“This is outrageous!” exclaimed Alma.
I could feel her magic raging inside her. The poor messenger was cowering from her, holding the glowing envelope to his chest. I walked over to him, took the letter, and walked him to the door of Alma’s wing where Mila stood waiting. Alma was still ranting when I returned. We had only arrived home earlier this morning.
Whirling toward me, Alma demanded “You know what this means, don’t you?”
“I’m being challenged again?” I replied.
She sighed, shook her head, and said, “James, he’s trying to make us miss the wedding! When I find out who this upstart is…” She clenched her fist, which became surrounded in fire, until she forced herself to relax some.
The heat radiating from her was very noticeable. I was beginning to think I should get her outside.
“Wouldn’t Adelmar delay things if you asked?” I suggested.
“Of course not!” she snapped.
“I thought he was invited.” I replied.
“Yes, but he was never actually going to attend. Ai and Mai don’t warrant his attention. He’s not likely to even attend Duncan’s wedding whenever that will happen.” she retorted.
“Duncan’s getting married?” I asked.
“He must eventually. He wouldn’t be allowed to let his line end.” she muttered.
“But Ai and Mai…” I started, glancing over at them.
“They wouldn’t be allowed to inherit his position. Izumi would see about having another child before she let that happen.” she insisted.
I really didn’t understand her family. Ai and Mai were very capable, and I was under the impression that Duncan would be hard pressed to defeat them on any level. Their connection was extraordinary.
“Time to go, boss-man, sir!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
“Go!? Where could you be taking him now? You, of course, realize what he’s holding.” stated Alma.
“A letter of challenge from one Hyun-woo Imugi. The boss-man needs a weapon, so we’re going to go pick one up.” replied Aaliyah as she held up her arms as if she wanted carried.
Alma looked speechless.
“You didn’t work it out yet?” asked Aaliyah. “Who else would have that kind of pull throughout Asia?”
“But he’s never even shown interest of anything outside his country. He’s practically retired. I never thought… Well, his age…” muttered Alma before pursing her lips. She looked to be considering the idea thoroughly.
“Doesn’t look it, does he!?” exclaimed Aaliyah with a grin. “He’s forty-six.” she whispered to me.
I could see why Alma would be surprised. The man was old enough to be her father. Aaliyah took the letter from my hand and held it out to Alma.
“You can hold onto this. We’ll be back soon!” she exclaimed.
Alma took the letter and nodded. I glanced back to see her taking a seat and staring at the letter as I walked toward the door. The twins looked concerned.
“Mother, we’ll need to teach the master Korean.” suggested Mila as I stepped out.
“Sure! We’re also going to work on some old Welsh!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
They did precisely that without even leaving the hall. Time had obviously been frozen again. The sun’s position didn’t change. I could tell from the reflection visible across the floor at several points.
“We’ll see you in a bit!” exclaimed Aaliyah.
I didn’t move, but I wasn’t where I had been. There were mutilated, armored bodies ahead in a large, devastated clearing and two men in armor at the center, frozen in the act of killing one another. Trees were hewn or even uprooted. The ground looked scorched in numerous areas.
“This tale has been nearly stricken from record, but remnants became new tales of their own.” explained Aaliyah.
Things sprang back into motion.
“Father…” muttered the shorter man before stumbling back and falling to the ground.
“You there. Think not that you can hide from me.” called the other, still standing with a sword through his gut. The crown on his armor gleamed brightly, untouched by the blood sprayed around it.
As I stepped closer, the man pulled the sword out, tossing it at his fallen son. Then he fell to one knee. A spell was then cast creating the sound of a very loud horn.
“What manner of dress do you wear? You are no servant of my son, Amr?” he demanded.
“No, I am not.” I told him.
“Will you fetch my sword from my son’s chest? No spell can touch that blade.” he claimed.
I had never pulled a sword from anyone, nor had I ever held a desire to do so.
The man lifted the visor of his helmet and said, “I see the hesitation within you, but know that my son wanted to usurp the throne for himself. I couldn’t ask his elder brother to face him, not when his greed was my own folly. Please, grant me this wish.”
He spoke the truth, but I still hesitated a moment more. Perhaps this was the weapon Aaliyah had spoken of retrieving, but what a gruesome way to acquire it. When I pulled the sword from Amr, the blade illuminated in a bright, white light. The two chimeras on the hilt breathed a white fire. I nearly dropped the thing in surprise.
“Who are you, stranger?” asked the man.
“James.” I replied, carefully handing the sword to him.
“Are you here to take the throne before my son?” he demanded.
“No. Definitely not.” I replied.
He stared at me hard for a moment before nodding and saying, “But you are worthy, despite standing while a king kneels.”
Not wanting to offend him, I knelt beside him. “Sorry, your majesty.”
“Perhaps a gift then, your majesty, to protect this traveler on the road.” suggested Aaliyah.
I did a double take. She had taken a form similar to what she used as Trix now, perhaps a bit older, but she was wearing a shimmering gown that shined more brightly than polished silver.
“My lady… Have you come to reclaim Caledfwlch?” asked the man.
“No, Arthur. I merely want to see this young man protected, and know you to have weapons enough.” she told him. Then she knelt beside him and whispered to the sword, too quiet for me to catch what she said.
Only one king named Arthur came to mind, and he was pure myth. Who was this man?
“Here then, lad. Carnwennan has served me well. May it serve you now.” stated Arthur as he took the dagger from his waist and handed it to me. “Leave me now. I feel the change coming and know not how long I can suppress it.” he commanded, sounding strained.
“Kyduan searches even now. If you can last a minute more, you will see him again before you leave us.” stated Aaliyah.
The man smiled and nodded. Aaliyah took my hand and guided me away.
We walked just out of sight, and I found us emerging from the forest in my yard.
“Aaliyah, was that the King Arthur from myth?” I asked.
“No, that was the King Arthur from history.” she told me with a wink, now looking like her normal self.
“That sword…” I started.
“Really seemed to like you, didn’t it!?” she exclaimed. “Don’t forget Carnwennan when you go to meet the challenge. Alpy is going to love seeing your new friend.”
“Not coming along?” I asked.
“I’m supposed to be helping daddy clean.” she sighed before disappearing.
I shrugged and walked toward the house, thinking about what I had just seen. Wasn’t Arthur killed by Mordred in the myths? Could he have had two sons? Wait. Mordred was the son Arthur had with his half-sister, wasn’t he? I might read some of those myths again. Caledfwlch was something else.
“So are you though, aren’t you.” I told Carnwennan.
The dagger’s white grip shined and felt warm in my hand. The metal gleamed brightly with no sign of use. When pulled from its elaborately engraved sheath, the blade seemed to glow with a soft, white light.
“Welcome home, master. I missed you greatly.” stated Mila as she curtsied.
I rolled my eyes and said, “I wasn’t even gone very long, was I?”
“Oh, master, every moment without you is an eternity.” she teased, following me as I walked toward Alma’s wing.
When I arrived, the door opened before I could knock.
“You weren’t gone long. Aaliyah give you something she had lying around the condo?” asked Alma. “A dagger? Knowing what you’re going up against, she merely gave you a dagger!?”
She looked up from the letter, still unopened. The twins watched me curiously from their seats.
“James, where was that hidden?” she asked.
“I can’t say where I got it.” I replied.
“But… do you know what that is!?” she demanded.
“Carnwennan, which once belonged to a man called Arthur.” I told her.
“King Arthur. The King Arthur. That dagger has been lost since his death!” she insisted.
Well, I had a very good idea what happened to it, but I couldn’t tell her that Arthur handed me the dagger just a moment ago in the distant past. I sighed, knowing I shouldn’t ask her of Caledfwlch either, since she might start making guesses at that point. However, I was happy to hear that the dagger actually had a rich history of its own. Alma had a great deal of stories to tell, and I was more than happy to listen.