By Svein Kåre Gunnarson
The First Knight and his squire rode in silence southwards, in the hunt for the crystal and it's thief. While it could be tempting to ride full speed after him, the knight knew it would be foolish to override the horses. That would only disable them and slow them down. Besides, it would be wise to keep their eyes open, as no one knew what they would meet on their way. It had been safe until they crossed Morion River, but that was a few hours ago, and they were now close to the border of Morgath's realm. They had ridden fast to cover as much ground as possible, but now it was getting too dark to continue much longer.
"I've never been this far before." The young boy sounded excited, and the knight had to smile.
"Well, we've still got a long way ahead of us," he told. "And just over that hill, we'll find the last village before we pass the border to Morgath's realm. We will get the supplies we need there, and hopefully hear some news that will help us find the way the thief has gone."
"And news from the other side of the border," the boy added seriously.
The knight looked at him, thoughtfully. "And that," he agreed. He was more nervous of what would meet them than he liked. Admittedly, there hadn't been anything that gave even a slight hint of anything being wrong so far, except from an occasional feeling of being watched, but now they were real close to the border, and if the demon had had any influence over Morgath for a longer period, then it was better to be careful.
The few villagers who were out in the streets looked at them with curious and watchful eyes, but all seemed to be normal. Perhaps their fear of what would meet them were too exaggerated?
"All is well in the village? Any news from the south?" the knight inquired as the horses were taken care of.
"Yes Sir. No sir, should there be?" The stable boy looked quizzically at them.
"Let's hope not, boy," the knight said. "Let's hope not."
The dining hall were summing with the voices of the knights. They had been given a good meal, and extra care was taken of Morgath's weakened men, to let they gain their strength again. Hopefully they could provide her with more details of the situation soon, so that she could plan what actions should be taken.
The voices silenced as Lady Morion and a maiden entered the hall, and everyone looked expectantly at her.
"Men," she said, her voice clear and strong. "I have been with your friend upstairs, trying to heal him, but all I have managed to do is not letting him getting any worse." She waited long before she asked them, "You have now had the chance to rest and eat well to help you get your strength back. Has this helped you? Do you feel any stronger and better?"
Some uncertain mumbling went through the crowd. A few of the knights said it had helped, while most of them didn't feel any different. Morion sighed.
"Well, that some of you feel better I take as a good sign. Lets hope more of you feel stronger after a good night's sleep. But before that, I would like to know as much as possible of the events you've experienced. I need to know how to prepare for what to do, and to send message to my neighbouring realms of what has happened."
After a slow and uncertain start, the next hour Morion learned much of the events that lead up to the jousting; At first, a stranger, the demon, appeared in the shadows behind Morgath. He seemed small in the beginning, but as time went by he was growing, and in the end also out of the shadows. Thinking back, the knights expressed their surprise of not having thought this seemed strange earlier.
"So the demon grew larger and presumably stronger, at the same time you grew weaker," Morion said. "But where did the demon come from in the first place?"
There was a long pause, as the knights tried to think. "Well," one young started. "When I was a squire, not quite a year ago, Morgath had been on a small travel westwards alone. He came back after a few days and walked straight to the...the... The room where he keeps his books." Morion smiled to herself as she heard the boy refer to the library this way. She should probably introduce him to the world of the written word later.
"He kept something under his clothes, and I just thought it was a special book. But he didn't leave the room for a week, and we had to place his food outside the door. He's often had such weird periods, but after this he seemed different, in a way."
"Hmmm." Morion sat quiet and thought. "Did you learn the name of the book?"
"No, I'm sorry. I can't... I didn't see the book at all." The young knight seemed unhappy.
"It's all right, don't be sorry," Morion comforted.
She rose and looked at the knights. "Well, you've all been under a lot of pressure lately, and I can tell you're exhausted. Your rooms are ready if you want to retire for the night. I must go and send some messengers to the neighbouring realms."
With that, she left the room.