick prayer and felt especially sad that he would not see his loving Matilde again nor wee Summer, his three-year-old daughter.
Six minutes later they had crept up to a set of bushes within just twenty feet of Merklin. The giant creature had walked off down into the valley toward the stream, just leaving the unconscious Merklin.
“Come, we must rescue him now!” whispered Grey, proud that they had snuck up so close, undetected by the monster. Rook had already wet his pants and was finding it hard to stop shaking. They moved swiftly forward and knelt down beside Merklin. Grey felt for a pulse, and put his ear down next to Merklin’s to hear if he was breathing. “He’s alive!” he whispered, shaking the old wizard’s shoulder “Master Merklin wake up! Quickly, wake up!” he said continuing to shake him.
“What? What’s happening?” asked Merklin blinking his eyes and looking lost.
“Quick Master Merklin!” urged Bastion Grey “We must get you out of here. Shhh. Don’t talk, just come quickly while it’s gone”. Merklin scrambled to his feet groggily, suddenly remembering the Terraloon. Rook and Grey helped him along, supporting him on either side, heading back to the horses as fast and quietly as they could. Merklin ached all over and wondered why his neck was so sore.
They were amazed to reach the horses safely and quickly mounted. They decided to head off in a westerly direction for a good ten miles before risking continuing north toward the castle. Although elated at the narrow escape, each of them felt a constant nervous tension whilst galloping, looking back at regular intervals half expecting the Terraloon to be hunting them down. They finally reached the north running wagon trail and turned right again heading north, galloping at great speed. Merklin knew that they could not risk a straight run but would have to stop at Foghorn river to give the tired horses a break and oats. Rook’s horse was already beginning to foam at the mouth. An hour later they reached the river and dismounted tired, sore and still very nervous.
Merklin kept look-out while Rook and Grey tended the horses and Rook handed out snacks and water. ‘Please, please let us get to the castle safely’ thought Merklin. The Red Wasp seemed a more minor threat now, having come across the Terraloon. After the longest ten minutes of their lives they mounted their horses and crossed the river, which was deep enough to help cool the horses down. As they moved up the gravel bank and grassy hill on the other side of the river, dripping wet, they could see in the hazy blue distance the Pass of Folly. Moving through the pass would lead to their home, the delightful village of Apple and the wondrous Castle Jewel. But they were on the eastern edge of the Dark Forest and within a two hours ride to Prince Eltor’s castle.
“Thank the stars boys, we’re almost there” said a relieved Merklin “Just another couple of hours to safety, drinks and a hot bath”. Rook and Grey whooped with joy, but not too loudly. They were taking no chances. Grey was starting to feel the earlier excitement return but the encounter with that horror had tempered his imagination of being a hero.
The dark creature had seen the humans’,k attempts at hiding their horses and stealthy approach out of sight, but ignored them. He would still go to fetch water to see if he could wake the man. He watched intently as the other two revived Merlin and helped carry him off. He would head back to Tallia immediately, without harming humans as ordered, and ask for her instruction. Merlin was alive and could never hide from him now. He knew that she would be pleased. He lived to protect her above all else and when she gave him occasional praise, it lit up his heart and soul.
“Poppy, will you fly with me?” pleaded Amelia. He, her father and the others were with Tallia, learning as much as they could about all the many gadgets, machines and contraptions, as well as the histories of the early times and mysterious battles between the Azlantids and her peoples. Grandpa Anthon looked down at his pretty Grand-daughter fondly. He looked at Jaygon, who nodded with a wink, so he took Amelia’s hand and they walked out into the crater area to prepare. Both were now adept at flying and within minutes they swooped up above the rocky crater walls, looking down at the castle and village below. Amelia shrieked with joy and Anthon was laughing and whooping with exhilaration as they dropped down onto the highest balcony of the Keep, to the noisy surprise of the guards below, who soon recognized them and rushed up to look at the magic gravity devices. Breese and Harold heard the commotion from the gardens below and ran up the many stairs as fast as their little legs could carry them, yelling “Amelia! Grandpa! Amelia! Grandpa” again and again on their way up, arriving flushed and panting two minutes later, rushing straight into their arms in excitement and joy.
“Let me see” they both yelled at exactly the same time, staring in wonder at the disc devices they’d heard so much about. Their mother had been adamant that the kids again remain under the castle’s protection, until that ‘Red Witch’ flew away in her spacecraft.
After much excited hubble-bubble of everyone asking questions at the same time, more guards and servants arriving, and Amelia and her Poppy Anthon trying to give detailed explanations, Amelia promised Breese and Harold
“I will teach you to fly with Poppy as soon as we get back ok? We are testing our first high-flying abilities for a bit longer now. It’s just so amazing!” she squealed excitedly. “You’ll have to fly really low the first few times, or you might crash” she warned laughing “but once you get the hang of it it’s just…just amazing” she repeated, struggling to describe just how wonderful and exhilarating it felt.
“Hurry up!” yelled Harold.
“Yes, please hurry!” shouted Breese, as Amelia and her grandfather levitated right up to the top of the Keep, and then flew off pretty fast toward the village below, whooping and yelling.
They flew onward to land gently on the ridge-tiles of the high and steeply sloping roof of the village church. It was so high that it was really scary looking down, even though they had been flying much higher in the air. They stood, feet balancing precariously, and waved at the villagers, who were yelling and pointing at them from the cobbled streets below. Little children were staring in wonder, some clapping their hands excitedly. Then they launched off the top of the church roof and swept up over the tree-tops of the local forest, colorful birds flapping away in surprise, directly under their feet.
“This world in the sky is just so beautiful”, Amelia yelled, looking into the distance toward the Dark forest. Something in the distance caught her eye; three riders galloping toward the village, dust puffing up silently into the air behind them. “Look Poppy, let’s go see who’s riding this way so fast”.
An hour earlier, just as Amelia and Anthon were preparing to fly out of the crater, no one had noticed the large dark creature, who had leaped through the bushes and up into the caves. Mog the Terraloon rapidly moved through the caves and rooms, creating massive commotion and fear, knocking aside any who stood in his way, but harming no one deliberately, as his mistress Tallia had ordered. Swords, arrows and knives glanced harmlessly off his tough hide as he plunged on through to the crater area, followed by the much slower yelling fearful guards, who were screaming warning to those near the arched entry to protect the royals.
Mog was so fast that no one could catch up, and the twelve guards in the open area of the crater and arched entry were caught by surprise and swept aside, as he ran on through to the large cavern. The men talking enthusiastically with Tallia all fell silent as desperate yelling of warnings echoed through from the tunnels. And suddenly there it stood, inside the entrance to the cavern, deadly large eyes staring challengingly at the humans surrounding Tallia, ready to rip them apart on her command.
She merely looked at Mog, but mentally commanding him to stand still. The King, Eltor, Mathem and many of the men drew swords but all were rooted to the spot. They had never seen such a large formidable looking Terraloon. It was at least two foot taller than the one they and Amelia had killed. Even though only a few seconds had passed, some archers had already loosed their arrows at the creature as a fear driven reaction.
“Hold” commanded Tallia loudly. “He is my guard and will not harm you. Lower your weapons please. Be quiet and calm and move a little away from me while I talk with him.” Tallia walked proudly toward her guardian warrior and raised her hand, bending her index finger. He immediately fell to his knees and she reached up to place her hands either side of his head. A golden glow enveloped Mog’s head, seemingly from bangles she wore on each wrist. She then looked back at the humans, who were all standing frozen in awe, shock or fear and said “I will be taking Mog to my ship to repair a faulty communicator. He knows not to harm you so you are free to move about as you wish. He will remain on board, until I give him permission otherwise. I will be with you again shortly. I am sorry that he surprised you. He is the last of his kind on your planet. I have wronged his people and yours in my often-vengeful search for my ship. It is all very sad. Perhaps you should inform your guards outside. I hope that none have been injured”. The large group of guards collected in the corridor area outside the cavern entry were all standing silent and flabbergasted, some with mouths hanging open in shock.
“At ease men” shouted Prince Eltor but none really moved until Mog was completely out of sight.
“Hey hold on!” said King Jaygon, coming to a sudden realization and walking quickly to the cavern entrance. “Come inside men. Yes, all of you. Now, have any of you seen Princess Amelia and the King-Father Duke Anthon?”
“Yes Sire, I seed them flew off up over them cliffs to the castle methinks. That were before that blooming frightening Terraloon come bolting through us like we wasn’t there”.
“Right, thank you soldier. That is all men, you may return to your posts. Sergeant, take two men and report all that has occurred to the Master at Arms immediately, and ask that he inform her majesties, and the Duke Anthon if they see him”.
“At once your Majesty” barked the sergeant, snapping his heels together and saluting clumsily, knocking his hat for the second time. The other guards had to restrain their laughter but a relieved and smiling King could hear one say “Ruddy hell Toodles, not again” as the sergeant blushed red and bent down awkwardly to retrieve his cap, before rushing off through the tunnels.
‘Poor guy needs a confidence boost’, thought Lukestar, ‘I’ll need to chat to him later’. Tallia soon returned from her craft, having fixed Mog’s coms devices, and the group eagerly gathered about her again as she continued her explanations of everything they queried.
“There’s the castle dead ahead” yelled Merklin. “Yahoo” shouted Grey feeling his great excitement building again. His bottom was really getting sore from the riding and he couldn’t wait to see his family again. What strange looking birds flying above the trees. It looked like they were coming towards them quite fast. They weren’t birds! What were they?
“The Red Wasp!” yelled Merklin in alarm, reaching for his shooting weapon and pulling on his horses reins. “Stop men, and prepare for battle” he yelled in alarm. Rook and Grey rapidly brought their horses to a halt and they all quickly dismounted.
“But she doesn’t have red hair and who’s that other creature following behind?” asked Grey drawing his exCaleebra sword. “That is odd!” agreed Merklin, quickly preparing his long bolt, deeply upset that they hadn’t made it to safety. The figures in the sky grew closer and to Grey it looked like a smallish witch in a yellow flowing dress followed by a bigger man in brown breeches and blue shirt.
“Grey!” screamed a voice from the sky as the fair-haired Amelia swooped down toward him. The sword dropped from his hand in shock as he suddenly recognized his little sister “Amelia!” he yelled in joy as she tumbled into him, knocking him to the ground and landing on top of him in a big hug.
“Babbling stars of Bengley’s bum” yelled Merklin in enormous relief and surprise “It’s you, my Anthon friend, arriving in some strange magic from the sky. What is this? How can you be flying like a barn owl up there in the air? I must be dreaming. Tell me I’m dreaming” he said astounded, returning Anthon’s hug.
“It is certainly me myself my good man” laughed Anthon. “We have much to tell you of the wonders of the last weeks. Come and ride on to the castle and I will fly beside you. You won’t believe the many tales we have to tell. Thank you Rook, so you found them! Grey, my boy, come give your Grandpa a big hug too”.
“We have many a tale to tell too” said Merklin.
“Yes, we were almost killed by a monstrous Terraloon” interjected Grey. “It kidnapped Master Merklin and we managed to rescue him while it went off for a while. It was the scariest thing I’ve ever seen. But I wasn’t really scared” he added quickly remembering to impress Amelia with his bravery.
“I never want to see one again either” said Amelia, hugging him again.
“That is very bad news!” said Grandpa Anthon getting alarmed. “But let’s get you all back to the castle. I bet you could all do with a good drink, rest and feast to celebrate. It is truly gladdening to my heart that you have arrived at this time. There is someone you just have to meet face to face. Don’t tell yet, little granddaughter “said the Duke patting her shoulder “I want my good friend here to have a big surprise, and your brother too, and of course my favourite Rook, so let’s wait until they’ve all had time to relax and settle in”
The End of Chapter 6