(COMEDY) It’s time to laugh as you listen to the ridiculous tale of Sir Morgandundunston, Lady Clara, and the forgotten land of Nussex. What was the rustling in the trees all about? And why does history not remember Nussex? Listen and discover how Sir Morgandundunston becomes a legend!
When we look at maps of 7th century England, there are three Anglo-Saxon territories that border each other. Wessex, Sussex, and Essex. West, South, and East, yet nowhere on the map does there exist a territory named to represent the North. But one did exist. Although it’s been lost now in History, erased from memory, the land of Nussex once was. Set right in the middle of where Wessex, Sussex, and Essex meet, Nussex was a small… very small land with a population of one.
“Peter! I have your underwear, washed and folded, here, honey.”
“Mom! Are you serious?”
“Oh, sorry honey, I forgot you were recording your little story… hello!”
“It’s not live, Mom, no one’s listening right now.”
“Ok, ok, well, here’s your underwear, don’t let me find out later that you didn’t put those away.”
“Yea, ok mom.”
Ummm… Ok… Nussex was a small… very small land with a population of one. This is the story of that person, and of what happened to Nussex.
The wind rushed past throwing her long black hair behind her. Lady Clara Beartrew of Wessex was leaving it all behind and the determined, face-forward appearance she had while riding showed that she had no doubts. She’d been riding for days already and was exhausted, but knew her father, and an army along with him, would be close behind to try and bring her back. Lady Clara wouldn’t let that happen. Ahead she saw a small break in the never-ending flat countryside. A tower, several stories high, encircled by a small forest.
“Perhaps a place to stay the night?” She said to her horse, Helena.
They rode on, until the tower grew tall before their eyes and the trees cast shadows before them. Lady Clara pulled Helena to a walk and entered the forest which seemed to be the only way to get to the tower. She was looking forward to perhaps her first night of real shelter in days. The quiet of the forest was unnatural to her. Not a single bird chirped, nor a single squirrel scurried. Even the steps of Helena seemed quieter then they should.
I’m just tired, Lady Clara reasoned. Soon the forest had light skirting its edge ahead and they made their way out into the sun to gaze upon the tall tower in front of them. But, the silence they just experienced was broken almost immediately and Lady Clara turned to the source of the thumping of the Earth and the rattling of metal.
“Have no fear!” Shouted a Knight atop the most ugly beast Lady Clara had ever seen. It was a horse, but it only had three legs. And it wasn’t that a leg of the horse had been removed. Where there should be two front legs, there was one single massive leg coming from the middle of its chest. The leg was muscular to the point of being grotesque, but it rode towards them with immense speed. They were going to slam into her and from the sheer surprise of it, Lady Clara sat frozen upon Helena. Then, the front leg of the horse slammed into the ground, which dug at least a foot deep into the earth. The abrupt stop launched the Knight straight off of the horse and he flew past Lady Clara. He rolled smoothly to his feet and drew his sword in one swift motion.
“I am here to save you, my Lady!” The Knight said and he ran over to Lady Clara, his armor clanking loudly. His blonde hair sat just above his shoulders and he smiled at her with perfect teeth.
“I don’t need saving,” Lady Clara said confusion in her voice.
“Aha! Of course you do. I saw your hastened approach from the tower. Quick, tell me everything.” The Knight looked around brandishing his sword one way and then the next, ready for an onslaught of attackers.
“What are you doing?”
“I’m ready for battle, and will gladly perish in the service of such a noble goal as saving your life!”
“I am not in need of saving,” she repeated, but the Knight didn’t seem to hear. “There are no attackers,” she tried again. “Wait a minute. If you saw my approach, you saw there was no one else approaching, but myself.”
“A Knight must always be prepared for any surprise!”
“What could surprise you if you could see everything?” Lady Clara said and the Knight kept brandishing his sword, and twirling it in his hand on the lookout for his attackers. After a few more flourishes of his sword, he stuck it into the earth and leaned upon the hilt looking back to Lady Clara with a smile.
“I am Sir Morgandundunston, protector of Nussex,” he said bowing his head. “How may I serve you, my Lady.”
“My name is Clara,” she said with a small bow of her head. “I’ve left my home is all and I’m just passing through. I thought I could simply seek shelter here for the night.”
“Ahh!” He said excitedly. “Yes, my Lady, you will be safe here. I shall not rest so you may!”
“I don’t think it’s that dire of a situation, but Thank you, Sir Morgandust…dustton… of… what is Nussex?”
“You are in Nussex. This tower and the Ancient Gnomeswood Forest that surrounds it.”
“Never heard of it,” said Lady Clara, but the Knight again didn’t seem to hear her.
“Turtle!” He shouted. Sir Morgandundunston removed his sword from the earth and sheathed it as the three-legged horse sort of hopped towards him. Lady Clara had so many questions in her mind, so many things to say in that moment yet she decided not to speak them. She was about to get shelter for the night after all and thought it would be rude to question why his horse was named, Turtle.
As Sir Morgandundunston climbed up onto his horse, Turtle, there came a rustling in the trees. Lady Clara turned her head to investigate the noise, but the Knight didn’t seem to notice as she turned back to him. There would normally be nothing too interesting about a rustling in the trees, but after the extreme quiet that she experienced in the forest, Lady Clara paused and peered intently into the trees. The rustling came again and this time it was clear that something was moving. Something larger than a squirrel or a bird.
“Did you see that!” Lady Clara said as she pointed into the trees. The Knight turned Turtle around to face the Gnomeswood and brandished his sword once again.
“Foe in the dark, reveal yourself!” He shouted and the trees stirred yet again.
Then, before their eyes, what they were seeing began to change. Like a mirage, the air rippled and swayed and soon, hanging on the branches were a dozen tiny creatures, two feet tall at the most. They were all dressed in onesies that stopped at their nobly knees and their sharp looking elbows. The creatures clothes were of varying muted colors. Lady Clara and Sir Morgandundunston sat atop their horses stunned into silence. One of the creatures walked, as if light as air, out onto a branch that shot out from the forest towards Lady Clara and the Knight. It stopped on the tip of the branch, which did not sink from its weight, and it bowed low to the Knight. It then spoke in a high pitched voice.
“Oh, Knight of legend, Knight of prophecy,” the creature said. “Will you stand against the coming Giants and save us all?”
“Oh, how cute! I bet they’re Gnomes…”
“Mom! What? Were you listening in!”
“Oh don’t be so embarrassed, I just love hearing you do little voices… so cute.”
“I’m right aren’t I? Gnomeswood, Gnomes, right?”
“Mom, you’re ruining it!”
“Ok, ok, I’m going.”
[door shuts again]
“A quest!?” Sir Morgandundunston said with a gleam in his eye to the creature.
“Legend?” Lady Clara questioned.
“Yes,” said the creature. “Legend, a prophecy made centuries ago.”
“A quest,” Sir Morgandundunston repeated smiling ear to ear.
“What is your name?” Lady Clara said.
“Oh, my Lady is kind. My name is Algerog.”
“And what are you, exactly?”
“We are close to Gnomes in your folklore, my Lady, but we’re a little different and are—”
But Algerog was interrupted by Sir Morgandundunston who was clearly not paying attention, and seemed to be continuing a conversation that only he was having.
“I would be honored to serve you, my little friend, but I must not abandon Lady Clara here to certain death if I leave her alone. I could not call myself a Knight of honor to leave such a frail and helpless thing as her to fend for herself.”
“Excuse me?” Lady Clara said. “I’ve just spent days on the road alone, clearly I don’t need your help.” Lady Clara shook her head and whispered to herself. “This is what I get for wanting one night indoors.”
“Please Sir,” said Algerog. “By saving us, you will save Lady Clara as well.”
Sir Morgandundunston’s face screwed up in thought and Lady Clara wondered what was going through his brain. The answer being, not that much.
“Let the quest begin!” He said.
“Please, come with us,” Algerog said waving his hand at his Gnome-like friends. “We have much to tell you, to explain.”
Together, Lady Clara upon Helena, and Sir Morgandundunston upon Turtle followed as Algerog seemed to dance from branch to branch, tree to tree into the middle of the small forest. Their journey was over in less than a minute. Lady Clara had just realized that the rest of the Gnomes had disappeared and she looked around into the trees, but saw nothing, until… the mirage like wavering of the air returned and soon they were in the middle of a full Gnome city.
There were hundreds of Gnomes, sitting out on branches, all dressed similarly in varying muted colors. Some were smaller than others, but none more than two feet tall. The trees themselves began to emit flickers of light, and as Clara looked closer, she saw that the trees weren’t flickering, but on the trees were now dozens of windows and little heads peered out of some. Clara kicked Helena closer to the nearest tree and looked into a window. There was a small sitting room inside with a burning fire place. There were stairs leading up the back wall and she stretched her neck to the window above where there was a clear bedroom. Clara was struck by how they seemed to live just like them.
“Incredible!” Lady Clara finally exclaimed.
“I know,” said the Knight. “It’s not everyday you get to be on a quest with a Legend.”
“No, that’s not…” Lady Clara began, but then just shook her head and moved herself towards where Algerog sat upon a branch. “This is truly marvelous,” she said. “How did you do that?”
“Some magic has been passed down as it is necessary to survive in this World. Other magic has been lost to time unfortunately. We just hope we have not lost too much.”
“I see,” said Lady Clara.
“But!” Algerog said, hopping up onto his feet. The branch he stood upon barely moving as he did. “This is why we have The Knight of Three and None! The Knight of our prophecy to save us all from the coming Giants.”
The Gnomes around all cheered and clapped and hollered loudly. The once quiet forest was bursting with noise. Lady Clara looked around at the ecstatic faces and she felt utter pity. They had no idea who this Knight was, but by all accounts, there was no chance he could be their savior. Not knowing what she herself could do, Lady Clara vowed she would stay until the end. Whatever their prophecy was, and however noble and brave Sir Morgandundunston thought himself to be, Lady Clara wasn’t about to let a prophecy decide whether these amazing creatures lived or died.
“So, what is this prophecy?” Lady Clara asked Algerog and the forest went instantly silent. She looked around, unsure if she had offended them.
“We shall explain,” Algerog said. “Come.”
They followed Algerog just a little further around the Gnomeswood until a small clearing appeared in the trees’ trunks, but the tree tops seemed to bow inwards to still cover them completely from the sky above. It was dark.
“Please. Leave your horses,” Algerog said and Lady Clara dismounted as did Sir Morgandundunston. They walked into this small clearing and six more Gnomes joined Algerog in the middle. “Sit,” he said motioning to them both and they did as they were told. The other Gnomes that joined Algerog gave him a funny looking hat which he adorned immediately. They all wore something similar. A sort of headdress made of branches and long woven grass that flowed down to their waists. The seven Gnomes joined hands and began turning in a circle, then their steps turned more dance-like as they spun faster, and faster. They were chanting something low and soft. Then, one of the tree trunks began to emanate light, but it was different from the light that came from the windows Lady Clara had just seen. They were words, burned into the trunks themselves, now glowing brightly for them all to see.
Three trees each showed part of a message, or what was clear to Lady Clara, part of the prophecy that Algerog spoke of. Together, they made one message, one prophecy. Lady Clara’s eyes danced from one tree to the next, the dark circle they were in now illuminated by the fiery words, and she read aloud from the first tree.
When a runaway wanders
unaware into our midst.
Three Giants will soon converge
And crush this land to bits
Then, she read from the second tree.
Yet a Knight of Three and None
May choose to stand
Unwavering, and willing
Amidst the quaking land
Finally, she read from the third tree.
If the Knight of Three and None
Meets these Giants Three,
Then Ancient ways will be revealed
And our race shall become not None.
“Our prophecy,” Algerog said humbly bowing his head low and the other six Gnomes with headdresses bowed low as well.
“Aha! Giants! I shall not falter! I will not stop until they are vanquished!” Sir Morgandundunston exclaimed and the Gnomes with headdresses dropped to their knees and bowed to the Knight as cheers of other Gnomes echoed from the tree-tops.
“May I ask a question?” Lady Clara said and Algerog lifted his head from his bow and smiled at her.
“Of course,” Algerog said.
“Well,” she began, “I see that I could be the runaway wandering unaware into your midst, but the prophecy says a Knight of Three and None. How does that make Sir Morgan… Sir Morsdan… dun..ston… how does that make him the Knight it speaks of?”
“Oh, well he is the Knight of Three,” Algerog began, “as when he rides upon his great steed he thus becomes a Knight of three legs, a Three-Legged Knight!” Lady Clara thought for a moment about all the limbs that could be counted, but decided she could see how they made this interpretation. She looked over to Sir Morgandundunston and he was sitting up straight beaming at no one in particular.
“Ok, and the Knight of None?” Lady Clara said and Sir Morgandundunston turned his head to listen.
“He is a Knight with no Lord to serve,” Algerog began and Sir Morgandundunston’s smile dropped a little. Algerog continued. “He is a Knight with no people to protect.”
“Well,” Sir Morgandundunston cut in, “there were many people I protected before my Lord’s death and everyone left Nussex.” His head was once again held high.
“I see,” said Lady Clara reluctantly seeing Algerog’s point. “And what about the Giants? There is no such thing as Giants.” Yet, just as she said that, the ground beneath them began to rumble softly. It began to quake slightly and Lady Clara looked at the words burning brightly in the tree trunks. Her eyes focused on just one line which she spoke aloud in a whisper only she could hear.
“Three Giants will converge and crush this land to bits.”
“Ooooohhhoohho! So suspenseful, Peter!”
“Mom, are you going to chime in after every chapter?”
“No, no… I just wanted to bring my hard working boy a snack.”
“I’m not hungry, mom, I’ll eat something after.”
“Oh, ok, I’ll just put this plate of pizza bagels down and I’m walking away.”
“Ok, mom… thanks.”
“I was kind of right about the Gnomes though, right!”
[says next chapter heading while chewing on a pizza bagel]
Lady Clara didn’t understand what was happening. Surely there couldn’t be actual Giants that just happened to sprout into existence moments after discovering magical Gnomes. Yet the slight rumble in the earth gave her pause. She felt ridiculous to even be thinking about this. And she felt even more ridiculous that she was now following the lead of Sir Morgandundunston.
“Do not fear my little friend, and do not weep my Lady,” Sir Morgandundunston shouted down to her and to Algerog, who was perched on her shoulder. They had left the forest and were now climbing up a small spiral staircase made of stone.
“I’m not weeping!” Lady Clara shouted to the Knight, but amidst his clanking metal and their heavy breathing, her words seemed to not reach his ears.
They climbed, and climbed for several minutes until Sir Morgandundunston stopped.
“This is high enough, please follow closely, danger lurks unseen!” He stepped off the small landing and through a doorway. They entered into a large circular room that was quite similar looking to the Gnome’s sitting room she’d seen in the tree. There was little to no furniture, but the windows placed every few feet filled the room with an abundance of light. Lady Clara wasn’t used to such brightness indoors without candle light. She paused for a moment and then ran over to one of the windows to peer out. At first glance she saw nothing and then her heart sank.
“There’s… there’s an army! To… to the East!” Lady Clara shouted and Algerog squeaked in fright on her shoulder.
“There is one this direction as well! West, then!” Said Sir Morgandundunston and Lady Clara paused for a moment, surprised with the correct statement he gave. Together, they all made their way to a window that faced North and they saw nothing. Then, to a window facing South and a third army was marching their way.
“Three Giants,” Lady Clara said.
“Ahhh,” said Algerog in understanding.
“I don’t see any Giants!” Sir Morgandundunston said sticking his entire head out the window, and looking around. Before Lady Clara could say anything, he was off running to the other windows doing the same thing. Sticking his head out the windows and peering in all directions. “Are they also invisible!”
“The armies are the Giants,” Lady Clara said. “The prophecy… it’s a metaphor.”
“A meteor? I can’t fight a meteor. Or can I? I will certainly try! And if I die, it will be a noble death!”
“There are no actual Giants, and no meteors,” Lady Clara said. “You just have to fight three… separate… armies,” she said and started to think of how she might be able to sneak these Gnomes away. Even if they headed North, the armies were too large and there would be no way to skirt around them unseen.
“Well, well… three armies should be easy work compared to a meteor!” Sir Morgandundunston said enthusiastically and Algerog clapped on top of Lady Clara’s shoulder who clapped her own hands to her face.
“Quick, brave Knight,” said Algerog, “we have not finished in the forest. There is one more piece to the prophecy that was only to be revealed when the Knight of Three and None had been chosen. We must return.” Algerog bowed to him.
“There’s not a moment to lose! Lead on little friend!” Sir Morgandundunston said.
They all raced back down the spiraling stone staircase of the tower and out onto the open lawn that separated the tower from the forest. Then, back into the forest, making their way to the small clearing where they’d just seen the prophecy written in flaming letters upon the tree trunks. The other Gnomes with headdresses were in the circle still, apparently waiting their arrival. Algerog hopped off of Lady Clara’s shoulder, onto a branch, and then swung himself into the middle of the circle. Lady Clara put a hand on her horse Helena as she was getting agitated with all the tension in the air and all the Gnomes scurrying about through the treetops.
“Algerog, there isn’t much time,” said one of the Gnomes as Algerog approached him.
“Yes, Geneloo,” said Algerog and he turned back to face Sir Morgandundunston and Lady Clara. “Please, Knight of Three and None, inside the circle.” Algerog gestured with his hands and Sir Morgandundunston followed. Lady Clara did as well. The curiosity and wonder for the magic she was witnessing consumed her. The tree trunks were still alight with the burning words of the prophecy, but the Gnomes were all facing away from those three trees and to the three trees on the other side of the circle. Lady Clara did the same.
Algerog, along with the other Gnomes, pushed Sir Morgandundunston into the center of the circle and the Gnomes encircled him holding their hands together. Again, they moved in a circle, chanting softly, their movement getting faster and faster and then the other three trees in the circle began to glow with more burning letters and a hole opened in the side of the first tree. A bundle of something fell out. The Gnomes all gasped, clearly not knowing what was going to happen, and Lady Clara excitedly read aloud the words in the trees again.
When, She read pausing as the single word stood above the rest, then continued.
Stars enter the South,
Wind the West,
Earth enters the East,
And Nag the North.
Then, She read from the second tree, again pausing as the word stood above the rest.
We all must look inside
And let go this World
Where, she paused again, reading from the third and final tree.
Is the last to answer
look inside, dear stranger.
The Gnomes were all silent in thought, and Sir Morgandundunston went over to pick up the bundle that fell out of the tree.
“Swords!” He exclaimed and the Gnomes scurried over with enthusiasm, and Lady Clara did the same. “I shall vanquish Giants and Meteors with these!”
There were three swords in the bundle and they all seemed to glow a little with slightly different colors. One glowed slightly blue, another sort of white, and the last with a hint of green.
“What does it all mean?” Lady Clara asked and Algerog and the other Gnomes turned to her looking confused.
“We only had to find the Knight! These messages, and these swords are gifts from the ancient ones to aid the brave Knight,” he gestured to Sir Morgandundunston, “and not for us Gnomes. They will help him in his battle against the three Giants who converge upon us.”
“But, surely you can help him figure out what the swords do, or what the rest of the message means?” She asked as Sir Morgandundunston stood off to the side waving the swords around two at a time.
“No,” said Geneloo. “We must not interfere otherwise we may make matters worse.”
Lady Clara didn’t like this idea. The fate of these creatures, perhaps even her own, being placed in the hands of Sir Morgandundunston was not something she was going to allow. She studied the words in the trees, turning away at times and closing her eyes, until she knew she had them memorized. Next was to examine the swords, but before she could say anything, they heard drumming from the West. Then, drumming coming from the East. And finally, looking that way, expecting it, drumming sounded from the South. They’re here, she thought.
He looked ridiculous, was the only thing going through Lady Clara’s mind at the moment. In spite of the loud drumming which announced the looming threat of being in the crosshairs of three armies, this was her only thought as she looked at Sir Morgandundunston. He was atop his three-legged horse, Turtle, and he had his sword plus the other three swords all in their sheaths, and all strapped to himself. One at his waist, one strapped along each of his legs, and one behind his back. Sir Morgandundunston looked like he was ready for an extreme battle, except for the fact that he wore no helmet. Lady Clara was pretty sure she understood why he wasn’t. He kept moving his head left and right and his hair moved with a glimmer in the sunlight, and she was certain he was well aware of this fact.
“To battle!” He said when the final sword was strapped to his right leg and he reared Turtle onto his hind legs.
“Those are full armies out there,” Lady Clara said, mounting her horse Helena. “You have to at least find out what they want, why they’re here?” She wasn’t going to let him out of her sight, even if that meant coming face to face with her father, Lord Beartrew of Wessex.
“We ride then!” Sir Morgandundunston shouted and kicked into Turtle and into the forest he rode, towards the army of Wessex. Lady Clara looked down at Algerog who was looking at her, and she understood with one look. She nodded her head and he climbed up the leg of Helena who squirmed nervously, and Algerog rested upon her shoulder. Lady Clara took a deep breath and then took off to follow Sir Morgandundunston.
When Lady Clara reached the edge of the Forest, Sir Morgandundunston was already halfway between herself and the army of Wessex, and a short portly man was walking out to meet him. The man was dressed in a bright orange tunic which made him look like a large pumpkin. His flushed cheeks made the look more drastic.
“Algerog,” came a voice from behind Lady Clara, but she saw nothing.
“Yes,” said Algerog, and Lady Clara noticed that although she could feel him upon her shoulder, Algerog was again invisible.
“There are men on foot sneaking into the forest from the East and South,” came the other voice.
“Can you confuse them?” Lady Clara said. “Can you make them never reach the Tower?”
“Yes,” Algerog said. “Do that Begrod.”
“If they don’t see we have no army, it could keep them from attacking,” Lady Clara said and Algerog let out an understanding, “hmm.”
They turned their attention to Sir Morgandundunston as the portly man began to speak.
“I come to talk to the Lord of this Tower on behalf of Lord Beartrew of Wessex,” he said in a weaselly voice.
“I am no Lord, but I protect this land,” said Sir Morgandundunston.
“Do you speak for Lord Ingrum of Sussex then?”
“No, of course not!”
“You speak for Lord Oombra of Essex, then, yes?”
“This is not Essex, or Sussex,” said the Knight. “This is Nussex!”
“Whether you are with Essex or Sussex, Lord Beartrew’s wish is to simply have his daughter returned. Lady Clara.”
“I represent Nussex!”
The portly man looked around to the army and towards the bear of a man sitting just inside a tent’s opening. The portly man held out his arms and shrugged his shoulders.
“Your demands have been heard, my fat little friend. You threaten this land and thus you challenge us to battle!” Sir Morgandundunston shouted and rode away before the portly man could say another word. When he reached Lady Clara, she had her mouth open.
“I’ll go back,” she said. “If it stops a war, I’ll go back and just run away another day, in a different direction.”
“Nonsense! You are under my protection now. I will save you!” He said and rode into the forest to the South, towards the army of Sussex.
The conversations went very much the same in Sussex and in Essex. The Sussex army wanted Lady Clara returned, as her betrothed, whom she’d refused to marry, was one of the Lord’s sons. Essex was there to simply protect their land, as word reached them of Wessex and Sussex marching their way. All parties though wondered who Sir Morgandundunston represented, and none of them had ever heard of Nussex. Sir Morgandundunston left them all in confusion and Lady Clara thought that maybe this was actually a good thing and could work in their favor. Unintentionally, Sir Morgandundunston was leaving the armies not knowing who they were about to go to battle with. Wessex would wonder if Essex and Sussex were allied, and around and around it would go. No one knowing who’s on who’s side and, thanks to the Gnomes, what army might await them if they came through the forest?
“Now what?” Lady Clara said once they were back inside the cover of the trees. She spoke to Sir Morgandundunston, not sure why she was asking him and what plan she was hoping to get from him.
“We have heard their demands, and now we go to battle!” He said and she wanted to kick herself for having asked the question.
“Those are full armies, and you’re one… Knight,” she struggled to say the word. “Just because you have four swords doesn’t mean you can take on a whole army, let alone three! You don’t stand a chance.”
“Aha! But a chance is all. I. Need.” He said and he smiled at the onlooking Gnomes who were all looking on in wonder from the tree-line.
“I said, you don’t…” but she gave up as Sir Morgandundunston started riding back towards the army of Wessex. Lady Clara followed and again watched from the edge of the forest as Sir Morgandundunston rode out halfway to the army. The portly man was again walking out to meet him with confusion on his round face. Helena, Lady Clara’s horse, suddenly moved herself to the right a few paces and Lady Clara looked down to see what might have disturbed her. She didn’t see anything to cause Helena to move, but she noticed that there was a round stone on the ground she hadn’t seen before. There were lines etched in a wavy pattern and what looked like a small slit in the stone.
“Ahh!” Screamed Algerog from her shoulder and Lady Clara looked up to a terrible scene. Sir Morgandundunston had reared Turtle onto his hind legs, but when the horse fell back down, it landed atop the portly man. The massive front leg of Turtle completely crushed the man. Then, he did it again. Reared Turtle back, and the huge leg came down again upon the portly man. Lady Clara saw blood splatter, and watched Sir Morgandundunston rear Turtle back again, and again until the portly man was nothing more than a pile of mush upon the ground. It was disgusting, and appalling, and downright confusing. Why? Was all Lady Clara could think as Sir Morgandundunston pulled his sword from his sheath, held it in the air to the army of Wessex and rode back to Lady Clara.
“Why?” She said when he reached her. “Why?”
“The prophecy, my Lady! The Knight shall stomp and quake the ground!” He said.
“That’s… that’s not what the prophecy said at all!”
“Oh, yes it did. I believe I would know.”
“It said you may stand amidst quaking ground.”
“Oh, my Lady,” he said and he brushed her hair with his non sword hand. “Don’t feel any shame for your lack of understanding. These matters are best attended to by—”
“Don’t you finish that sentence,” she said with her teeth clenched.
“Aha!” He shouted and rode into the forest with his sword held high clanking into tree branches as he rode. Lady Clara did a double take, and her anger made way to curiosity, to a potential amazing realization. She noticed that his sword, the sword not given to him by the Gnomes, also seemed to glow slightly in the darkness of the forest. Again, in its own unique color. A sort of brownish, gold color. She looked down at the stone on the ground, then back into the forest where Sir Morgandundunston had disappeared into, and it hit her. Lady Clara felt she knew what had to be done, even if she had no idea why it did.
Arrows were falling from the sky and Lady Clara stood next to her horse Helena inside the forest. The trees stopped the majority of the arrows, or at least slowed them down, but the situation was getting dire. One arrow had already grazed her shoulder and tore the cloth of her dress there. Whatever grace she had left with her father, was clearly gone, as he was risking her getting hit with an arrow, and killing her.
“Sir Morgan… Sir Morgan, can I see your sword?” She said and he turned to her, somehow unfazed by the onslaught of arrows raining down above them.
“Sir Morgandundunston, my Lady.”
“Yes, can I see your sword?” She repeated.
“This is no toy, my Lady,” he said.
“I just want to look, is all,” she said and he screwed up his face in thought again before turning back to a giant grin as he passed her the sword.
Lady Clara could see the unique color of the sword more in the darkness of the forest than in the light of day. The brownish, golden color was clear and she knew it wasn’t her imagination now. She held the sword up to the sky by the hilt and examined the blade itself.
“There’s an etching in the blade,” she said to Sir Morgandundunston. “Did you know that?”
“Of course!” He said. “This sword has been passed down for generations from the Lords of this land. A gift from my Lord Tuft before his death.”
“The etching though,” she said looking at him with urgency. “It’s a nag! The nag to the north was part of the message on the tree.”
“It’s a horse, my Lady, not a nag.” He said laughter in his voice.
“A nag is a horse!” She said. “Quick, show me the other three swords.”
Sir Morgandundunston unsheathed one sword at a time, and held them out to her and she examined one and then stuck it in the ground. Then, grabbed the next, examined it and stuck it in the ground as well. Soon, she was standing in the middle of four swords all protruding from the ground.
“Look!” She said.
“You are strange,” was all Sir Morgandundunston said.
“The words on the tree said, ‘When stars meet south’ and look.” Lady Clara pointed to the sword that glinted a bluish color. Just below the hilt, on the blade, was etched a constellation of stars. “And then, it said, ‘Wind in the West.’ Look here.” The sword she stuck in the ground to the west, that glinted white, had an etching of a swirling pattern. “Wind!” She said. “Then, here we have Earth to the East,” and the green glinting sword had an etching of a mountain. “And, nag to the north!” And Lady Clara completed her circle of swords.
“I don’t understand,” Algerog said.
“There was a rock, to the West,” she pointed frantically, “And it had the same etching on the rock as this sword. And there was a small slit where you could slide the blade into. It can’t be a coincidence.”
“I have an idea!” Said Sir Morgandundunston. “What if we take these blades, and stick them into the rocks. There might be a rock for each sword, in each direction.” Lady Clara looked up in surprise. Yes, it was her idea that he was simply taking, but the fact that he understood the idea is what baffled her. As more arrows rained down all around them, there was no time to pause. She could see into the clearing between the forest and the tower that arrows were falling from the army of Sussex as well. Lady Clara thought that perhaps they saw what Wessex was doing and chose to copy them.
“Quick,” Lady Clara began. “We need to place the swords now. As soon as they’re done with the arrows, they’ll send in the armies and this forest will truly be crushed.”
“Not to worry!” Sir Morgandundunston said. “Give me the swords and I will complete this quest or die trying!”
Lady Clara pulled the swords from the ground and gave them back to the Knight, but mounted back atop Helena.
“I’m coming with you,” she said.
“We ride!” He said and they were off, back towards Wessex.
“Let me put the sword in,” Lady Clara said when they reached the edge of the forest and she could see the rock just a few feet out. “You can’t dismount with all the swords attached to you like that,” she said.
“Here,” he said, “I will let you place the swords, as you seem eager.” He handed her the first sword, glinting white, etched with wind. Lady Clara ran out from the cover of trees and slid the sword quickly into the rock. It hit some bottom and a loud rumbling came from deep below them and then stopped. Lady Clara hurried back to the tree-line and atop Helena and they were off to the South. There was indeed another round rock just past the tree-line there as well. This time, though, the etching in the rock was of stars. Lady Clara placed the next sword, glinting blue, inside the slit in the rock and again a deep rumbling shook the earth for a moment when the sword hit the bottom. They continued on, and placed the green glinting sword of Earth into the stone with the same etching of mountains. Finally, the brownish-gold glinting sword of the Nag to the stone in the North.
When they placed the final sword to the North, the rumbling in the ground didn’t stop, but grew stronger and wilder. Lady Clara struggled to get back on her horse, from the shaking ground. Once she managed it, she looked back. The ground next to the stone began to fall away. She backed up Helena and soon the stone, with the sword plunged into it began to rise. It rose to a height of several feet above the ground. The stone was actually the top of what was an underground pillar. And where the earth had fallen away, there was now stone. A huge stone circle, around the whole forest, Lady Clara concluded, with these pillars at each corner like a giant compass.
“Magnificent!” Sir Morgandundunston shouted.
Then, the pillar and the entire stone ring began to move around.
“Quick, back to Algerog!” She shouted and they rode away, but the pillar followed them around the forest, eventually passing them as the speed of the turning stone circle grew and grew.
“What is this Algerog?” Lady Clara said when they finally reached him and the other Gnomes. They were all gathered close to the clearing where the fiery words were still blazing in the tree trunks.
“We don’t know,” he said with fear and wonder in his eyes.
“The words,” she said. “They’re instructions. Look.” She pointed to the three trees that were most recently illuminated. “When, says the first tree and we did that. We placed the swords. The next tree says ‘Then, look inside and let go this World.’ Algerog?”
“Yes,” He said.
“How do you all turn invisible?” Lady Clara said, and Algerog looked at her amused.
“It’s just in our nature. It’s a feeling on the inside,” he said and his face lit up as did Lady Clara’s.
“Well, do it!” She said, and before her eyes Algerog disappeared, and then the rest of the Gnomes did as well. The forest was filling with a strong wind as the stone circle spun so fast it was a blur. Then, the trees themselves started to get hazy looking, like they were becoming more distant. Helena started to do the same, and Lady Clara held up her hands to examine them and they began to vanish before her eyes as well. Soon, she could see the Gnomes again, and the trees, and Helena, but she knew that they were all invisible to the outside World.
“Now what?” Algerog shouted.
“Where!” Lady Clara said, reading from the tree trunk. “Where, is the last to answer, look inside dear stranger.” Lady Clara said the last part with a whisper and she knew it must mean her. She was the stranger. She was the one that wanted to leave her home, to be somewhere else, to get away. She’d imagined the perfect place in her mind so many times. Far from her home, amidst a beautiful scene of rivers and lakes, and trees and mountains. Lady Clara closed her eyes and imagined. She pictured every detail as best as she could and an odd sensation started coming over her. A tingling feeling that started softly and then grew to overcome her senses, but she kept the picture in her mind, with her eyes held tight.
Soon, the tingling began to fade, the wind in the forest began to dissipate and when she opened her eyes the Gnomes were out of sight. She wasn’t invisible anymore and the stone circle outside was slowing down. Algerog showed himself and the rest of the Gnomes followed suit.
“We’ve left Nussex,” said Algerog. “We’ve left the Giants behind!”
Lady Clara agreed as she looked beyond the stone circle and saw not open land, and awaiting armies, but endless forest. Just like she’d pictured in her mind.
“Women always save the day,”
“Mom! what? How long have you been sitting on my bed?”
“Since I gave you the pizza bagels, which I see didn’t go to waste,”
“You’ve just been sitting there?”
“What? I’m enjoying the story… a little wizard of oz kind thing at the-”
“Mom, I’m almost done. I Just need to sort of wrap it up. Please.”
“Well, ok, mr. bossy pants. Lips are sealed. Don’t let me hold you back.”
“I have moved all of Nussex to a different place?” Sir Morgandundunston said. “My, my! I am a Legend!” He praised himself and the Gnomes all cheered and scattered outwards to explore their new homeland. Lady Clara didn’t bother to try and correct Sir Morgandundunston and joined the Gnomes, riding on Helena.
She rode out passed the stone circle that helped transport them, Algerog jumping atop her shoulder on the way. They followed a river and eventually the trees grew more sparse, until they gave way completely to a clearing before a huge lake. It was truly as she imagined. They were in a low valley, with mountain peaks all around, covered in beautiful evergreen trees. There were at least three more rivers that flowed down from the peaks to the lake below.
Eventually, Sir Morgandundunston made his way down and joined Lady Clara, Algerog, and the other Gnomes.
“Lady Clara,” he said, “good little Gnomes. I regret to inform you, that I must leave.”
The Gnomes all looked up with utter admiration in their eyes, and Lady Clara just looked on confused. Sir Morgandundunston continued.
“I promised to protect you Lady Clara, and to save you my good little Gnomes, and I believe that I have completed this quest. No, don’t interrupt,” he said holding out his hand and Lady Clara looked around. None of the Gnomes looked like they were making any attempt to stop his speech, and she certainly wasn’t. He continued. “I know dangers may present themselves again in the future, but I can not stay to protect you forever. It has come to me, that I’ve lived so long with no Lord to protect for a reason.”
“Why is that?” Lady Clara asked unable to help her curiosity.
“Because, I am meant to protect not a Lord, not a helpless Lady,” Lady Clara’s curiosity ended abruptly as Sir Morgandundunston continued. “Not a race of Gnomes or even a land as great as Nussex. No. I am meant to protect the World itself and so I will travel, protecting the needy, saving the helpless, and when I die my legend shall inspire a new generation of Knights that…”
Lady Clara stopped listening and turned her horse around to allow her to drink from the lake as Sir Morgandundunston continued his speech to the Gnomes who were fully engaged and in utter awe of him. Lady Clara hopped off her horse, as Sir Morgandundunston finished his speech. He bowed low towards her and she waved her hand politely and watched as he rode off on his three-legged horse, Turtle, into the forest, disappearing into the darkness. Lady Clara looked around at the magical Gnomes, and at her new home and she smiled.
“Ooh, is that it?”
“Yea, mom, that’s it.”
“So much fun.”
“Ok, want something to eat?”
“Yea, sounds good.”
“Then, put your underwear away.”
I hope you enjoyed today’s story as much as I enjoyed writing it, and I hope you laughed at least once. So, now the question is how the hell am I going to turn this ridiculous story into something insightful as is my usual ending? Well, I’m not going to. Or, rather I will, by not. I’ll explain.
The only message I wanted to share at the end of this story is simple. It’s that life is supposed to be fun and to make sure you’re having a healthy dose of it on your pursuits. The end goal always sounds amazing and fun and exciting, but the journey there should be too, and it can be if you make it so.
As I wrote my novel… oh, that’s right… last week I finished my first draft people!! Whoop, whoop!! Really cool feeling to have hit that mile stone. But, as I was writing, there were certainly days when it was tough to sit down and write. Days when I only did it because I made it a habit to write every day like Dan Brown suggested in his Master Class. Obviously I missed a day here and there, but not many in the 4.5 months it’s taken me to finish my first draft. Those days though, the dark days we’ll say, were by far the minority. If they became the majority I don’t think I would have finished or wanted to finish.
My novel is a pretty serious one… a murder mystery… yet I laughed as I wrote. I was amazed and in awe as I wrote. I was happy as I wrote… the majority of the time. And I don’t think it has anything to do with a difference in the work, but rather in my perspective as I worked. Some days, the tired days, or the doubting days, are the tough ones. Yet, mostly I found things to laugh at, like what my search history became as I researched… murders, and medical examiner stuff. I laughed as I thought to google, “the perfect murder.” I didn’t google it though.
I found things to be amazed at and in awe of as I wrote, like my instagram and facebook post on all the 7’s thrown at me in that one day… if you haven’t seen that post, go check it out, the level of coincidence was off the charts (aka no coincidence)… Other things I awed at were days I wrote 5,000 words instead of my more average 2,000 words. Or, introducing myself as a writer for the first time to a stranger, feeling like a writer at the conference I went to, loving the things I was learning and growing at.
Oh, and here’s one more thing I thought was amazing and it has to do with today’s story. Today’s story is as long as the stories from the first season. As long as the first story I wrote, “The Toy Rocket.” I wrote “The Toy Rocket” in about a month and a half. I wrote today’s story in two days. Yea, two days. There’s more. After The Toy Rocket, I planned, outlined, wrote, recorded and released episodes in a month’s time frame and I always had to push hard at the end to get things out in time. This story, from planning, to recorded and out the door… 4 days. That’s incredible to me, and I was in serious awe from the realization.
Talk about a metric of my own growth as a writer. Maybe you think today’s story sucked, but to me it doesn’t matter, because I think the level of intricacy and attention to detail is just as much as The Toy Rocket, if not more, and I did it in about a tenth of the time.
Alright, you get the point. If you’re not enjoying life, enjoying the pursuit of your dreams, for too many days in a row… it’s time to change either the dream, or yourself. I’d start with yourself. Start with where you’re looking. As you can tell, I’m always looking to fill my day with something good. It’s funny how easy it is to find something, when you’re looking for it.
Before I sign off, just a reminder that if you like this podcast, please share it with a friend, give it a review, and follow me on Instagram and Facebook at The Roaming Scholar to get involved in helping me make future episodes. I really liked the voting aspect that led to this episode and I’m going to be doing more things like that in the future… so I hope you follow along and join in.
Alright, happy trails everyone, and see you all for the next episode.