Morgaine and Asmodeus 

 

 

 

THE ENCHANTED PALACE

 

Morgaine rose early. Since Michael told her that they would be traveling through rough country, she donned the jeans and sneakers she had worn when she arrived at the university. She took along a picnic basket packed with food and wine purchased in the cellar tavern. As usual, they met at the entrance to the garden. After Michael kissed her in greeting, he eyed her up and down. “Thou seemeth garbed for travel. Tell me, Morgaine, do all ladies weareth trousers in thy time?”

 

She grinned. “What’s the matter, not feminine enough? To answer your question though, lots of people, especially Americans, both men and women, wear jeans. Feel the material. It’s very rugged.”

 

He reached down and touched her leg. “Yes, I see. A bit like burlap. Thou be American? Where lieth this land, America?”

 

“I forgot. You lived before Columbus discovered us. Well, if you were to sail due west, past the pillars of Hercules into the Atlantic Ocean and kept going, eventually you would bump into a continent unknown in your time. That is where I live.”

 

“Amazing. I be told that if one saileth far enough west, thou wouldst fall off the face of the earth.”

 

“Sorry. The truth is that the world is round and much larger than was thought in your day.”

 

“Round like a ball? Aye, now that I thinketh about it, I recall while studying ancient Greek manuscripts, I hath read of such an opinion.”

 

“ ‘There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.’”

 

“A quote?”

 

“Yes, by a playwright that lived hundreds of years after your time.”

 

Michael sighed. “Thou hath much knowledge of future events and famous personages. If I brought thee back to my time, thou wouldst be a famous seer.”

 

“And probably burned at the stake as a witch.”

 

“Aye. There be that.”

 

* * *

The day was warm and bright, the sky blue with puffy clouds. Morgaine had a warm glow as she sauntered down the path from the university with her hand in Michael’s. To her, time spent with this man was a joy. It also felt good to have a respite from schoolwork. When they reached the crossroads, instead of heading west towards the ridge, they continued down into the valley where the path continued through a lightly wooded area. Nightingales and other birds sang, bushy tailed squirrel scurried up the trunks of trees, and the buzz of bees and other insects filled the air. “Oh, this is nice. I love the outdoors. Y’know, I lived in the country until I was eight.”

 

“I too abideth outside any city. My sisters, brothers and I grew up within a great stone castle \ surrounded by rich farmland worked by my father’s villeins. My father be a count. There be much wood upon his land also, much like the wood we stroll through now.”

 

“How different things were back in your time. It’s as though we came from different planets.”

 

“Different planets? Dost thou believeth that persons abide in the sky?”

 

Morgaine took a deep breath and thought, My gosh, there’s a thousand years of history and science between us. Should I explain the Copernican theory, telescopes, and space travel to him? Not today. It’s too pleasant just strolling along without getting into such weighty subjects. “Ask me another time, dear. I’d have to go into explanations that I’d rather not now.”

 

The forest became thicker and more gloomy; the path, narrower and steeper. All around her, Morgaine heard the movement of animals, some of which must have been large by the growls and rustling they made. At least she hoped they were animals and not anything more sinister. She pressed close to Michael, feeling less fearful by his strong presence. “Are there bears and wolves in this forest?”

 

“Aye. And worse creatures, lions, hippogrifs, griffins, jabberwockies, bundersnatches and chimeras. Even the seemingly innocuous unicorn may be dangerous when aroused.”

 

“You’re kidding me. Those are imaginary animals, except for the lions.”

 

“Nay here. In this world they be real.”

 

Morgaine peered around, not sure whether she actual wanted to spot one these exotic creatures or not. “What is a jabberwocky exactly? I thought that it was just a made-up nonsense word.”

 

“I hath nay seen one in person myself, but I be told that they be small winged dragons, about the size of a stallion or elk.”

 

“And a bundersnatch?”

 

“An even smaller flying dragon, the size of a small dog or large cat.”

 

“Oh.”

 

* * *

After a long uphill walk, to Morgaine’s relief they emerged from the woods onto a ledge with view of the mountains to the east. The sun was directly overhead now. She glanced at her watch. It was a little past noon. “Should we stop and have our lunch. This seems a pleasant spot.”

 

“Aye. Good idea, especially as the remainder of the way be more arduous, we may rid ourselves of the extra burden of thy basket. But darling, before we repast I would show thee where lies the fairy queen’s castle.” He pointed at a low rounded mountain in the southeast. Upon the peak and sparkling in the sunlight was a magnificent structure, vaguely Oriental in design with towers, domed roofs, minarets, high peaked roofs, flawlessly designed and constructed of a material that at a distant made it seem to be constructed of colored glass or jewels, it glittered so.

 

“Oh my. It seems to be a splendid palace. Awesome, even.” Its beauty had a powerful effect on Morgaine; deep within her a deep longing to reach it as soon as possible possessed her, as though the very sight of its magnificence drew her to it. Nonetheless, she bowed to practicality and laid out their picnic items on a flat stone.

 

After the couple finished eating, while chatting and finishing the last of the wine, Morgaine noticed something in the sky above them. It was obviously not a bird, as it had four legs in addition to its large eagle-like wings. She pointed at it. “What’s that?”

 

Michael raised his eyes to the sky. A moment later he leaped to his feet and drew his sword. “ ‘Tis a griffin and it be headed this way.”

 

Morgaine quickly withdrew her only weapon, her athame, which she was in the habit of carrying everywhere.

 

The griffin circled them and slowly descended to land on the edge of the ledge twenty feet away. It stared at them, first with one eye, then turning its head, with the other. To Morgaine’s utter surprise, it spoke. In Latin, it said, “I see that thee be armed, man. Put away thy sword. My intention is not to harm thee, but to bargain with thee.”

 

“Bargain? What sort of bargain?”

 

“Thou knowest that I hath a yen for human flesh. I wilt show thee where lies much gold and silver. It wilt maketh thee rich beyond thy wildest dreams. For this boon, I ask only that skinny woman which accompany thee.”

 

“Begone wretch,” Michael yelled, “this lady be my love. I would sooner giveth up mine own life to thee.”

 

The griffin cocked its head to one side. “Very well then. What of thee, female? Wouldst thou trade this foolish man for great wealth?”

 

Since Michael stood next to her with his large sword drawn, Morgaine felt brave. “Never in a million years. You’d better leave, griffin, or it’ll be you who becomes stew. I wonder whether you’d taste more of fowl or of cat.”

 

The griffin screeched loudly and flew away.

 

“Let us be off ‘fore that creature return,” Michael said.

 

They left the picnic basket on the ledge to retrieve on the return trip. Michael also produced a rope from the seemingly endless supply of things that he kept within the folds of his cloak. He tied one end around Morgaine’s waist and the other around his own with fifteen feet of slack between them. They headed downhill towards the queen’s castle. Although the path was narrow and rocky, Morgaine did not find it all that difficult. Not until they started up the hill upon which the queen’s palace rested did the going get rough. There was no real path; they simply followed the way of least resistance. This meant a lot of hiking over rough ground, climbing up steep inclines and slogging through streams and past waterfalls. As they gained in height, they made their way along narrow ledges that overlooked deep chasms and mounted steep cliffs through the use of rock climbing techniques.

While Morgaine slithered along step-by-step on a six-inch ledge hugging the rocky face of the mountain with a five-hundred foot drop behind her, she past a series of tiny caves with opening ranging from eight to twenty-four inches in diameter. She used their edges as handholds. Suddenly something green the size of a cat with leathery black bat-like wings flew out of the opening she had just grasped. She screamed, withdrew her hand quickly and almost tumbled off the cliff. “What the hell?” she cried.

 

“Bundersnatches,” shouted Michael from a few feet in front and slightly above her. “Move not. Keep thy face to the wall.”

 

With that, as though by signal, the cliff erupted with the creatures. Although Morgaine followed Michael’s advise and kept her face close to the wall, she sneaked a peek. Hundreds of the monsters flitted around like bats leaving a cave. As Michael had described, they looked like miniature dragons with large leathery wings, pointed tails and sharp teeth protruding from elongate jaws. They swarmed around the cliff like angry bees, screeching their raucous cry until Morgaine thought her ears would burst. At first there didn’t seem to be any pattern to their flight. Each bundersnatch darted here and there, quickly turning in flight, sometimes snapping its jaws. Morgaine realized finally that they were chasing a body of small birds in the manner of bats going after insects.

 

This kept up for several minutes. Suddenly, again as though by a prearranged signal, they returned to their caves.

 

“We must move quickly now,” Michael called.

 

Morgaine nodded and clambered swiftly along the narrow ledge. Just as she past the last of the caves, her foot slipped and she stumbled. As she felt herself falling into abyss, she attempted to grab the cave edge, but missed, throwing herself completely off balance. The next moment she was dropping like a stone into the chasm.

 

Morgaine was sure that she was a goner as she fell into a thousand foot pit. Suddenly she was jerked to a stop as the slack of the rope that tied her to Michael was used up. The rope tightened painfully around her waist, and she banged against the cliff face, scraping her knees and bruising her head. Nonetheless, she thanked the Goddess and Michael with fervent prayers for being saved. As she dangled over the abyss, she gazed upward and realized how lucky she was that Michael was an extremely strong man. He hauled her up with one hand while grasping a sapling that grew out of the cliff with the other, slowly winding the rope around the sapling. She hoped that it had strong roots as she grasped protruding rocks and tried to climb to aid in her own rescue. When she finally crawled back on to the ledge, her powerful lover took her in his muscular arms. “Oh my darling,” he whispered. “I almost lost thee. If thou hath fallen, I could do naught but follow thee into the abyss. I love thee, my sweet Morgaine.”

 

Morgaine burst into tears at these words and hugged him closely. They stayed that way for several minutes before continuing the journey.

 

* * *

The remainder of their trek to the fairy queen’s castle was uneventful. Upon the plateau was a wide road paved in marble with tall pillars along its edge every twenty feet. Close up, the palace appeared even more marvelous than at a distance. Built of an opaque material resembling jade, its great towers and wings covered with elaborate carvings of people, beasts, leaves, vines and abstract patterns to form a wonderfully harmonious whole.

 

As Morgaine and Michael neared the front porch, whose pediment was held up by fluted columns, they were greeted by several dwarves, among whom was Morgaine’s old friend, Macmulliganicutty, who acted as spokesperson. He bowed low with a flourish. “I greet thee visitors in the name of Queen May, Ruler of all Faeland and its habitants. Thou hath made an arduous journey no doubt. ‘Tis not easy to reach this palace. I will take thee to quarters where thee may be refreshed. May I ask first though, what is thy purpose of thy visit.”

 

Morgaine said, “Merely to see this wonderful castle, and perhaps to greet the queen if she would be so gracious as to grant us an audience.”

 

Macmulliganicutty frowned grumpily. “Her Majesty is very busy and cannot grant an audience to any tourist who happens by. Nonetheless, I will notify Her Majesty of thy request. Come now. I will take thee to thy quarters.” He made a gesture to follow him, turned and walked rapidly towards great bronze doors which opened as if by magic as he neared them. The other dwarves formed an honor guard and marched behind Morgaine and Michael as they strolled into the palace.

 

The interior was more magnificent than the exterior. The walls, which were of the same jade-like material, were etched to form reliefs depicting fairies, elves, mythical beasts, gorgeous females in undress and muscular men in warrior gear in beautiful fantasy scenes. Stained glass windows cast a rainbow of light on the room. Macmulliganicutty led them up a broad marble staircase to an enormous sumptuous apartment, beautifully furnished with intricately carved furniture covered in silks and satins. As he left, he said, “Someone will bring thee refreshments. I will return later with Her Majesty’s reply to thy request.” He bowed, and he and the other dwarves left.

 

A broad drape cordoned off one section of the room. Morgaine pulled this back to reveal a sunken bath large enough to swim in. Along its perimeter were bath oils, soaps, shampoos and perfumes. Soiled and sweaty from the exertions from the trip, Morgaine decided to give it a try. “Look Michael, a bath. Shall we?”

 

Michael raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.

 

Morgaine slipped off her backpack, sneakers and socks. She dipped her foot into the water. It was comfortably warm. Putting all bashfulness to the side, while Michael watched she undressed and slid into the three and half foot deep pool. It felt wonderful. She rested her elbows on the edge and said, “C’mon Michael, don’t be a party pooper. Come in with me.”

 

“Party pooper? How couldst I refuseth such a charming invitation? It appeareth that modesty be not one of thy virtues, Mistress Morgaine.” He winked to show that he was being facetious.

 

As he undressed, Morgaine looked on with interest. She had never seen him in the nude. Up to this point, their loving making had been in the dark with him having most of his clothes on. She admired his muscular arms and thighs, broad chest and washboard abs. Also, that which made him a man was above average in size.

He blushed as he caught her staring and quickly got into the water. She sidled up to him and grabbing a bar of perfumed soap lathered his chest.

 

“Shall I batheth thee also, my love,” he said as she did his back.

 

“Of course,” she handed him the soap and sighed with pleasure as he slid it and his strong rough hands over her body.

 

When they were both as slippery as eels, they made love in the water, washed again, rinsed off and climbed out of the bath. Set out near the tub were large fluffy towels which they used to dry each other.

 

“I hate to put this old dusty things back on now that I’m clean,” Morgaine complained.

 

“Thou needest not. Look, the Queen’s servants hath left fresh garments.”

 

Laid out on chairs were a pretty but simple knee-length gown for Morgaine and eleventh century men’s garments for Michael. The gown fit Morgaine perfectly. It was sleeveless, cut low and square in the front and belted at the waist. After putting it on, Morgaine found a comb and ribbons to fix her hair. After she placed a few drops of perfume behind her ears and in her cleavage, she asked Michael, “How do I look?”

 

“Ah, such beauty as it hurt my eyes to behold.”

 

Morgaine giggled and thought, I’ve found the perfect man, kind, strong courageous, and courtly. “And you too are handsome in that outfit.” She went over by him, put arms around him and kissed him. She whispered in his ear, “I love you so much sometimes that it hurts.”

 

“And I love thee equally.”

 

They would have made love again, except there came a knock on their door. They broke their clinch and Michael said, “Enter thee.”

 

The door burst open, and the dwarf, Macmulliganicutty, marched in. Standing stiffly at attention, he said in a pompous manner, “Her Majesty hath given thee the great honor of granting thee an audience. Please follow me.”

 

Morgaine and Michael strolled behind the dwarf who strolled through the halls with his head held high, goose stepping and swinging his arms as though on parade. As they passed through various chambers, Morgaine peered around in awe. Each was unique, gorgeously furnished and artistically decorated. Most marvelous of all was the throne room, enormous as the grand ballroom at Versailles, with great shiny walls ablaze with mirrors, murals and the tall stained glass windows. Scattered around were couches covered in silks and satins of every hue and design: floral, striped, plain and abstract. Most impressive of all was the throne which rested on a raised platform with two steps leading to it. It was diamond, ruby and emerald encrusted with elaborately carved and padded arms and a ten feet tall back covered with a jeweled canopy.

 

Sitting on this singular throne and clad in a diaphanous gown that floated about her like mist was Queen May. In one hand she held a scepter whose tip consisted of rubies set in a pattern so as to resemble the petals of a rose.

 

Macmulliganicutty marched to within ten feet of her, bowed so low that his head touched his knees and said, “These be the visitors to which Thy Majesty has graciously granted an audience.”

 

Michael also bowed low and Morgaine, hoping that she was doing it correctly, curtsied. As she gazed in wonder at the queen, she recalled the look of her when she was a child and it was the same. She became certain that either she was presently living a dream or what she had experienced so long ago was not.

 

“Welcome to my palace, Morgaine and Michael. ‘Tis a goodly pleasure to see thee.”

 

“And ours to be granted this audience,” Michael replied.

 

“And what of thee, Morgaine. Thou hath grown much since I last laid eyes upon thee.”

 

“Yes, I have, and I am extremely grateful to you for granting my wish and bringing me to the University of Sorcery.”

 

Queen May waved her hand as though to indicate that it was no big deal. “It be thy birthright. Thou be displeased not with the gift then?”

 

Morgaine stole a glanced toward Michael. “On the contrary. I’ve never been happier in my life.”

 

“But doth thee not miss the world thou hath left?”

 

“A little, especially my mother.”

 

“If I wouldst grant thee a single view of thy world, would it be of she who suckled thee?”

 

“My mother? Of course.”

 

“Come.” Queen May rose from her throne. Morgaine and Michael followed her to an elaborately decorated mirror with a golden frame carved with leafy vines topped with a golden dragon with ruby eyes. “Gaze into the mirror, Morgaine, and concentrate on the woman who bore thee.”

 

Morgaine stared into the mirror, which slowly grew fuzzy until a scene appeared. It was her mother’s living room. Maria was showing a policewoman a picture of Morgaine and talking rapidly. Morgaine wished she could hear what was being said. Suddenly Maria’s voice came from the mirror. “... so you see officer, no one has seen her for two days. It’s not like Morgaine to ...” At this point, her mother burst into tears, and the officer put an arm around her to comfort her. The scene faded away, and Morgaine again viewed only her own image.

 

“Ohmigosh, she thinks I’ve been kidnapped or murdered.” She turned to Queen May. “I must tell her that I’m all right.”

 

“Wouldst thou desireth that I sent thee back to thy world?” May asked. “If I do, thou may never return to this one.”

 

Morgaine looked at Michael and was torn. If she went back now, she would never see him again nor become a sorceress. Perhaps it was selfish to allow her mother to worry so, but she could not return to the real world. She bowed her head and weeping, shook her head in the negative.

 

Queen May led them to an alcove where they could sit on couches and converse. For a long time, she questioned them about their studies and spoke with them on a variety of subjects. When she decided that the audience was over, she said, “I shalt save thee the arduous trip back to the school. Tonight thou shalt sleep in my palace. When thee awaken, thou wilt be in thy own chambers at the school.”

 

Macmulliganicutty accompanied them to their room. After he left, Michael said, “Doth nay worry about thy mother, Morgaine. There be magical ways to contact her and put her mind at ease.”

 

“Really?” She gazed into his eyes. “You’re so wonderful, Michael.”

 

“I wilt show thee the dream method after we returneth to the school.”

 

That night Morgaine dreamt that she was back in the old farmhouse with her mother and grandfather. She awoke with the harsh straw mattress jabbing her in the back and the strong arm of Gretchen shaking her awake. After school, she asked Michael to teach her how to contact her mother.

 

“Doth thee recall that in the first day of my class on Dream Prophesy, I listed the different types of dreams?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Now I hath covered in the curriculum all those that be concerned with seeing into the future. But I hath nay spoken of the others. One of these is calleth ‘out-of-body.’”

 

“You mean that in a dream state, I can leave my body and visit my mother?”

 

Aye. Thou understandeth what I be about.”

 

“Will I be able to talk to her though?”

 

“Thou wilt be as a spirit. If thee be strong in thy will, thou mayest be able to manifest thyself or moveth physical objects.”

 

“But if I appear as a ghost, she’ll really think I’m dead.”

 

“Thou must convince her otherwise.”

 

“Okay. Let’s get started. Teach me how to have an ‘out-of-body’ dream experience.” Morgaine bounced up and down with excitement and anticipation.

 

“That wouldst taketh many weeks to perfect the technique. Nonetheless, I dost hath a method by which thou canst visit thy mother right now.”

 

“Well, let’s get on with it.”

 

“First I must knoweth whether thee trusteth me completely.”

 

She reached out and touched his cheek. “Darling, you know I do.”

 

“Perhaps. But to doeth what thou desireth, I must put thee into a deep trance in which thou wouldst be my helpless slave and doeth whatever I asketh.”

 

The Morgaine Series of E-books can be obtained at Renaissance Page Turner Editions On Page Turner Editions, click on Futures/Past SF/F/H and then on Fantasy. At other booksellers, search on Author - Vadalma. Also available on Page Turner Editions and other booksellers, Raven Lenore, Psychic Investigator, a series featuring the character Raven Lenore from the Morgaine series.

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