This month’s prompt is to use the moon as a major theme.
The Amberwood Wyvern
by Kathy L. Price
“Oh, most Gracious Goddess,” Kandyll prayed as he sprinted down the forest track. “Guide my steps along the path. May your silvered light show the way and help me fulfill my task.” The trees were not thick in this section of wood and enough light from the full moon filtered through the canopy for Kandyll to see well enough to run. In twenty minutes he had almost reached the clearing. Now, the question was, should he risk taking the main path straight through the field or spend an extra ten minutes circling around? Time was of the essence but it wouldn’t do if he were caught or killed.
Kandyll decided to duck off the main trail and take the smaller, secondary path to the right. He slowed to a walk and found a break in the undergrowth where he could observe the field beyond. The moon flooded it with light, making it nearly as bright as day, and he could see shadows cast by the small herd of cows. They seemed to be nervous, glancing up from time to time to look around. He heard nothing but normal night sounds but continued to make his way through the brush as quietly as he could. When he neared the crest of a small hill, he ducked low and kept away from the top of the ridge. If there was someone down in the clearing, he didn’t want to be silhouetted against the sky if they happened to look up.
When he reached Observation Rock, he had an excellent view of the entire field below and the road which ran through the countryside beyond the wood. Kandyll paused to catch his breath and survey the area. He glanced up at the silver disk of moon in the sky and prayed again for help. As if in answer, the moonlight glinted off numerous spear points and the armor of half a dozen knights on their chargers.
“Oh, most merciful Goddess, thank you, thank you, thank you,” Kandyll whispered. He could just discern a couple of advanced scouts making their way up the swale half-way across the field. If he had run straight along the main path to save time, as he had originally intended, he would have run right into them. The Goddess was truly smiling on him with favor.
From his vantage point, Kandyll could see the remaining army strung out along the road to the north. Without wasting any more time, he turned and dashed down the hill to the south, driven faster by his new knowledge and the urgency of the situation. He shuddered to think what would happen if he did not reach Cimerthyl Tyne Castle with the warning and appeal for help.
Half an hour later he emerged from the back trail in the woods and stepped onto the main road. It had seemed quiet and another prayer to the Goddess reassured him it’d be safe. He broke into a run, knowing he had another two miles to go. It had taken him far longer than he had wanted to make it this far but he was glad he’d been careful. He hoped the other messengers, mounted on horseback, had gotten through faster and the alert had already been sounded.
At the village, all was quiet as he made his way through the warren of alleyways and when he reached the castle, there was little activity. It was as if no alarm had been raised. Had the mounted messengers been captured? Had Cimerthyl Castle already been taken?
Kandyll slipped into the shadows and took a moment to watch the guards patrolling along the tops of the walls. Everything looked normal. Maybe he was being too cautious. Besides, he couldn’t hide forever. Gathering his courage, he stepped out into the road and approached the guard at the gate.
Half-dozing in the pre-dawn stillness, the solitary guard startled at Kandyll’s seemingly sudden appearance. After listening to Kandyll’s hurried explanation, and glancing at the “Send help now” token in his hand, the guard quickly passed the information along and Kandyll was admitted through the outer wall. The change happened faster than anything Kandyll could have imagined. From a sleepy, the-day-hasn’t-started-yet quiet to a full-on call to arms took less than five minutes. The previously placid courtyard vibrated with men rushing in all directions. What had appeared to Kandyll as total chaos soon became organized into orderly groups of knights being lifted onto their chargers. Squires rapidly fastened the last of the armor while the enthusiastic squires-in-training continued to gather gear and race to do their masters’ biddings.
The biggest shock of all came when the king himself strode across the courtyard and addressed Kandyll. “What’s the report? Who are they and what are their numbers?”
Speechless, Kandyll stood there with his mouth open. “Ah,” was all he was able to utter.
The king put a kindly hand on his shoulder. “It’s alright, boy. I won’t bite, but I do need to know what’s out there. The Amberwood Wyvern is never sent without good cause. What did you see?”
Kandyll closed his eyes and asked the Goddess again for help. He then recounted everything he saw by her light – the number of knights; more importantly, their banners and coat of arms; an estimate of the archers and foot soldiers; how many wagons to the rear. His recall was nearly perfect and when he finished, the king clapped him on the back and said, “Well, done, boy. Now, go to the kitchens for a bite to eat then get some rest. You’ve done well.”
Kandyll watched as the assembled army rode out the gates. He would go to the kitchens for some food, but fully intended to follow the king into battle.
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Catherine A. MacKenzie