Faerie Tale - Chapter 8 - Bold Sir Robin

Faerie Tale

Chapter 8 – Bold Sir Robin

Sir Robert de Coverlie, for that was the name of the young gallant who set unsteady foot on land in Westport that spring morning, was on a quest to do some noble deed – find the Holy Grail, rescue a maiden in distress, kill a dragon, find a clever answer to a riddle. He didn’t really mind what it was, as long as it gave him some fame and the right to call himself a True Knight. Robert de Coverlie, known to his friends as Robin Redhair, had started training from the age of six, borne arms for his liege lord in a feud with a neighbouring lord at the age of sixteen and won his spurs in a particularly ill-tempered tournament where he could have been killed at the age of twenty six, but until he had done something noble and heroic he did not consider he could call himself a True Knight.

As he made his somewhat unsteady way down the pier, he noted the row of drinking establishments which are the first thing any traveller encounters in any harbour, and picking what appeared to be the cleanest, he tied the horse’s reins to the back of a wooden bench and sat down in the morning sunshine to wait for the world to stop going up and down. After a few minutes of being ignored, for which he was profoundly grateful, he was approached by a man in a heavily-stained apron with a tankard in his hand. Without speaking, the man set the tankard of ale in front of him. Sir Robin looked at the brown liquid unenthusiastically. It seethed and frothed and rocked about in the tankard.
“Get it down you,” said the man briskly. “It’ll put hair on your chest.”
Sir Robin tried to keep his composure. “Perhaps breakfast first, mine host.”
“Bacon, eggs, sausage, fried bread?”
Sir Robin felt his stomach rebel. “Bread,” he agreed, “cheese, and a glass of wine.”
“A frugal breakfast, sir knight,” the landlord said.
“Indeed,” Sir Robin agreed, in a tone that suggested the conversation was at an end. He got up, took a nosebag of oats that was hanging from the saddle and put it on the horse, which chomped away happily. At least his precious charger had survived the sea crossing without any ill effects.

As he sat waiting, he watched the comings and goings of a small but busy port. Goods were being unloaded in bundles and boxes, fresh fruit and vegetables in crates were waiting to be loaded. The dockers and sailors called instructions and good-natured insults to each other as they worked. Carts were driven up, loaded and driven away, to be replaced by others.

A wooden platter was set in front of Sir Robin. On it were a large crusty bread roll, two sorts of cheese, an apple and a knife. Accompanying it were a bottle of red wine of average vintage and a tall fluted glass, quite out of keeping with the rest of the rustic meal. He started by taking very small morsels of the bread and cheese but by the time he had consumed all the food and most of the wine, he was feeling more alive and ready to resume his quest. As he paid the landlord, he enquired if there were any Wrongs that needed Righting in the area. The landlord managed to keep a straight face by taking care to count out the change coin by coin, but replied that he was not aware of any serious Wrong that warranted the attention of such a noble personage as himself. Perhaps if he were to enquire of their master, Lord Ignatious Silvermoon, HE might require some assistance with a task suitable to his honour’s knightly station.

Sir Robin thanked the landlord for his advice, requested directions to Lord Silvermoon’s castle, mounted his charger and rode slowly up the main street of Westport, aware of the interest he caused to shopkeeper and resident alike, but it seemed more like wariness than welcome. Perhaps they were unused to interacting with such personages as himself. When he came to the junction at the top, he turned north as directed, to follow the coast until he came to the mouth of the river, and then he intended to follow the river inland until he reached Silvermoon Castle.

Up in the cold mountain, Imi felt the cart slow and stop, and burrowed deeper below the rugs. She had reduced her size to about three inches and lay hidden within the deep folds of cloth. The Warlock jumped lightly down from the cart, opened the door of a wooden cabin and went inside. There he pointed to the pile of logs in the fireplace and they burst into flame. He blew lightly on the table and years of dust dissipated out of the door. He pulled back the curtains and let the thin sunshine fall in a bar across the table and the bare earth floor. The temperature inside the simple dwelling began to rise. When he returned outside it was to find Galien sitting upright in the cart, holding the fur cover to his chin and looking around in some surprise.
“Where are we?”
“In the Mountains of Morn. We will be safe here from – whatever it is.”
Memory returned to Galien and his eyes grew huge in his pale face. “The blackness…”
“Yes. Are you able to get out? We have work to do.”
“Yes, of course.” Galien threw off the fur cover and scrambled out of the cart. “Oh, it’s cold!”
“Wear your fur.”

Galien wrapped the bearskin round his shoulders like a cloak and followed the Warlock into the cabin. Imi waited for a moment, then poked her head out of the rugs. The cart was stopped outside the reddest little house she had ever seen. Not only were the wooden planks made from some bright red wood, but the door was painted red, the window frames were red, even the stone chimney from which smoke rose into the cold sky was red. Perhaps that was the only way to find a tiny house like this in a wilderness of white. Imi looked around. She had never been in the mountains, never thought she ever would be. Snow looked pretty from a distance, but it was a lot colder than she expected. She grew another layer on her fluff coat until she looked like a little face peering out of a cotton ball. Suddenly she was ejected from the cart but managed to fly before she hit the ground. Amazed, she looked back into the cart but could see no one who could have ejected her. She flew to the doorway and peered inside. The Warlock and his apprentice were putting a large, heavy cauldron on the hook over the fire. Imi slipped inside and hid in the rafters.

The Warlock said, “Let the pot heat up first, then start filling it with water. There’s a well out back. You’ll have to break the ice.”
“Yes Master.” Galien went to do as he was bid. When he came back in with the first bucket of water, the four terrible grimoires were sitting on the table and he could not avoid the impression that they were shivering. Their chains were rattling. He found his fur cloak a hindrance as he had had to hold it on while fetching the water, so he took it off and laid it over the books so he would not have to see them. The rattling stopped.

The Warlock came in with some cold meat and bread wrapped in a cloth and opened it on the table. Both were already sliced.
“Eat.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“I don’t care. I need you strong. Eat.”
Somewhat mystified, Galien took a slice of the meat as he went out with the empty bucket and was still chewing on it when he returned. He poured the water carefully into the pot which was already steaming.
“Master..?”
The Warlock had pushed back the fur from the top grimoire and was reading. He didn’t look up. “What?”
“Why have we left the woods?”
“Did you want to die there?”
“No! But I don’t want anyone else to die there either!”
“That’s why we’re here,” the Warlock said calmly.
“But how can we stop what’s coming?”
“By using our Common Sense.”
“I don’t think I have any of that…”
“Don’t be silly. Fetch more water. Eat more meat.”
Galien went outside, ashamed of the sudden panic he was feeling. He didn’t like the spell books and he didn’t like the Warlock using them, but he didn’t want the west woods destroyed either.

As Galien emptied the third bucket of water into the cauldron, the Warlock said without looking up, “That’ll do.” He got up and handed Galien a piece of bread and went out to the cart. Galien bit off the crust but his eyes went to the grimoires on the table. The open spell book seemed to pulse with power. He tried to turn his back on it but found that he couldn’t. He physically could not turn away, and against his will he was drawn to look at the open pages. There was a receipe for something, and a drawing of a cauldron emitting green smoke. He looked back at the list of ingredients. At first he could not read them, but slowly the symbols and squiggles moved and changed and as his heart began to pound in his chest, he found he could understand what they said. He began to gasp for breath.

“Oh in the name of the dragon!” The Warlock’s voice came from far away and he was being violently shaken. The Warlock pulled him round, away from the grimoires and slapped his face. His mind cleared with the shock. “Stay away from the books! It’s not safe for you until you can read them!”
“I could read it…” Galien mumbled.
The Warlock’s grip tightened on his shoulder, the long fingers digging in.
“Tell me what you read.”
“There was a list of … ingredients… and a picture.”
“Ingredients for what?”
“I don’t know.”
“Tell me what they were.” The Warlock’s grip did not loosen.
“I can’t remember…” the unfamiliar words had not had time to register their meaning in his mind.
“Try!” the Warlock commanded. If even one word had made sense he would know that Galien was ready to learn spell magic as opposed to the nature magic that came instinctively to him. Galien struggled to recall the strange words. “Marrubium?” he said tentatively.
“What’s marrubium?” the Warlock demanded.
“I don’t know.” It was the truth. Nevertheless, Galien had correctly interpreted the arcane script in which the spells were written to keep them out of untrained hands.
“Marrubium vulgare,” the Warlock said.
Galien continued to look blank.
“Anything else?”
“Boil until … tender?”
“What else?”
“Filter through… something. That’s all. I swear!”
“Your word is sufficient.” The Warlock released Galien’s shoulder and looked thoughtful. “We don’t have time for this now, but as soon as we have saved the creatures of the west wood, we will plan the next stage of your training.”
“How are we going to save them when we don’t know what’s coming?”
“YOU are going to save them. And we have to move quickly.”

Copyright Hilary Robinson 29.3.2010

Faerie Tale - Chapter 8 - Bold Sir Robin

Hilary Robinson

Bangor, United Kingdom

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Artist's Description

Sir Robert de Coverlie begins his quest and Galien and the Warlock prepare to defend the creatures of the west woods. But how, and against what? Enjoy!

The Faerie Tale is protected by copyright and is not in the Public Domain.

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