The Sword of Paracelsus: “Follow The Stone!”, Part 1

Sword & Stone 2 001

Grabbing Baxter by the hand, Morgan followed Eny up the aisle, through the twisted doors at the rear of the Great Hall, and out into the darkened corridor where the floor was thick with daggers of broken glass. There, through the reek of snuffed and smoking torches, he discerned a group of dusky silhouettes— Simon Brach, the four Fir Bolg, and his father with the frail John Dee perched upon his back. They were just turning down a narrow flight of stairs at the end of the hallway. Treading hard on the hem of Eny’s shadow, he plunged ahead and leapt down the steep winding steps after them.

It was a long, treacherous way down. At almost every turn huge stones fell thudding across their path. Several times the steps beneath their feet gave way and fell in bits and pieces into the steaming darkness below. When this happened, Morgan had to find a way to persuade the sluggish Baxter to jump over the holes and gaps. It was like trying to get a cow to dance a jig.

At last the stairway emptied out into an arched gallery paved with red tile and lined with stone pillars shaped like leering gargoyles and long-toothed ogres. At the far end of this lofty vestibule stood a tall double-leaved door of heavy, dark-grained oak, barred with heavy beams and iron girders.

“This is the way out,” explained Simon, as they all jostled up behind him.

“Hmph!” muttered old John Dee. “Much good may it do us!”

“Are we trapped?” asked Morgan’s father as the walls rumbled and the pillars shifted on their foundations.

Simon drew his sword. “Not this time.”

He touched the point to one of the oaken beams. Immediately the bars shot back and the girders fell jangling to the floor. The doors flew open and they found themselves gazing down a long, broad stairway leading to the gate in the outer wall. Beyond it rolled the billows of the restless sea.

“Everyone out!” shouted Simon. “Down to the shoreline!”

Morgan tugged at his companion’s arm as another bone-rattling concussion rocked the tower. But before he could get Baxter to budge an inch, Simon and Eny, who were already halfway down the stair, turned suddenly and began waving at him in great distress.

“Morgan!” they cried. “Behind you!”

He spun around. There in the shadowy corridor he saw a number of gigantic and fantastically misshapen figures thundering down upon him, their bulging eyes aflame with hate. Fomorians! The carven pillars had come to life!

Shoving Baxter ahead of him, he leaped down the stairs just as the first of the ogres and gargoyles smashed through the doorway, demolishing the frame and surrounding masonry with a single thrust of their powerful shoulders. An instant later the entire face of the tower crashed down on the monsters’ heads with a rush and a roar like a mountain avalanche. Without looking back, Morgan followed Simon and Eny down to the gate.

At the portal Simon dispatched the heavy locks and gratings just as deftly as he had managed the bolts and bars of the tower door. Then he lowered the drawbridge and they all trooped down to the water’s edge.

(To be continued …)

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