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The Misplaced: Segment 2

In the Land of Arthur Chapters 10-16

CHAPTER 10: ALECTRA

Not for the first time, Alectra was grateful for the horses. Without them, she was certain they couldn’t have put enough distance between themselves and the dragon. In addition, none of the boys were in any condition to walk. The strain of defeating the dragon had taken everything out of each of them. The girls rode out ahead of them in V formation, Alectra in the lead with Jadin slightly behind her to her left, and Panga equal to Jadin to her right. Alectra glanced over at Panga with resentment. She didn’t appreciate how she had called her out for suggesting the dragon should be killed and thought even less of how she had influenced her emotions. She didn’t care that she knew she had done the same to the others. Someone had to say it. It just so happened to be her.

The next day, they looked down at a village from a hillside. It was the first settlement they had come to since leaving Dyson’s village, but they were still at least two days ride from Arthur’s land.

“Do we go in or around?” Trace asked.

“We’re running short on supplies,” Panga pointed out. “If we’re going to make it to Arthur, we’re going to need more food and water.”

“We go in then,” Evan decided. “Get what we need and get moving. The sooner we get to where we’re going the better.”

Alectra was sure it wouldn’t be that easy. Nothing had been that way for them yet, why should it start now? The townspeople were friendlier and politely gave them directions to the town’s marketplace. Unfortunately, it didn’t take long for her to be proven right. As they were about to turn a corner they heard voices coming from the other side. “Please, sheriff,” a man’s voice came to them. “We just need more time.”

“You’ve had two weeks,” another man’s voice answered - presumably the sheriffs. “Now come along quietly or I’ll have to charge you with resisting arrest.”

As they looked around the corner, they saw a man on horseback. He wore fine clothes for the apparent time period and a badge gleamed on his chest. On his belt he wore a short sword. Nearby four men with similar badges, most likely his deputies were leading a family to a nearby carriage. “Trace, no!” Panga suddenly called out.

The warning came too late. Trace sent a bolt of lightning towards the sheriff. The sheriff reacted with superhuman speed, raising his sword and intersecting the lightning. However, instead of delivering the force of the bolt through the hilt, the sword appeared to absorb the lightning into itself. “Well that was unexpected,” Eric said under his breath.

Alectra was sure she knew what had provoked Trace’s outburst, and the sheriff seemed to share the same thought as he looked over at the man’s daughter. “She is pretty isn’t she,” he said. “Chivalrous of you. Foolhardy, but chivalrous.”

Trace sent another bolt towards the sheriff who calmly swung his sword intersecting it again. He turned his free arm towards Trace and from the back of his wrist a dartlike object shot forth. When it connected with Trace he immediately collapsed to the ground. “Get them on the carriage,” the sheriff told his deputies, “I’ll deal with these interlopers.”

“Great,” Evan said. “Eric, let’s take care of Trace’s new friend while the Big 3 gets the family to safety.”

“We hate,” Alectra started.

“I know,” Evan said.

The plan fell apart immediately. This sheriff wasn’t a fool as Evan shifted form he sent two darts at him. The first slowed him and the second felled him. Eric’s volleys of concussive blasts were intercepted by his sword which appeared to be able to absorb them just as efficiently as Trace’s lightning. The sheriff sent another dart towards Eric, who couldn’t generate a force field in time. He crumpled to the ground. None of the girls had even had time to get close to the family. “Jadin get out of here,” Alectra told her friend.

“I don’t need you,” Jadin started to say before Alectra interrupted her.

“I’m not protecting you. Someone has to double back and get to the boys. Panga and I can stop him.” As she looked into Jadin’s eyes, she knew she wasn’t fooling her, but Jadin nodded and ran.

Alectra looked over at Panga. “Fear?” she asked.

“Ohh yeah,” Panga agreed, “I’ve got plenty to spare.”

Alectra saw just a hint of fear in the sheriff’s eyes as Panga’s empathy influenced him just enough to distract him so that his sword arm didn’t intersect her yellow arrow. The sheriff turned as if to run, but then suddenly turned back to them with a smile on his face. “You’ve got me quaking in my boots,” he said as he sent a dart from each forearm in their direction and then things went dark.

CHAPTER 11: JADIN

Jadin was scared. She had worked to get herself lost in the crowd of people. When she finally took a moment to look behind her, she breathed a sigh of relief to see no sign of pursuit. She took a moment to gather her thoughts. She didn’t know if her friends were alive or... No, she wouldn’t let herself consider the alternative. Her friends were in danger and needed her to rescue them and she would do just that. First, though, she would need to make a change. They had all still been wearing the clothes that they had arrived in, and alone, she would stick out like a sore thumb. She found a clothing shop and deftly slipped out with a brown cloak that she might have actually taken time to appreciate had it not been for the circumstances. As she pulled it over her shoulders and tied the belt around her waist in a nearby alleyway it occurred to her the irony of their actions. Here she was plotting what may amount to a jailbreak, and stealing what she needed to aid in that pursuit to get her friends free from what they suspected was a corrupt sheriff. Crimes, that of course, would land them all legitimately in prison anywhere. As she pulled the hood up over her head, she noticed a pair of deputies and began to follow them through town. The cloak extended to just above her ankles concealing her blue jeans and white tee shirt. Only her Nike sneakers were showing, but she didn’t think anyone would be paying all that close attention to her footwear.

As she let them guide her, hopefully, to where her friends were, she thought of them and what made each of them special to her. When she had first arrived at Haven she and Alectra had bonded almost instantly. They would spend almost every moment together, laughing, talking, and sharing secrets. Panga and Alectra had been at Haven for years, but before Jadin arrived, they had been more like two ships passing in the night. Now, while it was true, they hated when Evan referred to them as the Big 3, Jadin couldn’t deny that it did define their relationship rather well. Eric prided himself on always having a snappy comment or witty rejoinder ready at a moment’s notice. In Jadin he had met his match and the two of them often engaged in a “War of Words.” It was a war Jadin was sure Eric would not admit to, but that she won more often than not. Trace had been Haven’s newest arrival and Jadin had been the first to reach out to him. It was a kindness and friendship that Trace valued, and would be eternally grateful. Evan. Evan had been one of Havens founders and leaders. He made it a point to get know everyone who came to Haven. As he got to know and spend time with Jadin he came to treat her much like he would a little sister. Sometimes too much like a little sister.

Jadin pulled herself out from her memories just in time, ducking back beside a building as the deputies crossed over into another building that she assumed must be the town prison. It was built of brick and looked stronger than the local shops and townhouses. It had a double door entry that was made of what appeared to be a thick strong wood. The two deputies entered the building, leaving a single guard standing at the entryway. Jadin closed her eyes, steadying her nerves, and preparing herself for what she had to do next.

She casually walked across the street, looking over to meet the guard’s eyes, and flashed him her most innocent smile. As she came up close to him she turned in front of him as if going on about her way, but let her hand reach back and gently touch his. The effect was instantaneous. The guard slouched casually, all muscles in his body relaxing, a goofy smile on his face as he stared off in an ecstatic world all of his own. It occurred to Jadin that there may be a way to ensure his safety, and others, as well as to give her an edge for the next step of her plan.

“Excuse me, sir,” she casually said to the guard. He turned to her, but the look on his face didn’t change. His eyes appeared to be looking past her or through her. “Would you mind too much giving me your club?” The guard gave it a gentle shake. “Yes, that nice big stick. Can I have it?” The guard handed it over then turned back staring off into space.

As Jadin opened the door and entered, the first room set out before her much like a modern day police station with three armed deputies behind desks. She found there was something good about being a 5 foot, unintimidating teenage girl, in a medieval like time period. Instead of rushing her all at once the guards approached her one at a time. As the first guard reached her, she swung her club and hit him in the stomach. As he doubled over in pain she brought the club down on his head. He fell at her feet. The next guard reached her before she could wind up for another strike. He grabbed her hand before releasing it just as quickly. Jadin had used her ability instinctively and he froze in place, his eyes wide, and his expression as if he was reliving the most emotionally painful moment of his life. She walked past the last guard after hitting him in the knees with the club approaching a double staircase. She wished Panga was with her. Her empathic abilities would have told them with much more assurance which path to take. “When in doubt, go down,” Jadin thought, and proceeded in that direction.

She encountered more deputies as she followed the staircase. The narrow path worked in her favor as their swords were compromised in the space, but her luck with her abilities would not last. Some of those she touched would turn on their fellows. Others… well, she would rather not recount what happened to them. As she reached the bottom of the staircase, she rushed towards the bars of the jail cells as she recognized the five figures on the other side. She spoke a silent prayer as she saw their chests rising and falling in a rhythmic pattern. Her friends were still breathing.

“Don’t worry,” she heard a familiar voice say calmly from somewhere behind her. “My stingers merely paralyze a person. They should recover shortly. By then you can join them.”

Jadin turned to face the Sheriff. She held her club over her shoulder as a batter in baseball may while waiting on a pitch. “Let them go,” she said. She tried to hold back the tremble in her voice, to sound far more confident than she felt.

The Sheriff merely laughed. “Of course I will let them go. That a maiden of your age can make it this far on your own, you have my respect. Face me in single combat. On my honor, it will be a fair fight, you shall not be subject to my stingers, only my sword. If you win you and your friends shall leave this town unobstructed. If I win, well then you will join my collection.”

Jadin was certain this would not be a fair fight. The Sheriff was clearly well trained in the use of his sword and most likely been fighting with it for many years. She had made it this far with her club with lucky swings and due to the fact that her opponents refused to treat her as a worthy foe. In addition, she questioned that this Sheriff had any honor. It was doubtful that he would respect the conditions of combat, or that he would let them leave in the unlikely event Jadin did win the battle.

Still, Jadin had few other options. She nodded in acceptance and advanced on the Sheriff. His movements and reaction was as if this fight merely bored him. He casually parried her first strike and then just as easily met the second. On the third swing of Jadin's club he met it close to the handle and flicked the club out of Jadin’s hands, levelling the blade at her throat.

“Well, that was entertaining,” he said, as he reached with his other hand and took a hold of Jadin’s shoulder.

“No!” Jadin cried out. Her reaction was one of instinct and habit. If she had been able to sneak up on the Sheriff she would have affected him willingly. Unlike other people who touched Jadin the Sheriff held on resisting the effect of emotional pain that washed over him. That’s when something unexpected happened. Jadin felt it as the effect changed to ecstasy. Still, the Sheriff continued to fight it. He didn’t let go, but the effort it took to fight the emotions prevented him from doing anything to stop Jadin. Jadin in turn didn’t have enough strength to pull away from him. She also had no understanding and could not stop what it was that she was doing to him. It could have been minutes or hours that the Sheriff continued to ride out the roller coaster of ecstasy and pain that Jadin was subjecting him to before he finally released her. When he did, however, his eyes were blank, he stared straight ahead of him, and he was drooling. He was completely unresponsive of anything around him. Jadin went over to the bars of the cell and slumped down beside her friends. Only then did the weight of the day’s events overwhelm her and she began to cry. She was still crying when her friends began to recover from the Sheriff's stingers.

CHAPTER 12: EVAN

Evan was worried about Jadin. Ever since they had escaped from the prison she had been uncharacteristically quiet. After they had recovered from the effects of the Sheriff's stingers, Trace had absorbed the bars of their cell. They then made their way back up the stairs and out. Throughout it all, Jadin had allowed them to shield her and protect her from further conflict and harm. They made it to their horses, which by a stroke of luck had been unharmed and where they had left them. They rode off from the town unable to restock their supplies. Given that was the only reason they had to be there they had Trace to thank for that lack of success. They would just have to make due with what they had and hope it was enough to get them to Arthur. Evan definitely owed Trace a talk on his penchant for acting before thinking, but at the moment he looked over at Jadin. She sat staring at the fire with the hood of her cloak pulled up over her head, her face barely visible underneath it. As soon as Eric had seen her in the cloak he didn’t waste his first opportunity to tell her what he thought of it. “That’s a good look on you Jadin,” he had said. “Very Jedi.”

Jadin had given him a scolding look, but hadn’t said anything in return. That was another reason Evan was concerned. If Jadin didn’t have, or wasn’t going to waste words on a snappy comeback, then something was seriously wrong. He came over and sat near her by the fire. He made it a point to focus on the fire only looking at Jadin out of the corner of his eyes. “How are you doing?” he asked her.

“Considering I’m an eighteen year old girl stranded in a world I barely understand with five of my best friends,” Jadin said her voice barely above a whisper. “I’m doing wonderful.”

“You did good back there.”

“I did what I had to,” Jadin said as she looked away, staring off into the darkness.

“I’m sorry for protecting you back with the dragon,” Evan said. “I feel responsible for you, I don’t want to see you hurt,” he continued. “I don’t want to see any of you hurt,” he amended himself quickly.

“It’s fine Evan,” Jadin said exasperatedly. This was a conversation they had had on more than one occasion. “But you have to stop protecting me. You all do. I’m your equal; not a stowaway teenage sidekick.”

“I’ll try. I owe you that much.”

“Don’t try,” Jadin said as she looked him in the eyes. A very intense look in hers. “Do it.”

“Yes, Master Yoda.”

Jadin laughed despite herself. “Don’t you start on me now.”

CHAPTER 13: TRACE

Trace was awestruck. Was that the right word? He mentally ran a list of similar words; amazed, astounded, stunned. No, awestruck was definitely the right word. They settled on a hill looking down on a valley. In near perfect squares on the outskirts of the valley was well manicured farmland. Inside those farmlands was a perfectly mapped out city. Even from where they stood they could distinguish housing, shops, and the roads that connected it all together. At the center of the city was a spectacular castle that would make Snow White or Cinderella jealous. Then again, if this wasn’t Arthur’s castle who’s to say it wasn’t one of theirs?

“So we made it here,” Eric said. “We just go in and knock on the door?”

“You have any better ideas?” Evan asked him.

“No, not really.”

They spurred their horses and rode down into the valley. For the first time since they began this journey they were looking in amazement as much as for trouble. Everywhere Trace looked he was impressed by the sheer beauty of the land. As they continued down the road into the city they saw two figures approaching them from the opposite side of the road. As they came closer they saw they were dressed in traditional knightly armor each one painted with a distinctive colorful crest on the chest. They drew their swords; the knight closest to them addressed them. “Hold strangers, state your business in the lands of our great King Arthur.”

Trace’s reaction to them had been instinctive; he levitated above his mount, his left arm extended, glowing with electrical energy. The knights’ reaction was just as instantaneous. Their stances became more rigid prepared to attack at a moment’s notice. “These are servants of Mordred,” the second knight said.

“What, no,” Evan said, looking up to Trace. “Trace power down. We are servants of no one. We come from somewhere not of this world. We seek an audience with Merlin. It has been suggested he is responsible for our presence here.”

As Trace descended, he stood beside his horse the glow of his hand minimized, but he kept small electrical charges dancing between his fingers. He wasn’t willing to leave himself completely defenseless if things went sideways. The knights appeared to debate the merits of what Evan had requested.

“Could these be the knights Merlin summoned Galahad?” the second knight asked the first. “They clearly have magic of their own.”

“But they come with these maidens, Gawain,” Galahad answered him. “Surely, Merlin sent for more than three knights to face against our enemies.”

“Who are you referring to as maidens,” Alectra snapped, clearly offended. A yellow energy arrow held in her hand.

“Look, everyone calm down,” Evan said frustration clear in his voice. He gave two sharp looks at both Trace and Alectra his message silent, but clear. Trace shut down the charge in his hand, Alectra’s arrow in turn disappeared from hers. Evan turned his attention back to the knights. “We are no enemies to your king, but we need answers whether we are these knights or not. Answers we can only get from Arthur and Merlin.”

The knights carried on a silent conversation between themselves before Galahad addressed them once more. “We shall take you to our King as you request, but if any one of you, betrays us, you all shall feel the blade of our swords.”

“Fair enough,” Evan said. “Take us to your leader.”

“Dude,” Eric said. “That is the most overused line ever.”

CHAPTER 14: ERIC

As impressive as the farmland had been, the city was even more stunning. Housing developments were made of stone. Businesses and shops were made of marble. All of it in eye-catching architecture. What caught Eric’s attention most was the looks on the people’s faces. As they rode down the well maintained streets, they looked on them with curiosity, and in some instances, hope as well. It was as if, instead of finding out about their arrival by word of mouth, they had received the message by text or Facebook posts. Even if they had been talking amongst themselves Eric would have found himself at a rare loss of words as they approached the castle. There were no words to describe it. As they rode across an open passageway Eric noticed the iron gate above them that could be lowered when necessary. On each side of them as they entered the grounds a garden with a variety of flowers and trees spread out before their eyes. There were spires on each end of the castle and above them on walkways were archers stationed as lookouts and a first line of defense. There was a central spire that towered above the rest of the castle. As they entered the castle they were ordered to dismount and the knights, Galahad and Gawain, walked beside them with swords drawn leading them through the castle and into the central hall. As Eric took in the hall it wasn’t quite the Round Table of legend, more as one would imagine the Supreme Court. Small chairs designed almost like miniature thrones formed a semi-circle around the room leading to a central, most definitely regal throne. In that throne sat a middle aged man with a well-manicured beard, short cut hair, and a crown on his head. Gawain and Galahad sheathed their swords and took up a chair. Galahad, one three away from the king on the left, Gawain, three to the king's right. In front of the king stood an elderly man with shoulder length white hair and a wild beard extending to the base of his chest. In his hand he held a staff ending in a crook and on his head a pointed hat. Eric noted that while their appearance would dictate a fully attended court close to half of the chairs remained empty.

“Welcome,” the king finally addressed them. “I am Arthur, King of this land. Galahad tells me you are strangers and not of our world. Your style of dress would indicate as much, but I must know do you come as friends or are you here to commit harm to my people?”

“We are true friends of the crown,” Eric answered. “Dilly, dilly.”

We are true friends of the crown,” Jadin said. “Him,” she indicated Eric, “you can send to the pit of misery.”

Before addressing Arthur, Evan shot them both a look, shutting them up instantly. Eric was sure Evan would have liked to go to buff form and smack them all up the side of the head.

“We don’t know how we arrived here your highness,” Evan said, “but what we wish most is to return home. We don’t know why we are here, but that is our sole desire. Our purpose is neither friend nor enemy.”

“But they could be the knights Merlin sent for,” Gawain said, “Galahad and I have seen their magic for ourselves.”

“If they are these knights why did they not appear here at the castle?” the knight immediately to Arthur’s right asked.

“I cannot say, Lancelot,” Merlin himself answered. “It is possible Morgan intercepted my spell and diverted their arrival.”

Arthur addressed them once more his eyes focused on Evan’s recognizing that the group treated them as their leader. Eric could tell that Arthur felt if he appealed to Evan the rest would fall in line and accept his decision.

“As you can see there are open seats here. Each one represents a knight we lost in the fight against Mordred and his Dark Lords. Percival, Tristan, Bedivere, all brave knights, among the greatest my kingdom has to offer. None of them were a match for the magic of the Dark Lords. If you have the magic Gawain attests you may be the best hope my kingdom has to maintain its freedom.”

“We have no magic,” Evan answered. “We have abilities that we were born with. It is possible that these Dark Lords are people like us. We also are not knights. We are just men and women like yourself who want to return where we belong.”

“I understand you wanting to return home,” Arthur said. “I also cannot force you to assist us. In my land, my knights are responsible for the protection of the innocent and those weaker than themselves. In your world are there not people like this?”

“Yes, there are,” Evan answered.

“And what would you call them?”

“Heroes.”

“Would these heroes,” Arthur said, “if they could make a difference, abandon those in need?”

Evan looked at each of them and in his eyes Eric could tell Arthur’s appeal had been successful.

“If we do as you ask, assist your people to the best of our ability, on your honor will you promise us that we will be sent home when we return to this castle?” Evan asked.

“On my honor, and as King, I promise that we will send you back to where you come from,” Arthur agreed.

“Then you have our aid,” Evan agreed.

“Hooray,” Eric said under his breath, “more danger and life threatening situations. I can’t wait to get started.”

CHAPTER 15: THE MISPLACED

Panga was in heaven or at least as close to heaven as she could get. She had just gotten out of the most comfortable bath, she had enjoyed since she had arrived in this world. Still, that wasn’t saying much as those baths had been in streams. Now she sat in front of a mirror combing and straightening her shoulder length blonde hair. She had almost had a heart attack when she had first seen herself in the mirror. In the last week her hair had gotten almost unrecognizably frizzled and wild. She took a moment to admire herself in the mirror. She wasn’t the shortest of the group standing a good three inches taller than Jadin’s five feet. She was about medium build, not quite big, but not skinny by any account either. She was wearing a single piece blue nightgown that extended just above her ankles with elbow length sleeves. Their clothes had been taken to be laundered for which she was grateful. She wished she had some makeup, if nothing else, some eyeshadow to bring out her blue eyes. She wasn’t sure if any of that would matter given what they had ahead of them. She left the mirror and went over to the bed. She wasn’t quite sure what materials it was made out of but she sunk into the mattress and rested her head on the pillow. In no time at all she drifted off to sleep.

_____________________________

“Come in,” Jadin said as she heard the knock on the door. She had just finished tying her brown hair back into her familiar bun. She had decided she would keep her cloak. Now that she saw herself in it, she liked how it fit her and the way it hid a little bit of her figure. She wasn’t embarrassed of how she looked, far from it. She knew she wasn’t a small girl, but she wasn’t overweight. She turned to face her visitor and was shocked to see who it was. Merlin stood before her still in his wizard’s robes, but instead of his staff he held a sword in his hands.

“It is my pleasure to meet you,” Merlin said.

“The pleasure’s mine, um I don’t know what to call you,” Jadin said stumbling over her words.

“Merlin is fine,” the wizard chuckled. “I must admit when I cast my summoning spell I did not expect that maiden’s would be among the knights that would be brought to our kingdom.”

“Well, where we come from, us maidens can hold our own with the men,” Jadin answered him. Her brown eyes met the wizards blue and she hoped she hadn’t offended him. It was impossible to tell how old Merlin was, but she was sure he was not someone you wanted as an enemy.

“In any case, I can’t abide sending you into danger unarmed,” Merlin said, extending the sword and offering it to Jadin. As she balked in accepting it, he continued. “Fear not, it will not kill, merely place a person into a deep sleep. It is also enchanted to both respond to your thoughts and guide your actions so that you may wield it as someone with much greater experience than you possess.”

“Thank you, Merlin,” Jadin said as she held the sword in her hands. As she moved the sword in a smooth arc, she felt as if she was brandishing it like someone trained in swordplay from a young age.

“Your welcome, and now I bid you a good night, my lady,” Merlin said as he bowed to her and left the room.

__________________________________

Evan was having a fitful night. He tossed and turned unable to get comfortable despite lying in a bed for the first time in a week. Being uncomfortable was something he was used to. In truth, he never felt comfortable in his own body. In his unpowered, baseline form, he stood five foot eight and nothing about him would suggest he could juggle people twice his size with ease. He wore his sandy blonde hair short cropped. Given when he went to his full wolf form his hair would billow around his head like a lion’s mane, he never felt it necessary to have a full head of hair. When he did activate his ability, he grew in size until he stood seven feet tall and in the times that he saw himself the definition of his muscles would make a body builder blush. He looked down at his hands and watched as his nails extended into claws and retracted back. It was a habit he had when he was nervous. Right now they would be as dangerous as a kitten, but when he went full wolf he could claw his way out of a steel cage as if it was made out of paper. He glanced over at the hook by the door where his freshly laundered blue jeans and white polo shirt hung awaiting him tomorrow.

Evan kept going over the predicament that he was in. He was responsible for getting his friends home and instead he was leading them further into the unknown. In addition to this, the freedom of a kingdom, also lay on his shoulders. If this was all a physical weight Evan wasn’t sure he could lift it at his strongest. He thought back to his conversation with Panga earlier in the week.

“No pressure,” he had said.

“A ton of pressure,” she had said, “but you’re up to the challenge.” He sure hoped she was right.

_________________________________

One thing Eric could say about the Knights of the Round Table, they knew how to throw a party. He had also found an audience that appreciated his stories. “Excellent,” the knight Gaheris said, clapping him on the back as he finished telling how he had been the deciding factor in aiding his friends escape from the Sheriff's prison (ok that was an exaggeration). “More ale for our new friend.”

“Yes, more ale,” Eric agreed eagerly.

He smiled at the barmaid who brought him a new mug. She looked stunning in a low cut dress as she looked up at him shyly returning his smile. Most people did look up to him as he was a little over six feet tall. He brushed his unkempt red hair out of his eyes. It hung loosely around his shoulders. He was still wearing his ripped white, blue jeans and psychedelic tye dye shirt. He watched as the barmaid turned back to get some more mugs for the other party guests. He grimaced as he took a drink from his mug. It wasn’t the best he ever tasted, but if he was going to face an uncertain future, he was going to make sure he made the most of his present. As he turned back to the knights, rejoining the festivities, he made a mental note to ask the barmaid for her number before the night was over. Or whatever it was you asked a lovely lady for in this kingdom. Gaheris lifted his mug in Eric’s direction.

“To glorious battle, and if necessary, honorable death,” Gaheris toasted him.

“More on the glorious battle,” Eric answered him, “a lot less on the honorable death.”

___________________________________

Trace’s hands glowed as he absorbed the armor he had requested of Arthur's knights. He was sure they would neither approve nor understand how he was making use of it. They probably wouldn’t be very happy about it either. It wasn’t easy finding one that fit his five foot six frame. As he relaxed on the bed, he remembered he had gotten a few more looks from the townspeople than his friends had. He doubted they had seen too many people of African descent such as him. His black hair curled around his ears and midway along the back of his neck. He rested comfortably in his corduroy jeans and loose fitting black v neck tee shirt. He held out his hand and watched the electricity dance between his fingers. Twice now he had put his friends in danger. In the years before he came to Haven he had been alone. He had grown up on the streets, moving from place to place, and city to city. Society wasn’t kind to people of color or those with abilities. He was unlucky enough to be both.

Impulsive decisions back then often were to his advantage. He needed to think and act fast to stay alive. Now he had others who relied on him and on whom he could rely on. That was something he was still getting used to. He was determined he wouldn’t let his friends down. Over the next few days would decide how much he had learned, and how far he had come.

____________________________________

Alectra was enjoying her walk through the garden. She was wearing a lavender sequined dress that sparkled in the moonlight. Her long raven hair was tied back into a ponytail extending the length of her back. At five foot eight, she glided along the walking path, her long legs striding gracefully as she admired the trees and flowers that they had only had a chance to glance at earlier. Everything about her was long. Long legs, long arms, long body, with just enough weight on her frame to be considered healthy. She held a certain amount of appreciation for the clothing styles of Arthur’s kingdom. Waiting for back in her room was her blue skinny jeans and loose fitting white blouse with a plunging neckline. She looked up at the moon and stars looking to see if she could see anything that appeared familiar. That brought her thoughts back to Aaron. She had had her opportunity to get herself and her friend’s home and she had let it pass. She was not sure if she could have manipulated Merlin’s emotions; after all he was considered a master wizard and may have been resistant to her abilities. Another factor weighed in on her decision. She didn’t know if her friends would have been accepting if she had made the decision for them all. As much as they wanted to get home, they may not have forgiven themselves for leaving these people not knowing if they could have helped them regardless of the danger they would be facing. So Alectra would stand with them and do what she could to make sure they returned to this castle. When they did return, Merlin would send them home. Alectra would see to that, even if she had to make him do it.

CHAPTER 16: EVAN

Evan looked back down at the valley of Arthur’s castle and city. They had begun their journey an hour ago. He looked over at each of his friends as they rode on. Merlin had been a busy wizard over the night. Each of the girls had been given an enchanted weapon. In addition to Jadin’s sword, Panga had been gifted with a dagger that shared similar abilities. Alectra had been given a bow. She explained that it would extend the range of her emotion manipulation arrows. On her back she wore a quiver. It appeared empty, but when Alectra needed them all she had to do was reach back to pull out an arrow of pure light. These arrows also would put their targets into a deep sleep. Alectra had learned to use a bow in her childhood. She even had earned awards as a member of her high school’s archery team. She had often wondered if her ability manifested as arrows due to her familiarity with them. As a result her skills with her bow would be all her own with no assistance from the weapon.

“So we have the full Jedi costume and Alectra Everdeen,” Eric had said when he had seen them.

“Keep that up Eric,” Jadin had said leveling her sword towards his neck, “and you will be practice.”

Eric hadn’t said another word since. Given Jadin’s tone, even as well as he knew her, Evan wasn’t sure if she had been issuing a threat or a promise. Of course it might also have had to with the massive hangover Eric was nursing. He had thrown up over the side as soon as he got astride his horse. The horses themselves had been enchanted. Merlin had explained that they would run with greater speed and endurance than most well-bred of horses. Hopefully, this would reduce the time they needed to reach the remaining dark lords. Merlin had cast a spell over their canteens and saddlebags. The canteens would pour with an endless supply of water. From the saddlebags they could pull out any of their favorite foods. When they stopped for a meal, Evan was looking forward to his first hamburger with the works since they had arrived here.

Evan turned his attention skyward. Above them Mercury flew. Mercury was one of his two gifts from Merlin, the most beautiful bird he had ever seen. He was a peregrine falcon with blue, black plumage and black tipped wings. He had a white belly with sharp, alert blue eyes. Merlin had said Mercury would be their guide. He would lead them flawlessly to the Dark Lords. On the lapels of his shirt he wore what appeared to be pins, each one in the shape of a cross. Merlin’s second gift. Once they defeated one of the Dark Lords all Evan would have to do is throw a pin at their feet and they would be imprisoned and depowered.

Now all they had to do was find them. Evan had had a meeting with Arthur and Merlin earlier in the day before they had left. Merlin had cast a spell that resulted in what Evan considered a holographic representation of the kingdom. Each of the remaining Dark Lords was represented by a dot on the map. To the Northeast was Lord Gray. To the North the castle of Mordred and Morgan Le Fay. To the East Lord Defoe. Somewhere in motion approaching what Evan found out was where Lord Dyson had been based was the Black Knight. Merlin and Arthur could only give him the names. It was difficult for them to describe the abilities of each of the Dark Lords in a way that Evan could understand. Mordred had no abilities, but he would be no less dangerous. Morgan Le Fay was a wizard trained by Merlin himself.

Again, considering what little they knew, Evan felt the weight of the responsibility he had on his shoulders. He turned his attention to the road ahead. He was ready to face the challenge.

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