Book 2 Chapter 13

The journey back to The Sword of Damocles was brief, or so it seemed to Mordred, the corpse in his arms was light, he had said his goodbyes long ago, long before he had a chance to meet with her again. Long before he became a commander, even long before he ever became an officer. To see her again was wonderful, confusing, and somehow painful. To lose her again so shortly after had been a strange experience, it made him feel somewhat numb, like the whole thing had been just  sort of dream, yet the fragile thing in his hands told him otherwise, forced him to acknowledge that up until recently  his mother had been alive. and now in one week he had been reunited with both his parents, only to witness them both die. The irony of it all left a rotten taste in his mouth, the absurdity made him question his sanity. The airlock sealed behind his group as they boarded The Sword of Damocles, no more need for charades then. “Gwenn34, take Sir Ton back to the medical bay, use the most efficient clearance free route.” With a steady pace Sir Ton walked towards the nearest elevator, leaving Dame Krim to stare after him. “Sir,,might not be the right time but, how?” For a brief moment he considered how to answer her before Knight Commander Mordred breathed deeply, letting the moment slide away from him, the situation was simple a knight had witnessed the retrieval system moving another Knight on it’s own. So all he needed to do was answer truthfully. “I activated his suit’s retrieval functions earlier, and put the suit A.I. in control, so now she is taking him to receive medical care.” That should sate her curiosity somewhat. “Do all armours have that? Does mine have that? Does yours?” Or of course he could have remembered that Dame Krim was one of those inquisitive types who wished to know everything they could about anything there was. “No, not all armours have the retrieval system, and if I look at yours I think you may have broken it, as for my own, no this one does not have it, it is after all an outdated suit of plate, that has not seen proper maintenance in oh three or four centuries I guess, with what has been going on there is no telling how much or little time has passed between maintenance checks.” She took her time to consider those words, and he could see her mind running circles around itself, good that would buy some time, at least until he had a suitable casket for his mother.

Sir Tor smiled as he dragged the carpet with on it the strange unconscious woman behind him into yet another defunct hallway. Things were definitely looking up for him, not only had he found a decent carpet to drag her with, he even had managed to find one that did not clash  with her current clothes, colour wise. Calmly he trotted along, the sparking wires overhead illuminating the hallway as he went, faintly he noticed the magnetic locks of his boots engaging, but thought little of it, today was going to be great!

Round another corner she led her group, and for a moment Dame Miriam Spriggot feared what she would find, or rather what she wouldn’t find. She stopped and turned her head, looking to her fellows. “Right if it isn’t around the corner, I’m going to off myself, who’s with me? ” Right after the words left her mouth she wished they hadn’t, and cursed herself for lacking the sense of humor that Sir Ingles had. The men however, started laughing.
And that was how they marched into the medical bay of The Camelot, laughing like lunatics as they half carried, half dragged each other and their fallen comrades, led by Dame Spriggot who was holding her pistol loosely by her side.

Seventeen, eighteen, nineteen, Sir Tiberos Harding counted the rivets in the ceiling, it was his only entertainment so far, unless he would wish to further disgrace himself, he had acted like a pig headed boor, who hadn’t known when to nod, or worse, he acted like a man who didn’t know who to obey, he had in a word been stupid. Sure he had given Sir Idver many a beating on the training grounds, and yes he had the most experience, but to cross the Tower?  What had he been thinking? Actually he knew what he had thought, he had thought that there would be no repercussions, that he would be fine due to his seniority, he had forgotten his place and above all his rank. “Hyou look , Bored, is there a reason you look bored old bird?” The voice was metallic in nature, and filled with a sort of underlying menace he felt hard to place and describe. “WELL?” static filled the word as if to sand down the harsh sharp tone. “I look bored, because I am bored.” He didn’t look towards the voice, a deep rooted dread kept him from doing so. “Perhaps a game would help, alleviate your, boredom, a game between, old friends.” There was no question, though it felt like it was intended as one. “Of course you would have to look at me to play,,,” The sentence died off as if the speaker had meant to add more or was suddenly lost in thought. “I, can’t , I can’t look at you.” Harding felt sick to his stomach, his past had come to haunt him, maybe he was truly mad? “Why not?” The question was brief, curt, as if the spectre of his past knew the answer. “Because you aren’t there, not really, you’re dead, I saw you die.” There he said it, and now the moment would be dispelled, the voice would leave and he would wake up. And for a moment there was indeed silence. “LOOK, AT, ME!! YOU CUR!!” Static filled the voice like a audio transmitter pushed to it’s limits. Slowly Harding turned his head sweat starting to run along his neck as he did, before him stood Sir Balin, of the order of the dragon, his battle plate well maintained, his face mostly obscured, but his eyes, were those of a friend once lost, the sight itself nearly enough to break Sir Harding. “You,,,you live?” a near breathless whisper drawn from his suddenly dry throat, a million accusing thoughts jumbling through his mind, none making sense. “I visited you many times, now you will stop acting the fool, old hothead.” A sharp intake of breath caused the armour to rattle in a near purr. “And play checkers with me, as you explain yourself.” Only then did he notice the game his old dead friend was holding, as far as hallucinations went he did not mind this one. “Fine, let’s play then.”

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Book 2 Chapter 12

The great hall was silent, Sir Bron had stopped holding the false conversation for a while now, as it had become painfully obvious his fellow would not be answering. Still the others mostly seemed to respect protocol and ignore the unconscious Commander. Until the great door swung open, a mechanism that should have been sealed and locked as it had been an hour earlier when they had tried and failed to open it themselves. From beyond strode Knight Commander Mordred Damodred, bearing a suit of armour that was beneath his station, carrying aloft a small fragile body wrapped in a ragged and tattered red cloak, a red cloak that would be recognized as his by those who had been privileged enough to enter the Knight Commander’s private quarters.

The Knights immediately stood at attention, bearing their blades and guns aloft in salute, yet they were ignored, instead he walked on, towards Sir Ton, trailing closely behind him was a Knight of the Order of the Road, her uniform in a state of disarray, mostly dragging a bag with her armour behind her, but what was probably worse was that she too ignored  the other Knights, instead blurting out a seemingly endless stream of gibberish, seemingly to herself.
Needless to say that the assembled Knights were quite displeased.

“Rouse the acting commander if you please” The voice that rang from the Knight Commander’s helm was deep and solemn, but somehow soft. So Sir Bron moved with a sort of hesitance, before stopping just short of Sir Ton’s shoulder. “Sir, respectfully, I don’t believe that to be a good idea, or in fact the right course of action. ” Carefully Mordred lay down his package on the table, before gently, yet relentlessly pushing the other Knight aside. “Sir Ton, it is not your time to pass just yet, on your feet.” The words were spoken with a certain undertone that the Knights couldn’t place, granting them a quality that almost forced compliance, and Sir Ton did. “Sir Ton and I will return to the Sword, Dame Krim shall accompany us there ahead of the rest of the Order of the Road, we have to make preparations, Sir Bron You shall assume command of the Camelot for now, have her follow the Sword, that will be all.” as he spoke he picked up his package, and turned to the exit, Sir Ton following two steps behind him, somewhat stiffly, and the disheveled looking Dame closed the awkward procession, leaving Sir Bron and his men with more questions than answers.

Meanwhile Sir Tor took the time to carefully replace a broken fuse for one of the security system sub grids, all the while holding one eye on his unconscious guest. Not that he expected her to get up and run, or even attack mind you, just that he wanted to greet her appropriately, and it would be easier to do so when he saw her wake, as a simple, oh good you’re waking up, would be sufficient, as opposed to, oh hey hello there you stranger I saw braining herself with the floor, how are you doing on this fine day? Or at least it seemed like the safe route to take. Off course that was assuming she spoke the same language as him, or he as her, he wasn’t particularly picky really.  And So he ended up having to drag her along as he explored and repaired the Camelot, careful not to drag her face across the flooring, but also careful not to miss her waking.
It wasn’t until he came by one of the residence decks he realized his mistake in dragging her along as he did, and as such went looking for a carpet to appropriate.

 

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Book 2 Chapter 11

The warmth had come back, it had started to seem like little more than a memory, but it had come back, Cripa could almost feel her fingers again. Carefully she tried to open her eyes, some slight dusting of frost fell off her eyelids, otherwise she felt fine.  She knew she wasn’t off course, she was aware that it was a trick of her mind, likewise she knew her fathers voice to be a trick of her mind, still she followed the instructions however dirty they were, and relieved herself over her hands and feet. It hurt, it hurt bad but she knew it was necessary. “keep moving girl.” The voice was close, so she struggled to her feet. “Moving,always moving” Onward she staggered, half delirious, through halls that were no halls, caves that couldn’t be.

Round another corner, up another slope, past a slow moving canal of half frozen slurry. For a moment she thought of kneeling down and drinking, but the water did not look particularly inviting, the colour seemed off, and the smell was horrid. So she kept going, ignoring her dry throat, ignoring the possibly dead water, round another corner, and into a bright corridor, the sudden brightness blinding her, causing her to drop low as she attempted to hide her eyes from the light. Not taking the floor lighting into account. Thankfully her world went dark shortly after, as she drifted into unconsciousness, only barely registering the blunt force trauma to her forehead, the trauma she unwittingly had caused herself. Likewise she only barely registered the footsteps that approached, thinking instead of her father. Would he be proud of her? Of how far she had made it?
She thought he would.

Sir Tor, one of the Knights tasked with exploring and where possible restoring the depths of the Camelot startled, and turned just in time to see a red skinned woman banging her face into the floor. Carefully he replaced the wall panel, taking his time to twist in the screws to lock it into place, it wouldn’t do to rush his job just so he could save a stranger, he would aid her, but he would not neglect his duty’s to do so. Still he reached her just as she faded out. Not that he was far from where she had decided to brain herself. With some care he placed her on her side, then remembering his basic first aid made sure her tongue wouldn’t get stuck in her throat. “Well I don’t know who you are, but darn did you do a bang up job knocking yourself out like that.” Sir Tor calmly sat down next to her. “Mild frostbite, but oh do you smell bad, guess you really want to keep your fingers.” He checked the current temperature.”Well, you won’t be freezing again, atmospheric control seems to have kicked back in, and we’re gradually climbing the temperature ladder to say ten degrees above freezing, girl did you ever pick a dumb place to nap.” He had never been known to be subtle, or polite, or indeed capable of maintaining a decent conversation, but doing reconnaissance, or repairing minor damage to switchboards, or resetting breaker switches, were well within the scope of his abilities. Now what was it one had to do with an unidentified humanoid, typically if they were hostile the answer was to shoot them until they weren’t anymore, but if they weren’t hostile what then? Sir Tor Sighed and went through his pouches, looking for one of his many etiquette leaflets, ah there it was. “How to deal with non hostile humanoids, a comprehensive guide, step one: Attempt to communicate.”This was going nowhere, fast.

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Book 2 Chapter 10

The road was long and winding, but he cared not, his burden was light, nigh ethereal, and as such it did not bother him that he had to carry it. Behind him were the muffled footsteps of the silent engineer, the lone companion to the noise of his own mind.
Within him his thoughts raged, screaming for dominance, demanding every inch of his attention, accusations warred with doubts and mis-beliefs on equal footing.
Facts, normally a safe haven in such a situation, held a grim position over the battlefield of his mind.

For the fifth time the engineer coughed quietly, and for the fourth time it had been louder than before. Still he ignored the invitation to converse, rather he desired to dwell in silence than having to give voice to his thoughts now. “Sir, it, it was not your fault, you know that right? ” His mind reeled at her words, rearing up like a wounded beast kicked upon it’s sore flank, nearly he let fly his words of anger and self loathing, but bit it back, literally. “Sir? You’re starting to scare me,,,did you turn of your receiver? Is something broken?” His world seemed to collapse, just a little further. His mouth filling with a strong coppery taste. He swallowed before finally answering. “My, equipment, is fine.” It was brief, too brief, he knew it was, he knew full well he had to re-assure the engineer that no mistakes were made, he was fully aware it was his solemn duty to give her an explanation, or offer some comfort. Yet he did not, could not at this moment contemplate any way to do so.

Meanwhile back in the main assembly hall Sir Ton chose his path, forcing himself to remain upright, and above all, to not pass out. Gwenn34’s incessant raving apologies however were not a great help to his endeavors.
Nonetheless the Knight managed to set a few steps forward, before a most astute Sir Bron managed to subtly intercept him and guide him into a chair, where the last thing he heard was Gwenn34’s voice as it cut through his mind. “Something is horribly wrong,,” Something sure was, after all he was losing his consciousness, not that he managed to finish the thought.
Sir Bron sighed as he sat himself opposite to the acting Commander, Shaking his head ever so slightly as once more he struck up a conversation about nothing, the whole affair being but a formality, a way to keep the civilians from panicking, no Knight would fall for the charade he was committing himself to. But then again, they had all seen the trembling gait that Sir Ton had displayed, they had all witnessed  how he had sat him down. And, he had to remind himself, they all knew the protocol for a fainting commander before civilians. Still it bothered him that he could not have his fellow be examined or even treated.

The hallway was silent, even the footsteps of the Knights did little to alleviate the near physical pressure of the silence. The order of the Road being uncharacteristically quiet, as they moved towards the medical bay. Ten minutes ago their jokes had stopped. The last jest had been of the grand mechanic, Sir Ingles himself, and although it they had all chuckled no-one had found it funny. “Spriggot” He had croaked. “Do you know the difference between myself and the calendar?” her reply had been a simple, no, to which his reply had been “The calendar still has days left.” at first none of them had dared reply, not realizing that he was trying to go out as he had lived, “Ah,,you guys are killing me,,,laugh already will you? Talk about a tough crowd.” They all chuckled at that, but more to humor him than anything else, it had been his last joke.  Still Dame Spriggot led the procession onward, convincing herself she would find that damned medical bay if it was the last thing she did. No-one made complaints, they all knew her pain, because they all felt it themselves.

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Book 2 Chapter 9

The men crouched, hands straying to weapon handles. “Please stand at ease, KniGhTs, adjusting, Please stand at ease Knights.” A broken electronic voice blared across the decks of the Camelot, static straining the words, making the origin uncertain. “I have assumed control of the vessel,  you are safe. That is all” The torches re-igniting at the end of the message. “I do believe that we might be under attack Sir.” Immediately Sir Ton turned towards the Knight that had spoken, Caradoc junior, currently serving as a wall knight for the Camelot’s defenses. “I, think not, Sir Caradoc, but you are well to be wary.” He managed to keep his face blank, expressionless, a skill he owed to many nights filled with cards and gambling as a youth. “This is a message for the common good, please remain calm, the ship is currently undergoing maintenance” The voice was monotonous, and still somewhat warbled from the static interference, nonetheless Sir Ton knew who it was NOT.
“It might not be an attack, but make certain all Knights will be void ready, I trust you can do it discretely.”  Sir Caradoc nodded his understanding, and darted of his movements were measured out, and purposeful, so much so that Sir Ton took a moment to admire the man’s precise motions, there was a certain beauty in a well trained warrior that stemmed from efficiency, sometimes it would reveal itself in fluid motions, other times it was the short no nonsense movement of a man who wasted nothing, today it was the latter. “I see you approve of the doctrines the wall teaches? ” Sir Bron was playing along masterfully, making light of the situation, while donning his helmet again. “Perhaps you could oversee our exercises someday, Sir Ton? ” Either that or the man was so jaded by his years of active service that he truly did not feel there was a threat. “I would be honoured, but only if you come visit the Tower’s training grounds aswell of course.” Sir Ton spoke as he wrestled his own helm back in place, the H.U.D. was flaring with confused icons. “Come on come on come on respond to me already! Stop ignoring meeeeeeee!? ” Gwenn34 was practically assaulting his ears the moment the helm was back in place. Unfortunately the assault was so loud that it nearly caused Sir Ton to bleed from his ears.

The giant staggered, and fell to the floor, clutching his head fiercely. The people watched in terror, afraid that whatever vile magic had stolen the light just now, had somehow struck one of the giants down. The frown upon old aunt Farthis face had deepened, as she fiddled with something in her pouch, the people drew closer obscuring her view. One was about to speak, she knew him, Thomas he was, and she did not like him very much, however he had survived so he deserved a second chance, even from her, so she bit her tongue and let him.”Will you cast the bones Misses Farthis? I should like to see if he will be well?” His tone and demeanor surprised her, he had always been a crass youngling, no respect towards his elders and all that, yet there was respect there now. “Aye m’boy, I shall cast and we all shall kenn what will be with him that fell.” The request had been made, so she drew her knuckle bones, each inscribed on one end with varying runes, the other end left bare polished bone, carefully she laid out her quartered cloth, now slightly stained from the troubles on the road, said a quick and quiet invocation, as she raised the bones over the center, and released them.

They watched with baited breath as the bones fell, they all saw them strike the cloth, and somehow leap from it. One after the other they sprang and clacked upon the metal flooring besides the cloth, all but three. They all bore witness as old aunt Farthis slowly turned her gaze upon her cloth, and they all saw her eyes go wide as she whispered the bones. “Mannaz,,Tiwaz reversed,,Hagalaz, Man war and destructive natural force,, at least for the better, he will fight for us in a devastating battle,” The thought of it alone terrified the old woman to her core, the horror of war was not yet over for them nor for the giants, and with how the other bones had fled, the power of the prediction must be high, either the war would come soon, or it would be one of tremendous scale. Little did she know the other meaning her runes might have had, little did she know that for the Knights her prediction meant nought but what they already knew .

The yelling stopped, the icons slowly blinked out, and the pain started to fade, somewhere in the distance a tiny voice hesitantly muttered something about elevated blood pressure and near deadly levels of adrenalin. Sir Ton rose again, his vision edged in crimson, his hearing impaired by the noise of his blood flow. “Gwenn34, be still, administer, painkillers.” He barely managed to remain upright his body not entirely healed from before now buffeted by the audio visual assault had trouble maintaining its equilibrium.
From the side he saw the medical staff stop their rushed advance, good, a leader should not be seen as weak, or so one of his mentors had always told him.
The world returned. “Gwenn34, speak softly, my ears are, in pain.”  This was shaping up to become, as his friend would say, one of those days.

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Inspiration.

So yesterday  I found myself sitting in the passenger seat of my fathers car, driving through the dark hours before sunrise. I say the dark hours, and they were,as the area we drove through had no street lights, and it was shaping up to be a dreary morning, the sky was overcast with thick clouds, that had it been brighter would no doubt still seem uninviting.

And for the first time in a long time I caught myself performing a sort of mental tug of war  between my rational analytical, and my imaginative childlike side.
The reason for the two being at odds was simple enough, I was the one with the map. As such I had to focus, really focus, on where we were, and what little of the surroundings allowed themselves to be identified in the fleeting moments the headlights illuminated them. However my imaginative childlike side had other plans, as we drove past what I recognised as a wind generator, I witnessed the wrathful gaze of an impotent giant flailing his arms in rage as we sped away, my imagination turning the red warning lights into the monster’s eyes. Later we passed a somewhat rare sight, the end of a train line, the sort that had no station attached and only really sees use for maintenance or temporary storage of extra carts that they might use during rush hour. However it had two red indicator light on either side of the double tracks, with a small building behind them, the posts along the tracks soon turned into a dragon’s jagged teeth.

All the while I was maintaining my focus on getting the directions right, telling myself to ignore the fantastical creatures of these dark hours, and to a degree I could. To a degree, because where most people would get annoyed at such flights of fancy, I as a writer can benefit from them.

So when, in this coming year, you suddenly find yourself staring at giants, dragons, sleeping trolls, or staring into the abyssal depths that threaten to swallow you and your vehicle like some small candy devoured by some hungry child around halloween, take a moment, and enjoy it, or write it down, before your rational mind tells you that really, it’s just a windmill, train stop,  oddly shaped hill, or tunnel with defective lighting, and you’re just traveling in those darkest hours before the dawn, where fantasy can be seen, and stories are born.

For now, happy new year everyone, let’s hope it’ll be a creative one.

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Book 2 chapter 8 (7.5, but 8 for ease of numbering)

At the visual easing of Sir Ton’s temper, and the removal of his hand from the hilt of his weapon several Knights of Sir Bron’s eclectic group rushed forward, carrying collapsible chairs, and a foldaway table, a field officer’s equipment, except this particular set came from several incomplete sets. With a relaxed gesture, as if he were never worried Sir Bron gestured to the set, offering the seat. “May we confer, Commander Ton? Perchance together we might get to the bottom of things?” He sounded tired, aged and worn, but welcoming. “A good plan, Sir Bron, let us see what information we both have.” The two Knights sat, and looked upon a projected map of the Camelot, upon which Sir Bron placed several markers, and rectified the location of some walls manually, using some of the quirks of his older system. “Here is the lay of the land, so to say, now for this map we used the schematics as on file, but they seem to be rather wrong, some walls seem moved, and on three places my men have noted wrong identification marks for floors, or bulkheads.” On this Sir Ton frowned. ” Walls have moved, and floor levels are wrong, the ship is changed, but we used the schematics to guide the order of the road.” A pot of dark brew is set next to the map, and mugs filled, absent mindedly Sir Ton takes one and bring it to his mouth. “Helmet, We might be able to guide them here, we have triage set up, should they have encountered trouble.” The warning just in time, Sir Ton set the mug back down, and finally removed his battle helm.  “Much obliged, your suit allows you to send a pulse does it not?” Sir Bron smiled, and sipped the brew.”Not my suit, but we do have an active locator, and now the enemy is gone we wouldn’t be at risk when using it.” Sir Ton frowned, as he drank the hot drink, and collected his thoughts. “The active beacons are technically for training goals, but I like how you think. We might be able to bring them home.” He paused for another sip.” And the Knight Commander, as, even though I know where he is, I have no idea how to get there anymore, nor can I hail him presently.”

The words had flown from his mouth before he even had the sense to consider them, and now he had to let it play out. He hated himself for the carelessness that he had just displayed, in the back of his mind he could already hear himself apologizing to Mordred, exclaiming that he regretted speaking so openly, already he knew Mordred’s reply, “But my dear friend” He would say. “Don’t you know I value your frankness, certainly the timing could not have been worse, but let us be fair with one another, you were possibly still drugged from your surgery, by all means you should be reclining on the bridge and let the men work for you.” Actually now that he thought about it, that last bit seemed wrong yet somehow fitting for the situation.

“Perhaps the ship’s sudden manoeuvres caused some discomfort for the Knight Commander, indeed, perchance his helm is damaged?” Sir Bron offered, appearing utterly unimpressed to find out the actual Knight Commander was missing in action. “Still if he is within the five deck range we will find him, and if any part of his helm remains functional, he will find us. Unless he was outside when the ship fired her engines of course.” The very real option of his friends death being mentioned as a mere after thought rubbed Sir Ton in all the wrong ways, before he could respond however the electric torches went out entirely, causing the Camelot to be wreathed in deeper shadows, and effectively shutting Sir Ton up, as he instinctively grabbed his helm.

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