Once more unto the breach, dear friends…
KINGDOM FOUND part 10
There was a sudden and furious pounding on the front door. I turned just in time to see it splinter inward. The Man-at-Arms burst through it as though pursued by demons. Which, as it turned out, wasn’t far from the truth.
“Get him in here!” he cried to those behind him and, to my horror, I saw four soldiers rushing onto the porch carrying Mountainlost. His armor was hanging ragged from his right side and his face, neck and arm were covered with blood.
“Into the kitchen!” I shouted and ran ahead of them. I threw everything off of the kitchen counter so that they could lay him down. Nestra rushed in behind them, weeping and reaching for his face. She was whispering words I could not understand.
Suddenly, the front windows burst inward. I rushed into the hall in time to see trolls pour in like a hideous gray flood. The army of Gold Legend was upon them in an instant. The battle was met once again, but the odds seemed more in our favor this time. There were not as many trolls as before, and the more we cast into sacks, the better our chances. I heard an outcry of pain in the kitchen behind me. Turning back I saw Nestra bending low over Mountainlost, rubbing her hands on his wounds. “Keep them away from here!” the Man-at-Arms shouted to the army. “We must have time to heal the king!”
“We hear and obey!” several soldiers replied and redoubled their efforts to repel the trolls. I ducked back into the kitchen and tried to ignore the fact that my childhood home was now a battleground.
“What happened?” I shouted at the Man-at-Arms.
“We did as you commanded, my prince,” he said, removing his battered helmet. “We spread out across the town looking for them. It was the king who found them first. The town hall where I slew the troll earlier has been burned to the ground. They were gathered in the ruin, the doctor and all his trolls. The king sent a detachment out to find the rest of us.”
“What?” I said. “I told everyone not to engage them! Why would he gather everyone to fight?”
“He gathered them not to fight, Prince, but to rescue the lady Amanda. The doctor had put a sleep on her and left her at the fringe of the building. The king told me that with your mother still slowing them down, we should be able to grab the princess and be gone in a flash as long as no one looked upon your mother.”
“There does seem to be some wisdom in that,” I conceded. “What went wrong?”
“They were on us in an instant!” he replied. “I moved to take the princess and the trolls moved with the speed of Gold Legend! I did not see your mother, prince, but he may have put a sleep on her as well. Whatever the case, we moved no faster than they, and they were expecting our arrival. The trolls swarmed over me and then took the king. The doctor burst through the ranks and didn’t even give me a second glance. Before anyone could stop him, he spit some of his foul potion onto the king!”
I looked back at Mountainlost who, despite his wounds, was definitely not a troll. “It didn’t work?” I asked hopefully.
“Yours is not the only enchanted armor, Prince,” the Man-at-Arms replied. “The queen knew not what enchantments we might fight against, and her powers are weak against the doctor’s potion, but it saved the king from being turned. It tore the armor apart, though, and you see what the trolls did to him.”
“My prince!” a shout went up from the battle in the other room. “We are undone!”
“Protect the king,” I commanded the Man-at-Arms, and bolted for the front of the house. As I ran, I heard screams rising among the people. Somewhere, very far behind me it seemed, the Man-at-Arms shouted a warning. And then I saw him.
The doctor himself was standing in my doorway.
I tried to cease my momentum, but I only manged to fall down in front of him. In an instant, he had bent over me and his hand was on my neck. All the fighting stopped as troops and trolls alike turned to see what would happen. “Are you the leader foretold?” the doctor sneered in my face, squeezing my throat. “Are you the one to save the world? I’m disappointed in you! I set a perfectly good trap and you send your king out to do your dirty work for you? And you expect to be a leader of all?”
“They… could move faster without me…” I choked.
“Ah! So you did realize the malleable nature of time!” he replied as a smile stretched across his ugly face. “Perhaps you’re not a total loss after all! So you sent them out without you to speed things along, did you? And what good it did them! Did you think I wouldn’t see them coming? Did you think your silly queen was the only one with magical sight?”
“I already know you have magical sight,” I managed to say.
He laughed out loud. “You don’t know half as much as you think you do,” he said.
“I know you’re not welcome in my house,” I cried and placed my feet against his stomach. I shoved with all my might and he let go of my throat, falling backwards onto the porch. We both turned over to stand up and I realized too late that, with our backs to each other, Doctor Desnipes could move with otherworldly speed. I turned as fast as I could and found that he was already on his feet, his potion in his hand, a mouthful of it already prepared to spit.
The Man-at-Arms was already halfway up the hallway, pushing soldiers and dancers and trolls aside. “Stand off, villain!” he cried, “the prince will not be harmed!” I raised my arm across my face as the doctor spit out a mouthful of purple liquid.
I felt nothing. No spray, no dissolving armor, no change in me. Looking quickly to my left, I saw why. He had doused the Man-at-Arms. With no helmet to protect him, the transformation was already beginning. “A sack! Quickly!” I shouted to the soldiers behind him. As his body shriveled and he looked up at me from inside his own armor, I cried, “we will change you back! I swear it!” Then his armor fell to pieces, and three of his soldiers fell on him with a sack. I was grabbed and spun around. I found myself once again face to face with the doctor.
“I think not,” he said. He slipped his hand around my throat again. “And it is you who are not welcome in my house,” he said with a grimace. With that, he spun me around and dragged me off of the porch. His trolls jumped out the windows and the door after him. “I think it is time we put an end to you and your little ‘destiny’,” he growled. I struggled to free myself from his grasp, but it was no use.
The army of Gold Legend poured from my house behind us. “Stop, Desnipes!” one of the soldiers shouted from the throng behind us. The doctor turned with me still held firmly in his grasp.
“By all means, follow us!” he shouted back. “I would love to see how an army of dancers fights with no leaders left to them! But know this: if you harm me in any way before we return to the rest of my trolls, they will know. And they will kill the hostages.” Then, looking at me, he sneered again. “You’re slowing me down, boy,” he said. “I do so wish you would just fall asleep.”
And suddenly everything went black.
When I awoke, I was standing in the burned out town hall. The Man-at-Arms had spoken true; the place was demolished. The walls were burned to cinders and the offices inside had been reduced to rubble. There was burnt paper and splintered furniture littered everywhere. And, on all sides, there were trolls. All of the trolls. Outside the borders of the building stood the army of Gold Legend. They were still forming ranks around the building, so I figured I couldn’t have been there long. Looking to my right I saw that Amanda was standing there with me. She may have been asleep when the Man-at-Arms saw her before, but she was awake now and she looked more terrified than the last time I had seen her. Just beyond her, my mother stood with her back to me, yelling at the doctor.
“How could you?” she shrieked. “The time has come! His destiny is at hand! Ten years ago, you told me–”
But at that point, the doctor saw that I was awake and smiled grimly. My mother, seeing the look on his face, stopped talking. He pointed over her shoulder and she turned to look at me. “Oh, Morty,” she said, “this isn’t what I wanted. This was never what I wanted for you.”
“It’s not your fault, mom,” I said.
The doctor started to laugh again. I was getting pretty tired of how funny he thought this all was. He stepped past my mother and stuck his finger in my face. “You really are pathetic as leaders go,” he cooed.
“I’m pathetic?” I returned. “What about you, you twisted freak? Your army is a bunch of trolls! My army fights for me out of loyalty to Mountainlost and his kingdom! Your army fights because you forced them to love you with that freaky potion of yours!”
“Any one of my army would gladly give their life for me,” he said.
“They already have!” I shouted back. “Their lives were something totally different until you changed them! They were my friends and my townspeople! You couldn’t just be satisfied changing your own people, you had to come here and change mine, too!”
“You really don’t know what you’re talking about,” he replied, his anger visibly growing. “These people are more mine than yours.”
“Why?” I asked, “because I originally came from Gold Legend?” His eyes opened wide. Finally, I’d been able to surprise him for once. “Yeah, that’s right,” I said. “I know about the visions. I know about my ‘little destiny’ as you call it. And I know where I came from.”
“Well,” he said coldly, “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Of course Nestra would tell you about her vision.”
“Not just hers,” I continued, “she told me about yours as well.”
“Mine?” he replied.
“Yes,” I said, pressing my advantage, “I know that you saw a vision of my destiny back in Gold Legend. What I can’t figure out is why you bothered to bring me here ten years ago. Why not just kill me then?”
“I?” he said, and began laughing again. It was infuriating. “You stupid little boy,” he said when he finally had control of himself. “I had no visions! I am no sorcerer! And I most certainly did not bring you here from Gold Legend!”
I looked over at my mother, all the wind leaving my sails. “Mom?” I said. “You told Mountainlost it was a man…”
“Oh, Morty,” she replied, “I never said the doctor brought you.”
“But, if he didn’t tell you I would one day wear a prince’s armor, who did?” I asked.
“I did,” came a voice from the crowd. I looked and there was Mountainlost. His wounds were healed, but his armor still hung ragged at his side. Of course, Nestra’s healing had moved swifter without me there, but she couldn’t repair his armor. He was being supported by soldiers on either side, with Nestra standing just behind him. “It was a promise I made her when I followed you here and swore to see your destiny fulfilled.”
“Then,” I said, turning slowly to face my mother and the doctor, “who brought me here?” The doctor smiled. My mother did not.
And it was then that Amanda tried to make a break for it.
She turned and started running through the trolls. I guess she’d had enough and thought that no one was paying attention to her anyway. Whatever the case, she was wrong. Before the doctor had even finished yelling “stop her!” the trolls were already upon her. They dragged her down to the blackened floor of the building and held her there.
“No!” I shouted. “Leave her alone!”
“Useless boy!” the doctor exclaimed as he pushed roughly past me. “Hold her, trolls! Don’t let her get away again. I’ll teach her to run from me!” He bent over her and said, “horrible little princess, it’s a shame you don’t remember who you are. It would make it so much more satisfying when I kill your whole family in a few minutes.”
I tried to run to her, but the trolls held me back. I didn’t know what I would do anyway, since the doctor had disarmed me while I was asleep. But I had to try. I began to furiously swat the trolls off of me, much as the Man-at-Arms had done in the castle battle earlier this morning. Slowly I began to move forward through the mounds of trolls.
“I’m not a princess, I’m just a girl!” Amanda yelled in his face. “And you’re a monster!” With that, she spit directly in his eye.
I saw his arm rise up and I literally threw a dozen trolls off of me at once. His arm descended against her face and she fell to the floor with a shout of pain. From the edge of the building’s foundation, I heard Mountainlost shout, “Prince Morty! Remember your grand entrance!” I was confused until I saw him hurl his sword over the heads of the trolls and remembered my own blade lying in the castle courtyard during our first battle today.
The doctor heard the sword clatter to the ground behind him. As he stood up straight, I leaped into the air and somersaulted across all the trolls who stood in my way. For the third time today, everything seemed to be moving in slow motion. At least everything but me. Because this time, I think it was for real. In that moment, saving Amanda from the doctor was more important than anything else in the world. I think that my heart was suddenly where hers belonged; in Gold Legend. So I moved with the speed of my original home while the doctor was too concerned with her to move at any other speed than that of our world.
Retrieving the sword, I stood up and ran it through Doctor Desnipes up to the hilt.
Art by Sasha Reneau
He looked at me with utter bewilderment for a moment, then looked down at Mountainlost’s sword sticking out of his guts. “I told you,” I said. “I told you what I would do to you if you ever hurt her.” I pulled the sword out of him and he fell to his knees.
As blood began to trickle from his mouth, I heard my mother’s voice behind me. “Not yet,” she said, and stepped past me. She reached down to the doctor’s side and grabbed the troll-potion from his belt. Too surprised to stop her, I watched as she uncorked the bottle and took a large swig from it. Amanda scrambled away from the doctor as my mother spit his own potion all over him.
The transformation was quick and, as he shriveled down, so did the wound in his belly. By the time he was the size of the other trolls, his wound was practically gone. He looked up at my mother plaintively. She smiled down at him and then turned to me.
“That should hold him for a little while,” she said, and then her eyes grew sad. “I really am sorry, Morty,” she said, “this really isn’t what I wanted for you.” She put her hand on my face and finished sadly, “I really had much better plans for you when I brought you here from Gold Legend.”
TO BE CONTINUED
See you in seven,