The Lake of Shades: A Fantasy, Part Eight, The Conclusion
Eadric was quick to defend himself and the other spirits against Iyana’s attack. He sent his bolt forth until the two exploded in a shower of sparks and clouds of smoke.
Iyana turned to Rothfort and raised her hand. At the last second before release, she turned toward a crowd of peasants. The bolt flew quick and straight. Buragon caught it from the side, deflecting it into the nearby cottages which burst into flames. Peasants scrambled to fight the fires with buckets and shovels.
Rothfort rose into the air above the green. Buragon joined him on the left, then Eadric on the right. Brin hovered above the trio. On the ground beneath them, a wolf howled. Rothfort looked down, then at Buragon. "At least he shows up when you need him." The wolf rose to a position above them, next to Brin. A wizard and his wolf spirit guide, a spirit king, an eagle spirit guide and a Magus-King eyed Iyana and the Dark Council members who had lined up behind her.
Like the lightning bolts, the wizards, spirits, and kings flashed across the surface of the green, over the city and onto the flat palace roof behind the parapet. Lightning bolts flared, explosions thundered, threatening to level Dinas Gwyn. The peasants fell on their faces fearing the end of the world had come upon them. The afternoon waned into evening, then night, yet the battle continued, and the peasants kept vigil.
On the roof, the battle favored one side, then the other. Rothfort was fearful that he and his companions would not be able to defeat the Dark Council. But he would not give up. After the night was nearly spent, he summoned Brin, Buragon and his spirit-guide, and Eadric. They stood close, touching, energy flowing. Rothfort alone raised his sword.
“This is the sword of the Magus-King, Eadric whom you banished from the kingdom and without justification, imprisoned, along with all the royalty of his day, in stones in the Lake of Shades. As rightful heir to the throne of King Eadric, as the new bearer of his sword, I condemn you and the Dark Council to the same fate.
Iyana began to laugh. The council joined her mockery. The peasants on the green rose to their feet in fear and anticipation. With the magic of five combined, and with the will to be free, whether as men or as ghosts finally released to move on, the wizards and spirits struck with a mighty force the council had never witnessed and to which they had no answer. Brin flew to the bag of stones and slung them in a circle. The Dark Council, ten in number, faceless, dressed in hooded black robes, kings, and queens of other realms who had sold their holdings to Iyana for a place at her side in a new kingdom, became nothing more than ten wispy arrows that flew straight and true, each into its stone prison.
Rothfort stood upon the parapet in view of all the people. With his right hand, he raised the sword of Eadric. With the other, he held the bag of stones aloft. The light of the dawn of a new day fell upon the king, but it was unlike any dawn in memory.
Light blinded one and all. The peasants and magi, all except the spirits, covered their faces and cried out in pain. Was this some magic conjured by the Dark Council in spite of their imprisonment? The orange mists roiled until the air absorbed them. In the sky, a blood red ball the ancient myths referred to as the sun rose from the eastern horizon. Eadric climbed onto the parapet beside Rothfort.
“My human body grows thin.” The spirit-king held his hand up to the horizon where both could see the forest through the fading palm. “I sense it is time for my people and me to depart. To where I do not know. But I am inclined to take a closer look at the red disc in the new sky.” Eadric knelt again before the new king. On the green outside the city, the peasants did likewise. When Eadric rose, he kept rising until he joined the other spirits, who, like the vapors in the sky, dissipated into memory and legend.
In the days that followed, the great city of Dinas Gwyn, the towns of Tillerton, Ebbs Flats and Southmark, and the small villages came to life as never before. Rothfort temporarily eliminated taxes. He rewrote land deeds to remove the name of the sitting royalty from the document so that each man was the outright owner of his land. Hired men and women worked the King's fields.
One day a young man who had been hunting near the borderland came running into town, breathless, demanding to see the king. Rothfort came forth and heard the youth’s story. The King led the way, followed by the entire population of the great city and Tillerton. Those from outlying villages joined the trek as the crowd passed.
Rothfort stopped at the place where the vast wilderness began. Where nothing but rocks and squat shrubs had been the sole ground cover, towering shade trees and grass, berry bushes and fruit trees, birds, deer, and small game flourished.
He remembered crossing the barren landscape with Burugon, Brin, and Eadric. He recalled the tiny oasis he had created with his newly discovered powers and the promise that lush forests and meadows would return if the Dark Council fell. He turned to the people. “This land is your land. Nurture it, and it will nurture you.”
A few days later, Rothfort was passing through the renewed wilderness. Brin flew overhead. After several weeks away from Dinas Gwyn, the king and Brin arrived at a place where still water and sand came together in a single line.
“I hate to offend the lake with such devilry.” Rothfort stood beneath the drooping branches of a willow.
“The lake is deep and dark, a fitting place for such wicked souls.” Brin stood on the exposed roots of the massive tree.
Without so much as a glance into the bag, Rothfort launched it with an underhanded swing. It arched, descended, and with a splash, sank into oblivion.
They began the journey home immediately. On a distant hill, Rothfort saw a person standing, looking around as though lost. They drew nearer, and Rothfort recognized the person as a female. They closed the distance and Rothfort was struck by the woman’s beauty.
“What is such a woman doing out here in the middle of this wilderness?” Rothfort turned to Brin as if the bird might have an answer to the riddle—which he did.
“Every king needs a queen.”
“I am perfectly capable of finding a woman on my own, without the aid of my meddling spirit-guide.”
“Yes, I suppose you are. I’ll just send her back—.”
“Don’t be so hasty,” said Rothfort. “We can’t be rude and allow the poor woman to go wandering off into the forest. We will make sure she arrives safely at her home village as we make our way back to the city.”
“A perfect solution, My King.” The eagle flew off, leaving Rothfort to the power of nature's magic.