Leg Post 17 sees three knights, Sir Gawain, Sir Sagramore and Sir Percival, on an exploratory quest of the planet Algernon. They are traversing through the Perce Forest towards the distant mountain. The canopy is interfering with Gawain's ability to soak in sunlight for strength. Sir Sagramore is grandson of Attila the Hun and his grasp of English needs work, while Sir Percival is the eternal optimist. An eerie mist fills the forest and they hear a giggling girl. They find The Red Castle in the forest, which has two pillars of hot aether either side of the gate. They decide to stay there the night, rather than in the mist of the forest. Sir Sagramore goes to the kitchen to cook while Sir Percival goes out for firewood and Sir Gawain is left in the parlour alone.
Lady of the Red Castle
The forest is thick with foliage and the air is hot. The trees are as brilliantly green as on Earth but the fruits are wild in luminescent colours. A hanging pear is coloured shining yellow while a pineapple-like fruit is glowing with a pulsing, blue radiance. Low-flying insects buzz through the shrubbery, some as big as a human head and giant, grotesque mandibles. Fortunately none of the insects seem interested in attacking the three soldiers that make their trek towards the distant mountain.
Every gap in the canopy was an opportunity for Sir Gawain to soak in the sunlight. The light struck his white skin and he could feel it being absorbed into his body to grant him strength and stamina. He was eager and ready for battle long into the nights as his comrades were flagging. The days had passed uneventful but they had learnt a great deal about the vegetation and the mammals that could be hunted.
On the fourth day mist was rising from the soil and the three men took it to be an unnatural omen. They used the compass device to continue their journey regardless. It was now quicker to push on than to go back. Sir Gawain's white-and-green checkered tabard was caked in muck and, because it was longer than the usual tabard, it was constantly collecting a trail of twigs and brambles. He was beginning to forget it was it felt like to be washed.
At the next opening in the canopy he glanced up to get a look at Camelot, looming high in the atmosphere, but could only see the mist blotting both his view and the power of the sun. He expected his mother and father, King Lot and Queen Morgause, were worried about him. His uncle Arthur had probably forgotten he had even sent knights down to the planet at all.
Sir Sagramore: "There is something about this mist I do not like."
Sir Sagramore of Hungary was a true descendant of the Hunnic people, his skin a swarthy gold, his face beardless and his eyes tapered. He was one of the many grandchildren of the Scourge of God - Attila the Hun. He wore leather armour and a peaked cap with fur-lined ear flaps. His cheek was scarred; a self-inflicted wound upon the death of his mother when he still lived in Hungary. He was only of the only knights able to rival Sir Trsitram with a bow and none could compare to his horsemanship.
He spoke with a thick accent that many found difficult to understand, including Sir Gawain. But several days stuck in a forest meant his ears adapted quickly.
Sir Gawain: "It seems to rise from the ground. There may be something hot underneath us."
Sir Percival: "At least it'll keep us toasty warm this evening!"
Sir Percival, ever the optimist.
Sir Percival: "I even like the ambiance this mist gives the forest."
To the point of idiocy, someone like Mordred might say.
Gawain ran a hand through his muddy, blonde mop of hair. He was feeling drained without the sun on his back. Many remarked that he looked just like a young King Arthur and with the early makings of a beard he might soon look the spitting image. Sir Percival, on the other hand, looks almost otherworldly. He is remarkably tall, despite being as young as Gawain, and is effeminate in the face so that he might be mistaken for a woman should he wear a dress. Thus his platinum blonde hair is kept short and to also help his voice is naturally deep.
Sir Gawain: "We should keep outs wits about us just-- did you hear that?"
The three of them stop and strain their ears. After a minute of deadly silence there came a soft tittering on a gentle breeze.
Sir Gawain: "A girl?"
Sir Sagramore: "I do not see what she is lightning about."
Sir Gawain: "Lightning? You mean laughing?"
Sir Sagramore: "Right. Lightning about."
Sir Gawain: "Laughing. Not lightning."
Sir Sagramore: "Lightning."
Sir Percival: "The elocution lesson should be done later, methinks. There may be a damsel in need of our help!"
Sir Sagramore: "I do not think a damned-cell would lightning if she wished our help."
Sir Percival: "Good point. She might just be enjoying a good game of badminton with one of her maids!"
Sir Gawain: "Because giggles in the eerie mist always sounds like a game of badminton."
Sir Sagramore: "What is badding the tonne?"
Sir Gawain: "We'll explain later."
Sir Percival: "I think she's this way."
Sir Gawain: "So we go the opposite way, right?"
Sir Sagramore: "We should hunt this damned cell!"
Sir Gawain: "Let's just hope it's not actually damned."
Sir Percival led the way. Unlike Gawain and Sagramore, who both wore leather armour, Sir Percival wore heavy plate armour. The knights wouldn't know it but that style of armour shouldn't be in use for another few hundred years. He had no tabard, unlike most knights, and instead wore a long cape of white, marked by blue crosses. Here in the forest it was constantly getting snagged and slowed down the knight's progress.
It was some time before the three of them came to an unexpected opening in the forest where they were met with a red-coloured castle. The outer wall was made of logs, obviously cut from the forest, while the castle itself was made of stonestone like material that was a washed out red - as though the building had red water dropped on it. Otherwise Gawain was surprised by the Earth-like architecture of it. The windows were not openings but sealed with stained glass, quite beyond 500AD. The top of the walls are turreted and there was even a portcullis. The most obvious non-human sign were the two pillars of red light that stood either side of the main gate. They were as tall as the outer wall and were obviously made from magic, burning aether to be exact.
The knights approached wearily.
Sir Percival: "Well. It might be magical. It might be haunted. But I bet it has comfy beds!"
Sir Gawain: "You want to sleep here!?"
Sir Percival: "Don't look a gift horse in the mouth, remember? It has to be better than sleeping on the hard ground."
Sir Sagramore: "It might be safer inside there than out here with this whoopy mist!"
Sir Gawain: "Whoopy? I have no idea what you're even trying to say this time."
Sir Percival: "Weird? Creepy? Spooky? Freaky?"
Sir Sagramore: "That one!"
Sir Percival: "Which one? Weird? Cre--"
Sir Gawain: "Okay. I give up. We go in."
They hesitantly pass the dual, pillars of hot aether and enter the courtyard. There's a single path that leads to the castle doors but otherwise the area is a wilderness of shrubbery, weeds and fungus. A pond is dirty with scum but there appear to be plenty of frog-like creatures living in it. They burp loudly.
Sir Gawain: "Wow. That really did sound like a belch, not a ribbit."
As they neared the door they found that it was already open. Sir Gawain poked it all the way open without crossing the threshold. They gazed inside to find it deserted and appeared to be abandoned long ago. They all take a single stride inside and stop. They wait. Nothing happened.
Sir Sagramore: "Lucky we hunted our food already."
He took the mammal carcasses from his sack.
Sir Sagramore: "We should find the bathroom to cook!"
Sir Gawain: "You want to cook in the bathroom?"
Sir Sagramore paused and squinted his eyes.
Sir Sagramore: "I mean the catching."
Sir Gawain: "The kitchen?"
Sir Sagramore: "That!"
Sir Percival: "And I can start a fire in the parlour! We'll be having tea and crumpets in no time!"
Sir Gawain: "Or water and..."
He looked at the creature in Sagramore's hands.
Sir Gawain: "Thing."
Sir Percival: "Well, I'd rather be eating fresh meat caught with our own bows than the processed stuff aboard Camelot! We'll have a table and armchairs and everything!"
Percival and Gawain went into the parlour while Sagramore went for the kitchen. Just as Percival hoped, there was a coffee table, armchairs and a fireplace. Albeit covered in dust. Percival gave the back of a chair a pat and the room was quickly swarming with dust particles.
Sir Gawain: "So long as we sit really, really still."
Sir Percival: "Exactly! I'll start a fire. I'll get some wood from outside. Back soon."
Sir Gawain: "I hope they aren't famous last words."
Sir Percival: "I hope you don't put 'back soon' on my gravestone."
Gawain was then left alone in the parlour.