For the next several weeks, I’ll be posting chapters of a novel I wrote in homage to Highlander: The Series.
I will add this disclaimer every week as well…
I do not own the characters for this novel. I am not receiving monetary reimbursement of any type for this piece of fiction.
Oh, most importantly…enjoy.
Highlander: The King and I Chapter Eight
Chronicles of Methos Book Sixteen Part Eight
490 AD Battlefield Northwest of London
Merlin’s prediction was off by one week. I suppose I should have seen that as a bad omen, but the extra days we had proved valuable. We marched hard, pushing for the river Trent. I wanted the terrain on my side in the coming battle. It wasn’t much, but it was all the advantage I could control.
We arrived and set up our forces. The temperature plummeted, probably expecting the bloody outcome. My mood was as somber as the skies, but I tried to show my men courage and optimism. They responded well. They were ready.
Then we waited. A new storm threatened, driving a massive squall line of snow and ice. Beneath the purple mantle of angry skies, Mordred arrived. Merlin had not been joking. The advancing army blackened the terrain. Even with light dimmed by the storm, there was no mistaking the numbers we faced. The bravest knights of my retinue blanched visibly. I couldn’t blame them. I was frightened too, even being Immortal.
We readied ourselves for battle silently and with minimal movement. We had a desperate plan to even the odds and it was almost time to spring the trap. If we could cross the river, deal massive damage and retreat again, the day would be ours. Our forces were not lean by any measure, but we were outnumbered, two to one. Mordred amassed ten thousand men and armed them. It was impressive, but there were some things missing. He had no archers. I considered that a stroke of luck. Merlin had mentioned magic, something that concerned me greatly, though I had not seen sign of any. The boiling storm clouds only advanced as fast as Mordred’s army. I hoped Merlin could deal with the magic.
The army halted and began to form up. I tensed in my saddle and waited some more. Even with the bone-chilling cold, my hand was awash with sweat, gripping Excalibur. The officers of Mordred’s forces barked orders and a small line of skirmishers moved forward and the rest of the army proceeded to set up their camp. It was time.
I sent a signal to my archers and they fired flame arrows from behind our lines and as high as their short bows could reach. The forces I had laying in wait, charged into action. I gave a second signal and our main body charged as well. The skirmishers sent an alarm. Mordred’s army was hit by my flanking forces before they could react to that alarm. I had hid them on that purpose. It was a small effort, but it worked flawlessly.
We hit the skirmishers hard, and kept going. They were so confused, they didn’t have enough time to ready pikes before we were through them. Mordred had pushed his men too hard. They were exhausted.
Just before my main force was to hit where my flankers had, I gave the next signal and we moved to the right, galloping as hard as we could. The flankers we used now formed up at our rear and moved with us. We turned again and slammed into the rear portion of Mordred’s army where the supplies were just being unloaded.
The next hour was chaos, but our planning had achieved its purpose. Mordred’s troops were tired, confused, and thoroughly discouraged. We moved through them without resistance for most of that hour. It was simple, bloody slaughter. The down side was that having such an advantage, we did not retreat back across the river as planned. We pressed the advantage as best we could.
Lighting flashed from the clouds above and angry thunder hammered the field of battle. Another blast of lightning stabbed into a group of my knights and after the thunder rolled away, there were no survivors. Mordred’s troops cheered and renewed their defense. The battle was truly joined.
I was worried. Lightning had attacked my troops. They had magic and my men were dying. Had Merlin failed? There was nothing I could do about it, so I bent my will to the fight and left everything else to the magician.
Fog invaded the battle, making us no more than dark shadows struggling against each other in the white and gray. The mists parted around me as I killed my opponent and turned to find another. I gagged as the Immortal presence invaded my senses. The world spun for a moment and I fell to one knee. I pushed myself up again and he was there, rushing out of the fog, weapon already slicing through the heavy air for my head.
Excalibur seemed to have a life of its own. The gleaming blade leapt upward to intercept his strike. I felt energized and ready for battle. A snarl of rage escaped Mordred’s lips, echoed by my own feral cry. We were no longer civilized men, or Immortals for that matter. We were primal forces clashing.
Mordred attacked again without regard for swordplay strategy. Apparently his goal was to hammer at my defenses until I gave way. I was worried, but the energy I had within me was palpable. The fatigue of battle no longer affected me, thanks to Excalibur’s magic. I had an advantage.
I knocked away his next chop and leapt to attack. My blade whistled with the force of my swing, but Mordred was there to block. His face was still a mask of rage and hatred. I’m sure mine was the same. From one stance to the next, I kept the pressure on, forcing Mordred back. Excalibur continued to flood my soul with power. Soon, Mordred would falter and he would be mine.
I thought I had him with a high chop, but again, his blade caught mine. Sparks showered around us as the twin slivers of steel grated together and locked at their crossbars. I saw Mordred’s ring and suddenly knew he had the same power as me. So quickly, the advantage was wrested away.
It was a minor setback only, so we both had longevity to fight. He had yet to show skill that surpassed my own. I had yet to break his defense either, so we were very evenly matched. We fought like that for quite a while, trading blows and shuffling through the cold snow.
I needed to take stock of the situation, so I locked up with him again and savagely pushed him away. I took that short time to look around. I was astonished. Everyone that could see us through the fog was staring at us. My knights and the enemy forces stood together apparently enthralled at the battle between Mordred and I. What feeble light the sun was able to get past the storm clouds was from a different angle. We had been fighting for over an hour.
There the legend started, of the King battling evil for three days and nights. That wasn’t the truth of it, but it raged for a good three hours at least. Even with the added strength and stamina from my sword and his ring, we were both teetering on the edge of exhaustion.
The footing beneath us, once new fallen snow, was now a pit of treacherous mud, sucking at our feet and subject to sliding at inopportune times. In desperation, I allowed Mordred to advance, while I retreated. Uphill, I led him, weaving a protective curtain in front of me. He took the bait and charged intent on knocking me over with his shoulder. I stepped aside and brought Excalibur around and scored a deep wound in his leg as he passed.
Mordred screamed, more out of anger than pain. He stopped and pivoted so quickly, I was surprised and found my shoulder impaled on his blade. We circled slowly, him gauging how hurt I was, myself taking in terrain for the advantage. Somehow, we’d managed to get separated from the armies and were battling alone. I sighed to myself; it was time to start over.
The fog lay below us, obscuring our troops. The sun broke through the clouds and spotlighted us. Mordred squinted in the sun, which I noticed seemed to always be in his eyes. Perhaps Merlin was playing a part.
I took the advantage of Mordred pausing and lunged. I impaled him. The shriek of rage and pain hammered at my ears. I jerked Excalibur free and slapped my hands over my ears. Mordred hadn’t fallen. He stood there, screaming. Then he moved so quickly, I had no time to react. Suddenly, his flamberge was buried in my stomach. The pain was intense, but my Immortal training took over and I turned to run, or in this case, stagger away. I saw him finally succumb to his wound and fall. I didn’t know who would wake first, so running was my only option, for as long as I lived.
I moved off for a large boulder and slowly climbed on it. With my remaining strength, I drove Excalibur into the boulder. It buried itself to the hilt. I searched for somewhere to hide, but only found an outcropping to a small river below. My decision was made for me. Even steeling myself for the pain, ripping his sword from my midsection was an exercise in torment. Blackness swallowed me up and I knew nothing more.
When I woke, I found I was in the river, my head wedged under an overhanging rock and my body gently bumping against it with the current. I was entirely hidden from view. I breathed a sigh of relief. Then I settled down to wait, despite the freezing temperatures. I figured a few deaths from hypothermia were worth being safe.
Hours later, I dragged myself out of the river, ditched my armor and headed south. A few weeks later, I was back in Gaul. I only regretted not seeing Merlin again.
* * *
The hovercraft ferry arrived in Dover right on time. Duncan was contemplating the story and couldn’t resist asking.
“Merlin, I assume it was you that blinded Mordred long enough to turn the tide to Arthur’s benefit?”
The sage chuckled. “Yes, for the good it did him. It was a perverse work of novice tactics to not finish him off after wounding him so deeply. I assume Arthur was very tired, so that’s why Mordred lived.”
Duncan glanced at Methos, but only received one of the elder Immortal’s cryptic half-smiles. “So then, you were successful in defeating your opponent that day as well?”
“In part yes. I stopped her magic as best I could, and took the fight to her. That effectively turned her attention to me.”
Duncan asked, “Who was she?”
The feeling of another Immortal captured them all as they walked to the Citroen. Next to the vehicle stood a woman that would eclipse Helen of Troy for beauty. She was as tall as Duncan, with dark red hair cascading down her back to her hips. Green eyes studied him with amusement.
Merlin said, “That would be her there. Duncan MacLeod, meet Morgan Le Fey.”