This one's long. It also includes a picture and link at the end.
Chapter Eight - Long Live the King
It was just after midnight. The two Azraelite patrolmen walked slowly along the road, eyes scanning side to side in the prescribed corporate fashion.
They carried their modified AK's held tightly in their gloved hands. They were new to this, Acolytes of the Angel of Death, and this was their second
patrol this night.
Hearing a sound, they warily rounded a corner only to be confronted with a couple of civilians standing on the grassy roadside arguing vehemently.
this way !!!", yelled a tall redhead, gesturing into the distance.
"Bollocks it isn't !", replied her companion, a shorter male with spiky hair and somewhat pointed ears.
you to ask for directions from that soldier, but oh no, men always know better ... why don't you just admit you're wrong ?".
Grinning nastily from behind the dark hoods of their uniform cloaks, the two Azraelites came closer. Relaxing somewhat they approached the arguing
"Here !", the redhead snapped, "Here's someone ... ask them
The Azraelites pushed back their hoods and stared at their quarry; "Are you aware that you are trespassing in Azraelite property ?", one of them
said. He looked young, not more than 18. And his voice held a twinge of arrogance. "I'm arresting you on suspicion of corporate espionage. You will
be taken to Warwick and there held for interrogation and exe...".
There was a slight hiss of air and his head hit the ground; His body tottered for a second, then collapsed, blood spurting from its severed neck.
His collegue lifted his weapon, eyes wide with fear. The Azraelites were indoctrinated to believe only in their god and in their own innate
superiority and invulnerability. The general public had a by-now ingrained terror of them, and it was this very fear that kept them safe.
Safe from the sheeple anyway.
Not from KayEm.
A slight grunt indicated that the young Azraelite was on his way to his god. His eyes glazed, death overtaking him, and he slipped off the blade of
KayEm's sword to land in a heap on the ground.
"Cute", said Tobias, appearing from behind a bush followed by Loki and Arthur. Loki went to work rifling through the pockets of the now deceased
"Any ID cards ?", this from Pisky, who had appropriated one of the Azraelite's AKs. Loki threw him the cards, picked up the other AK and checked
the safety. "AK74SU", he said, "Same as bin Laden's. Nice piece of kit".
Pisky and Tobias stripped the outer garments from the patrolmen and dressed hurridly, leaving Loki and Arthur to hide the evidence of their recent
attack. Hopefully the uniforms and disguised hummer would allow them entrance to Warwick itself. The death-obsessed Azraelites lit the whole place as
if it was a set from an old Vincent Price film, with flickering torches held in sconces, while their uniforms resembled Satanic robes made fashionable
by Anton LaVey himself.
Tobias got behind the wheel of the hummer with Pisky now riding shotgun. Arthur accompanied KayEm and Loki, each preparing their weapons for battle,
although hoping fervently that it wouldn't come to that. The Azraelite Acolytes might not be very good, but their knights were well trained, and the
Grand Master himself had a history which included a spell in 2-Para. Not a nice thing to think about when considering raiding his base. It was, after
all, bound to seriously piss him off.
The road forked away to the right. Tobias turned the wheel effortlessly and the hummer powered off towards Warwick. When the castle was a tourist
attraction, visitors were halted at the old stable block, where they would purchase tickets before being allowed to approach the castle itself. This
was no longer true, mainly due to the fact that the block no longer existed. It had been a victim of rioters some months before, and later demolished
by the Azraelites who had extended the road so it now went straight to the Gatehouse.
Reaching the first stand of trees, the hummer slowed, allowing Arthur to slip effortlessly into the darkness. His task was to intercept anyone
attempting to interfere with the raid from outside the castle. Tobias and Pisky would bluff their way through the Gatehouse and Barbican and into the
castle grounds. KayEm and Loki, erstwhile prisoners of the Azraelites, would supply cover if the escape went wrong while they were still within the
The castle itself was lit with torches which would have looked atmospheric had the situation been different. Now it just looked eerie. The stench of
death hung over the area, pervading the very air they were breathing. Tobias drove the hummer towards the Gatehouse, making the action look effortless
and something he did every day. Two Azraelites stood outside the ancient stone building, looking like replicas of their own Angel of Death. The hummer
stopped. Tobias sat still, holding his breath. One of the sentries walked towards the drivers side of the hummer, reached out his hand and demanded
Tobias handed him the two cards taken from the patrolmen, which he ran through a portable scanner. "You two should still be on patrol", he said
gruffly, "what's the story".
Tobias gestured to the pair in the back of the hummer, "Caught them near Old Nick's park", he said, "Brought them in for questioning".
The sentry bent down and looked through the back windows to where a scared looking Loki and KayEm sat shivering. Turning away he looked back at
Tobias, "You know where to go", he said, handing back the ID cards and waving the vehicle forward. Tobias nodded and drove slowly through the
Gatehouse, through the tunnel and out of the Barbican.
Pisky took a deep breath. It had been some years since he had been in Warwick at night. Then, back in the late 80's, he had been there for a
Mediaeval banquet; The place was beautifully decked in lights and looked like a fairytale castle. Not now. Black smoke rose from small bonfires
scattered around the grounds, while cultists refueled an ominous looking black helicopter which sat on its pad opposite the Great Hall. In the
distance the mound which once contained the remains of William the Conqueror's original castle stood alone. The ruins had been removed and something
vile built there instead. It was there that the Azraelites called down their dark Angel of Death and offered him the souls of their victims. Pisky
wanted to call down the wrath of Odin upon these monstrous cultists, then realised that if anything went wrong, they would at least feel the wrath of
Tobias halted the hummer. Pisky looked out of the window towards the entrance to the dungeon. Built into the foundations of Caesar's Tower, the
dungeon was a dank, depressing hole designed in the Middle Ages to destroy the hope of even the strongest prisoner.
Pisky and KayEm remembered their trip there at the beginning of the new Millennium. It was a dark, sweaty place even then. They had no idea what
modifications the Azraelites had made for the further edification of their 'guests'.
Another Azraelite sentry stood beside the entrance to the dungeon. There was no reason for more because of the manner in which the dungeon was built.
Opening a hatch revealed a long narrow flight of steps, at the end of which a stone doorway led directly to the dungeon itself. One man could easily
defend against any attempt at escape, at least until reinforcements could arrive.
Tobias opened the door of the hummer and climbed out. Pisky did the same and strode purposefully towards the back, throwing open the door and ordering
Loki and KayEm to disembark. They did so, slowly and fearfully. The sentry turned to open the hatch just as Tobias reached him. Tobias grabbed his
head with his powerful hands and twisted; The sentry jerked once, his eyes wide, then went limp as his neck was broken. Tobias threw the body down the
steps and stood to one side, taking the sentry's place. To anyone looking over from the castle grounds it would look perfectly normal. A standard
Azraelite hummer parked beside the dungeon with a bored looking sentry standing guard. What they wouldn't see was Loki and KayEm hidden beside the
vehicle, weapons ready.
Pisky quickly rushed towards the dungeon, kicking the dead Azraelite down the last few steps out of pure spite. Pulling his hood closer, he walked
through the stone doorway into the antechamber of hell. The stench was atrocious, issuing from an open drain running across the room. It was
originally designed as a sewer, but hadn't been used for that purpose for many years. Obviously the Azraelites had decided to re-open it. Pisky
looked around the room.
Carved in the wall was a poignant memory of a long gone, some would say more barbaric, time. "MasTER johN SMYTH GUNER TO HIS MAJESTY HighNESS WAS A
PRISNER IN THIS PLACE AND LAY HERS froM 1642 TELLth...."
Pisky muttered a curse and, tearing his eyes from the last words of a suffering man, continued scanning the dismal room.
Near the right hand wall opposite the grille of an unoccupied observation chamber, A small forlorn looking figure crouched. Pisky could hear soft
sobbing issuing from a white face framed with dirty shoulder length hair. Seeing his approach, the figure ceased crying and pushed itself upright
against the wall. "He's dead".
The voice was soft yet gravelly. Obviously female. Pisky rushed towards where the woman was looking. The oubliette. Little Ease. Pisky shivered
involuntarily, then bent down. Dug into the floor of the dungeon, Little Ease was a tiny chamber where malcontents were thrust to die. Without enough
space to sit or lie straight, victims of this particular form of torture were forced to crouch down while an iron grid was fastened above them. After
an hour of this, they suffered unbearable pain. After a day, it was indescribable agony. Pisky looked through the grid, his eyes finally used to the
dim light. The corpse of a young man huddled within the tiny chamber. Pisky cursed. Erisian was dead.
He turned towards the girl. Tears had cut channels through her dirty face. She shook her head. "He tried to escape". She said sadly, "They put him
"#", Pisky muttered, "Fecking great. First he gets caught trying to hack the Beast, then ends up stuffed in Little Ease and killed. Fecking
"Erisian ... that useless gob#e in there". Pisky gestured towards Little Ease.
"Yes ... now, lets get out of here before some bastard sees us. We may not have Erisian, but we have you, and every life is worth saving". Pisky
grabbed her arm and began pulling her towards the steps.
"Ummm ... I'm Erisian"
Pisky stopped pulling and spun around.
"I'm Angie Chase", she said quietly, "Also known as Erisian". She made a wry grin; "Who are you ?"
"To use the words of a well known Jedi ... I'm here to rescue you"'
Erisian smiled, "In which case ... to reply in the words of a well known space princess ... aren't you a little short to be an Azraelite ?"
"I'm a Pixy - it comes with the territory"
Stepping over the corpse of the sentry, Pisky led his charge up the steps and out of the hatchway. Blinking in the light of the torches, they crept
towards the stationary hummer beside which Loki and KayEm crouched.
A beam of light pierced the darkness, followed inexorably by the sound of a vehicle entering the short tunnel leading to the Barbican. An Azraelite
hummer came into view, with a corporate insignia emblazoned on the front passenger door. From inside the castle grounds cultists began issuing from
various doorways as the car moved slowly towards the Great Hall. "Who the fex that ?", Loki whispered as he looked over the bonnet of the hummer.
"Must be someone important", replied KayEm, looking back to see Pisky and Erisian approaching at a crawl.
The yell came from behind them, from the side door of the Great Hall, opposite Caesar's Tower. Pisky dropped, fumbling for his bow while Tobias
launched himself across the space towards the lone Azraelite who was now rushing back into the Hall.
"Tobias, Duck !"
Tobias took the hint and hurled himself to the ground as an arrow sped above and embedded itself into the back of the fleeing Azraelite. The man
groaned, staggered and hit a button fastened on the interior wall of the Hall.
Security alarms echoed around the castle. Pisky yelled abuse as a trio of cultists came running from the Barbican straight towards him. He hit one in
the guts with an arrow and the Azraelite fell to the floor, screaming. The others took cover, only to be flushed out by one of Loki's incendiary
grenades then impaled by two of Pisky's arrows.
"Up there !!!", KayEm yelled and grabbing Loki by the scruff of his neck, pulled him away from the hummer just before it exploded in flames.
"Bastards are using fecking grenades !" muttered Loki, "Thats my forte !".
Pisky motioned towards Erisian and ran in a crouch to where Tobias was drawing a bead on a cultist on the top of Caesar's Tower. One shot and the
Azraelite went to meet his god.
"Hummer's gone", said Pisky, handing his AK to Erisian. "Safety's off", he continued, "just aim and fire".
know how to shoot", she replied in an exasperated tone, "Probably better than you actually". And to prove it, she picked off a
cultist who was trying to get along the curtain wall beside the Tower. "Nice shooting, Tex", grinned Tobias. Erisian nodded her thanks.
Loki rushed over, followed by KayEm. At the moment chaos reigned but in a short time the Azraelites would organise themselves and overwhelm their
position. KayEm dropped beside Tobias, breathing heavily after her exertion. "Can you fly that thing ?", she asked, pointing to the black helicopter
standing alone in the darkness.
"I had a few lessons, but not enough", Tobias said, "I'll give it a go though".
Erisian leaned over to speak to KayEm "I can fly it", she said, "My dad was ..."
A burst of gunfire spattered the wall beside them. Tobias returned fire; "Looks like we're in your hands then".
With Pisky, Loki and KayEm supplying covering fire, Tobias and Erisian skirted the corner of the Hall and headed towards the main door. From there,
they would have to run across open grassland to get to the helicopter. It wasn't going to be easy, Tobias thought. But then again, it never is. A
short burst of gunfire resulted in a vile torrent of abuse from Pisky and the sound of an explosion, obviously courtesy of Loki. Tobias began to move
quickly along the wall, followed by Erisian. Another burst of fire, another imprecation and yet another explosion. Then silence. Tobias turned, saw an
Azraelite run across the grass and begin firing. Leaping away as bullets smacked into the wall, Tobias returned fire. The first cultist dropped, his
head blown away, only to be replaced by two more. "It's like the fecking Hydra !", he muttered.
Erisian, left behind when Tobias took on the first cultist, becan to run towards him. She was almost at his side when there was another round of
gunfire and with a scream she fell to the floor. Tobias fired at the cultists now hiding behind one of the bonfires and taking pot shots at him. An
arrow shot through the air, embedding itself in the fire and exploding, scattering burning material all over the shrieking Azraelites. Tobias cut them
down in a hail of gunfire before rushing over to the stricken Erisian.
Pisky came rushing around the corner, followed by Loki and KayEm who looked horrified to see Erisian lying still on the ground. Quickly she dropped to
a crouch and checked the girl's pulse. "She's lucky", KayEm said, taking a small pouch out of her pocket, "The bullet went through the fleshy
part of her arm. Didn't hit the bone". She snapped open a small phial and waved it under Erisian's nose; "No time for niceties", she said as
Erisian took a deep breath, coughed and finally opened her eyes. "That hurts", she said as KayEm quickly wrapped a bandage around her bleeding arm.
"Can you still fly ?"
"I think so", Erisian replied, "but I'll need a bit of help". Tobias nodded.
Pisky yelled and released an arrow towards yet another group of Azraelites. "Get us the feck out of here !", he shouted, loosing yet another arrow.
Tobias grabbed the still woozy Erisian and started towards the helicopter pad. Loki and KayEm covered them while Pisky carefully took down anyone who
came in range of his arrows.
To say that everything went to # at this point would be an understatement. The Azraelites were beginning to regroup, which was definitely a bad
thing. Even worse was that they were now commanded by the Grand Master himself, Gilles de Mornay. That explained who it was who had arrived at such an
inappropriate moment. Accompanying him were four of his elite personal bodyguards and two women, one dark and short haired, the other blonde. Both
dressed in black with swords in their hands and murderous looks in their eyes. "Stop them", de Mornay hissed in a gravelly yet sibillant voice,
"and bring them to me. Alive if possible".
Two of the black-helmeted bodyguards rushed towards the helicopter. Erisian yelled and pointed behind Tobias, who spun around, weapon drawn. He fired,
the guards fell back, the bullets slamming into their body armour. "What the f... ?" Tobias fired again. The bullets struck the approaching guards
in the chest, but succeeded only in slightly slowing them down. Following their Grand Master's order to take them alive if possible, they drew wicked
looking scimitars which shone in the light of the bonfires. Tobias turned to Erisian, pushing her towards the chopper, then swore as the guards were
With a yell, Loki hurled his final incendiary grenade at the approaching Azraelites. The bomb exploded in the middle of them, throwing the two elite
guards and their blonde companion into the road but doing little damage. Slowly they dragged themselves upright, the woman glaring savagely at her
quarry. One of the guards had lost his helmet in the blast and was in the process of retrieving it when he was cut down by one of Pisky's arrows.
KayEm yelled and pointed to the helipad where two of the guards had Tobias trapped against the side of the chopper. Pisky set off in a run, fastening
his bow onto his back and unsheathing his Pictish sword as he did so. De Mornay and his wife merely watched as his elite guard took on the raiders. He
knew he would win. He always did. One guard was dead, but that was an acceptable risk when one followed Azrael and no doubt he would be feasting at
the Dark Angel's table tonight.
The blonde cultist smiled evilly, slashing the air with her sword, challenging KayEm to single combat while her companion took up an attacking stance
KayEm unsheathed her Wakizashi with one fluid motion, nodded to her challenger and stood still. 'Let them come to you', Pisky had said one day
during training, 'unless there is no other option' So she did. Loki, on the other hand leaped sideways, dragging from his webbing a wicked looking
hand axe and slashing at the cultist before flipping backwards out of range of his sword. And so the dance of death began.
Tobias was trapped. His weapon empty, he was using it as a club in at attempt to give Erisian time to get the chopper prepped. His hands were badly
cut by the stinging slashes of the scimitars. They were heavily armoured and unless something happened quickly, he wasn't sure he would be able to
hold out. Fortunately two things happened to give him respite and hope. Firstly, one of the cultists was slammed sideways by the arrival of Pisky who
then hacked at him with the Pictish sword, driving him away from the helipad. Secondly, with an ear splitting roar Arthur came charging through the
Barbican, hacking left and right, removing a cultist's arm here, a leg there, all the time heading towards the Grand Master.
More cultists were arriving. Barracked in the old armoury, they arrived just in time to see Arthur disembowell one of their colleagues before removing
the head of another. De Mornay glared to see this new arrival, his eyes shining yellow in the torchlight. "He is mine", he hissed to his wife.
"Take the woman. Your apprentice appears to be faltering".
This was certainly true. The blonde woman was weakening under an unceasing number of hacks, slashes and jabs from KeyEm's sword. Suddenly she
slipped, falling on one knee to the floor. She never rose again. KayEm's sword darted forward and the cultist slid sideways into oblivion.
Loki leaped and danced, grinning as each slice of his axe cut away part of the Azraelite's body armour. Designed to withstand small arms fire, the
armour was not able to withstand constant battering from a sharp axeblade. With a yell of triumph, Loki hacked away a section of armour and moved away
from the whistling scimitar of his opponent. Suddenly, he charged. The Azraelite, taken by surprise just stood there as Loki tossed a small object
into the hole left in the damaged armour before leaping away. The cultist looked down in horror. He was still scrabbling to get the grenade out of his
armour when it exploded, blowing him apart and scattering pieces of his body to the wind.
"Hurry up !!!" Erisian yelled over the sound of the whirring rotors. The helicopter was prepped; It was time to go. Tobias took a strong grip on the
stock of his weapon, swung a mighty blow and knocked his assailant off his feet before leaping into the cockpit beside Erisian. The Helicopter slowly
began to ascend. Tobias looked down at the carnage below.
Arthur was hacking his way towards de Mornay, who stood impassively watching the melee.
Pisky was halfway up the steps leading to the curtain wall beside Guy's Tower, his Azraelite opponent making fast slashes and jabs in an attempt to
keep the Pixy from making his own attack. Loki had just blown up another Cultist and was engaged in avoiding two others, while KayEm was in mortal
combat with de Mornay's wife, having despatched the Azraelite's apprentice with a well aimed stab through the ribs.
This woman was good, KayEm thought as she parried a slashing blow from the cultist's sword. The woman smiled evilly, her light blue eyes shining as
she rained blow after blow against KayEm's wakizashi. KayEm was tired now, too tired to keep this up for long. Zara de Mornay was as fresh as a daisy
and lusting for blood. With a savage stab, she lunged at KayEm's unprotected heart. The sword slid through her defence to strike true. KayEm was
knocked backwards by the force of the blow, which would surely have pierced her heart had it not been for the medal given to her by Fingal, which
miraculously deflected the swordpoint away.
Zara de Mornay knew that her opponent was drained and would soon make a mistake and, just as if the thought made the action, it was done. KayEm
dropped her sword. Zara smiled, lifted her sword to deal the death blow and received a savage unexpected kick in the chest from the grinning KayEm.
The Azraelite flew backwards into the wall, her head slamming against it, then slid down the stone to lie still upon the ground. Smiling, KayEm picked
up her sword. Behind her the helicopter was hovering a few feet above the ground. Turning, she ran towards it, leaped for the open bay doors, and
landed delicately inside. Holding on to the frame, she watched as Erisian deftly flew the chopper beside Loki, who managed to grab hold of the landing
strut before Erisian was forced to ascend once again. Dragging Loki into the helicopter's bay, KayEm looked frantically for Pisky and Arthur. Pisky
was easy to spot. The Pixy was on the battlements beside Guy's tower, capering around trying to find the weak spot in his opponent's technique.
Arthur had been forced away from the Grand Master and was just below Pisky's position, hacking away at the growing group of Azraelites who were
desperately attempting to overpower him.
On the battlements, Pisky ducked and rolled, each time failing to find the chink in his opponent's armour. The Azraelite was a competant swordsman
and Pisky was getting somewhat pissed off. Then he slipped. The Pictish sword skittered out of his grasp and for a second his legs dangled over the
battlements before he was able to drag himself backwards. That was all the time the cultist needed. Straddling Pisky's outstretched legs, he lifted
his sword and prepared to send the Pixy's soul straight to Azrael. "Any final words ?", he asked. He could be afford to be magnanimous in victory.
"The lord tells me he can get me out of this mess", Pisky said in a mock Irish accent, "But he's pretty sure you're fooked". And with a grin, he
lashed out with his legs. Tripped by the pixy's feet, the cultist had just one option. With a scream, he fell backwards off the battlements to his
That was Arthur's voice. Pisky looked over the battlements. Almost directly below him, the druid was engaged in a desperate fight. "Hang on !",
Pisky yelled, heading towards the stairs leading to the grounds. "NO !", came the command. "GRAB THIS !!!" and with a massive heave, Arthur cast
aside the swarm of cultists surrounding him just in time to hurl Excalibur into the air and into the waiting hands of Pisky. "FINGAL WILL KNOW WHAT
TO DO !"
And with this, Arthur disappeared beneath a scrum of shrieking cultists.
Pisky grabbed his Pictish sword and rammed it into the scabbard. With Excalibur in his hands, he raced towards the steps, determined to save his
friend. Yelling crude Cornish oaths he headed along the battlements, reaching the steps at the same time as the helicopter. "Arthur's down there
!", he yelled over the noise from the rotors.
"There's nothing we can do yet", came the reply from Tobias, "We have to leave !!!"
Pisky looked down, torn between charging into the fray and leaving to return later. He knew in his heart that if he went down there, he would be doing
Arthur no good at all. There were too many and he would only be adding to the number of people the Pixies would have to rescue later.
"Come on !!!" shouted KayEm, gesturing desperately towards him.
Pisky hurled Excalibur into the helicopter and rapidly followed, landing beside Loki and glaring down at where Arthur was now being taken prisoner.
The helicopter powered away, passing the figure of de Mornay far below. Pisky grabbed his bow from his back, took his final arrow and aimed. He took a
deep breath, compensated. Aimed right at de Mornay's black heart.
"There !!!!" It was a scream from Erisian. On the top of the Ghost Tower stood a lone Azraelite. He was holding a rocket launcher aimed straight at
the chopper. Pisky hesitated for just a second before changing targets. The arrow flew true, hitting the cultist in the throat and disrupting his own
aim. The rocket shot past, missing the chopper by mere feet.
Pisky swore long and foully as Erisian took them out of range and into the countryside.
"Pretty good flying", complemented Tobias as he entered the co-ordinated for Stokesay into the chopper's onboard computer. Erisian smiled wanly,
her face white with shock and pain.
Warwick had been left far behind and the adrenaline rush that she had experienced was over. She felt tired and drained. They all did. Inside the bay,
Pisky was muttering abuse while KayEm sat against the bulkhead with her eyes closed. Loki looked out of the open bay doors just watching the
countryside speed by, illuminated by the aircraft's arc-lights. "Do you mind taking over for a while?", Erisian asked, her voice sounding weak
beside the noise of the rotors.
"You must be kidding", Tobias replied, "I only had a couple of lessons and never in something like this".
"I don't think you have much of a choice", Erisian whispered. Then her eyes flickered and she slipped into a faint.
Pilotless, the helicopter lurched and spun sideways, hurling Pisky through the air to land beside KayEm. "What the fecking hell ???". Loki just
managed to grab the doorframe and avoid being catapulted out into space as the aircraft bucked and bounced through the sky. "What the feck is going
on ??", Pisky yelled, "Can't you bastards drive ???"
The helicopter shuddered once more as Tobias regained some semblance of control, before rapidly starting to descend. Pisky muttered imprecations as he
watched as the ground came closer and closer. "Pull up for fex sake !!!", yelled Loki towards the door leading to the cockpit.
!!!" came the anguished reply. Tobias was not happy. Pulling at the joystick in an attempt to gain some height, he desperately
tried to remember the few hours training he had some years ago. Erisian flopped in her seat, completely out of it, while the chopper continued its
downward spiral. "Now which sodding pedal is it ???".
Loki held for grim death as the chopper spun towards the ground. Suddenly it lurched, shook and with a scream of engines began to straighen out. This
was accompanied by a shriek of jubilation from Tobias and an "About time too" from the somewhat annoyed Pisky.
"I'm going to try to set her down", Tobias yelled from the cockpit. Loki concurred, peering out of the doorway to see if there was anywhere safe to
land. The ground rushed past, the darkness obliterated by the massively powerful arc-lights below the aircraft. A trio of horses, abandoned by their
owner during the plague, scattered below the low flying helicopter. Birds flew shrieking from the nearby trees as the gust from the rotors threatened
to blow their nests apart. Tobias dropped the craft lower, seeking a safe place to land. It was going to be hairy whatever he did. He pulled hard on
the stick to avoid a small copse of trees, but the rotors still struck the farthest branches, shattering them noisily and hurling a mass of leaves
into the bay.
"Hold on !!!" Tobias yelled. They needed no second bidding. Pisky grabbed Excalibur and jammed himself between a couple of jump seats. KayEm hung on
to the bulkead while Loki lay flat on the floor, feet against the same bulkhead, hands clasped around the empty machine-gun mounting.
With a resounding crunch and scream of engines, the aircraft hit the ground, bounced once and shifted sideways. The rotors, still spinning at maximum,
slammed into the ground and sheared off, shooting pieces of shattered metal into the air. The fuselage slid along, spun slightly and came to a stop
beside a battered old tree with pieces of rotor embedded into its trunk.
Pisky stood up, stuck his head out of the doorway which now comprised the roof, and looked around. KayEm joined him, followed by Loki who was
muttering about 'crap driving' and 'Old gits needing to lose their licences'. Swifty, Pisky hauled himself out of the stricken aircraft and
dropped to the grass. The cockpit door swung open and Tobias crawled out, dragging Erisian with him, who he lay on the ground. KayEm rushed over to
help, while Loki passed various pieces of kit over to Pisky. It was obvious that this whirlybird wasn't going anywhere ever again.
"Did you get a fix as to where we are ?", Loki asked Tobias as he leaped out of the helicopter and began walking over to the fuel tank.
"We've got about ten miles to go - that way", he gestured Northwest.
"I saw some horses out there about half a mile away", Loki replied, nodding his head back the way they came and cracking open the fuel cap.
Pisky leaned Excalibur against a tree "I'll go", he said, "There's feck all else we can do here anyway, and I don't really fancy walking
to Camelot. Loki, give me your webbing".
Loki removed his remaining kit and handed the webbing to Pisky before turning back to the fuel can. Pisky grinned and grabbed Excalibur. He knew what
to expect from Loki and wanted to be as far away from the explosion as possible.
It took Pisky longer than he expected to catch and tether the horses. They had obviously been fending for themselves for quite a considerable time,
but eventually he gained their trust and allowed him to fasten hastily made bridles onto their heads. Mounting one, he led the others to the crash
site. The helicopter was burning merrily, courtesy of Loki, who stood warming his hands beside KayEm. An embarassed looking Erisian sat against a tree
with Tobias crouched beside her. "So thats why you wanted my webbing then ?", said Loki, seeing the horses' makeshift bridles and reins. Pisky
grinned and dismounted. "They're ready for a nice long gallop", he said, gesturing towards the steeds. Tobias stretched his back and took hold of
one of the reins. Mounting swifty, he held out his hand to Erisian, who took it and was pulled up to settle behind him. Pisky and KayEm shared another
horse, leaving Loki with the last. With a final look at the guttering flames illuminating the scorched frame of the chopper, they set off once again
The three horses galloped through the gatehouse and came to a stop in front of the stables.
Quickly two stablehands took charge as Pisky leaped off his horse, calling for Fingal and cursing the old priest's lack of appearance.
A smiling Tamsin rushed out of the hall, yelling greetings and waving to the new arrivals, then glimpsing Pisky's face and seeing Excalibur dangling
from his hand she halted, her mouth open in an 'O' of disbelief.
"Where's Fingal ?", the Pixy asked. He had no time yet for niceties and hoped that Tamsin would forgive his brusqueness. "In the church", she
said, watching the others leave the horses and head towards the hall.
Pisky strode back through the gatehouse, heading wearily towards the church. Passing through the ancient graveyard with its crumbling tombstones he
opened the age-blackened oak door and entered. Fingal was polishing the newly installed rood screen before the altar. Turning, he saw Pisky walking
down the nave, Excalibur in his hand. The old priest closed his eyes and said a small prayer before meeting him at the altar steps. He gestured for
the Pixy to take a seat.
Taking a hip flask from the pocket of his cassock, Fingal offered it first to Pisky before taking a drink himself. Then, with a shaking voice, he told
the Pixy what Arthur had said to him the night before.
Warwick was awash with flame. It seemed as if every Azraelite in the kingdom was dancing attandance on their Grand Master. Old acquaintances were
renewed, new ones made and all in the hope of advancement. Of course, it was just not done
to be absent for the execution of one of the cult's
most reviled enemies, especially with so many others looking for preferment. So they were all there. And so was Arthur. He was the main event.
At the top of the mound, the site of William the Conqueror's original castle, stood a black marble pillar. Upon it, facing West, the direction of the
otherworld, was an exquistly carved statue of Azrael himself, the Angel of Death. Below that, a white clad figure was fastened securely by heavy black
iron chains. Arthur looked towards the sky and sighed. The moon was full tonight. He just hoped that his instructions had been followed. If he was to
die this night he wanted to enter the Summerlands, there to drink 'Best Pixyland' for eternity. He certainly didn't want his soul torn from his
body in Azrael's name and cast into the outer darkness.
His body was battered and bruised from the treatment he had received from the cultists. One eye was swollen and his left ear almost torn off. He was a
sorry sight, but, despite all, he had kept his dignity.
Closing his eyes, he whispered a prayer to his deities to deliver him from this torment and to take his soul to the Summerlands, denying sustenance to
the demonic entity the Azraelites worshipped. He opened his eyes again. Far in the distance, beyond the mound where he was chained, he could make out
a single dark figure standing near the tree line. Arthur sighed. His deliverance was at hand. He smiled.
The muttering of the unholy congregation rose to a crescendo as the Grand Master and his wife left the Great Hall and started towards the execution
site. Zara de Mornay was still cursing the egg sized lump on her head given to her by KayEm. She looked angry and bloodthirsty. Gilles, on the other
hand looked downright Satanic. His eyes glinted yellow in the firelight, which also gave his skin an almost scaly appearance. In his clawlike right
hand he carried a sheathed dagger, the hilt of which was covered with obscene carvings of things that should never see the light of day.
Arthur watched as the cultists climbed the ancient mound to stand before him. Below them stood over two thousand Azraelites and their acolytes. All
eyes were on the tableaux before them. "Join us", hissed de Mornay, his voice cutting through the air to reach the ears of the figure waiting near
"Bugger off". Arthur grinned nastily.
"Redeem yourself in the eyes of your kin !", De Mornay leaned forward, eye to eye with the chained Druid, "Renounce the sacrilege of your
ancestors, Pendragon !"
"Unchain me, you gutless wonder, and I'll show you who'll be doing some renouncing"
Zara reached over and touched Arthur's arm; "Arthur. You are the Pendragon. Why are you fighting us
? Your family fought with
Why not just join us ? - you know what we can offer you. Your own kingdom"
Arthur pulled away as well he could, chained as he was. "I already have
a kingdom", he spat.
De Mornay grunted in disgust. "Very well". He turned to face the crowd; "Arthur Pendragon has denied his birthright and refused the offer we have
made to him. He refuses to renounce the sacrilege of his ancestors. Azrael demands his soul".
A loud shout went up from the bloodthirsty Azraelites. It sounded to Arthur exactly what it must have been like during the Gladiatorial games of
Ancient Rome. "Death Death Death !!!"
De Mornay turned towards the druid. Slipping the dark blade from its sheath, he held it aloft.
The crowd groaned in extasy. "Death Death Death".
Arthur looked across to the treeline.
The figure had gone.
Pisky went down on one knee. He lifted his bow, sighted along the arrow and compensated for the slight breeze wafting through the valley. He blinked
away stray tears and took a deep breath. There was no other way. If there had been even a slightest chance
, he would have taken it. He knew
what to do. He knew why
he had to do it, but it didn't make it any easier.
From the mound, a strong Cornish voice spoke an old Celtic prayer. Pisky mouthed the words alongside Arthur, and the words gave them both strength.
Who will hold my hand?
Who will send the energy on to weave a circle of light?
I call on the light,
I call to the Lord and the Lady, whatever you wish to call them,
I call to the four corners of the Earth,
Strengthen this circle and let the power grow,
Let the love flow!
Pisky released the arrow and it flew true.
It was quite painless, Arthur thought as the arrow pierced his heart. With his last breath he smiled and nodded towards Pisky's dark shape near the
trees. He had chosen wisely. They hadn't failed him. He closed his eyes and his soul fled to the arms of his goddess.
De Mornay shrieked. An anguished scream of anger and infuriation. The Druid was dead, and Azrael was denied his soul. The Grand Master glared into the
darkness, seeking he who had deprived the Dark Angel of his sustenance. Pisky stood, readied another arrow and aimed. . The arrow flew; De Mornay
turned to leave. The shaft missed the heart and embedded itself into the cultist's shouler, shattering the sholder blade and dragging from his mouth
a groan of pain and disbelief. Zara took his arm and led him down the mound, all the time calling to their congregation to hunt down those
They fled to obey, but by the time they reached the trees, Pisky had disappeared into the forest.
One week later
Beside the pond they stood. The great shape of Camelot behind them. The sun had set, the moon was high above. Stars flickered in the great velvet
cloth of night.
They were all there. Tobias, Loki, Benjj, Pantha, KayEm, Angover and Tamsin. Behind them stood the other residents of the castle, some who knew Arthur
personally, other only by reputation. Pisky stood apart. Beside the flaming brazier, his bow in one hand, a cloth wrapped arrow in the other.
Upon returning to Camelot having lost Arthur to the Azraelites, Pisky had listened as Fingal told of his discussion with the druid on the previous
night. The old priest knew that the one thing Arthur feared was to be sacrificed to Azrael.To be consumed by the Dark Angel and tormented forever in
the outer darkness. Arthur believed it to be true. He knew
it to be true. He had then explained to Fingal why he knew and what needed to be
done if he was ever captured.
He had wanted to die at the hands of a friend.
Pisky had refused.
"Would you rather he die in fear or with hope in his soul?". was all Fingal had said in reply.
Pisky had taken the task with the proviso that if, in his opinion, there was any
way he could get Arthur back safely to Camelot, he would do
Fingal agreed, but in his heart knew it was useless.
And so it had proved.
But at least Arthur had died in the way he wished, not in fear for his very soul, his heart torn out by de Mornay and burnt on Azrael's altar.
Pisky had to accept that.
It was difficult.
Fingal chanted an old Gregorian prayer as the group stood beside the pond. They looked into the sky as a flaming arrow pierced the darkness, followed
by another and another. Pisky handed his bow to Tamsin and, taking Excalibur from her shaking hand, carried the sword to Fingal.
The old priest took the sword and held it horizontally in his hands. "The last thing Arthur said to me", he said, his voice carrying around the
gathering, "is that men need a king. Someone to rally around. Someone to lead them in battle and in peace. And when the king dies, as every man must,
another should take his place. Put on his armour and take up the challenge. Here we have such a man. A successor to the Pendragon. A man respected by
Arthur himself and all of his people". He turned and offered the sword to Tobias.
"The king is dead", he said, "long live the king
[Edited on 16-5-2004 by Pisky]