Two Children, An Enchanter, and Three Horsemen

Fiction By Teal // 4/11/2009

Chapter 14

The silvery moon illuminated the inky darkness of twilight. Jane shivered beneath the ragged old coat that was her blanket. Unable to sleep, she sat up and looked towards the mouth of the cave, where moonlight flooded in. Will slept in a little nook, a gently undulating lump beneath his coat. The mysterious stranger, Matrim, sat leaning against the cave wall, his black hair falling over his tanned face.
Jane yawned drowsily and Matrim looked at her. “Can’t sleep either?”
Jane shook her head.
“Do you hear that?” the young man asked quietly, pointing upwards.
Jane tilted her head to one side and listened. “It’s a drip-drop sound. What is it?”
Matrim smiled. “It’s the sound of spring, Jane. Come and see.” He pulled himself to his feet and walked silently to the opening. Jane followed him out into the frigid night air. Drifts of snow trickled over the cliff ledge-- in mid-air melting into pearl-shaped drops of water and landing with a gentle plop, plop! on the outcropping.
Jane looked out over the outcropping at the mountain slope a hundred feet below. The evergreen trees had discarded their heavy loads of snow during the night, and the forest floor was carpeted in brown slush and trickling streams.
“Drip! Drip! Plop! Plop!” The night air was crisp and very cold. Jane shivered. Matrim turned towards, and in a moment, had pulled off his own coat, and wrapped it gently about Jane.
She protested. He insisted, grinning lopsidedly at the girl. “You remind me of someone,” Matrim said seriously after a moment. “Her name was Luella.”
Jane looked up at him inquisitively.
His eyes clouded, and he looked into her face as if searching for something. “I loved her more than life itself. She was my sister-- as beautiful as the morning star.”
“W-what happened to her?” Jane asked softly.
Matrim’s face turned stony hard. His eyes glinted with a feverish light. “The Enchanter—that accursed wizard-- wanted her for His own. He was determined to have her, but she refused. So the Enchanter did as he does to all who defy him. He locked my lovely Luella deep in his Dungeons. The morning star…gone forever.”
Matrim’s face was pale as death, and Jane took hold of his hand and patted it sympathetically. He turned to her and his face regained some of its color. He smiled bravely and lifting her chin gently with one finger, gazed deep into her eyes. “Jane. You remind me so much of her. You shall be as my sister.”
They stood together in the moonlight for a long while, staring out over the mountain before Matrim broke the silence, saying laughingly: “Now go, sister. It is time you were asleep.”
Jane walked to the opening of the cave, turned back towards him, and smiled.
A smile flashed across Matrim’s handsome face, and he watched as she disappeared into the cave. With a sigh, he turned back towards the view of the forest, his eyes clouding with the thought of some foreseen danger.

* * *

Will sat up, bumping his head on the shallow roof of the nook. He wrinkled his nose and wriggled out of the sleeping area. It was morning. Jane sat across the cave, nibbling on some wheat bread and watching him. “I’d get c-co-lo-trophobic…umm…”
“Claustrophobic?” Will offered, snatching up a loaf of wheat bread from the provisions satchel and consuming it in an appalling manner.
“Yes, that’s it. I’d be claustrophobic if I were sleeping in there. Clo…er…strophobic. Claustrophobic! There! You always were better than me in English class,” Jane ruminated cheerfully, eyeing Will’s demolished bread with polite distaste.
“Remember Mrs. Henrietta Parrishe, the English teacher?” Will laughed. He sat up stiffly, stuck his nose in the air, and said in a prim, rather nasal voice: “‘Sit up class! Behave like laytees and guntlemen.’ Oh! Hahaha! Hahaha!” Will and Jane collapsed onto the floor, in spasms of laughter.
When they recovered, Jane remarked gravely, “It seems like years ago, Will, that we were in our own world. I can….I can hardly remember what Great-Aunt looked like. The day we met seems like an eternity ago. I…I do enjoy this adventure, but I really wish we could be home again, Will. For reasons I don’t understand, I miss my ordinary, normal, uneventful life.”
Will nodded. “I know how you feel. I miss my mother and father awfully. I wish I could see them again soon. But, the quicker we find someone to rule this world, wearing the Diadem, the quicker our quest will be finished. And then...”
“Home,” breathed Jane.

* * *

Meanwhile, above the children’s very heads crouched two figures-- Marshivoc and Blancshoyc—two of the three horsemen.
“Here,” muttered Marshivoc. “The Children are beneath our feet. Have the General order the troops to form a semi-circle about this area, a good 10 feet from the cliff edge. Have them bring spades, shovels! Quickly!”
Blancshoyc skulked off, his eyes glinting with malevolent glee, returning a moment later with a muscular man clad in a black and scarlet uniform.
Marshivoc rose quietly to his feet and the General nodded respectfully, rubbing his hands together nervously. “The men are breaking up camp, Milord. They shall arrive in precisely thirty minutes.”
Marshivoc’s glittering eyes were fixed on the General. “How did you find the Children, General? How do you know they are down there?”
The General rubbed his grizzled beard and smiled ingratiatingly. “That fellow…Matrim Elnar, I believe? Ah! Yes, the sergeant. He did his job well. Led us straight here. Hahaha…” the General chuckled maliciously.
Blancshoyc, kneeling, inhaled once-- and his eyes glinted. “Ah, yes. The Children are here, General. I can smell their scent. But…my dear General…this is a greater discovery than you know. I smell with them…the smell of the Diadem.”
The General’s eyes blinked wide and bulged nearly out of their sockets. “The Diadem of Power? Down there? With the Children?”
Marshivoc turned to Blancshoyc, and his eyes burned with eagerness. He pulled out of his belt a scarlet dagger and thrust it, hilt-deep, into the earth.
“The Diadem is Ours! Oh! His Eminence will be pleased. Very pleased,” he purred, like a cat. He purred, indeed, like a great cat--- ready to strike.

* * *

The four sat in circle, munching at their breakfast. Andrija had brushed her hair and it made a vast improvement in her appearance. She had tied back her golden hair with a bit of rag.
Will had finished his loaf and was eying the provisions satchel with a hungry expression.
“Oh no you don’t!” exclaimed Andrija, laughing, throwing the satchel to Matrim, who deftly tied it closed. Then, she added more soberly, “We must be careful with our rations, everyone. We only have a supply enough for tomorrow.”
Matrim stretched and stood up. “That means we must be out of the cave by--” He froze.
‘Click…rat-a-tat…click click…’ A metallic noise resounded throughout the cave, but then faded away.
Jane shivered. Was it her imagination…or had the air suddenly become colder?
“What is it, Matrim?” asked Andrija, coming up behind him and staring, bewildered, at the ceiling.
“It is…nothing. Nothing.” Matrim sat down on the floor again, smiling that bold grin of his. “You all are as jumpy as…”
“CLICK! CLACK! CLACKETY CLACK CLACK. CLICKITY CLICK CLICK!” There was no hiding it now. The sound of chipping and digging was deafening.
Jane screamed, and hid her face in Andrija’s shoulder. “Don’t let them get us! Oh Andrija!”
Matrim stood up. His face was very pale. “No. No. It can’t be.”
Will tried to hide his trembling hands in his coat. “What are we going to do?”
Andrija snatched at the little wooden box which held the Diadem and thrust at Will. “Hold this.”
Suddenly the floor shook beneath their feet, and a great roar like thunder shook the cave. The digging, scraping sounds abruptly stopped, and there were screams of terror and confusion above them. Snow poured over the mouth of the cave, carrying stones and logs that bounced off the outcropping and over the cliff.
The snow flowed over the mouth of the cave for nearly a half hour, while Jane, Will, Andrija, and Matrim huddled in the back of the cave watching in perplexed wonder.
When the snow fall gradually lessened and finally ended, there was a long silence. Then Will asked, “What on earth was that?”
“An avalanche,” answered Matrim. “Did you see all the tree trunks and stones it carried along with it?”
“It wiped the Enchanter’s army over the cliff,” said Andrija in a tone of disbelief.
“Looks like it,” Matrim stared at the cave mouth.
“Let’s get out of this dratted cave,” Jane said eagerly, running towards the cave mouth.
Matrim leapt to his feet and grabbed Jane’s foot, bring her stumbling to the ground. She looked at him in confusion and pulled herself to her feet, the hurt showing in her eyes.
Matrim spoke breathlessly. “I’m sorry I had to do that, Jane. But look.” He led her to the very edge of the cave mouth and she gasped. The outcropping was gone!
“H-how…” Jane panted.
“In the avalanche, the stone and the tree trunks gradually chipped away at the outcropping until it fell.”
“Oh…” Jane looked down at the ground, far, far below. “I would have died, Matrim. You saved my life.”
“But how are we going to get out of the cave now?” asked Andrija sensibly.
“The Enchanter’s Army had the right idea,” Will called, looking up at the ceiling. “They tried to dig down to us. If we only had some tools, we could probably dig up to where their hole ended, and get out of this cave.”
“Good thinking, Will,” Matrim shouted, reaching inside his black coat and pulling out a dagger. He walked to the middle of the cave and began chipping away at the ceiling. Little fragments of stone sprinkled down around him.
“But won’t your dagger be dulled?” asked Will.
“Not at all,” laughed Matrim, “With magic it was forged, and it is indestructible.”
Will eyed the sparkling blade with reverence.
For nearly ten minutes, Matrim scratched away with his small dagger. “I’ve hit a stone. If I can just get it out, perhaps it will lead out into the open,” he called. “Luckily, this section of the ceiling is sandstone.”
In about a half hour, Matrim had succeeded at chipping around the rock, and now, he pulled at the rock with all his might. The boulder hardly moved. He pulled again, but to no avail. Will stepped to the other side of the rock and when Matrim pulled a third time, he gritted his teeth and yanked. There was a heavy rumbling, and the rock rolled out of the hollow in the ceiling, and with a crash landed on the cave floor. Light streamed into the cave from the hollow where the rock had been.
“Hurray!” Jane hugged Andrija, while Matrim and Will shook hands, grinning.
In less than five minutes, the four were standing in the brilliant sunshine on the edge of the forest, looking down at the cliff with relief. They were out, and free to continue their quest. They turned and walked into the forest.
Two pairs of eyes followed them-- Icy blue and scarlet red.