[Vfw-times] MK Winter assault - Intermission part 5

COkane8116 at aol.com COkane8116 at aol.com
Mon Sep 10 21:46:01 CDT 2001

Snorting a moment, Egland considered the stable that emerged from the wood.  
It was attached to an old abandoned farm house, one that was crumbling from 
neglect.  The stable though appeared to have been repaired somewhat, as the 
wood along one side was only a month old, whereas its neighbouring planks 
were rotting in places.  Two aspects of the stable however spoke loudest to 
the elk.  Between the cracks in the wood shown feeble light, and there was 
smoke emerging from the narrow chimney.

Saulius whispered into his ear, "It appears they hath taken this place as 
refuge."  Egland nodded, even as he felt Saulius loosen the straps around his 
belly.  He stood solid there, his hooves planted firmly in the snow as the 
bits of cloth were unwound.  With a muffled whump, Saulius rolled off of his 
back, landing in the snow with a mild grunt. "I do not wish to ride thee ever 
again, I hath sores from my tail tip to my whiskers."

Egland snorted again, though this time it was in amusement.  However, his 
heart returned quickly to his promise, eyes turned on those stable doors.  He 
cautiously approached, not bothering to shift from his elk form, at least not 
yet.  Saulius stalked at his side, sword in paw, his mail shirt tight in the 

As he drew near to the door, he could hear the crackling of a fire, and could 
smell the thick scent of a horse, and that of Bryonoth, as well as the 
customary hay that is usual with stables.  However, there was no indication 
where any of them were inside of the stable, or what they were doing in 
there.  Saulius stood back from the door watching him, waiting for something.

Egland felt a bit of a flush creeping over him as he realized the rat's 
intent.  Turning his hind quarters to face the middle of the double doors, he 
leaned forward and gave them a sharp kick.  The sound of cracking and 
splintering wood came back to him, but the door still stood shut.  Rearing 
again, he thrust his hind hooves will terrific energy into the wood, and the 
splintering grew more pronounced as the doors heaved inwards.  Grunting, the 
elk knight kicked again, this time sending one door singing inwards as the 
long wooden shaft that held them shut cracked in two.

Saulius rushed inside, even as Egland turned on his hooves to see what lay 
before them.  Bryonoth was standing, sword in hand, before a stall in which 
stood the horse that was Duke Thomas.  Thomas appeared to be rather 
frightened, the whites showing around his pupils.  Yet, he just stood there 
in the stall, whinnying in anxiety. "Thou canst have him, he's my steed!" 
Bryonoth declared hotly, waving his sword tip before him at the rat knight 
who was slowly stepping forward.

"Thou hast claimed the Duke of Metamor as they steed wrongfully," Saulius 
answered back, his voice, though high pitched, challenging nonetheless. "Thou 
shalt let him return to his people, as is his right and privilege."

"No, he is my steed, thou shan't take him from me!" Bryonoth repeated, his 
eyes looking even more wild than before.  Thomas continued to stand mute, 
just watching, tail flicking back and forth in agitation.

Saulius gasped, even as Egland began to change back to his morphic form. "Sir 
Bryonoth, it is I, a fellow man of the steppe.  Dost thou remember me, Sir 
Erick Saulius?"

An expression of momentary recognition flashed over Bryonoth's wild face, but 
it was quickly subsumed by that other part of him, that part that was 
determined to make Thomas a true horse. "He is my steed, and I am his rider.  
Thou wilt not separate us.  I shall kill thee if I must to protect him."

"Bryonoth," Egland called. "Ts'amut!  It is I, sir Yacoub Egland.  Please 
come back to me, Ts'amut."  He knew that the Flatlander word for 
friend/brother had caused Bryonoth to stir before.  He hoped that it would do 
so again now, but even more strongly.  There was a part of Bryonoth in there 
that he wished to summon, a part that he knew so well.  He refused to believe 
that his friend of so many years had been completely corrupted by this evil 

"No!" Bryonoth cried then, shaking his head vividly. "Thou cannot be him, for 
thou art a monster, whereas he was a man, a man who should have been of the 

"I am that man!" Egland declared, striding forward, interposing himself 
between Saulius and the crazed knight. "I am even more that man now that I am 
an elk, for I am still a knight, and I serve something higher than myself.  I 
serve all the people of this continent.  I serve them by standing here at 
Metamor to stop the hordes of Nasoj's forces from sweeping through this 
valley.  And that horse that you have taken is my liege, who I have sworn to 

"No, he is my steed, my stallion, my honour!" Bryonoth cried, cringing back, 
the grip on his sword weakening.  It appeared that he had to struggle just to 
stand there and face down the massive elk before him.  His face twisted 
between fear, hope, and fierce rage, all within moments of each other.

"He is my liege, and by our friendship and by your honour, I ask you to let 
him go." Egland stood tall, though naked, he was no longer afraid of what 
twisted Bryonoth. "Come with me, Ts'amut.  Come with us to Metamor.  Povunoth 
is waiting for you, for his rider."

Bryonoth held up his hand to his face, as if to rip the skin free, even as he 
turned a terrible eye to Egland, one that yearned to both throw down his 
weapon, and skewer him mercilessly. "No, he is mine!  Leave or I shall kill 
thee, vile imposter!"

Egland stood there watching, and felt something bubble up and out of him, the 
one thing he knew could be done to convince this man.  He opened wide his 
mouth and began to sing notes and words that had not graced his throat in 
months, and all of it, in the archaic language of the Flatlanders.

"Have a day of sun strewn grass,
Fields abound endless in expanse,
Watering holes that will last,  
And with good steeds for thy lad and lass."

Bryonoth had stopped his shaking as he heard the song, so familiar to his 
Steppe born ears.  Sir Saulius's ears and whiskers had stood up at the sound 
of his old tongue, and he even joined in the song at the refrain, doubling 
Egland an octave above.

"Rise with the sun and set with the night,
Rejoice in the moonbeams by the firelight.
No home in which to dwell,
No land to tie thee down,
Ride thy horse through the swell,
And every field shalt thee own.

Each day, a new sight to see;
A new hill, new hollow, new valley.
Ride with thy whole family,
And taste what it means to be free.

Rise with the sun and set with the night,
Rejoice in the moonbeams by the firelight.
No home in which to dwell,
No land to tie thee down,
Ride thy horse through the swell,
And every field shalt thee own.

Sing the song and dance the dance,
Of Steppe born men free to pomp and prance.
Drink of joy, drink to a trance,
And drink to honour those gone to lance.

Rise with the sun and set with the night,
Rejoice in the moonbeams by the firelight.
No home in which to dwell,
No land to tie thee down,
Ride thy horse through the swell,
And every field shalt thee own.

Born upon the horse's back,
A Steppe born man who shall nothing lack.
Mare's milk to sup, nipples black
While one hand already holds the tack.

Rise with the sun and set with the night,
Rejoice in the moonbeams by the firelight.
No home in which to dwell,
No land to tie thee down,
Ride thy horse through the swell,
And every field shalt thee own.

Before Egland could continue with the next stanza, he saw Bryonoth shudder 
visibly, and stare at him with sudden recognition, and terrible fear. 
"Egland?  Help me!" He managed to force past quivering lips before he gave a 
violent twitch, the furious rage that they had seen before bubbling over and 
spilling out as his words lashed out at the elk, expectorating vile 
obscenities.  Egland fell back a step, startled by the terrible vehemence in 
his old friend's exclamations, his ears flattening back as the most painful 
words of all poured forth.  The truth, each painful secret the once-man had 
tried to keep quietly to himself and his closest confidants, one of which had 
been the man who now assailed him with his own innermost secrets, peppering 
them liberally with the most vile epithets that Egland could ever recall 
hearing uttered by a human mouth.   Abruptly Bryonoth's tirade stopped, his 
harsh vocalizations ending with a pained grunt, and he collapsed limply to 
the hay-strewn floor as Saulius brought the hilt of his sword across the back 
of his head, having snuck behind him during the course of the song.

Egland glanced up and breathed a sigh of relief, "Thank you, Sir Saulius.  
Thank you for sparing him."

"He is my friend as well," Saulius murmured, leaning forward, inspecting the 
wound. "He shalt have a terrible headache when he arises." The rat glanced up 
at the much taller elk standing beside him, his whiskers twitching for a few 
moments.  "I shalt place what I hast heard here in mine confidence, friend." 
The rat offered at length, turning his attention back toward the supine human.

Egland nodded quietly, and then turned towards the stall in which still stood 
the horse that was Duke Thomas of Metamor. Opening the stall door, he saw 
that the legs were secured by crossed, wooden hobbles.  No wonder Thomas had 
done nothing, if he dared move, he'd break his own legs.  Reaching down, he 
clumsily undid the clasps, and pulled the poles out from underneath him.

Almost instantly, the form began to shudder, as it shrank in size.  Hands 
emerged from what had once been the forehooves, and the chest flattened 
somewhat, taking on a human cast.  Soon, the figure standing naked before 
them was that of a morphic horse, one that looked quite relieved. "Thank you 
both for coming to my rescue, I had just about given up hope that any would 
come.  How did you arrive so quickly?"

"Well, much the way you got here, I carried him just as you carried Bryonoth. 
 There is an advantage to being fleet of hoof when you have four of them," 
Egland mused drily.  He then kneeled before the Duke, doing his best to 
ignore his nakedness. "I am so relieved to see that you are safe, my liege."

Saulius was also at bent knee, and made his own genuflecting remarks, but 
Thomas waved them to their feet. "Again, I thank you.  Your effort will not 
be forgotten.  But we must return to the Keep quickly to help co-ordinate the 
defence.  Your talents are being missed there, I assure you."

"What of Bryonoth?" Egland asked. "What should we do with him?"

"I do not know," Thomas muttered, as he gently kicked the prone body with one 
hoof. "He was controlling me with this." He pointed one thick stubby 
hoof-like finger at the halter that hung on the hook outside his stall. "I 
saw him cast a rune into it as he slipped it on me.  We ought to take this 
back so that Wessex can analyse it.  Well, once we repel Nasoj at least."

"If we wish to return as quickly as possible, I am afraid we must use our 
full animal forms," Egland interposed, glancing briefly at the leather halter.

Thomas nodded. "I think I'm up to such a run, I just had a rather relaxing 
massage.  He may have wanted to make me into a horse, but he treated me well 
for a horse, I suppose."

"Even maligned, he was born of the Steppe.  He could do no less," Saulius 
proudly declared. 

"We ought to bring him back as well.  It is possible we could discern from 
him clues to solidify our evidence concerning the Patriarch's murderer," 
Thomas added, stretching his newly restored limbs.

"We will have to tie him down to your back then, I'm afraid," Egland pointed 

Thomas shrugged. "I've been carrying him on my back for the last few hours 
already, what is a few more?" He then turned and glanced at the saddle and 
saddlebags resting on the rack. "Bring the saddle bags as well, but I don't 
think I want to wear that saddle ever again."

"Of course," Egland said, as he turned and shoved the halter into one of the 
bags, and then draped them over his shoulder.  He watched as Thomas shifted 
back into his stallion form, the newly regained humanity disappearing beneath 
the body of the equine.  Saulius tossed the blankets over his back, and the 
elk then strapped the saddle bags into place over his flanks.  The two of 
them, while Thomas watched curiously, lifted Bryonoth by his arms and legs, 
and pulled him across Thomas's back on top of the blankets.

"I am curious, where did thou learn that song?" Saulius asked as he helped 
tie Bryonoth firmly onto Thomas's back.

Egland smiled a bit, as much s his cervine face was capable. "Bryonoth taught 
it to me.  I must confess I can't remember what every stanza means."

Saulius let out a small chuckle then, as he tightened the last strap.  He 
then patted Thomas's cheek. "Thy freight is secure.  As soon as Sir Egland 
and I are ready, thou can begin."

Thomas nodded back, whickering softly, and stamping his hooves a bit 
impatiently.  While Egland put the fire out, Saulius then began to knot the 
straps that had held him in place on the elk's back.  He kept them 
sufficiently loose, but not too loose.  Then, the two knights stood together, 
the rat gripping the deer's back, while the straps were wrapped about them.  
Egland let his full animal form flow out of him.  Quickly, mass began to fill 
the empty spaces the straps offered, until they pulled the rat tightly to the 
proud elk's back.

Egland snorted to Thomas, and stamped one hoof.  Thomas did so in return, and 
gestured to the door with a toss of his head.  The elk nodded submissively, 
his massive rack of antlers, spread out before him, and then started to trot 
through the permanently opened doorway.  The horse followed after, the 
jingling of the rat and knight's armours on their backs the only sound that 
cascaded through the snow-filled night air as they started on the road back 
to Metamor.

End part 5
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