The Sword of Paracelsus: Into the Fray, Part 3

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Without another word he seized Baxter by the hand and took off.  Down the slope they plunged, Morgan swinging the sword before him as they ran, frantically describing a series of electric blue arcs on the clear air.

At the bottom of the incline they crashed into three Fomorians—two in the shape of large, bristly pigs, the other a spindly ash tree.  At the approach of the glittering blade the pig-shapes squealed and bolted.  The tree folded up its branches and slipped below the surface of the ground.  The boys ran on.

“It’s not far now!” yelled Morgan, as a flat-nosed giant fled before them and stumbled over a pile of flaming stones.  “Just across that stream, and—”

But before he could finish the sentence a flock of huge black birds swooped down out of the sky, snatching at his hair and scratching his cheeks with their cruel black talons.  Zigzagging to one side, he slashed wildly with the blade.  There was a click and a snap as it caught a tip of feather and bone, and then Morgan, thrown off balance by the force of his own blow, found himself rolling in the dust, grappling the sword to his chest.

When he was able to look up, he saw Baxter standing beside him, desperately tossing handfuls of dirt and gravel into the air.  Dismayed by his act of resistance, the birds wheeled away in five different directions.  And as they fled, Morgan caught sight of something in the blue spaces between their swirling black tail-feathers.  Grabbing Baxter’s pant-leg, he tugged it hard.

“Look up!” he shouted.  “Flying ships!”

It was true.  Just as it had happened on the night of the Battle for the Stone, so now a fleet of high-prowed, square-sailed, brightly painted vessels came streaming down out of the sun, cresting tall billows of cream-colored cloud, fanning out across the sky, bearing down hard upon the Fomorians.

Scrambling to his feet, Morgan watched as the Danaan archers, radiant in their flashing helmets, silver hauberks, and scarlet cloaks, leaned over the shield-lined bulwarks of the ships and loosed a deadly flight of arrows upon the giants.  A moment later the routed Fomorians were scattering in utter confusion.  Immediately Morgan yanked the strip of blue flannel from his pocket and wrapped the wondrous sword from pommel to point.

No sooner had he finished when the double gates of the Baile swung open.  Out rode a troop of mailed Danaan horsemen.  Pennants flying and armor flashing, they splashed across the stream and galloped up the grassy slope.  When they reached the boys, the two foremost riders leaned down, grasped them by their belts, and swung them up onto their saddle bows.  Then the whole troop wheeled around and thundered back towards the fortress.

As the great wooden gates boomed behind them, Morgan looked up and saw that a crowd of Danaan men, women, and children had gathered on the grassy common to catch a glimpse of the two strangers being carried into the town.  Still reeling from the dizzying horseback ride, he could only blink and stare at the dazzling sight of those bright people in their polished armor and colorful tunics.  All of them were graceful of form, each one fair of face.  But among those fair and shining faces was one in particular that arrested his gaze and caused his heart to jump.

That face stood out from all the others.  It was olive-toned and had one brown eye and one blue eye.

That face was Eny’s face.

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