Visions of Magic - The Kidnap of Gabrielle Ulan, page 1
Visions of Magic
The Kidnap of Gabrielle Ulan
Smash Words Edition Published by Poupichou Press
Copyright Shane Griffin 2012
Gabrielle Ulan leaned her head, carefully and with as much dignity as possible, out of the side window of the undulating carriage. It was not the proper thing to do, but she did not care much for proper. The column stretched out in front and behind the carriage, knights on horseback leading the way, their squires, the supply wagon and half a dozen foot soldiers from her father’s castle bringing up the rear.
The morning had started as bright and cheerful as one would expect from an early spring day. However, as they approached the two stretching fingers of the Khaglari forest the air became steadily heavier, to the point that a mist could be seen amongst the trees. The noise of the carriage wheels on the road became more muffled as the hard compacted ground started to soften and give way to the loamy soil of the forest floor.
The dampness in the air seemed to penetrate everything and Gabrielle’s long copper curls began to droop and stick to her sweat covered shoulders. She regretted bending to her father’s command that she dress formally. The slight wind in her face from the moving carriage was a small relief and she wished, not for the first time, that she could get out of the stuffy carriage and onto a horse.
Poking her head out further Gabrielle could now see that the highway had entered the forests outskirts. Up close the forest began to fill her with a deep sense foreboding. She cast her eyes impatiently along the column towards the castle. Castle Kalar was now only about two miles away and in clear view. Its towering walls looked impenetrable, more massive even than Castle Ulan. It stood like a mighty grey spear thrust out of the consuming green of the forest. The castle itself was slightly more compact than her father's, but it had been built with constant danger in mind. She could clearly see, even from this distance, that it bore the scars of many sieges during more violent times.
“Lady Gabrielle, are you trying to get me into trouble with your father?” chastised Timothy as he brought his horse alongside the carriage.
Gabrielle flashed him an angry look with her grey eyes and felt around inside the carriage for something to throw at him. She was unsuccessful so instead she poked out her tongue much to his embarrassment.
“Just this once please can’t you just act proper, for me?” he begged.
“You didn’t seem to care the first time we met in the town outside my father castle and you thought I was just a commoner. In fact if I recall you said my new aged attitude was what made you fall in love with me,” she protested.
“To tell the truth I’d much prefer you were riding on my horse with me, but your father and mine are not so forgiving about tradition, honour and order.”
“Ride with you, why I could outride you,” she mocked.
“Oh really...” started Timothy with a wry smile that instantly disappeared when he was interrupted by a blood curdling war cry that came from the forest either side of them.
Gabrielle froze in terror as the forest spewed forth short hideous green creatures, with horrid yellow teeth and wielding nasty little swords and axes. At the head of the column the knights, immediately to attention, turned to face the ambush with their own battle cry in reply. The knights charged them with their war horses. Several of the creatures fell and were crushed under hoof.
“Goblins! Go, get to the castle and don’t stop for anyone!” screamed Timothy to the carriage driver. The driver did not hesitate and soon the carriage was hurtling along the forest road tossing Gabrielle violently about inside.
They had not gone more than 20 yards when Gabrielle heard a pair of heavy thuds on top of the carriage. She struggled to get a firm grip on the door to see outside. She was just in time to see the carriage driver fall from the driving board and see his blood colour the soft earth.
A moment later a goblin jumped down from the driver’s board into the carriage and pounced on her. To the goblin’s surprise Gabrielle’s strength exceeded its own. Gabrielle threw the creature off her with relative ease and kicked it hard in the face with her delicate court slippers. Stunned the goblin dropped its sword and Gabrielle did not waste any time grabbing it from the bouncing carriage floor and skewer the little beast with it.
“That will teach you a lesson on how to treat a lady!” she said under her breath, anger momentarily quenching her fear.
“Gabrielle, grab my hand!” yelled Timothy racing up alongside the wagon and stretching his hand out to her as far as he could reach. Gabrielle reached out her hand and hung out as far as she dared from the bouncing carriage. The air rushed between their desperate fingers. For just one moment their fingers touched. Then, suddenly the world turned upside down for Gabrielle as the wagon entered the forest hitting a tree stump. Gabrielle felt free momentarily, as though she was floating. The soft ground then rushed to meet her.
Dizzy and dazed, but surprisingly unhurt, Gabrielle tried to stand as she looked around for Timothy. A horse suddenly burst through the bushes and came skidding to a halt beside her. Timothy jumped from his steed and took Gabrielle’s hand. Before he even had a chance to speak, there was a croaky shout from behind him followed by a dull whistle as something flew through the air. Gabrielle screamed in horror. Timothy smiled a meek smile as he held her hand, then blood slowly trickled from his mouth as he slumped forward, a hatchet embedded deep in the back of his skull.
In death Timothy still clutched Gabrielle’s hand. A cold suddenly ran from him and into her. For the next few moments Gabrielle’s mind left her body completely. Everything just seemed to be unrelated snippets of memories from her dreams. The goblin which had struck Timothy down removed his weapon from the young man’s head with a sickening squelch. Gabrielle just stared back at the creature’s yellow eyes while the goblin starred back at hers seeing only its own reflection. The goblin then smiled bearing all its sharp yellow teeth. Still clutching Timothy’s hand, everything went black as a blow from behind knocked her out cold.
Farrel checked his crimson carry sack one last time. In it was as much food as he could fit, mainly cheese bread and dried meat. Not a feast, but it would keep him alive. His eyes, however, came to rest upon his newest possession, his spell book. He resisted the feeling to flick through its pages just one more time and closed the sack.
The vision of Gabrielle's kidnap had come clearly to him in his dreams earlier that evening. It felt so real that he had woken up in a cold sweat. He was under strict orders by his master and mentor Varn Maun to report any visions immediately, without fail. He dared not this time, however, for fear of revealing his true feelings for Gabrielle. If Varn Maun guessed that he had fallen in love with lord Ulan’s daughter, he would have watched him like a hawk to make sure he did not go doing anything stupid, like going off to save her, which is exactly what he intended to do.
He looked out the small window in his sleeping quarters, inside Varn Maun’s tower, and down into the secluded courtyard below. He had watched Gabrielle so many times from that spot, wishing that he was down there with her, holding her in his arms, kissing those delicate lips.
Finally the sun had set and darkness shaded the castle. As silently as possible he donned the carry sack then buckled his short sword around his waist. It sat uncomfortably in its scabbard with his crimson robes on. He had no choice of clothes, however, as Varn Maun had thrown out his own rags long before. He cursed the robes quietly as he placed the letter for Varn Maun upon his desk.
“I am sorry for this grandfather,” whispered Farrel
Lord Pelham was stirred from his worried musings by shouts from the gate tower. He emerged from the guard’s barracks into the courtyard. He looked up at the top of the guard tower, brows furrowed. Even in the fading light of late afternoon he could make out the sentries atop the battlements pointing along the road to the northeast. While he stood there the guard captain came running over to him.
“My lord, the sentries have spotted two riders approaching. It looks to be Lord Ulan.”
“Thank you,” replied Lord Pelham with a sigh of relief. The guard captain scampered off and Lord Pelham made his way over to stand in front of the massive gates.
Consciously he straightened his back, lifted his chin and adjusted his sword. He knew he did not look as respectable as he should to greet Lord Ulan, but the long days since he had dispatched a rider bearing the grim news had been very busy for Lord Pelham. His mind circled in a series of sleep deprived worries. Lord Pelham’s thoughts were snatched from him when Sir Dunbar stepped up beside him, dressed in his finest court attire.
“I would have thought you would have presented yourself a little better to Lord Ulan,” said Dunbar astonished.
Lord Pelham ignored him, instead concentrating on the gates which were now opening before them. Lord Pelham disliked Dunbar. Dunbar was the commander of all the men in the castle and so claimed it as his own ever since Lord Kalar had fallen ill. That, however was Dunbar’s nature, he liked to be in charge and hated it when anyone sidestepped his authority in his castle.
Before the gates were even half open Lord Ulan came thundering into the courtyard, followed closely by Lord Anon. Lord Ulan rode straight up, and leapt from his horse when he reached them.
“Greetings Lord ...” Dunbar began, bowing deeply as was customary for such a guest. Lord Ulan cut him off, however, in a tone which was both calm but stern.
“I am sorry Sir Dunbar, but there is no time for formal greetings. I want food laid out immediately and bed chambers set for us. Have the horses washed down and fed then have supplies packed and ready on each horse by dawn tomorrow.”
Sir Dunbar rose from his bow slowly, his face bright red with anger, the veins in his forehead pulsed visibly as his blood pressure sky rocketed. When he spoke his voice was forcedly restrained.
“Lord Ulan I am commander...” he began, but again Lord Ulan cut him off.
“I know full well what your duties are here Sir Dunbar and if you wish to keep them then I suggest you follow every order I have just given you to the letter. My daughter’s life may depend on it!”
Dunbar looked about to argue, but instead gave a mumbled apology and the slightest of bows. "Does my Lord have any other orders?" he asked stiffly.
“Yes, alert Lord Kalar I have arrived and that I would like to come see him to give my condolences in person.”
Dunbar's face softened just marginally before he bowed more deeply towards Lord Ulan and then spun on his heels and started shouting orders to his men.
Lord Pelham stood, still straight backed, awaiting Lord Ulan’s verbal assault to begin. Instead, when Lord Ulan turned to him the rage left his eyes and was replaced with exhaustion. It was not just from travelling; it was the weariness of age.
Lord Ulan felt sore all over. His body ached from head to toe from the journey. It did not seem so long ago that he could have made the same journey and leapt from his horse to fight a horde of goblins without so much as a hard breath. He looked at Lord Pelham and it was like looking into a mirror. Lord Pelham was unshaven and dismay lined his face heavily. Lord Ulan sighed out loud as he placed a stiff and aching hand upon Lord Pelham’s shoulder.
“Be at ease my friend. It is not your fault, I was the one who sent them here with a hope that Kalar would accept their union and bring him back to the fold. Their lives are on my shoulders.”
Lord Pelham seemed to relax somewhat, the crease on his brow all but disappeared, at least momentarily.
“We have been out every day at dawn to search for her Olar, but we have found nothing. I am worried, not just for young Gabrielle, but of what else those little animals are up to. We have not seen hide nor hair of a goblin since we were ambushed.”
“Hmm,” mused Lord Ulan, even more concerned. “No sign at all?”
“Not even in the farms east of here,” replied Lord Pelham anxiously. “What do you propose we do? I have done everything that I know.”
“We will find Gabrielle first. I assume the ambush was from the Vialari clan again?
“Yes, those little vermin are always causing trouble,” said Lord Pelham in disgust
“I know that all too well,” replied Lord Ulan distantly as his mind swam in the past. “But for now I must pay my respects to Lord Kalar.”
Lord Ulan waited patiently outside the bed chamber doors of Lord Kalar. He felt nervous, not something he was used to. Lord Kalar was the only other Lord in the Kingdom with equal rank to Lord Ulan and probably the only man that could have bested him with a sword, back in the day. He had not seen him since he had taken ill over a year ago with the slow and lingering white death.
The two had fallen out many years ago, but had always held a healthy respect for one another due to their comparable bravery and skill on the battlefield. It was a meeting long overdue and Lord Ulan cursed himself that it would take such dire circumstances to bring them together again. Lord Kalar’s head servant stepped quietly out of the bed chamber and bowed to Lord Ulan respectfully.
“Lord Kalar will now grant you audience my Lord,” he said quietly.
Lord Ulan entered the chamber. It was badly illuminated inside, with the only light coming from a lone candle. Lord Kalar sat in a high backed and well cushioned chair as far from the candle as possible. He was thin, gaunt and very white. His skin was so pale that his veins could be seen under the skin, on his whole body there was not an ounce of pigmentation anywhere. Even the pupils of his eyes were completely white, except for the black spot made by irises of his eyes. Lord Ulan did his best to hide his shock.
“Don’t pretend the site of me does not repel you Olar,” snorted Lord Kalar.
“I have come to pay my deepest condolences to you for the death of your son, not to fight with you.”
“And to bring back your daughter, but then you know the realities of what has probably befallen her as well as I do,” replied Lord Kalar more sympathetically.
“I wish we were meeting in better circumstances Merak, I would have liked to mend bridges with you.”
“Bah! Don’t come here trying to assuage your conscience with me. If you had provided more aid to me over the years the goblins that took your daughter and killed my son would no longer have been a threat!”
“I have always spared you as much aid and help as I can Kalar. It is by the King’s order that we try to make peace with them by not raiding into the forests.”
“And what does the King know of the daily fight to exist here in order to protect the capital and the plush lands you so enjoy surrounding your castle?”
“The goblins here in the south are a lesser threat than the orcs coming down from the mountains in the north. There are not limitless supplies of materials and men. It is the King’s strategy based on all of the dangers to the Kingdom. You do remember strategy don’t you Kalar?”
“Says the man who’s only worries are what to eat for dinner and how much to tax the peasants at harvest time. You were once a great warrior Olar and out of respect for that I will give you whatever aid you need to find your daughter, but when that is done you can go back to the King and tell him if he wants protection from me he can pay in gold because I am seceding from the Kingdom!”
Lord Ulan was struck speechless for long moments then slowly placed a hand on the hilt of his sword.
“Do it, you could surely strike me down, but if you do my men will cut you to pieces and your daughter will
“You have been living in darkness too long Merak. Perhaps you should endure the pain and look outside into the light again.”
With that Lord Ulan stormed out of the Lord Kalar’s chambers.
Dawn came all too quickly for Lord Ulan. He was rousted out of a very deep sleep by one of Dunbar’s servants. He looked out of the small window of his bed chamber. The sun was just beginning to stretch its glowing yellow tendrils across the land. He used to enjoy waking at dawn, but now his body begged to differ. With a yawn he stretched, bones creaking and began to dress.
By the time the sun had finally climbed above the horizon Lord Ulan was adjusting his saddle straps in the main courtyard as Lord Pelham mounted his own horse not far away. Just as he was about to mount also, Sir Dunbar came up to him and bowed slightly.
“Please Lord Ulan I beg you to reconsider. I have twenty men ready to ride with you now.”
“Many thanks Sir Dunbar, but as I explained last night it is better that there is only Lord Pelham, Lord Anon and I,” he replied as he mounted his horse.
Farrel’s robes chaffed him as he pushed his way through the underbrush. His tracking skills were not the best, but if had not taken him long to locate the site of the battle along the road or the upturned carriage.
He followed what looked like a fresh trail of three heavily laden horses, but the first stream he came to he lost them again. The riders must have followed the stream because the other side the forest was thick so quickly he had to abandon his own horse and proceed on foot.
The further he went the thicker it became until it seemed that he was pushing against a wall of green. He would have turned back, except he had lost all sense of direction. With no other choice and despite the musty dank air, which seemed cling to him and soak him through to the bone, Farrel pushed on determinedly. He seldom stopped throughout the day and then only to eat and drink. Finally he came across a narrow trail that seemed to have had recent use, though the tracks were nothing like he had seen before.
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