The Misplaced: Finale

In the Land of Arthur: Chapters 23-29

CHAPTER 23: EVAN

It was another three days before they reached the lands under the rule of Lord Defoe, the last of the Dark Lords. As they approached his castle, they were met by a small army of his acolytes.

“Looks like we’re not welcome here,” Eric said.

“Then let’s clear our own path,” Evan said. “Trace, introduce us.”

Trace went airborne, sending lightning bolts down on their enemies, breaking up their formation. On either side of Evan, Jadin and Panga drew their blades. Alectra fired her emotion arrows into the enemy, sowing further discord into their ranks. Unfortunately, they had their own archers who sent arrows raining down on them forcing them apart.

“Eric we need some cover fire,” Evan ordered.

Eric sent a volley of concussive blasts, knocking arrows out of the sky, freeing Evan, Jadin, and Panga to reach the body of the army. As Evan dismounted, he shifted to his full strength form. He had learned something in his time here in this world. His ability affected his clothes as much as his body, adapting them to his increased size so that he didn’t shred them as he grew. However, he had never been injured before. He hadn’t been sure how Jadin’s stitches would react the first time he used his ability. Apparently, his ability adapted to anything on his person at the time he shifted. The stitches increased in size, keeping his wounds closed as he grew. Evan ducked inside the reach of the soldier’s blades, delivering blows to knock them from their horses. Panga and Jadin met them blade to blade. Jadin occasionally using her ability on a soldier when they got to close to her. With the archers no longer a threat, the remaining three shifted their targets. Trace used his lightning to stun archers and soldiers alike, Alectra’s arrows removed others, and Eric’s concussive blasts still more. Working as a team, the six of them quickly ended the threat of Defoe’s army. Evan shifted back to his baseline form as they regrouped.

“Let’s have a chat with Lord Defoe, shall we,” Evan said as they advanced into the castle.

Trace and Eric led them through the castle, white energy and lightning crackling in their hands, ready to face any further opposition. Alectra followed slightly behind, a light arrow nocked in her bow. Panga stretched out her empathic abilities seeking out any further enemies.

“There’s no one else here,” Panga reported. “Just us and the Dark Lord. He must have sent everyone he had after us outside.”

“Indeed,” a voice said from behind them.

Trace, Eric, and Alectra turned on the Dark Lord, a youthful young man of their own age with neat blond hair in chain mail armor. He wielded twin swords in each hand. As they attacked, he caught each one on his blades.

“More magic weapons,” Eric said. “Do they get them at a discount at Armories R Us?”

“Lord Defoe,” Evan said.

“Well, now that you’re here, I think it’s time you faced my personal army,” Lord Defoe said as his eyes glared down each of them.

“Dude, in case you missed it, we just dealt with your army,” Eric said.

“Oh, not that army,” Lord Defoe answered with a wicked smile on his face.

As Evan watched, Defoe’s features blurred like a TV channel out of focus, spreading until it encompassed the entirety of the room. When his image stabilized, they found themselves facing six identical copies of the Dark Lord.

“Pair off,” Evan said once he took in the situation.

“This one’s mine,” Panga said directing her blade to the left side copy in the middle.

Evan focused on his own opponent as the two groups approached each other.

CHAPTER 24: THE MISPLACED

Over the course of their adventure to oppose the Dark Lords, Panga and Jadin had shared discussions over the nature of their blades. They agreed that they appeared to share something similar to a symbiotic relationship with the dagger and sword. The blades appeared to learn from them as much as they were learning from the blades. As a result, the more they used the weapons, the greater their skills were becoming. This was even more apparent as Panga dueled with Lord Defoe. She parried each attack from his dual swords with little thought and was actually advancing her ground on him.

“Not so confident in your victory, are you Defoe?” Panga challenged him.

“Foolish girl,” Defoe answered her. “You are evenly matched. Even if one of us falls, the others will assure your end.”

“Are you so sure of that,” Panga said. “See, yours are the only other emotions I’m sensing other than my friends. That makes you the original Lord Defoe. So if I beat you, what happens to the others?”

“Don’t get ahead of yourself girl,” Defoe answered her with a sneer. “First you have to win.”

Panga would have to agree with him on that point. They continued the duel, neither one of them giving any further ground to the other. Panga knew he was nowhere as self-assured as his words made him appear. The only questions remaining were who would make the first mistake, and who would outlast the other. Panga made a dangerous decision to end this fight. If it failed, she most likely wouldn’t be going home, but if she succeeded the entire fight may be over for all of them. She put her faith in her dagger and communicated her intentions to the blade. She pressed her attack, placing herself in reach of Defoe’s swords, and the dagger responded. She parried each attack from the swords pushing them away from Defoe’s body, leaving him open to her dagger. She thrust it forward into his chest and Defoe fell off to sleep.

As Evan advanced on his opponent, his initial thought was that he needed to avoid being cut with one of Defoe’s blades. He was sure that Jadin was getting tired of having to patch him up. That lasted until Defoe landed a solid punch to his face. Only his enhanced resilience in his full strength form kept him from suffering a broken jaw and being knocked out. Either Defoe was stronger than he looked or this copy came complete with enhanced strength. Evan delivered a series of punches most of which Defoe blocked, but one landed to his jaw. Defoe took the shot as well as Evan had taken his.

“So strength vs strength it is,” Evan said. “But let’s even the playing field.”

He shifted to his wolf form, not only enhancing his strength, but his claws would be a match for Defoe’s swords. His strength in this form exceeded Defoe’s, but his unwillingness to use his claws against Defoe’s person left them equals. They continued their match. Each of them trading blows while Evan used his claws to parry Defoe’s swords.

“Time for a change of strategy,” Evan thought. “Let’s see how much damage magic swords can take.”

Evan redirected his attacks on the swords. Delivering a flurry of blows with his claws to each of them. The intensity of the strikes weakened the blades until they snapped in two.

“Now for the sword master,” Evan thought turning his attacks on Lord Defoe. Despite his strength Defoe’s arms couldn’t recover from the effect of Evan’s fists to the swords. He was unable to defend himself as Evan delivered a series of punches to his head. A final uppercut to his chin and he fell defeated.

Jadin was having her hands full with her opponent. Her Lord Defoe was telekinetically flinging various objects into her path. Jadin, with an assist from her sword, was able to intercept the objects. Knocking some away and slashing through others without losing her focus on Defoe. Great, she had to get the Darth Vader copy. She was grateful Eric was a little preoccupied at the moment; otherwise, he never would have let her live this one down. Still, it could have been worse. Defoe could have reached out and pulled her into his swords. Maybe being a copy limited the full range of what the abilities could do. Jadin needed to take the fight to him before he considered that possibility. She advanced on Defoe forcing him to engage her in a sword fight. They met each other blade to blades striking and parrying each other’s every move.

“You’re quite the skilled swordsman,” Defoe complimented her.

“Trust me, my sword’s more merciful than what I can do to you,” Jadin said.

“You can try,” Defoe returned.

Jadin continued to press the attack, forcing Defoe to focus on her more than using his telekinetic abilities against her. She met him blow for blow and pushed her advantage, creating an opening for a sword strike to his stomach ,sending another Defoe to sleep and out of the fight.

Eric couldn’t hit what he couldn’t see. As soon as Eric had engaged his Lord Defoe, the Dark Lord had vanished out of sight. He was sure though, that his Defoe hadn’t just been removed from play that easily. He sent out a wide volley of concussive blasts to try and focus his opponent on him rather than moving on to any of the others. He kept his eyes focused on the area of the hall in front of him waiting for when the Defoe would reveal himself. There. He felt the impacts of Defoe’s swords against his force shield and he extended it outward, pushing the Defoe back forcing him to go visible. Eric released a volley of concussive blasts that Defoe dodged around before going invisible. Again, Eric put up his force shield playing a game of cat and mouse. As soon as he felt Defoe’s blades against his shield he tried a different strategy. He rolled away from where he felt the impact before releasing his shield and firing another volley of concussive blasts. Hitting nothing, he quickly restored his force shield. As the cycle continued to play out Eric knew he would have to try something new. The constant use of his ability was taxing him to his limits. Once again, it would be time for desperate measures. As he felt Defoe’s swords against his shield he channeled his concussive energies into his fist releasing the same concussive punch that he had employed against the Dark Knight. If he missed, he would be completely at the mercies of Defoe. Mercies, Eric was sure he would not receive. He didn’t miss. He felt the concussive energy explode against Lord Defoe. When the Dark Lord became visible again, he was feet away and down for the count.

Alectra was really beginning to hate fire. First the dragon and now the Dark Lord. This time, she didn’t have Eric’s force shield to protect her from his flames. She dodged between the bursts of flames Defoe was channeling thorough his swords. As she did, she stashed her bow on her back alongside her quiver. There wasn’t going to be enough time or distance to make use of it. She wasn’t happy about having one weapon taken out of her arsenal. She could still project her emotion arrows from her fingers, but she wasn’t sure if she could use her light arrows in a similar manner. She sent three fear arrows from her right hand at Defoe, as she reached back for one of her light arrows with her left. One of the arrows hit Defoe squarely, but he didn’t hesitate in his attacks. Not the slightest amount of fear showed on his face.

“Ok, that settles it,” Alectra thought, “I’m dealing with a copy. That makes a lot of my decisions much easier.”

Alectra slung the light arrow underhanded at Defoe which he easily sidestepped. On the plus side, Alectra knew she could still make use of them. As she reached back for two more arrows her fingers touched on one of the physical arrows she still carried from their last battle. This gave her plan for ending the combat. She continued to dodge and roll away from the flames Defoe directed at her as her light arrows kept him off balance and unable to be any more accurate with his fires. She made one final roll towards Defoe pulling one of the physical arrows from her quiver. As she rose up in front of Lord Defoe she stabbed the arrow into his chest. There was a look of surprise on his face before his body exploded into dust.

Only Trace’s survival instincts honed from a life on the streets saved him from Defoe’s initial attack. As Defoe raced at him with superhuman speed, Trace released a bolt of lightning into his path, forcing him to divert his direction while giving Trace the time he needed to levitate away from the Dark Lord. Twice in their time here in Arthur’s land, Trace’s impulsiveness had endangered his friends. Now, for the second time, that same impulsiveness would be the difference between life and death. Trace unleashed a series of lightning bolts at the Dark Lord, which he evaded with his speed or deflected away with his swords. The pair was faced with a stalemate. Defoe couldn’t reach Trace as long as he remained airborne, but his agility, granted by his speed, kept Trace from hitting him with his lightning.

Trace knew he couldn’t stay where he was. If Defoe couldn’t reach him, he may turn on one of his friends. Trace lowered himself back to the floor surrendering himself to his instincts. Trace felt like he was a spectator in his own body, dodging and countering every one Defoe’s attacks. As they continued to spar, Trace considered a means to end this fight. He thought about how he kept electrical charges dancing in his hand. Rather than channeling those charges into lightning perhaps he could use them as a weapon in their own right. As Defoe raced back at him, he began generating the charges in his hand stepping aside as Defoe reached him. As Defoe passed by, he reached out with his hand catching the back of the Dark Lord’s head in his hand. Defoe jerked in Trace’s hands as the electricity reverberated against his skull. When Trace released him, he fell to the ground.

Evan looked around at each of his friends and breathed a sigh of relief. They were all exhausted, but each one of them had emerged victorious from their individual fights.

“Which one's the original?” he asked as he removed a cross pin from his lapel.

“This one,” Panga said, levelling her dagger at her opponent.

As Evan tossed the pin at the Defoe Panga indicated, all the copies in the room faded from existence as he was encased in the cage. Not even the dust from the one Alectra had “killed” remained. They were only given a moments respite to enjoy their victory before Panga’s cries alerted them to the coming danger.

“Everyone scatter!” she said.

As they did as she ordered, forming a semi-circle around the great hall, two lights emerged in the center of the room. As the lights faded away two figures stood in the hall. The first was a middle aged man in silver armor carrying a sword and a shield. On the chest of his armor was the crest of a dragon. Standing next to him was a woman of similar age with long blond hair. She wore a form fitting black dress with elbow length black sleeves. A cape was attached with a broach just below her neck.

“Your interference has caused me much distress,” Mordred said evenly. “But your meddling in my affairs ends here.”

“I was thinking the same thing,” Evan said calmly shifting back into his full strength form.

CHAPTER 25 : EVAN

“Eric, Mordred’s yours,” Evan ordered. “The rest of us will handle the sorceress.”

Eric nodded as he unleashed a volley of concussive blasts at Mordred, who blocked each of them easily with his shield and sword. Evan wasn’t happy about leaving Eric alone in that duel, but he felt Eric offered the best chance against the expert swordsman. His concussive blasts could keep Mordred off balance, and his force shield would offer him protection when necessary.

Meanwhile, the rest of them would have their hands full with Morgan Le Fay. The sorceress was well prepared for their various attacks. Panga was kept stationary as she attempted to influence Morgan’s emotions. Unlike others, Morgan wasn’t affected by their emotional duel. She continued to execute wordless spells, effortlessly. Around her wrist a circular energy shield formed and then extended to encompass her entire person. Both, Trace’s lightning and Alectra’s arrows, deflected off the surface of the shield. Around them various objects were slung into their path.

“Seriously, this again,” Jadin said as she stepped in front of the group using her sword to slash and knock away the debris.

At Morgan’s feet the stone floor erupted up and fused together to take the form of two stone-like men. Evan shifted to his wolf form and intercepted them.

“Keep pressing Morgan,” he told the others, “I’ll deal with the golems.”

As Trace, Jadin, and Alectra advanced on Morgan, Evan traded blows with the golems. The punches he delivered and took felt like…well they felt like hitting and being hit by stone. Whatever magic was responsible for forming the golems was making them resistant to Evan’s strongest blows. To make matters worse, they weren’t alive, so they felt no pain and didn’t tire. Evan, on the other hand, was subject to both conditions. Evan refused to let himself be defeated. There was to much at stake, his team needed him, and he would not let them down. He took every shot the golems gave him and relentlessly pounded them in return. The magic broke, the golems shattered at his feet, clearing a path for him to join the others.

Evan looked over at Eric. Eric was still holding his own in his battle against Mordred. The two were circling each other. Eric releasing a volley of concussive blasts to keep some distance between them, or to gain the upper hand, but Mordred was a skilled fighter and matched him move for move. Evan turned his attention to Panga whose face was still screwed up in concentration, trying to break through Morgan’s mental shields. He considered having her end the mental war and join them against Morgan physically, but he didn’t know how much more dangerous Morgan would be without her attention divided. Evan returned his focus on Morgan joining Trace, Alectra, and Jadin in their fight against her. Morgan was attacking them with beams of mystical energy forcing them away from her force shield. Evan raced to the force shield delivering some of his strongest punches against it. His attack had the desired effect as Morgan winced as if feeling the punches, her focus weakened even further. She was unable to maintain the energy beams and that allowed the others to join Evan in the attack against the force shield. Alectra fired her light arrows against it, Trace unleashed high voltage lightning, and Jadin hacked away at it with her sword. Morgan shrieked almost as if in pain as the force shield broke and swung her arm in an arc in front of her. An unseen force impacted them and knocked them all away from Morgan. As Morgan put a hand to her head, Evan was sure the effect of them breaking the shield had weakened her more than she let on. Her mental shields were weakening as well, allowing Panga to influence her emotions. Morgan Le Fay, however, would not allow herself to be beaten so easily. Before they could regroup and advance on Morgan, she enacted one more spell. Beams of yellow energy shot from her hands and impacted each of them on their forehead. Suddenly, Evan was no longer in the castle.

CHAPTER 26: ALECTRA

When Alectra’s vision cleared she found herself standing in front of a metal structure with merchandise neatly stacked on it. The materials used to construct it all seemed current and modern. Had Morgan Le Fay sent them home? If so, why was she here and not back at Haven? Something about it seemed familiar to her, but she couldn’t quite place it. She tried to move, but for some reason she couldn’t. “Did you find what it was the customer was asking for?” a voice asked her, a very familiar voice, but she was sure she hadn’t heard it in years.

“Yeah, I have it right here,” she said, reaching down, picking up a tray of strawberries and turning to face the sound of the voice. The thing is, she didn’t initiate any of the words or actions. They all just…happened. What’s more, as she took in her surroundings, she knew where she was now. The back room of Wal Mart and it was Caleb who was standing in front of her. She hadn’t worked there since high school and she wasn’t even sure if Caleb still did.

Her body continued to work on auto pilot throughout the rest of the day. At various times, Alectra tried to give her body orders, but it ignored every one of them. It was only near the end of the day that Alectra began to understand what was happening.

“Can you show me how to do that?” Alectra asked Caleb as he was working with a TC70 handheld device on the sales floor.

“No,” he said simply.

“Why not?” she asked, a little more aggressive this time.

“Because I don’t have to,” Caleb answered.

As she felt the anger well up inside her, Alectra realized she was reliving a memory. She remembered this day clearly. This wasn’t the first time that Caleb had refused to teach her something. He had trained her for everything she needed to do for her job, but anything above that he flat out refused to show her. It was true, he didn’t have to, but it didn’t mean he couldn’t. She had had enough of this treatment and determined she was going to hurt him. And she knew just how she was going to do it.

The next day, the first opportunity that presented her, she put her plan into motion. She hit Caleb with one of her pink affection arrows. “Hey Caleb,” she said. “Can you get me these apples down for me off the top shelf?”

“Sure,” he said, and went to get a ladder to pull them down for her. She smiled as he so readily did what she asked him to. On any other day, he would have pointed at the ladder and told her to get them down herself.

Over the next few weeks, it was more of the same. To maintain Caleb’s affections for her, she had to utilize a pink arrow on him each day, but the effects weren’t cumulative. Caleb’s affections only grew at a normal rate; he didn’t suddenly act inappropriately towards her or suddenly declare his undying love for her. Alectra watched through the eyes of her former self as she sold the relationship. She laughed at his jokes, funny or not, and joined him for lunch breaks when she could, among other things.

One day, things took a big step forward towards Alectra’s goal. Caleb had come into the store to do some shopping, and after Alectra used an affection arrow on them, they had talked for about an hour before her shift was to end. “Tomorrow there’s a big movie premiere,” Caleb said. “After I get off work would you like to go with me?”

Alectra felt it as her former self smiled both inside and out. However, the smiles were very different. The smile on the outside was excited and eager. The smile on the inside was sinister and calculating. “I’d love to,” she said.

That would be the first of a series of dates between the two of them. Alectra would allow Caleb to hold her hand and give her hugs, but she always stopped short of a kiss of any kind. There would be no introductory kisses, casual kisses, or good night kisses at the end of a date. She even refused an innocent kiss on the cheek.

Two months into this new dating phase, Caleb asked her to meet her at a park just slightly out of town. When she got there, she found Caleb standing underneath the shade of a tree beside a pond, a small box in his hand. He smiled when he saw her. Once more, Alectra used one of her affection arrows on Caleb before he spoke. “We’ve spent a lot time together lately,” he said, as he opened the box. “I was hoping you might want to make things a little more official between us.”

Inside the box was a ring. Nothing spectacular, Alectra was sure it hadn’t cost Caleb much, but it would serve the purpose of what he asked her next. “Alectra, would you be my girlfriend?”

The heart of Alectra’s former self skipped a beat, but Alectra knew it had nothing to do with mutual feelings of attraction. This was the culmination of a carefully crafted plan. Today was the day she would hurt Caleb.

“No,” she said simply. “This is moving way to fast, and it’s not want I wanted. I don’t think I want to spend any more time with you, Caleb.”

As her former self turned to walk away, Alectra’s eyes lingered longer on Caleb. For the first time, she saw the amount of hurt in his eyes. Breaking someone’s heart, even when it was necessary, was one of the most painful things you could do to a person. It may be kinder to reach in and physically remove their heart from their chest. This had not been necessary. Alectra heard the familiar sound as Caleb threw a rock into the pond.

From outside the scene, she heard Jadin’s voice calling out to her. “Alectra, you can’t leave us. Come back!”

As the memory faded, she felt the slap to her face, but it was Caleb’s hand that delivered it. “It wasn’t a rock,” she said, softly aloud, as her vision cleared and she found herself back in the castle.

CHAPTER 27 : JADIN

Jadin thought she was going to die. Surely, Morgan Le Fay had a Death Curse in her spell book? Her life had flashed before her eyes. One moment after the next, no one particular scene stabilizing before she was experiencing another. Then her vision cleared and she was back in the castle. As she looked around Morgan Le Fay was nowhere to be seen. She continued to scan the room, her eyes catching on Mordred, who had his sword raised preparing to deliver a killing blow to a defenseless Evan.

“We have to stop him,” Jadin said. She hadn’t realized that she had spoken aloud, but she was glad that her sword hadn’t answered her. A talking dragon had been difficult enough to comprehend, but a talking sword? Her sword responded to her all the same, guiding her hand to swing it in the perfect arc and release it at the right moment. The sword sailed through the air, piercing Mordred’s helmet, and embedding itself in the side of his head. The Master of the Dark Lord’s collapsed at Evan’s feet sleeping peacefully.

The immediate threat ended, Jadin had time to focus on her friends. None of them were moving. They each stood in the same position as they had at the moment they had been impacted by Morgan’s spell. Their eyes were staring, unblinking straight ahead. She went over to Alectra, shaking her friend. She called out to her, but Alectra didn’t respond in any way.

Jadin ran over to Evan. As she shook him violently, yelling so loud in his ear to no avail, she was barely able to hear the voice coming from a short distance away from her. “What did that witch do to me?”

“Panga!” Jadin cried out, breathing a sigh of relief, happy not to be alone. She looked over to Panga who had a hand to her forehead, a dazed look in her eyes, as if she was just waking up from an intense dream. “I don’t know, but help me, please,” she pleaded. “I think everyone is still in some kind of trance. I can’t wake them.”

There was a look of fear and concern in Panga’s eyes as she looked over at Evan. “Try to get through to the others,” she told Jadin. “I’ll wake Evan.” Her voice was filled with determination and confidence as she replaced Jadin at Evan’s side.

Jadin went to Trace. It took less effort to revive him. A couple of violent shakes and he looked down at her, placing his hands gently on her shoulders as if he was trying to regain his balance. “What happened?” he asked.

Jadin looked over at Evan before she answered him. Panga had her hands wrapped around his neck, her face buried in his shoulder. Evan’s eyes were looking over Panga’s shoulder, taking in the room, still looking glazed over. Jadin gave him a small smile before turning back to Trace. “We’ll have to figure that out later,” she said before going over to Eric.

Eric, as Jadin would have expected, was more stubborn. She shook him as hard as she could, shouted in his ear, and still he remained unresponsive. It was only after she slapped him that he stirred.

“Ow,” he said as he looked down at her, “you didn’t have to hit me.”

“No, I didn’t,” Jadin said, smiling up at him. “That was just for fun.”

Only Alectra remained in the trance. Despite the time it took to wake the others, she had not come out of it on her own. Jadin returned to her, shaking and shouting in her ear. She slapped her as she did Eric and still nothing. Jadin became frantic. “Alectra, you can’t leave us,” she called out to her. “Come back!”

As she slapped her as hard as she could, Alectra stirred, her eyes looking down at Jadin. “It wasn’t a rock,” she said softly.

Jadin wrapped her arms around Alectra’s waist, burying her head in her chest, as she sobbed gratefully.

A few minutes later, Jadin joined the group after recovering her sword from where it remained in Mordred’s head. Evan had used one more of his cross pins to imprison Mordred alongside Lord Defoe. While everyone else had seemed to recover, Alectra’s eyes still remained distant, as if she was still in whatever world Morgan Le Fay’s spell had sent her. Together, they all walked out of the castle where Mercury flew back down to his usual perch on Evan’s wrist.

As they mounted their horses, Evan released Mercury back into the sky. “Let’s finish this,” he said.

CHAPTER 28 : EVAN

It was another two days before Mercury led them to Morgan Le Fay’s castle. They were met by an army of more of Morgan Le Fay’s stone golems, sand creatures, and what appeared to be knights in armor.

“There’s no one in the armor,” Alectra assured them. “They’re just shells. Morgan Le Fay is the only person here.”

“What are we doing?” Eric asked. “Raiding Hogwart’s?”

“Don’t know, don’t care,” Trace said, as he launched himself into the air.

For once, Evan wasn’t inclined to chastise Trace’s impulsive actions. He dismounted his horse and shifted directly into his wolf form. After the spell Morgan had used on them back at Lord Defoe’s castle, Evan wasn’t of mind to think that sending unliving agents to oppose them an intelligent strategic maneuver. He was sure she hadn’t sent any of them to their happy place. Jadin was the only one of them who hadn’t appeared to be adversely affected by her experience. Now they had an unrestrained opportunity to vent their frustrations.

Alectra calmly nocked arrow after arrow into her bow. Each light arrow removing another piece from the field. Trace swooped down, collected one of the suits of armor in his hands, and flew back up into the sky, absorbing it in the process. He then rained down lightning on the furthest units of the army reducing them to smoking piles of dust. Eric unleashed volleys of concussive blasts shattering apart whatever they touched. Jadin and Panga rode together into the heart of the army. Their sword and dagger slicing through any opposition. So ferocious was there attack’s that rarely did they have to parry an enemy action. Evan, for his part, pounded and pummeled his way through his enemies.

With no more enemies in their path Trace unleashed a lightning bolt onto the castle door only for them to watch as it was absorbed into it.

“Magically reinforced?” Eric asked.

“Doesn’t matter,” Evan said. “Let’s see how much punishment it can take.”

They worked together, slashing with sword and dagger, punching with fists, and striking it with concussive blasts, lightning, and arrows. Against an onslaught of this nature, not even the best magic could hold. The door didn’t just open, it collapsed inward. As Evan looked into the castle his eyes met the calm figure of Morgan Le Fay. She may have fled from them earlier, but she still looked confident that that was merely a setback.

“You are resourceful,” Morgan said, as six fireballs formed a semi-circle around her head and down to each hand, “but this is where you meet your match.”

As she unleashed the fireballs at them, Eric stepped between them, placing a force shield in front of them. Evan felt it in his own head as Panga engaged Morgan Le Fay in mental combat. So intense was her resolve Evan had not previously thought her capable of such an act.

“Not this time, Le Fay,” Panga said with conviction. “You won’t be getting inside our heads with your spells again.”

Evan saw Morgan visibly flinch as Panga broke through her mental shields removing any desire for her to use any such spell against them. Morgan stepped back into the castle as they advanced on her. Evan felt it as Morgan threw out her hand, not hitting them with a force shield, but telekinetically attempting to throw them out of the castle. Evan took the lead this time, pushing against the wave with his strength. He slowly advanced forward, his eyes focused on Morgan Le Fay. He let out a scream as he thrust out his hands in front of him as the telekinetic wave broke. Morgan let out a wail of her own, but she refused to let herself be defeated. She unleashed beams of mystic energy from her fingertips breaking up their formation. Trace flew ahead of them releasing his lightning at Morgan which she deflected away with an energy shield formed around her wrist. Alectra nocked three emotion arrows into her bow. A yellow fear arrow, blue for sadness, and teal for self-pity. As Alectra fired them at her, Morgan was able to deflect two of them with her wrist shields, but the sadness arrow impacted her squarely. It would take more than one arrow for her to succumb to a full depression, but Evan saw it as the shields visibly weakened.

As they continued to press their advantage, Evan looked over at Panga. Her face was drained of all color; the attack on Morgan Le Fay had weakened her beyond all endurance.

“Eric, stay with Panga,” Evan called over to him. “Keep her safe.”

Eric nodded to him and went to Panga’s side. He placed a force field around them, protecting them from any stray attacks.

With Panga safe from harm, Evan refocused his attentions on Morgan Le Fay. He advanced with Jadin slipping beneath Morgan’s defenses as she focused on the combined attacks from Trace and Alectra. Evan delivered an uppercut to Morgan’s jaw which she took far better than she should have. Before Morgan could retaliate, Jadin reached over and grabbed her by the wrist. As Morgan collapsed to her knees, sobbing uncontrollably, Jadin raised her sword and then ran her through. Even Morgan Le Fay, powerful wizard that she was, could not resist the sleeping spell.

“That’s probably more mercy than you deserve,” Jadin said harshly, as Evan imprisoned her within the last of the cross pins.

CHAPTER 29: THE MISPLACED

It was three days before they reached Arthur’s city. It was another week before they all gathered in the hall for Merlin to send them home. As much as Jadin wanted to return home, she didn’t mind having to wait a little while longer. That first day back they needed just to recover from their adventures. To let go of all the excitement, danger, and continuous movement. Not to mention the homemade feast that awaited them, relaxing baths, and comfortable bed.

The second day was a celebratory parade through the city. Jadin and her friends rode through the city streets waving at the citizens as they cheered them, throwing confetti onto their heads as they passed. Jadin couldn’t help but feel a certain amount of pride as they rode through the town. She and her friends had accomplished something few people experienced in their lifetime. They had ensured the freedom of an entire kingdom. Despite that, it wasn’t something Jadin wanted to do ever again. The parade culminated at the great hall. The Knights of the Round Table stood at their respective chairs as Arthur stood at the bottom step leading to his throne. Jadin and her friends stood in a semi-circle surrounding Evan as he knelt at the feet of Arthur. Arthur tapped Evan on each shoulder with his sword.

“Rise, Sir Evan of Haven, Knight of the Round Table,” Arthur commanded.

Evan rose and joined the Knight’s at the furthest chair to the left. As Arthur returned to his throne each of the Knights sat in their respective chair.

Finally, on the third day, Jadin found time to talk to Alectra. Ever since they had returned, Alectra had appeared distant from the others. She had not enjoyed the parade as much as they did and her eyes always seemed to be staring off into space as if she was somewhere else. Anyone else may have thought she was thinking of Aaron, but Jadin knew her friend better than that.

“What did Morgan Le Fay make you see?” Jadin asked her without any hesitation.

Alectra paused for a minute before answering her. “Back in high school, years before you and I met, I worked at the Wal Mart in Lonoke. There was a guy there named Caleb who just rubbed me the wrong way. One day, I had had enough of his attitude so I decided I wanted to hurt him. So, I used my ability to make him like me and when he asked me to be his girlfriend, I rejected him cold and walked out on him. I just left him there with a ring in his hand.”

Jadin waited for her to continue. She felt there was more to the story. “Things were never the same between us after that. He was never great to me before, but he treated me like dirt after that. He talked down about me in front of others. Never by name, mind you, but it was clear he was talking about me. He refused to help me in any way. He would do his own assignments, but if I couldn’t complete my own work, that was my own problem. After about a year of that treatment, I quit. I could have transferred to another department or another store, but I just couldn’t take it anymore.”

“He sounds like a jerk to me,” Jadin said. “You rejected him. OK, so what. Deal with it. He didn’t have to treat you like that.”

“I used to think that way,” Alectra said. “But I made Caleb like me. I manipulated him into liking me, then I just dropped him. Yes, I wanted to hurt him, but he didn’t deserve that. Until Morgan cast that spell on us, I never realized how much I regretted what I did to him. Maybe when we get home, I can make things right between us. I owe Caleb that much.”

Sir Evan of Haven. Evan had to admit it had a nice ring to it. In the days following his knighting, Evan had spent more time with Arthur, Merlin, and his now fellow Knights of the Round Table. They had not remained idle while Evan and the others were pursuing the Dark Lords. Arthur and his Knights had advanced on the lands of the Sheriff and Lord Dyson, defeating any of their remaining followers and liberating their people. Merlin had used his imprisoning spell on both the Sheriff and Lord Dyson. In the following weeks, Arthur would march into the lands of the remaining Dark Lords ensuring the freedom of his entire kingdom. Arthur had made it clear, Evan’s seat at the Round Table was not ceremonial. If he chose to stay he would serve as a Knight in his land. Evan had politely refused.

“I’m sorry, your Highness, but my place is with my friends,” Evan had said. “It was my responsibility to get them home and that burden will not be lifted until we all get there.”

Eric stood with his friends in the Great Hall. They were joined only by Arthur and Merlin. Eric glanced at each of his friends' eager faces. It was finally time to go home. Mercury remained perched on Evan’s arm. He would be joining them as Evan’s reward. Each of the girls carried their weapons, and Jadin proudly wore her cloak. Only Eric and Trace would not be taking anything with them. Going home would be reward enough. That and the kiss Eric had secured with the pretty barmaid he had met that first night in Arthur’s castle.

“Go in peace,” Arthur said.

Merlin raised his crook, the hook glowing with energy until a ring of light circled above the six of them. As it descended around them, the room went dark. Eric couldn’t see any of his friends.

When Eric could see again, he found himself and his friends on an open plain. He heard the familiar sounds of hooves running on dirt and heard men shouting from both sides of him. When he looked to either side, he saw two armies racing towards their position. He and his friends were literally in the middle of a battlefield.

“Uh, guys, I don’t think we’re home,” Eric said.

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